Vera Nazarian’s COBWEB BRIDE Kickstarter

I honestly don’t know if this post will get noticed by anyone but spammers, but why not try?

A friend of mine is rounding up support for self-publishing a great new book. Most of the time, when I get news like this I either yawn or cringe. Let’s face it, self-publishing is a quagmire of mediocrity in which rare gems are hard to find. And while exceptions abound, I have noticed a definite inverse ratio of writing quality to stridency-of-promotion.

In this case, Vera Nazarian has the chops to do it right.

One: she’s been published, for real, by real publishers – and her work has had some great reviews.

Two: she’s the owner/editor of Norilana Books, one of the most elegant small-press publishers I’ve seen in years. Her self-published Jane Austen pastiches have been garnering glowing comments as a mix of deft, literate writing and outright comedic farce.

Three: she’s a fellow fan of British writer Tanith Lee. See Norilana for some reissues of Lee’s out of print fantasy novels, and you’ll see why I gush. If you know anything about Lee, you’ll know why serious fans sit up and take notice when Norilana plans to publish the never-before-seen continuations of the ‘Flat Earth’ series. Yep. That’s right. The books that DAW wouldn’t publish will eventually be in our hot little hands. And maybe, just maybe, we’ll get the answer to Atmeh’s cryptic observation about her father: ‘If the sun can be a darkness, cannot darkness be a sun?’

Which is why I think it’s important enough to pitch COBWEB BRIDE in the meantime. Because editors – and their cats – need to eat.

What is COBWEB BRIDE? Think ‘Torchwood: Miracle Day’ meets the Persephone myth meets a dark and gorgeous alternate-history Renaissance romance.

Go here to see more :

But hurry, because the project ends soon.

October 16, 2012 UPDATE: I’m thrilled to announce Vera’s Kickstarter project succeeded on October 13. She met her goal and then some, so COBWEB BRIDE will grow up to be a real book sometime next summer. My thanks to everyone who read, followed the links, and maybe donated.

Anthology contributor’s copies

THRONES OF DESIRE is loosely inspired by George R. R. Martin’s ‘Game of Thrones’ novels, but consisting of 14 original stories by various erotica authors. The e-book version went live on the 11th, and the trade paperback will be available on the 18th.

I have a story in this one: ‘Saints and Heroes’, about a runaway husband, an altruistic seduction, and the cost of thwarting destiny. It is set in the secondary-world fantasy universe I’ve been developing for a ridiculously long time.

Here’s the link:

Here’s a shot about three minutes after I opened the envelope:

Antique desk! Contrib copies! The giant jade, bone, and horsehair sumi-e brush that partly inspired my story!

Why I wrote fanfic, an explanation in verse

Say not that I have stolen them.
No more honor has a jeweler for a gem,
Than I for these lovely gentlemen.
Yet like gems prized from battered crown
Or corroded ring and set again, more –
Or less – tinselly glittering,
They beg new voices to frame or refine
Such traits their true authors might decline
To set free in exploration: whole treasuries
Of joy, glory, grief, desire –
Some years I’ve spent inside created minds
While my own tale-spinning, lax, unwinds.
Is this obsession or apprenticeship?
They have stolen me,
These earthbound angels, these spirits of fire.


A version of this poem was originally published here:

Fun with spam

In my other life I am an artist working in a relatively unknown medium, but I’ve still managed to gain a following among collectors. In that other life, I get to use my writing skills in another way, by creating text-based art from original prose, poetry, out-of-copyright material, and ‘found’ material.

One of my greatest victories was finding a way to create art out of some reprinted and collected spam emails, along with the absolutely amazing names the perps came up with. What can you not do with ‘Bumpkin T. Paraphernalia’ and his cousins?

And I make money off this stuff, to date more than my published writing has made. Not Jeff Koons-levels of moolah, but more than craft-mall levels, I assure you. More than the spammers are making off of me.

So I’m a little disappointed with the quality of the bot-derived email comments I’m getting with this blog. Most of them fail the Turing Test just from their email addresses, to say nothing of the ‘message’.  I am saving most of them, with the express purpose of creating art with them someday. But I won’t respond directly, engage the senders, or let this blog become a forum for their business efforts.

Please. Be a reader, a writer, a real person with something to say that actually ties into my feverish ramblings. Even if it’s uncomplimentary, if it’s interesting I might just leave it up.

At least be a little more creative with your spam. There’s an artist here who would like to profit from it.

September 2 updates

COLD COMFORT: still researching the Tam Lin legend and its variants for my story rebuild. Watching ‘Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex’ for inspiration/ world building in the late 21st Century. Listening to Pink Floyd’s ‘Wish You Were Here’ and Duran Duran’s ‘Lonely In Your Nightmare’, as I did when I wrote the initial fanfic.

MASK OF FALLING STARS: awaiting interlibrary loan so I can re-read Joan Vinge’s THE SNOW QUEEN, since that world and plot are my inspiration for this mms.

LEOPARD’S LEAP: 2500 words. Two side characters in MORO’S PRICE work out their own issues against the backdrop of Cedar-Saba’s possible annihilation.

MORO’S SHIELD: three chapters, total 8K. I’ve outlined what I can of the rest, but I’m sure the story will surprise me along the way.

Sometime around mid-September, my erotic fantasy story ‘Saints and Heroes’ will be published in the Cleis Press anthology THRONES OF DESIRE, inspired by the ‘Game of Thrones’ books by George R.R. Martin. Here are some teaser pages from my story. WARNING: not work-safe, and very much adult. If m/m sex squicks you don’t go read. I won’t mind, honest.

Summary: A runaway husband and reluctant dom confronts the cost of avoiding destiny.,+M.H.+Crane&source=bl&ots=pKMKHePmJv&sig=eLzkKSsNj27bgvztxa6PAhy4HZg&hl=en#v=onepage&q=Saints%20and%20Heroes%2C%20M.H.%2

Sampled Fiction, Serial Numbers, and how I might have just mortgaged what was left of my soul.

Does our entertainment culture value sampled products over original works? Is this creative sloth, or a calculated shot at maximizing profit via audience familiarity with tried-and-true stories?

When done by professional writers via publisher license, the trend gives us dozens of ‘Star Wars’ novels, John Scalzi’s affectionate and awesome H. Beam Piper reboot FUZZY NATION, and movies like BATTLESHIP or  J.J. Abrams’ ‘Star Trek’ remixes.

By now, most folks in the writing business have heard of E.L. James’ racy BDSM romance series starting with FIFTY SHADES OF GREY, soon to be made into a motion picture. FSoG began life as ‘Twilight’ fanfiction. Some people probably also know Cassandra Clare’s ‘Mortal Instruments’ YA series (the first book of which is also going to be made into a movie) started as a legendary and controversial series of Harry Potter fanfics, beginning with a novel-length piece called DRACO DORMIENS.

This is nothing new. In fanlore, many sf&f writers have published amazing and well-received books that started off as fanfiction in another person’s or corporation’s copyrighted setting. They made the transition with grace, discretion, and skill.

The equation has changed because the large commercial publishers (and many literary agents) have seen the potential goldmine in re-purposed fanfiction, and are now actively courting it. I’ve even read a couple of recent blog posts about ComicCon, where publishers’ reps apparently asked attending writers about fanfic possibilities. And they’re not demanding the kind of effort Scalzi put into writing a completely new tale written in an old universe. Now whole sections, if not whole chapters, seem to be merely lifted from fanfiction, run through Find/Replace, and sent to an editor.

One can make the argument that such projects help bankroll the publication of lesser-known original fiction, providing a cushion of relatively easy profit for the publisher. In a younger reading culture that has grown up with sampled music and digital art, ‘fan fiction’ no longer has the unsavory connotations it had even 20 years ago.

Someone in the business asked me recently if I had any ‘Twilight’ or ‘Harry Potter’ fanfic I’d be willing to recycle. I may be one of the few people in America who has neither read nor watched anything ‘Twilight’-related (except for some hilarious South Park and Robot Chicken parodies.) While I have played in the Potter universe, those efforts are not long enough or interesting enough to justify filing off the serial numbers.

Plus, I like J.K. Rowling. She achieved something remarkable and introduced millions of readers to really long and complicated books. She doesn’t know it, but she is personally responsible for a bit of creative vengeance that still makes me feel warm-and-fuzzy just thinking about it. So I’m not stepping on her toes for profit.

But that got me thinking. I did write extensively in a rather obscure fandom years ago, more as a way of play-testing characterization and romance scenes without investing lots of world building. A few of those stories have been popular enough that I still get happy, weepy fanmail about them. One could be a brilliant gut-punch of a short novel, if I can engineer the necessary changes to the characters and the ending.

I admire and respect that author, too. She made her mark on her chosen genre, in a time and culture where she was considered at once a rebel and a clown. I owe it to her to be as careful as I can with what was, in the first place, a bootleg version of her universe.

So between contracted projects, I’m going to rewrite the thing as an experiment. I will strip out as much of the original universe as I can, and attempt to build an effective novel out of the remaining bones. Unlike James and Clare, I’m not courting a massive fan base. I might have 20 fangirls scattered around the world – I love ‘em all, but they don’t constitute a significant market block. But I think it will be fun.

The working title is COLD COMFORT. Stay tuned for developments.

August 11 update

My signed and countersigned contract for MORO’S SHIELD arrived yesterday from Loose Id.

Somehow, having a contract for the sequel makes MORO’S PRICE more real. The story I started writing on 03-05-2011 as a fun experiment is now a job, no less enjoyable but infinitely more terrifying. I have the dreaded Second Novel Syndrome to thwart. The next book has to be better than the first – and shorter, since I’m held to a 70K limit. Between eating some really good dark chocolate and breathing into a paper bag, I’ve reminded myself: “Self, you do fine under deadlines and creative constraints in commercial art. This is no different.”

Except that it is. My commercial art and fine art pieces may be based off 35 years of experience, but they’re not rooted as deep as the universe I began making up way back in 1987. Any bad reviews I get about my art, I can balance with a look at the museums, universities, and private clients who love my artwork and collect it. I’ve only sold two short stories set in my writing universe, neither of them anywhere near the locations and time periods found in the Moro books. Some readers have liked the immense backstory and worldbuilding I showed within the first novel. Others have just been confused, and for that I offer my apologies.

You see, I cheated. When it came time for my m/m space opera experiment, I balked at making up a completely new setting. I already had 120,000 in-story years of historical notes, several empires, and lots of races and cultures to play with. So Moro’s tale fits within that larger universe, but it can stand alone.

Now I have to trust myself to regain the half-giddy, half-appalled exhilaration I felt beginning MORO’S PRICE, and dial it up. To keep me focused, I’ll use this blog as a spoiler-free progress report every so often. Word counts will be approximate, since I always revise several times anyway. And specific plot notes may change without notice.

Today’s update:

MORO’S SHIELD, Chapter One, 600 words: Syene Trask has good reasons to distrust Val, even though they’ve never met. Chapter Two, 2000 words: Moro can multitask. Val can’t.

Plot as Foreplay?

I’m a fantasy writer just now wandering into the world of erotic romance. I’ve been reading fantasy since the early 1970s. Hence, my high tolerance for vast paragraphs of worldbuilding, complicated plots and sub-plots, and tiny nuggets of foreshadowing scattered like diamonds on a path. Sex in older fantasy and science fiction novels often faded to black, or was framed in the most diplomatic ways. I’m thrilled to see many modern fantasy novels using sex as a normal, natural part of the narrative.

In the erotic romance genre, some readers want to reach the steamy bits as quickly as possible. I’ve talked with erotic romance readers who simply skip through books to find sex scenes. A few will bypass entire books in a series if the pairing/combination isn’t one they like.

In fanfiction, we called the ultimate expression of that strategy ‘Plot, What Plot?’ It was a happy excuse to write searing sex scenes where emotional content barely uplifted the text from simple porn. I’ve written a few PWP stories myself. They’re great ways to learn the craft of erotica, and they’re fun.

But as a fantasy reader, I’m still trained to accept a writer’s work as it is. I’d worry that if I skipped a chapter or two, I wouldn’t know the backstories and motivations of the characters. I might miss some important clue I could only pick up from context in a paragraph three chapters back. Missing that clue, I’d be completely at sea later when the plot demanded I remember it. Confusion might lead to boredom, and then to me skimming the rest of the book – or throwing it across the room.

Reading a book just for the sex, to me, is as ultimately unsatisfying and unhealthy as skipping the rest of the meal for dessert. If I cater to my craving for only one aspect of a novel, how long before the reading-comprehension equivalent of diabetes sets in? If I don’t use my deep-reading skills, will I lose them?

Besides, passages of carefully written plot or worldbuilding description only enhance the main characters for me. While I’m reading, I’m a tourist in their world. Do I want the fastest, most simplified itinerary, or do I want a leisurely back-roads journey through the place that has shaped and defined these characters?

For me, the plot is another form of foreplay.

Crane Hana Books begins.

I’m a writer and artist living in the American Southwest. I’m lucky enough to work in creative industries as diverse as commercial analog and digital art, art instruction, bookbinding, jewelry-making, and film cell retouching for a major theme park company. My artwork is collected by numerous private clients and university special collections, and has been featured in several magazines and coffee table art books.

I’ve always told stories to amuse myself and friends, but I didn’t start writing with intent-to-publish until 1987. The less said about my first three novels, the better. I sold a few short stories, but my art career ate more and more of my time, and I stopped writing original fiction. In 2009, a suspected bout of the H1N1 virus gave me some amazing dreams and a way to finish a fantasy manuscript stalled a decade earlier.

As M. H. Crane, I’m working on several fantasy projects at the moment, among them a story arc about a race of courtesans created to tame the most terrifying creatures in their universe. The first completed novel in the sequence has been pitched as ‘Jacqueline Carey’s KUSHIEL’S DART meets James Cameron’s AVATAR’. One erotica short story set in that universe will be published in Sept. 2012 in the Cleis Press anthology THRONES OF DESIRE.

As M. C. Hana, I write m/m and m/m/f erotic romance space operas in that same universe, but set thousands of years later when human colonists clash with an ancient, arrogant, and deadly race already claiming the galaxy. MORO’S PRICE, the first book in a planned trilogy, is now available from Loose Id, LLC.

The secondary-world cultures I’ve created over 25 years are comfortable with many different forms of sensual and sexual expression. They are, to paraphrase Jack Harkness of TORCHWOOD, ’52nd Century folks’.

I’ve been inspired by the fiction of Tanith Lee, Storm Constantine, Samuel R. Delany, Jo Clayton, Andre Norton, Diane Duane, and Lynn Flewelling, among many other pioneers who brought alternate sexualities to the mainly heterosexual world of science fiction and fantasy. The recent explosion of e-books and the genres of erotic romance and paranormal romance opened up great new possibilities, away from the previous fade-to-black restrictions of mainstream publishers.

Welcome aboard.