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Round Table: Poetry Month

A graphic over a pale blue background. Text reads: National Poetry Month DPP Round Table. There is clipart of a fancy green-covered book, the cover lifted, with a quill pen and a page of notes below it.

April is National Poetry Month. Duck Prints Press has to date only published prose fiction, and while some of us do write poetry on the side, it’s generally not our focus. Thus, we thought it’d be fun and interesting to have a discussion about poetry, how poetry has impacted us, and our favorite poems. The people who joined in on the round table chat are: Nina Waters, Tris Lawrence, Shadaras, Zel Howland, boneturtle, E C, Shea Sullivan,  theirprofoundbond, and an anonymous contributor.

1. What are your favorite types of poems?

Nina Waters: I tend to like either extremely free form or extremely structured poetry, with nothing in between. I always loved silly poetry (Shel Silverstein…) especially.

Anonymous: Same. I generally like either narrative poems or poems that are about a specific moment. I’m especially fond of reading haiku, though I don’t know how good I am at writing them.

Tris Lawrence: I tend to have favorite writers more than favorite styles. I love the cadence of Shakespeare. I love the imagery of Emily Dickinson (I cannot even count how many times I read the book of poetry of hers that I received for Christmas as a young child). I adored Robert Frost as a child. For modern poetry, Amanda Gorman‘s book was an incredibly wonderful kick in the gut.

Zel Howland: I’ve always had a mixed relationship with poetry – I struggle with understanding figurative language, so often the meaning of poetry escapes me, but I love the technical forms of poetry. This means that I end up being better at writing poetry than reading it. That said, I love silly poems and nonsense poems because they are more about the form than the content! Shel Silverstein and Lewis Carroll come to mind first.

E. C: I love seeing/hearing poetry read aloud. Slam poetry or Shakespearean monologue, the way the act of speaking them gives additional meaning to the words is just *chef’s kiss*. I also love poets (like Silverstein, as Zel mentioned) who use the form to play with the words. Prose can do this, too, but reading or hearing good poetry… it’s like I can feel the words rewiring my brain in real-time.

Shadaras: +1, poetry when performed is absolutely incredible. And it doesn’t need to be slam or a monologue; most poetry when read aloud is fantastic! (Shape poems might lose something, but… that’s aiming for a different style)

Shea Sullivan: I love poetry that viscerally evokes feeling with word choice and has rhythm. I love Rainer Maria Rilke first and last, but also Seamus Heaney and Mary Oliver.   I struggle with so many popular poets because the work doesn’t scan for me and I can’t make sense of the rhythm. But the poems that hit take me out at the knees.

Tris Lawrence: Coming back to this discussion this morning, I remembered I should add song lyrics to this… for me, really excellent songs are the best poetry, and some writers (like [Bob] Dylan) I remember more for the poetry of the song than the performance of it. Much like how poetry when performed comes alive, music is that taken to even further down the line. As for poetry being performed, that’s why Shakespeare is so awesome when staged. Sometimes it’s easier to hear the lyricism than to read it. I also often recommend when reading a book of poetry, take it slow, and read one poem aloud  per day. This is how I savored Amanda Gorman’s book and how I really got the most out of every poem in that book.

theirprofoundbond: I want to echo what Shade and captainhaterade were talking about with regards to poetry and sound. I took a poetry class in college and when the professor had us read “Player Piano” by John Updike aloud it awakened something in my brain. I have never forgotten that experience and the absolute delight I felt, reading that poem.

When I went to university and took another poetry class, my instructor stressed that we should try reading poetry aloud – to slow you down a bit, to experience the sounds, to get just a little more out of it. He recommended reading it a little more like prose, not pausing at the end of a line if there’s no end-line punctuation. I always do these things now and it’s made poetry feel more accessible to me, and helped me enjoy it more.

Alfred Tennyson also does some great things with sound—no standout favorites just yet because I’m still exploring, but I like “Break, Break, Break”

Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices by Paul Fleischman is really wonderful book of children’s poems about insects, meant to be read aloud by two or more people.

I also love poems that have some specific structure. My favorite is the haiku, but I also really enjoy villanelles, sestinas, and pantoums. Not only do they have specific rhyme schemes but some lines must be repeated in specific places; I admire the skill they take to craft. “Villanelle for the Middle of the Night” by Jacqueline Osherow is a lovely example.

And narrative poems, because it’s so cool to get a story in a small, unique format. “Letter to the Person Who Carved His Initials into the Oldest Living Longleaf Pine in North America” by Matthew Olzmann is one that I found recently that really stands out to me

Nina Waters: Maybe the “best listened to” is why I struggle with it. Understanding and processing spoken stories like that is one of my weaker tricks.

theirprofoundbond: That may be it! It’s not for everyone, but I know it helped me. And I started reading academic stuff aloud to help me focus, and then I started reading my own writing aloud which has helped me improve it in many ways (dialogue, flow, style), and I read my editing assignments aloud because it helps me pick up on little things I might not, if I read silently. But yeah, everyone’s brains work differently so it might not be the trick for everyone – just something to try, perhaps, if it hasn’t been tried before or recently

2. What inspired/convinced you to start reading poetry and did you have any preconceived notions and biases about it before?

Shadaras: as far as how I started reading poetry… well, the thing is that a lot of children’s books are poetry, right? They’re written in rhyme because it’s a good way to help kids learn! So in that way, simply by being someone who loved reading (from a family who loved reading), I was always surrounded by poetry as a kid by the nature of early reader books. I know that I was also introduced to poets who are thought of as poets as I grew up, and generally liked poetry even if I didn’t seek it out much. I wrote poetry as a kid just as much as I wrote prose!

Nina Waters: I’ll own I had some preconceived notions about poetry and reading poetry hasn’t really dispelled them? I’ve always found most “high literary” poetry quite inaccessible. Things like epic poetry (such as Homer) I love and can read no problem, and things like silly poetry (Silverstein, Dr. Seuss) I also love and can read no problem, but the kind of poetry that’s ~deep~ and tends to win accolades, I often feel like my eyes glaze over when I try to read it. I just really struggle with it.

Shadaras: I feel like that’s almost more a problem with the idea of “high literary” mode in general? Because I feel like that about a lot of different kinds of media. It’s like people think that if they struggle to understand what a piece of media is about, that means it’s ~higher art~ or something. (There’s a certain style of movie I call “award bait” and I think it is adjacent to what you’re thinking of with poetry here.) And yes, deep and thematically complex art is fantastic and deserves praise, but there’s also something to be said for praiseworthy works being enjoyable/accessible to the majority of people who encounter it? and that doesn’t seem to factor in to those “high literary” assessments.

Nina Waters: That’s definitely true, and something I used to talk about when I was still doing academic reading and writing. This idea that these ~great minds~ would write these papers, and they weren’t good, they were jargon-laden bullshit. Their sheer inaccessibility would always convince a subset of people that it must be genius, because the alternative would be to admit they didn’t personally understand it and no one wanted to confess that.

With poetry it’s harder but there’s definitely that line between “this is so eloquent and deep” vs. “this literally means NOTHING.” (And with poetry, there’s the added “sometimes the line that is eloquent and deep to one person is exactly the same line that means nothing to someone else and because of the nature of poetry that’s kinda the point and both interpretations are ‘correct'”)

theirprofoundbond: I have been, and still am, a bit intimidated by poetry. A lot of it can be really inaccessible, whether it’s classical or modern. I’m not sure I’ll ever truly grasp the meter stuff, lol. But as with any other written work, poetry can be for anyone. Even if I can’t understand a poem on all levels, it’s okay because it’s still worth exploring and I might find something that resonates with me, or teaches me something, or inspires my own (prose) writing.

3. What can a prose writer learn from reading poetry?

Tris Lawrence: It’s really all about the way the words taste, and how that evokes imagery and sensation and emotion for me. Which is also what I take from it as a prose writer – I’ve always been about the way words feel in my mouth when I write.

Shadaras: I might mostly write prose now, but the poetic instinct is still in my head; it’s very visible (audible?) in descriptive passages I write, because I think about rhythm and shape and sound all the time even in my prose writing.

theirprofoundbond: Reading poetry has inspired me to think more carefully about choice of word, pay attention to how certain emotions are evoked or impacts achieved, and to play with sounds.

Shadaras: I think that reading poetry is a fantastic way to think about metaphor/simile and descriptive language more generally. It also emphasises the rhythm/shape/sound of words and asks for a focus on specificity and thoughtful word-choice to maximize the impact of any given piece. Those elements are just as useful to prose writers as poets! Poets might be able to sustain that in-depth focus across a whole piece (since they usually work in shorter forms), but even if a prose writer only uses that specific attention at points of intense emotion where they really want to ensure there’s an impact, it’s still fantastic.

Anonymous: So I guess what I’m saying is that is that reading poetry will make you a better short story writer.

Shadaras: Yeah, the dividers between poems, prose poems, and prose is… sometimes about framing/intent?

Anonymous: Often I find short stories are structured like poetry, in that the narrative is kind of intentionally picked apart and rearranged to evoke emotion rather than straightforward understanding of the narrative.

Shadaras: And then there’s epic poetry, which is a long-form narrative as well as being poetry!

Anonymous: It’s harder to do that kind of thing with long-form fiction but it does happen occasionally.

Nina Waters: I think reading poetry can really help a prose writer with lyricism and flow.

Zel Howland: Seconded what everyone has said about reading poetry helping with lyricism and rhythm. I think having a good understanding of poetry technique can really develop how your prose manipulates (for lack of a better word) the reader beyond what is in the content – building tension in horror, for example. Great for genre work in general!

Shea Sullivan: From a writing standpoint, poetry helps me improve metaphor and simile by encouraging me to look beyond common comparisons and really dig into the question of what I want to evoke. I agree with everyone else that it helps with rhythm as well.

Anonymous: One thing I will note is that a short story can be very close to poetry and vice versa. Some of my favourite poems are in fact short stories that blur the line between stylized prose and outright poetry. Neil Gaiman has a few short stories that are especially good in this way, for example.

4. Our favorite poets

Many of our favorite poets were already discussed and linked in the above discussion, but here’s a few more…

Nina Waters: I’ve especially enjoyed Silverstein, Shakespeare, Walt Whitman, and T. S. Eliot. I went on a big Eliot kick when I was young cause I saw the musical Cats, and while I didn’t care much for the musical it made me curious about the poems that the musical was based on. I loved Silverstein so much that I memorized a couple of his poems for school. I also memorized a [J. R. R.] Tolkien poem and performed it at a school talent show when I was in middle school, so those plus reading Eliot because of Cats (which I was probably in early HS for?) is how I got started reading poetry for fun instead of just cause I had to.

Shadaras: Some other poets I’ve appreciated whose names haven’t come up yet: Mary Oliver, Ursula Le Guin, Pablo Neruda, Langston Hughes, Allen Ginsberg, Edgar Allen Poe, Sylvia Plath, Robert Graves, W. B. Yeats, Rainer Maria Rilke, William Carlos Williams (I once wrote a short essay about “The Red Wheelbarrow” for a poetry class wherein I attempted to argue it could be about aliens/ritual sacrifice, because it was funny and I thought the professor would enjoy it, and I was correct about that).

Nina Waters: Langston Huges is i.n.c.r.e.d.i.b.l.e. W.E.B. Du Bois too. (Not his focus but there are a few)

boneturtle: Seconding Rilke. I will also add Annie Dillard.

How about you, dear blog post reader? How would you answer these four questions?

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Fandom 101: Getting Started on Fanlore.org

Not long ago, we at Duck Prints Press decided that we’d like the Press to have a page on Fanlore. To accomplish that, Press contributor Shea Sullivan made an account and figured out the nuts and bolts on how to add pages to Fanlore. Turns out, it’s not very hard, and now in this guest blog post, Shea will teach y’all how to do it too!

Making Your First Fanlore Page!

Hello! I am an editor on Fanlore as of a few days ago. Before that, I’d worked with mediawiki (the open source platform Fanlore uses) for unrelated projects, so I had a general understanding of how things worked, but no idea how Fanlore preferred their pages to be formatted or organized or linked.

This is how I got started!

First: What is Fanlore and Why Should You Care?

Fanlore is a wiki specifically dedicated to the fandom experience. It’s not for canon info about a specific fandom; rather, it’s for information about how fans interact with media and each other. Fanlore is run by the OTW, the same organization that brings us our beloved AO3. This context helped me in understanding the focus of Fanlore. It’s about fandom: the ups, the downs, the trends, the drama…all the things that can get lost forever when sites disappear or there’s a purge. And that said…well, you may still not care. But if you do, read on!

Second: You Care. Now What?

Get an account. Right now. It’s worth getting the account, because you won’t be able to create new pages for a few hours. So, get the account first, figure out what to do with it later.

Go to fanlore.org and click on “Create Account” in the upper right-hand corner:

A screen capture from the fanlore.org webpage, showing the top right corner of the homepage. It shows a tab for "read," "view source," and "view history." Beside this is a search box that says "Search Fanlore." Above this, in the right top most corner, it reads "Create Account" and "Log in." Create account has been highlighted in this screen capture. The purpose of this screen capture is to show where one should go on the fanlore.org home page to create a new account.

Third: You Have the Power (Soon)!

Read up! No need to invent the wheel in this post – they’ve got some great resources for getting started already written on their webpage.

Four hours after you create your account, you can create pages! Congrats! There are a ton of help pages out there, but the questions I had initially were:

How do I make sure this page doesn’t exist already?

Search. Search for the page. Search for key phrases associated with the page. A page name is a fiddly thing, so search for significant phrases in a few different ways before you determine it doesn’t exist. Always make sure you check before you set out to create page!

How do I add this page?

If it’s not there, you’ll see it come up in red when you search. Type the page name you want to create in the search bar. Click “Search” to get all the results, and then click on that red link.

A screen capture from the website fanlore.org. It shows a page labeled "Search results." Below this, it says "For search options, see Help:Searching." And below that is a search box with a "search" button beside it. The words "media literacy" have been entered in the search box. The search results begin, "Did you mean: media literary" and then reads, "Create the page 'Media Literacy' on this wiki!" The words "Media literacy" are highlighted and the text is in red. The exact search results shown aren't significant; the purpose of this screen capture is to show how one can and should check for an existing page before making a new one, and where you should .

How do I format this page?

You now have an empty page. When I was getting started, my big question was: what should my page look like? Well, Fanlore has templates that can help with that! The templates are in a markup language, but do not fear! Copy and paste the template (everything in the blue box on the template page, typically starting with curly braces), make some updates, and click “Preview.” You can repeat those steps indefinitely until you get the hang of the markup. There’s also a ton of information on the Fanlore.org cheatsheet. (If you’re still confused, keep reading, there’s more specifics under the infobox section.)

Once you have the page created and published, you can edit it without the markup language if you prefer – there’s “Edit,” which gives you a non-code-based option, and an “Edit Source” button, which gives you the code-based option.

A screen capture from the fanlore.org webpage, showing the tabs on the top of each page. The tabs are "Read," "Edit," "Edit Source," "View History," a star, and a search box. The "Edit" and "Edit source" tabs have been highlighted. The purpose of this screen capture is to help people find these two tabs.

If your proposed page topic doesn’t have an official template created for that topic, you can look up similar pages and see how they’re structured.  If you’re not sure how they managed to make something look a certain way, click the “Edit Source” button and look at the code there to get a sense of what they did. Be sure to cancel out of the edit when you’re done so you don’t make unintentional changes to someone else’s page! Some pages are locked down (like the template pages) so you can’t make edits, but most “normal” pages will have those links at the top so you can dig in and see what’s there and how the people who wrote that page made it look the way it does.

How do I add an infobox?

Those infoboxes on the right of a lot of pages give a quick overview of important information. These are templates, and you can find a list of available infobox templates here.

A screen capture from fanlore.org, showing the fanlore page for astolat. On the left side of the screen capture is descriptive text about who astolat is and what they've done. On the right is a box with a header bar that says "Fan" and then lists information about astolat in an easy-to-navigate format. This box has been highlighted in yellow. The specific text on the screen capture doesn't matter, the purpose of this image is to show where the infobox is.

The templates, when you click into them, have a heading and some info that you can fill in. You can’t remove items from the template without making a new template, which I don’t recommend trying when you’re getting started. Use the template, fill in the information, and mark “N/A” if you don’t have information to insert in a specific field. A sample template for an infobox looks like this, and you fill in information after each “equals” sign. You can add a list, and you can add links to these after the equals sign using the markup for internal and external links on the Cheatsheet.

{{FanProfile
|name= 
|alias(es)=
|type=
|fandoms=
|communities=
|other=
|url=
}}

If you’re still confused, let’s go to Astolat’s fan page and click “Edit Source” and see how the infobox looks behind the scenes:

A screen capture from fanlore.org, show a screen with the header "Editing Astolat." Below this is a simple in-window html editor, with options for formatting text and a box for entering new text, and there is text in this box annotated with the mark-up that fanlore.org uses for formatting pages. The specific text written isn't significant for this post, the purpose is to show how the text is formatted to create a fanlore.org infobox, using brackets, horizontal lines, square brackets, and headers such as name, alias(es), type, fandoms, and communities.

See how everything that was in the original template is still there, there’s just a list of information after the equals sign?

And here’s how it looks formatted:

Another screen capture of the infobox from a fanlore.org page, showing how the infobox looks when it is formatted.

How do I categorize this page?

Categories are important because they help Fanlore’s back-end coding group pages together so people can find the page you’ve created and so the page is in the right place in the site map. If you can’t figure it out, though, don’t worry, there are people who will find it and take care of it!

If you have an infobox from a template, this is taken care of. 

If you didn’t use an infobox template, you can add a Category to index the page.

Finding a Category can be a little overwhelming. If you have an example page (another page that contains the same type of content as yours), you can scroll to the bottom of that page and see what Category has been assigned to it. You can add that Category to your page by editing the source and adding that category into your page at the bottom with 2 square brackets, like this: [[Category:YourCategory]]

Use “Preview” to make sure you set it up correctly before saving the page.

If you need to find a category and can’t find a good example page, I recommend going to the sitemap, finding what fits your article the best, and clicking into it. Categories are set up in hierarchies, so click through until you find the Category and Subcategory that fits best.

Add it at the very bottom of the page, and it should show up when you preview, at the very bottom of the page.

A screen capture from the bottom of a fanlore.org page, showing how at the bottom the page is categorized, in this case as "Category: Fans."

How do I add those nifty citation references[1]?

Review the Fanlore page on citation formatting for details. The basics are:

  • Add a blank References heading at the bottom of the page.
  • Add <ref> </ref> tags and include the source information.

What is the difference between a citation and an external link? Good question! I don’t know for sure, but the way I’ve been using it, if I make a statement about a thing and I want to direct you to the “proof” (article, webpage, etc), I will use a citation. If there is a thing I’m linking to because it is relevant but not as proof of what I’m saying on the wiki, I will add it as an external link.

Fourth: Don’t Worry

You’ll find there are a lot of instances when you might not be sure what the “right” way is to do whatever it is you’re trying to do. Don’t let that stop you! Do a little research, do your best, and be okay with a learning curve.

The thing about wiki editing in general, and this includes Fanlore, is that it’s a community project, and everyone is doing their best. It’s worthwhile to think about trying to make your pages consistent with other pages where you can, because it will help people who are trying to find what you’re providing. So, poke around similar pages first and look for common trends in how they’re organized, and mimic that for your own page.

All that said, there is very little hierarchy in editors and few rules set in stone. It’s a community site put together by volunteers. You may find that you’ve labeled, referenced, cited, categorized, etc, a page incorrectly, or that you added a page that was already there under another name, or you may have put in a canon page when that’s really not what Fanlore is for. No problem! A page can be reverted to a previous version. It can be removed by a “Gardener” (higher-level editor), or edited by someone else who is more familiar with the inner wiki workings, or you can even tweak it yourself when you learn a better ways to code the page. 

There is always a path forward, so get in there and get started!

Happy creating, happy fandom, and welcome!

GO VISIT FANLORE NOW!

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Answered Asks: Publishing Without Using Amazon?

Cross-posted reply to an ask received on Tumblr.

hey, i’d like to just throw this out to you, since you’re a press so i have a feeling you might know. if i was seeking to publish a book but i didn’t want it to ever be sold through amazon, what would my options be?

I’m assuming you mean you’re interested in self-publishing? If yes, then yeah, I can give you at least some information about your options. 😀

If you don’t want to use Amazon, you definitely still have some options for self-publishing a book. I can sympathize with this sentiment; we hate Amazon and I’ve done what I can to keep our works off there (and, ultimately, failed, but still kept it to a minimum).

There’s two overarching questions you’ll need to consider when deciding how to proceed:

  • What formats are you selling? Are you doing e-book only or e-book + print or print book only? What about audiobooks? Which will influence your choices.
  • Are you mostly interested in direct sales (as in, you personally sell the book to the customer) or sales-through-an-intermediary (as in, a bookstore sells your book to a customer) or distribution (as in, you list the book with someone who acts as an intermediary between you and other vendors)?

As briefly as I can, first, here’s what Duck Prints Press uses:

  • Ingram – e-book (and, once we have one – we’re working on our first! – audiobook) distribution. Ingram is the biggest book distributor in the US and has a virtual monopoly on distribution. Even places that aren’t technically Ingram, such as draft2digital, usually use Ingram. Because they’re a near-monopoly, Ingram has a lot of ability to, well, screw people, and one way they’ve tried to screw people is they keep making it harder to get into their better services, pushing people to their much-less-supported service IngramSpark. I managed to get the Press grand-fathered in to Coresource, which is their e-book and audiobook distribution system, even tho we don’t meet the current minimums for number of titles for that product. I CAN’T get into Lightning Source, which is their better-supported print book distribution service, because we don’t have enough titles (we’d need 30, we currently have 10ish). If I wanted to use IngramSpark, I’d have to ditch Coresource, and I don’t want to do that because Coresource works great and has good customer support, and so I had to settle on a compromise I don’t love until we meet the minimums for Lightning Source – I use Coresource through Ingram for e-book distribution (and don’t distribute to Amazon), which is…
  • draft2digital – print book distribution. This was my work around for not losing Coresource in the name of getting Ingram print on demand (pod), and it came with a price: d2d doesn’t let me opt out of Amazon, much to my irritation. So the three titles we currently have pod on ARE on Amazon.
  • our webstore – e-book and print books, directly sold to the public. Our website lets people download e-books; I package print book orders made through the webstore myself and mail them myself.
  • in-person sales – I started vending at events last year; this year I’ll be doing about a dozen.

All of which goes to show, even trying to publish while avoiding the most evil places is really hard and a source of frustration. If anyone knows a good option for ethical publishing distribution, I’m honestly all ears. Competing with Ingram is extremely David vs. Goliath (see also the recent death of Small Press Distribution).

So: remembering that Amazon is easily the worst but that there’s still basically no ethical consumption or production under capitalism…

Ingram

Of the places I’m familiar with, the best-known option with the widest reach for self-publishing distribution is IngramSpark. As mentioned, I don’t use Spark, but Coresource lets me completely customize which of Ingram’s partners (vendors, wholesalers, libraries, etc.) I actually distribute with, and I’ve assumed that other Ingram products are the same. I believe IngramSpark is currently free per title; they get paid by charging fees per sale and because they get better listing deals with partners than an individual would get (like, Ingram might get charged x per title they list with, idk, Barnes and Noble, whereas you as an individual would get charged y, where y is larger than x, and Ingram pockets the difference).

I know a lot of people who use IngramSpark and my impression is that when it works, it works really well, but when it doesn’t, getting help/customer service can be a nightmare. Virtually everyone I know who has used them has stories about late titles, support taking a week+ to reply, that kind of thing. I believe they have an option to pay for better/more rapid responses from customer support, which I feel kinda tells you everything you need to know about IngramSpark.

Draft2Digital

Another option is draft2digital. They use the Ingram distribution network, but again they can do so cheaper than an individual can because of their bulk sales through Ingram. They also offer e-book, audiobook, and print distribution. I use draft2digital for print and I’ve been quite satisfied with their customer support, but their print distribution doesn’t allow opt-out of Amazon. HOWEVER, I believe their e-book distribution does. At minimum, there’s a checklist on d2d about “steps you have to take to distribute e-books through d2d” and I’m assuming if you just. didn’t do that checklist. then you obviously wouldn’t get your books distributed through them. The other big thing I don’t like about d2d (which may also be true of IngramSpark, idk) is that they charge after the first revision. Which is to say: you put together your book, you upload your book, you get it all set… and you notice a mistake. Okay, fine. You fix the mistake and re-upload. Re-uploading uses a “change token.” You only get one free change token per title per six months. So, you notice another mistake you feel you have to fix a few days after that first? That’ll cost $25. I’ve personally just kinda… tried to find all my mistakes right off and fix them, and anything I spot after that, I keep a log and will update all of them at the six month point. (I understand why they do this, btw – they have actual humans doing set-up on their end, so if you revise eight times in a week, that’s a lot for an actual human, and charging for the tokens forces people to be careful, helps ensure people submit books that are actually ready in good faith, and helps keep costs low. That doesn’t mean it’s not annoying, though.)

Bookvault

Bookvault is a UK-based print-on-demand option (so NO e-book distribution, just print) that has recently started offerings in the US too. They currently have a relatively limited distribution network, but they’re growing, and especially for UK-based people they’re a strong alternative. I’ve heard a lot of positive reports about their printing in a FB group I’m in (Kickstarter for Authors – do recommend, lots of great info there), but I’ll own my personal experiences weren’t great and I’ve decided not to keep using them for now. However, if what you primarily want is print books as print-on-demand, and some limited distribution choices, they’re a good choice, and they can help with option five below.

Do It Yourself Lite

A fourth option that’s a LOT of work is…you add it everywhere yourself. Most places will let you. For example, here’s how to sell on Barnes and Noble.com. When I self-pubbed a book a few years back, before I ran the Press, I submitted my work by hand to several different options (B&N, Kobo, Amazon because I still used them then, Smashwords, to name a few). However, doing this isn’t the same as distribution – it only will sell through that specific vendor – and as far as I know there are no options for doing print-on-demand those ways (I THINK, tho I’m not sure, that Amazon is the only place you can set up both e-book and pod through a single vendor – it’s not something I’ve researched tho, cause with the Press, doing single-title-at-a-time entry across so many different vendors is simply not realistic).

Side note on this: I don’t believe there’s a way to list self-pub books on Bookshop.org, but don’t quote me on that.

This method also doesn’t work well if you want to get your title in with libraries. I researched this a bit well over a year ago now, so I don’t recall all the details, but before we signed up for Ingram I DID try to see if there was a way for us to publish and get in libraries especially without involving them, but there…wasn’t really. Places like Overdrive that handle e-book-to-library distribution don’t really have a way for individuals to submit; I have this vague memory I found a way to do it that involved paying per title but tbh I can’t even find that now (though while I was looking I did find this decent-looking article about how to get your self-published book out in the world, echoing a lot of what I say here).

Do It Yourself Difficult Mode

Your fifth major option, and what we originally did as a press, is: do it all yourself. You can get your own storefront (ours is through Woocommerce + WordPress). You can do your own crowdfunding. You can run your own newsletter (I use Mailerlite), do your own advertising, etc. You can do your own printing (we currently use Booklogix and I’m quite happy with them, their customer service is A+++). You can vend at events, you can market to local bookstores, sell through bookstores that do consignment, etc. You can learn to format your own e-books (I use a combination of Affinity software and Calibre, with an assist from Daisy to improve the accessibility of our e-books). You can get access to stock images and vector art to make things look nice (I use vecteezy). There’s a LOT you can do entirely on your own. And that’s what I did for myself before I ran the Press, and what I did for the Press for the first couple years we operated.

The reason I changed how the Press handles things? I hate to say this but the sad truth of publishing is that not using Amazon is utterly crippling to a publisher. As of 2 years ago, Amazon represented 67% of all book sales in the United States. Not selling through Amazon means accepting you’ll simply be completely unable to reach more than half of the people reading works in English all around the world (works not in English may be different, I don’t know that market since I publish in English). And for myself, alone – for my works? I could make that choice. But the Press currently works with well over 100 authors, and I ultimately felt I couldn’t make the same choice to them. I tried so so hard not to compromise this, but refusing all distribution, when we were also avoiding Amazon, meant completely hamstringing the ability of authors we work with to market and sell their books. It meant, to work with us, people would have to sacrifice so much of their ability to earn money from their words, and it just didn’t feel right to continue in that avenue as we grew. So, I was forced to compromise: first to use Ingram, which I did on the condition that I’d be able to reject Amazon specifically, and then by having to use draft2digital, including their goddamn Amazon print-on-demand, at least until I qualify for a better option, which as soon as I can do? You bet your butt I’ll be switching and opting out of Amazon again.

The current climate makes these choices really hard, and I didn’t make them lightly, nor did I make them alone – there’s about 20 people on the DPP staff, and they all contributed opinions and voted on the final decisions I implemented for the Press in these regards.

(and sorry, I know “what DPP does and why” is a bit to the left of your actual question, but I felt like it’d be weird to make a list of recommendations without including the decisions I’ve personally made and why – like, why would I recommend you something I don’t do myself with the books I publish? So sorry for the info dump.)

The TL:DR of all this is, as far as I know, and as I’ve been forced to accept as part of the realities of running a small press in the modern world of publishing, is that avoiding one Big Evil (Amazon) with any hope of achieving even a modicum of success basically requires partnering with at least one other Big Evil (Ingram especially). It’s a very hard game to win.

HOWEVER, you are doing this FOR YOURSELF, NOT for all the people involved in a business larger than just you. If you’re willing to put in the extra work to figure out a lot on your own and manage your own marketing, you can theoretically build enough of an audience to go it alone without Amazon OR Ingram OR places like Kobo/B&N/etc. You’ll have to outlay more out of pocket – things like webhosting cost money – and you’ll have to be a lot more careful – if you’re running your own website instead of using someone elses, you gotta go above and beyond making you’re in compliance with privacy rules and such – but it can be done.

And if you don’t want to go that route, and your only real “to avoid” is Amazon specifically… use IngramSpark.

Sorry I’m long-winded. I hope this helps! Good luck with your publishing goals!

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March 2024 Created Works Round-Up!

A banner that reads "Created Works Round Up: March." In the upper left corner is the Duck Prints Press logo with a rainbow of duck prints around the left and bottom of it. On the right is the Dux mascot, a white duck with an orange beak and orange feet and a pleased expression on their face.

Duck Prints Press’s monthly “created works round-ups” are our opportunity to spotlight some of the amazing work that people working with us have done that ISN’T linked to their work with Duck Prints Press. We include fanworks, outside publications, and anything else that creators feel like sharing with y’all. Inclusion is voluntary and includes anything that they decided “hey, I want to put this on the created work’s round-up!”

Check out what they’ve shared with us this month…


Eliot Rocks the Memory Palace, Chapter Four: Art by EliotQueliot

art || the magicians (tv) || m/m || quentin coldwater/eliot waugh || teen & up || creator choses not to use warnings || complete

summary: After dinner, Monster!Eliot takes Quentin sightseeing in New York City by moonlight.

There’s a lovely view from the 103rd floor of the Empire State Building.

And the Monster set a nice cheery fire blazing in the bay.

Heights are fun.

other tags: falling, heights, possession

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All We Need Is One Good Day (Any Day That You’re Alive), Chapter 1 by EliotQueliot

fiction || the magicians (tv) || m/m || quentin coldwater/eliot waugh || mature || creator choses not to use warnings || 2,097 || work in progress

summary: A fluffy fic mixing the books by Lev Grossman with the show from SyFy, in which Quentin and Eliot do get to spend that summer together, but build on their immediate friendship to get together from day one of Q’s classes.

AO3


Mosaic Haiku, Chapter 10 by EliotQueliot

fiction || the magicians (tv) || m/m || quentin coldwater/eliot waugh || general audiences || creator choses not to use warnings || 124 || ongoing series

summary: I’m writing a series of haiku about Eliot and Quentin’s lives together at the Mosaic (the timeloop lifetime in which they loved each other for 50 years). Just like the patterns they build there, I’ll forever be adding new haiku, but yet the story is also always complete. My hope is to reflect the beauty of all life, just like they did.

AO3


Sailing to Blackspire, Chapter 5 by EliotQueliot

fiction || the magicians (tv) || m/m || quentin coldwater/eliot waugh || explicit || creator choses not to use warnings || 11,539 || work in progress

summary: Quentin says he’s staying with a Monster for all Eternity.

Eliot says, “Hell, no. Not without me.”

In which Eliot and Quentin use their time aboard the Muntjac on the way to Castle Blackspire more wisely.

In this chapter, the friends continue to do their best to find alternate ways to turn magic back on, without Quentin and Eliot getting stuck in Castle Blackspire.

other tags: Canon-typical danger. Also, regarding the fic as a whole, please heed the rating. This is AU, but jumps off from canon at a specific point within 3×13. The characters don’t know what I’m trying to fix because for them it hasn’t happened (and in this fic, it never will). But Eliot (his POV) clearly knows that Quentin’s life is ultimately in danger.

AO3


never a god by ilgaksu

fiction || mysterious lotus casebook || m/m, poly (one gender: male) || li lianhua/fang duobing/di feisheng, di feisheng/fang duobing || teen & up || creator choses not to use warnings || 1,077 || ongoing series

summary: The evening shift at the House of Scarlet Delights starts out just like any other.

other tags: Post Canon, Sex Work, Genderfluid Li Lianhua

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bringing a gun to chekhov’s house by ilgaksu

fiction || dune (2021), dune – frank herbert || f/m || paul atreides/chani kynes || explicit || creator choses not to use warnings || 1,895 || work in progress

summary: Chani sees him first in lectures. This is because he can’t stop staring at her. It’s unsubtle. It’s derivative. It’s the start of every novel written by a white man drowning in his own midlife crisis. Chani is wise to it; to him.

After a while, she realises she’s still looking right back.

other tags: Alternate Universe – College/University, Academia, Postcolonialism, Breakup

AO3


On Writing Combat and Sex Scenes by Tris Lawrence

writing craft blog post || original work || no ships || teen & up || no major warnings apply || 1,523 || complete

summary: This post talks about writing sex and combat (and no, I do not mean combative sex). It is primarily SFW.

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Round Table Discussion: Grammar Pet Peeves

Today, March 4th, is National Grammar Day! Last year, we celebrated with six of our favorite grammar quirks. This year, we’re going to the other end of the spectrum: we had a conversation with our editors and blog contributors about grammar things we hate. They may be technically correct, but that doesn’t mean they don’t make us crazy. Eighteen people, many anonymous, contributed to this discussion.

Dangling Modifiers

boneturtle: Dangling modifiers, hands down. Even when I can decipher what the writer meant based on context, it viscerally hurts me every time. When I am editing I have to stand up and take a lap around my apartment when I hit a dangling modifier. Remind myself that I am here to help. Learn more about dangling modifiers.

Commas

anonymous: Commas are not difficult! Commas end phrases. Full stop. That’s all they do. Is a phrase necessary to the grammatical coherence of the sentence? if the answer is yes, no commas because that phrase hasn’t ended. If the answer is no, commas! comma hug that bish if it’s the middle of a sentence. The difference between grammatical and informational is whether or not the sentence makes sense without the phrase. 

Examples: 

The man who ordered the six double anchovy pizzas claims to have a dolphin in his pool. 

You need “who ordered the six double anchovy pizzas” because you need to identify which man you’re talking about. The world is full of many men. 

The ancient Buick, which Madeleine purchased via Craigslist, belched black smoke whenever she pressed the accelerator. 

We don’t need to know how Madeleine purchased the car for the sentence to make sense. You don’t even meed “Madeleine” for the grammar to make sense. Therefore, hug that phrase! 

(a comma on each side of the phrase) or give it a dramatic send off with a comma and an end punctuation. (i could go into conjunctions, too, but those are a little more complex, and if you were taught them properly, i understand not getting the comma use 😂 ) 

Prepositions at the End of Sentences

Tris Lawrence: There was a dictionary (Merriam-Webster? Oxford? idek) that posted recently on social media about how the rule about not ending a sentence with a preposition came from English scholars trying to make English line up with Latin, and that it’s totally okay to do it… and I’m just wanting to point to it to yell THIS because uhhh trying to rework sentences to not end in a preposition often creates clunky awkward things (my opinion, I recognize this).

D. V. Morse: Ending sentences/clauses with a preposition. Well, not doing that is supposed to be the rule, but depending on the sentence, it can be a convoluted mess to try and avoid it. Winston Churchill famously told someone off after they “caught” him breaking that rule, saying, “This is the type of arrant pedantry up with which I will not put.” (Yes, I had to look that up.)

Pronoun Confusion

anonymous: I hate playing the pronoun game when reading. I hate it in life when someone comes up to me and tells me a story involving 2 people of the same pronouns and stops using names halfway through, and I hate it while reading too. Nothing makes me fall out of scene more if I don’t know who just did/said what. Use names. That’s why we have them.

Nina Waters: epithets. If I know the characters name…why? Also, when people use “you” in third person writing. There are times I’ll allow it as an editor/times when I do think it’s at least acceptable but not gonna lie, I absolutely hate it.

anonymous: My pet peeve … I read hundreds of essays in a given month for work, plus a whole lot of fanfic for fun. A rising issue that I have noticed in both places is incomplete sentences (lacking subjects, typically). I think it’s because people rely on Google’s grammar checker to tell them if something is wrong and…Google doesn’t check for that apparently. I’m increasingly convinced that my high schoolers simply weren’t taught sentence structure, because when I ask them to fix it they almost universally say some variant of “I don’t understand what you’re asking me to do.” Therefore, it might be punching down a little to complain about it. I’m not sure. It does drive me nuts though. Lol

“Would Of”

Neo Scarlett: Not quite sure if that falls under grammar, but I hate hate hate when people use “should of” instead of should’ve. Or “would of.” It just makes my toe nails curl up because it may sound right, but it looks wrong and is wrong.

Semi-Colons

Shea Sullivan: I saw a list punctuated by semicolons recently and that made me froth at the mouth a bit.

anonymous: I think any editor who’s worked with me knows that I have a pet peeve about using colons or semi-colons in dialogue. Or really, any punctuation mark that I don’t think people can actually pronounce. Semicolons can live anywhere that I don’t have to imagine a character actually pronouncing them.

English isn’t Dumb!

theirprofoundbond: As a former linguistics student, it bugs me a lot when people say that English is a dumb or stupid language because it has borrowed from so many languages. What people mean when they say this is, “English can be really difficult (even for native speakers).” But I wish people would say that, instead of “it’s dumb/stupid.” Languages are living things. Like other living things, they adapt and evolve. English is basically a beautiful, delightful platypus. Let it be a platypus.

Dei Walker: I remember seeing somewhere that English has four types of rules (I’m trying to find the citation today) and everyone conflates them. And I guess my pet peeve is that everyone treats them equally when they’re NOT. There are rules but not all of them are the same – there’s a difference between “adjectives precede nouns” (big truck, not *truck big) and “don’t split infinitives” (which is arbitrary).

And, because we couldn’t resist, here are some of our favorite things, because when we asked for pet peeves…some people still shared things they loved instead of things they hated.

Oxford Comma

Terra P. Waters: I really really love the Oxford comma.

boneturtle: me: [in kindergarten, using oxford comma]

teacher: no, we don’t add a comma between the last two objects in a list.

me: that’s illogical and incorrect.

anonymous: I will forever appreciate my second grade teacher’s explanation of Oxford comma use: Some sentences are harder to understand if you don’t use it, but no sentence will ever be harder to understand because you do use it. Preach, Mrs. D

anonymous: I am definitely Team Oxford Comma. I even have a bumper sticker which says so

Other Favorites

Shea Sullivan: I adore the emdash, to every editor’s chagrin.

Shadaras: zeugmas! I think they’re super cool!

Shea Sullivan and Hermit: I use sentence fragments a lot. Fragments my beloved.

English Grammar vs. Grammar in Other Languages

anonymous: so in English my favourite thing is the parallel Latin and Saxon registers because of how that affects grammar, but in Japanese my favourite grammatical thing is the use of an actual sound at the end of the sentence to denote a question, as opposed to how in English we use intonation? Also how in Japanese the sentence structure requires reasoning first and action second in terms of clauses. So rather than go “let’s go to the cinema because it’s raining and I’m cold,” you’d go “because it’s raining and I’m cold, let’s go to the cinema.” (My least favourite thing is the lack of spaces between words in the written form but that’s purely because I find that level of continuous letters intimidating to translate.)

I also love how Japanglish in the foreign communities in Japan starts to develop its own grammatical structure as a way of situating yourself in this space between the two languages. It’s used as a call-sign of belonging to that specific community, because in order to make some of the jokes and consciously break the rules of English or Japanese grammar and/or choose to obey one or the other, you’re basically displaying your control over both/knowledge of them. Like, the foreign community in Japan is often a disparate group of people with multiple different native languages who are relying on their knowledge of at least one non-native language but often two to signify their status in the group as Also An Outsider and I think that’s really interesting.

Nina Waters: Chinese and Japanese both drop subjects, and Chinese doesn’t have like… a/the… Japanese doesn’t have a future tense… Chinese kinda sorta doesn’t have tenses at all… (these are not pet peeves, btw, I love how learning a language with such different ways of approaching these things reshapes my brain). Chinese also doesn’t really have yes or no.

There’s a joke somewhere on Tumblr about that, though I actually think it’s about using “a” versus “the,” like, someone was giving a Russian speaker a hard time after they said “get in car” and they were like “only you English speakers are dumb enough to feel this is essential why would I be talking about getting into any random car of course I mean our car wtf.”

anonymous: on the subject of other languages, epithets are also something that happen differently in other languages. In French repeating a word (names included, and sometimes even pronouns) is considered bad writing. As in, way more than in English. Going by how grating the English translation of the Witcher books was to me when the French one was fine, I’d say it’s the same with Polish, at least. It’s also very interesting how brains adapt to writing styles in other languages.

What are some of your favorite and least favorite grammar quirks, in English or in the language of your choice?

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Created Works Round-Up: January 2024

A banner that reads "Created Works Round Up: January." In the upper left corner is the Duck Prints Press logo with a rainbow of duck prints around the left and bottom of it. On the right is the Dux mascot, a white duck with an orange beak and orange feet and a pleased expression on their face.

Duck Prints Press’s monthly “created works round-ups” are our opportunity to spotlight some of the amazing work that people working with us have done that ISN’T linked to their work with Duck Prints Press. We include fanworks, outside publications, and anything else that creators feel like sharing with y’all. Inclusion is voluntary and includes anything that they decided “hey, I want to put this on the created work’s round-up!”

Check out what they’ve shared with us this month…


cruel forgiveness by Cedar McCafferty-Svec

art || transformers || m/m || idw rodimus prime/armada megatron || teen & up || no major warnings apply || complete

summary: Digital drawing of IDW Rodimus and Armada Megatron based off a scene from a roleplay server on dreamwidth. Megatron is faking his own death and making Rodimus watch.

other tags: self harm, canon mashup, based on roleplay

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Stay by Smehur

art || baldur’s gate 3 || m/m || astarion/tav || mature || no major warnings apply || complete

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Astarion by Smehur

art || baldur’s gate 3 || no ships || general audiences || no major warnings apply || complete

summary: This started as a silly colored pencil doodle and ended up my best drawing so far. Anyway, I love him.

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A Godsdamn Kraken by Smehur

fiction || baldur’s gate 3 || m/m || astarion/tav || mature || no major warnings apply || 7,760 || complete

summary: Astarion and Tav met before the events of the game – and immediately got in trouble.

AO3


Self Help & Writing Advice by Tris Lawrence

blog post || original work || no ships || general audiences || no major warnings apply || 781 || complete

summary: I don’t like self-help books. Which means I often don’t like writing advice books.

Which sucks because I really want to like both of them. I am positive there are things I could learn from them.

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ND Creative: Time, Focus, Organization by Tris Lawrence

blog post, nd creative series || original work || no ships || general audiences || no major warnings apply || 957 || complete

summary: Time, focus, and organization can be complicated things as an ND creative.

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Things I Thought Were Mine by enchantedsleeper

fiction || fence comics || m/m || nicholas cox/seiji katayama || general audiences || no major warnings apply || 9,235 || complete

summary: Nicholas, Seiji, and the King’s Row team are invited by Jesse Coste to join him at an exclusive summer retreat for elite fencers at the Coste residence. Surrounded by reminders of the life he could have had, and with Jesse determined to pick up where he and Seiji left off, can Nicholas survive the week without some closely-held secrets bubbling to the surface?

other tags: Canon divergence AU, hurt/comfort

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a dream or two (away from you) by enchantedsleeper

fiction || fence comics || m/m || aiden kane/harvard lee || teen & up || no major warnings apply || 8,845 || complete

summary: Everyone knows that magic isn’t real. Never mind that Aiden, crown prince of Feldhaven, has been having strange dreams from a young age in which he meets and plays with a young boy from a far-away kingdom.

He can’t explain it, but he isn’t concerned – until years later, when an eighteen-year-old Aiden is suddenly introduced to the new Captain of the Guard: Harvard Lee. The boy from his dreams.

other tags: mediaeval fantasy AU, slightly handwavey dream magic, friends to lovers

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You Make Sense of the Devil by Hermit

fiction || mcu, criminal minds || m/m, f/m, poly (multiple genders) || james “bucky” barnes/emily prentiss, james “bucky” barnes/steve rogers || mature || rape/non-con || 15,772 || complete

summary: A ghost from the BAU past reappears and drags up unfinished business for Aaron Hotchner. The ripples are enough to call back missing team members and spread well beyond the circle of his influence.

other tags: Timeline What Timeline, MCU fusion, Criminal Minds fusion, liberties were taken with the legal system, Case Fic, No One Is Okay, canon typical trauma, Past Rape/Non-con, Flashback, discussion of trauma, Implied Polycule

AO3


Tremble by Tal

fiction || link click || m/m || cheng xiaoshi/lu guang || general audiences || no major warnings apply || 2,096 || complete

summary: Cheng Xiaoshi has a bad time in a photo. Lu Guang is there in the aftermath.

other tags: Hurt/Comfort

AO3


Phase Shift by Terra P. Waters

fiction || original work || platonic or familial, f/m || teen & up || no major warnings apply || 99,500 || ongoing series

summary: Despite being a self-professed science geek, high school freshman Camilla Mitchell has had a secret imaginary friend for years. It comes as quite a shock when said friend, Emma, accidentally drags her into a dimension full of hostile telepathic creatures. Cam’s friends, her brother, Oliver, and her mother, Kathryn, work furiously to solve her disappearance and bring her home. Other members of their small Minnesota town disappear, one after the other, including Lizzy Becker’s best friend, who is ripped from her arms. Lizzy badgers loner Oliver into working with her to rescue their missing loved ones. They discover a bridge between the two worlds—a bridge that allows the hostile creatures from Cam’s newly-discovered dimension into ours. If there’s a bridge, there’s a way to rescue the people taken. Right?

other tags: Tags: science fiction, alternate dimensions, teen characters, friendship, bisexual main character (minor references), lesbian character, nonbinary character, aliens; Content warnings: disordered eating, emetophobia, child abuse mention, homophobic bullying, teen characters in danger, gun violence, physical violence, abduction

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The Last Drop Cafe by Terra P. Waters

fiction || stranger things || poly (multiple genders) || jonathan byers/chrissy cunningham/steve harrington/nancy wheeler || explicit || creator choses not to use warnings || 77,500 || complete

summary: Nancy Wheeler is in her last year of college, about to graduate with her journalism degree. She’s just working as a barista at The Last Drop Cafe until she can find a real journalism job. She loves her boyfriend, Jonathan, though there’s been some tension lately, and she’s not quite sure how long the relationship is going to last. At least she lives above the coffee shop, which makes rolling out of bed at five in the morning to go to work slightly more tolerable. Her upstairs neighbors, Steve and Chrissy, are newlyweds eager to start their family. When a case of sleep deprivation and mistaken identity ties the two couples together, things quickly get complicated. But maybe complicated is just what Nancy was looking for.

other tags: Coffee Shop AU, College AU, Mistaken Identity, Polyamory, Somnophilia, Accidental Non-con, Unplanned Pregnancy, Birth, Hospitals

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Phase Shift by Terra P. Waters

fiction || original work || platonic or familial, f/m, f/nb || teen & up || no major warnings apply || 99,500 || complete

summary: Despite being a self-professed science geek, high school freshman Camilla Mitchell has had a secret imaginary friend for years. It comes as quite a shock when said friend, Emma, accidentally drags her into a dimension full of hostile telepathic creatures. Cam’s friends, her brother, Oliver, and her mother, Kathryn, work furiously to solve her disappearance and bring her home. Other members of their small Minnesota town disappear, one after the other, including Lizzy Becker’s best friend, who is ripped from her arms. Lizzy badgers loner Oliver into working with her to rescue their missing loved ones. They discover a bridge between the two worlds—a bridge that allows the hostile creatures from Cam’s newly-discovered dimension into ours. If there’s a bridge, there’s a way to rescue the people taken. Right?

other tags: Science Fiction, Horror, Aliens, Teen characters, Alternate dimensions, Friendship, LGBTQ+ characters, Hearing Impaired Character, Eating Disorder, Child Abuse, Gun Violence, Kidnapping, Teenaged Characters in Peril, Minor Character Death

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Prayers of Descent by unforth

fiction || tian guan ci fu || m/m || hua cheng/xie lian || general audiences || no major warnings apply || 1,648 || complete

summary: After 800 years in the Heavenly Court, Xie Lian receives a prayer with a simple request: “can I see you, your highness, just one more time?”

other tags: Canon Divergence, Jun Wu/Xie Lian

AO3

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Coming Soon: May Trope Mayhem 2023!

YES! It is almost time once more for May Trope Mayhem!

What is May Trope Mayhem? It’s Duck Prints Press’s annual multi-fandom creation event! We’ve picked 30 of our favorite tropes (+1 free day!), one per day of May, and come May 1st, we invite everyone to create a ficlet, artwork, gif set, or whatever else they feel like inspired by the trope of the day! We’re open to any fandom or no fandom at all, original characters and old faves, any ship (yes even that one) or no ship or reader inserts or, or, or… basically, if you can imagine it, we can accommodate it!

Want to know more? OF COURSE YOU DO!

The rules for 2023 will be about the same as in the past, so the only big change will be in the tropes. There are no repeats! Well, other than the free day, anyway, which will once again be on the 31st – your chance to pick your own favorite trope.

So mark your calendars, tell yours friends, and get ready to create with us! And don’t forgot to follow us on social media to make sure you don’t miss a thing!

Backers on Patreon will get to see the list ten days early! The list will go live on Patreon on April 20th, 2023, giving folks there extra time to prepare!

Who We Are: Duck Prints Press LLC is an independent publisher based in New York State. Our founding vision is to help fan creators publishing their original works. We are particularly dedicated to working with queer authors and publishing stories featuring characters from across the LGBTQIA+ spectrum. Want to always hear the latest? Sign up for our monthly newsletter!

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Celebrate Small Press Month with Duck Prints Press

March was National Small Press Month, and Duck Prints Press celebrated by collecting 12 questions from press contributors, recording the answers, and posting them on Tiktok and Instagram! Curious about the Q&A? This post includes a link to all the videos, and transcripts of each one for those who aren’t inclined to watch a mess of recordings. Read on, and learn the answers to…

Introduction

Transcription: Howdy everyone, I’m Claire. I go by Nina Waters and unforth, and I’m the owner of Duck Prints Press, and I am very very very very much not accustomed to being a talking head in a Tiktok video, so I hope that this will be okay and that everything is awesome. So we are here at Duck Prints Press celebrating Small Press Month, and for that we had a bunch of our folks suggest questions that they might like me to answer and so over the next couple weeks (I expect) we’ll be answering those. So now you know what the basic idea is, and I hope you enjoy the answers.

What inspired you to start your own press?

@duckprintspress

Unforth is back answering the first question we got: What inspired you to start your own press? #smallpress #smallpressmonth #publishing #booktok #duckprintspress

♬ original sound – duckprintspress

Transcription: Hey folks, it’s unforth again from Duck Prints Press and here answering some questions about the press for Small Press Month. The first question that we got was “what inspired you to start your own press?” There were definitely a lot of factors that went into it, but I would say that the sort of most immediate big one is that when I started writing fanfiction I found that I was surrounded by all these really really amazingly skilled writers and many of them dreamed of being involved in publishing and didn’t really know where to start, how to get involved, who to talk to, blah blah blah, all that stuff, and I had just enough connections in publishing to think I had some idea of what I was doing and some qualifications for filling that space. And then it took 7 years to actually do it, so yeah it was a pretty big job. But here we are!

What distinguishes Duck Prints Press from other small presses?

@duckprintspress

Claire is back answering our second question: What distinguishes Duck Prints Press from other small presses? #booktok #smallpress #smallpressmonth #publishing #queer #duckprintspress

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Transcription: Hello again, here’s unforth/Claire/Nina, depends on what you want to call me I guess. Unforth is online, Claire is my actual name, Nina is my pen name. Once again here to talk about Duck Prints Press as part of our feature for Small Press Month, and our second question is “what distinguishes Duck Prints Press from other small presses?” Answering this well would require knowing a lot more about other small presses than I actually do, but I would say a lot of it’s different because of – well, for several reasons. We are much less top-down, in that we have a much more collaborative process for basically everything we do. We’re also much less of a black box,  which is to say that it’s not like “send in submission, get answer back, that’s all you ever really know.” We try to be really really transparent and open about our process, what we’re doing, our timelines, our reasons for picking some people and not others, all of that jazz. We also are different in that we focus very strongly on LGBTQIA+ and queer stories and characters. I try not to say writers and creators and authors also because I’m not here to out anybody, but many of us are queer. I’m queer, hi! Yeah, that’s just a few of the ways, there’s way more, but I’m trying not to turn this into video essays. Have a good one, guys.

What is the best thing and what is the hardest thing about running a small press?

@duckprintspress

Claire is back, talking about the best and hardest things about running a #smallpress #booktok #smallpressmonth #publishing #duckprintspress

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Transcription: Hi! Unforth here again for Small Press Week – Month – with Duck Prints Press, and we are answering questions we got from our contributors about the Press, and I am the owner/founder/manager/almost everything. “What is the best thing and what is the hardest thing about running a small press?” The best thing is the people. That one is really easy. I have met so many amazing creators who I would never have gotten to know otherwise, and everybody is just brilliant, talented, skilled, wonderful, y’all are amazing. I do this for you, and I do it for all of us, and I want to see us all succeed and be awesome and show everybody that a press modeled like this can work. You guys make it worth it every single day. The hardest thing is all of the not-fun parts. You know, everybody’s going to enjoy different parts of running a business. I find fiscal stuff to be challenging and a drag and it takes forever. I spent 3 hours doing our taxes last week. Don’t even get me started on collecting sales tax. It would bore you to tears, and it bores me to tears and I have to do it anyway. And marketing. Marketing takes so much time and so much work for so little reward that’s visible immediately. Like, the reward’s coming. It goes – little by little we get there, but it’s – man, it feels like you take baby steps for months to get, like, 5 feet closer to where you want to be. So I would say, the parts I find hardest are the actually “being a business” parts.

A word of advice to people wanting to start their own press.

@duckprintspress

Claire with a message for anyone with hopes of starting their own press #booktok #smallpress #smallpressmonth #publishing #duckprintspress

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Transcription: Hi hi, unforth here again from Duck Prints Press, filming some questions – sorry, filming some answers to questions we got from people involved in the press about how Duck Prints Press came to be as part of our features for Small Press Month. And our next question is, oh – it’s, well. “A word of advice to people wanting to start their own press.” One word: don’t. No, I’m kidding. It’s way more work than I ever thought it would be, but perhaps more importantly, you’ve got to be ready to be a jack of all trades. You’ve got to be ready to think that you can learn anything you need to learn, because you’re gonna have to. I know more about tax law than I ever would have imagined myself capable of learning because there’s never enough money to hire all the professionals you need who are experts and there’s never enough resources to recruit the people who have that information so you need to figure it out yourself, or at least that’s what my situation has been. Maybe if you have a lot more starting capital than I do you’ll be in a better position in that regard. Just, don’t be afraid of it, but be ready to learn all kinds of things you thought you’d never learn. And also if you think you’re gonna have time for your own writing, haha good luck with that. I hope you have a better time of it than I’ve had.

What is the best way for people to support small presses? 

@duckprintspress

What is the best way for people to support small presses like Duck Prints Press? One word! #booktok #smallpressmonth #smallpress #publishing #duckprintspress

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Transcription: Hi! It’s unforth/Claire/Nina Waters here again. I’m the owner and founder of Duck Prints Press, a small press that focuses on working with fanfiction authors to publish their original work, and we are answering questions we got from our contributors about things about the press as part of Small Press Week. And the next question is – “what is the best way for people to support small presses like Duck Prints Press?” Money. The answer is money. I can’t imagine this is a surprise. I mean – this is best way, mind you, I’m not saying only way. But I mean – there is never enough sales. It would be, you know, back our Patreon, support us on ko-fi, buy our books, review our books on Storygraph, Goodreads, our website, any place else you can think of. Your personal blogs. I don’t know – anywhere. Instagram. Tiktok, hi! But I know money is in short supply for basically everybody. If you’re looking at this and going “well, duh, money, but how can I do that?” That’s fine. Signal boost us. Talking about us. I mean, even just literally, just hitting a reblog/retweet/share button really, really, really helps. Because even if you don’t have money, when the posts spread through social media if they find – if they spread through 100 people and one of those people has money, then we make a sale. And that helps us, because in the end, this can only be a passion project for us, and we need to make money if we’re really going to succeed and show people that we can do this. And I think and know and believe that we can. And so help us out!

Why do small presses matter?

@duckprintspress

Back again answering questions for #smallpressmonth ! This time Claire is explaining why small presses matter #booktok #smallpress #publishing #duckprintspress

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Transcription: Hi, it’s unforth/Claire again, here for another Small Press Month update from Duck Prints Press, and I just realized – I decided to do all of these on a day I’m wearing a ducky shirt. I didn’t plan that or anything, just worked out. I only own one ducky shirt – it’s not even like there’s a lot of them. And our next questions is, “In your opinion, why do small presses matter?” Small presses matter because traditional publication – trad pub – is really obsessed with marketing and success and corporation stuff and making huge profits, and they don’t have time for small voices and taking risks and margin – you know – marginalized people and publishing stories stories that they don’t think will succeed. And they’re wrong. I think those stories absolutely can succeed, but also, you know, there needs to be somebody out there taking those chances and that’s what small presses do. And a lot of small press don’t succeed, but even when we fail, stories have still been published, they’ve still been out there, the stories have still gotten told. So even when we fail fiscally, we’ve still succeeded in the core goal, which is to tell these stories to as wide an audience as possible. And that’s why small presses matter.

What are the common misconceptions about small presses, either internal or external?

@duckprintspress

Today Claire’s talking about a big misconception in the small press industry #booktok #smallpress #smallpressmonth #publishing #duckprintspress

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Transcription: Hey hey, unforth here again with another of Duck Prints Press’s Q and A session answers to questions from our contributors that we’re doing for Small Press Month. And the next one is the first one that I’m sort of like “I don’t have any idea what I’m gonna say.” “What are common misconceptions about small presses, either internal or external?” I can answer internal I guess. I think people have a – well, maybe external too – I think people have a much inflated idea of our earnings and sales. They’re – they’re very low. Hi, I’m the owner. I’ve been running this for over 2 years and I have never taken a paycheck. One of these days I need to get paid. That would be nice. But I think there’s this idea that “if you build it they will come,” which is to say that if you write the book and put it out there, then people are going to magically appear to buy it. And that’s really, really not the case. It is so much work to get books into people’s hands or onto their devices as the case may be. In terms of other misconceptions from an external standpoint, I have no idea. You know, everybody comes to a job from a direction when they start a business. There’s gonna be things that they knew ahead of time and things that they didn’t. I came to this with a lot of experience in writing and editing and things like running web pages and organizing fandom events and things like that. I have no press experience. I haven’t worked for other presses. I am not traditionally published. I know some people in the industry, that’s about the closest that I get. And so what their point of view might be, I could not begin to tell you. But you know, we manage.

What are your biggest non-monetary victories?

@duckprintspress

Claire here to talk about some of our biggest non monetary victories! #booktok #smallpress #smallpressmonth #publishing #duckprintspress

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Transcription: Unforth from Duck Prints Press here again answering questions we got from our contributors about Small Press Month and what running a small press is like. So our next question is, “what are your biggest non-monetary victories?” I guess it sort of depends what you consider a victory. I really appreciate the buy-in we’ve gotten from fandoms that know about us. Every time we get a lot of reblogs and a lot of boosts, it feels good because these are our people. We are fans. That’s the whole point is that we’re fans doing this in the hopes that we can get other fans involved as readers and writers and artists and graphic designers and website people and like every single person is a fan. The only person involved who isn’t a fan is my – is the lawyer I hire. And for all I know he is a fan, I haven’t asked. It’s really none of my business. It’s also – it always feels good when somebody big notices us, so, you know, the owner of another small press backed our first Kickstarter. I don’t care about the money – it’s cool that this person noticed, that’s what I was excited about. Cecilia Tan reblogged – sorry, retweeted us. A few other, you know, people who you’re like “hey, I know that name! I know who they are!” saw that we existed, and that feels good. I also feel like it’s essential. So yeah, I would say that most of our biggest non-monetary ones have been, like, “senpai noticed me” moments, haha. But you know, we’re getting there. I feel like I keep ending them with things like that so let me trying tying this off a little bit more intelligently. I think that in order to succeed ultimately, we need that kind of attention on us, and so every time it happens, it feels like a small victory because I figure – I think I read somewhere, and this might be total nonsense, that you need to, like, see a word at least 20 times before you actually know it. Like, before you can remember it, spell it, use it correctly in context, blah blah blah. And so I tend to perhaps inappropriately use that as my metric for, like, what it takes to succeed. Which is to say that, any given person is going to need to see Duck Prints Press and know we exist at least 20 times before that actually means something to them and they maybe think of us when they go, “Hey what am I going to read next? What book should I buy?” So, you know, that those – when those big people see us, that’s a lot of people’s one time finding out that we exist, so that means a lot. And somehow this has ended up the longest video. Funny how that works out.

What are the core ideas behind Duck Prints Press?

@duckprintspress

What is Duck Prints Press’s mission? Claire here to talk about the core idea behind DPP #booktok #smallpress #smallpressmonth #publishing #queer #duckprintspress

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Transcription: Hey hey! Unforth here yet again with another of our Q&A questions from Small Press Month. We asked people on our Discord if they had questions about running a small press that would work well for videos during Small Press Month and these were the results. And I’m sorry I keep swiveling my chair, I’m trying to find an angle where the snow falling outside doesn’t reflect horribly off of my glasses. That’s why this keeps happening. Anyway, the next question is: “What are the core ideas behind Duck Prints Press?” The core idea behind Duck Prints Press is to work with people in fandom communities – fan authors, fan artists, etc. – to help them to bring their original work from concept to fruition. You know – we love it when those people publish with us, but we do actually offer consulting, so if those people don’t want to publish with us, they can just have us edit and then publish it someplace else, and that would be fine too. The core of it is helping people create, encouraging people to create, and helping all – helping individuals succeed by helping all of us succeed. Because many of us have individual followings for our fan works, and I think that if we – I really believe, and it’s one of the core tenants of the press – that if we pool all of that together, we can help all of us to get to where we want to be in terms of – as writers, as artists, as creators, you know, as published people. So, yeah, that’s the core idea. That comes with a heavy queer/LGBTQIA+ flavor. Nobody has to be queer, no story has to be queer, but the general gist is all very, very not straight or cis, or you know any combination thereof. We’re not that picky. We’re not outing anybody “own voices” style here. Helping fan creators to get more attention for their original work and lifting all – lifting each other up to do it. That’s our core idea.

What would you do differently if you had to start over?

@duckprintspress

What would you do differently if you had to start over? Claire talks about the possible ways Duck Prints Press could’ve been changed #booktok #smallpress #smallpressmonth #publishing #duckprintspress

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Transcription: Unforth from Duck Prints Press here again answering questions for Small Press Week – Small Press Month. I keep making that mistake. Small Press Month about Duck Prints Press, the fan-oriented small press that works to help fan creators publish their original works. And our next question is: “What would you do differently if you had to start all over?” That is a really good question. Because if I’m honest, I don’t think we screwed anything up all that bad. And the things that got most messed up were kind of outside of our control to some extent. Like a lot of our year-2 plans just got delayed and put on hiatus because I ended up needing back surgery. I would do that differently. I would not try to run a business that was only 7 or 8 months old while suffering from increasingly severe spinal stenosis. That sucked. Don’t do that. In terms of things that I could control… I don’t know if it would have gone better because it’s really impossible to say, but doing a model where we had a lot more starting capital would have been very different and potentially could have gone a lot better. I think of Big Bang Press, which tried to do something very similar to us. They launched with a Kickstarter that raised $55,000, and what happened after that is best left to various fan wank webpages. But when I think about, sort of, what I could have done differently if we had started with $55,000, that would have been really different and I think potentially really helpful. We could have gotten a lot more input from professional than we’ve been able to really afford so far – like, by that I mean a CPA, a lawyer. Like, obviously we’ve spoken to those people, but I have to always try to keep it brief and do as much myself as possible because there’s just not enough money to go around. But if I’d had – if we’d gone a direction where instead of , sort of, shoestringing it from the beginning and trying to build from small to big, if we’d instead gone a “let’s collect investors and make this work from the – you know – build everything at once with a big starting investment” – I wonder how sustainable that would have been once the initial investment ran out? But it certainly would have made a lot of things different early on, and a lot of those things could have been easier. So, yeah, I know the reasons I didn’t do it that way, so I can’t actually say for sure I would do it differently or do it that way if I had to start over. But I do think that it’s a very different approach that could have had a very different outcome and might be interesting if we had a multiverse that we could test hypotheses in. 

Where do you see Duck Prints Press in 5 years?

@duckprintspress

Where will Duck Prints Press be in five years? Find out Claire’s plan so far! #booktok #smallpress #smallpressmonth #publishing #duckprintspress

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Transcription: Unforth here! I also go by Claire, which is my real name, and Nina, which is my pen name – Nina Waters. And I am the owner of Duck Prints Press, and I am here answering questions from our Discord…Discord members, that’s a good word…Discord members about the press as part of a celebration for Small Press Month. And our next question is, “Where do you see Duck Prints Press in 5 years?” And I’ll own, I actually usually don’t project out quite that far. By the time I go to 5 years, it feels a little too pipe-dreamy and I tend to look at more like one to two years as more like my goal. Like, I’m in planning for 2024 right now in March of 2023. But I would say, 5 years, I’d love to see us breaking even consistently and making enough of a profit. I’d love to see our Patreon bringing in about a thousand dollars a month, which would be a bit – a little over double what we’ve got now, we’re about $400. And when I say Patreon, and I mean Patreon and ko-fi combined, I always short-hand it. I’d love to us having a really steady stream of novels coming out, like, maybe 10 novels a year, as well as 4 anthologies and all the short stories, novellas, and novelettes. I would definitely like to see our books on some bookshelves. I think that that’s achievable and probably – I mean, honestly, I think all of this is achievable, or most of this is achievable in a shorter time frame than five years. Like, I think I can probably have books on bookshelves sometime in 2024 – bookstore bookshelves, I mean. And I also – I think I’d love to see a pretty solid cadre of artists and authors who are working with us consistently. I’d love to be doing several major art projects a year, so like – tarot decks, art books, card books – I feel like there’s a lot of other really obviously stuff and my brain is just totally blank right now. But you get the idea. So not just author projects, but also projects that are sort of the artist equivalent of a novel as it were. And…yeah. I’d just really like to see us keep growing and keep doing what we’re doing. I think we’re on a good track.

How do small presses in general (and Duck Prints Press specifically) differ from tradpub?

@duckprintspress

How do small presses and Duck Prints Press differ from traditional publication presses? It turns out there lots of ways we’re different! #booktok #smallpress #smallpressmonth #publishing #duckprintspress

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Transcription: Unforth here again from Duck Prints Press, answering questions about the press for Small Press Month. I’m going to try filming this one with my right hand holding the camera, which for some reason seems much harder. And this is our last question for small press – Small Press Month. How is one 3-word phrase something bumbling in so many of these videos? The world will never know. “How do small presses in general, or Duck Prints Press in particular, differ from traditional public – tradpub – traditional publication presses?” I mean, certainly size. I mean, those places that have entire departments to do things that I do all of myself or do all of, do most of with the support or 2 or 3 other people. I mean, we’re almost up to having an editing department. We’ve got 12 or 13 people now helping with editing. But, I mean, we still only have on lead editor, like for things like anthologies, it’s still – I’m still the last say. Nobody else has yet been able to step up and be a lead editor, though I’m looking forward to that as something we might do maybe next year. Things like, I mean, selection process, transparency, I mean obviously we’re not a public company, we’re not traded. We don’t have investors. We don’t have stockholders. Things like that. So, yeah, I mean, it’s honestly it’s so different that it’s hard to say how different all of it is. I would say this is not about presses in general, I think we’re pretty atypical in how we handle these things even among presses – small presses, I should say. I’m not trying to exceptionalize us, like, I’m sure there are other places doing things similar to what we’re doing. But I certainly don’t know what they are, so I can’t like shout them out like “hey that place does what we’re doing!” Yeah, it’s sort of different on every level. In ways, like, we don’t work through agents at all. We don’t take unsolicited manuscripts ever. Our recruitment strategies are totally different. Our marketing strategies are totally different. You know, we’re – we really came at this as fans, first, and we looked at kind of what – what makes a fan thing succeed, whether that this is a new fanwork, or a zine, or a pay-for-production campaign, whatever it is. What are the things we’ve seen and been involved in that have worked that have done that. We tried to emulate that because we’re fans and we expect our audience to be fans, so we decided to take an approach using methods that are tried-and-true in fandom, and applying them to our original work. And, yeah, from bottom to top, that is just totally different than what trad pub does.

Outro

@duckprintspress

One last message from Claire as we wrap up Small Press Month. We hope you all enjoyed these as much as we did! Do you have any additional questions? Drop them here! #booktok #smallpress #smallpressmonth #publishing #duckprintspress

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Transcription: Hey hey, so one last time here with unforth. That’s me. My real name is Claire, my pen name is Nina Waters. I am the owner and founder of Duck Prints Press, which is a small press that works with fan authors and fan artists and fan creators to publish and share our original work. We’ve been celebrating Small Press Month all through March, answering a whole mess of questions that we got from our Discord members. We hope that you’ve found these interviews interesting. I’ve honestly never done anything like this before. I have no idea if I’m doing a good job. But I hope you’ve enjoyed them. They’ve been interesting questions to think about and to answer, and I look forward to sort of opening up dialogues about any of these topics. If you’ve seen anything, heard anything, read anything in any of our posts on this topic that got you thinking, we would love to hear more about that. So, probably you know – I expect I’m gonna use this last video in a master post that links to all the others, check them out! We answered a bunch of questions about why we exists, what we do, who we work with, how we’re different, and we’d love you to get more involved. So don’t be a stranger, okay? And yeah, that’s again, I’m Claire/unforth, this has been all about Duck Prints Press, duckprintspress.com, in case that wasn’t really obvious, and um. Yeah. I hope you have a great day. And in conclusion, you guys – you guys want to see the snow? It’s been snowing the whole time I did this. It’s really pretty outside, take a look. Hopefully you’re not just seeing, like, tons of bug wire right now cause I can’t really see how good a view you’re getting, but yeah it’s really snowy outside of my office right now. Hopefully that wasn’t just, like, 10 seconds of just like glaring white light. If it was, I’m really sorry. Have a good one, everyone. Bye!


Thanks for joining us for Small Press Month, y’all, and if you’ve got any questions we didn’t answer, we encourage you to check out our FAQ, comment on this post, or drop us an ask on Tumblr!

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Recognizing AI Generated Images, Danmei Edition

Note: this is cross-posted from an account I run, mdzsartreblogs, on Tumblr. You can read the original post here.

Heyo, @unforth here! I run some danmei art blogs (@mdzsartreblogs, @tgcfartreblogs, @svsssartreblogs, @zhenhunartreblogs, @erhaartreblogs, @dmbjartreblogs, @tykartreblogs, and @cnovelartreblogs) which means I see a LOT of danmei art, and I go through the main fandom tags more-or-less every day.

Today, for the first time, I spotted someone posting AI-generated images (I refuse to call them AI “art” – and to be clear, that’s correct of me, because at least in the US it literally LEGALLY isn’t art) without any label indicating they were AI generated. I am not necessarily against the existence of AI-generated images (though really…considering all the legal issues and the risks of misuse, I’m basically against them); I think they potentially have uses in certain contexts (such as for making references) and I also think that regardless of our opinions, we’re stuck with them, but they’re also clearly not art and I don’t reblog them to the art side blogs.

The images I spotted today had multiple “tells,” but they were still accumulating notes, and I thought it might be a good moment to step back and point out some of the more obvious tells because my sense is that a LOT of people are against AI-generated images being treated as art, and that these people wouldn’t want to support an AI-generator user who tried to foist off their work as actual artwork, but that people don’t actually necessarily know how to IDENTIFY those works and therefore can inadvertently reblog works that they’d never support if they were correctly identified. (Similar to how the person who reposts and says “credit to the artist” is an asshole but they’re not the same as someone who reposts without any credit at all and goes out of their way to make it look like they ARE the artist when they’re not).

Toward that end, I’ve downloaded all the images I spotted on this person’s account and I’m going to use them to highlight the things that led me to think they were AI art – they posted a total of 5 images to a few major danmei tags the last couple days, and several other images not to specific fandoms (I examined 8 images total). The first couple I was suspicious, but it wasn’t til this morning that I spotted one so obvious that it couldn’t be anything BUT AI art. I am NOT going to name the person who did this. The purpose of this post is purely educational. I have no interest whatsoever in bullying one rando. Please don’t try to identify them; who they are is genuinely irrelevant, what matters is learning how to recognize AI art in general and not spreading it around, just like the goal of education about reposting is to help make sure that people who repost don’t get notes on their theft, to help people recognize the signs so that the incentive to be dishonest about this stuff is removed.

But first: Why is treating AI-generated images as art bad?

I’m no expert and this won’t be exhaustive, but I do think it’s important to first discuss why this matters.

On the surface, it’s PERHAPS harmless for someone to post AI-generated images provided that the image is clearly labeled as AI-generated. I say “perhaps” because in the end, as far as I’m aware, there isn’t a single AI-generation engine that’s built on legally-sourced artwork. Every AI (again, to the best of my knowledge) has been trained using copyrighted images usually without the permission of the artists. Indeed, this is the source of multiple current lawsuits. (and another)

But putting that aside (as if it can be put aside that AI image generators are literally unethically built), it’s still problematic to support the images being treated as art. Artists spend thousands of hours learning their craft, honing it, sharing their creations, building their audiences. This is what they sell when they offer commissions, prints, etc. This can never be replicated by a computer, and to treat an AI-generated image as in any way equivalent is honestly rude, inappropriate, disgusting imo. This isn’t “harmless”; supporting AI image creation engines is damaging to real people and their actual livelihoods. Like, the images might be beautiful, but they’re not art. I’m honestly dreading someone managing to convince fandom that their AI-generated works are actual art, and then cashing in on commissions, prints, etc., because people can’t be fussed to learn the difference. We really can’t let this happen, guys. Fanartists are one of the most vibrant, important, prominent groups in all our fandoms, and we have to support them and do our part to protect them.

As if those two points aren’t enough, there’s already growing evidence that AI-generated works are being used to further propagandists. There are false images circulating of violence at protests, deep-fakes of various kinds that are helping the worst elements of society to push their horrid agendas. As long as that’s a facet of AI-generated works, they’ll always be dangerous.

I could go on, but really this isn’t the main point of my post and I don’t want to get bogged down. Other people have said more eloquently than I why AI-generated images are bad. Read those. (I tried to find a good one to link but sadly failed; if anyone knows a good post, feel free to send it and I’ll add the link to the post).

Basically: I think a legally trained AI-image generator that had built-in clear watermarks could be a fun toy for people who want reference images or just to play with making pseudo-art. But…that’s not what we have, and what we do have is built on theft and supports dystopia so, uh. Yeah fuck AI-generated images.

How to recognize AI-Generated Images Made in an Eastern Danmei Art Style

NOTE: I LEARNED ALL THE BASICS ON SPOTTING AI-GENERATED IMAGES FROM THIS POST. I’ll own I still kinda had the wool over my eyes until I read that post – I knew AI stuff was out there but I hadn’t really looked closely enough to have my eyes open for specific signs. Reading that entire post taught me a lot, and what I learned is the foundation of this post.

This post shouldn’t be treated as a universal guide. I’m specifically looking at the tells when AI is emulating the kind of art that people in danmei fandoms often see coming from Weibo and other Chinese, Japanese, and Korean platforms, works made by real artists. For example, the work of Foxking (狐狸大王a), kokirapsd, and Changyang (who is an official artist for MDZS, TGCF, and other danmei works). This work shares a smooth use of color, an aim toward a certain flavor of realism, an ethereal quality to the lighting, and many other features. (Disclaimer: I am not an artist. Putting things in arty terms is really not my forte. Sorry.)

So, that’s what these AI-generated images are emulating. And on the surface, they look good! Like…

…that’s uncontestably a pretty picture (the white box is covering the “artist’s” watermark.) And on a glance, it doesn’t necessarily scream “AI generated”! But the devil is in the details, and the details are what this post is about. And that picture? Is definitely AI generated.

This post is based on 8 works I grabbed from a single person’s account, all posted as their own work and watermarked as such. Some of the things that are giveaways only really show when looking at multiple pieces. I’m gonna start with those, and then I’ll highlight some of the specifics I spotted that caused me to go from “suspicious” to “oh yeah no these are definitely not art.”

Sign 1: all the images are the exact same size. I mean, to the pixel: 512 x 682 pixels (or 682 x 512, depending on landscape or portrait orientation). This makes zero sense. Why would an artist trim all their pieces to that size? It’s not the ideal Tumblr display size (that’s 500 x 750 pixels). If you check any actual artist’s page and look at the full-size of several of their images, they’ll all be different sizes as they trimmed, refined, and otherwise targeted around their original canvas size to get the results they wanted.

Sign 2: pixelated. At the shrunken size displayed on, say, a mobile Tumblr feed, the image looks fine, but even just opening the full size upload, the whole thing is pixelated. Now, this is probably the least useful sign; a lot of artists reduce the resolution/dpi/etc. on their uploaded works so that people don’t steal them. But, taken in conjunction with everything else, it’s definitely a sign.

Those are the two most obvious overall things – the things I didn’t notice until I looked at all the uploads. The specifics are really what tells, though. Which leads to…

Sign 3: the overall work appears to have a very high degree of polish, as if it were made by an artist who really really knows what they’re doing, but on inspection – sometimes even on really, REALLY cursory inspect – the details make zero sense and reflect the kinds of mistakes that a real artist would never make.

So, here’s the image that I saw that “gave it away” to me, and caused me to re-examine the images that had first struck me as off but that I hadn’t been able to immediately put my finger on the problem. I’ve circled some of the spots that are flagrant.

Do you see yet? Yes? Awesome, you’re getting it. No? Okay, let’s go point by point, with close ups.

Sign 4: HANDS. Hands are currently AI’s biggest weakness, though they’ve been getting better quickly and honestly that’s terrifying. But whatever AI generated this picture clearly doesn’t get hands yet, because that hand is truly an eldritch horror. Look at this thing:

It has two palms. It has seven fingers. It’s basically two hands overlaid over each other, except one of those hands only has four fingers and the other has three. Seeing this hand was how I went from “umm…maybe they’re fake? Maybe they’re not???” to “oh god why is ANYONE reblogging this when it’s this obvious?” WATCH THE HANDS. (Go back up to that first one posted and look at the hand, you’ll see. Or just look right below at this crop.) Here’s some other hands:

Sign 5: Hair and shadows. Once I started inspecting these images, the shadows of the hair on the face was one of the things that was most consistently fucked up across all the uploaded pictures. Take a look:

There’s shadows of tendrils on the forehead, but there’s no corresponding hair that could possibly have made those shadows. Likewise there’s a whole bunch of shadows on the cheeks. Where are those coming from? There’s no possible source in the rest of the image. Here’s some other hair with unrelated wonky shadows:

Sign 6: Decorative motifs that are really just meaningless squiggles. Like, artists, especially those who make fanart, put actual thought into what the small motifs are on their works. Like, in TGCF, an artist will often use a butterfly motif or a flower petal motif to reflect things about the characters. An AI, though, can only approximate a pattern and it can’t imbue those with meanings. So you end up with this:

What is that? It’s nothing, that’s what. It’s a bunch of squiggles. Here’s some other meaningless squiggle motifs (and a more zoomed-in version of the one just above):

Sign 7: closely related to meaningless squiggle motifs is motifs that DO look like something, but aren’t followed through in any way that makes sense. For example, an outer garment where the motifs on the left and the right shoulder/chest are completely different, or a piece of cloth that’s supposed to be all one piece but that that has different patterns on different sections of it. Both of these happen in the example piece, see?

The first images on the top left is the left and right shoulder side by side. The right side has a scalloped edge; the left doesn’t. Likewise, in the right top picture, you can see the two under-robe lapels; one has a gold decoration and the other doesn’t. And then the third/bottom image shows three sections of the veil. One (on the left) has that kind of blue arcy decoration, which doesn’t follow the folds of the cloth very well and looks weird and appears at one point to be OVER the hair instead of behind it. The second, on top of the bottom images, shows a similar motif, except now it’s gold, and it looks more like a hair decoration than like part of the veil. The third is also part of the same veil but it has no decorations at all. Nothing about this makes any sense whatsoever. Why would any artist intentionally do it that way? Or, more specifically, why would any artist who has this apparent level of technical skill ever make a mistake like this?

They wouldn’t.

Some more nonsensical patterns, bad mirrors, etc. (I often put left/right shoulders side by side so that it’d be clearer, sorry if it’s weird):

Sign 8: bizarre architecture, weird furniture, etc. Most of the images I’m examining for this post have only partial backgrounds, so it’s hard to really focus on this, but it’s something that the post I linked (this one) talks about a lot. So, like, an artist will put actual thought into how their construction works, but an AI won’t because an AI can’t. There’s no background in my main example image, but take a look at this from another of my images:

On a glance it’s beautiful. On a few seconds actually staring it’s just fucking bizarre. The part of the ceiling on the right appears to be domed maybe? But then there’s a hard angle, then another. The windows on the right have lots of panes, but then the one on the middle-left is just a single panel, and the ones on the far left have a complete different pane model. Meanwhile, also on the left side at the middle, there’s that dark gray…something…with an arch that mimics the background arches except it goes no where, connects to nothing, and has no apparent relationship to anything else going on architecturally. And, while the ceiling curves, the back wall is straight AND shows more arches in the background even though the ceiling looks to end. And yes, some of this is possible architecture, but taken as a whole, it’s just gibberish. Why would anyone who paints THAT WELL paint a building to look like THAT? They wouldn’t. It’s nonsense. It’s the art equivalent of word salad. When we look at a sentence and it’s like “dog makes a rhythmical salad to betray on the frame time plot” it almost resembles something that might mean something but it’s clearly nonsense. This background is that sentence, as art.

Sign 9: all kinds of little things that make zero sense. In the example image, I circled where a section of the hair goes BELOW the inner robe. That’s not impossible but it just makes zero sense. As with many of these, it’s the kind of thing that taken alone, I’d probably just think “well, that was A Choice,” but combined with all the other weird things it stands out as another sign that something here is really, really off. Here’s a collection of similar “wtf?” moments I spotted across the images I looked at (I’m worried I’m gonna hit the Tumblr image cap, hence throwing these all in one, lol.)

You have to remember that an actual artist will do things for a reason. And we, as viewers, are so used to viewing art with that in mind that we often fill in reasons even when there aren’t. Like, in the image just about this, I said, “what the heck are these flowers growing on?” And honestly, I COULD come up with explanations. But that doesn’t mean it actually makes sense, and there’s no REASON for it whatsoever. The theoretical same flowers are, in a different shot, growing unsupported! So…what gives??? The answer is nothing gives. Because these pieces are nothing. The AI has no reason, it’s just tossing in random aesthetic pieces together in a mishmash, and the person who generated them is just re-generating and refining until they get something that looks “close enough” to what they wanted. It never was supposed to make sense, so of course it doesn’t.

In conclusion…

After years of effort, artists have gotten across to most of fandom that reposts are bad, and helped us learn strategies for helping us recognize reposts, and given us an idea of what to do when we find one.

Fandom is just at the beginning of this process as it applies to AI-generated images. There’s a LOT of education that has to be done – about why AI-generated images are bad (the unethical training using copyrighted images without permission is, imo, critical to understanding this), and about how to spot them, and then finally about what to do when you DO find them.

With reposts, we know “tell original artist, DCMA takedowns, etc.” That’s not the same with these AI-images. There’s no original owner. There’s no owner at all – in the US, at least, they literally cannot be copyrighted. Which is why I’m not even worrying about “credit” on this post – there’s nothing stolen, cause there’s nothing made. So what should you do?

Nothing. The answer is, just as the creator has essentially done nothing, you should also do nothing. Don’t engage. Don’t reblog. Don’t commission the creator or buy their art prints. If they do it persistently and it bothers you, block them. If you see one you really like, and decide to reblog it, fine, go for it, but mark it clearly – put in the ACTUAL COMMENTS (not just in the tags!) that it’s AI art, and that you thought it was pretty anyway. But honestly, it’d be better to not engage, especially since as this grows it’s inevitable that some actual artists are going to start getting accused of posting AI-generated images by over-zealous people. Everyone who gets a shadow wrong isn’t posting AI-generated images. A lot of these details are insanely difficult to get correct, and lots of even very skilled, accomplished artists, if you go over their work with a magnifying glass you’re going to find at least some of these things, some weirdnesses that make no sense, some shadows that are off, some fingers that are just ugh (really, getting hands wrong is so relatable. hands are the fucking worst). It’s not about “this is bad art/not art because the hand is wrong,” it’s specifically about the ways that it’s wrong, the way a computer randomly throws pieces together versus how actual people make actual mistakes. It’s all of the little signs taken as a whole to say “no one who could produce a piece that, on the surface, looks this nice, could possibly make THIS MANY small ‘mistakes.'”

The absolute best thing you can do if you see AI-generated images being treated as real art is just nothing. Support actual artists you love, and don’t spread the fakes.

Thanks for your time, everyone. Good luck avoiding AI-generated pieces in the future, please signal boost this, and feel free to get in touch if you think I can help you with anything related to this.

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Celebrate National Grammar Day with 6 of Our Favorite Grammar Quirks!

What are your favorite things in grammar?

Here are some of ours!

Interrobang: a punction mark ‽ designed for use especially at the end of an exclamatory rhetorical question.

Example: You call that a cat‽

Kenning: a metaphorical compound word or phrase used especially in Old English and Old Norse poetry.

Example: a bone-cage = a body.

Oxford Comma: a comma used to separate the second-to-last item in a list from a final item introduced by the conjunction and or or

Example: She thanked her parents, Dolly Parton, and Jay-Z.

Em Dash: a dash that is one em wide; the em dash can function like a comma, a colon, or a parenthesis

Example: I and Justin—no not that one, the other Justin—are going out tonight.

Garden Path Sentences: a grammatically correct sentence that starts in such a way that a reader’s most likely interpretation will be incorrect

Example: The old man the boat.

Zeugma: the use of a word to modify or govern two or more words, usually in such a manner that it applies to each in a different sense or makes sense with only one

Example: She opened the door and her heart to the homeless boy.


Post contributors: theirprofoundbond, boneturtle, unforth, owlish, and shadaras.

Who we are: Duck Prints Press LLC is an independent publisher based in New York State. Our founding vision is to help fanfiction authors navigate the complex process of bringing their original works from first draft to print, culminating in publishing their work under our imprint. We are particularly dedicated to working with queer authors and publishing stories featuring characters from across the LGBTQIA+ spectrum. Love what we do? Want to make sure you don’t miss the announcement for future giveaways? Sign up for our monthly newsletter and get previews, behind-the-scenes information, coupons, and more!