‘The Purist’ has a home with NineStar Press

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A bad or indifferent agent is worse than no agent.

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

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

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

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

***

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

TASCHEN - Beautiful Books

Moro’s Price mood board

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

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

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

***

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

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

TASCHEN - Beautiful Books

Sfassa in Sirrithani guise

Finally, finally, after way too many years of having only a vague idea what Sfassa, one of the main characters of THE PURIST, actually looks like when she’s human-ish, Hayley Amber Hasselhoff (yes, David’s daughter) showed me the way. I also owe a shout-out to model and wrestler Lindsay Hayward, and the other stunning plus-size models and actors we’re lucky enough to see in modern media.

This digital sketch is modeled after one of Hayley’s photo shoots.

Hayley has the size, strength, and sweet-but-smoldering beauty that I keep seeing in Sfassa Snowdancer.

Who is Rui-Sfassa se tha Jensei? A mystery to her smitten husband Eridan, who stands about three feet shorter than Sfassa (I estimate her to be about 7′ and far heavier in mass than even her big body should be, probably around 500 pounds).

Eridan believes she’s from some backlands isolated tribe of especially tall and warlike Sirrithani, the most numerous humanoid race on Lonhra. Sfassa would rather be naked than go without her two vicious steel kori-spears, which she wears on her back with a variety of harnesses. She has dark bronze skin, white hair, dark blue eyes with almost no white showing, fangs, and semi-retractable claws. Her very tall, fur-fringed ears look a little like a Terran lynx’s or serval’s. No one but Eridan can touch Sfassa’s ears without getting bitten or stuck with those spears.

Her rich, strong singing voice was the first thing Eridan fell in love with about her, listening in a snowy winter canyon three years before he actually met her.

His singing voice was the first thing she noticed about him. Which made up for him being a vegetarian, about as high as a water barrel, as wide as a stick of firewood, and having no fangs or claws.

Honestly, someone needed to protect the little idiot from himself, much less from the hosts of people bent on assassinating or abducting the loud-mouth, meddling, socially-crusading Master-Singer Eridan Sydall, last bard-prince of a dying race.

She set herself to be his bodyguard soon after they met, but she has ulterior motives.

And she’s not humanoid at all…

Playing with cover art

original art by Marian Crane

I’m thinking about this for a fantasy short story cover. Still revamping the previously (anthology) published 25-page story, but seriously thinking about self-publishing this and some of the more-obscure Lonhra Sequence side stories. I have a lot of them.

Granted, this cover will be mostly taken up by text, but I like that it directly references story elements.

It wasn’t until revising THE PURIST and looking at my old notes for this story, ‘Saints and Heroes’, that I realized the huge volcano looming over Ajara City is called the Bell. Because the Sirrithani have twisted senses of humor.

Volcanoes are important in Sirr culture and myth: there’s a subset of earthwitchery dedicated to early warnings and control of fire-mountains. Their main goddess isn’t floating around in the sky; she’s below, curled around the world’s heart and trying to keep it from waking up and destroying everyone on the surface.

Tools: Painter 2017 oil paint filters, various tonal filters, volcano and banner sketched from web sources and heavily altered.

‘The Purist’ mood board 3

Playing with bits of art I’ve collected or created over the years, to give myself another visual image-set for THE PURIST, a big fantasy novel currently out in Queryland.*

Yes, this is SINGER IN RHUNSHAN revisited, massively revised, and (I hope) getting closer to being fit for outside reading. For now, I’m so happy the damn thing finally decided on a better…and brutally fitting…title.

My next problem is that it also decided it really, really wants to be a graphic novel, too.

*Update 7-3-2017: I decided on querying 23 agents. That’s not a large segment of the available agents who are interested in science fiction and fantasy. But these are the agents I thought might be the best fit. These are the agents who *didn’t* scare me off with the actions I’ve listed in ‘Filigree’s Rule’. I’d be honored to work with any one of them.

I know the query’s as solid as my limited skills can make it. In eleven days I’ve had two full requests, one partial request, and two rejections. Considering the no-response statistics from BLOODSHADOW in 2009, MORO’S PRICE in 2012, and SINGER’s dire performance last year, that’s a much better query performance!

I’ve given myself a set amount of time to wait for responses. After that, the novel gets submitted to two major SFF publishers. After that, I start talking to Draft2Digital, four years after deciding to turn a short story into a book.

What’s my point? There are many avenues to publication, all with positive and negative aspects.

I know someone who tried to get an agent, failed, was published by two small presses that failed miserably, then tried two years of self-publishing, and just gave up. He spent over $10,000 on the process, between editing and marketing. He made around $200. (Not an uncommon fate in solo self-publishing, I’m afraid.) He unpublished his two paperbacks a few days ago, and his ebooks will disappear at the end of the year. He said the worry and strain sucked the joy out of his writing. I hope he gets that back, because his writing is wonderful.

I know many capable authors who, as mid-listers, were faced with dwindling options and industry notice. Self-publishing their backlists gave them new income streams and new readers…and more respect from the trade publishers. Literary agent Russell Galen has a prescient moment where he talks about the big trade publishers eventually realizing they must court self-published authors.

We won’t talk about the self-publishing wunderkind authors who seem to appear out of nowhere with multi-million-dollar success stories. We shouldn’t; those are flukes, and their paths to success often hide a lot more hard work than dumb luck.

What we, as ‘aspiring’ authors CAN do, no matter our eventual path to publication? Write the best thing we can write. Don’t settle for the fast-fashion trend of the day, unless you already have something that might fit. Don’t settle for churned-out Kindle ‘novels’ that are repurposed or outright plagiarized pablum.

Just don’t lose the joy.

 

Moro’s Price 2nd Edition

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

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

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

NineStar Press formats e-book link

Amazon US Kindle link

Amazon paperback link

Kobo link

Smashwords link

Barnes & Noble link

For some reviews of the first edition, go here.

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

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

 

Accidental worldbuilding

On a writer’s forum, I read a recent discussion of different storybuilding tools, among them the Snowflake Method. This existed long before there were alt-righties and GamerG4ters whining about ‘liberal snowflakes’, so settle down.

Randy Ingermanson’s method shows writers how to start small, with basic but sturdy frameworks, and build ever-increasing detail. This can help prevent a writer from being bogged down in superfluous detail instead of actual plot or useful settings.

Some of us take it a little too far the other direction. The fractal nature of snowflakes suits us, because we keep digging at the story for more detail, more background, more character arcs. Every answer comes up with a dozen new questions which we want to answer, dammit. Dig for a snowflake, get a glacier.

Fine, if you are a hobby writer. If you’re going for commercial success, don’t count on this obsession to lead you anywhere but rabbitholes filled with enigmas and plotbunnies. Unless you’re willing to plug away at it like Tolkien or Sanderson, there’s only madness ahead.

This bit of needlepoint from 1991-1992 helps illustrate my warning. I had a big fantasy world already built, and a vague idea of illustrating some of its legends with needlepoint pictures. The germ of book art was happening even then!

This depicts a specific creature, a hunt-goddess of a deceptively primitive race. When I created the species I thought they all ran around on four legs. Later, after some worldbuilding shakeups, I gave them sexual dimorphism and made the females bipedal.

But not this one, and not her reclusive brothers and sisters. I got to wondering why those thirteen creatures never adapted to the ‘new’ body plan. That led to another plot-twist: they hated the change, resented it, and abandoned all the mortals who agreed to it. How they got over their snit and came back as major players in their world…

Well, that’s another story.

My RevPit bio

Certain things in my life are brick walls that I bash into, until I become smart enough to bash through, climb over, dig under, or set aside. There are several art galleries that are such long-term goals, they’re almost just existential by now. Online query pitch contests are another. Every time I flame out in one I swear I won’t do that again…until the next one.

Next week begins a thing called #RevPit, for Revise & Resub. For the winners, it’s a month of free editing and query help from some pro editors, followed by an agent cotillion. It takes the place of the hurriedly cancelled Pitch2Pub.

The mms for SINGER is revised, the query tightened up again. I’m still planning on querying it to the Big 5, then one small press I like, and then probably just self-publishing it. At this point, I’m adult enough to know it probably won’t snag an agent. But it could use some decent editing.

For people stalking my mms, there’s plenty on that buried in the rest of this blog. I’ll make it simple. It’s a big secondary-world high fantasy/sword&planet quest/romance novel about music, ancient bio-weapons, sentient amnesiac black holes, oppressed populations, incipient civil wars, and three people who really need to talk honestly to each other more often. Like I said, simple. That big black beastie on a green background up above? They’re a major character in the saga.

For people stalking me, I’m really rather boring. The most interesting thing about me right now is my hair, which is partly cobalt blue right now. And my terrible taste in gaudy socks.

I’ve been a commercial and fine artist for a couple of decades. Some of my areas of expertise chosen obsessions are silversmithing, beadwork, embroidery, acrylic painting, costuming, couture clothing, masks, book art sculptures, and digital art.

I’ve had art in some national exhibitions and fancy coffee-table art books. My book art pieces are represented by an incredible book arts seller, who brings my work to collectors around the world. I have art online at a few sites, both for display and for sale.

By day I write marketing and catalog copy for private companies.

In my spare time, I write science fiction, fantasy, fanfiction, and original erotic romance. I’m apparently not supposed to let on how much I’ve written, but psst, I’ve been writing for 30 years last weekend.

Some of it has even been published by royalty-paying publishers.

What do I want out of this? Nearly everyone wants an enthusiastic, skilled agent and maybe a very nice deal down the road. But my years in art have taught me that the outcomes and odds can be so improbable that you’d better be doing something you love. That you would do anyway. That you cannot not do. That the journey itself may be more important, and lead to even more amazing places than you ever dreamed.

So I’m hoping to connect with some more mentors who will become good friends, that maybe I can help as much as they could help me. Even if I don’t make it into the later rounds, just doing this has helped me clarify my goals.

 

Mood board for Singer

To keep my mind off #pitmad and to get ready for #revpit in two weeks, here’s another mood board I cobbled together for my high fantasy mms SINGER.

Art credits include: Michael Whelan, cover for Tanith Lee’s ‘Night’s Sorceries’

Renaissance gold chain, Incollect https://www.incollect.com/articles/revival-jewelry-looking-to-the-past-for-inspiration

Venezuelan thunderstorm, The Telegraph http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/destinations/southamerica/venezuela/11728250/Catatumbo-Venezuelas-everlasting-lightning-storm.html

Blue Planet, BBC advertising

St. Herman’s Cave, Belize http://www.vivabelize.com/tours-activities/land-activities/st-hermans-ceremonial-cave-exploration/

Bamboo flute, Alibaba

Sawyer Fredericks, MusicTone music videos

original map, embroidery, digital painting by Marian Crane

 

Character names and titles

Character names and titles are important in fiction (duh!)

Different genres have different naming trends and types, if not outright rules. A clever writer can exploit or twist those, while a tone-deaf writer can suffer for them. Of course, it helps to read massively and currently in your target genres.

I have a perennial problem with names. Many of my characters go through name changes during their story’s evolution (Tel from ‘Bloodshadow’ has had five different names). Or they’re called by different names by different people or groups (Moro from ‘Moro’s Price, poor lad.)

Some characters will stubbornly keep their names, no matter what plotty bribes I throw their way.

I’ve got two naming problems right now, with two separate projects.

My editor felt uncertain about a 52nd Century character calling himself ‘Bill’, with a given name of William (which he hates, hence the nickname). Realistically, linguistic drift and culture changes should result in very different name structures.

But this is a smutty M/M space opera, not literary fiction with scholarly linguistic projection.

The character has good reason to go by a jaunty, unassuming nickname. So I left him as ‘Bill’.

I gave him an Eastern European version of ‘William’ that links back to part of his family’s heritage. He still hates it, because it makes him look even more like a rich mobster. And, like the rest of the book, it offers an indirect political comment on RL current events.

My second name problem is an honorific, a job title, a threat, and an insult…applied to one of the founding characters in my secondary-world high-fantasy Lonhra Sequence books. I’ve had this (mostly background) immortal character in his/her/their current form for over three decades. (What happens when you worldbuild as a hobby.)

That character’s given name changes often due to marriage and politics, but their title is a bedrock of Lonhran history.

Imagine my reactions when I read today about a new YA author using almost that same title in her fantasy book! After the initial jolt passed, I examined my problem logically.

I doubt she ‘stole’ it, even though my version has been trade-published since early 2012. The title is a combination of two common English language words. It’s likely many people have used it.

Could I use the Lonhra language version: Tilurak? It means the same thing. I like both, but the longer English version is more familiar and approachable for me.

If an agent or editor brings up the coincidence, I’ll have to explain and justify my reasons.

Until then, that character title stays.

The lesson for other writers? Names can be a battleground. Be prepared to fight for, alter, or jettison them as needed.

Blood Orange and Jasper Magic Wand

Or: faux inlay technique on wood.

I make artifacts and jewelry, along with book art and a ton of other largely useless but fun things. I belong to a loose-knit group of like-minded souls who, upon occasion, will make Harry-Potter-inspired magic wands as props and cosplay pieces.

This newest piece is made from a Blood Orange tree twig woodburned and painted, with a lanyard of braided waxed blue-gray polyester cord strung with Picture Jasper and Blue Lace Agate beads. The stick is about 14″ long and .75″ at its widest.

I’ve had the twig for 15 years. It came from a Blood Orange bonsai attempt that died at two years old. The corkscrew end is part of the root, and shows the stress on the tree. (I am never starting another bonsai again. It’s cruel, the tree equivalent of foot-binding.) I kept the dried-out little trunk because it was beautiful in its frozen misery, and a stern reminder of boundaries I shouldn’t cross again.

When I decided to make a prop wand from it, I stripped off the bark with a Dremel sander tip, then polished with successively finer sandpapers up to 600 grit. 

I did the spiraling design on the twig freehand with a temperature-controlled woodburning pen with a chisel tip. That allowed me to sink deep, precise marks along the wood. The resulting resins got scrubbed off with 90% alcohol and an old T-shirt. This cleaned off the soot and oils that could otherwise retard paint and varnish. The stick looked like this…

Painting time! I mixed a blue/turquoise/gray acrylic paint slip and worked it into every burned line, then painted a layer over the whole stick. That got to dry for a day. I chose blue-gray because it’s a color out of a fantasy series I’m working on, and I want do do some book covers in this look eventually.

(I can imagine that an earthwitch out of my Lonhra Sequence books might use a version of this thing.)

orangwwood wand detailWith another old T-shirt and more alcohol, I rubbed off most of the paint, until the buttery-yellow bare wood showed and the burned lines were filled with blue-gray paint. Once that dried for another day or three, I sanded again with fresh 600 grit black wet-dry paper.

This leaves a general effect of bare wood + colored inlaid lines bordered with the dark brown burned edges of the design. Covered with an oil-based or clear resin varnish, the effect looks even more like inlay. I use this technique a lot on wood book covers, because it adds subtle, precise surface detail.

The lanyard is Gray 4-ply waxed polyester cord from Maine Thread Co, in a triple-strand braid. The tan/cream/brown Picture Jasper rectangular tubes came from a $4 thrift store necklace I found last week. From The 30-Year Stash, I already had tumbled nuggets of Blue Lace Agate with the right mix of gray-blue and white banding and tan matrix.

On pyrography: Some folks do woodburning on leather (I don’t like the smell, or the result, but that’s only my take on it.) You may not get as deep or as controlled a brand line as you might on wood. Be careful when scrubbing/sanding off the top layer, as you can ‘suede’ your leather accidentally.

If you want to try this look, you can use the regular hobbyist single-temperature ‘soldering iron’ type of woodburning pen. I’ve found that my variable-temp professional pyrography unit with multiple tips is an amazing drawing tool. It’s more than paid for itself in the decade-and-a-half since purchase.

What am I going to do with this wand? Hang it up to look at for a while, maybe sell it later. It’s a proof of concept. The value for me lay in the crafting, so I can apply the look elsewhere.

 

When writing goes exceptionally well

I’ve been at a plateau for a while on the big fantasy project: polished, but not quite gleaming. This weekend, three things happened:

I wrote a decent pitch for an upcoming pitch contest.

Image result for ronan dance off GIF

I tightened the first chapter, and bridged new and old versions with really strong scenes. I forced more emotion into one character, and more agency into another.

Image result for maleficent cartoon GIF

Both beta readers on this project (who are neither lazy slouches nor easily won over) have given me their vast approval.

So even if the pitch contest doesn’t work, I’m far more confident about this book than in its previous versions. It’s not wasted effort, if it improves the manuscript.

The only catch: it all has to be done by Friday the 24th. That’s when the pitch contest begins…but more importantly, it’s when I have to start work on a major art project AND wrangle incoming edits for the brand new, shiny version of Moro’s Price (coming from NineStar Press this summer).

New version of Moro’s Price coming soon!

 

My debut novel MORO’S PRICE, a M/M space opera erotic romance, was first published in 2012. I’m pleased to announce that a newly revised version will be coming soon from NineStar Press.

If you liked the original version, I think you’ll love this one.

If all goes well, you’ll also be seeing the direct sequel to MORO, as well as a spin-off M/M novella featuring two side characters.

Thanks for your patience and support!

Valier, digital pastel, 8-26-2016

So, since I didn’t get Singer In Rhunshan into PitchWars (and knew it would be a longshot), I’m back to the revisions on Moro’s Price.

For those of you who didn’t know, the latter is a big space opera-ish M/M erotic romance set against a futuristic but by no means scientific background. When wrote it in 2011, I deliberately placed it into the far future of the Lonhra Sequence. Bits of ‘Firefly’, ‘Dune’, ‘Bablyon ‘5, and the Vorkosigan saga inspired it; since then, I’ve been watching ‘Killjoys’, ‘The Expanse’, and ‘Dark Matter’ intently for more inspiration.

I get to do crazy wonderful things to this book, now that I have it back from the original publisher. Fun things. Like substantially change the opening chapters, condense some of the dragging middle, and weave it better into Moro’s Shield, the sequel, and The Leopard of Saba, a spinoff novella set before and during Price.

It helps to know what people look like, while I write them. This round of revisions, I changed Valier Antonin, with slightly stronger facial features and curlier hair. Makes sense: his mother has major curls, and she’s the stronger genetic donor in the mix of people who made Val.

This isn’t the teenage Val I had been sketching, but the man in his mid twenties, when Moro meets him.

Val 2016 for blog

My Pitch Wars bio

So, apparently I’m doing this thing called Pitch Wars next week. I have my first chapter reasonably polished, hammered together something that might pass for a hook, cooked up an 800-word synopsis, and achieved a query that didn’t make my current CPs barf. I am exhausted but happy.

For people stalking my mms, there’s plenty on that buried in the rest of this blog. I’ll make it simple. It’s a big secondary-world high fantasy quest/romance novel about music, ancient bio-weapons, sentient amnesiac black holes, oppressed populations, incipient civil wars, and three people who really need to talk honestly to each other more often. Like I said, simple.

For people stalking me, I’m really rather boring. The most interesting thing about me right now is my hair, which is partly cobalt blue right now. And my terrible taste in socks.

I’ve been a commercial and fine artist for a couple of decades. Some of my areas of expertise chosen obsessions are silversmithing, beadwork, embroidery, acrylic painting, costuming, couture clothing, masks, book art sculptures, and digital art.

I’ve had art in some national exhibitions and fancy coffee-table art books. My book art pieces are represented by two incredible galleries, who sell my work to collectors around the world. I have art online at a few sites, both for display and for sale.

By day I write marketing and catalog copy for an international jewelry-making supply firm.

In my spare time, I write science fiction, fantasy, fanfiction, and original erotic romance. I’m apparently not supposed to let on how much I’ve written.

Some of it has even been published by royalty-paying publishers.

What do I want out of Pitch Wars? Nearly everyone wants an enthusiastic, skilled agent and maybe a very nice deal down the road. But my years in art have taught me that the outcomes and odds can be so improbable that you’d better be doing something you love. That you would do anyway. That you cannot not do. That the journey itself may be more important, and lead to even more amazing places than you ever dreamed.

So I’m hoping to connect with some more mentors who will become good friends, that maybe I can help as much as they could help me. Even if I don’t make it into the later rounds, just doing this has helped me clarify my goals.

Onward!

 

Moro’s Price first edition 2012 to 2016

I say ‘first edition’ because I have several future paths for my first published novel, now that its association with Loose Id LLC has come to an end. Moro’s Price no longer exists as an ebook on Amazon.com, or on the Loose Id website. Over the next month or so, it will leave AllRomance Ebooks, Barnes&Noble, and its other vendors.

If you see it there and want this version, this will be your last chance.

I’ve enjoyed working with Loose Id, and wish the company and its authors the very best going forward. For me, rights reversion came at a good time, letting me revise the story to better fit its planned sequels and the larger universe it inhabits.

Moro Jade Disc

What happens next to the story of Val and Moro? That very much depends on what happens with the (very slightly) related mms I’m currently shopping. I have a lot of options, all of them interesting.

When I know, I’ll pass the word.

My deepest gratitude to Loose Id for taking a chance on the book in 2012, for Cherry Weiner for going to bat for me over contract issues, and all the people who read, enjoyed, and reviewed the book.

Carnelian Collar

I’ve always loved the red-orange tones of carnelian: 1) Grew up in northern New Mexico. 2) A kidlet obsession with ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt.

While designing the worldbuilding for the Lonhra Sequence, I somehow got fixated on the idea that the Dana homeworld’s vegetation was primarily red to purple (I blame Barrayar for that, probably). So of course, the stones and gems associated with Dana settlers on Lonhra would be red and purple: red jade, marbles, granites, ruby, amethyst, spinel, garnet, jasper, and carnelian.

I found a gorgeous carnelian bangle bracelet at the Tucson Rock & Gem Show last February. For $10, it was a bargain. And then I made the mistake of starting to source other carnelian components. Because of course I need another necklace.

This happened:

Carnelian collar for blog

From one local bead store, 8 carnelian fan-shaped sets of 13 top-drilled beads. From a great shop in NC, the big 50mm axe-head bead in deep red carnelian. From my personal stash gathered over years: carnelian accent beads, and two big carnelian arrow points with a clean Deco design. Sterling silver findings from Plazko.com include extender chain, crimps, crimp covers, wire guards, a bunch of 3mm closed jump rings, and a big swivel lobster-claw clasp.

The jump rings provide just a whisper of silver between the carnelian stick beads, and make for easier movement and less drag. I may have to remake this piece to add details to the chain and loosen up the beads, but I’m 90% there with a piece I love.

I like the subtle militancy of the axe and arrow points. Especially considering that the Dana on Lonhra have adopted a superficially peaceful reputation, to downplay their role in an almost planet-busting war.

Worldbuilding, meet jewelry.

#SFFpit: the epilogue

So a few days have passed. I did about as well in #SFFpit as I expected: one of the small publishers I know and trust liked my entries, as well as a few other people. It was a long shot with some hidden value beyond the pitch day, so I wasn’t that worried for the mms’ sake.

However – and not to diss Dan Koboldt or any of the other many people who made the June 2016 #SFFpit happen – it seemed largely a wash. Part of that may just be summer doldrums, and a one-day event sandwiched between the twitter juggernauts of QueryKombat and PitchWars later this summer. Part had to have been the Brexit vote and its aftermath, sucking up all air on the internet during Thursday. Part may simply be twitter-pitch fatigue.

I looked across my categories of interest: fantasy, epic fantasy, high fantasy. I saw some great entries that I wished were available books. Many of these pitches were YA, but not as many as I’d feared earlier. Most of them didn’t get a single agent or editor ‘like’; the best entries seemed to gather only (low) single digit-likes.

Not a lot of play visible from major agents, but the usual small-press/vanity/new company suspects were out in full force. I’ve already written about similar companies and their strategies in ‘Filigree’s Rule’, so I won’t go into a dissection here.

It was a fun experience, but I doubt I’ll do it again in December, or take part in other twitter pitch contests for this particular fantasy mms. I have already queried and had rejections from most of my target agents, with only a few stragglers left on my list. By December, I hope to either have agent representation or (more likely) be working on the process of self-publishing at least 4 novels.

I’d still recommend that every unagented author with a completed and polished mms try at least three twitter pitch events. I’d also recommend they use a scheduling program like HootSuite or Tweetdeck to automatically send their tweets at the right times during the contest hours, especially if they have a life outside Twitter.

The greatest thing about twitter pitches? The incredible community. The second greatest thing? Developing and honing twitter pitches leads to better elevator blurbs, loglines, and teaser copy.

When I considered #DVpit (Diverse Voices) in April, I wasn’t sure I could manage to create a single pitch, let alone three or four. Turns out, those pitches sucked: I used Classical mythology references that younger readers and agents didn’t get, I used 15-year-old or older comparison titles, I relied too much on pop culture shorthand, and I didn’t drill down into the conflicts of my story.

Here are my first three #DVpit attempts:

1 LGBT secworld Orpheus: a warrior, a bard, and the genderfluid Hades who must keep them alive. McKillip+Lee’s Flat Earth #DVpit #highfantasy

2 Sword&planet Orpheus: a warrior, a bard, and the genderfluid Hades who must keep them alive. McKillip+Lee’s Flat Earth #DVpit #highfantasy.

3 The tyrant rules only while her mortal consorts live: LGBT Orpheus #highfantasy #Adult McKillip+Kushiel VivaLaVida the novel #DVpit

They were riffs on a description that had gone over tolerably well in a couple of online writing forums, but suffered when condensed to 140 characters. I didn’t know the approved abbreviations for SFF subgenres; I should have used #HF for #highfantasy, for example.

People were unfamiliar enough with Classical themes that they thought ‘Sword&planet Orpheus’ was the title, instead of a theme. My comp titles were so old that only a few agents even recognized them. Using a Coldplay song, while sort of accurate, probably hindered more than it helped. Worst of all, I had no detailed sense of the book’s conflicts.

Out of DVpit I got one agent’s interest on a partial; but the book had too much romance for her, so that went nowhere (I’d already queried her agency in March and had a rejection, so no surprise.)

I noticed a lot of agent likes and editor retweets across the board in fantasy, epic fantasy, and high fantasy…even if a lot of them seemed to be in YA. It was a lively day.

Before stumbling onward to Brenda Drake’s #PitMad (Pitch Madness) on June 9, I participated in Kyra M. Nelson’s #MockPit on June 2. This one-day event is a kind of practice run for #PitMad.

I used the old pitches and got roundly trounced; this was an event dominated by YA authors and agents, and they showed me the deep faults in my pitches. (Though I wasn’t ready to really see or admit them yet.)

On to Pitch Madness!

I refined my pitches to the following:

1 LGBT Orpheus: a warrior shedding her humanity, a bard transcending his, and the genderfluid Hades who must keep them alive. McKillip+Lee’s Flat Earth #PitMad #A #F         

2 Sword&planet Orpheus: a warrior, a bard, and the genderfluid Hades who must keep them alive. McKillip+Lee’s Flat Earth #PitMad #A #F

3 Rebels plot murder: ageless tyrant rules only while her mortal consorts live. LGBT Orpheus McKillip+Kushiel meets VivaLaVida #PitMad #A #F

I was still stuck on those beloved old comp titles, even knowing they had to go, but I was getting a little better with my subgenres.

By some rare miracle, a great publisher and a really good agent liked my work. The publisher is one of two I might consider in lieu of self-publishing. The agent now has the full mss. (The agent is old enough to have liked my comp titles. Whee! For that, I can wait another 8 to 10 weeks.) The same usual suspects chimed in, plus a few trolls.

#PitMad was interesting in general because it had the same relatively high agent/editor participation that #DVpit had. Lots of YA, even with many agents specifically asking ahead of time for adult work. This event covers many genres, so it’s very big.

I hoped that #SFFpit would let me narrow my pitches to legitimate agents and editors in my subgenres. With that in mind I threw out most of the old pitches, and decided to take advantage of #SFFpit’s generous 10-pitch limit.

Here are the tweets I used, roughly once an hour from 8am to 6pm EST, plus their character count and the MST times launched:

1 Rebels plot. An ageless tyrant rules only while her mortal consorts live. Her lovers just won’t do protective custody #SFFpit #FR #LGBT                               135                         5:05am

When his wife flees from humanity, the last bard of a dying race thwarts a secret war and ancient gods to rejoin her  #SFFpit #FR #LGBT                          135                6:07am

3  A warrior sheds her humanity and a bard transcends his, for love of a genderfluid sorcerer whose life is tied to theirs #SFFpit #FR #LGBT                   137           7:13am

His wife outcast from humanity, the last bard of a dying race thwarts assassination and ancient gods to rejoin her #SFFpit #FR #EF #LGBT               136             8:22am

Ageless tyrant rules only while her two mortal consorts live: one has known from birth, the other is a sworn enemy #SFFpit #A #FR #LGBT                         135                     9:14am

A warrior exiled from the bard she loves; for her, the bard gives up everything but the sorcerer destined for them both #SFFpit #FR #LGBT                              137                 10:26am

Forbidden shapeshifting magic may reunite a bard with his exiled wife, after she sends him to win an enemy mage’s heart #SFFpit #FR #LGBT                    134                    11:07am

8 The last bard of a dying race thwarts civil war and ancient gods to join his outcast wife; a Dark Power loves her, too #SFFpit #A #EF #LGBT                      139                     12:19pm

Rebels plot. An ageless tyrant rules only while her mortal consorts live. Her lovers just won’t do protective custody #SFFpit #EF #LGBT                                         137                       1:08pm

10  Immortal tyrant rules only while her two mortal consorts live: one has known from birth, the other is a sworn enemy #SFFpit #FR #LGBT                              133                   2:21pm

After the day was done, the most likes I got was 4. No retweets. Only a few of the likes from known publishers I trust.

Even so, I think the experience was valuable, in that I have ten slightly different but accurate pitch lines, for when I’m doing advertising pushes for the self-published versions. I have better ideas about plot and sequels. I met some great people: writers, agents, and editors whose conversations have enriched my life.

A good result for a little typing and auto-scheduling, I think.

Even though I can’t participate in it this round, I’d like to do a shout-out for The Knight Agency’s first ever agency Twitter-Pitch event. You can find out date and time here, if you’re interested.

 

 

 

The Wattys are here

After some hours of delay, assumed coding problems, and many thousands of panicked writers around the world…the 2016 Wattys are up and running.

The Wattys are Wattpad’s *huge* annual writing contest, split among many countries, languages, and genres. It’s a fascinating way for me, as an American, to see some of the best of the best of international writing outside the fanfiction and commercial venues I normally frequent!

Bloodshadow for Wattpad

For my part, just to see if anything would happen, I chucked Bloodshadow into the mix. From now until August 31, if you have (or want) a Wattpad account (they’re free), please stop by and give my old trunk-novel a look. It’s well beyond commercially publishable at this point; all that I can do is heavily revise and self-publish it, and I’m planning to do that anyway.

Yeah, that moment

You know the moment when something, even the tiniest something, finally goes right?

I’m querying a mms that might as well be a roller-coaster, for all the ups, downs, and death-spirals it has gone through in the last three years. This current round of querying has only been a month-and-a-half, nowhere near the two years I spent ineffectually hawking Bloodshadow.

Sometimes, an offhand email request opens unexpected doors. A publisher I knew only in passing, is suddenly revealed as A Good Publisher. A publisher already dealing with many of the very good agents on my wish list, so just from that I can infer that both sides are of decent industry standing. And the publisher is actually viable, considering my weird mix of genres that might be homeless anywhere else. Not too small, not so big, a good mix of principals who seem to not only know but adore their business.

Thanks to that one email response, I’ve gone from crickets, slamming doors, and numb exasperation, to a small amount of hope for this new book. My query countdown has been given overtime. It doesn’t matter if no one else says ‘yes’ or even ‘maybe’. I have two alternate plans now, not just, ‘Well, then I’ll self-publish.’ Of course it’s not a sure thing – nothing ever is. But it’s a step in the right direction.