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Our Favorite Queer Books for Children

Many members of Duck Prints Press have young children, so we got to talking about what our favorite queer children’s stories are. These are all picture books – aimed at children under 8. This list doesn’t include any middle grade or young adult books.

Note that, regarding any individual book, we’re not saying, “this is flawless,” “this is perfect rep,” or “this is the right book for everyone/every situation/every family.” I’ve included a few notes about each book, to give a general idea of the representation it incorporates, but we always recommend that you read the full descriptions at the links provided (which are to Bookshop.org whenever possible), assess the book, borrow it from the library – basically, give it a read, and assess for yourself, and always pick with your own situation and sensibilities in mind when buying books for the young children in your life!

The list is in alphabetical order by book title.

A is for Activist

Author and Illustrator: Innosanto Nagara

An alphabet book, with intersectionality, disability, race, queerness, and more.


The Adventures of Honey and Leon 

Author: Alan Cumming

Illustrator: Grant Shaffer

mlm, semi-autobiographical.

Book 1 | Book 2


And Tango Makes Three

Authors: Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell

Illustrator: Henry Cole

mlm, queer parents, adoption, based on a true story.


Be Who You Are 

Author: Jennifer Carr

Illustrator: Ben Rumback

Trans girl, supportive family. 


Charlotte, Wander On

Author: Matt Cubberly

Illustrator: Irina Kovalova

(you’ll have to read and find out!)


A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo 

Author: Jill Twiss

Illustrator: E. G. Keller

mlm, politics.


Everywhere Babies

Author: Susan Meyers

Illustrator: Marla Frazee

wlw, mlm. Queer parents. Stealth.


The Frog and Toad Collection

Author and Illustrator: Arnold Lobel

mlm. Stealth.


Heather Has Two Mommies

Author: Lesléa Newman

Illustrator: Laura Cornell

wlw, queer parents


I Am Jazz

Authors: Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings

Illustrator: Shelagh McNicholas

Trans girl, supportive parents. Auto-biographical.


Intersectional Allies

Authors: Chelsea Johnson, LaToya Council, Carolyn Choi

Illustrator: Ashley Seil Smith

Intersectionality, focused on disability, race, and religion.


Jaime is Jaime

Author: Afsaneh Moradian

Illustrator: Maria Bogade

Gender non-conformity


Julian is a Mermaid

Author and Illustrator: Jessica Love

Gender non-conformity.


Llama Glamarama

Author: Simon James Green

Illustrator: Garry Parsons

Gender non-conformity.


My Friends and Me

Author: Stephanie Stansbie

Illustrator: Katy Halford

mlm, wlw. Queer parents.


Neither

Author and Illustrator: Arlie Anderson

Gender non-conformity; can also be seen as an allegory for non-binary and/or intersex and/or other forms of gender queerness. Stealth.


One Dad, Two Dads, Brown Dad, Blue Dad

Author: Johnny Valentine

Illustrator: Melody Sarecky

mlm. Queer parents.


Quackers

Author and Illustrator: Liz Wong

Gender non-conformity; can also be seen as an allegory for non-binary and/or trans and/or other forms of gender queerness. Stealth.


Rainbow 

Author: Michael Genhart

Illustrator: Anne Passchier

“A First Book of Pride” – the cover says it best. 


Red: A Crayon Story

Author and Illustrator: Michael Hall

Trans children and/or children with trans parents.


She’s My Dad

Author: Sarah Savage

Illustrator: Joules Garcia

Transgender adult/parent.


The Story of Ferdinand 

Author: Munro Leaf

Illustrator: Robert Lawson

Gender non-conformity. Stealth.


Unicorn Day

Author: Diana Murray

Illustrator: Luke Flowers

Gender non-conformity and/or trans and/or genderqueer, depending how you look at it.


We’re All Wonders

Author and Illustrator: R. J. Palacio

Self-acceptance, with an emphasis on neurodivergence, disability, and queerness.


What Are Your Words? A Book About Pronouns

Author: Katherine Locke

Illustrator: Anne Passchier

About pronouns. Non-binary representation and neo-pronouns included.


What Colour is Love?

Author: Linda Strachan

Illustrator: David Wojtowycz

Diversity.


Worm Loves Worm 

Author: J. J. Austrian

Illustrator: Mike Curato

wlw/mlm. Gender non-conformity.


The Pea that Was Me Series

Author and Illustrator: Kimberly Kluger-Bell

Different kinds of pregnancies, including mlm and wlw parents.

An Egg and Sperm | Egg Donation | Embryo Donation | IVF | Sperm Donation | A Single Mom and Sperm Donor | Two Dads, Egg Donation and Surrogacy | Two Moms and Sperm Donor


Contributions by: unforth, Willa, nottesilhouette, foxymoley, FallingIntoBlue, Owlish, Annabeth, nickelkeep, fpwoper


So, what are your favorite queer picture books?

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Ten Things We Hate About Trad Pub

Often when I say “I’ve started a small press; we publish the works of those who have trouble breaking into traditional publishing!” what people seem to hear is “me and a bunch of sad saps couldn’t sell our books in the Real World so we’ve made our own place with lower standards.” For those with minimal understanding of traditional publishing (trad pub), this reaction is perhaps understandable? But, truly, there are many things to hate about traditional publishing (and, don’t get me wrong – there are things to love about trad pub, too, but that’s not what this list is about) and it’s entirely reasonable for even highly accomplished authors to have no interest in running the gauntlet of genre restrictions, editorial control, hazing, long waits, and more, that make trad pub at best, um, challenging, and at worst, utterly inaccessible to many authors – even excellent ones.

Written in collaboration with @jhoomwrites, with input from @ramblingandpie, here is a list of ten things that we at Duck Prints Press detest about trad pub, why we hate it, and why/how we think things should be different!

(Needless to say, part of why we created Duck Prints Press was to…not do any of these things… so if you’re a writer looking for a publishing home, and you hate these things, too, and want to write with a Press that doesn’t do them…maybe come say hi?)

1. Work lengths dictated by genre and/or author experience.

Romance novels can’t be longer than 90,000 words or they won’t sell! New authors shouldn’t try to market a novel longer than 100,000 words!

A good story is a good story is a good story. Longer genre works give authors the chance to explore their themes and develop their plots. How often an author has been published shouldn’t put a cap on the length of their work.

2. Editors assert control of story events…except when they don’t.

If you don’t change this plot point, the book won’t market well. Oh, you’re a ten-time bestseller? Write whatever you want, even if it doesn’t make sense we know people will buy it.

Sometimes, a beta or an editor will point out that an aspect of a story doesn’t work – because it’s nonsensical, illogical, Deus ex Machina, etc. – and in those cases it’s of course reasonable for an editor to say, “This doesn’t work and we recommend changing it, for these reasons…” However, when that list of reasons begins and ends with, “…because it won’t sell…” that’s a problem, especially because this is so often applied as a double standard. We’ve all read bestsellers with major plot issues, but those authors get a “bye” because editors don’t want to exert to heavy a hand and risk a proven seller, but with a new, less experienced, or worse-selling author, the gloves come off (even though evidence suggests time and again that publishers’ ability to predict what will sell well is at best low and at worst nonexistent.)

3. A billion rejection letters as a required rite of passage (especially when the letters aren’t helpful in pinpointing why a work has been rejected or how the author can improve).

Well, my first book was rejected by a hundred Presses before it was accepted! How many rejection letters did you get before you got a bite? What, only one or two? Oh…

How often one succeeds or fails to get published shouldn’t be treated as a form of hazing, and we all know that how often someone gets rejected or accepted has essentially no bearing on how good a writer they are. Plenty of schlock goes out into the world after being accepted on the first or second try…and so does plenty of good stuff! Likewise, plenty of schlock will get rejected 100 times but due to persistence, luck, circumstances, whatever, finally find a home, and plenty of good stuff will also get rejected 100 times before being publishing. Rejections (or lack there of) as a point of pride or as a means of judging others needs to die as a rite of passage among authors.

4. Query letters, for so many reasons.

Summarize all your hard work in a single page! Tell us who you’re like as an author and what books your story is like, so we can gauge how well it’ll sell based on two sentences about it! Format it exactly the way we say or we won’t even consider you!

For publishers, agents, and editors who have slush piles as tall as Mount Everest…we get it. There has to be a way to differentiate. We don’t blame you. Every creative writing class, NaNoWriMo pep talk, and college lit department combine to send out hundreds of thousands of people who think all they need to do to become the next Ernest Hemingway is string a sentence together. There has to be some way to sort through that pile…but God, can’t there be a better way than query letters? Especially since even with query letters being used it often takes months or years to hear back, and…

5. “Simultaneous submissions prohibited.”

No, we don’t know when we’ll get to your query, but we’ll throw it out instantly if you have the audacity to shop around while you wait for us.

The combination of “no simultaneous submissions” with the query letter bottleneck makes success slow and arduous. It disadvantages everyone who aims to write full-time but doesn’t have another income source (their own, or a parents’, or a spouse’s, or, or or). The result is that entire classes of people are edged out of publishing solely because the process, especially for writers early in their career, moves so glacially that people have to earn a living while they wait, and it’s so hard to, for example, work two jobs and raise a family and also somehow find the time to write. Especially considering that the standard advice for dealing with “no simultaneous submissions” is “just write something else while you wait!” …the whole system screams privilege.

6. Genres are boxes that must be fit into and adhered to.

Your protagonist is 18? Then obviously your book is Young Adult. It doesn’t matter how smutty your book is, erotica books must have sex within the first three chapters, ideally in the first chapter. Sorry, we’re a fantasy publisher, if you have a technological element you don’t belong here…

While some genre boxes have been becoming more like mesh cages of late, with some flow of content allowed in and out, many remain stiff prisons that constrict the kinds of stories people can tell. Even basic cross-genre works often struggle to find a place, and there’s no reason for it beyond “if we can’t pigeon-hole a story, it’s harder to sell.” This edges out many innovative, creative works. It also disadvantages people who aren’t as familiar with genre rules. And don’t get me wrong – this isn’t an argument that, for example, the romance genre would be improved by opening up to stories that don’t have “happily ever afters.” Instead, it’s pointing out – there should also be a home for, say, a space opera with a side romance, an erotica scene, and a happily-for-now ending. Occasionally, works breakthrough, but for the most part stories that don’t conform never see the light of day (or, they do, but only after Point 2 – trad pub editors insist that the elements most “outside” the box be removed or revised).

7. The lines between romance and erotica are arbitrary, random, and hetero- and cis-normative.

This modern romance novel won’t sell if it doesn’t have an explicit sex scene, but God forbid you call a penis a penis. Oh, no, this is far too explicit, even though the book only has one mlm sex scene, this is erotica.

The difference between “romance” and “erotica” might not matter so much if not for the stigmas attached to erotica and the huge difference in marketability and audience. The difference between “romance” and “erotica” also might not matter so much if not for the fact that, so often, even incredibly raunchy stories that feature cis straight male/cis straight female sex scenes are shelved as romance, but the moment the sex is between people of the same gender, and/or a trans or genderqueer person is involved, and/or the relationship is polyamorous, and/or the characters involved are literally anything other than a cis straight male pleasuring a cis straight female in a “standard” way (cunnilingus welcome, pegging need not apply)…then the story is erotica. Two identical stories will get assigned different genres based on who the people having sex are, and also based on the “skill” of the author to use ludicrous euphemisms (instead of just…calling body parts what they’re called…), and it’s insane. Non-con can be a “romance” novel, even if it’s graphically described. “50 Shades of Gray” can sell millions of copies, even containing BDSM. But the word “vagina” gets used once…bam, erotica. (Seriously, the only standard that should matter is the Envelope Analogy).

8. Authors are expected to do a lot of their own legwork (eg advertising) but then don’t reap the benefits.

Okay, so, you’re going to get an advance of $2,500 on this, your first novel, and a royalty rate of 5% if and only if your advance sells out…so you’d better get out there and market! Wait, what do you mean you don’t have a following? Guess you’re never selling out your advance…

Trad pub can generally be relied on to do some marketing – so this item is perhaps better seen as an indictment of more mid-sized Presses – but, basically, if an author has to do the majority of the work themselves, then why aren’t they getting paid more? What’s the actual benefit to going the large press/trad pub route if it’s not going to get the book into more hands? It’s especially strange that this continues to be a major issue when self-publishing (which also requires doing one’s own marketing) garners 60%+ royalty rates. Yes, the author doesn’t get an advance, and they don’t get the cache of ~well I was published by…~, but considering some Presses require parts of advances to get paid back if the initial run doesn’t sell out, and cache doesn’t put food on the table…pay models have really, really got to change.

9. Fanfiction writing doesn’t count as writing experience

Hey there Basic White Dude, we see you’ve graduated summa cum laude from A Big Fancy Expensive School. Of course we’ll set you up to publish your first novel you haven’t actually quite finished writing yet. Oh, Fanperson, you’ve written 15 novels for your favorite fandom in the last 4 years? Get to the back of the line!

Do I really need to explain this? The only way to get better at writing is to write. Placing fanfiction on official trad pub “do not interact” lists is idiotic, especially considering many of the other items on this list. (They know how to engage readers! They have existing followings! They understand genre and tropes!) Being a fanfiction writer should absolutely be a marketable “I am a writer” skill. Nuff said. (To be clear, I’m not saying publishers should publish fanfiction, I’m saying that being a fanfiction writer is relevant and important experience that should be given weight when considering an author’s qualifications, similar to, say, publishing in a university’s quarterly.)

10. Tagging conventions (read: lack thereof).

Oh, did I trigger you? Hahahaha. Good luck with that.

We rate movies so that people can avoid content they don’t like. Same with TV shows and video games. Increasingly, those ratings aren’t just “R – adult audiences,” either; they contain information about the nature of the story elements that have led to the rating (“blood and gore,” “alcohol reference,” “cartoon violence,” “drug reference,” “sexual violence,” “use of tobacco,” and many, many more). So why is it that I can read a book and, without warning, be surprised by incest, rape, graphic violence, explicit language, glorification of drug and alcohol use, and so so much more? That it’s left to readers to look up spoilers to ensure that they’re not exposed to content that could be upsetting or inappropriate for their children or, or, or, is insane. So often, too, authors cling to “but we don’t want to give away our story,” as if video game makes and other media makers do want to give away their stories. This shouldn’t be about author egos or ~originality~ (as if that’s even a thing)…it should be about helping readers make informed purchasing decisions. It’s way, way past time that major market books include content warnings.

Thank you for joining us, this has been our extended rant about how frustrated we are with traditional publishing. Helpful? No. Cathartic? Most definitely yes. 🤣

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Writer Self-Challenge Bingo

Usually, writing bingos are either fandom-specific, ship-specific, or linked to certain themes or tropes. A couple months ago, we at Duck Prints Press got to talking – what if there was a “fulfill this challenge!” style bingo aimed at writers? Instead of squares for tropes or ships or kinks, the squares for this bingo are writing challenges, such as “write x words in a sitting,” “participate in a sprint,” or “draw a map or floorplan for a location in your story.” We’ve been developing it on and off ever since, and now we’re ready to share the results!

We now have a list of 100 writing challenges (you can see the full list here), ranging from pretty darn easy to really hard (but we haven’t rated their difficulty – what’s easy for one writer will be hard for another, so a difficulty rating would be meaningless). We pre-generated a few cards, just for fun…

…or, you can use this link to generate your own!

We are not running this as a formal event. Sadly, we just don’t have time right now to make rules, handle sign ups, track participants, create custom bingo cards, etc. However, we don’t think we need to! Everything you need to run your personal writer self-challenge bingo is right in this post – if you’re the kind of writer who’d find something like this helpful, we encourage you to use one of our pre-gen cards, make your own, or even just use this idea as a launching-off point from which to make a challenge that fits your brain.

And, if you do choose to use a bingo card, and end up writing and posting any fic, we encourage you to add it to our AO3 collection, and/or tag us so we can reblog/retweet/boost it!

As long as you’re writing using strategies that help you, the rules don’t matter, so get out there and write that thing!

(and, if you have ideas for more writing challenges we can add to our list, we’d love to hear them, and we’ll potentially add them to our bingo card generator list!)

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Writing Prompts: Characters are a Doctor and a Patient

When we started considering Doctor/Patient as a theme for a prompt list, we had concerns: it has so many inherent potential consent issues, perhaps it would be better not to? But we had a few tempting ideas, and decided…why not give it a try? For the most part, we’ve tried to avoid consent issues, but of course some will crop up (especially depending on how a story written for one of these prompts actually goes!) and of course if the potential consent problems give you pause and you still want some prompts on this theme, nearly all of our suggestions can be read as platonic instead of romantic or sexual! So, without further ado…prompts!

1. That awkward moment when Doctor enters the examination room to meet their newest Patient…and it’s the barista they’ve been crushing on for months. (and yes, it’s mutual pining, and no, the barista didn’t realize that Doctor was their favorite customer.)

2. For years, Doctor has been developing feelings for Patient, but there was no appropriate way to express them, so Doctor makes small (and, they know, also inappropriate) notes (or poems, or doodles, or something similarly personal and really not supposed to be there) in Patient’s file. Patient finds out when they move away and have their records transferred…and they need to know more.

3. An urgent message comes through on subspace: the creatures of a distant planet need a Doctor, stat! Doctor’s ship jumps to hyper-speed to get there as fast as possible, and Doctor is set to treat the Patient(s)…only to discover that there is a massive pheromone incompatibility(…or compatibility, depending on one’s attitude and point of view) between the Doctor’s species and the Patient’s. They experience nigh-irresistible attraction, and it’s mutual, and that might be interesting to explore if the situation wasn’t so dire… 

4. Doctor and Patient coincidentally find each other vacationing at the same spot…which turns out to be a favorite among couples. Most of the events there are aimed at couples, and going solo is awkward at best, agonizing at worst. Neither knows anyone else there, and both are lonely, so they decide, maybe just for the week, they’ll play the couple.

5. Doctor sees Patient’s name on their docket for the day, and their first instinct is panic, because they and Patient dated in college (and Doctor is loathe to admit it but they definitely think of Patient as “the one that got away”) but Doctor is determined to be professional. They can handle this! Patient, on the other hand, only finds out that Doctor is their ex when they arrive. Some names are not at all common…and some are really, really common…how was Patient supposed to know?

6. Local snake oil dealer pretends to be Doctor, develops feels for Patient they’re duping, now has a serious problem. What do?!?!

7. The last thing Doctor wants is to treat their friends, and they have strict policy about that – no office privileges for people they know. Unfortunately, that policy is impossible to enforce when Doctor and friend-and-soon-to-be Patient get lost together while on a hike, and Patient falls down a ravine and is injured. Now, Doctor has no choice but to treat them…and that can’t help but expose some awkward truths about one or both of their feelings.

8. “Oh, I don’t date Doctors,” says (maybe, potential, could be) Patient. 

“Why not?” asks Doctor. 

“I mean, what if your specialty is something obscure, and I have a medical emergency, and you’re the only person in the tri-state area who can treat me? How awkward and awful would it be if that happened and we’re a couple? The ethics of it make my head hurt!” 

“…you…you realize I’m a Doctor of Philosophy, right?”

“…oh.”

“Yes. Oh.”

9. A bright light awakens Patient in the middle of the night, and they’re astonished as a person appears in their home…they blink until their eyes accustom to the light, and when they can finally make out who is there, they discover it’s Doctor. “Look, I don’t have time to explain,” Doctor says, crackling like they’re on a bed cell phone connection. “But you have to find a new Doctor. The future of the world depends on it!”

10. After trekking through the forest, surmounting mountains, and slogging through flooded valleys, Patient finally reaches the hut in which the only Doctor in the province arrives. Patient is in desperate need of help, and they’re prepared to beg for it if necessary…what they’re not prepared for is that their soulmark activates the instant they and Doctor lay eyes on each other.

11. There’s something nigglingly familiar about the person Patient is on a date with, but they don’t think much of it. There’s something nigglingly familiar about the person Doctor is on a date with, but they also don’t think much of it. And it’s a good date. So they go on another, and another, and another, and anyway, it’s somehow six months in before either realizes that they’re dating their Doctor/Patient. (“At least I have the excuse that I only ever see you in a lab coat when you’re treating me – what’s your excuse?” “Look, I’m a little face-blind, okay?”)

12. Doctor isn’t actually a Doctor, they just know a little herbalism because they love tea. Unfortunately, no one else in the caravan realizes that – and the tea is very good, and psychosomaticism is a very powerful force. They finally arrive at their destination, where Doctor had hoped to make a fresh start…and they’ve not been there five hours when Doctor is summoned to attend the local Royals. Apparently, the merchants have promised that Doctor can cure one of the Royals – the Patient’s illness – and the consequences for Doctor failing would be dire.

13. Patient has an hour to kill before their appointment with Doctor, so they scroll through their Grindr/Tinder/etc. until they find a promising hook-up…and their hook-up is Doctor, who also had some time to kill.

14. After a miraculous, innovative bit of medical magic, Doctor and Patient are invited to attend a high-profile conference at a fancy hotel. Unfortunately, the hotel’s receptionist staff misunderstood when the conference organizers indicated that Doctor and Patient are traveling together…so only book them one room, with one king bed. And by the time Doctor and Patient arrive, all the other rooms are booked by others attending the conference, so they’re stuck.

15. Patient is a Patient…but Patient is also a Doctor. In fact, they are Doctor’s Doctor. No, it wasn’t on purpose, and each time they see each other in a Patient/Doctor capacity (with either in either role!) they squabble and argue about how best to treat X, Y, and Z, and concede anything they get wrong begrudgingly, and praise the other for being right even more begrudgingly, and each swears – to each other, to their friends, to the nurses, to the schedulers and office staff, to other random Patients in the waiting room – that they’re definitely going to find a different Doctor before their next appointment. But neither ever does. And neither is brave enough to ask why not.

We hope you enjoy these prompts!

Now go forth, and write a thing!

Like these prompts? Consider supporting us! You can buy us a Ko-fi ( https://ko-fi.com/duckprintspress) or back us on Patreon (https://www.patreon.com/duckprintspress)! 

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Ten Quick Tips to Help Writers Edit Their Own Work

Learning to edit your own writing effectively and thoroughly is a difficult skill to learn. It can be especially hard to spot small errors when you, as the author, know what you meant to say – your eye will often gloss over what your document actually says. To learn to edit your work well requires practice and careful reading of work you admire and want to emulate – we could give advice on how to do that level, certainly, but no amount of advice will negate the need to work at it until you get the hang of it and experiment with different strategies until you find one that works for you. However, spotting small errors that are easy to overlook in your own work is a much more solvable problem. Here’s some suggestions to help you look at familiar words with fresh eyes!

  1. Write a first draft in a font you’re comfortable with (most of us here at DPP use either Times New Roman or Arial), and then when it’s time to edit, switch to a radically different font – like Comic Sans, or, if you struggle with sans serif fonts, Courier.
  2. Change the background color of your document. Do you usually write in day mode? Try editing in night mode! Do you usually write with a colored background to reduce eye strain? Try a different color, or white!
  3. Change the font color in your document. If you default to writing in black, try red, or, if doing this in tandem with a background color change, try switching the font color to one that looks just awful with your chosen background color.
  4. Change the font size in your document. This can be especially helpful because it’ll radically change where in any given line your words fall – it’s often harder to spot issues at the very end of lines, because our brain fills in the end when we move to the next line, so adjusting where things fall on the page can help.
  5. Switch what medium you’re working in – if you typed your first draft, print it out or re-write it by hand. If you hand wrote your first draft, edit it as you type it up!
  6. Read it out loud. Yes, the whole thing. Yes, every single word. This will help spot typos, missing words, weird commas, etc., and can also help identify sentences that are off, repetitive, or otherwise wonky.
  7. Alternatively, find someone else to read it outloud to you! You can take notes and make changes as you listen to them.
  8. If you use an outline, go back and compare your draft to the outline. This can help make sure you didn’t miss anything, and also doing a side-by-side reading can help find small things.
  9. Change the characters names using a simple find-and-replace, it can help it feel like you’re reading something different.
  10. Put it aside for a few weeks and work on other things, then come back and read it through straight, making no changes – read it like you’re a reader, rather than reading it like you’re the author, and try to spot what you may have left out or been unclear about.

Getting a story “clean” from a SPAG (spelling and grammar) point of view is hard, and even for an experienced copyeditor, it usually takes multiple read-throughs. If you’ve found it’s something you struggle with, one of the perks of the above suggestions is that nearly all can be tried with minimal effort – you’ll quickly be able to tell whether, for example, changing the font helps you or not. If it does help – great, you’ve found a new tool to help you edit! If it doesn’t help – there’s plenty more things on the list for you to try!

Do y’all have any different tricks you use to help you edit? Let us know, we’d love to expand our list!

@licieoic and @nottesilhouette (on Tumblr) contributed ideas to this list.

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Devililsh Details: Adjective Lists

As we do our final copyedit to catch any tiny errors that may have slipped through into the final version of Add Magic to Taste, I (@unforth, the Press’s lead editor) have been reinforcing and formalizing my knowledge of how to use punctuation when dealing with the following sentence structure:

adjective1 adjective2 noun

Whether commas and/or hyphens are needed depends primarily on two factors:

  1. Is adjective1 modifying adjective2, or are they both modifying the noun?
  2. Are adjective1 and adjective2 coordinate or cumulative adjectives?

I’m not going to get in-depth on this post about what coordinate and cumulative adjectives are – there’s already some great resources for that, such as this Writing Fundamentals Guide post and this article by Grammar Girl. Covering that as well as the below is too much for one post. Instead, this post will focus on strategies for telling the difference between three cases:

adjective1-adjective2 noun (Case 1)

adjective1, adjective2 noun (Case 2)

adjective1 adjective2 noun (Case 3)

For starters, carefully consider what the meaning of adjective1, adjective2, and noun is when they’re used together. As in, what, specifically, is being described, and what is being established about it? You (as editor or writer!) need to know what you’re actually trying to say before you can make sure it’s written in a grammatically correct way. You also need to keep in mind the context of your story, because that might change your aimed-for meaning (for example, in one story, a box being wooden might be an incidental description, and in another, a box being wooden might be absolutely essential and noteworthy, and that could potentially influence the punctuation).

Once you know what you’re trying to say (“I’m trying to say that the box is wooden and beautiful;” “I’m trying to say that the wooden box is beautiful;” “I’m trying to say that the beautiful box is made of wood;” etc.) analyze your options by taking your three words (adjective1, adjective2, and noun – though note that adjective2 may not look like an adjective – it’s often a noun or verb that’s functioning as an adjective, because it’s modifying the noun) and consider iterations of them as sentences.

  • Does adjective1 + noun make sense and, if it does, does it also preserve the essential meaning of adjective1 + adjective2 + noun? Which is to say – is the only difference that, if adjective2 is removed, noun is described a little less, but the meaning is still clear and is what the writer intended? (If yes, see Cases 2 and 3 below; if no, see Case 1 below)
  • Are adjective1 and adjective2 in the same or different adjective “categories”? In English, adjectives make the most sense if they’re used in an order determined by the category they fall into – you can read more about that in this Grammarly post. Different sources use different lists of “categories,” and what “order” they go in can vary contextually, but they are essentially: opinion (beautiful, ugly), size (big, thin), age (three-years-old, ancient), condition (worn, new-made), shape (square, cylindrical), color (blue, whitish), origin/nationality/religion (Muslim, London-based), material (wooden, painted), purpose (archival, athletic). If adjective1 and adjective2 are in the same category (large, wide house; slippery, slick spill) then you should most likely refer to Case 2 below; if they’re in different categories (slow rectangular train; beautiful archival paper) you should most likely refer to Case 3 below.)
  • Similarly, does adjective2 + noun make sense and, if it does, does it also preserve the essential meaning? (If yes, see Cases 2 and 3 below; if no, see Case 1 below)
  • If the sentence is reworded as “adjective1 and adjective2 noun” does it make sense and preserve the intended meaning? (If yes, see Case 2 below; if no, see Cases 1 and 3 below)
  • If the sentence is reworded as adjective2 adjective1 noun, does it make sense and preserve the intended meaning? (If yes, see Case 2 below; if no, see Cases 1 and 3 below)
  • Visualize your sentence as units – does each word function more-or-less “alone” or do they make most sense when imagined as couples, as in (adjective1 + adjective2) + noun makes the most sense (if yes, see Case 1 below), or adjective1 + (adjective2 + noun) makes the most sense (if yes, see Case 3 below)? (if neither makes more or less sense, see Case 2 below)
  • Try plugging your words into following examples – the one that makes sense and preserves meaning is almost certainly the one you want. Option 1: “the noun is adjective1 adjective2” (and doesn’t make sense if a word is put between adjective1 and adjective2, in which case go to Case 1 below). Option 2: “the noun is adjective1 and adjective2” (in which case, go to Case 2 below). Option 3: “the adjective2 noun is adjective1” (in which case, go to Case 3 below). This can be especially helpful for figuring out if you’re dealing with a case where context makes a difference the adjectives cumulative (because, as I said, sometimes “the box is wooden and beautiful,” and “wooden” and “beautiful are equally meaningful – though they’re in different adjective categories – and sometimes, “the wooden box is beautiful” (especially as compared to a different box made of another material) is more what you’re aiming for – and that will affect the punctuation.)

All right – so far, so confusing, right? On to the specifics and examples!

Case 1: adjective1 is modifying adjective2, and combined, they make an adjectival phrase which modifies the noun – in which case, a hyphen is needed between adjective1 and adjective2.

Case 1 Example 1: his blue-green eyes. Explanation: the color of the eyes is a combination of blue and green; if you say “blue eyes” or “green eyes,” neither conveys the same meaning/communicates the same color. Instead, blue and green are combining to BOTH, together, give significant information about the color of his eyes.

Case 1 Example 2: the load-bearing wall. Explanation: “the load wall” and “the bearing wall” and “the load and bearing wall” are all gibberish that in no way preserve the intended meaning. “Load” and “bearing” need to be coupled together and interpreted as a single adjective “unit.”

Case 1 Example 3: the half-eaten muffin. Explanation: once again, consider our bullet list above – “the half muffin” could make sense but doesn’t preserve the intended meaning (for example, it could have been cut in half instead of eaten). “The eaten muffin” sort of makes sense, but again doesn’t preserve the meaning – the muffin is only partially eaten. The “half eaten muffin” is nothing – an “eaten muffin” isn’t a thing – and “the half and eaten muffin” is obviously nothing – and “the eaten half muffin” changes the meaning, implying someone ate all of half a muffin – and there’d need to be a hyphen between half and muffin. Only with a hyphen does the sentence make sense AND convey this specific meaning.

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Case 2: adjective1 and adjective2 are both equally modifying the noun, and all of the following sentence re-structuring examples lead to new phrases that make sense and preserve the intended meaning (if…with slightly less descriptive power): “adjective1 noun,” “adjective2 noun,” and “adjective1 and adjective2 noun.” adjective1 and adjective2 are most likely to fit these pattern examples if they’re in the same category, as described above. In this case, adjective1 and adjective2 are functioning as coordinate adjectives, and the correct phrasing will be: adjective1, adjective2 noun -> a comma is needed between adjective1 and adjective2.

Case 2 Example 1: the wide, open field. Explanation: “the wide field” – okay, we know a little less about the field, but it still makes sense. “The open field” – same. “The wide and open field” – it’s a little clunky, but it also makes sense. “The open and wide field” – sounds slightly odd, because in English we like our adjectives in a certain order and if we change that order it makes (especially native speaker’s) eyebrows twitch, but it does function as a sentence. “The field is wide and open” – also makes sense. They’re also arguably in the same category (size). So, these are coordinate adjectives, and a comma is needed between them.

Case 2 Example 2: my pretty, erudite friend. Explanation: “my pretty friend,” “my erudite friend,” “my pretty and erudite friend,” “my erudite and pretty friend,” “my friend is pretty and erudite,” all of these make perfect sense, so – comma! (also – same category – opinion)

Case 2 Example 3: the soft, fuzzy toy. Explanation: I could go over it a million times – why not try it your self? Break it down into adjective1 + noun, adjective2 + noun, adjective1 and adjective2 noun, adjective2 and adjective1 noun, the noun is adjective1 and adjective2…all good, right? Some may niggle at the ear because of English adjective order, but they all essentially work. (and again – category is descriptive opinion – so, same)

Note: As I keep saying, whether something is Case 2 or Case 3 can be contextually dependent. There is no hard-and-fast rule – even the examples above, which I tried to make clear and straightforward (the clear, straightforward examples?) could arguably have no comma, depending on context. This is “indefinite” enough, often, that no one is gonna come down on you if you don’t do it right; if you’re really not sure, it’s probably better to err on the side of “no comma,” Case 3. But, you can also keep in mind that the “weirder,” “clunkier,” “awkwarder,” “more stilted” a sentence sounds when you put “and” between the adjectives, the more likely we are to need Case 3. And also, even with context, it’s usually best to use Case 3 if the adjectives are in different categories.

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Case 3: adjective2 is directly modifying noun, and adjective1 makes most sense considered as describing the “unit” made of “adjective2 noun.” “adjective2 noun” still makes clear sense, but “adjective1 noun” is missing essential meaning that contextualizes the information being presented. “adjective1 and adjective2 noun” reads like gibberish, and “adjective2 adjective1 noun” similarly makes no sense. In this case, the adjectives are cumulative, and they should not get a comma between them.

Case 3 Example 1: the elderly American tourist. Explanation: “the elderly and American tourist” does vaguely make sense, but it loses essential meaning – we’re not describing the tourist, we’re describing the American tourist. Whether “American” is critical information will depend, somewhat, on context, but try changing the order – “the American elderly tourist” reads as wrong almost always – unless we’re dealing with a case where there’s a whole hoard of elderly tourists and we specifically mean the American one. From a category standpoint, they’re also clearly in different categories – elderly is about age/description, American nationality. Thus, no comma should be used.

Case 3 Example 2: the wide road shoulder. Explanation: this one is more clear-cut than the previous, because essential meaning is lost when the order is changed or the middle word (which, yes, is a noun, but it’s modifying/altering the meaning of shoulder) – without “road” there, “shoulder” means something completely different. “Road shoulder” makes sense alone, but “the road wide shoulder” is nonsense, as is “the wide and road shoulder.” And, different categories – wide is size, whereas road describes purpose.

Case 3 Example 3: your orange knit sweater. Explanation: again, this is about establishing a category (the “knit sweater”) that is then being described as orange. While, yes, “orange sweater” makes sense and could arguably cause this to fall into Case 2, “the knit orange sweater” reads oddly (again, unless we’re differentiating one orange sweater from the others), as does “the orange and knit sweater.” Further, for categories – color and material/means of making are again, clearly different, and so this is an instance where adjectives in different categories pile, and the entire unit of “knit sweater” is what is being described by “orange.”

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I know it’s hard. Especially for non-native speakers, who may not have the exposure to the language to know “by ear” what “sounds weird,” it can be hard to recognize the subtle differences. Sadly, this is an instance of grammar where “it just sounds right that way” is often a good way (especially for a native speaker) to gauge which Case is right. But, in general, if adjective2 + noun make a unit that would clearly distinguish noun from other forms of noun (the American tourist, the knit sweater, the peaked roof, etc.) then you probably want Case 3 and shouldn’t use a comma.

In the end, there’s no simple rules for this. It’s complex, and there are tons of exceptions to the “rules,” and even if you’re super careful, some of these kinds of cases will likely slip through. Further, even if you do your best, and go with the most “technically correct” approach, you’ll end up with things that look weird (“the bright-blue bird” is the most technically correct way to write it – bright is definitely modifying the color blue – but no one would actually write it this way because it reads “weird.” Like, yes, the bird is not bright, which means the hyphen is “necessary” but…it’s not actually.) So – consider what you mean, and what reads smoothly, and what you see other people doing, and do your best.

On the plus side – if you’re an experienced writer/editor/reader, and you’ve read all this and you’re still confused, your readers are in the same boat as you – hardly anyone who reads your edited work will know these rules well enough to even notice that you might have gotten one or two wrong.

So, don’t stress about it much – this is definitely on the most pedantic end of technical copyediting grammar shenanigans – but hey, now you know!

Now, go write some words!

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Do you – yes, YOU! – want a say in what the theme of our next anthology will be?

With the Kickstarter for “Add Magic to Taste” now finished, and the Kickstarter for our second anthology, “And Seek (Not) to Alter Me,” gearing up to launch in the mid to late fall, we at Duck Prints Press are starting to look forward to what our next big project will be!

Some decisions, we’ve already made:

  • We’ll be launching anthologies 3 and 4 simultaneously, with a projected Kickstarter campaign in May or June of 2022. The two anthologies will each have the same theme; the difference is – one will be ONLY wlw stories, the other ONLY mlm stories (both will include any genderqueer folk who would consider themselves as falling under the umbrella of wlw or mlm; both will include poly).
  • We’ll be opening applications likely in October or November (our first call for applicants since last winter!) We will, as always, be open to applicants who are fanfiction authors interested in publishing their original work.
  • Every story, regardless of our theme, must have a “happily ever after” or “happily for now” ending. (HEA/HFN guaranteed!)

Some decisions, we’ve not yet made:

  • How many authors will be in each anthology
  • How long each story will be
  • How we’ll handle returning authors/authors who’ve already worked with us and want to do so again
  • Probably plenty of other stuff we haven’t thought of.

But ONE BIG DECISION, YOU CAN HELP US MAKE!

Which decision is that, did I hear you ask?

What will the theme of our next anthologies be?

Our Management team has brainstormed for the last two weeks and settled on a list of seven potential themes!

Those themes are:

  • Solarpunk in modern, utopian, and science fiction settings
  • Hurt/comfort in science fiction settings
  • Robot uprisings in any setting
  • Masquerades in any setting
  • Love in the public eye (as in, celebrities, politicians, athletes, etc.) in any setting
  • Love across time (as in, time travel, dimension hopping, etc.) in any setting
  • Trapped together in science fiction settings

Do you want to help us pick between these seven themes, and have a say in what mlm and wlw stories are written in our next collections?

Well, you can! How?

Back our Patreon!

Kickstarter support enables us to publish books, but Patreon support enables us to continue operation long term. Money from our Patreon pays for monthly fees on software we use, hourly rates on consultants we hire, legal advice, and more. The more we’re able to raise through our Patreon, the more we’re able to pay to authors, artists, and other contributing creators when we do Kickstarters – because our overhead is getting covered by the Patreon support! We offer four backer levels – $3 per month, $5 per month, $10 per month, and $25 per month. All our Patrons get awesome extras – the higher your backing, the more you get:

  • exclusive stories!
  • bonus merchandise!
  • access to our Discord!
  • free books!
  • voting rights on surveys to determine our anthology themes!
  • and more!

So, if you want to help Duck Prints Press, and you want to get more involved, and you want to nudge us toward making the kinds of books you most want to read?

Become a Duck Prints Press Patron, and help us publish amazing (and amazingly queer!) books!

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The “Add Magic to Taste” Kickstarter is Done!

Wow – what a month we’ve had! Over the past 30 days, our 744 amazing backers contributed $25,808 to make this project a success, and we couldn’t be more grateful. All our authors will get paid 8 cents US per word, up to $400 per author, which is a.may.zing, and backers will get this excellent book, lots of fun merch and extras, and the privilege of saying “I was there when Duck Prints Press launched their first anthology!”

For people who backed, we posted about our “next steps” in this Kickstarter update.

For people who didn’t back – couldn’t afford to, were on the fence, missed the deadline, only just found out about it now, all that jazz – we’ll be having an extras sale, most likely in late fall or early winter, once the majority of the KS have received the packages.

The following items will definitely be available in the extras sale:

  • mugs
  • rubber duckies
  • both enamel pins
  • bookmarks
  • small glossy prints of the third piece of artwork

The following items might be available in the extras sale:

  • art prints
  • copies of the trade paperback book
  • postcards
  • stickers
  • mini-book extra
  • magnet

The following items will not be available in the extras sale:

  • keychains
  • tea

In addition, at or around the same time, the e-book will go up for sale on our website, and will remain available there for as long as the Press is in operation!

As we said in our advertising – the only guaranteed way to get the book was to back the Kickstarter, and that remains true. We may have a handful of extra books, but it’ll depend on how many get damaged in shipping and need to be replaced, how many we decide to keep for future campaigns, etc. Right now, we’re only expecting to print about 20 copies above the number purchased, so if we have any at all, it’ll be a very limited quantity.

Feel free to get in touch with us if you have any questions or comments! It’s been a very exciting time, and we can’t wait to start making everything and getting backers their rewards!

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The Add Magic to Taste Kickstarter ends at 11 AM Eastern on Saturday, August 14th, 2021

If you love queer fiction, and you love fanfic, and you love fluffy tropes, you are not going to want to miss Add Magic to Taste, an all new collection of 20 heartwarming queer stories set in modern, magical coffee shops, bakeries, cafes, and tea shops!

We won’t say this anthology has it all – there are too many identities in the world for us to fit all of them into one anthology of 20 stories – but if you want some queer fluff and happy feelings, you’ve come to the right place. Add Magic to Taste features characters of different races, ethnicities, sexualities, romanticisms, gender identities, religions, and home nations, united by the common theme of finding someone (or more than one someone) to enjoy a muffin and a cuppa with – for today or for a lifetime, romantically or otherwise!

Each story is never-before published and approximately 5,000 words. Our authors were selected through a rigorous process where we reviewed over 100 fanfiction authors to select those we thought best suited to working with our Press on this specific anthology – and the results are out of this world!

Our Kickstarter has also done exceptionally – we’re only $300 US shy of our second-to-last stretch goal, with under 24 hours to go! So, check out our Kickstarter, read about the book and our merch, read teasers and biographies of our authors, and more!

Backing this Kickstarter is the only guaranteed way to get Add Magic to Taste in print! We will be printing to demand, and more copies will never be made!

LEARN MORE NOW!

Don’t miss this chance!

(also, psst…did you know? If you support our Patreon you can get Patron-exclusive extras when you support the Kickstarter too…)

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“Add Magic to Taste” Kickstarter: 48 hours Left!

We’re in the home-stretch of the campaign for Add Magic to Taste! There are just over 48 hours until we’re done. If you’ve been on the fence about getting it – this is essentially your only chance to get this wonderful anthology in print! The e-book will be on our website, but we won’t be ordering many print copies above demand – we may have a few extra for an extras sale or that we can offer as add-ons for future campaigns, but once those are sold? There’ll never be more copies in print. So, if you want a copy? Back it now!

For those who have backed and want to know what our latest news is – and for those who haven’t yet backed and want to know what they can get – here’s some updates on our progress toward our stretch goals!

First – our Backers unlocked an option for a third piece of art, and we’ve commissioned @joshua-beeking to do it! He sent a preliminary sketch yesterday and, well – it’s pretty darn amazing.

This image will be included as an inset in all e-books and print books, and backers at levels 3, 4, and 5 will get it as an art print!

Second – our most recent addition to the campaign? A magnet of our mage Dux! We asked our Patreon supporters on Discord which of our Dux they’d like, and this was their choice…

All backers at Levels 2, 3, 4, and 5, will get this adorable dux as a sticker AND as a magnet!

Third – thanks to the level of support the campaign has had, we’ll be able to pay all our authors 6 cents US per word they wrote – up to $300 per author. If we can raise another $1,250 over where we’re at as I write this, authors will get another raise, to 7 cents US per word, and if we can reach $25,000 by the time the campaign ends on Saturday (11 AM Eastern!), all our authors will get paid 8 cents US per word. This has always been our ultimate goal, and we can’t reach it without your help – so, please, please, signal boost this post and help us spread the word about this project – and help us get this amazing book into the hands of as many readers as possible, cause we’re sure ya’ll are gonna love it!

Learn more on Kickstarter right now!