On agents and publishers

Hint: if your publisher pops up and declares they will no longer consider submissions from agents, and requires their authors to sever existing ties with agents…your publisher is either predatory, clueless, or both.

This post prompted by the hilarious meltdown from Tyrant Books, an independent literary press based in Rome & NYC. Tyrant *has* published some great books, but apparently reached the breaking point recently over agents ‘stealing’ authors away to bigger presses.

Authors with agents have jumped into the fray, explaining how their agents helped their career.

Tyrant’s authors have joined in, calling the publisher fiercely devoted to quality in a world of vanilla, low risk commercial publishing (and they are also right.)

If you are an unpublished author (or a midlister disillusioned by your career arc), it’s tempting to treat getting a reputable agent as an impossible goal…and from there, a short sour-grapes hop into ‘agents are just leeches and scavengers’.

I’ve pulled my submissions to agents, in favor of working with NineStar Press. I’ve had two agents in a quarter-century, and both are amazing people. Just not the right agents for me, as I’m not the right client for them. The large story arc I’m working on has already had segments published (Moro’s Price) or contracted (The Purist) through NineStar…so the whole series is now unlikely to be worth an agent’s attention. I’ll need to write something else to go back into the agent query game.

But this doesn’t mean I’m against all writers looking for agent representation.  Writers with skilled agents generally get better contracts, subsidiary rights, better marketing, and protection from publisher collapses. (I may have a great story to tell about that in a week, about an author whose work I adore.)

But for now, here’s an article link to the Tyrant controversy.

Authors accuse publisher of exploiting writers by banning literary agents

Blue Night Marketing Affiliates

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Red Amber’ update

A few years ago I posted this excerpt of a rewritten fantasy short story, ‘Red Amber’, a M/M erotic romance about creativity, grief, pride, and lost love.

Here’s the current mood board for it.

While I’m waiting on edit letters for THE PURIST, I’m settling back into this story. I have 12K of it written, so expanding it to somewhere around 25K-30K shouldn’t be too difficult.

My first inspiration was this tiny red amber bear talisman, which was so cool when I saw it back in 1989 that it spawned an awkward story…with decent roots. I knew I wasn’t good enough for the idea, so I set it aside.

‘In a fantasy setting inspired by Neolithic North Africa, Tarhan Carver is the last of his reclusive clan of amber-workers. Shattered by the loss of his true love Aio, a young man sold into chaste religious servitude, Tarhan becomes obsessed with hoarding amber until he has enough to buy back Aio. But along the way they’ll both learn some things cost more than mere wealth.’

A M/M romance anthology call in 2014 made me take another look at my het little romance, and realize it could be any two people, not just a man and a woman. The rewritten version worked as a story, but not for that antho. So I set it aside for a few more months. Stuck in the waiting room for jury duty, I realized this was a whole book. I outlined a rough path to expand and interweave the short story, set later in the characters’ lives, with earlier sections showing how they got there.

On a whim last week, I sent the proposal to my current publisher. They liked it. The editor who saw the newest partial version wanted to offer a contract then and there. I’m reluctant to contract something until it’s finished…because life happens, and schedules get derailed.

Finishing this is a good distraction, especially if I can write 2650 words in three hours, and still like them the next morning. The characters are ‘chatty’: their dialogue and actions spin out naturally from my skimpy notes. Tarhan, like many of my characters, makes stuff, which is kind of a Thing I like to read (but other people get bored). Aio is giving me an excuse to read up on the Dinka herdsmen of East Africa.

And some gorgeous cave art from the Sahara.

Mood board sources:

Model M’Baye Ford, photo Maltchique

Ethopian woman, photo Timothy Allen

Cobra, photo by W. Klein, Angola field Group

Amber, lava, and malachite beads, Artfire

Thunderbird, ‘best thunderbird’, Deviant Art

Ancient Nile landscape, History Channel

Neanderthal male face reconstruction, Germany

Dinka herdsman and cattle, photo Irene Abdou

‘Horned Goddess’, Tassili cave art

 

‘The Purist’ has a home with NineStar Press

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A bad or indifferent agent is worse than no agent.

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

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

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

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

***

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Moro’s Shield snippet

In honor of a great opening week for my M/M space opera romance MORO’S PRICE, here’s a snippet from its direct sequel, MORO’S SHIELD.

Basically the start of the second chapter, because I can’t post the first chapter (it’s that smutty). But this is not just a series about sex: it’s about adventure, intrigue, and the definition of humanity. And (gasp!) it has a woman MC in it. (I have warned y’all repeatedly that Moro and Val are both bisexual, and I do not tolerate bi-erasure in ostensibly LGBTQI books.)

Say hi to Syene, who is not going to be the love interest you expect.

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The stocky, gray-bearded miner slotted a supply case into a deep storage bin, stood up, and waved a hand in front of his face. “Why the rebreather and air tank? We have good atmosphere inside this rock, Sera Turan.” He sounded more puzzled than insulted.

Syene Turan tapped on the strips of colored tape across her dark gray mask’s forehead and cheeks. “I can breathe your air, Sero. You probably don’t want me to. See these stripes. Orange? Danger color? Remind you of anything?”

“Well, yeah, those cloth masks the Camalians wear when they’re on League worlds. We do things differently out on the frontier.” He squinted at the name tag on her heavy black flight jacket. “Sera, ah, Sy–”

Sy grinned and took pity on him. “It’s ‘Sahy-EE-nee’. Or Sigh-EE-nee, if you like. After a city on Old Earth where some science happened. My parents are scholars.”

“Interesting name, Sera Turan.”

“At least it’s not boring. My sisters got ‘Alexandria’ and ‘Geneva’. Please, call me ‘Sy’, Sero Dolan,” she said, eying the badge on his own battered canvas jacket. She wrestled the next case off Fortunero’s old hovercraft and handed it off to Dolan. She’d done something right, because the man’s voice and posture opened up.

“Sy, then. You won’t infect us by breathing our air. Not a man or woman on this asteroid would dare kiss you, true, but we like seeing new faces. We’re harvesting fresh blackberries tomorrow from the hydroponic gardens. Cook’s making some kind of soy angelfood cake with real sugar. It’s my youngest’s tenth name day. You and Captain Fortunero are welcome to stay. You’ve made a fair trade for the air you’d use.”

Sy felt ashamed of her automatic caution.  In more civilized parts of the Terran League, a Camalian woman wouldn’t be assaulted outright. She could be verbally harassed, discriminated against, and stolen from with almost legal impunity. Sy had expected worse treatment out on the frontier. It rarely manifested on the supply routes Benny Fortunero had cultivated during his long career as a supply-ship captain.

Like Sy, Benny was one of the rare Camalians who felt more comfortable away from their Commonwealth and its throngs of symbiont-linked citizens. He left because he couldn’t bear being unable to access that affectionate and disciplined group-mind.

Sy left because she couldn’t shut it off.

She popped two latches at her jaws, and lifted the mirrored visor up over her forehead and short, sweat-curled hair. A faint breeze slid across her skin. The air smelled almost planetary, clean and cool, the circulated atmosphere redolent with water, vegetation, and traces of machine oil. Not bad for a tunneled-out asteroid ten miles across. She took a deep, happy breath, noting Dolan’s proud response at her open appreciation.

“Well met, Sera Sy Turan,” said the miner as he returned her smile. “You’re easier on the eyes than the old man is, I admit. If he wants to come along, we can drape a sheet over him to keep the kids off.”

“We–I–haven’t been out this way before,” said Sy, as she clipped the helmet to a belt latch. “Would he scare them?”

Dolan snorted. “He’s a community legend. They’re a pack of baby engineers. They’d probably figure out how to commandeer his guns before we could stop ‘em. Captain Fortunero isn’t our only supplier, but he’s one of the most welcome. Go on, ask him to stay, please?”

Sy guessed what Benny would say, but she wouldn’t second-guess her employer. She flexed her right jaw in a certain way, activating the com link stuck to her skin between her jaw and right ear canal. “Boss? Can we stay a day longer? They’ll have fresh fruit tomorrow. We’re invited to a name day party for Sero Dolan’s youngest.”

The com crackled with static for a moment, then Benny’s voice came from the speaker in Sy’s helmet. “Yeremina’s day, is it? She’d be what, eight?”

“Ten,” said Dolan. “It’s been six since you saw her, but she still remembers you, Captain!”

“Alas, Sero Dolan, I wish we could linger, but the schedule rules us all. Syene, I’ve got the last load crated up for you.”

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!)

 

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!

Spotlight on Maestro, news on Moro’s Price

Follow this link to my interview with the talented and tolerant Theophilia St. Claire, as we talk about the creative process, my experiments with contemporary M/M romance (aka my novella Maestro), and some ‘taboo’ writing subjects.

Some purposefully vague news: If you’re interested in my debut novel Moro’s Price (a M/M erotic romance space opera) and its sequels, keep an eye on my ‘original published fiction’ page over the next few months. And if you’ve ever wanted your own Kindle copy of this version of Moro…now is the time to get it, folks.

For those of you at BookExpoAmerica (BEA) accept my grateful thanks for all the vicarious tweets, blog posts, and news articles. I feel connected and uplifted.

Phoenix Comicon is just a few short weeks away now, for those of you in the Southwest or planning to be here at that time. 110F daytime temps, a huge convention center, a veritable cosplay mecca, and probably 80,000 people. Do we know how to party in Phoenix, or what? Come join us and make memories!

Countdown to Maestro!

Good news, everyone! My release date for Maestro, my M/M/M contemporary erotic romance, will now be February 8, 2016.

That means two things: my teeny little novella will no longer be lost in the stellar glare from the February 2 release of C.A. Pacat’s long awaited third book in the Captive Prince series. (And by then I should have my hardcopies of all three of Pacat’s delicious fantasy intrigues!)

It also means that you, my few but loyal readers, get a little extra time to pre-order Maestro. I really hate doing the ‘Buy My Book!’ shill online, so I’ll keep this at a minimum here on the Blue Night blog. I’ll try to make it worth your while. Comment on this post or the other Maestro posts here on Blue Night, on my Tumblr, or on NineStar’s Maestro page, from now until March 8, 2016, and you’ll be entered into a giveaway for this necklace over on Tumblr.

It’s a small book for a reasonable price from a new publisher, so visibility is going to be everything. Once the book is out, I would be incredibly grateful for any honest reviews, on any forum. I’m a housetrained author: I mostly ignore or giggle at bad reviews if I can tell they’re from obvious trolls…but I do quietly learn from honest critical reviews, too. I actually like them better than gushing-but-empty reviews.

Those of you following this story know that Maestro started out as a M/F 5K short story for a charity anthology, and morphed over two years to M/M. The folks at Nine Star saw it, liked it…but thought there was so much more to be told. And they were right.

 

Yay for edits

Just completed the initial edit for Maestro. I can say this for NineStar Press: my editor is very good at catching my boneheaded mistakes.

Far from hating the editing process, I loved it. It was like the final render on a difficult digital art project, or the polish of a gemstone or piece of silverwork. A necessary stage. In this case, a fast and enjoyable one. We’re not done, but we’re closer to a real book.

It just highlights why most writers can’t edit their own work to a professional standard. We’re too close to the work, and we may not have a deep enough knowledge of English grammar and punctuation to manage correct usage right away. Or like me, they managed to skate through English in high school and college mostly by osmosis and a long reading career.

I’m as careful a writer as I can be. I still turned in a 16K mms with several hundred punctuation and spelling errors, three continuity mistakes, and a lot of bad sentence structure. Granted, some of that was because I wrote it fast and didn’t really polish it before sending.

My agent and several editors have said I turn in relatively clean copies…which terrifies me. I wonder what they’ve been getting from other authors.

In the pits of self-publishing and uninformed small presses, I have seen what happens when editors don’t know how to edit, and authors aren’t skilled enough to know the difference.

<Shudder>

In better news, cover art for Maestro is just around the corner. ETA 1-16-16 It’s alive! Follow the link.

Maestro, by M. Crane Hana

Okay, now I can announce the latest happy news: a book deal and another pen name.

On February 2, 2016, the new digital publisher NineStar will be releasing my novella Maestro, a contemporary M/M/M erotic romance. It will be published under the pen name of M. Crane Hana, who will be writing both romance and fantasy fiction in the future.

This is probably not the final blurb, but it was part of my query:

Leo’s birthday is February 13, which has always meant candles on heart-shaped cupcakes and birthday cards with ‘Happy Valentine’s Day’ crossed out. To celebrate properly, Leo’s mystery writer husband Andrew arranges a tryst for Leo with Mel, a gifted violinist who is one of Andrew’s biggest fans.

As I’ve mentioned, this novella grew out of a M/F erotica short story that was originally written for an erotic anthology call from fellow members at AbsoluteWrite. My story didn’t make the cut, but eventually I played with gender and expanded the plot…and got three fun characters I couldn’t stop writing about (even though I have other, earlier deadlines to meet, too.)

I’ll post cover art when we have it.

And watch this blog, because I’m going to have a jewelry giveaway leading up to the February launch.