Backpacks, SDCC, and a newsletter -- oh my! August 6, 2018 10:03

From Jess: 

At San Diego Comic-Con last month, I teased a new product that I've been chomping at the bit to share with you: "Rescue Sirens" backpacks! The backpacks that I brought with us to the convention were samples and not for sale, but now I'm happy with them and have added all five designs to our online store! You can click the image below to check 'em out.

"Rescue Sirens: Mermaids On Duty" backpacks

Just like some of our new vinyl stickers and acrylic charms, these backpacks feature "Rescue Sirens" artwork by Kellee Riley; boasting bright colors, cute poses, and adorable faces, they really stand out in a crowd! If you know a little Rescue Siren-in-training, one of our backpacks makes the perfect back-to-school bookbag.

With a secret pocket on the lower back for your cash/cards and an interior sleeve for a 15" laptop, they're great for grown-ups, too. I used one of our sample backpacks to tote around everything but the kitchen sink at SDCC and was super pleased with how it held up.

Speaking of SDCC, 2018 was another wonderful year! It's so strange to me that Chris and I spend the first six months of each new year thinking about, planning, and making merchandise for SDCC, and then it arrives all of a sudden and it's over before we know it. The end of the convention always leaves me feeling a little out-of-sorts and bewildered -- like, this huge thing has come and gone, so what am I supposed to spend my time stressing out over and panicking about? (Just kidding; I have a million other things to stress over and panic about.)

After SDCC, Chris and I are exhausted and glad for a breather, but we miss our friends and fellow creatives, and, of course, the attendees. We never take enough photos during the show, but here are a few pictures that I shared on Instagram! I posted them as a pair of slideshows, so, you know, click the left and right sides to view them all.

We’ve been home from #SDCC2018 for a week now, and we’re finally starting to catch up on everything! 😅 As always, we had an amazing time, and we love getting the opportunity to see our friends, fellow exhibitors, and wonderful attendees. Here is just a small sampling of happy moments from the show! Post 1 of 2. 1️⃣ “Rescue Sirens” creator @jessicasteelesanders with her husband and co-author, @chrissandersart. 2️⃣ Artist @seangallowayart showing off a #rescuesirens commission that he drew for us. 3️⃣ Our friends and “Rescue Sirens: The Search for the Atavist” collaborators, @delgaduck and @teresamtzjun. 4️⃣ Sneaking away from the convention center for an absolutely marvelous dinner with @coliegreno, @nathangreno, @tanyalehoux, and @jscottcampbell. 5️⃣ @jessicasteelesanders with stunning ladyfriends @tanyalehoux and @coliegreno. 6️⃣ @chrissandersart holding the first of two gorgeous original paintings by @pernilleoerum that we purchased... 7️⃣ ...while @jessicasteelesanders holds the other! Not pictured: the utterly delightful @kikidoodling and her husband, Nik; our dear friend and “Rescue Sirens: The Search for the Atavist” illustrator @genevievetsai; awesome neighbor @terrydodsonart; brilliant and talented @whitneypollett; sweet @caseyrobin; and probably a million other of our beloved “art friends”! We need to remember to take more photos next year!

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We’ve been home from #SDCC2018 for a week now, and we’re finally starting to catch up on everything! 😅 As always, we had an amazing time, and we love getting the opportunity to see our friends, fellow exhibitors, and wonderful attendees. Here is just a small sampling of happy moments from the show, focusing this time on mermaids! Post 2 of 2. 1️⃣ Bryn and Zach, part of the fin-omenal @finfolkproductions team, stopped by to visit! (And when @jessicasteelesanders was wearing her Finfolk leggings, too: perfect timing.) 2️⃣ Over at the truly incredible @cfxmasks booth, @jessicasteelesanders got in touch with her inner sea monster. (We totally bought that mask at the end of the show.) 3️⃣ It’s not SDCC until @mermaidkalynn drops by... 4️⃣ ...and the same goes for @badkidbebe/@themergoth! 🧜🏻‍♀️🖤 5️⃣ Okay, this was real SDCC magic: @jessicasteelesanders and @chrissandersart first noticed this adorable Orange Bird dress (Jessica owns it in navy), and then discovered that it was being worn by none other than @lovelysundae, who recently drew an outstanding Kelby illustration! She was an ab-shell-ute joy to talk to. #rescuesirens #sandiegocomiccon #finfolkproductions

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As usual, we're already talking about what we're going to do for SDCC 2019!

And there's my cue to bring up my last topic for today: the "Rescue Sirens" newsletter, the most reliable way to find out what we're up to. Chris and I love keeping you up-to-date on what we're doing, but we've noticed a big difference in social media reach over the past couple of years; Facebook shows our posts to only a fraction of our followers unless we pay for more views, and Instagram is quickly heading in that direction, too. Lots of people just plain aren't hearing from us. The solution, it seemed to me, was to start an email newsletter and talk directly to you.

How can you join? When you purchase something from our online store, you have the option to subscribe to our mailing list; you can also do so by visiting our signup page. If you missed our introductory email, you can read it now! Future newsletters will include sneak peeks at what we're working on, event information, and maybe even some subscriber-only exclusives. It's also the first place that we'll announce new products (such as the backpacks!). I'll probably use it to share blogs with you, too, so you don't have to remember to check the website every month.

All in all, I expect to send out only a handful of newsletters per month. I hope you find this a fun and useful way to stay in the "Rescue Sirens" loop!

"Rescue Sirens" at SDCC 2018 July 17, 2018 00:00

From Jess: 

That time has come around again! Chris and I are headed down to San Diego for Comic-Con International (affectionately known as SDCC), and, while this year's focus at our booth is on Chris's sketchbook full of personal artwork (his first in five years!), we're also bringing with us some fun new "Rescue Sirens" accessories that I've been dying to share with you all.

First up: stickers! Last year's weather-resistant vinyl stickers were really popular, so 2017's designs are making a reappearance along with eleven more sticker styles to collect! WOW!

Let's take a look at the new ones, shall we?

"Rescue Sirens" mermaid stickers by artists Gabby Zapata and Kellee Riley

Aside from a brief teaser on Instagram, I haven't had an opportunity yet to really talk about our awesome new artwork from two of our favorite artists: Gabby Zapata (top) and Kellee Riley (bottom).

Chris and I love both of their respective art styles for different reasons, and we're already beginning to use these massively appealing illustrations in our online merchandise -- and, of course, these stickers! Want to plaster your world in Gabby's and/or Kellee's drawings of our lifeguard mermaids? Then swim by booth #4616, where we're selling each mermaid sticker for $4.00 apiece. (We also have a clear sticker with the "Rescue Sirens: Mermaids On Duty" logo in black for $3.00.)

And we can't forget our stickers from last year, which are Chris's chibi-style drawings of the Rescue Sirens -- also $4.00, with the round "Rescue Sirens" emblem available for $3.00.

In the past twelve months I've developed a bit of a... problem... with acrylic charms. (I can quit any time I want, I swear!) Maybe you've seen them on Etsy; these charms are typically sold as phone charms, something to hang on your Nintendo 3DS or other handheld console, tiny keychains, or even necklaces. I've amassed quite a collection, and I knew that I wanted to create our own for SDCC this year.

"Rescue Sirens" acrylic charms by Chris Sanders

Ta-da! I turned Chris's chibi drawings into cute little charms, about 1.5" in height with the image visible on both sides, and I attached them to straps that you can loop onto--well, just about whatever you want! But did I stop there? Ohhhh, no.

"Rescue Sirens" acrylic charms by Kellee Riley

Because the charms are double-sided, I really wanted to take advantage of that, so I asked Kellee if she would mind drawing two versions of each Rescue Siren: one in her lifeguard top, and one in her mermaid top. How cool did the charms turn out as a result?!

Chris and I also asked Gabby if she could do the same thing -- but with an added twist.

"Rescue Sirens" acrylic charms drawn by Gabby Zapata

Gabby drew each Rescue Siren in her mermaid form AND in her human form! She did an amazing job coming up with poses that would work for both versions, didn't she? That's harder than it looks, but these all turned out super adorable.

On the human side of the charm, you'll notice that the extra space surrounding the girls' legs where their mermaid tails are on the reverse is a solid block of the color that I've been using to represent each Rescue Siren -- aqua for Nim, coral/pink for Kelby, blue for Echo, purple for Pippa, and yellow for Maris -- with similarly-colored straps to match.

Each double-sided charm costs $10.00, and you can add a color-coordinated necklace for $2.00.

In addition to the stickers and charms, we'll also be bringing a limited number of our first set of enamel pins, which we debuted in 2017.

"Rescue Sirens" enamel pins

We're down to literally a handful of our Nim pins, so please show up early if you'd like to snag one. I did set aside a few Nim pins for Etsy; after SDCC, I'll be selling three more full sets, along with individual pins from our remaining stock, but I don't recommend waiting until then if you don't have to. Last time we opened online orders, they sold quickly! Each pin sells for $12.00.

And, last but never least, we'll have signed copies of our fully-illustrated, water-resistant children's book, "Rescue Sirens and the Great Fish Round-Up," and our novel, "Rescue Sirens: The Search for the Atavist," for $20.00 apiece.

"Rescue Sirens and the Great Fish Round-Up" and "Rescue Sirens: The Search for the Atavist"

There are also some new products that we have in the works that we've yet to add to the website, and we're going to be giving SDCC attendees a first look at those at our booth, with an opportunity to order them online -- right at our booth! -- before anyone else! Stay tuned for more about that as the week goes on.

Speaking of online sales, our intention as always is to make our SDCC merch available in our shop and/or on Etsy after we return (and recover) from San Diego. So, if you can't make it to SDCC, you can still add to your "Rescue Sirens" collection!

Okay, fishes. Let's do this!

SDCC takes place at the San Diego Convention Center from Wednesday, July 18th (Preview Night) through Sunday, July 22nd. "Rescue Sirens" is located at booth #4616 (Chris Sanders Art).

Making a splash at BookBar in Denver, part 2 November 22, 2017 09:00

From Jess: 

In my last blog post, I shared some memorable moments and great photos from our first appearance at Denver's BookBar -- now, on to the second event!

Friday, November 10th

While our first event dealt with our children's storybook, "Rescue Sirens and the Great Fish Round-Up," our second appearance featured our middle-grade/young adult novel, "Rescue Sirens: The Search for the Atavist." Chris and I each planned to read selections from the book, after which we'd hold a question-and-answer session and signing.

I chose to read the novel's prologue; it was my initial pitch for the property as well as what convinced Chris that I had a good idea going, and it's a perfect introduction to the world of our mermaids (if I do say so m'self).

When I'd finished reading the prologue, Chris flipped through the book until he reached Chapter Six, "Put to the Test," and he read the section describing Pippa's portion of the mermaid tests that the Rescue Sirens put Kelby through while trying to determine if she's the Atavist.

The Q&A segment was so much fun! The audience was really engaging and asked great questions. Here are a few, along with (less-rambly versions) of our answers:

  • What was the process of making the novel? ...Okay, I've already made a liar of myself, because there's no way to answer this question without rambling at least a little bit! Fortunately, it's all in the response to the frequently asked question "How do two people co-write a book?" (Just click the + sign to expand the answer.)
  • Does Chris prefer drawing or writing? Writing! Why? It's less physically demanding, for one thing. You can write and write and write all day long.
  • Did we do any research about mermaid myths in other cultures? Absolutely! From the beginning, I've envisioned "Rescue Sirens" as a global property, paying homage to mermaid myths from around the world. In our universe, Rescue Sirens exist wherever there's a shoreline to protect, and it would be a lot of fun to travel in the stories and encounter Rescue Sirens inspired by, say, the Mami Wata of Africa, or the selkies of Scotland and Ireland. Celebrating diversity is really important to us. On a related note, there are a surprising number of myths describing women who jumped or fell into the sea and became mermaids instead of drowning (like Assyria's Atargatis, Macedonia's Thessalonike, or Ireland's Liban), which aligns nicely with the mythology of the Atavist that I invented especially for "Rescue Sirens." I spent something like a year and a half developing "Rescue Sirens" before ever starting work on the first novel! I love world-building.
  • When was Chris's "That's it!" or "Ah-ha!" moment while reading the pitch/prologue for the first time? Chris said that he'd realized I'd had something special with my "Rescue Sirens" concept when he saw that I'd "solved" a couple of stubborn issues related to mermaids living amongst humans -- so many mermaid stories rely on the tradition of mermaids transforming into their tails automatically when they get wet, which creates awesome tension but also severely limits what your mermaids can do without being found out. I chose to head in a totally different direction and devised my own mermaid mythology and "rules," which allowed for more agency and adventure without sacrificing the suspense, and Chris responded really positively to that. He'd been trying to come up with a unique take on mermaids for years and says that I "cracked the code" with "Rescue Sirens." He's very kind!
  • Why did we opt to self-publish? That one's easy: speed (we wanted the novel printed in time for SDCC 2015) and creative freedom.
  • Did we have an artist in mind for our novel's interior illustrations from the beginning? Oh, yes -- that was always Genevieve Tsai! Chris gets all the credit for suggesting her after buying one of her art prints at SDCC years ago. We were so fortunate that she was available during the time we had to finish the book and that she was interested in contributing to our project! We love Genevieve.
  • Follow-up question: what it was like working with Genevieve under such a tight deadline? Amazing, because Genevieve is a phenomenal artist and person, and she just gets it. Since Chris and I were co-writing the novel at the very same time that Genevieve was creating the illustrations -- that is, she didn't have a completed manuscript as a guide -- Genevieve and I exchanged lots of long, very detailed emails to get each piece just right. She nailed it.
  • How many outlines do we have for future books? I have the next two novels outlined and a further four (maaaybe five) loosely planned, while I have storylines in mind for five more children's books.
  • Do we want to make "Rescue Sirens" into a movie? We're actually in the process of developing it as an animated television series! There's so much good TV right now (whether that's referring to traditional television or streaming like Netflix, Amazon, or Hulu), and we love the way showrunners can tell longer stories and develop characters over time as compared to a single ninety-minute film.
Because Chris was seated with me for most of this event, we only have a few photos from Friday night, but they're fun ones (even though I'm in my human form).

(Click to enlarge.)

One of the highlights of the evening was meeting Garrett in person! He was a "Rescue Sirens" early adopter who purchased a copy of the hardcover during our first online sale in 2015, and Chris and I were stoked to find out that he'd be attending our second reading. We've chatted a bit via Tumblr and Instagram, and getting to talk face-to-face was such a pleasure!

We also loved meeting Violetta and Gabby, who took time off from their jobs at the tattoo parlor down the street (SO COOL) to listen to the reading.

What was really fun was seeing people from the previous evening show up again on Friday night! One family had brought their younger daughter to the children's book reading on Thursday, and then brought her, their older daughter, and their older daughter's friend to the novel reading. Other people came by to buy books as gifts for their family members who couldn't make it, which always warms my heart (we see that at SDCC all the time).

Everyone was just so nice! I can't possibly express how happy it made me to connect with an audience like this. I miss interacting with kids and families the way I did daily in my former theme park Education and Animal Care gigs, and it was so wonderful to have the chance to meet new people and share my passions.

I want to thank BookBar for inviting us and for their hospitality, all the fin-tastic folks who showed up to our readings, and, once again, Chris, for taking time out of his busy schedule so we could fly out to Denver and for doing such a great job at both events. I couldn't do this without him (quite literally, when it comes to getting into my silicone mermaid tail!), and I'm thankful every day that he's my husband and my creative partner.

Speaking of thankfulness... for our American friends, have a joyful and relaxing Thanksgiving this week! Chris and I are thankful for all of you, and for your decision to accompany us on this mer-mazing journey.

Making a splash at BookBar in Denver, part 1 November 21, 2017 09:10

From Jess: 

Chris and I had such a wonderful time at our recent appearances at BookBar in Denver, Colorado! Chris grew up in Colorado and we have family and friends in Denver, so any excuse to visit the Centennial State is welcome -- particularly when it involves reading and signing both of our "Rescue Sirens" books!

Thursday, November 9th

Our first of two events focused on our water-resistant children's book, "Rescue Sirens and the Great Fish Round-Up," released earlier this year and fully illustrated by the amazing Dylan Bonner. I opted to squeeze into my gorgeous custom-made Merbella Studios silicone mermaid tail for this one, which takes ten or fifteen minutes of Chris's help -- and a ton of water-based lube. (Mermaid life: not as glamorous as one might think!) I got ready in BookBar's offices located next to their awesome indie bookstore/wine bar, then was wheeled out onto the sidewalk and into position inside BookBar perched atop a rolling chair. We mer-made quite the entrance!

By the event's official start time of 4:30 PM, the little shop was crammed with kids -- mostly between the ages of five and seven, I'd guess -- and their parents, and I delighted in the shocked, drop-jawed expressions of the young mermaid fans.

Some kids were shy (which, as a lifelong shy person, myself, I totally understand -- especially when approaching a mermaid with flukes wider than some of these children were tall!), but I got lots of hugs, and one tiny girl sporting a Pebbles Flintstone hairdo seemed particularly captivated by me and my tail. She brandished a mermaid doll in one hand and clutched a mermaid purse in the other, staring at me and repeating, "Mermaid. Mermaid. MERMAID!" with adorable urgency. (She'd just had a mermaid-themed birthday party, we learned, so it was probably blowing her mind that there was a mermaid in the bookstore.)

There were the skeptics, of course. Mostly the boys.

"Are you a real mermaid?" demanded one boy.

"Yes. Are you a real human?" I replied.

"Yes!" he responded, taken aback.

"Well, how do I know that for sure? Can you prove it?" I asked him. Turning their questions around on kids seems to throw 'em for a loop.

In the lead-up to my introduction and reading, I showed some of the kids short video clips on my "shellphone" of myself swimming in my tail, both in the pool and in the ocean in Hawaii. That was enough to convince most of them that I was the real deal, and prompted the cutest debate between another of the boys and a girl with fluffy blonde hair and glasses (she could've been me at that age!).

"Of course she's a real mermaid," Chris and I overheard the little girl say passionately to the boy seated next to her. "She swims in the ocean!"

We were utterly charmed. Kids are magic.

I'd brought a "Rescue Sirens" coloring sheet that BookBar made copies of and distributed to the gathering of guppies, and I handed out blue iridescent resin mermaid scales as a special souvenir. ("Why are these hard and the scales on your tail are soft?" "Good question! After I shed my scales, they dry out and get hard." "Like Play-Doh?" "Yes! Like Play-Doh.")

Shortly after 4:30 PM, BookBar staff introduced me and Chris, and I dove into reading "Rescue Sirens and the Great Fish Round-Up" to my young audience.

(Click to enlarge.)

Once I'd finished reading the story, Chris and I signed copies of the book and handed out more mermaid scales. The entire event went really well, and it was such a thrill to acquaint a whole new group of people with the Rescue Sirens!

Seeing so many families bringing their children to participate in a book reading really warmed my heart; I grew up with my nose stuck in a book everywhere I went, and I found it incredibly encouraging that these kids showed up to listen to an old-fashioned story rather than to look at a screen. That made me really happy.

As always, I want to thank my husband and partner in all things, Chris, for making this possible -- not only is he my co-author, but, when we travel, he also makes sure that my mermaid tail gets to its destination and home again safely (which is no small matter!), he helps me get all mermaided out (something I absolutely couldn't do on my own), and then he takes beautiful photographs to commemorate special events like these. I couldn't be more grateful that he's my pufferfish.

Tomorrow: part two!

Book reading and signing at Denver's BookBar, Nov. 9th & 10th November 6, 2017 00:00

From Jess: 

Something really cool is coming up later this week! The fine folks at BookBar ("A book shop for wine lovers. A wine bar for book shoppers") invited us to come out and hold not one, but TWO book signings/readings at their establishment in Denver, Colorado. The first event (RSVP on Facebook) is for "Rescue Sirens and the Great Fish Round-Up"; the second event (RSVP on Facebook) is for "Rescue Sirens: The Search for the Atavist." Chris even drew a gorgeous new illustration to shell-ebrate the fun!

On Thursday, November 9th, I'll be reading our water-resistant, fully-illustrated children's storybook, "Rescue Sirens and the Great Fish Round-Up," dressed as Rescue Siren Nim in my beautiful mermaid tail from Merbella Studios. Doors open (with half-price kids' meals and wine!) at 4:00 PM; story time starts at 4:30 PM. This is the perfect opportunity to get your hands on our children's book, since we haven't had the chance to make it available online just yet!

The next night, Friday, November 10th, Chris and I will be reading selections from our novel, "Rescue Sirens: The Search for the Atavist," after which we'll be answering questions about our series and signing copies of the book. That event lasts from 5:00 to 7:00 PM and includes discounts on pizza, beer, and wine, so, really, you can't go wrong.

We hope to see you there!