So. This was the year that my cat died, my Dad died, and I got COVID. I keep saying I’ve been getting no writing done. But that’s not exactly true…?
It’s mostly that I haven’t been progressing on the Big, Important Novel Series that has occupied the center of my writing life for the past decade (aka the Vanished Chronicles), so it doesn’t FEEL like I got “any” writing done. Certainly in comparison to the years when I had three books (maybe even four?) come out, while publishing a serial with 2-3 chapters per week, plus short stories, my output is minuscule when juxtaposed. It also feels like I didn’t “write” much because much of what DID come out this year were “inventory” stories, which had been sitting around in the hard drive waiting for their final polish or rewrite. But they all count, don’t they?
So here’s a recap of everything I wrote in 2023.
BENT FOR LEATHER and the story “Personalize Your Netherparts”
This year has been a slow rollout for my new short story collection, Bent for Leather. I say “slow rollout” because the initial goal was to publish in April to coincide with my keynote at International Ms. Leather and Bootblack (IMsLBB). An IMsL edition was printed, but to fulfill the Kickstarter stretch goals, two new pieces of interior art needed to be commissioned and then completed by the artist. So it took until September to get that edition finished and uploaded, and my plan had been to do the “official” launch in November.
But I got COVID in September so all I managed in October and November was to ship the copies due to backers. I didn’t do any of the marketing I had planned. I haven’t had the brain cells.
But I did write one brand new short story for the collection, also instigated by stretch goals, entitled “Personalize Your Netherparts,” and I think it’s really a good one. I guess these days the term would be, “it slaps.” (Pun intended.) If you’d like to read the story, you can either find it in the book, or if you are my Patron over on Patreon, you can either listen to the audio reading I did of the story earlier this year or read the story in the post I just made.
Content warnings: genderbent ex-lover angst, blurred boundaries, and misuse of detachable genitalia.
Audio version: https://www.patreon.com/posts/new-story-read-84991752)
Text version: https://www.patreon.com/posts/95405300/
ADVENTURES IN BODILY AUTONOMY and the story “Just Killing Time”
I’ve had the story “Just Killing Time” kicking around in my hard drive for a few years now. It’s one of those stories that I’ve sent to numerous magazines over the years, and every time it ends up being one of the stories that the editors hang onto for a long time before they ultimately reject it, usually with a lot of apologetic praise.
It’s a Tarantino-esque pastiche of gangster-ninja pulp with a lot of graphic sex and violence, and a deep vein of psychological thriller, about a woman desperate to gain some agency or freedom. Is she a reincarnated assassin destined to take revenge? Or is she a trafficking victim?
When Raven Belasco contacted me about an anthology on the theme of women’s bodily autonomy, being published by Aqueduct Press as a fundraiser for NARAL ProChoice America, I told her I had a story making the rounds that was a “difficult” one. But it kinda sounded to me like a fit for the theme. Raven loved it, and when it got booted out of yet another slush pile it was all hers. I’m so glad that it found the perfect home.
HOT & STICKY and the novella “The Blossoms of Summer”
I first wrote this erotic steampunk novella after reading Sarah Rose’s nonfiction book FOR ALL THE TEA IN CHINA, which tells the story of adventuring British botanist Robert Fortune and how he literally performed agricultural espionage to steal the secrets of potable tea production from China in order to found the tea-producing plantations in India that fueled the British empire. I also sent my adventuring botanist to China, but with a dirigible, and it being me, his adventure turns rather more carnal than vegetal.
But again, I could never place the novella. It was too long for the erotic steampunk markets, too sexy for the regular steampunk anthologies (though I did get a very very praise-packed rejection from Ann Vandermeer), but not long enough to sell as a standalone book. So I shelved it.
Until this year, when Passionate Ink put out a call for erotic romance and erotica novellas for their HOT & STICKY bundle. Passionate Ink is what had once been the erotic chapter of the RWA, but after the RWA meltdown broke off into its own organization. Every so often they publish a fundraising bundle, collecting together steamy novellas and short novels, making it available for a limited period of time, and then releasing the rights back to the authors. Again, it seemed like a serendipitous fit, and I’m so happy the “Blossoms of Summer” finally saw the light of day.
I’ll probably release a standalone ebook of it in 2024, and when I do, Patrons, I’ll have a download for you!
THE OTHER THINGS I WROTE: A ROLEPLAY GAME MODULE!
Possibly the most fun — literal FUN — thing I wrote this year was a pairing and scenario for the game STAR CROSSED. This is the jenga-tower based game about forbidden love (“when you really really want to, but you really really can’t”) which got an expansion guidebook added this year which includes modules written by me, Max Gladstone and Amal El-Mohtar, Sharang Biswas, and other faves of mine. It had a crowdfund campaign on Backerkit and should be out in 2024.
Thanks to Alex Roberts for thinking of me for this one. We were literally introduced to one another via Twitter by the folks who had made Slash: The Card Game years and years ago as “you two should know each other!” Ah, yes, the days when Twitter was like a wild cocktail party in the middle of the public square with occasional breaking news on the Jumbotron overhead (as opposed to now where literal Nazis are trying to hold rallies in the square and drowning out everything else).
THE OTHER THINGS I WROTE: CLASSES AND SPEECHES
I suppose I can’t discount the fact, though, that a lot of my writing time in 2023 ended up going to writing speeches and presentations. I gave keynotes at IMsLBB and the Editorial Freelancers Association, I taught a new class on “How (And Why) To Write a Sex Scene,” first for Mary Robinette Kowal’s patreon, and then for StoryStudio Chicago, and I developed a class on Writing Bisexual and Pansexual Characters for Writing the Other. (The Bi/Pan class is now available for purchase on-demand through Writing the Other, btw: https://writingtheother.com/on-demand-bisexual-pansexual-master-class/). I also gave presentations at Arisia, MISTI-Con, Readercon, etc.
THE OTHER THINGS I WROTE: NON-FICTION
I have to count the non-fiction essays, too. I just approved copyedits on an essay that will be in Uncanny magazine very soon, entitled something like “A Novel is an Empathy Engine.” I have also written a couple of different baseball-related articles this year, including one on the 2004 Red Sox “Trophy Tour” which will be coming out shortly in a SABR book on the 2004 Sox team, and several essays that I hope will form the core of a new handbook for baseball writers and editors that I’ve been wanting to do for SABR for the past 12 years.
Plus I wrote another article for The Strad about TwoSet Violin, this one a review of their World Tour concert in Montreal.
Which brings me to the last thing that ate up a chunk of my writing time in 2023:
THE DRAGON’S DAUGHTER and what’s happening at Tor
If you’re new here, here’s a quick recap of my history with Tor Books. I was contracted to write a three-book erotic paranormal fantasy series for them almost ten years ago. My editor there was not quick, things dragged on, and then she was let go by the company (after nearly 30 years there!) in 2022. My new editor has also been there 30 years, but is also not quick (she has long COVID, and yes, I empathize), and took a long time to catch up to reading the manuscript. She finally read it and said, with great honesty and candor: she feels it’s dated.
So for all intents and purposes, that whole project is dead at Tor. The Vanished Chronicles has literally vanished after ten years in development.
But I’m supposedly still a “Tor author.” My editor said she would really like to work with me on something else, and she requested a look at an unpublished novella of mine, “The Mystery of the Unbitten Peach.” Part of the rationale for a novella is it would be shorter and my editor said that should mean a quicker reply.
This is a novella I wrote for a lesbian fantasy mystery anthology that never did come to be, and looking it over again before sending it to her, I realized it needed some updating. In particular I wanted to incorporate flashbacks that would bring in the events that happened in the main character’s previous story, “The Dragon’s Daughter,” which were published in the late 1990s in a lesbian small press anthology called To Be Continued…
I spent about two months of writing time picking the stitches out of each piece and then melding them together. I sent it around to several writer friends for critique and got back mostly praise–in fact, I started hitting some of them up for blurbs as a result. I got a polished final draft together and sent it along in early April.
Well, over eight months have gone by and I haven’t heard a peep. Stay tuned: maybe I’ll have news by the 2024 Year in Review?