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!)

 

Memorial Day 2017

Here is an American flag.

I shot it a couple of weeks ago, looking west in Central Phoenix, outside a modest strip mall with a bakery, a pizza joint, a taco shop, a Buy Your Gold store, a cell-phone store, a nail-art salon, and some other little businesses.

That’s as representative a slice of modern, ‘real’ America as you can possibly get. I can’t review the nail salon, the gold place, or the cell-phone store (haven’t been inside), but the restaurants are all excellent. I was there with friends, after we’d seen ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ nearby.

The flag was enormous, blowing in just enough wind to make it ripple like a Reagan-Era political ad.

My friends and I ate too much food, and discussed the movie, lies told by tyrants, what a Stepford job they did on poor Mantis, and how to recognize when one is within an impending political disaster.

The general consensus is that by the time enough people realize it, it’s probably too late, but you need to resist, subvert, and fight on general principles.

On this Memorial Day weekend, in between beer and picnics, church and parties, please consider this flag. Its genesis, everything it has withstood, the triumphs and tragedies it has flown over, the honor and duty of the people who have defended what it stands for.

WHAT IT REPRESENTS. Good and bad. Not just to Americans, but to people all over the world. To some folks, it’s still a beacon of a better life. To others, the mark of a hated empire or a rival power to be humiliated and sullied.

By itself, it’s merely pieces of sewn or printed fabric, likely to be made overseas. Don’t worship this thing. It’s a cipher, an illusion, a moving goalpost, and an easy target for those who hate it or misuse it.

I’m old enough to remember the rather sweet and optimistic American flags painted everywhere in 1976. This truck reminds me of that:

These days, when you see an American literally wrapping themselves in this flag, it’s often as cover and misdirection for un-American, even inhumane and evil reasons. Here are some more flags and trucks, but this time, they come across as creepy and dangerous, from the Tea Party references and truck flags (and even from the trucks themselves).

Or this guy, Jeremy Joseph Christian, filmed in April while at a free speech event. This flag-draped, Nazi-saluting loser just cut the throats of two good Samaritans on a Portland, OR train, after they tried to keep him from attacking two young (possibly Muslim) women.

This is on the Republican Party for its years of normalizing, enabling, and inciting the darkest, most psychotic dregs of American culture…you know, the Deplorables. The people Obama warned us about back in 2008, and took endless flack for it:

“And it’s not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy toward people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”

These days, the Republican Party and its allies would hail Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh as their hero. It’s been hours since the Portland attack, and no condemnation from the White House. Hmm. That sounds like tacit approval of domestic terrorism. What will Trump say or do, the next time a white supremacist bomber strikes on American soil and kills American citizens? ‘You’re hired’?

Instead, we have Donald J. Trump setting up a War Room in the White House, with pricey lawyers to help him fight against the growing allegations of his and the GOP’s collusion with Russia. This war room is going to be funded and directed to go after journalists, researchers, and ordinary citizens of the #Resistance movement. Trump has already shown by his love affair with dictators that he wants to be one.

Trump’s recent actions on his Mideast trip and the NATO summit would be embarrassing taken singly; as a group they reveal a sick, tired, old man unprepared for the most powerful leadership position on the planet. His gaffes at the NATO summit, in particular, have shown other world leaders that America has lost that position of power. As pundits and world politicians have noted, America is in serious danger of being isolated and inconsequential…if not feared and targeted by former allies.

And the once-proud GOP is standing by or actively helping Trump and his supporters subvert what our flag means.

All flags wear out. There are entire sections of law books listing the solemn and respectful decommissioning of American flags.

There are no such rules regarding the dissolution of America. Or arguably worse: its steady ebb into ignominy as a racist, isolated parody of itself, as the rest of the world meets challenges too many American policy makers won’t.

Happy Memorial Day, America.

Phoenix Comicon 2017

That’s right folks, the madness that is Phoenix Comicon starts in just a few hours!

I probably won’t attend this year because of schedule conflicts with other work and art stuff. If you’re brave enough to deal with the heat and crowds, I can promise there will be lots of insane, wonderful, awe-inspiring moments for you.

This show is nowhere near as vast as San Diego, which still makes it approachable and fun. Phoenix is in the midst of reinventing its city center (yet again), which gives intrepid visitors and locals plenty of great food, drink, and entertainment…if you even leave the convention itself.

Moro’s Price revised edition now on sale!

The rewritten, expanded version of my smutty M/M space opera romance, Moro’s Price, is now up for pre-orders at NineStar Press. It should hit other vendors in a few days to a week after publication on June 26, 2017.

A shout out to my brilliant editors, and to cover artist Natasha Snow. She managed to craft a cover that is gorgeous, sexy, kinky, relevant to the actual book, and still somehow mostly Amazon-safe.

Here’s the blurb:

Crown Prince, techno-geek, and secret sadomasochist Valier has lusted for years after the gorgeous gladiator called “The Diamond.” Meeting the escaped slave on a rooftop, Valier discovers Moro Dalgleish wants suicide before his former masters can reclaim him.

Infected with a deadly symbiont, Valier proposes empty sex to satisfy his urges and grant Moro’s release from a horrible life. Neither man plans for Moro to survive, or how the morning after will shake three empires to their foundations.

If you read this book in its first version from Loose Id in 2012, this is not quite the same book. I hope it’s better. If you didn’t read it, and you’re a fan of space opera and smutty bisexual romance, the TV shows ‘The Expanse’, ‘Killjoys’, and ‘Firefly’…you might like this one.

Here’s another selling point: not only is this a bigger and tighter book, but its digital version will also be cheaper. NineStar is premiering Moro’s Price at only $4.99. That’s right: a 100K+ book with mainstream space opera elements, M/M sex, and it’s cheaper than the first version by at least $2.

There’s a pretty good chance this one will have a print version, too!

STEM and art

Americans are so myopic, sometimes. In the rush to ‘teach to the test’ or advance our science and math education (well, until Betsy DeVos became Education Secretary), we’ve forgotten that art can involve some high levels of math and science, too.

Follow this Racked.com and Twitter thread for an in-depth look at the MetGala dresses and outfits, from scientist Mika McKinnon’s POV.

The rise and fall of Tate Publishing

It’s May 2017, and America (and the world, really) is still reeling from perhaps the greatest case of affinity fraud ever perpetrated: the election of Donald J. Trump to the American Presidency.  

Let’s look back at Tate Publishing, as a company deeply interlocked with some of the mindsets enabling Trump’s election: nominally ‘Christian’ worldviews that enshrine greed, corruption, hatred-of-others, and the belief that poverty is a moral failing.

Donald J. Trump and his immediate family (and many donors, sycophants, etc) are fans of the Prosperity Gospel. This philosophy bluntly preaches that wealth and success are outward signs of God’s favor, and that poverty and illness are signs of his disfavor and/or a flawed person. ‘Anyone can become successful’ is an innate American ideal, but these days the game is rigged. It’s not only stacked against most people, but the proponents of the Prosperity Gospel tend to cleverly repackage their corruption to shunt public attention away from them.

Many multi-level marketing, mega-churches, and vanity publishing all have similar goals: to enrich a small percentage of their members/founders at the expense of all others, and to instill a cult-like level of support from those same defrauded members.

Perhaps no other American vanity publishing company took the religious overtones to such extremes as Oklahoma’s Tate Publishing.

Tate Publishing’s corporate headquarters at 127 E Trade Center Terrace in Mustang, Thursday, 19 2017. Photo By Steve Gooch, The Oklahoman

It was started by Dr. Richard Tate and his wife Rita about 18 years ago, and has been run recently by son Ryan Tate and his wife Christy.

The Tate family leveraged new technology and new social norms to begin marketing their pay-for-publishing business to primarily Christian authors, artists, and musicians. They promised a wholesome Christian outlook, a supportive ‘family’ experience, well-produced physical books and music recordings, state-of-the-industry marketing…all for a hefty front end ‘subsidy’ from the author, as well as a commission charge on all sales.

How hefty? Authors could pay anywhere from almost $4000 to well over $50,000 depending on what ‘marketing packages’ and other frills sales people could convince them to buy.

Tate’s book editing was often done by low-skilled, underpaid, and in some cases even outsourced foreign editors. Covers were often low-quality, as were interior illustrations. Tate’s marketing of finished products was nearly non-existent, and for the large part ineffective for most authors. Many of them were told various forms of ‘buy the books from us, and hand-sell at local events’. This naturally limits an author’s effective sell-rate, as most people can only reach a few hundred of their family and friends. Effective trade publishers market to much broader groups, and generally command much higher sales.

Victoria Strauss of Writer Beware wrote a few years ago:

Tate takes pains to depict itself as a selective traditional publisher that accepts “only a single-digit percentage of authors who submitted manuscripts for publication” (a claim that’s a little hard to credit from a publisher that, if Amazon is to be believed, pumped out 3,000 titles in 2015). In fact, authors must pay nearly $4,000 to publish with Tate, with even more due if they choose to buy any of Tate’s array of extras, such as “personalized author websites” and video book trailers. Tate also incentivizes author book-buying, by promising to refund the original fee once 2,500 books are sold and allowing author purchases to count toward the total–though only if made in bulk quantities of 300 or more.

Of course, Tate never mentioned these fees in its front-end website material or videos. Only when authors asked for more information or submitted a manuscript, did Tate begin to disclose its fees. If authors balked at the cost, the the sales rep often backtracked to ‘offer’ a lesser amount. Authors were stalked with hard-sell tactics including letters, emails, and phone calls, all to close the sale.

Tate representatives also didn’t disclose the very small probability of any author making enough sales to earn a refund of their original fee.

Tate’s main source of income was apparently never consumer sales of their books and music, but book and music sales to their author/creators and expensive marketing and other packages.

Authors couldn’t even be certain of what they were actually earning, because Tate’s royalty accounting was so opaque as to be nearly meaningless. Authors complained that they diligently marketed their books, had documented sales and testimonials from readers…and yet did not see those sales reflected in royalty reports.

This could be seen as early as 2004, beginning in this AbsoluteWrite thread. While the warnings abounded, Tate never lacked for customers to buy its ‘services’, thanks to the enduring power of religious affinity fraud.

Because Tate marketed heavily to fundamentalist Christians who were already put off by ‘coastal elites’ and ‘Jewish mainstream publishers’, they could conceal their less-savory operations from unsuspecting authors who never bothered to learn how trade publishing worked. Tate Publishing also marketed heavily to senior citizens wanting a retirement income or a family history project in print, to misery memoir authors wanting to memorialize a lost loved one or bring attention to a medical issue, and to ‘fringe group’ believers who might not have the writing skills to reach an audience through a big trade publishing imprint.

Here’s the opening story of a typical Tate author, revealing how she was conned by Tate:

When Tate first called me, it was like I had won the lottery! I felt so proud of becoming one of the 4%. My children’s book was special, as it was written after my daughter had her 2nd heart surgery. I was filling a niche. I knew it would be hard to publish a children’s book about Down Syndrome, but I had tried and succeeded.

This author had a noble cause and good faith in Tate’s public persona. She didn’t research enough to understand Tate’s failings before signing a contract with them. She did all the right things by industriously marketing herself at Down’s Syndrome support events across the US. But she received no marketing help from Tate after the first couple of months, and her royalty checks ranged from sixty-some dollars to forty-two cents.

Tate authors were often warned away from naysayers as ‘negative influences’ and ‘liars’.

The Tate family were quick to take offense and threatened critics, bad reviewers, and recalcitrant authors with libel lawsuits. They threatened their employees often, and had a high turnover as disillusioned editors and artists fled the company.

Of about 1000 current authors in the 2016 Tate catalog, Ryan Tate claimed most were ‘very happy’. I’d believe it, if only for the power of Sunk Cost Fallacy and even perhaps Stockholm Syndrome. Many people never want to admit they’ve been conned, and go through mental gymnastics to avoid it. Likewise, authors who never know anything different might be happy with poor marketing, vague royalty statements, and tiny sales. For some people, it’s not about the money, but having something in print.

Here too, Tate failed a lot of writers. Many of the Consumer Affairs complaints involve claims of shoddy books, bad covers and illustrations, or simply no physical books produced.

Even when authors finally wised up and tried to leave the company, Tate Publishing had one last con to play: they charged authors a $50.00 ‘processing fee’ to turn over final print/sound files so the authors and musicians could republish their work. (Rights buy-backs are a huge problem in the publishing industry, see my posts on Ellora’s Cave for how bad they can get). Because Tate’s final fee wasn’t large, many unhappy authors simply paid it and moved on…often to similar vanity publishers!

A few years ago, driven mostly by the attrition of their prime senior citizen clients and the advent of easier digital self-publishing, Tate Publishing fell on hard times. They started outsourcing much of their editing and other production work overseas. There’s a famous rant online from when Ryan Tate fired 25 employees after none of them told who leaked their dissent about the outsourcing. It’s here, and epic.

Soon, Tate couldn’t even pay its foreign workers in the Philippines, and ‘scaled back production’ returned to their Oklahoma facilities. Bear in mind, they still released thousands of books and hundreds of records a year, showing how little money and time actually went into production. Authors who visited the Tate offices at this time described the formerly busy company as ‘a ghost town’. High employee turnover caused communication breakdowns between authors, staff, and company officials.

By mid 2016, Tate Publishing’s lease deals with major print machinery and computer suppliers were on the rocks, leading to at least one hefty lawsuit.

The Tate family announced in late 2016 that it would close its doors, but not without hinting they would simply rename the company and rise anew as Lux Creative Concepts LLC, which was registered in February 2016 by Ryan Tate’s wife, Christy Kelley-Tate.

By late 2016 there were at least 800 complaints being considered by the Oklahoma Attorney General’s office, and thousands of warnings by disgruntled authors and ex-Tate employees across the internet.

The case broke to the public in full drama this week. First, the Tates announced that they might open up again. The OK AG office was understandably reluctant to add more names to its case files against Tate, so they charged the Tate patriarch Richard and his son Ryan with felony embezzlement charges, misdemeanor embezzlement charges, and three felony attempted extortion by threat charges.

Those last charges, the extortions? All come back to those $50 processing fees, which were apparently paid to Tate Publishing but funneled to the Tate family’s private bank accounts. A day after the charges were made public Richard and Ryan Tate were arrested, held on $100,000 bond each, and forced to surrender their passports.

There will be authors who still champion Tate Publishing. Many of them also voted for Trump.

As the old Sun Tzu quote goes, ‘The wheels of justice grind slow, but exceeding fine’.

We can hope at the very least the Tates lose most of their ill-gotten gains and serve serious jail time. At the best, we can hope this is a harbinger of greater justice to come.

(This post compiled with images and information courtesy of newsok.com, koko.com, Writer Beware, Publishers Weekly, and consumeraffairs.com.)

 

Shaderunners webcomic

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

From the comic’s ‘About’ page:

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

First Look: Politics As Usual

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

2017 Hugo Awards List!

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

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

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

Is diversity and democracy dead? Or stronger than ever?

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

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

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

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

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

 

BREATHE covers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thread is Navy Blue waxed polyester from Maine Thread Co.

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

 

Pussyhat Legionnaire Cap

It’s done! It looks like this:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

We miss you, Carrie Fisher. #Resistance

***

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

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

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

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

Marian Crane Pussyhat Legionnaire Cap

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

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

Cici Espadrilles, Maurices, salmon multi

Toddler Grandma Insurgency, anyone?

Of Shade and Soul: A Touch Trilogy Novella

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

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

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

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

Dragon Batik, a PussyHat, and the Tax Day March

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

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

Although…

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

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

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

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

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

Will you join us?

Crowd sizes and why they may actually matter

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

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

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

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

Javier Zarracina/Vox

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

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

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

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

The reason WHY this important?

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

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

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

Alternate factsare lies.

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

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

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

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

Trump = Fascist

Just so we’re clear.

This guy is not heroic, he’s not smart, and he’s not honorable. He got where he is in life by being the exact opposite of those three qualities. He’s gold-plated pewter proof that if you have enough money, you can steamroll your way through life, aided by people who want to scamper after your crumbs.

He didn’t win the popular vote, and he’s the most unpopular President-Elect in 40 years. He’s also a patsy.

I’ll quote again from a joke I heard on Twitter: ‘There’s a new fable going around. You heard about the scorpion who hitches a ride across a river by riding on a frog’s back, and halfway across makes America great again?’

Yeah, right.

The really sad thing is that a majority of the people who voted for him, are going to be the ones hurt by the misguided and rapacious actions of his administration.

2016 year in review

I could almost get away with the stub listing ‘It sucked’.

The many and varied ways 2016 achieved maximum suckage will be studied in later history (if there is anyone left alive to study it). I’m not raising my blood pressure detailing those slings and arrows tonight.

Instead, I want to talk about good things.

I’m still alive. Most of my family and dearest friends are still alive. A very good friend survived serious career and health setbacks. I am loved and cherished, which is awesome and humbling.

I eased away from one publisher this year, and gave another new one a chance. In art, one venue I thought moribund is actually turning lucrative, while I’ve dropped another before it cost me too much to recover from. My writing struggled out of a lazy plateau and improved dramatically. I have a wealth of art, jewelry, and writing projects to address, and just enough skill to reach them.

I have goals for 2017, and far less fear about them than I would have thought, a couple of safe and happy years ago.

So for my readers and anyone stumbling onto this post: I hope you have a sane, healthy, happy, productive, humane, and triumphant new year.

Endure. Live. Thrive. Resist.

More publishers behaving badly

As if 2016 hadn’t sucked badly enough before this, December saw news that two more publishers were going under with messy implosions. In both cases, authors and readers were left hanging.

Torquere was a small erotic romance publisher once reasonably respected, but torpedoed by mismanagement over the last few years.

The bigger news a few days ago: the abrupt dissolution of AllRomance Ebooks/OmniLit. This was a digital ebook sales platform that had just branched into direct publishing. For other publishers, ARe/Omni had thousands of titles across many genres, from Big Five houses to small independents and self-published authors. (I even had a spot on ARe, in prep for my future self-pub efforts.)

I lost a few dollars from sales of Maestro this last quarter, I’m sure. I know other authors who estimate they’ve lost $10K or more. Follow the link for more news about this crash (which may have less to do with financial losses than graft and fraud.)

Torquere’s troubles, we knew about at least half a year. The ARe debacle had hints of trouble a few months ago for some authors, but most of us never saw it coming.

We don’t like to see Amazon as the only outlet. For many of us, ARe was the next biggest earner, and its loss will ripple across the romance genre.

Welcome to the future, I guess.

Update 1-2-2017: The AllRomance/OmniLit sites have vanished now, like a once-vast city buried in lava. I remember how big those sites were, especially to romance. It seems surreal that they’re gone.

More disquieting are the hints and rumors of continued odd behavior from Lori James, and the realization that ARe/Omni were on shaky foundations at least two years ago. The good news is that Big Five publishers will almost certainly file suit, but that won’t help the small presses and individual authors also dragged down.

I’m no lawyer or publishing professional. My sense, from listening to people who are: look closely at your publisher. Try to determine if they’re responding quickly and responsibly to these debacles, and to shifts in the larger publishing world. If not, you might want to pull back or get out while you can.

There will almost certainly be small publishers who will lose large amounts of money from what Lori James owes. Some will lose more money trying to pay their authors’ ARe/Omni royalties out of pocket. Some won’t pay, or will only pay the 10% they might get. Either way, some of these publishers won’t survive the financial hit or the exodus of angry authors. If you love your publisher, rally around and help…but be willing to take the risks, too.

As a reader, the most important thing you can do for the writers you love: leave online reviews. Wherever you buy a physical or ebook, give an honest review. Don’t randomly gush 5-star reviews…put some thought into them. Why did you like the book? Why not? Even a guarded 3-star review can have great positive effects; even a negative review can spark the interest of other readers.

Digital books can make an author’s backlist accessible. But no one will buy that backlist if they don’t know it exists. So review!

 

 

 

 

Beall’s List and fake academic publishers

The predatory vanity publishing world is not limited to fiction. Academic and scientific papers are also a hot commodity, since the legitimate markets can have high entry barriers in fees and vetting. A host of predatory and often outright criminal publishers have surfaced to ‘serve’ those customers.

Many scientists and academics need to publish work to promote their career, grants applications, or general reputation.

Many dubious presenters need an official-looking publishing credit to bolster their claims or products (similar to how fiction vanity publishers use fake or problematic contests and associations to push their services.)

How to tell the difference, when many respected logical thinkers may not be able to?

Look for the same flops in logic you’d find in other anti-intellectual communities. The same meaningless jingoism, the same vague promises…and often, the same exorbitant publishing fees!

The US and Europe have their share of these outfits. But a large number of them are based in India – a rising market combining powerful legitimate publishers, brilliant academics, knowledge-hungry students, large amounts of money, predatory vanity publishers, and viciously divisive nationalist politics.

Here’s a link to Scholarly Open Access, and Beall’s List of predatory and fake journals. If you find a ‘journal’ listed here, it’s worth taking your time to be skeptical before you decide to submit to it!

Here’s a link to Brian Dunning’s ‘Skeptoid’ podcast about fake academic publishers and the white hat hoaxers who help expose them.

Just for laughs – and the learning experience! – here’s a Wiki link to the time when SF writer Isaac Asimov thoroughly trolled a scientific journal that wasn’t paying attention.

Here’s John H. McCool in The Scientist ‘Opinion: Why I Published in a Predatory Journal’.

Why is this crap a worldwide problem? A lack of properly vetted and researched scientific and academic work hurts all countries’ scientific intelligence quotient. It allows for easier plundering of whole economies by special interests using ‘fake news’ to advance their agenda. It covers and excuses wars and genocides. It promotes simplistic thinking and Orwellian Double-Speak over difficult but worthwhile truths. It has specific individual human costs, as when cancer patients choose ineffective bogus treatments over proven science, based off poorly-researched work in fake journals.

It has career costs, too. When unprepared or corrupt professionals plagiarize other people’s work or ‘buy’ their credentials, they’re lying about their qualifications. It might slide by without anyone knowing, and no one may be substantially harmed by the deception. But it can also lead to career shame, such as this case when some savvy Kansas students did the research that their school board obviously failed to do. Or now, when the antics of the manifestly unqualified Donald Trump may lead to countless unnecessary deaths in wars and poverty.

Peer review, like democracy, only works when your peers are intelligent, critical-thinking, and well-read members of the wider community.