Well, Ligature Works was all set to lunch after launch… wait, strike that. Reverse it. I just had a few last minute adjustments to make and then I could shove the whole thing out the door and do some writing of my own.

Then, disaster.

I had been playing with a magazine issue management plug-in since I set up the LW website, you see, and I had done everything in it except publish an issue. I had the issue set up. I had formatted all of the poems and stories for it. I had configured all the settings. I got to the point of launching it when I realized: all the posts I’d written were not connected to the magazine. It had its parallel infrastructure for issues. I wondered how I’d missed that, but no big deal. Copying them over would add some work, but not much.

Then I realized how I’d missed it: there was no link, no menu, no option or button anywhere, for adding articles to the magazine. Something was broken or missing. I tried for a while to figure it out, look for a companion plugin I was supposed to have installed, a setting that had to be turned on. Nothing. Checked the help guide, website, etc. Nothing.

So at the last minute, I had to find a whole new plugin, learn how to use it, and get everything set up again. It took up quite a bit of time this afternoon. I had blocked out an hour for finishing the Ligature Works launch; it took six.

But! The deed is done. The die is cast. The issue is out. It’s live. It lives.


My plans for the rest of the afternoon and evening were shot by this, which means my plans for wrapping up the month of September are also kind of shot. I’ve got a lot of stuff of my own I was going to polish and publish today, but the only thing that made it out the door is the latest installment of Making Out Like Bandits. I’m kind of thinking to myself, “So much for finishing the month on a high note”, but… I did just publish a zine?

I’m mentally, emotionally, and even slightly physically exhausted now. There’s still more to do. Promotion. Figuring out the next issue’s submission window, revising our guidelines both to incorporate the lessons we learned and make them more approachable, and of course, sending out payments. I hope our contributors won’t mind if that waits until morning, though. Right now I really need to get away from the computer and out of the house for a bit.

Announcing Ligature Works Issue 1 Contributors!

Having burned through the backlog in correspondence, we are now pleased to announce our contributors for our first ever issue of Ligature Works. In particular order, we are thrilled to be able to offer original poetry and prose from:

  • Mary Soon Lee, “Feng” (epic poetry fragment)
  • EM Beck, “By The Hand Of The Witch” (fantasy)
  • Ingrid Garcia, “Signs of Life” (poetic tryptich)
  • Toby MacNutt, “The Way You Say Good-Night” (contemporary fantasy)
  • Margarita Tenser, “The Second Law of Thermodynamics” (poem)
  • Sheryl R. Hayes, “The Twisted Princess” (fantasy)

I have to say, while the logistics of our system were not the best (not that we expected them to be, our first time out), the actual process and the end results of our anonymous reading cannot be beat. With just six slots to fill for our inaugural issue, we managed to assemble a very wide-ranging collection of works by women and non-binary writers from different countries, backgrounds, and races.

We discovered as we closed out our slush pile that in the process of assembling this issue, we had rejected works by award-winning authors and poets and some dear friends and people whom we admire. The latter hurt a bit, but all in all, the results convinced me this was for the best. We picked the pieces that spoke to us and that most fit with what we’re trying to do here.

Interestingly, while we invited potential contributors to include any information about their experience or identity they felt would be relevant to our evaluation, very few chose to do so. I say this is “interesting” because I can only imagine the clamor from Certain Quarters over our emerging table of contents is that it must be some kind of affirmative action. But quality (both in the sense of “level of goodness” and “that particular characteristic we’re looking for”) stands out.

You will be able to read these pieces for free in our first issue when it goes live (projected: September 30th) at http://www.ligatureworks.com.

Ligature Works: A Note for WorldCon

Well! I’m at WorldCon finally, after both travels and travails. On the first day of the con, we realized a logistical snag: I had new business cards made up early in the summer, before our new literary sf/f venture Ligature Works was more than a vague idea for the future. So we don’t have any kind of hand-out to give people re: that. In lieu of that, I’ll leave this post at the top of my main blog (which is referenced on the business cards).

So: Ligature Works is seeking original, never-before-published works of science fiction, fantasy, and otherwise speculative poetry and prose. We pay a flat rate of $25 for anything we publish. It’s a nominal fee, we realize. We are just starting out, but it’s important that we don’t ask other artists to create for nothing. Since we do not offer pro rates, we don’t require pro terms: our period of exclusivity lasts only until the end of the month following publication. So with our first issue set for the last day in September, the rights revert back on November 1, following the end of October.

Our submissions window for the first issue runs through all of August. There will be one for the next issue either last quarter of 2016 or first quarter of 2017, depending on how our post-mortem on our first issue goes. We’ll also need to talk with each other about whether we want a long window or a short window with a long reading period, or just take rolling submissions. So I can’t tell you when they’ll re-open or for how long, just that they will. This is all an experiment so far.

Detailed submission guidelines along with as good an idea of what we’re looking for as we can convey without a previous canon to reference may be found at http://www.ligatureworks.com/submissions. I know they’re long; Jack has promised to help me bullet point them for the next issue, but they are detailed for a reason. We seek to take the guesswork or element of “…am I doing this right?” away from new and easily startled authors by providing reasonably precise instructions.

We have not used the more fiddly bits as a scalpel to trim away the slush, but things having to do with the element of anonymity within your submission are ironclad. Apart from helping ensure we can screen against our own implicit biases, the world of speculative poetry is not a large one, so it’s good to be able to consider a poem without knowledge of the poet. If something in your experience is relevant to the work, feel free to tell us about it, as described in the submission guide.

One final caveat: The window is more than half over now and we have received enough works that gave us the immediate editorial grabby hands. It is very likely that we’ll close the month with more pieces than we have the budget to buy, especially as our first issue is entirely self-funded. If anyone wants to help fund more pieces, you can throw some money at me via PayPal. Just put in a note that it’s for Ligature Works. We’ll work out something more formal for future issues.

Gender-Free Story Round-Up!

Being the conclusion to the gender-free writing challenge I issued back in June.

Part I: Lessons Learned

First, a bit about lessons learned.

Not everybody who sent a story in mentioned explicitly how they would like to be credited, and some of the published entries bear credits while others don’t. Accordingly, I’m going to let the bylines the authors created speak for themselves.

When I do something like this in the future, I’ll make more of a point about standardizing entry formats so we can capture that kind of information. I’ll also try to make the constraints more clear. The original post called for “a story of any length with at least two characters and no references to their gender.”

What I meant was (and this was clarified later) that no character who appeared or was referenced should be gendered in the text, but I saw some people boosting the post explaining that the requirement was “a story where at least two of the characters don’t have gender”. I didn’t get any stories that had a boy and a girl and two gender-nonspecific people in the background, thank goodness, but there was at least one submission where an arguably pretty clearly gendered character is referenced at multiple points. I’ve left that in the link round-up, because of the initial ambiguity.

I did remove entries I considered to be overtly hurtful to a group of people. I wrestled with myself over this (it’s one of the reasons the judging is coming as far into August as it is), because I didn’t mention any such criteria when I laid out the challenge. But one of the points of this challenge is to encourage greater gender (and to an extent, sexuality) diversity in writing, to help make non-binary and genderqueer writers and readers feel more welcome in the growing online literary world, and you can’t welcome one group by stepping on another, especially when the groups overlap.

The last lesson has to do with the deadline. About half a dozen people asked me if I would extend the deadline another month, and I did, but far fewer people took advantage of that extension than asked for it. The entries were pretty strongly front-loaded to the beginning of the period. Next time, there’s going to be a larger window (and quite a different set-up in general), but there’s definitely a thing to be learned here about deadlines and their usefulness.

Part II: The Round-Up

Thank you to everybody who participated!

Part III: A Winner And Such

It needs to be said that “On Finding Yourself In Bars” is one of my top picks of the bunch, but it’s also written by my partner, Jack Ralls, who helped organize all this, which is why we agreed it would not be up for consideration.

So who wins?

I’m going to give first place ($25) to “Pie Day“. Second place ($15) goes to “7 Questions for the Angels“. Third place goes to So, “How Was School Today“.

I enjoyed these stories quite a bit, but one of the things I enjoyed the most about them is how real to life they were (even the one with a couch-surfing God). They deal with the personal, the spiritual, and the everyday, and they do so in a way that shows how incidental gender can be and how arbitrary our assignments and assumptions of it often are.

We’ll be getting in touch with the authors of those pieces over the next day or so about the payout arrangements. If you’re one of them, feel free to email us back with your PayPal address, if that method is amenable to you.

Part IV: Looking To The Future

I want to do this again, but bigger and on a more formal scale, and possibly with more categories for different ways of playing with gender conventions. Basically, an annual awards deal, covering a year at a time, every year, in order to not shut out pro publications. This is going to take a lot of planning and coordinating (we’ll definitely need more help), but we have time to work it out. The first period of eligibility will be 2017, which means the award won’t be awarded until 2018. I will especially be looking for non-binary, genderqueer, and agender people to help judge. More details to come early in 2017!

Ligature Works poetry rates increased!

Back at the start of the weekend, I was considering raising the rates for poetry on Ligature Works from $5 to $15. After looking at both my budget for the zine and the marketplace, and giving some thought to game theory, unintended consequences, and being the change I want to see in the world, I have decided that Ligature Works will simply offer $25 for all accepted submissions, poetry and prose.

The reasons for this are basically threefold.

First, having very different rates for the two forms places a material incentive on authors submitting prose works, and yet it motivates us to accept poetry over prose. If you’re mainly a poet and you see someone offering 5 times the rate for prose as poetry, mightn’t that lead you to deforming your work to hit the higher payday? It’s not entirely a hypothetical possibility. The submission guides as originally written even noted the often porous boundary between flash fiction and prose poetry.

As long as there’s economic tension between the prose market and the poetry market, all the creators out there who submit to us would be trying to steer their shorter submissions into the “prose” door while we’re encouraged to shift them into the “poetry” one, which creates an incentive for authors who have written shorter works to pad them out to a “safe” size, at which they can’t reasonably be construed as a prose poem, whether that suits the piece are not. This is contrary to our basic belief that all pieces should be the right length for themselves.

By removing the difference between how we pay for prose and how we pay for poetry, this frees up both sides to behave naturally and submit/receive each work as its own thing.

Second (and strongly related to the first), it seems hypocritical to pay one rate for prose pieces regardless of how long they are, and another rate for poetry pieces, as if the fact that poetry is often less substantial in word count and page space means that it’s inherently less valuable.

It isn’t.

I myself write tens of thousands of words of prose fiction a month many months, and hundreds even in most of my worst months, but it’s a good month if I write one poem. Some people spend a year or more getting everything just right in their poem, going through multiple drafts and making sure every word bears the weight of the work.

Third, if the point of the “paying people” portion of this exercise is to reinforce the idea that creative work has value, we need to be prepared to provide value in return. When I set the rates at $25 for short stories and $5 for a poem, I based it on what I’ve been prepared to accept myself. And that’s fair enough. But $5 isn’t a “tacit payment” in the same way that $25 is; it’s way more tacit, way less payment.

Don’t get me wrong; I would still submit my poems to a venue that pays in the $5 range, or one that cannot offer payment. But I find myself unwilling to create a venue that values one over the other.

I’m aware that this decision is likely to have unintended consequences of its own. While the prose rate of $25 is still below what is considered “pro rates”, $25 for poetry is fairly competitive. It’s below the big markets, but above most of the small zines.

One obvious consequence of this is that our first few issues, at least, will likely be smaller than I’d envisioned, in terms of table of contents. But! That’s okay. I’m looking at the 2016 issues as a sort of “soft launch” anyway.


Ligature Works is now open for submissions.

Ligature Works, the new venue for speculative fiction and poetry, is now officially open for submissions. See http://www.ligatureworks.com for details on the venue, then click the link for “submissions” in the sidebar. For our first issue, I will be seeking between 1 and 3 pieces of short fiction and 5 and 10 poems. The exact number selected is going to depend in part on what the submissions look like and how much I can afford come September. If the response is much bigger than expected, I might add some dedicated fundraising to purchase more pieces, but I’m looking for a modest start.

I’m not going to repeat the information that’s over there over here, but I would like to take the opportunity to talk about why I’m doing this and why now. Ever since I got into the world of speculative poetry, I have been impressed by how many different venues there are that publish such things, each with their own distinctive characters and styles.

However, it’s hard and not very profitable work to run such a thing, and the people who do so must frequently take breaks, official or not. The result is something that seems like a bit of a quantum superposition between an renaissance and a retreat.

For a long time, I’ve considered offering my services to some of the struggling venues to reduce their workload, but ultimately it seems like adding another person to the mix in a small, deeply personal operation might require more additional work than it relieves, at least at first. If someone is overwhelmed, they can’t exactly be holding my hand or constantly explaining what they’re looking for or how they do things. And however confident I am in my skills, I don’t exactly have a long resume in the area of editing or publishing.

So my contribution is to create a new venue to take up some of the pressure and ease some of the load. It’s something I would have wanted to do eventually anyway, but right now a lot of my favorite poetry venues in particular are either on hiatus or between submission windows. This doesn’t mean that poets have stopped poeting, though, just that they have fewer places to poet at.

Even after the other venues return… well, I think there are always going to be more poems worthy of publication than there are places to publish them, so rather than trying to compete with anyone, I would rather look upon it as joining a vibrant and growing community.

I’m very excited about this project, and more than a little bit scared, but that’s part of the point… well, it’s actually parts of a couple of points. It’s about me not being afraid to do new things, and showing that you don’t have to wait for permission or a sign from above to do things.

At its core, the loftiest literary magazine ever published is still just basically there because somebody decided it was okay to publish a magazine. I mean, no one has access to some special intrinsic particle of legitimacy they sprinkle over their pages to make them “real”.

My main goal with Ligature Works is just to publish things that I like and that I think other people will like. But in doing so as someone who has been relentlessly indie and primarily self-published, I think there is a more subtle point to make about how thin the line between self-publishing and trad-publishing is.  And that really gets into the overall (or underall?) theme of Ligature Works as explained on the front page: exploring the lines and spaces between things.

Tentatively Announcing: Ligature Works

Okay, so, one of the things I’ve been saying since I revitalized my writing career is that when my Patreon reaches $400 a month, I’ll start buying and publishing other people’s works on a budget of $25 a month, increasing $25 for every full $100 I’m getting above that. Call it a combination of sharing the wealth, networking with other creators, and continuing my experiments in blurring the line between self-publishing and traditional publishing.

Well, my personal Patreon is not at $400 yet, but I’ve had enough growth in that sector that last night I started thinking about my plans, and I realized it would be hard for a one or two person operation to be fielding submissions and putting together a publication every month in the first place, and with that in mind I could start putting my plan into effect on a more limited scale, like a one shot, or irregular, or quarterly publication.

So I thought about it some more, and decided to aim for quarterly, and if it doesn’t quite work out, it doesn’t quite work out. This is an experiment, so the potential failure is part of the process of creating. Anyway, if I put out one issue I’ll still have succeeded in my goals of shining a spotlight on some other creators and adding another item to my DIY resume.

One of the things that I argue against in my artist advocacy is what I call the STOP syndrome: Special Type Of Person, as in “it takes a Special Type Of Person to…” make a comic, write a novel, edit a zine, etc. Now! I do not mean to suggest that it does not take skill or effort or experience to do these things, because it does! It most certainly does! The STOP syndrome is when someone who has the talent stops short of doing some of the work (publishing, promoting, or even creating in the first place) because in their head there is some objective or external signifier that they lack.

I loved poetry as a teenager, but at some point in my early twenties I decided I “realized” I wasn’t a poet and I stopped. For more than a decade, I didn’t write any verse that wasn’t part of a story, and didn’t think that counted as real poetry. As soon as I got over that, I became a published poet and now I’ve placed in an SFPA poetry contest and been nominated for two Rhyslings.

The world is not divided into normal people and special types of people. There aren’t writers, poets, editors, and publishers on one hand and muggles and squibs on the other. There are simply people who do the work of writing, do the work of creating poetry, do the work of editing, and do the work of publishing.

My single big experience with editing and publishing so far taught me many things, including how hard this work is and how rewarding it is. I daresay it will be a bit easier for having had that experience. Not easy, but not a nightmare. Certainly something I can do. The real practical barriers to being a publisher—access to the means of production—are a lot easier to circumvent in the digital age.

So it’s my goal to help show this, and to provide one more venue where people can sell their fiction and poetry in order to hopefully help more people see themselves as poets and authors. I’m not saying that I’ll have a restriction for new talent, but I’ll certainly be looking for it.

A lot of details are still pending since I just committed to this at 2 in the morning last night on Twitter, but here’s the (tentative) skinny:

  • The name of the venue will be Ligature Works. The title will make sense when I come out with my first issue of my personal patron zine later this month. The domain ligatureworks.com has been reserved, thought here’s nothing there yet. I almost went with Ligature Quarterly but decided against committing to a name that has an implicit schedule.
  • The focus will be on material with a speculative or fantastical element, but it need not be any particular degree of “hard” SF or “high” fantasy; I’m fully open to magical realism, impossible hypotheticals (like Rachel Swirsky’s fantastic Hugo-nominated short “If You Were A Dinosaur, My Love“), and poems that reference mythic elements, such as my own “Falling: A Part“.
  • I’m a lot less prescriptivist about things like the structure of a story than many editors. I don’t look for an act structure. I don’t think a story needs to have conflict. I am dubious that it needs a beginning or a middle and I’m quite sure it doesn’t strictly require an end. It does need to have a point, and conflict/resolution models are certainly a reliable means of arriving at one. But I’m very fond of vignettes, slices of life, and enigmas. In terms of standards, mine mostly run towards readability. I’ll care much more if I can’t tell who is speaking or if there are great big walls of text for eyes to slide off of than I’ll care if the gun on the mantel ever did go off.
  • Make your story as long as it needs to be. Figuring that out is part of the craft of writing. I think most short stories need to be around 3,000 words, but there are plenty that need to be around 6,000 or 9,000 or even 12,000. If you cut something, cut it because it doesn’t add anything, not because it makes the story longer.
  • Because it’s me doing the judging, I expect there might be a slant in the material chosen towards the humorous, the clever, and the witty. Your work need not be funny to apply, but if you have something you love and you’re concerned it might be a bit silly for other venues, this would be a good place to apply.
  • Ligature Works will have open submissions for poetry and fiction, and maybe occasionally solicited non-fiction pieces. It will be a paying venue. Initial rates will likely be $25 for short fiction and $5 for poetry. I will hope to improve on that as I go. For now, my criteria is the bare minimum I myself would accept (and have accepted) for work of which I am proud and willing to sell. But this is an experiment; if I can’t attract enough short fiction submissions at below the SFWA-approved professional rates, I may simply refocus on poetry until I can afford to offer more.
  • Previously published material not accepted; previously shared with a personal subscriber list does not count as publication for this purpose. Exact details on the rights purchased will be hammered out exactly before I open for submissions officially. Everyone will know in advance what they’re getting into.
  • All submissions will be accepted as email attachments with no identifying information in the document and the attachments forward to me separately, so I can make my decisions impartially. Any relevant information insufficient to identify the individual submitter may be included in the document (e.g., if you are writing about a character who shares your disability).
  • While I don’t think anyone should settle for being paid in exposure, it can be nice if you know how to leverage it. Accordingly, I will also offer all featured authors and poets a brief consultation on how to best capitalize on the appearance of their work and promote their other endeavors around it, so that everybody involved gets the absolute most out of it.


The sensible thing to do here would be to take some time to get things in place, figure out what I’m doing, and plan an issue for the end of Q4 2016, if not some time in 2017. However, I follow the Moist von Lipwig school of thought in these things: no time to learn how to walk, must run, must fly! and move quickly, you never know what’s catching you up.

So! Submissions will officially open shortly after I return to Maryland (the week after next), with a window until September 1st, for publication at the end of September. If it is even a marginal success, we’ll repeat and improve upon the experiment for the fourth quarter.


On my Patreon page, I’m offering a perk for patrons at the $25 level: a two hour online writing class focused on a different lesson each month. This month the theme is Writing The Rest Of A Story When You Only Know Part Of It. 

Going on from the beginning is often easy enough, but what do you do when you have the end of a story, or the middle? What happens when you’ve got a single cool scene but you don’t know what goes around it? How do you write something you haven’t mapped out? How can you write about a person or world or phenomenon you don’t know about?

At this point, no one has signed up for the $25 level, so I am offering the class slots for sale here. The class will take place on Friday, June 24th, at 4:00 PM Eastern, with another session on Saturday, June 25th at noon for those who can’t make it. Participants may join either or both sessions; unless everybody there on Friday is there on Saturday, you can expect Saturday to mainly be a repeat, but if you have the time and think you’d benefit from repetition, there you go. The class will be held using Google Hangouts (text only); a Google/Gmail account is necessary to participate, but those are free. You can make one specifically for the class if you want.

Sign Up Form

I’m using a PayPal button for this, because that gives me inventory control and space in the class is extremely limited.

Once you have purchased your slot, forward your payment confirmation to blueauthor (at) alexandraerin (dot) com. In this message, please include the email address we should use for contacting you in Hangouts, if it’s not the one you’re emailing from, and which class(es) you expect to attend.

All purchases are final. If events eventuate that you cannot attend either session at all, I’ll try to make a space for you in next month’s. Similarly, I reserve the right to reschedule either session if it turns out I couldn’t be there; it would be a boring class without me.

Patreon updates.

So, I have been rewriting my Patreon profile page to try to better reflect what I’m doing and what people will get, and I have also taken the time to add a new $5 reward. As long as I’m compiling what I do in a month into a zine for my patrons and as long as I’m planning on selling copies of that zine as an e-book, I thought I might as well offer something a little more exclusive for the patrons who exceed the bare minimum. The trick is, what? While I fully intend to be known once again as a highly prolific author, there’s a balancing acting in not over-promising.

So what I came up with is not more stories or poems but a bit of commentary added to the regular zine, sharing glimpses of inspiration and process. Something sort of in-between liner notes for an album and director’s commentary for a movie.

This is what I’m pledging to produce each month in exchange for your support:

  • A minimum of one short story per month.
  • A minimum of one poem or flash fiction story per month.
  • A minimum of one humorous piece or work of satire or parody.
  • Some volume of blogging, tweeting, opinion, and analysis.
  • New material for at least one ongoing longer fiction project.

The current “ongoing longer fiction project” is called Making Out Like Bandits. I teased the concept on Twitter and then wrote 2,000 words of it, which I posted yesterday in an unlocked post on Patreon. I’m about to make a cross-post here.



angels of the meanwhile smallNo more placeholder cover mock-up, because Angels of the Meanwhile is now live! We’ve sent it off to the poets and authors, we’ve sent it off to the pre-orderers and donors, and we’ve found it a place to live on the web where any further sales can go directly to Pope Lizbet with no intermediaries.

Check your inbox if you’re expecting a copy (and your spam folder if it’s not there). If you’re not… well, it’s not too late to help Elizabeth or to help yourself to phenomenal writing. Just follow the link!