AW Blog Hop updates & assorted insanity

On the Blog Hop front, Erika Lindsen is hosting Mina Kelly today here, in a discussion of Mina’s book Inescapable.

On the art front, last week I took on an urgent free commission from Kadorienne, a long-time friend and beta reader. I owe her: for dragging me back into fan fiction 13 years ago, for endless beta reads of original fiction, for stupid jokes, for sending and receiving some extremely warped and questionable fan-related cards, jewelry, and collectibles. Friends like that are important, and not merely for the toleration with which they greet my particular insanity.

She’d written a smart, emotional, funny, and in-character M/M Avengers Frostiron novel. It was going to ‘zine publication and needed a cover.

So I did about six hours of 40% photo-manipulation and 60% hand-drawn digital art in Painter, and here is the result, sans text: Stolen Relics cover small

Stolen Relics is now available in print here, and will be on Agent With Style’s table at the upcoming MediaWest*Con at the end of May, 2013.

 

 

Live: the Absolutely Erotic Blog Hop Schedule

Absolutely Erotic Blog Hop Cover artIt’s here! Starting tomorrow May 8, 2013 and for the rest of the month, tune in for various author interviews, snippets, and other goodies.

The main site is hosted by L.A. Witt here. If you offer lucid, non-spammy comments on my blog, any of the participants’ blogs, or on L.A. Witt’s main blog, you will be entered to win a Grand Prize at the end of May.

On this date… …this person’s blog… …will feature this author.
May 8th L. A. Witt Erika Lindsen
May 9th Erika Lindsen Mina Kelly
May 10th Mina Kelly Thea Landen
May 11th Thea Landen Charley Descoteaux
May 12th Charley Descoteaux J.M. Keep
May 13th J.M. Keep M.C. Hana
May 14th M.C. Hana Jack L. Pyke
May 15th Jack L. Pyke Ravon Silvius
May 16th Ravon Silvius Jocelyn Dex
May 17th Jocelyn Dex Tara Quan
May 18th Tara Quan Anna Zabo
May 19th Anna Zabo Scarlet Day
May 20th Scarlet Day S. A. Meade
May 21st S. A. Meade Erin Lark
May 22nd Erin Lark Azalea Moone
May 23rd Azalea Moone L. A. Witt

So what can you win?

Blue and Gray necklaceAs of this posting the prize list includes but is not limited to:
1. A lovely beaded necklace from yours truly
2. A signed paperback of your choice from L.A. Witt or Lauren Gallagher’s backlists
3. Ebooks by Azalea Moone, Erika Lindsen, L. A. Witt, Lauren Gallagher, Ravon Silvius, M.C. Hana, Erin Lark, Jack Pyke, Tara Quan, Scarlet Day, Charley Descoteaux, and Mina Kelly, plus three erotic shorts by J.E. Keep.
4. A $10 Bitch Face Cosmetics gift card
5. A $15 gift card to your choice of Barnes & Noble, AllRomance, or Amazon.
…and we might be adding to the pile as we go!

All you have to do is comment on the blogs in the hop by May 25th, and someone will be drawn randomly from all the comments. That simple!!

 

Glowing Things

I’m a sucker for glowing things. Lights in the dark have always made me happy: from nightlights, tiny lanterns in pools or gardens, star-fields seen in planetariums and unspoiled wilderness, and my first glimpse of a big city at night – all the way to phosphorescent oceans, modern LED lights, photoluminescent plastics and glass, and fiber-optic luminous fabrics. There’s something magical, thrilling, and yet somehow comforting in glow phenomena.

I’m sure it has something to do with our 100,000+ year relationship with domesticated fire. Once, the glow in the darkness might have been swamp gas, a predator’s eyes, distant storms, lava flows, or wildfires. When we figured out how to keep embers going and feed them into flames, light-in-darkness changed our universe. Fire cooked our food and opened up new calories we couldn’t access before. It also extended our working, socializing, and creative hours.

My first encounter with a luminescent object would have been when I was four or five. It was a plastic lamp-pull on a chain, shaped like a long flower bud. It glowed blue-violet after exposure to light. I recall loving it more than all my stuffed animal toys, but not more than my dog, who one day ate it. (No harm to the dog, but the glowing flower never recovered its former allure.)

One of my most fun accidental glow discoveries was at a summer book arts convention at a college near Boston some years ago. I’d stayed in an off season dorm room for the week of the conference, working on transcribing lecture notes until late in the night, and collapsing asleep without paying much attention to anything but blessed darkness. On my very last night, I’d let my eyes adjust to the gloom long before I fell asleep. The humble, tiny dorm revealed a secret: a ceiling glimmering with glowing pale green and blue stick-on vinyl stars, carefully applied by some previous occupant. The wonder of it still makes me grin.

I’ve been lucky to experiment with some amazing glow products from these companies, who sell pre-mixed glow paints and mediums, as well as the base powder formulas for custom use: Glow Inc. and Glotech, Int. ‘Glow Crescent’ below was made with Glow Inc. blue and green powders mixed in an acrylic resin, then layered over sculpted polymer clay forms.

A number of bead-supply companies sell glow-in-the-dark plastic or glass beads. Crane jewelry -- glow ovals blueI’m a snob, in that I want glass beads with the glow powder mixed into the hot glass while being formed, not applied as a paint to the interior of the hole. (It’s worth more, for durability and glow duration.)  Fire Mountain Gems carries some interesting glow glass beads. The green beads below have paint in the holes, and lose glow rapidly. The blue ovals at right contain glow powder in the glass, and last for hours.Crane jewelry -- glow green seeds

A decade ago, I made an edition of three glow-in-the-dark fabric books (Star Map 1 – 3). The pages were map-folded white linen with green glow paint and glow thread arranged as maps of fantasy constellations, along with the simple black embroidered text: Per Aspera Ad Astra.  Sadly, I don’t have a good picture of them glowing, but here’s a daylight shot. Star Map open day

I recently finished a glowing shirt. It began with some seriously industrial-strength glow powder, fabric paint medium, and an inoffensive linen tunic I found in a secondhand shop (sometime around when Pirates of the Caribbean was going into the second movie).

Glow Shirt 2I had vague ambitions of wearing the finished tunic to the premiere, so of course that never happened. Same with Tron: Legacy. So I decided just to finish the damned thing. It still looks mild and inoffensively tan under bright light, with subtly darker patterns where I drizzled the glow paint. In dim light like clubs and parties, it will dazzle. I think I’m about ready to tackle a second, more elaborate version of the ‘Star Map’ books, or a glowing beaded wall tapestry.

Added info 11-16-2014: a friend of mine sent me a link to this amazing glow bike path. It’s amazing and dreamlike – and I hope I get a chance to see it in person someday.

 

Brenda Novak’s Annual Online Auction for Diabetes Research

Another writing-and-reading PSA.

Go here to check out author Brenda Novak’s annual online charity auction. She’s been doing this for a number of years, and the prize board this year looks amazing. Forget the antique jewelry, art, and unique vacation packages you might win – check out some of the professional services available. Query-writing assistance. Full or partial reads on manuscripts, from people who 1) actually know what they are doing and 2) can help you figure out where you’re going. Promotional opportunities. Author meetings. I could go on, but just follow the link. The auction goes on through the month of May, so there’s plenty of time to browse and bid.

Secrets of Book Promotion (link)

In honor of Day Two of the Romantic Times conference, and for all the commercial print, e-pub, and self-pub authors in my genres, here’s a link to a great article by a friend of mine, Vera Nazarian. Your mileage may vary, but she brings a dose of reality to the promotion process that I find both bracing and useful.

If you found that article useful, consider following this buy link to another of her incredible fantasy series, Cobweb Bride, now gathered into a single volume.

Or this link to her deft and hilarious pastiches of Jane Austen.

 

Teaser for ‘Leopard’s Leap’ pt 3 (adult content)

In honor of Beltane revels everywhere and the first day of the Romantic Times conference (neither of which I’m attending, alas) here’s a new excerpt.

Standard disclaimer: it may not see the light of day in published form. Non-standard disclaimer: heed the rate warning, please. I’m now at the stage of this book where there is probably not a single page that doesn’t contain something about sex or violence. It’s just that kind of book. But I’ve had a couple of readers gently complain that Val isn’t that much a live wire in Moro’s Price, where he doesn’t seem to match up to his somewhat unhinged reputation. So in ‘Leopard’, I’ve let Bad!Val out to play a little. Also, he’s had too much brandy.

***

Before Mateo could stammer any kind of answer, Val belched. It was long, loud, crude, and made the veil billow out a couple of inches. The air around him rippled briefly from cloyingly sweet fumes.

“Oh, poor Karl, is that what this fuss is about? You’re jealous? For your information, Mateo DaSilva has never seen me completely nude. That would be illegal,” Val drawled, standing up from the end of the curved booth. His newest erection noticeably tented the brilliant orange material in front of his crotch. Over the veil, his eyes glittered like a predator’s. He raised slender orange-gloved fingers to the uppermost fastening of his long coat. “Karl, you have the oddest ideas about what Camalians look like naked. We look like everybody else. We started off as human.” The second fastening came loose. The coat folded aside, showing Val’s thin silky shirt – also orange.

“You’re all the spawn of demons and your immoral souls are damned to hell,” said Karl, grinning a little too widely.

“We don’t believe in hell,” said Val, undoing the third fastening at his waist. “We don’t believe in souls. We do believe in morals. Do unto others, play nice, all that crap.”

“You stole a planet,” said Karl, visibly sweating now.

Val shrugged out of his coat and dropped it on the table. The thin, vivid cloth of his shirt clung to his well-defined shoulders. “We let our human cousins have a galaxy in return. The Terran League seems to have done fine with it, after all.” His voice betrayed only a slight slurring.

Mateo couldn’t help his snort of disbelief. “This isn’t a history class.”

“No. It’s a bar,” said Val, climbing up on the table. He swiveled his hips slowly. “Shut up, Mateo. I’m just a little drunk, and very lonely, and here’s a gorgeous man who really wants to see more of me, even though his evil, ranting, rich Grand-daddy would disown him in a moment for admitting it.”

“Shut up and get down from there,” said Karl, lunging forward. “There are people with recorders here! Everybody can see you.”

“Let ‘em.” Val dodged gracefully and kicked off one of his black ankle-high boots at Karl. The big blond ducked, and the boot sailed over his shoulders, out of the Fishtank, and into the gathering crowd below.

Mateo heard gasps down on the dance floor. He imagined people putting a safe distance between them and the boot. Even Val’s low socks were the danger-orange color mandated for Camalian wear in public. Mateo began to have a bad premonition. His friend kicked off the second boot and both socks, then slithered out of the shimmering orange shirt.

Val’s exposed skin was the same dark honey-gold as his face, but a trail of pale blond hair started at his navel and led down below the waistband of his tight orange trousers. “Eyes on my face, Karl,” he said. “If you are very, very good, I might let you see my nose.” Wriggling a bit, Val managed to get his pants undone without loosening the bulky black tool-belt he wore nearly every waking moment. Val’s underwear was the skimpiest possible silken thong, its front panel not so much covering his stiff, slender cock as outlining it in bright orange contours. The fabric barely contained his large balls, letting curls of gold hair escape around the stretched edge. When Val turned sideways, Mateo saw the thong back nearly disappear into the crack between Val’s narrow, perfect asscheeks.

Mateo groaned.

Karl stared up, unable to look away.

Val laughed: a crazy, broken, chilling sound that seemed a universe away from the generally harmless prankster Mateo knew. Val’s eyes were blown almost black. “Karl, sit down,” Val snapped, pointing at the booth.

The Camalian’s voice brooked no answer but instant obedience; if Mateo hadn’t already been sitting, he’d have fallen to his knees.

The Vance heir sat on the edge of the booth, gaze moving with equal horror and fascination between Val’s veiled face and barely-covered cock. “Fuck you,” Karl ground out.

“That’s our problem, isn’t it, Sero Vance,” Val almost cooed, his tone still resonating with a dark, sweet intensity. “You can’t, and I can’t, and you have no idea how badly I would wreck you if we could.” He looked down at the wide stairs. “Stay back,” he called to the four or five well-dressed male and female flunkies pausing at the Fishtank entrance. Val touched the bottom edge of his veil and made a throat-clearing noise. Karl’s friends drew back nervously outside the doorway. “I won’t hurt him if he’s a good boy. I won’t hurt any of you. I can control myself. That’s my word as a prince – and a Camalian, even if you don’t believe me.” Val stood like a slim torch over Karl. Gold, bronze, and flame-orange reflected in the black table, the curving crystal walls, and the flickering screens of several hundred recorders below.

Mateo cringed at the thought of Val being on shameless display – then thrilled at it. At the moment, there was nothing remotely housebroken about his little prince.

“Let me go,” Karl muttered.

“I never had you, Karl,” Val said softly, viciously. He looked into Karl’s upturned face. “Nor would I ever want to. You are an excellent antidote to unwanted arousal.”

andrew j. offutt, RIP

Yes, the lack of capitalization is intentional, per his longstanding tradition.

From SFF.Net, I’ve just had word that he’s gone.

I’ve written about andrew j. offutt before, but his life is worth noting and celebrating for his contributions as a science fiction, fantasy, and erotica author. I hope his creations and co-creations will live on as new readers discover them: Shadowspawn from Thieves’ World, Tiana Highrider from the ‘War of the Wizards’ trilogy, the dementedly-sexy space opera reprobates of the Spaceways series, and too many other great genre forays to list here. He wasn’t often considered ‘highbrow’ SF&F. He was prolific, professional, and unashamed. Modern paranormal romance and erotic romance authors and readers may not be aware of it, but his work is a link back to earlier forms of those genres.

I have dark chocolate and good Scotch around here somewhere, for a toast.

Twist the Knife

There’s a standard bit of advice every new writer gets: ‘Show me, don’t tell me.”

As a reader, may I add another request?

Make me feel something when I read a story. Twist the knife a little. Make me laugh, cry, cringe, burst with pride and love. Make me yell at you, dear author – in joy or fury. Put some emotion on every page, every scene. Maybe not every sentence, because some apparently emotionless sentences are freighted with surrounding contexts. If you don’t understand contextual frameworks yet, for the love of Reason and Passion stop writing and go learn them.

When I’m not frantically writing on three separate big projects, I am reading a lot right now: old sf&f favorites, new sf&f thrillers and erotic romances from friends and fellow authors, beta reads for as-yet-unpublished geniuses, non fiction for research. I read online samples of commercial and self-published work, just to get a feel in the first few pages so I know to commit my money or not. I’m even reading fan fiction, in old favorite fandoms and some new ones.

Ted Sturgeon was right, bitches. 90% of everything is crud. It was true in 1951, and it’s true now. But I have hope. Because there is just so much more stuff published now, there is a larger proportion – I trust – that is excellent and worthwhile to read.

I don’t often give fan fiction recommendations, but I stumbled across a series that just blew me out of the water. Over on Archive of Our Own, there are probably more than 50,000 pieces set in the various Avengers milieus. The writer working under the name icarus_chained has a series about the development and possible futures of Tony Stark’s AI JARVIS, that is eerie, gorgeous, and heartwarming. If you follow it through the current chapter you will cry, I promise. If you don’t, you have nothing that passes for a soul.

There’s no sex, either hetero or homosexual. The characterizations are spot-on and faithful to the Marvel universes. The writing, barring some sentence fragments that might infuriate a grammar Nazi (but add to the conversational flow), is magnificent. In honor of Ironman 3 coming out in the States next week, please go read the JARVIS series.

Edited To Add: while you are over at A03, check out some of the other fics by icarus_chained. She’s a remarkable writer across several fandoms.

And now for the philosophical Public Service part of this post.

Humanity stands at a vital crossroads in this century. I think our cleverness and technology, properly applied, CAN save us from the grim challenges ahead. But only if we admit those challenges are real. And only if we regain and advance the Enlightenment ideals of reason, knowledge, and curiosity. Around the world, there are spreading pockets of anti-intellectualism, a distrust of ourselves and our own growth as a species. The trope of the ‘Mad Scientist’ is alive and well, sadly. So are post-Apocalyptic settings in fiction, as if even in our dreams we have already given up on a Good Future (which will be another rant of mine.)

So is the trope of the ‘Bad Robot’.

Artificial Intelligence does not have to be an evil SkyNet or a deranged Hal 9000. Even back in Neuromancer, William Gibson showed that AIs would probably swiftly outpace their creators – and that didn’t have to be a bad thing. In his Culture space opera novels, British author Iain Banks showcases a series of brilliant, quirky, real, and (mostly) benevolent AI Minds I would be proud to call friends. In fact, I’d ditch this mudball for a Culture Orbital right now, if a ride presented itself. But like everyone else, I’m stuck here.

We’re going to need every bit of possible assistance in the next few centuries, if we want to 1) save this planet as a worthwhile home, and 2) find other places to live. AI minds are probably going to be part of that future. Stories like Neuromancer, the Culture novels, and icarus_unchained’s fanfic are possible blueprints for how to deal with those minds in a valuable partnership.

AI minds will be our children, in a sense. We will owe them the same warmth, trust, and teaching we (should) give our biological children.

Author’s note from 8-11-2013: Who are you folks? Are you getting anything useful out of this blog? For some reason that I cannot figure out, this particular post gets so many distinct hits, and I’d love to learn why.

Absolutely Erotic Blog Hop Schedule

Absolutely Erotic Blog Hop Cover art

Here it is, folks. The hop runs from May 8 to 23, 2013. The grand prize winner will be randomly drawn from all the comments left on every blog. Den Momma L.A. Witt will handle drawing the winner. She has to survive the Romantic Times conference next week first, so we’ll see how hungover she is.

I’ll make the links live as we get closer to the event. The schedule is as follows:

On this date… …this person’s blog… …will feature this author.
May 8th L. A. Witt Erika Lindsen
May 9th Erika Lindsen Mina Kelly
May 10th Mina Kelly Thea Landen
May 11th Thea Landen Charley Descoteaux
May 12th Charley Descoteaux J.M. Keep
May 13th J.M. Keep M.C. Hana
May 14th M.C. Hana Jack L. Pyke
May 15th Jack L. Pyke Ravon Silvius
May 16th Ravon Silvius Jocelyn Dex
May 17th Jocelyn Dex Tara Quan
May 18th Tara Quan Anna Zabo
May 19th Anna Zabo Scarlet Day
May 20th Scarlet Day S. A. Meade
May 21st S. A. Meade Erin Lark
May 22nd Erin Lark Azalea Moone
May 23rd Azalea Moone L. A. Witt

The grand prize includes:

$25 Amazon gift card,

$15 gift card from (winner’s choice) AllRomance, Amazon, or Barnes & Noble,

$10 Bitch Face Cosmetics gift card,

An ebook from each of the following: Azalea Moone, Erika Lindsen, L. A. Witt, Lauren Gallagher, Ravon Silvius, M.C. Hana, Erin Lark, Jack Pyle, Tara Quan, Scarlet Day, and Mina Kelly, plus three erotic shorts by J.E. Keep.

A beaded continuous rope necklace from M.C. Hana. It is 23″ long x .5″ wide; woven with cobalt, sapphire, and iridescent gray #8 glass seed beads in a non-repeating pattern subtle enough for everyday or dress wear for men or women (but the mundanes will never know it references some of the old Hanky Color Codes. Which ones? Go look ’em up.)

Blue and Gray necklace

I’ll update as the prize list grows, since we’re still gathering victims.

Author’s note added June 1, 2014: This was late year’s hop. Later in June 2014, we’re planning a new one! Stay tuned for details.

Coming Attractions

Yes. I am evil. I used that title.

In this case, it is happily appropriate. Mark your calenders, good readers, because from May 8 to May 23, 2013, I will be sharing blog space, excerpts, interview questions, and prizes with the talented and insane erotica writers who meet in an atmospherically accurate dive bar a lovely forum over on AbsoluteWrite.com.

Absolutely Erotic Blog Hop Cover art

More details to follow.

Teasers for ‘Leopard’s Leap’, pt 2

My M/M erotic romance space opera Moro’s Price will be one of the titles featured today over at Top2Bottom Reviews’ Thursday Promo section. (Adult content warning if you follow the link, yadda, yadda, you know the drill by now.)

What the heck kind of book is it? Think ‘Firefly’ meets ‘Rome’ in the Fiftieth Century, out in a galaxy where humans are not happy to realize They Are Not Alone. It has multiple plots, because I just don’t know when to stop letting side characters tell their stories. It has black moments and funny moments, and a love story that came out of left field for me. I never expected Price to be my debut novel. I’m grateful for all the people who’ve bought it over the last nine months. (And even – somewhat – for the folks who’ve been pirating it like crazy, because I think that means you’ve at least been reading it…)

To thank the readers who might check this blog first or follow T2B’s links back, here are some random bits from the latest chapters of my spin-off novella, Leopard’s Leap. As with the last excerpt, these lines may or may not end up in the final version.

(Author’s note: while Val and Moro show up in Leopard, they are not main characters, and there are no scenes specifically from their viewpoints. Their story begins shortly after the end of Leopard. Given that limitation, I’m still able to work in a lot of their back-stories and some foreshadowing, heh heh. Just in case anybody cares.)

1) He’s jealous of me, or of Dogleash. Maybe both, Jason thought, damning all resolve. He reached for Mateo’s chin, held it gently. “Hey. Do you have any idea how glad I am, that you watch?”

“Pervert.”

“We’ve established that. No.” Jason flailed for a glib way to say it, found none. “You watch over me. You care if I live or die. Most of us in the arena – we have to pay people to care about us.” He leaned down and brushed a kiss on Mateo’s forehead. “Thanks, cousin.”

2) A coded chime sounded at the door to his tiny apartment. Val’s signal. Mateo rolled his eyes. He punched a speaker panel and barked, “What?”

“Are you decent? Did you get it off yet?” came Val’s light tenor voice from the door com.

“About that –” Mateo began, reaching to engage a stronger locking array. Too late. A university apartment door was no match for Val. Mateo grabbed a throw pillow instead and held it over his lap. The door beeped off-key and slid open with a lurch.

3) He’d lost track of time when a soft bell announced the arrival of food. When he opened the door, Sera Bruitt herself stood behind a covered red plastic tray nearly as wide as the doorway. She winked up at him and said, “Young man, whatever you’re doing in here, you’re not doing it right if you’re still dressed.”

Thanks for stopping by.

A Tale of Two Museums

I recently attended an Al Stewart and Dave Nachmanoff concert at the Musical Instrument Museum (MIM) in north Scottsdale. (Aside: Al and Dave are brilliant guitar players and polished singer/songwriters who not only craft songs with several-hundred-word vocabularies, they’re also wickedly funny in between songs. Come for the music, stay for the comedy.) It was one of the best intimate concerts I’ve ever seen. The MIM theater is acoustically damned near perfect, as far as I can tell. The MIM itself boggled my little mind – but I’ll get back to that.

Right now, I’m going to indulge in a bittersweet compare-and-contrast session.

First off, let me establish that I do not trust any culture or creed that attempts to outlaw music, dance, and adornment. These are basic human activities, possibly hardwired into our brains. I suspect that to deny them is to deny other parts of our humanity, as well: little things like justice, mercy, empathy, and creativity.

Second, this is also a completely amateur analysis of two Arizona cities: Glendale and Scottsdale.

I lived in Glendale for ten years. While there, I rediscovered fiber art and beads, in part due to some amazing local bead shops. Even when I moved away to another nearby city, I tried to make time to go visit the best hidden bead treasure of them all.

The Bead Museum was founded in 1986 by Gabrielle Liese, and moved from Prescott, AZ down to Glendale in 1999. The museum rented an 8,000 square-foot building from the City of Glendale, and featured an extensive research library, almost 12,000 beads and beaded objects spanning 20,000 years of human history, and offered unique classes, exhibits, and guest lectures. I always compared it to two other gems of the Southwest: the Heard Museum in Phoenix AZ, and the International Folk Art Museum in Santa Fe NM. (At the latter place, in 1985, my love of beadwork and book arts was rekindled as ‘This is something I could do’, not just ‘This is something I like to see’.)

Even in the best economic conditions, the Bead Museum could not get strong local advertising to break out of its niche market. The culture scene of Glendale had made a nod toward the same art-walks and festivals popularized by other local cities, but traffic congestion and lack of parking seemed to keep many potential patrons from attending – even me, when I lived only six miles away.

Beginning around 2003, the City of Glendale gambled on future tax revenues and issued $155.2 million in revenue bonds to pay for a sports complex for the National Hockey League’s Phoenix Coyotes; a $200 million Spring Training baseball stadium for the L.A. Dodgers and the Chicago White Sox; and nearby office, residential, and shopping centers. At least one of the latter projects was not even finished before it was repossessed by the lender. Other planned projects were shelved when the recession hit. The owner of the Coyotes sought bankruptcy in 2009. The NHL purchased the team, and Glendale agreed to pay to keep it in Arizona. The Coyotes games have never brought in the promised tax revenue and ticket returns. The City of Glendale is now stuck with over $300 million in payments to the NHL. Additional debts nearly crippled the city, resulting in massive layoffs and service cut-backs. The city’s bond rating was cut by S & P in December 2012 to A-. (1)

Theoretically, the improvements to downtown Glendale and the nearby sports complex should have led to increased support for the arts, but that didn’t happen. In the case of the Bead Museum, attendance dropped steadily. In spite of desperate and creative fundraising efforts, the lack of a relatively tiny $200,000+ endowment fund spelled the end, and the museum closed in March of 2011. (2)

Comments in the Arizona Republic summed up both the museum supporters’ heartbreak and the reaction of the general public:

‘Glendale can pour millions into the Coyotes, but can’t save a lousy museum that adds a little class to downtown?’

‘Beads (and beaders) are boring.’

After that, the comment chain descended to predictable mentions of porn and politics. (3)

Although the Bead Museum left Arizona, its complete collection was donated to the Mingei International Museum in San Diego, where it remains as an accessible resource for scholars and artists. (4)

The art geek in me cannot help but take a little bitter pleasure in seeing jocks and their business backers so humbled, even though I actually like the Coyotes.

Now consider Scottsdale. It has a mixed reputation: fossil bed for snowbirds, retirees, and social conservatives; vibrant and lucrative art destination; binge-drinking party central for the young and ultra-hip. But another thing Scottsdale has is serious money, even in the depths of recession.

I first heard about the Musical Instrument Museum from someone working on the project, while I was a customer service rep at a local art store. I remember being skeptical: small theme museums go into bankruptcy auctions all the time, and I didn’t know the scale of this project. I was impressed by the publicity when it opened in April of 2010. Living almost 40 miles away, I didn’t have a chance to visit until last weekend.

The architecture, scale, and depth of the project are stunning: a 200,000 square foot visual poem in white marble and blond sandstone, on a 20-acre site in the Sonoran Desert setting of north Scottsdale. A former Target executive helped fund the initial stages, and the rest has been privately funded through individual and corporate donations of over $250 million dollars. The concert theater draws a wide variety of performers, and has even been used in recording sessions. The two cafes feature locally-sourced dishes created by award-winning chefs. The vast exhibits themselves showcase musical instruments, dance costumes, and other artifacts from nearly every continent and culture, with unobtrusive narration from headsets and flat-panel displays throughout. At $18 per adult, attendance can be pricey, but it’s worth an entire day to visit.

From the MIM’s own website, I chose this quote to describe it: Music is something all humans share, a source of beauty and comfort, a means to give voice to joy in times of celebration, and a powerful force that brings people together(5)

Scottsdale got the MIM. Glendale lost the Bead Museum. In the end – in either case – it’s no surprise why.

 

 

Hooked on One-Liners, part 2

Allie Ritch has allowed me to be part of the general havoc/hilarity that is ‘Hooked on One-Liners’.

Again, be warned that we’re erotic romance writers. Following the link can take you to some fairly-explicit sentences, so if you’re underage or live in a place where that could get you in trouble, don’t do it.

The rest of us will be giggling in a corner.

Teaser for ‘Moro’s Shield’

After some Real Life derails, I’m hard at work at both Leopard and on Moro’s Shield. The latter begins only a few hours after the end of Moro’s Price.

Working blurb: On the run from two human empires, Moro seeks Sonta help for his damaged nervous system. Val must make amends for one of his teenage mistakes, or lose Moro to another lover.

I can’t actually post the first paragraph, not if I want to keep this blog somewhere just above PG13. But here’s a fun snippet that may or may not survive into the final version:

“Camalians keep many secrets from other humans,” Val began, trying to choose words from the mandatory classes he’d barely listened to as a bored teenager. “You’re one of us now –”

Moro surprised him all over again. That adorable forehead wrinkle deepened. Moro sat up suddenly, cross-legged amid the tangled sheets, and pointed accusingly at Val. “You can c-control how and when the shed symbionts return t-to Cama, c-can’t you? Otherwise, none of you c-could work around v-v-volatile gas–” 

“Damn,” said Val, fighting back a smile. Moro didn’t need to think he was being laughed at for the returning stammer. “Just how long have you been working that out?”

“Only the l-last hour or so. I-I think.”

“You were able to think? Cama save me, I’m a complete failure as a lover.”

Moro grinned at him. “I j-just have a lot more experience multitasking under d-duress.”

 

Pebbles, Pachinko, and Publishing, part 2

My friend Kate Lowell wrote a very thoughtful rebuttal to my previous post about aiming high in publishing. It’s good enough that I have to examine it in full.

Bear in mind, my normal response to rejections is usually a mild obscenity, followed by a shrug, followed by 1) revision if I feel the editor made some valid points, or 2) trunking or submission to a new market. Thank you, Kate, for reminding me that not everyone has the ‘F**k You’ filters I’ve accumulated during 26 years of writing and being a commercial artist.

Kate wrote, in part: “…Now, here’s my take on this–I have no problem with someone who knows that their stuff isn’t ready for the big leagues picking a smaller–well researched and reputable–publisher to sub to. Or for whom the thought of trying to produce a manuscript, one that might make it even to the point of a personalized rejection, creates a kind of writing stasis mediated by fear. Not everyone can be a Scalzi or a Sanderson (although, Brandon Sanderson wrote 12 novels–count ‘em, 12!–before he got offered a publishing contract.) The way I look at it, I know I can sub to the Big 6, if I’m willing to wait to make it through all the slush piles. That’s not the issue.

What I was talking about was fear, which is a very real issue that many writers face on a daily basis. Some people would say that if you can’t overcome your fear of the rejections you will surely receive, then you shouldn’t be writing. I call shenanigans on that. The business is difficult enough as it is–there’s no need for us to be eating our young.”

Kate is correct. The fear of rejection can be crippling, at any stage in one’s writing life. (I am not going to say ‘writing career’, for reasons I will make plain in a later post.)

“Yes, some people shouldn’t be writing and submitting. They don’t have the proper command of grammar or vocabulary, or maybe they haven’t yet developed the complexity of mind necessary for a riveting narrative. But, there are a lot of people out there who are close, so close, and they shut themselves down because they can see that they aren’t quite there yet and they need someone to guide them those last few feet. I know a surprising number of writers who fall into that category. And this is where I feel these second tier publishers can be of use to us.

You can learn a lot about the mechanics of writing good, entertaining prose through courses, in critique groups, while chatting on forums and from books on craft. But the real learning, beyond the self-training that occurs in those other arenas, is when you have to rewrite your work to suit your market. There are things I will never do again, because I’ve had to rewrite for a market. For those struggling with the fear of rejection, an acceptance even to a smaller market may be what keeps them in the business, despite school, home life, jobs and all the other things with claims on our time. And all those big, well-respected publishers had to start somewhere. There are a number of them out there now that didn’t exist ten or fifteen years ago, markets I would love to get into.”

She’s correct there, too. Respectable smaller markets can give new writers some desperately-needed validation. No matter how long we’ve been writing and submitting, every single acceptance is a gift, a thrill, an antidote to mundane nonsense and soul-grinding frustration. I slightly mistrust anyone who says they don’t sting, at least a little, from rejection. But how much sadder still is it to lose that Christmas-morning joy when someone says ‘yes’ to your story? To treat it as just another outcome, or worse yet, only your due?

Smaller markets can also offer writers a fast introduction to the realities of writing, editing, and formatting to house styles or editorial need. How we respond to qualified acceptance can be more important to new writers than how we respond to outright rejection. I know several writers still trapped in ‘Golden Word Syndrome’: they tend to self-sabotage revise & resubmit requests, because they still regard any criticism as total criticism. They aren’t new writers (I’ve known them for 15+ years), so their responses to editorial suggestions are nearly automatic. The sales they do make are in spite of their resistance to outside guidance and compromise. New writers have the chance to avoid such fossilization, and smaller markets can provide the training wheels.

Kate also says, and I completely agree: “Just be sure you check them out, either on Writer’s Beware, or on Absolute Write (in the Bewares and Background Checks forum), before you send anything out. Check out their authors, read a few of their books to see what you’d be getting. Talk to people publishing in your genre and see what their opinions are of the smaller publishers. Do your homework, just the same as you would research for your book. This is your baby, after all. And don’t start at the absolute bottom, but a little higher than you think you can reach. We are our own worst critics.

Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you don’t respect yourself if you submit to a publisher that isn’t Random House’s main imprint, or Tor, or Penguin. Everyone has their personal goals and it’s your right not to be ready for that yet. Be aware that you will be sacrificing sales in exchange for a smaller pool to be noticed from, but it’s not the end of the world to publish in a smaller press first. After all, there’s a reason we call them plot bunnies…you can be pretty sure there’ll be more. And when that truly special one comes along–we can hang out together in the slush pile with all the other soon to be big dogs.”

Bravo, Kate. I have been schooled.

 

Hooked On One-Liners

This is a shameless re-direct to Allie Ritch’s blog, where she showcases the first group of one-line promos from some of our fellow erotic romance authors. It’s a quick and tasty derail: one sentence from a book, the author’s name, a buy link, and a website link. I’ll be in the second group in a week or two. Warning: this link will take you to some very short but very graphic sentences.

But if you’re an adult, go on with the clickety. You know you want to.

Pebbles, Pachinko, and Publishing

Today a friend of mine wrote in an AbsoluteWrite.com forum: “…I have the choice to work my way up the ladder and let my confidence grow with my skills.”

Well, yes and no. This is the foundation myth of many new writers, and of many lower-tier publishers: first submit to lesser markets and gain credibility as you go to higher and higher markets. I am totally for confidence-building exercises. I am also for reasoned analysis of one’s writing skills and the markets that might fit them.

But folks, please, please do not fall victim to the strategy of blindly ‘working your way up the ladder.’ All you have done is send your work to lesser markets, without knowing how well it might have done in better ones.

In commercial publishing, it’s better to aim your writing at high markets and work your way down, than the reverse. (Do what you will in self-publishing, since you will be taking on not only the role of publisher but marketing director.)

I know some amazing small (and often low-paying) markets I’d submit to in a flash, because I like the people involved AND a sale there would look great as a publishing credit. There are others I will never bother with, because their low payment ratio isn’t balanced by market credibility. A sale there is only good for my shallow ego, not my long-term career goals.

I know of several authors who submitted brilliant novels to frankly sub-par publishers, either because they didn’t do their research or they were afraid to send their work to the Big Five or reputable smaller publishers. All of these books should be selling in mega-thousands of copies, be on the NY Times lists, and be known to the general public. The best-selling author of the group has maybe sold 5000 copies of his first two novels in two years. The others have sold a few hundred copies, and one says they got their rights back after two years and an $8 or $9 royalty check. All because they discounted their skill and chose publishers who either could not or would not reach the broader markets.

They didn’t work from the top down.

I’ll use a physical sciences example because it is dramatic and obvious: let’s play Pebble Pachinko.

Let’s say you are separating sand from gravel bits, and using progressively-smaller sieve meshes for the separation. The largest sieve holds back the largest pebbles. The smallest sieve will catch the sand grains. Everything in between will find its own separation point on a specific sieve.

Now think of that in terms of publishing. The finest sand grains are the slush-piles and the rejected stories that nobody buys. Your story is a mid-sized pebble, bouncing down through smaller and smaller sieves. If you have slotted in the largest meshes at the top (the biggest, best-paying, most prestigious publishers), your pebble-story might land there, or a couple of layers down. That’s up to the quality of your writing (which you can improve) and the luck of the market/editor’s bad day (about which you can do nothing.)

Ah, but if you remove those top sieve layers, then the pebble-story will stop at the very next mesh too small to let it pass. That could be a great small market – or a mediocre one delighted at snagging some good-quality work out of the slush-pile.

You have not given your story a fair try. Out of fear of public perception and rejection, you deliberately removed yourself from the higher markets.

Fear is often healthy. It’s a survival mechanism to keep us from doing stupid things. But you won’t get eaten by a tiger, if you send a story to a top market and the editors don’t like it. You’ll get no response, or a rejection letter. Maybe a little veiled online snark. But you want to be a published writer, so that means putting some of yourself out there for public scrutiny. You can learn to handle it, laugh it off, and learn from it.

Go play Pachinko with your stories and see where they land.

Edited To Add: My friend Kate Lowell has a good rebuttal over on her Blunt Instrument blog. She’s not wrong, and she has brought up the fear of rejection that all too often cripples new writers. I promise to chew on the topic some more.

Teaser for ‘Leopard’s Leap’

To the good and kind people who keep buying Moro’s Price: thank you. In between Real Life Dramas, I am working on the next installment, Moro’s Shield. I am also playing with a spin-off sci-fi M/M erotic romance novella provisionally titled Leopard’s Leap. If and when it finds its way to an outlet near you, I will let everyone know. In the meantime, here is the working blurb:

Arena gladiator Jason Kee-DaSilva sold his body to pay his family’s debts, but they shun him once he’s set them free. Only his distant cousin Mateo stands by him after Jason loses first his heart, then his status, to the legendary fighter Dogleash. Mateo has long idolized his famous cousin, but Jason’s obsession with Dogleash nearly drives Mateo into the clutches of a duplicitous corporation intending to lure or drag Jason back into their service. 

And here is the first paragraph:

Mateo’s life changed on his fifteenth birthday, in a Taverna DaSilva storage room far from the chaos of an extended family celebrating several name-days at once. He’d hidden behind a stack of crates to get away from some girl’s gropes. He calmed his breath in the dark, spice-scented peace; no longer puzzling over why he’d run away, but how to break the news to Papa DaSilva. 

 

Fun With Spam, Part 2

I don’t have a site counter on the Blue Night blog, so I don’t know how many people read it.

That’s part of the fun. Really? You have never put a message in a bottle and thrown it into the sea, or tied it to a balloon? The law of averages says you’ll never get an answer. Other than contributing to global pollution, that’s not really why you put out the message in the first place. The point is the act of sending the message.

I do know how many times a day this blog gets spammed.

I’m a little sad that I’m not getting the quality stream-of-consciousness spam I used to see. Sure, I can use alpha-numeric gibberish and recycled advertising. I miss the old stuff – the kind that can go straight to formatting for artists’ books, it’s so absurdly earnest and full of awkward English. C’mon, guys, you’re slipping up on my generated text-farm operation, here.

But moderating the contributions has shown me some other sad failings of typical spam texts.

1) I can see who you are. No matter how fervent, enthusiastic, or engaging your comments, I know they are spam just by their originating code. Let’s face it, a ‘replica’ handbag seller out of Hong Kong has very little reason to comment on this blog. Therefore, you are likely a purveyor of malware. That pesky law of averages, again.

2) You say that to all the girls. Spammers use text macros because it’s faster than typing individual messages. These macros show up in searches. A handy hint for new bloggers who might waver over some particularly pithy and seemingly-appropriate comment: check it first via Google Search. Simply drag your cursor over the text and select it. Then click the right-hand mouse button (or equivalent) and select the menu line that says ‘Search Google for <selected text>. If the exact copy or a permutation shows up as a comment on other blogs, it’s more than likely spam.

(Unrelated handy hint: this is also a great way to research urban legends, folklore, and those ‘inspirational’ internet stories that just seem too spooky or heartwarming to not be true. Highlight text, select, Google Search, yadda yadda. Or just go to Snopes.com and start there, because at least one of your search results will go there anyway.)

I apologize for the one-tenth-of-one-percent of ‘real’ comments that might get mixed into spam, and from there consigned into the Pits of Oblivion. I love the Real People who comment here, and I hope to make this place a regular time-wasting spot for their internet rounds.

Oh, and a text-generation resource for me and other book artists.