Small Business Saturday November 30, 2019 08:44

From Jess: 

Today is Small Business Saturday, sandwiched between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and -- like almost literally every other small business on the planet -- we're running a sale to celebrate.

Everything on my pin-related website,, is 15% off until 11:59 PM (California time) on Monday, December 2nd with the checkout code BFCM15OFF. All three of our "Rescue Sirens" pins, adapted from illustrations by Kellee Riley, are in stock and ready to order! (Pippa and Maris will be joining them sometime in early 2020, after the proofing process.)

In other merchandise news, I'll have an update on the Kawaii Shark ita bag VERY soon. Until then, we wish you and yours a merry and bright holiday season!

Kawaii Shark ita bags are almost finished! October 31, 2019 18:03

From Jess: 

After missing out on anything Halloween-related at all in 2018 due to being in the middle of principle photography on "The Call of the Wild," Chris and I tried to make up for it this year! I brought my Katrina Van Tassel costume back to the after-hours Halloween party at Disneyland Resort when Chris and I attended earlier this month, we visited Universal Studios Hollywood's Halloween Horror Nights together for the first time (and I hadn't been to HHN Hollywood in the better part of a decade, although I worked as a "scareactor" at Universal in Orlando for seven years back when I lived in Florida), and I even released some special Halloween-themed pins based on Chris's cute witch drawings. Oh! And I wrote a guest blog on Chris's website comparing the "Legend of Sleepy Hollow" segment of Disney's "The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad" to "Beauty and the Beast."

All the while, my Kawaii Shark ita bags were being assembled, and they're nearly done now! Here are a few progress shots for you:

Once the bags are completed, they'll ship to me, which will probably take about a month -- maybe longer if they get stuck in Customs (cross your fingers that that doesn't happen). After I receive them, I'll mail them to everyone who placed a pre-order, and then I'll make the remainder of the bags available on my pin-related website, (Nothing listed there is active just yet.) I might also re-list the bags on the "Rescue Sirens" Etsy shop, but I'm trying to move away from Etsy and their fees if possible. Whatever the case may be, I hope to have the Kawaii Shark ita bags in-hand and up for sale just in time for the holidays!

In the meantime, I also plan to do a "Rescue Sirens" pin shop drop next month, so our adorable enamel pins illustrated by Kellee Riley and produced by yours truly will be available online for a limited time.

I hope your October has been fun, safe, and delightfully spooky, and I'll see you in November!

Kawaii Shark Ita Bag Update/What's With All the Pins? September 30, 2019 23:42

From Jess: 

My Kawaii Shark ita bag, designed as a companion piece for our “Rescue Sirens” enamel pins, is in mass production! Hooray! While we wait for the bags to finish being manufactured and shipped, I wanted to give you an up-close look at the bag and its functionality.

Let the video clips commence! (The first and third posts contain multiple clips.)



I want to take this opportunity to once again thank everyone who pre-ordered this bag and made it possible to produce it. I'm really proud of it, and I hope you'll all love it as much as I do! If you missed out on the pre-order, I'll be making the bags available once they're in-hand and everyone who participated in the pre-sale has received theirs.

Now, on to a related question: Jess, what's with all the pins? I thought you wrote mermaid books.

I do write mermaid books! I've also been spending most of this year assembling a pitch book for an animated series, coming up with episode ideas, guiding the creation of additional concept art, and meeting with companies. But finding the right home for "Rescue Sirens: Mermaids On Duty" isn't an easy task, and we're still searching. I'd be lying if I didn't say this was frustrating and disappointing.

And that's one reason that I've been producing enamel pins as a side project these past nine months. They're fun, easy, and fast! When you've been working on something for years, it's nice to be able to finish a project; it's the difference between running a sprint and a marathon. It's really rewarding to see a concept through to completion.

My husband and co-author Chris has been working on his current film, "Call of the Wild," for the past couple of years, and it's all but consumed our lives. We're both really looking forward to getting back to "Rescue Sirens"; we miss writing together, and we miss expanding the world of our lifeguard mermaids. But in the meantime, I want to keeping creating little bits of treasure, like the mermaid pins that I've been making, to bring Nim, Kelby, Echo, Pippa, and Maris to life in new ways until we can finish the second novel.

But I understand that not everyone is into pin collecting or ita bags! That's why I've made an Instagram account solely for all things pin and pin-adjacent: @pinsofsteele. That's where I'll be posting most of my pin announcements, as well as future updates on the Kawaii Shark bag.

Kawaii Shark Ita Bag Giveaway August 2, 2019 18:42

From Jess: 

As promised, here's the information on the Instagram giveaway we're currently holding for our Kawaii Shark ita bag!

In order to fund mass production of these bags, we need to sell a lot of pre-orders; in order to sell a lot of pre-orders, we need to spread the word. That's what this giveaway is all about -- that, that, and giving one lucky, randomly-selected shark fan a free bag! If you've already pre-ordered, 1) you're awesome, and we love you, and we literally couldn't do this without you, and 2) you can totally still enter, with the option to receive a refund on your purchase OR a second bag.

Here's how to enter:

1. You must be following @rescuesirens on Instagram.
2. Like AND comment (the shark emoji, your favorite shark species, etc.) on THIS INSTAGRAM POST to enter your name 2 times.
3. Tag a shark-loving friend ON THIS INSTAGRAM POST for 1 entry per friend, up to 5 entries -- but celeb/brand accounts don't count!
4. Share this post via your Instagram Stories for 3 entries.
5. Repost this post (via a reposting app or screenshots) to your PUBLIC Instagram account and tag @rescuesirens for another 5 entries.

      All in all, you have the opportunity to put your name in the (virtual) hat a total of 15 times! The more entries you have, the better your chance to win.

      Don't forget to tag and/or mention @rescuesirens when you share/repost so we can find and count your entries! We'll also be checking the #kawaiisharkitabag hashtag.

      Our giveaway will conclude this Sunday, August 4th, at 6:00 PM PDT (that's Disneyland time), with the winner randomly selected and announced after that.

      The fine print: we're not associated with Instagram in any way, shape, or form; no purchase necessary; open worldwide; must be 18+ to enter. The bags will not be completed and ready to ship for several months, so the winner will receive their bag when the pre-orders are mailed out.

      All pins pictured are illustrated by @kelleeart and are not included with the bag (so you should totally follow her on Instagram and collect all of them!).

      Good luck, and best fishes!


      My love/hate relationship with Shark Week. July 27, 2019 09:16

      From Jess: 

      I’ve loved sharks since I was a little girl, and one of the things I looked forward to most during the summer was Shark Week, when the Discovery Channel would devote seven days straight to programming about some of the oldest and most successful predators sharing our blue planet.

      Even back in 1988, when Shark Week first swam on the scene, some of the shows aired had sensationalistic titles, like “Caged in Fear.” I get it; you want to draw people in, and capitalizing on people’s fear of sharks is a great way to do that. But, at least initially, much of Shark Week’s content was devoted to dispelling myths about sharks as bloodthirsty sea monsters, as popularized in culture by 1975’s “Jaws” (admittedly one of my favorite films, despite the absolutely devastating effects it’s had on the public’s perception of sharks; “Jaws” author Peter Benchley later went on to raise awareness about shark conservation, and even hosted “Shark Week” one year). Shark Week was about having some spine-tingling fun by getting up close and personal with these fascinating fish, but it was also about education, and treated sharks as the amazing creatures they are.

      My BFF Kendra and I take a Very Important Photo outside SDCC. She’s the one who insisted we stop, which is just one reason she’s my BFF.
      My BFF Kendra and I take a Very Important Photo outside SDCC. (Kendra is the one who insisted we stop, which is just one reason she’s my BFF.) Did you notice the “Jaws” shirt in the background?

      These days, I like the idea of Shark Week, and the focus on one of my favorite groups of animals that comes with it... but the Discovery Channel itself is not without its problems.

      Shark Week is the longest-running event in cable television, and, as the years have passed, the attitude has shifted from a (generally) educational bent to one of entertainment without consideration for the responsibility the Discovery Channel has in shaping its viewers’ feelings about sharks, or even in representing scientific fact.

      The last straw, for me and many others, was 2013’s mockumentary, “Megalodon: The Monster Shark Lives.” This special — the most-watched in Shark Week’s history, at least at that time, with nearly 5 million viewers tuning in — included a disclaimer at the very end noting that it was a work of fiction, but it turned into a “War of the Worlds” situation when people failed to get the memo that this was all in good fun and believed Discovery Channel’s premise that Otodus megalodon, an ancient shark thought to have reached in excess of fifty feet in length, still roams the seas to this day. (In reality, it’s thought that the megalodon went extinct some 3.6 million years ago, even earlier than originally estimated, according to an article published earlier this year in PeerJ.) And why wouldn’t people trust Shark Week? Up until then, it had been a pretty credible event. Unfortunately, there are people even today who believe that the megalodon still exists, thanks to that mockumentary.

      Despite the criticism it received, Discovery Channel continued on with its (ahem) “docufiction” the following year: “And a look at [2014]’s lineup shows that Discovery has doubled down on its faux-documentary programming with programs like ‘Lair of the Mega Shark,’ ‘Megalodon: New Evidence,’ ‘Zombie Sharks,’ ‘Alien Sharks: Return to the Abyss,’ and ‘Shark of Darkness: Wrath of Submarine,’” observes a great article on the topic in The Week, “The history of Shark Week: How the Discovery Channel both elevated and degraded sharks.” 

      When Chris and I wrote “Rescue Sirens: The Search for the Atavist” in early 2015, Chris included this bit, from marine bio major (and, unbeknownst to her, shark-tailed mermaid) Kelby’s point of view:

      The ocean. She’d never seen it in person. As long as she could remember, Kelby had been obsessed with it. Watched every television show about it she could find. Treasure-hunting documentaries, nature specials, even “Shark Week” despite the fact that it had slowly shifted from informative edutainment to sensationalistic trash.

      ...As you can tell, we have some pretty strong feelings about this.  =)  It’s not an unpopular opinion, particularly in the scientific community. Some researchers even report being misled about the nature of Discovery’s programs prior to agreeing to take part in them, and argue that their statements were later taken out of context during the editing process.

      That very year, though, new Discovery Channel President Rich Ross promised that the network would stop airing such nonsense. “I don’t think it’s right for Discovery Channel, and think it’s something that has run its course. [Mockumentaries have] done very well… but I don’t think it’s something that’s right for us,” Ross told critics in February 2015. “Fake Stuff Out at Discovery Channel,” reported Deadline gleefully.

      But what about the programs that aren’t outright fiction, but still choose to emphasize the scarier side of sharks? Ross was named the permanent replacement for Eileen O’Neil, who, in 2014, shared this gem, from the aforementioned The Week article: “O'Neill defended Shark Week's more sensationalized programming, saying that ‘the culture right now... has certainly evolved to kind of appreciate the fear factor of sharks.’ This year's programming, she said, reflects ‘Americans' appetite to be absolutely be challenged on fear levels and fantasy levels and mystery levels, which I think you see throughout the television universe right now.’”

      What a load of chum.

      People don’t need help fearing sharks, Ms. O’Neill. I think it’s pretty fair to say that sharks are already considered terrifying man-eating machines by your average citizen, and that hampers conservation efforts intended to halt the killing of sharks for sport, for their fins, and — yes — out of fear; the annual death toll of sharks numbers in the tens of millions, with higher estimates approaching 100 million sharks killed per year. In contrast, shark bites typically number under fifty worldwide, with fewer than ten of those encounters being fatal. More people are killed by deer every year than they are by sharks; Bambi just has better PR than Jaws does. (If you’re curious, deer account for about 200 deaths per year.) When you consider the number of human beings in the water globally every single day, the number of people killed or injured by sharks is remarkably low. Problem is, it’s so frightening when it does happen that it looms larger in the public’s mind than much more common causes of death, not unlike the fear of dying in a plane crash when you’re statistically more likely to be killed in a car accident on your way to the airport. So, yeah, people already “kind of appreciate” the “fear factor” of sharks, and the majority of people aren’t interested in helping to save something they fear — no matter how vital to the balance of our ecosystem.

      (Incidentally, Rich Ross replaced Eileen O’Neil as the network’s president because O’Neil was promoted to Global Group President at Discovery Studios. Ross left the company last year, and it looks like his role was taken over by Nancy Daniels, whose claims to fame over at TLC include overseeing such classic series as “My 600-lb Life” and “90-Day Fiancé,” so, you know, that’s super encouraging.)

      Did Rich Ross keep his promise before his departure? Well, 2017 saw Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps hyped to “race” a great white shark, but at least Megalodon was left to rest in pieces (in the form of fossilized teeth) at the bottom of the ocean.

      I still don’t bother tuning in to Shark Week, but I DO love the way sharks are celebrated by other organizations as they ride the wave of this summer institution. Instead of sacrificing your brain cells watching “Capsized: Blood in the Water” (Discovery Channel’s first scripted, feature-length film, starring Josh Duhamel as some dude on a yacht that goes down in a storm and leaves the crew to fend off hungry tiger sharks — seriously? Seriously?), do yourself a favor and follow accounts like the Monterey Bay Aquarium (Instagram, Facebook), whose recent meme made me genuinely LOL:

      All that said, I, too, am definitely going to take advantage of this week by holding a contest to win one of my Kawaii Shark ita bags. More details to come!

      I leave you with one of my extremely rare comments on social media (heck, I’m not even good at responding to comments on my own posts); when someone I know shared this and it popped up on my timeline, I just couldn’t resist.

      I’m fun at parties.  =)

      C’mon, Discovery Channel. Do better. Do good. You have the power to make a difference — make it a positive one!

      (And, for the record, I used to swim with sharks as part of my job, so it’s not like I haven’t been in the water and touched these toothy bois myself. I talk the talk and swim the swim, baby.)