Crane’s Guide to Writing and Baking

Okay, we’ll try another version of this.

In other words: writing is work. Often very hard work, that might pay little or nothing for an insane amount of time and labor. There is no set ‘destination’, since your career can skyrocket to best-seller and movie status, or crash into obscurity with equal speed.

If you want to write as a hobby, as I did for 20+ years, that’s fun and admirable.

But if you decide you want to publish your work, whatever genre it might be, you owe it to yourself and your book to do as much widely-ranging research as possible.

Don’t just look up ‘Publishers’ on Google or Bing, and go with the first one you see, maybe in your area. And please walk away from any publishers or agents who want you to pay upfront (or in anything but commissions off sales) to work with them. Take some time to look up other authors who’ve written something similar to your book, generally within the last two to five years. Did any agents represent them? Who published them? What do their sales look like on Amazon? Have you met these authors at book signings or conventions? Are you on a writing-oriented social media site?

For more information, gleaned from my mistakes and those I’ve seen in the industry, go here to see all the ways writers can be led astray on the publishing quest.

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Help keep the power on so I can keep blathering about art, jewelry, writing, and politics! I’ve joined Rakuten Marketing, so your click/buys on the links below will send me a micropayment.

Remember Mystery Science Theater 3000? The perpetrators are back with the online streaming movie commentary service
RiffTrax LLC

For more highbrow pursuits, here’s Taschen, one of my favorite publishers of beautiful, thought-provoking books in fine art, photography, culture, and the humanities.

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Blue Night Marketing Affiliates

These are the people who pay me, when you click/buy through their links on this blog. They feature companies whose products or services I, or friends and family, have used in the past. These companies have not directly paid me for a specific review or endorsement.

While many of these links will be found in text form, or as images at the bottoms of future or previously written posts, I thought it might be efficient and honest if I also show my current affiliate marketing links in one post.

Amazon. Where I show or review books, I check to see if they have a corresponding Amazon sales page, and link to it. In most cases, that will be a paid link: if my review was useful enough to send you looking for the book, and you buy it from Amazon, I’ll get a (very tiny) percentage of the sale. Whether I know the author or not, I will only review books if they strike me as really worthy of my time.

Rakuten Kobo U.S. Because I believe in fair competition, I’m also offering links to Rakuten Kobo U.S. This gigantic publisher of the Kobo format is one of the most popular in Asia and Europe, and fast making a name for itself in the USA. So if you don’t want to buy an e-book off Amazon, chances are you’ll find it on Kobo. I’m thrilled that NineStar Press, my current e-book and print novel publisher, has just made a direct distribution deal with Kobo!

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Coursera. I wrote a whole blog post about Coursera, I like them so much. This company provides universal access to some of the world’s best online college courses, lectures, and professional certificate programs. Build your brain!

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Vudu. Cut the cord to cable TV: if you just want HD movie and TV-show streaming a la carte, try Vudu. This American content delivery and media technology company’s streaming service distributes most current and a 70-year back catalog of vintage movies and shows.

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Taschen. One of my favorite publishers of beautiful, thought-provoking books in fine art, photography, culture, science, and the humanities.

TASCHEN - Beautiful Books

Artistic Labels. If you need mailing/ID labels, stamping supplies, and cool stationery, this very old, very established company probably has or can make them for you. I’ve not only used them for envelope address labels, but for company logo stickers on outgoing art and jewelry packages.

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BeadRoom.com I love beads. These people love beads. They have one of the most gorgeously-photographed collections of high-quality glass beads online. Seriously, it’s like bead p0rn. Their prices are reasonable, and the catalog is large enough to fit nearly any project need. They’re also super-approachable if you have a special order you need to track down.

RiffTrax, LLC. In long-ago ages there was a cult hit, a low-budget comedy/movie review show called Mystery Science Theater 3000. The main ‘gimmick’ was a hapless Everyman imprisoned on a satellite over the Earth by evil masterminds, who periodically forced him to watch the most horrible old movies For Science. He had robot buddies for company, and to the Evil Scientists’ dismay, had a great time absolutely shredding the movies.

Why that long intro? Because MST3K may be no more, but its founders are back with RiffTrax LLC.

This streaming service allows you to sync their hilarious real-time commentary with specific movies. This is the only sane way to watch some real steamers (like Tommy Wiseau’s ‘The Room’). Rifftrax also has live shows, and if you ever get a chance to attend one, GO.

Coursera and why I blather about it

Note: this post contains paid marketing links, which I only do when I really support a product or service. If you click/buy through the link below (at the bottom of the post), I will get a micropayment to help defray the operating costs of Blue Night.

But really? I’d much rather you just go look at what Coursera has to offer you.

Coursera is an online educational service that provides access to some of the world’s best university courses and lectures, from thousands of sources, most priced from $29 to $99 per course. Courses generally run from 4 – 6 weeks.

You can brush up on old professional certificates, earn new ones, round out your old degrees before challenging course requirements at new universities…or just round out your knowledge base.

Why pick Coursera?

It’s easy, if you have little self-discipline. If you can pay bills online and navigate Facebook or Twitter, you can do this.

Your brain will thank you. We’re seeing more and more evidence that early-to-midlife brain workouts help reduce Alzheimer’s Disease and some other forms of dementia.

Your future earnings might thank you. Yes, we’ve all heard the one about Masters-degree grads flipping burgers. But did you know that many jobs that didn’t require a Bachelors’ degree in 1997, do now? People with a better knowledge base can take advantage of earnings opportunities others might miss. As jobs become more high-technology, workers must keep up with new job specifications…even whole new industries.

Plus, you’ll be better insulated against falling for ‘fake news’ scams and tricks, on the right or left side of political debates.

In our modern American (and some other countries, I’m sure) education system, we’re seeing two horrific trends: the debt bubble crippling many for-profit-college students, and the ‘cheat-your-way-to-the-top’ mentality made popular by Wall Street and our politicians. For the latter, there’s growing evidence that relying on paid thesis papers and other outsourced coursework doesn’t really ‘teach’ the student, so they don’t go into a field with the necessary base knowledge, or even the ability to learn and retrain as new information evolves. That can be fine if it’s a low-impact position in a minor industry.

But it can become a catastrophe. Like this guy:

A little history: the American and British industrial era was helped along in the 1880s to 1920s by many factors, but a love of (even a duty toward) education became many citizens’ aspiration. Free public libraries and reading rooms sprouted up from the biggest cities to the tiniest coal-mining towns. Their proponents knew that not everyone was going to college, or would become a fancy businessman in a marble house. But they knew it was important to have informed citizens. Who read and debated, and sometimes became writers and scholars guiding the next generations of informed citizens.

We need to ditch the fashionable hatred of ‘intellectual elites’ and get back to the America that loved learning and science. STEM is for everyone, not just the geeks in labcoats!

Self-guided learning can be a more-affordable option for busy (and poorer) people, to hone critical professional skills, or regain (or find in the first place) a joy of simply learning new things. Again with the science: learning and play (‘plasticity’ in neurological terms) help keep our brains functioning better and longer.

So, back to Coursera. Don’t be afraid of their course lists and lectures. Hop onto the site. Browse the catalog.

Do you like to watch how-to building, cooking, or crafts shows on cable or TV? Is there anything you have ever…however briefly…wondered about: How does that work? Why does this happen? What was it like, in that time, or that place?

You can find a course or lecture on Coursera that might answer your question, taught by the experts in that field, more deeply than you might get in a brief Wikipedia search.

Kudos if you know how to do basic Google or Wiki searches: many people who fall for ‘fake news’ scams can’t even do that…in an age of internet wonders, they’re stuck watching the sideshows.

This is Coursera. I’ve tried it a couple of times and enjoyed the experience, and I have friends who’ve been fans for years.

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‘The Purist’ has a home with NineStar Press

I’m contracting THE PURIST to NineStar Press for a release date sometime in 2018.

It almost certainly *won’t* have this cover, and possibly not this title, but I look forward to seeing what NineStar does with it.

Way back in 1996 or 1997 I wrote a 6K short story set in my Lonhra Sequence fantasy universe: a secondary-world riff on the Orpheus myth where Persephone and Eurydice combined into one badass spearwoman with A Secret, Hades was a genderfluid immortal sorcerer, and Orpheus…was Eridan: a bard and ambassador whose quiet life is turned inside out by those other two lunatics.

Around 2013 I wondered if I could expand SINGER IN RHUNSHAN into a novella. That happened, then it shot past novella-length and eventually to 102K words.

I gave it the next four years to find an agent or editor willing to take it on. The wonderful agent who helped me with the first MORO contract tried to place this one, and got form letters back. Several agencies said ‘no’ but asked me to come back ASAP with new work. At least two Big Five editors have liked my social media pitches for PURIST in its early incarnations as SINGER. (Ironically, a couple of months after form-rejecting the actual mms, but that happens.)

They didn’t like it enough to champion it or my other work, either in mainstream fantasy or LGBTQIA SFF romance. No one but me, five beta readers, and the agent loved this story. And she couldn’t get anywhere with it.

I’ve seen the miracles that can occur with my art representatives: they’re cheerleaders as well as representatives of the artists they help. They’ve lifted my art career far beyond my ability or expectations.

A bad or indifferent agent is worse than no agent.

I have options that I would not have had, if my first (very capable) agent had been able to sell my first (barely) coherent novel to a mass-market paperback publisher in the mid-1990s. Good small presses are out there now, and they are getting industry awards, notice, and readers. Effective self-publishing exists now, and is the safety net for many authors now releasing their own backlists and new work. I have access to trade groups that will help me with audiobook versions, film rights, and foreign rights if those apply.

NineStar is a great small publisher with a lot of potential. It probably can’t come near the best possible Big Five sales, let alone advance rates. But the NSP staff will do the best job they can with their formidable skills. NineStar’s rights reversions processes are clean and simple enough that I will be able to self-pub in the future, should I need to.

I don’t view NineStar as ‘settling’ as much as finding another viable route through what has become, for this book, an impassable quagmire.

It’s a journey I’m looking forward to, and a huge relief.

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Trump Asks Me For Money

Proof that the universe has a questionable sense of humor, or GOP marketers are harvesting emails without researching them, or Weebly sold me out (or all three):

Trump’s campaign folks have been sending me begging emails *on the email account I use only for things related to fanfiction*. Often very dark and or seriously raunchy fanfiction. To clarify further: these stories are often about gay or bi people having sex. They got that email address. Weebly, I hope you charged them a lot of money. How many other fan writers did you sell?

No, seriously, if you are a fanfiction writer and you are getting this letter on a dedicated email address, speak up.

So far ‘Donald J. Trump’ has sent me two emails, and ‘Mike Pence’ one. They are campaign contribution letters barely disguised as paranoid and frightened calls-to-action.

So to be reaaaaallly bitchy, I’m reproducing today’s Trump mass email in regular black text, and my commentary in bold. Let’s get started.

Friend, (No, you are not and never will be my friend. Your allies are why I stopped being a Republican. You were a Democrat until Obama made fun of you in 2011, yes? So we’ve established what you are, now we just need to establish your price.)

The fake news keeps saying, “President Trump is isolated.” (You are.)

…They say I’m isolated by lobbyists, corporations, grandstanding politicians, and Hollywood. (That’s because even the people who thought they could use you, seriously hate you now. Listen in some Shabbat evening, and I’ll bet Ivanka and Jared are planning their own hasty exit strategy before they go down with you. They are both a bit smarter than you are, and they want their kids far away from you.)

GOOD! I don’t want them. All I ever want is the support and love from the AMERICAN PEOPLE who’ve been betrayed by a weak and self-serving political class. (Yep. By Democrats, sure. But mostly by Republicans since the days of Ronald Reagan, when the GOP sold middle America on the fantasy of trickle-down economics. You would have no trouble betraying the naive or angry Americans who voted for you. And if you know how to pray at all, you are in cold sweats praying they never find how much you look down on them and everything they passionately believe in.)

We’re coming up on our end-of-quarter deadline and the media will be waiting to see if the American people have walked away from our movement. With your help, our numbers will show THE WORLD that the people are still fighting to MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN! (In other words, you’re scared shitless by how close Mueller is closing in on you and your corrupt GOP minders. You started your 2020 campaign with one goal in mind: rake in as much money as possible to shore up your bankrupt tinsel empire, and maybe have enough to flee to Russia. Or not to Russia, since Putin has to be getting seriously pissed off at you right now.)

AND THEN, DEAR READERS, TRUMP ASKS ME FOR MONEY.

There are dropdown bars that begin with CONTRIBUTE $250, CONTRIBUTE $100, CONTRIBUTE $75, CONTRIBUTE $50, CONTRIBUTE $35, CONTRIBUTE OTHER AMOUNT.

There is no tab for NOT ONE RED CENT, ASSHOLE. Oh, and the letter starts up again:

Look — Hollywood and the media are going to hate us no matter what we say or do. (Stop hiding behind poor people in the heartland, Donald, you’re as much a ‘coastal elite’ as they come. Actually, George Clooney has a pretty good rebuttal for you.)

Their goal is to take us down. My goal is to bring all Americans up! (One clarification: we sane folks would like to take you down, and help your followers survive what you will bring to them with your craven, disastrous policies. The only Americans you want to enrich are yourself and your cronies.)

The economy is still booming (only for some very rich people), our border is getting secured (with what, your see-through, environmentally shaky fence?), illegal immigration is down big league (even legal immigrants don’t want to come here anymore), justice is being delivered (um, where, I don’t see it, unless you call civil forfeiture, misplaced ICE raids, and anything Jeff Sessions does ‘justice’), sanctuary cities are losing support (they need more support), and American energy is on the rise (No, dipshit, talk to any oilman in Midland TX and they’ll tell you they’re trying to squeeze the last profits before another crash. And WE CAN’T EXTRACT AND BURN THAT MUCH MORE PETROLEUM before some very bad things start happening even faster. Contrary to your bloviating lies, manmade climate change is here, you shallow undereducated manbaby.)

…And that’s even with self-serving politicians obstructing our agenda. (Oh, wow, one sentence I agree with. There’s a reason I’m registered Independent. I think most of the old-guard Democrats could snatch defeat from the jaws of the most-certain victory even if you gave them a map and an expert concierge. However, I also think that 95% of the Republican members of Congress should eventually face firing squads or life sentences in maximum security prisons for corruption and treason. Or to make it quick and just, in Guantanamo just as another Cat 5 hurricane is lined up to strike. There will be plenty of time when hurricane season lasts all year long!)

Friend, I was proud to go to the U.N. and declare before the world that for the first time in decades, America will look out for America’s interests FIRST. (And that’s when we became nobody’s ally, and well on the way to becoming as isolated and Third-World a nation as North Korea. You call yourself a ‘businessman’ with posturing like that? No wonder you went bankrupt so many times, and nobody wants to work with you anymore. You had to take Russian, Cypriot, and Deutsche Bank money because US banks had learned the hard way not to trust you.)

I didn’t run for president to be a puppet for the global political class. I ran to be a champion for the American people. (Let’s face it, Donald, you ran because you thought it would be a lucrative publicity stunt for a new far-right media channel. You never thought you would win. Your Russian allies never thought you would win. The GOP attached Mike Pence to your ticket because *he’s* one of the guys they wanted all along as POTUS. All of you underestimated how angry, ill-informed, and frankly stupid a certain bloc of Americans are. Russian/GOP vote-rigging in crucial districts worked a little too well. But hey, now you have the job, you HAAAATE it, and you’re going down as one of…if not THE…worst Presidents in American history. Good luck with that.)

The only support I will ever care about is from American patriots like you. (I’m an American, and I’m a patriot, and trust me, you will never get my support.)

Please help us CRUSH our goal and make this our best quarter report ever. (Ah, so yes, it is ALL ABOUT THE MONEY you need to pay off all those Russian debts before Putin releases the tapes with little girls in them, da?)

Thank you and MAGA, (That is true. Morons Are Governing America).

And then he signs it with his name and as close to ‘heroic’ a photo…from leaner, less orange days than now, I think…as Donald Trump can achieve. I don’t think I can see tape holding up his wattles, or maybe someone got clever in Photoshop?

I much prefer this picture. It’s more honest about who he is.

Or even this one.

Sigh. Donald, just stop. You’re not fooling anyone.

What offends me the most is that the Trump campaign is sending out these fundraising emails while Trump delays helping Puerto Rico.

Because Trump will never fail to indulge in a chance at racism and petty vengeance: most Puerto Rican Americans are somewhat browner than Trump and his family, and they largely voted for Hillary Clinton.

 

 

New approaches for Blue Night

Hello, readers.

I will have some cool news for you on Saturday, September 30, 2017.

Not related directly to the Cool News, I’ll be making some changes to this blog over the next few weeks. There’s no absolute schedule for this, just as I have time and funding for the things I can’t do myself.

First, I need to change the old landing page from 2012, and update it with better visuals and links to my blog, art, and books.

Second, I’m going to add some affiliate sales links, if I can keep them low-key.

I’ve resisted allowing advertising on the Blue Night blog up to now, because I wasn’t happy with the old generation of affiliate programs. Newer ones seem a bit better and slightly less annoying, so I’ll give them a try.

Why am I doing this? Due to a catastrophic family illness, I have to spend less time out in the workforce and more time as an unpaid caretaker. This may or may not lead to more writing and art time.

For now, this silly blog has become an unexpected asset.

Even if only a few people who read posts or look at my Filigree’s Rule or Book Art pages click on an ad, those tiny ad-sales amounts can add up a substantial percentage of my lost W2 earnings. (I work in Arizona after all, where a $10 minimum wage was bitterly fought over for years.)

This could help replace lost income, help my family keep our house, and help my loved one through a difficult healing period.

I would not do this for any lesser reason, believe me.

Moro’s Price mood board

Since I’ve a nice uptick in sales lately on this M/M space opera romance, here’s a mood board of my original art inspired by the story, cover background from Natasha Snow, and images from Alphonse Mucha, The Nature Conservancy, and Pinterest.

I don’t know any other way to respond to the anniversary of 9-11, or the creeping insanity and denial that darkens our world today…but to write and make art, find joy in it, and hope sharing it makes someone else’s afternoon a little better.

If you want to know more about MORO’S PRICE, go here.

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Help keep the power on so I can keep blathering about art, jewelry, writing, and politics! I’ve joined Amazon Affiliates and Rakuten Marketing, so your click on the link below will give a micropayment.

Taschen is one of my favorite publishers of beautiful, thought-provoking …and sexy…books in fine art, photography, culture, and the humanities.

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Claribel Ortega tweets Handbook

Oh god, this is so funny it’s painful. To go along with Lani Sarem and GeekNation’s previous misadventures involving Handbook For Mortals, YA author and blogger Claribel Ortega takes on the soul-stunting task of reading and live-tweeting this book.

To be super efficient, Claribel has Storified two separate reads in these handy threads. So if you want to know what GeekNation considers ‘publishable’ (and what at least 5,000 teen writers on Wattpad and Ao3 wouldn’t), go here:

https://storify.com/Claribel_Ortega/clarireadshandbook

and here

https://storify.com/Claribel_Ortega/clarireadshandbook-2#publicize

For snark, GIFs, and some of the worst writing I have ever seen. (And I’ve been guilty of a lot of it, just so you know.)

Seriously, if you plan to write YA in any genre, but especially fantasy, these posts are a masterclass in HOW NOT TO DO IT.

Added 9/4/2017: know what would make this even more hilarious? If Gilbert Gottfried could read some Handbook passages aloud.

Added 9/13/2017: and now Jenny Trout is sharpening her knifelike wit on Sarem’s hapless prose.

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Help keep the power on so I can keep blathering about art, jewelry, writing, and politics! I’ve joined Amazon Affiliates and Rakuten Marketing, so your click on the links below will send me a micropayment.

Taschen is one of my favorite publishers of beautiful, thought-provoking books in fine art, photography, culture, and the humanities.

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Cut the cord to cable TV: if you just want HD movie and TV-show streaming a la carte, try Vudu. This American content delivery and media technology company’s streaming service distributes most current and a 70-year back catalog of vintage movies and shows.

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Big Fails: Lani Sarem and Louise Linton

So much news to absorb in the last week or so: Charlottesville’s aftermath, Trump’s Phoenix speech, the solar eclipse, religious riots in India, North Korea, Hurricane Harvey…

I might touch on all those later, but let’s look at two hilarious gaffes in recent social media. Both of them embody privilege, legal-but-morally-suspect corruption, and astounding condescension from their originators. Oh, and world-class whinging when they got called out.

Louise Linton is the wealthy Scottish actress who recently married the even wealthier financier Steven Mnuchin, Trump’s Treasury Secretary and beneficiary of several financial scandals. Linton is no stranger to putting her couture-shod foot in her mouth, via an earlier socially-inept misadventure over this book on Amazon.

Last week, ostensibly on government business (but suspiciously probably to see the eclipse from Fort Knox) Linton and Mnuchin took a government jet to Kentucky, home of some of the poorest counties in America. Linton hashtagged her arrival with this post (left side image). She boasted openly about the designer stuff she wore on the trip.

Someone else called her out (top right).

Instead of ignoring it, Linton fired back with a dripping bit of classist condescension (lower right)

Whereupon Social Media tore her apart, with endless posts and memes, many touching on the old ‘Let them eat cake’ quip from Marie Antoinette.

Whereupon poor Linton found herself persona-non-grata to the fashion events and designers she craves to fill her empty life, and the charities that helped give her a gloss of social responsibility. Good thing she married money, eh? Pity it couldn’t do anything to teach her about class.

An even worse pity that more voters didn’t figure this out about the greedy and corrupt upper level social circle attaching itself to Trump’s baggy suitcoat. Louise Linton is a normal example of the group, not an exception.

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Now onto Lani Sarem, from a different class background and motivation. Lani presents herself as an edgy liberal outsider, a skilled player in the indie music and film industry. Apparently, to fuel support for an upcoming film project, Sarem and her publisher GeekNation cooked up a stunt to game the NYT hardback YA book ranks with her new release Handbook For Mortals.

Except that no one in the very tight knit YA book community (already seething with other recent controversies) had heard of Handbook.

YA Twitter’s crowdsourced investigation took less than a day. Finding, among other things, that even the cover (if not outright plagiarized) was derivative.

Again, Sarem’s reactions made everything worse: starting with saying of her first online YA author detractor: “I’ve never heard of his book, either.”

She then went on to accuse the YA community of being bullies, insular, out of touch with reality, and not worth her or GeekNation’s time.

Which (no matter how one feels about YA genres in particular) is a spectacularly stupid way to approach the people who will be your target readership and colleagues.

I could forgive some arrogance on Sarem’s part if her writing was groundbreaking, skilled, and original. If the writing showcased in the Look Inside Kindle samples of Handbook is anything to go by, it’s as derivative as the cover art. Seriously, go look while you still can. Actual teen writers on Wattpad and Archive of Our Own could blow this out of the water without trying.

What do these two (blonde white) women have in common? A breathtaking disregard for other people (or at least people who are not immediately useful to them.) It’s not like gaming the NYT hardback ranks is new; so many other authors have tried it that the system is rather a joke.

Louise Linton needs to take a cue from the Old Money in Europe and the UK, which for decades post WWII managed a credible facade of modesty (even in the face of Eurotrash escapades).

Lani Sarem may be a capable screenwriter, but the terrible writing and self-indulgent navelgazing shown in her book reveals she desperately needs some writing courses (more likely, a ghostwriter) if she’s going to continue as a novelist.

GeekNation needs to stop and analyze their path forward. Like many coming from the technology and social media sector, they figured publishing books couldn’t possibly be that hard. They didn’t learn from this unique and crazy industry, tried to reinvent the wheel, and took disastrous shortcuts.

They’ll probably even win, in the end: the book stunt was only to drive buzz for the attached film project and franchise, where Sarem is on track to play the lead.

Added 9/29/2017: Lani Sarem is making the most of her moment of notoriety. Here’s a follow-up article from Vulture.

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Help keep the power on so I can keep blathering about art, jewelry, writing, and politics! I’ve joined Amazon Affiliates and Rakuten Marketing, so your click on the link below will give a micropayment.

Taschen is one of my favorite publishers of beautiful, thought-provoking books in fine art, photography, culture, and the humanities.

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Diversity Bingo

Or: the state of LGBTQIA SFF and Romance publishing in 2017.

Tl:dr…diverse authors may be courted by large publishers not so much for the value of their stories, but for the cachet of representing them as proof of diversity in publishing. Unagented authors and agents need to be wary of this possible trend, and plan ahead for its most-dire side effects.

The Science-fiction, Fantasy, and Romance industries (and they are industries) have been on a good roll lately, as far as including diverse authors and stories. Native Voices, POC, and LGBTQIA authors are getting more notice and somewhat less airbrushing/outright censoring (at least in the US, UK, and European markets) than they were even a few years ago.

C.S. Pacat’s Captive Prince series was heralded as a new and daring icebreaker in blending M/M romance with plotty fantasy intrigue.

And yet.

Was Prince a signal of things to come, or a fluke driven by already-loyal readerships gained during its earlier self-published days? It’s worth noting that the author’s agent approached her after the first two books became self-publishing legends.

I keep seeing agent and editorial MSWL posts begging for queer, gay, bi, NV, POC, and other authors. In fantasy, in science fiction, in fantasy romance, in all flavors of YA. As far back as this post, M/M romance publishers were asking for more books where the LGBTQIA protagonist’s story wasn’t primarily about his, her, or their issues, but how their background made them and their adventures interesting. How they fit into a world while they ‘happened’ to be gay, bi, or whatever.

I’ve seen a heartening increase in crossover books where two different genres melded to great effect…with LGBTQIA characters.

Diverse authors (especially women) had a triumphant showing at the recent Hugo Awards.

And yet.

I’ve also seen large mainstream SFF and Romance imprints scaling back their buys or even dropping LGBTQIA authors because the latter strayed too far from ‘message fiction’. As if these authors were only legitimate while they displayed carefully-sculpted tropes in their fiction. Woe on them, if they wanted to explore other directions, than the ones that made them a little titillating and safely ‘marketable’.

Part of the friction, I believe, comes from competing-but-equally-valid mindsets among romance and SFF readers, whose purchases ultimately guide large and small publishers. Romance readers want the Happily-Ever-After or the Happy-For-Now ending, and a focus on character emotions and arcs. SFF readers will tolerate more backstory and secondary plot, unlikeable and unreliable characters, and the possibility of a bad ending. Crafting books to appeal to both camps can be an exhausting task, and possibly only solved by happy accident.

Another problem may lie in the mainstream SFF market’s remaining squeamishness about LGBTQIA characters, especially given the accounts of ‘bi-erasure’ even and especially in the gay community, and given the new overt tolerance and celebration of racism, sexism, and authoritarianism around the world.

Sure, we got Fifty Shades of Grey, whee. And a Handmaid’s Tale TV adaptation that’s as scary as the mid-80s original.

We also have diverse authors and artists being singled out for persecution by traditionalists who see them as a threat to authoritarian ‘stability’ and ethnostate fantasies.

The SFF and Romance publishing industries have long been in the business of celebrating ‘what-if’, however awkward and halting their progress might have been.

I worry about the fates of newer authors recruited in the wake of projects like Captive Prince, if their publishing adventures don’t pan out as well.

What can be done?

Unagented authors and agents need to make certain both Big Five and small-press contracts have clear, specific routes to rights reversion. That means no undue (if any) financial penalty for exercising those rights. It means shorter contract terms or specific sales thresholds under which the author can get their damn books back.

It means that authors need to be aware of their options in self-publishing reclaimed backlists (which can resurrect a career!), self-publishing new works, working with more-agile small presses, or creating direct imprints of their own with Big Five publishers. The latter requires chutzpah and strong existing sales, but I’ve seen more than a few M/M romance authors achieve it after the fallout from Ellora’s Cave and other defunct romance publishers.

Being merely a checked box on a publisher or agent’s ‘Diversity Bingo’ card may not translate to decent sales and a fulfilling career for those authors. They’re likely to leave the business, or change what they write to more safely fit trends.

We all lose out, then.

 

 

Alis Franklin: Books of the Wyrd

I’ve talked before about a wonderful fanfic-writer-turned-agented-commercial-author, Alis Franklin. Time for a bittersweet update. LIESMITH has a great sequel, STORMBRINGER, which you can read. And what looks to be a couple of brilliant follow-ups, which you can’t (not yet anyway).

You can find out more about her writing here.

Out of respect for Alis and her agent, I’ll refrain from a more-targeted industry rant. Let’s just use what happened to Alis as a teachable moment for newer authors getting a shiny offer from a Big Five publishing imprint.

Breathe. Do your research again. Find the skeletons in the publisher’s closet before you become one of them.

Be aware that for potentially much higher sales than a small press, you may be trading publishing rights tied up forever. If the book doesn’t sell, the publisher may not accept new books in that series. The publisher will continue to eke out tiny sales on your existing work, and you’ll not only get pennies…you can’t republish it or the sequels elsewhere. If you’re lucky, you or your agent arranged reasonable termination clauses whereby you can get your publishing rights back if sales fall below a certain threshold in a specific timeframe.

I’ve heard rumors that certain digital-only publishers got themselves blacklisted by their greater genre community, for alleged non-standard to overtly-predatory contract items. This often deeply hurt the authors and agents who committed to those deals. Was the shunning merited? It’s hard to say, except by looking forensically at a case-by-case basis.

So if you have an agent recommending such a deal, go over the contract offer with a very fine comb. Especially with digital-only or digital-first offers. Especially if you write in one of the ‘diversity’ boxes like Own Voices, POC, or LGBTQIA! Is that shiny Big Five imprint interested in you as a writer, or only as a checkmark in that box…and only as long as you write predictably and safely ‘on message’? (A blog post specifically about that will follow this one.)

Find out how well similar authors are selling at that press, or its rivals. I know one digital-only Big Five LGBTQIA author who probably sells enough ebooks a month to make her rent. I know others who’ve made low four or even low three figures for multiple books, across several years.

Have a realistic conversation with your agent about how they will handle the worst-case scenarios listed above. Will they support your move to another press and/or another pen name, or cut you loose to find your own way via self-pub?

New-to-publishing authors often fixate on the idea that getting an agent is their main goal, when it’s merely a stage in a journey.

Show of Hands

These lovelies arrived today from AZ Art Supply: Richeson 10″ Female Right and Left Manikin Hands. 2/3 articulated, posing hands in blond wood (probably box, lyptus, or poplar, I’ll have to check.)

Meant as an artist’s drawing aide, I find they make amazing jewelry models. I’m resisting the urge to woodburn henna designs on them, but I did (in an inside joke) nickname them ‘Johani 1’ and ‘Johani 2’.

I got them so I could photograph things like this, without my burn-scarred and carpentry-sliced hands getting in the way.

 

Mark Engels: ALWAYS GRAY IN WINTER

One of the best side-effects of online novel-pitch contests: the community around them. Whether or not a writer makes the cut (agent request, mentorship, etc), most writers can find new friendships and even collaborations within the larger pool of the hopeful and hopeless.

Mark J. Engels and I met during a pitch contest in 2016 (was it #DVpit? #Pitmad? #SFFpit? They blur, yanno.) Neither of us got anywhere meaningful in the actual contests, other than some helpful critiques. But we hit it off as sounding boards.

Who is Mark, other than a cool guy who is a go-to source for locomotive engineering and logistics questions? Go here and find out. Or here: https://www.mark-engels.com/ 

Psst: if you do, you are going to see some wicked cool art. Like Pawly Doing What Pawly Does:

Mark has a book launch today: ALWAYS GRAY IN WINTER, which I read in beta form last year. This novel will be slanted toward ‘Furry’ readers, which is okay, because the Furries I know are eagerly waiting for it. But GRAY is so much more than what many outside readers (and even Furries) are expecting. For one thing, it’s not erotica, romance, urban fantasy, or paranormal romance.

I stand by my initial impulse to call GRAY ‘Furpunk’: a Military Thriller that happens to have shapeshifters in it. Pawlina Katczynski is a well-written strong female character without being a caricature. Her story runs on high stakes, killer action sequences, sneaky plotting, and some deft worldbuilding (as there should be, to fit an embattled clan of Polish were-lynx mercenaries into a world that would be familiar to the leads of ‘Atomic Blonde’ and ‘Bourne’.)

Will you like it? The book will be in print first, but hopefully the publisher will release an ebook version soon, too. Go to Mark’s site, click on ‘Novel’, and see if it sparks your interest.

Book links:

https://www.amazon.com/Always-Gray-Winter/dp/1945247193/

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/36008025-always-gray-in-winter

 

Unrelenting Optimism

Or in other words, the Twitter phenomenon that is #ThinkBIGSundayWithMarsha, begun and hosted by media entrepreneur Marsha Wright.

Okay, many of us roll our eyes at those inspirational quotes slapped on lovely or heartwarming posters, and presented in slim metal frames. You know, the ones your boss and mine put up on our office walls?

I can be deeply cynical, but I have a soft spot for those posters. Sometimes they’re a guilty pleasure, like listening to ABBA or having Nutella toast.

Sometimes they truly help me deal with an awful week of everything going wrong.

Some of the best places I’ve ever worked had such things on the walls. And a lot of their owners and upper management actually tried to operate by the noble, kind, or funny tenets the posters proclaimed.

So imagine my joy when a chance Twitter follow opened my eyes to Think Big Sunday With Marsha, a weekly extravaganza of optimistic, positive, inspirational tweets, quotes, and images.

This is such a quintessential American phenomenon: the kind of stubborn, willfully optimistic outlook that gets stuff done. Or bankrupt and on fire, in a ditch.

As entrepreneurs and inventors, creative people must look beyond that latter fear. Life is full of mistakes and obstacles. So are business careers. When problems happen…and they will…the most adaptable people can learn from them, not remain shackled by them.

It took me years to understand the highest goal of the optimism industry isn’t to sell vague dreams and bridges. It helps open people up to possibilities they hadn’t considered, and goals they never knew they had. Sometimes all we need is the right opportunity at the right time, and we can work miracles.

And along the way we can drink coffee and look at gorgeous posters and GIFs.

***

Help keep the power on so I can keep blathering about art, jewelry, writing, and politics! I’ve joined Amazon Affiliates and Rakuten Marketing, so your click on the links below will give me a micropayment.

Humor helps lift our spirits. I’ve always found the movie-streaming commentary service RiffTrax LLC (yes, from the same folks who brought us Mystery Science Theater 3000) to be a ray of snarky light.

Taschen is one of my favorite publishers of beautiful, thought-provoking books in fine art, photography, culture, and the humanities.

TASCHEN - Beautiful Books

CraneHanaDesigns now on Etsy

Trying another sales portal, this time on Etsy: https://www.etsy.com/shop/CraneHanaDesigns

 

I’m conflicted about Etsy. They’re the best game in town for many crafters. They’ve made some colossal blunders in the past, and I feel terrible for them that the only way they can save the company now is at the cost of their allegedly benevolent company ethos.

I say ‘allegedly’ because many of those blunders involved touting themselves as a ‘handmade item’ portal, while allowing some of the worst of the buy-sell trade to dominate many of their categories. Buuutt…Etsy took itself public, and now pays the price with stockholders who don’t actually give a damn about ethics.

Maybe they…and we…can strike a balance between Return-on-Investment and the love of skilled handmade work.

We’ll see.

***

Help keep the power on so I can keep blathering about art, jewelry, writing, and politics! I’ve joined Amazon Affiliates and Rakuten Marketing, so your click on the links below will send me a micropayment.

To celebrate my 32 years of collecting beads, here’s a paid link to a charming collection of high-quality glass beads and other jewelry-making supplies: BeadRoom.com

And another to a favorite publisher of incredible books in the arts, humanities, and politics.
TASCHEN - Beautiful Books

The Gear’d Heart, by AG Carpenter

This has been a *long* time in the works, but I’m so happy to see ‘The Gear’d Heart’, a new steampunk serial by AG Carpenter. I’ve read it in an earlier beta form, and seen the kickass sequel.

Now’s the chance to get in on a charming, devious, and dark story, via Patreon!

Begging for Eyeballs: authors and reviews

Now that I have your attention, here’s a little rant about authors asking for reviews.

In short, we shouldn’t get grief for this.

We shouldn’t be made to feel guilty for asking, or told we’re ‘pandering’ or ‘imposing’ on our readers. Likewise, we shouldn’t hold ourselves loftily above promoting our work in careful, tactful, honest, and sometimes even funny ways.

Reviews and word-of-mouth are some of the most effective ways to sell books, no matter whether those books are self-published, small-press, mid-sized independent, or Big-Five imprint.

Without reviews, we don’t get sales. Without sales, our agents and our publishers cut us loose as poor investments. Or if we’ve self-published, we un-publish or otherwise stop promoting our writing altogether. So then you never get to see more of it. Without reviews, this kind of work (and believe me, it’s hard work) is a solitary hobby.

Our review requests usually happen on social media, where they might get boosted by sympathetic allies…or lost in the static. Sometimes we’re lucky enough that our publisher will place a small note in the back of our books, saying something like this:

If you like our books, please review them!

Some savvy publishers add incentives for on-site reviewers, offering them points toward purchases with each review.

I’ll add: don’t like our books? Review anyway. Get that unhealthy anger and disappointment off your chest.

Our ulterior motive: your one-star or two-star negative review still has the potential to sell our books. Reviews can be highly subjective. Something you think is a bug could be a feature to someone else. Your intelligent, honest negative review can spark lots of curiosity! Likewise, your banal, ill-considered, or downright petty review can be so unintentionally hilarious it becomes the best marketing stunt you could give us.

As an author, it’s not my business to wade into your specific reviews of my books, good or bad. I’ll sure as hell learn from them, but I’m not going to start the social media equivalent of a teenage clique-fight over a Goodreads review.

Where I do get angry is when publishers themselves advise their authors against asking for reviews within the end matter of the book. I’ve seen this several times recently from different publishers. One’s an e-pub only press, the other two favor print editions first and e-pub a laggard second.

Um, hello, publishers? The end matter of your book is some of the most priceless real estate you have. It’s where interested readers, still in the afterglow of a story, go to find out what’s next. Most of them are predisposed to being friendly. Asking for a review at that moment is just solid business 101.

Especially if you’re already hampering sales by offering only one platform outlet at launch, whether e-pub or print.

Authors, this is something to seriously consider when researching publishers or signing an offer contract. How does the publisher approach reviews? Do they send out timely and professional Advance Review Copies (ARCs)? Do they court the larger buying outlets and distributors? Do they aggressively promote to the online book-blogging influencers of their genre? Do they have easy-to-use review platforms on their own websites? Do they ask for reviews within the front or end matter of their books?

Think about these factors before you sign that contract!

As for readers, we understand if you feel infringed-upon about our review requests. Sometimes we hate doing that, too. But please consider the relatively-tiny fraction of readers who bother to leave a review in the first place. We bug you for the same reason NPR does: we succeed or fail based in large part on our audience’s goodwill and participation.

Patreon Ahoy!

Happy Independence Day, for my fellow US friends (and for everyone else!)

While we’re on the subject of independence, do you know about Patreon?

The company bills itself as the best way for creators to build a sustained income. From what I’ve seen from many Patreon accounts, it’s succeeding. 35 creators each earned over $150,000 in 2016, according to a recent Patreon blog analysis. Many more earn a respectable $500 to $1000 each month from their subscription services.

Who’s on Patreon already? Artists of every kind. Writers of fiction, non-fiction, graphic novels, and webcomics. Science and pop culture bloggers. Musicians, gamers, teachers…it’s a dizzying array of skills and interests.

All operating under one simple idea: fans helping content creators afford to be creative, in return for regularly delivered content (often first-run or available nowhere else.) This can range from digitally delivered stories, interviews, podcasts, videos, songs, lesson plans, and even physical items. The Patreon service can run indefinitely, for a limited duration, or a set financial goal.

The webcomics on my right sidebar? Most have Patreon accounts. If you love them, subscribe!

Are you a content creator? What could you do with an extra few hundred dollars a month? What would you do if you didn’t have to rely solely on a day job, publishing royalties, a gallery or art agent, or a music label?

All you need to do is set up an account with Patreon, be somewhat social, and have the time, energy, and willpower to provide that regular content.

I’m not at the level of name recognition to jump on Patreon, and I don’t have enough professionally-edited content to do it well. If the Lonhra Sequence books don’t end up with an agent or a large publisher, I might bolster my self-publishing with a Lonhra/Blue Night Patreon. But that’s probably a year away, at least.

I have several friends who are researching their Patreon options right now. I plan on hosting their links when their accounts are operational. It will be an interesting experiment to watch!

Moro’s Price 2nd Edition

(Just because I love this Natasha Snow cover so much.)

Now that I have your attention: on Monday June 26, the second version of my M/M space opera romance goes live.

The paperback version is already selling on Amazon, but all the other links will be active on Monday.

NineStar Press formats e-book link

Amazon US Kindle link

Amazon paperback link

Kobo link

Smashwords link

Barnes & Noble link

For some reviews of the first edition, go here.

I’m pleased that my longtime friend Sherwood Smith bravely took up an ARC of this version, then gave me this jewel of a blurb:

“For fans of C.S. Pacat, m/m passion set against a space opera world of violence, power, and dynastic intrigue!”
(That one still makes me fall over. Thanks, Sherwood!)

 

Now on Ko-fi.com!

I get approached by advertisers more than than I expected, for a blog that has too many words, not enough pictures, and a very low (but loyal!) readership.

So far, none of those advertisers have made a compelling case for value-added vs annoyance factor…so, no ads on Blue Night. I’ll happily review products and works of my own choice, making clear that they are either an ARC or other kind of review copy, or my whim.

But the world is changing all around us, and content creators have to juggle lots of different earning and support streams. When I have more art and writing content that can be targeted to supporters, I’ll probably open a Patreon account.

For now, I’ve joined Ko-fi.com.

Their slogan is ‘Buy me a coffee!’ (meaning relatively small donations that might buy a cup of coffee, some writing paper, art supplies, etc). It’s a charming and simple idea. For me, a $3 donation can buy a pretty good cuppa. Or a fat-quarter of quilting fabric. Or some really nifty beads, which can turn things like this:

Into things like this:

If you like my weird mishmash of art, jewelry, fiction, social comments, and downright rants, you can still egg me on with comments to this blog. If you can afford it, please consider a Ko-fi donation. I’ll answer when I can, chat your ears off, and be deeply grateful (creating isn’t free or easy, as I’m sure most of you know!)