Thesis mills

Especially in America, there is immense corporate pressure to have a college degree – as a meal-ticket to a better job and future, not necessarily as a proof of one’s intellectual skills. When the fact of having the degree is more important than the process of earning the degree, the stage is set for fraud on a massive scale.

The for-profit college student loan meltdown is another direct symptom of this rot, with one difference: people are beginning to realize that student loan debt is hindering our economic recovery.

Paid thesis writing is still winked at as a largely victimless vice. Maybe railed about in literary journals. Advertisements for such services bill themselves as ‘academic support’ or ‘academic content writing’, and stipulate they aren’t responsible for how students will use the custom ‘sample papers’ provided by the service. Skilled, fast writers can earn respectable incomes ghostwriting other people’s term papers, thesis papers, entrance essays, and other writing assignments. They’re earning money – why should I care how they do it? How is that any different from book packaging, novelization, or ghostwriting?*

Because the people buying these papers are doing so to pass courses or meet business responsibilities they would otherwise fail. In this instance they are frauds. Many of these buyers go on to, or already are in, positions of power and authority. If they’re willing to cheat on a college grade, what else are they prepared to cheat on?

Do you want a lawyer, a doctor, an accountant who never did their own homework? This shows they not only cheat, but that they may not know how to learn, frame a rational argument, research their position, and write out their opinions.

*Book packagers are usually upfront with their authors: in exchange for the work and a sizable fee, the author gives up further rights to the book. Their name may or may not be on the byline.

Novelization turns a movie, graphic novel, screenplay, etc into a text-based novel – sometimes by the person who wrote the original work, often not. They can be paid a flat fee, or get royalties off sales.

Ghostwriters team up with celebrities, scientists, politicians, and other people who may have a great idea and information, but no experience in writing it down presentably. Ghostwriters don’t get their name on the book (usually) but they do get paid for it, and may get royalties. I have less problem with entertainment ghostwriters than I do academic and political ones – in the latter cases, they still enable a kind of misrepresentation that can further careers and agendas.


I’ve seen exposes of thesis mills before, and I’m sure the practice will never go away. The money is really tempting: sometimes greater than $30 per page, sometimes a gross yearly income of $60K or more.

What’s at stake, beyond the money, beyond fraud? Nothing less than the human ability to learn.

New research on learning techniques seems to indicate people learn least when simply handed information, and more when they have to search it out and analyze it. Even the act of entering search keywords can help ‘lock’ information into memory.

The underlying point of the thesis not the grade. It’s showing that you know how to research, argue coherently, and write your case.

Here are a couple of good links on a brilliant book which is just now making its way into an official English translation: Umberto Eco’s ‘How to Write a Thesis’.

Josh Jones article in Openculture: <Eco dissuades a certain type of possible reader from his book, those students “who are forced to write a thesis so that they may graduate quickly and obtain the career advancement that originally motivated their university enrollment.” These students, he writes, some of whom “may be as old as 40” (gasp), “will ask for instructions on how to write a thesis in a month.” To them, he recommends two pieces of advice, in full knowledge that both are clearly “illegal”:

(a) Invest a reasonable amount of money in having a thesis written by a second party. (b) Copy a thesis that was written a few years prior for another institution. (It is better not to copy a book currently in print, even if it was written in a foreign language. If the professor is even minimally informed on the topic, he will be aware of the book’s existence.>

(In case you can’t unravel that quote, the good Professor directs his laziest, unteachable students to fraud and theft, since he believes there is no point wasting time on trying to teach them.)

Hua Hsu article in the New Yorker:

<…in Eco’s rhapsodic and often funny book, the thesis represents: a magical process of self-realization, a kind of careful, curious engagement with the world that need not end in one’s early twenties.**

“Your thesis,” Eco foretells, “is like your first love: it will be difficult to forget.” By mastering the demands and protocols of the fusty old thesis, Eco passionately demonstrates, we become equipped for a world outside ourselves—a world of ideas, philosophies, and debates.>

** Learning needs to be lifelong to be effective: new technologies and markets demand it. Paid academic writing undermines that critical skill.

Dryland Codex (in progress, post 1)

In my typical ADD fashion I was reorganizing fabric yesterday, in preparation for some housecleaning. Found snippets of printed map fabric left over from one of the award ribbons projects. Remembered a possible book project I’d sketched, using digitized fabric prints of some old Southwestern mini-landscape paintings I’d sold to galleries years before.Sedona dinkies flat

Why yes, turns out those scans were detailed enough to print beautifully, at 1/2 size on white cotton muslin. And yes, no one else was here to object to my noisy monster of a sewing machine…

I wanted to make something with the feel of this, but not quite as much detailed embroidery/hand painting.

Larrea sketch

Or maybe this desert landscape glass micro-mosaic piece from around the same time period.High Desert113 hours later, with a shamefully small proportion of housework completed, I had this:

Dryland in progress

‘Dryland Codex’ is probably 3/4 done. It’s medium sized, for me: 5″ x 4″ x 1.25″, and worked entirely in fabric applique with some bead embroidery accents. Still needs covers and finishing details, but I rather like the pages. More to the point, it will be another book project to send out to the art agents.

Yay, for recycled art!

Selfie or not?

AW Amor avatar

There’s a writers group on LinkedIn I was considering joining. I’m not, now, because they require a headshot photo of all prospective members. (I did end up joining, after all; see update in Comments below.)

I don’t have many pictures of myself not costumed or otherwise masked. They’re around. I’m just not happy about adding to them. Not for religious reasons, or any crippling insecurity about my looks. My face is an accident of reasonably decent genetics, coupled with the sensible desert-dweller’s instinct to keep it away from too much sun.

I get why companies and social groups want to know what I look like. Sock puppets have made authorial authenticity even more important these days. Some publishers push their writers for author photos, because it’s accepted that readers want to have a deeper connection with their favorite authors. The selfie (be your own paparazzi?) photo has become a kind of currency, with an industry building around new ways to provide it and monetize it. For all these reasons, there’s a relentless hunger for personal images from most social media platforms. 

There are dangers and disadvantages to plastering one’s face everywhere:

Security. Any image that reaches the Internet stays on the Internet, regardless of naive ‘right to be forgotten’ court cases in Europe. Those images can be easily stolen and/or misused. The less ammunition given out, the better. My friends in InfoSec sometimes have ‘no photos, no or limited public appearances’ clauses in their employment contracts – for their security as well as the company’s.

Narcissism. Like it or not, there’s a delicate boundary between presenting one’s authentic self in a sympathetic manner, and going overboard. As an author, I’d hope my readers couldn’t care less about what I looked like. My art collectors certainly don’t.

I recently found myself reacting negatively to a couple of new local businesses, when their owners displayed oversized photos of themselves as store advertisements. I’m sure it was meant to humanize and introduce them, but to me it came across as ludicrous and jarring. Donald Trump is not a good role model, in that respect.

So at least for now, my social media profiles will have images of things I’ve made, not my face. After all, I existed as an artist and writer long before the rise of the selfie.

Below The Boat

While browsing for out-of-copyright quotes about maps, journeys, and wanderlust (for an upcoming book art project), I stumbled across some incredible wooden bathymetric charts.

copyright Below The Boat

‘Below The Boat’ creates unique, breathtaking maps of laser-cut, stained, and layered birch plywood, each following a coastal area’s underwater terrain. It’s a deceptively simple concept, brought to reality by skilled artisans. The results make my inner map-geek so happy.

Can you imagine if they did a fantasy version?

(Borrowing from Stephen Colbert): A Tip Of The Hat to commercially published authors who are self-publishing their backlists. That’s good for them and their readers. We don’t want a return to the days of the midlist mass-market paperback that had a print run of 2000 copies, and about two weeks on the bookstore shelf to prove itself.

A Wag Of The Finger to those same authors who imply or state their current self-publishing experience and results are 100% applicable to the masses of unpublished, unagented, likely unpolished, and possibly under-informed writers who follow them.

A reasonably successful commercial author can springboard their self-publishing efforts off already existing readerships, and whatever work their old publisher’s marketing department did on their behalf.

Unknown self-published authors have a far rougher road. 

one of these platforms is not like the other

Sad Puppies, the Hugo Awards, and WTF

So…over the weekend, the Hugo Awards nominee lists were released to the public. And the Internet blew up.

Blazing Saddles pie fight 1372273854567193_animate

For anyone not an SFF geek, the Hugos are the SFF publishing industry awards voted on by the members of Worldcon. They’re a coveted prize, but by no means an all-encompassing or even reader-relevant accomplishment.

To be honest, I haven’t paid attention to who won the Hugos for over 15 years. I can’t go to Worldcons, and I can think of better immediate uses for $40 (the non-attending supporting membership fee, which allows one to vote.) I use sample texts and trusted review sources to determine which SFF books I will buy or borrow. So I almost never pay attention to the nominees lists. (I might notice after the fact, while I’m reading one.)

The Internet blew up because a group of authors, editors, and sympathizers decided to vote in organized slates, for their specific candidates, to supposedly strike a blow against what they consider to be Social Justice Warriors. According to the complaints made popular by Brad Torgerson, Larry Correia, and Vox Day, these SJWs have been perverting the glorious old, white, male traditions in SFF toward icky character-driven and sexually deviant stories. To counter this, for several years, this group has been nominating socially-conservative writers they know (or themselves), as well as non-affiliated writers whom they deem effective at the old-school forms of science fiction and fantasy.*

Their attempts worked very well this year, effectively shutting out all other candidates but their own from a number of Hugo categories. It’s also backfiring sloppily all over the place. Some of the nominees have asked their names be removed from the ballot. Whether out of actual distaste or fear of being ‘stalked’ by Social Justice Warriors, really doesn’t matter at this point. The intricacies of Hugo voting have been outlined in many posts, with instructions on how the much larger block of voting members can force down the nominations with a ‘No Award’ (or even below) vote.

Here’s a link to Jim Hines’ blog, which contains other links to get an overview on the Great Hugo Kerfuffle of 2015.

*Whether this is an actual Culture War battle** or not, it’s both slimy and hilarious to follow. I can say this as an outsider writer unlikely to ever get a Hugo nomination, and a reader who has enjoyed works from many different camps of SFF. One sad side effect: I’m even less likely, as a fan, to engage in fandom in general as a result of conflicts like this.

** Ah, I thought I’d seen the apparent chief instigators before this, a group centered around the small-press publisher Castalia House. Last year in an AbsoluteWrite forum discussion about Castalia, I wondered if its principals would boycott ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ because it was written by a woman. They went so far as to nominate it on their Hugo slate this year (though listing James Gunn on the entry). I have no idea if it was nominated out of sheer joy and respect for the medium, or as a sideways attempt to say ‘See, we are inclusive!’

While I poke fun and satire at the whole mess, Charles Stross has a sobering post that is worth a look or two, about the ‘real’ game Castalia and the Puppies may be waging.

With that in mind, I may find an extra $40 just so I can vote. 

pieces of ‘Whisper’

Inspired by the tiny books, I’m re-energized to attack a mini-book that’s been in progress for over a year. Here are the components laid out in an old teak tray I like for beading:

Whisper book

Whisper, 1″ x 1.75″ x 1″ when complete. The tiny fabric pages are layers of linen and commercially printed cotton, hand-inked, and overlaid with ultra-sheer nylon panels. The nylon comes from high-end tea bags, which I’ve been collecting and washing out for a while – because they’re a glassy sheer fabric I haven’t seen anywhere else. (Some people call it hoarding, I call it upcycling.)

Whisper book pages

The covers are glass blanks I bought at a local bead store, then drilled, etched, and frosted with the aid of a flexible shaft drill. (Yay power tools.) whisper glass in hand

I’m looking forward to Coptic-binding it this week.

Added 4-3-2015: Done! I’m very happy with it. More detail, second entry down here.

Tiny books

Just…tiny books. They’re awesome. They’re like…Night Vale meets a dollhouse. Go see them here.

The first pieces of ‘real’ art (the ones I remember) I did at age 5 were miniatures, and the concept has stayed with me through many different crafts (jewelry, alabaster sculpture, felt sculpture, weaving, painting, mosaic, etc).

But the smallest book I’ve ever made is a behemoth compared to these from Evan Lorenzen.

Moss agate pillow

…or, experiments in home decor.

For a decade or so, I’ve been seeing Chinese jade, agate, and tourmaline-beaded pillows on the import market. Some are panels of beads sewn onto a pillow-top. Others are elaborate hollow cage structures shaped to fit the head and neck, and supported by jade or wooden end-caps.

Metaphysically-inclined folks will swear these help with headaches and other ailments. At the very least, the coolness of the gemstone is supposed to help naps on hot afternoons.

moss agate pillow

Five years ago one of my local bead suppliers had a sale on large-hole (3mm) moss agate beads. Not quite jade, but lovely (and cheap: a 16″ strand for $2.00). I had linen and cotton scraps left over from several projects, plus a lot of hemp macrame cord. My local fabric store carried foam and cotton batting pillow forms in every normal size. You can guess what happened next.

One right-angle-weave panel later, I had a 16″ x 16″ x 5″ linen and moss agate pillow that actually does make a comfortable snooze pillow. It’s pretty, and looks like a high-end decorator find. It can be hand-washed inside a pillowcase in my washing machine, not something I’d dare do to a $200 designer pillow from the usual Fancy Home Decor Store.

moss agate pillow 2

I will probably never make these to sell, because the bead supply is too chancy and expensive, and the cheaper import market means I could probably never charge the minimum $50 retail I’d ask for it. Also, I don’t want to be sewing pillows all the time.

But it’s fun knowing that my DIY skills came through well enough on the first try.

Is Etsy bad for honest artisans?

Garnet Dusk detailFor anyone who has been in a cave for the last nine years, is a sales site meant to showcase original handmade objects. It is poised to offer a major IPO. It is also coming under increasing pressure by detractors who:

1) Claim Etsy is often a haven for cheaply-produced overseas goods marketed online by Etsy resellers. This is the buy/sell category loathed by many regional arts festivals, contests, and crafts galleries. Both unscrupulous sellers and well-meaning crafters resell objects to bulk out their bottom line, or keep up with unexpected demand. Etsy is not the only offender among online sales portals, but its failings seem to be among the most notorious.

2) Point out that Etsy’s lowest sales ranges are often filled with original-but shoddy merchandise from amateur crafters. For good or bad, and like the hobby/art supply stores I’ve mentioned before, has democratized artisan craft. (The late, great showcased the worst offenders of online Bad Craft, with items seen on Etsy and other display or sales sites.)

3) Charge that Etsy’s vast size, coupled with its previous unenforcement of its own founding guidelines, essentially pushes a lowest-common-denominator effect on the commercial home decor, fashion, giftwrap, and jewelry trades.

Here’s a powerful article from a crafter who joined Etsy early and shut down her Etsy site last year. (


In February of 2009, I registered an Etsy account. It was a Thing people told me to do, during the hiatus between leaving one full-time job and starting another. I knew so many crafters who had Etsy accounts. None were making a living at it, and most sold only a few items a month. 

A day after registering, I sat down and really looked at Etsy: major sellers, trends, price ranges, costs. I reached the sad and familiar conclusion that selling on Etsy was, for me, probably going to be more of a waste of time than a moneymaker. (As it would be if I picked the wrong small press or co-op art gallery; the hunter’s equation of effort-vs-gain applied equally well in this case.) 

Even in 2009, Etsy seemed rife with cheaper objects swiftly made and serving the ‘under $20 crowd’. I knew that market from my days selling jewelry at small outdoor trade shows and SCA events. I knew I could sell almost anything well-designed and obviously handmade, provided it sold for less than $20 and took less than a day to create.

But most ‘under $20′ projects are necessarily simple, if the artisan is being honest. Personally, they don’t stretch my imagination or prospects. They merely use resources and time in exchange for relatively low profit. I learned early that one or two museum-grade big projects can use up the same materials and time as fifteen or twenty lesser pieces. (One $1500 –  $2000 book art sculpture, or twenty beaded necklaces I could sell for no more than $25 – $40 each.) The big pieces got noticed, and I could charge more for them. I didn’t think they’d sell quickly on Etsy.

So I walked away from my Etsy site and forgot about it. I have online vendors who take a modest commission in return for relatively fast turnaround. I am considering a direct online sales portal for some of my artwork and jewelry, but it probably won’t be Etsy. The problems I noticed in 2009 are still there and appear to be getting worse.

(There are honest artisans selling original work on Etsy. I certainly do not mean to detract from their efforts. I just didn’t think the site was right for me, at that point and now. If Etsy cleans up its act prior to the IPO, I’ll reconsider.)

More fiber art award ribbons

Tempe Spring 2015 Best of ShowIt’s spring. Next weekend is the Tempe Festival of the Arts, where 40,000 people will somehow find places to park around the core of Tempe’s Mill Avenue Downtown district. Hundreds of artist booths will line Mill and its side streets. There will be decadent food and more decadent booze. Several million dollars will change hands, in one of the biggest art festivals in the Southwest.

(And we’ve already had three or four slightly smaller ones going on just before this, in nearby cities. That’s right, while the rest of y’all are freezing and shoveling snow, we have open-air art festivals in the spring and fall when the blast furnace climate isn’t so bad. Don’t worry. You’ll be laughing in July.)

I recently finished the latest round of award ribbons for the festival: sixteen category winners and one best-of-show, all in fabric applique and bead embroidery. (I’ve done this twice a year since 2010. It’s a hoot, even if it takes approx. 50 hours to design and complete.) This spring’s design was a riff off the festival Featured Artist Andrea Merican’s luminous watercolor painting ‘Just Breathe’.

Tempe Spring 2015 Fine Jewelry, GlassSeriously, I nearly fell over when I saw that piece last year. Watercolor is not an easy medium. It demands a delicate marriage between trained skill and the recognition of serendipity.

For our award ribbons, the festival organizers and I chose a creme raw silk striped with gorgeous candy colors in the weave, a rich dark purple suiting, bright blue printed cotton and blue linen, orange satin ribbon, commercial prints in multicolored wrought iron ornament patterns, digitally printed sections of a 1926 Arizona road map, several patterns of blue-green to acid-green cotton, and a riot of polyester sewing thread from soft pastels to vivid orange and scarlet.

I will admit that my current favorite fabric glue, Beacon’s Fabri-Tac, makes a strong but unseen appearance in these ribbons.

Tempe Spring 2015 Printmaking, PhotographyThe basic motif is the balance between light and dark, and the botanical focal point is either a stylized yucca in bloom, a fruiting cardon cactus, or a prickly pair cactus. Glass beads in harmonizing colors add a bit of sparkle. The show labels and titles are printed, then hand-inked on cotton applique. All ribbons are finished with coral-orange seam binding, white-on-white cotton backing fabric, grosgrain ribbon ties, and a metal pinback so the lucky artist can pin it to booth draperies.

Category ribbons are 16″ x 4″. The best-of-show ribbon is 20″ x 5″. All are signed by me.

I look forward to seeing the winners and their art.




Anne R. Allen’s ‘How Not To Sell Books’

The sun rises. The living move in the waking world. Sadness remains, as well as selfish fury at a universe that would take Terry Pratchett before he could give us another Tiffany Aching book…*

Sigh. I’m short-tempered this week, partly because of that. I’ve put several people on ‘ignore’ in various social media forums, because I can’t figure out if they are trolls or just clueless – and I don’t care enough to engage to find out.

There was a #pitmad this weekend, and already I’m seeing giddy authors talk about this or that new, unknown (and in some cases, old and notorious) publisher or agent liking the author pitches. I expect heartbreak in a few months.

I saw the lineup for the Tucson Festival of Books this weekend. Yep, more non-book exhibitors than publishers (though self-pub and commercial authors had a good presence.) What’s more troubling was the presence of at least two known vanity publishers. I’m deeply skeptical of this book festival now (sad, too, because I’ve loved going there in the past.) I’ve seen these same publishers at two recent festivals, so it’s not like they’re sneaking in. I’m beginning to get the feeling this shindig is not vetted as well as I thought it was…

Lastly, in the wake of several vast Twitter campaigns by some marketing social groups I know, this article from Anne R. Allen was refreshing in its bluntness.

If you have a published book and you are trying to sell it to people, please read this:

It contains wisdom.

It will keep people like me from having to ‘ignore’ bad marketers.

* So, I learned there will be a last Tiffany Aching novel, and a couple more posthumous books from Sir Terry. I’m glad, but still weepy. Because those will be the last.

In Memoriam: Sir Terry Pratchett

(I keep coming back to this post and fiddling with it. A threnody-in-progress, as I consider what this man meant to me.)

Well, we knew this day was coming, but we are no less sad. The world is without one of its finest satirists and humanists today, with the passing of British comic writer/fantasist Sir Terry Pratchett, from complications due to Alzheimer’s.

News here. A lovely segment from Buzzfeed here, on some of PTerry’s best quotes. The BBC obituary is here. A more in-depth tribute on Junkee here.

Terry Pratchett was the most deft writer I knew at weaving ultra-deep, ultra-serious content into rollicking humor. Along with Tanith Lee and Guy Kay, PTerry showed me the incredible catharsis of smile-through-your-tears endings. He was also an exemplary human being, whom I had the pleasure of meeting at the 2009 and 2011 North American Discworld Conventions.

Since 1983 and the start of the Discworld phenomenon, I have marveled at how kind he was, even to the idiots in his books and their real-life inspirations. Unlike many modern comedic writers and satirists, Terry Pratchett’s humor was never needlessly cruel. It could be pitiless, real, and unflinching*, exasperated by human frailty and pigheadedness, but a core of basic decency and ‘I understand’ shone through everything he wrote.

He and his work remain one of my litmus tests for new acquaintances, especially of the writing kind. If they don’t understand or dislike Terry’s writing, if they can only see into the surface layer of farce and whimsy – then they and I don’t have much in common.

*Last year, Neil Gaiman wrote an appreciation of Sir PTerry in The Guardian; it’s worth reading again for the insight. Most notably, that Terry Pratchett was driven by a deep, powerful fury: a drive to testify for human intelligence and heart, and against the horrible or banal tribal conventions we so often use as excuses to be neither intelligent nor kind.

We’ll miss you, man.

our version of March Madness

Throughout the month, the authors over at Marketing For Romance Writers (MFRW) will be having Tweet Days, blog hops, interviews, and contests showcasing some of the best romance writers around.

I like this group because it connects commercial and self-publishers, writers across all subgenres of romance, and some amazing promotional opportunities. Today is one of the Tweet Days, with higher than normal Twitter traffic enabled by a successful Thunderclap campaign last week.

While I do not retweet endlessly or blindly pitch authors I haven’t read or at least researched, I wholeheartedly support the group.

If you’re a romance reader, MFRW has some great inside coverage including author interviews, essays, and publishing news. If you’re a romance writer of any stripe, and you want some great tips to reach new readers, follow the website link or the Google+ link.

And now back to our irregularly-scheduled rants.

Margo Bond Collins, Legally Undead

 A reluctant vampire hunter, stalking New York City as only a scorned bride can.

Legally Undead cover

From Bathory Gate Press principal Margo Bond Collins comes another fast-paced, grimly funny paranormal romance/mystery/horror/comedy.

And this week only, it’s $.99! (Buy links after excerpt)


Elle Dupree has her life all figured out: first a wedding, then her Ph.D., then swank faculty parties where she’ll serve wine and cheese and introduce people to her husband the lawyer.

But those plans disintegrate when she walks in on a vampire draining the blood from her fiancé Greg. Horrified, she screams and runs–not away from the vampire, but toward it, brandishing a wooden letter opener.

As she slams the improvised stake into the vampire’s heart, a team of black-clad men bursts into the apartment. Turning around to face them, Elle discovers that Greg’s body is gone—and her perfect life falls apart.



The worst thing about vampires is that they’re dead. That whole wanting to suck your blood business runs a close second, but for sheer creepiness, it’s the dead bit that gets me every time. They’re up and walking around and talking and sucking blood, but they’re dead. And then there’s the whole terminology problem–how can you kill something that’s already dead? It’s just wrong.

I was twenty-four the first time I . . . destroyed? dispatched? . . . a vampire. That’s when I found out that all the books and movies are wrong. When you stick a wooden stake into their hearts, vampires don’t disintegrate into dust. They don’t explode. They don’t spew blood everywhere. They just look surprised, groan, and collapse into a pile of corpse. But at least they lie still then, like corpses are supposed to.

Since that first kill (I might as well use the word–there really isn’t a better one), I’ve discovered that only if you’re lucky do vampires look surprised before they groan and fall down. If you’re unlucky and miss the heart, they look angry. And then they fight.

There are the other usual ways to kill vampires, of course, but these other ways can get a bit complicated. Vampires are notoriously difficult to trick into sunlight. They have an uncanny ability to sense when there’s any sunlight within miles of them, and they’re awfully good at hiding from it. Holy water doesn’t kill them; it just distracts them for a while, and then they get that angry look again. And it takes a pretty big blade to cut off someone’s head–even an already dead someone–and carrying a great big knife around New York City, even the Bronx, is a sure way to get arrested. Nope, pointy sticks are the best way to go, all the way around.

My own pointy stick is actually more of a little knife with wood inlay on the blade–the metal makes it slide in easier. I had the knife specially made by an old Italian guy in just about the only ratty part of Westchester, north of the city. I tried to order one off the internet, but it turns out that while it’s easy to find wood-inlay handles, the blades themselves tend to be metal. Fat lot those people know.

But I wasn’t thinking any of this when I pulled the knife out of the body on the ground. I was thinking something more along the lines of “Oh, bloody hell. Not again.”


99-cent Sale Links




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About the Author

Margo Bond Collins is the author of urban fantasy, contemporary romance, and paranormal mysteries. She has published a number of novels, including Sanguinary, Taming the Country Star, Legally Undead, Waking Up Dead, and Fairy, Texas. She lives in Texas with her husband, their daughter, and several spoiled pets. Although writing fiction is her first love, she also teaches college-level English courses online. She enjoys reading romance and paranormal fiction of any genre and spends most of her free time daydreaming about heroes, monsters, cowboys, and villains, and the strong women who love them—and sometimes fight them.


Connect with Margo


Amazon Author Page:




Twitter:  @MargoBondCollin


Goodreads Author Page:

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rich people’s hobbies

Dear Bead & Button Show in Milwaukee, I love you to bits. I’ve had several pieces entered in your Bead Dreams competition over the years. I adore seeing the amazing ‘statement’ pieces that your other entrants show off every year. I get so much inspiration from you.

Green Vest for blog

I’ve never been able to attend; my days of being able to afford $1500 convention vacations are long past, I’m afraid, a casualty of the new working class in America.

This year, I can’t even enter, thanks to your $50 entry fee, ostensibly chosen to offset shipping and insurance. Really? I ship stuff all over the place, and I can do it for less than $50. Most shows that I’ve seen make their artists do that, anyway.

Here’s why I think raising the entry fee for those reasons is bogus: it’s applied at the front end of the entry process. If we paid a more modest fee to enter and were juried into the show, most of us so honored would be happy to pay our own return shipping and insurance costs. It’s fairly easy to calculate. Ah, but if *all entrants* pay that $50 per-item fee, the funds accrue whether artists are juried in or not. I’ve heard that high entry fees are often driven by the venue (bad hotel, greedy hotel, we’d already be staying there, try not to gouge us more!). I’ve also heard that high entry fees are a better guarantor of quality entrants. Nope – that’s what your jurors are there to assess. Let’s not forget the other battlecry of the fee-happy venue: ‘It’s a tax writeoff!’ Duh, sure – next year.

Even major regional art festivals tend to charge less than you do, just for entry into the jurying.

I can’t even ask you directly, Bead & Button Show, because your website feedback form is wonky. So I’ll remain on your mailing list and daydream over convention notes, and hope I win a lottery someday.

Because I probably can’t enter this piece this year, the only time it will still qualify.

rain gloves modeled

I’m a sad puppy. All my avocations have been overtaken by people richer in time and funds: artwork, costuming, jewelry, writing. A lot of shows and workshops I’d love to enter are raising their entry fees, or levying fees for the first time. Air travel and hotel costs are more exorbitant than ever. So is the cost of finishing out one art degree, and adding another. Artists like myself – who do not teach and thus earn class fees, and don’t make a lot from gallery sales – are shunted to the sidelines more and more.

I’ll still do what I love, because I can’t not do it. But I can buy a lot of beads and fabric for $1500 or even $50. The show-stopping book arts projects I could complete and reserve for exhibition entries I instead send off to my art reps, for as-fast-as-possible sales. There is no point, in my area, in making jewelry pieces like the Rain Gloves (above) for gallery sales, because my ROI would be so low.

It’s reality – I can play with y’all, or I can earn money in commercial freelancing, and keep art as a hobby.