Pandemic Road Tripping

Some family members of mine are currently roadtripping across the USA in an RV. So are a lot of folks, apparently. RV sales are “skyrocketing” and sites like RVShare reported a 1000% increase in business. That’s one-thousand-percent, not a typo.
Taking a cross-continent trip in an RV is a little outside my comfort zone, but there’s little that seems safer during the pandemic than driving somewhere scenic in the sealed box that is my trusty car? After months of going nowhere but on a weekly grocery run, what motivated me to finally go farther afield was a once-every-800-years event, the arrival of comet NEOWISE.
Having identified the state park at Mount Tom in western Massachusetts as the best place to try to view the comet, my family and I checked the weather for the weekend, identified Saturday as the best chance, packed a picnic dinner and snacks, as well as binoculars, bug spray, and camp chairs, and set out in the mid-afternoon. Mt. Tom has a nicely paved road with scenic views of the valley. Picnic areas, the Bray Tower, and scenic overlooks are all open, even though the visitors center is currently closed due to the pandemic.
We tailgated by our parked car until about a half-hour after sunset, and then hiked on foot up to the first overlook (the road is closed to vehicles at 8pm). From there we had a successful comet viewing. About a dozen others were there, and folks were friendly, but wearing masks and maintaining social distance. Around 10pm it started to cloud up, and we headed home.
The experience being quite positive, I started researching other road trips we could take that would allow us to get away from our work-from-home lives for a bit while still staying safe. The outdoors have particularly been deemed safe by medical experts, so an uncrowded beach, a nature trail in a wooded area, these seems like good destinations to plan.
I Googled “scenic drives in New England” and came up with numerous sites (like TripAdvisor, or the new-to-me with lists of recommendations.
Next in the planning stage: making sure my car is ready for the drive. This is a crucial one, because with the car mostly sitting unused every since March, it might not seem like it needs maintenance. But actually it probably needs it more than ever. The dealer where I bought my car is kind of far from me, and their website said nothing about what precautions they’re taking during the pandemic. I found another dealer nearby, though, with details of their “contactless dropoff” that could be scheduled online. While looking up what other contactless maintenance might be available, and Google searching for tips about road-tripping during the pandemic, this page on seemed more than relevant: “How to Road Trip Safely During the Pandemic.” (RepairSmith basically comes to you and fixes your car where you are, like a house call veterinarian for cars.)
Their tips include the following: “To avoid gas stations, eliminate as many unnecessary stops as possible through pre-planning. Pack your own food and water and fill your tank at your neighborhood gas station. While using gas pumps, wear disposable gloves, and discard them before getting back in your vehicle.”
In addition to wearing my mask, I always bring a pack of disposable gloves and disinfecting wipes with me when I leave the house. Most transmission of the novel coronavirus seems to take place via the air, and being within breathable proximity or downwind of an infected human. This is why it’s crucial to avoid indoor spaces with other people, who can spread the virus before they show any symptoms. So no bars, restaurants, movie theaters, or other indoor destinations for me.
When we trekked to Mount Tom, I also packed our own toilet paper, wipes, extra ziplock bags, etc. so that we could avoid using public rest stops or rest areas. “Back to nature” is the name of the game!
The thing about asymptomatic transmission, though, is that if I’m really going to take a trip that will bring me into contact with other people, which will inevitably happen if I need groceries or assistance of any kind, or if I stay somewhere overnight, is that I should get tested before I go to make sure that *I* am not the one spreading the virus around. This is a point made clearly by the Lonely Planet list of “9 Expert Tips for Road Trip Safety During the Pandemic.” They also point out that it’s important to research where the virus is low and where it’s hyper-epidemic at a given time and recommend using the Johns Hopkins Tracker to see where the hotspots are and avoid them. New England is looking pretty good!
I’ll be getting my test this weekend, and probably hitting the Mohawk Trail toward the end of the month!

Planning that Big Post-Pandemic Trip

I’m not traveling right now, and those of you who know me know that’s just not usual. I typically have a summer filled with conventions and conferences, bookstore appearances, awards ceremonies, and author galas. Instead, the conferences are online, I haven’t had to buy a single stitch of new clothes, and I look longingly at my photos from Italy last February.
They say looking forward to something nice can help a person get through tough times, though, and I know when it’s safe to travel again, there’s going to be a boom in people going places.
When you’re self-employed, you have to figure out when to take a vacation. You work for the hardest boss in the world–yourself–and so you never give yourself a break. But you ought to. I know it’s the pandemic right now and so traveling to faraway places seems like it’s never going to happen again. But it will.
Let’s say I’m going to put away $2,500 for that vacation or convention in August 2021. I picked that as my target because that’s about what it cost me to attend RWA (Romance Writers of America) in San Diego in 2016, and about what I spent on a weeklong trip to Disney.
I’m using the SAVINGS GOAL CALCULATOR at Pigly (a non-profit financial planning site with lots of free calculators!) The calculator lets me set my goal at $2500, and enter my starting amount. I’m starting with fifty bucks in there. My local bank has a savings account with a 2% APY right now and a $10 minimum balance that I can open online without even going to the bank. Nice!
If I plug those numbers in, and say I want to make a weekly contribution for one year…

…it calculates for me how much I need to put away per week: $46.64.

In other words, the money I’m not spending at the local coffee shop, where I would easily spend $11-12 3-4 times a week… I can now put into my travel account. (I know I was spending between $33 and $48 per week in the local coffee shops because I also used Pigly’s BUDGET calculator and CASH FLOW calculator…)
If I really want to get ambitious, I should start planning not just one trip, but a travel budget for the whole year, including several conventions and at least one pleasure trip, and I should look for a savings account–or a CD–that would return a better interest rate. (Pigly has calculators that can take long term planning and other forms of investment into account, too.) But for now I’m just keeping my eye on that one goal, and putting that $47 into the account every week will remind me we’re getting closer, step by small step.
I’m fortunate that being a self-employed writer means my work hasn’t been very negatively impacted by the pandemic. (In fact, my ebook sales are up.) I’ve stayed healthy by staying home. But someday, hopefully in 2021, I’ll be taking that big trip somewhere!
Where are you going to go when it’s safe to travel again?
Somewhere familiar that you missed, or a bucket-list place?

Shipper Bait and Love Machines: The SFF Romance Panel at #Nebulas2020

Cassie Alexander, C.L. Polk, Shanna Swendson, Jeffe Kennedy, Yasmine Galenorn speaking at the virtual Nebula Awards conference

The Nebula Awards Conference is SFWA’s annual get-together not only to hand out the Nebula Awards in a gala ceremony but to hold networking and professional development workshops, panels, and events. This being 2020 and the Pandemic Era, its been moved online to be completely virtual. I just “attended” the panel Publishing SFF Romance: Pick a Seat, Not a Side, moderated by Jeffe Kennedy. It was a really fun discussion that touched on a lot of different issues related to writing material that either crosses over between SF/F and romance, or are adjacent to both romance and SF/F. (Because these authors are mostly in some form of fantasy, the discussion was mostly on the F portion of SF/F, not the SF.)
Continue reading →

For your pandemic listening pleasure: Cecilia Tan on the American Sex Podcast

Nothing beats talking about my specialties–sex, erotica, and science fiction, as well as Harry Potter and tea–with some true connoisseurs: Sunny Megatron and Ken Melvoin Berg, the hosts of the American Sex Podcast. They had me over (virtually of course) to chat about how I became the maven of erotic science fiction in the 1990s and what I’m up to now. Besides stress-baking my way through the pandemic, that is.
We talked about the olden days of Usenet, and how when I started writing and publishing people in publishing had this weird belief that you couldn’t put sex and science fiction together or, I dunno, the world would end or something. (It didn’t.) I think we also talked about my most recent Kickstarter, but that’s done with now, so just pretend you’re a time-traveler when you’re listening to that bit, all right?
The episode is available just about everywhere your favorite podcasts may be: iTunes, Google Play, Pandora, Stitcher, iHeartRadio, Spotify. You can find out more at
There’s also bonus content only available to subscribers to the American Sex Patreon: In the bonus content I tell the story of how “research” into one of my erotica short stories in the 90s went all wrong and how I almost, but did not, go to the emergency room…
I’ll be sharing that bonus file with my own patrons as well, so if you’ve been thinking about backing me as an author on Patreon, now might be a good time for that? Now that the Daron’s Guitar Chroncles serial is over, my Patreon is a more general support place for those who believe in my mission of passionate fiction and never skipping the sex for the sake of “society.” Grin. (I’m going to share some sneak peeks of my current novel in progress soon, as well, now that it’s starting to gel a bit.) My patreon:

Re-live the magic of the Harry Potter films with Cecilia Tan

It’s no secret how much I love Harry Potter. Heck, for years I’ve been featured in many publications talking about my fandom and how after 15 years of being a professional fiction writer I started writing Harry Potter fanfic for fun. (Like this one or this podcast or this one, or this one…)
So when I heard my longtime literary agent and now publisher of Riverdale Avenue Books, Lori Perkins, was going to try to launch a line of books called The Binge Watcher’s Guides, and she was going to want to sign up many writers to each do their favorite TV and film series, I jumped on the chance to be the one to write the book on the Harry Potter movies!
To get the book and series off the ground, we’re running a Kickstarter, which will help to not only pay me a good rate, but raise the money needed for the kind of promotion and publicity necessary to compete in today’s book publishing market, which is tougher than ever. The campaign launched Wednesday, topped its first thousand dollars by Friday, and is well on the way to not only making the initial goal but hopefully reaching the all-important stretch goals, too!

To back the campaign:

Among the rewards, which of course include the book, I’m also offering some virtual tarot card readings, and some other really fun stuff, like recipe cards for foods and drinks to make and serve at your Harry Potter movie marathon party!
The book includes tons of research I did, including dozens of fascinating casting stories, film-making innovations, and analysis of the place of the film series as a force in modern pop culture.
I’ve also got tips for throwing a binge-watch party, and advice on how and when to introduce the films to children for the first time. And of course recaps of each film, and a section for film fans on things you might want to know from the books.
Among the things I had forgotten until I went and looked back at it was the fact that the first film debuted right after the September 11th attacks. I think we were all ready for a little escape into a magical world at that point…
And I think during the pandemic people are looking to escape again, only this time from the safety of our own living rooms. There’s never been a better time to do a binge watch of a series, really.
So if you’d like to re-live the magic of discovering the Harry Potter films for the first time, or if you ARE discovering the films for the first time, come along with me to Hogwarts and beyond!
All backers get a discount off the regular retail price of the book and/or ebook, as well as exclusive rewards that can only be gotten through the Kickstarter.

Click to support:

Resigning my Membership in RWA

It has been a rollercoaster ride of emotions for me since December 23rd when the news broke that Courtney Milan was being censured by RWA, for reasons that were quickly revealed to be bullshit, opening a Pandora’s box of institutionalized racism, machiavellian social climbing, manipulative staffing, tails wagging the dogs, and so on. I pulled my book from the RITAs–but they later cancelled the awards and refunded all entry fees anyway. I then went to resign my membership, but realized it was up in February anyway. So I kept access to the forums and emails just in case things really turned around.
They haven’t. I was mostly happy to see the communique from the recently hired DEI consultant, Michelle Silverthorn of Inclusion Nation, but there is still so much to be done to regain my trust… I’m not sure the organization ever will at this point. And this is what I told them in my resignation letter, emailed today when a renewal notice popped up that said:
“Dear Cecilia, Thank you for another year as a member of Romance Writers of America. We know it has been a challenging one, and we appreciate you sticking with us. We have already begun building RWA 2.0, and in the year to come (and beyond) we are embracing a new chapter as an inclusive and equitable organization. We value your voice and your vision, and we hope you choose to remain a member to join us in this important work.”
I really want to believe those words. I do. But I feel burned by the ways that RWA has performed in the past.
I wrote:
Thanks for the reminder, but I’ve decided to resign my membership. I just can’t be a part of RWA any longer.
I didn’t join when I pivoted my career from erotic science fiction/fantasy into romance back in 2008-2009 because of all the garbage I had heard about racism, bigotry, and small-mindedness in the RWA. I had heard stories from other authors about how if I was writing anything erotic, kinky, queer, or featuring non-white characters (*all* of which I do) I could expect to be condescended to and that the information and contacts I would make would be of limited use. 
Then Sylvia Day was elected president. Sylvia was important to me for multiple reasons, including the fact she wrote kinky erotic romances and that she, like me, is half-white/half-Asian. Talking with her at a book conference and then reading some things she had written as president convinced me to stick my head into RWA National in 2011 and attend my local conference. Shortly after that Courtney Milan–who, like me, is an outspoken advocate for diversity on Twitter and also half-white/half-Asian–joined the board, and I was convinced that things were truly changing. I joined. I entered the RITAs. I taught workshops at RWA national and for various regional chapter conferences, even keynoting a few. At the most recent conference in New York, between the diversity represented by the incoming board members and the statement made by the 2019 RITA award ceremony, I really believed the needed changes were truly taking root and that RWA was an institution that I could be invested in for a long time. 
I don’t believe that anymore. That magical RITA night is forever tainted. It now feels like that ceremony used the voices of those trailblazers like Sandra Kitt and Radclyffe to paste a “politically correct” image onto a deeply racist, bigoted organization. And I don’t want to be used that way.
It’s going to take a lot to bring me back at this point. To borrow a phrase from Elizabeth Warren, it’s going to take “big, structural change.” RWA needs to be proactive on many fronts, not just regarding equity and inclusion within membership and its structure, but to be the powerful advocate for authors that it truly should be. RWA should be taking strong stances against delinquent publishers, against monopolistic practices by Amazon, against rights grabs by the Big 5, and many other issues facing romance authors today. I’ll be watching and hoping for that change to come. If it doesn’t, it’s not in the best interest of my career (or my mental health) to uphold a rotten status quo. 
Thanks for listening.
-Cecilia Tan, Writer & Editor
Promo card for Bonds of Love Riverdale Ave Books edition

"The Bonds of Love" Erotic Romance Novella now out from Cecilia Tan

Promo card for Riverdale Ave Books edition of Bonds of Love with purple cover
At long last, SILK THREADS, my romance project with Midori and Laura Antoniou (which we Kickstarted last year) is now available to the public widely for the first time! All three erotic romance novellas, one by each of us, can be bought either as one collected book under the title SILK THREADS, or you can buy the novella(s) separately.
Bonds of Love purple novella coverThe Bonds of Love
by Cecilia Tan
$2.99 ebook
22,789 words
ISBN 978-1-626015-31-9
Download the ebook from: Riverdale Ave | Amazon | B&N Nook | Kobo | Smashwords | and everywhere else ebooks are sold (Apple, etc)
Jiro‘s lineage once proudly served the nobility as samurai: protectors of royalty with a legacy of sword and rope. But though rich in tradition, in the modern age the family is penniless. And after cataclysmic events, Jiro has lost everything, including everyone he ever cared about and maybe even his mind. He is kept in a hospital amnesia ward, catatonic and unspeaking until a charity visit from the Crown Princess rouses him miraculously.
Ami is the sole heir of the Emperor, fresh out of Harvard and looking to both sow her wild oats and create real change for women in her role as a public figure. But her father and his head of security want her kept safe and sound: caged like a bird for her protection.
Ami will do anything to get out from under their control. Little does she know there are true dangers waiting for their chance to strike, a chance that comes when the princess slips away from her bodyguards and disappears in disguise into the underground world of sex clubs and rope bondage performers. Will the disguise be enough to keep her safe from the assassins on her trail? And what about this mysterious stranger, this Jiro, who seems fated to meet her again? What will she receive when she surrenders herself, bound and helpless, to his rope bondage: unbearable pleasure or ultimate pain?
Silk Threads cover
Silk Threads: Three Tales of Passionate Japan
by Laura Antoniou, Midori, and Cecilia Tan
$6.99 ebook
ISBN ISBN: 9781626015296
Download Silk Threads from: Smashwords | Riverdale Ave | Amazon | Apple | and more!
Three authors, three erotic romance novellas.
Bound together by a common magical thread, each novella tells a story of romance and passion unlike any other, exploring both paranormal and BDSM themes. Set in a Japan of the mythic past, the paranormal present, and a cyberpunk future, the three novellas showcase the imaginations of three pioneers of sexuality in fiction.
Focusing on women’s erotic power and desires, each story features individual quests for love, intimacy and the discovery of far-reaching potential within the central protagonists. From the legendary creatures of traditional Japanese fables to an atomic age embodiment of existential anxiety and into a cultural paradigm shift, magical silk weaves each generational story into an exploration of romantic cravings.
Laura Antoniou, Cecilia Tan, Midori
It was truly fun to work on this project together, and the Kickstarter was a blast, but now it’s time to have the book in the capable hands of a publisher, who can put it into many stores and outlets that we couldn’t do ourselves. They’ve also put it onto NetGalley and are publicizing throughout the trade. The joy of having a publisher means they do so many things that an indie author would either have to do themselves or pay someone to do, but they pay us!
So if you missed the Kickstarter or have just been waiting for one of the novellas to be available as a separate piece, your moment is here! Enjoy!

#BookstoreRomanceDay 2019 at the Harvard Bookstore

Cecilia Tan, Margaret H. Williston, Satin Russell, Kerry Winfrey, Loretta Chase, Harvard Bookstore
Moderator Margaret H. Williston, with authors Cecilia Tan, Satin Russell, Kerry Winfrey, and Loretta Chase at Harvard Bookstore’s event for Bookstore Romance Day

I’m just back from a really fun night at the Harvard Bookstore thanks to a lively and uplifting panel discussion on romance of all flavors, held to celebrate the first ever national Bookstore Romance Day. If you haven’t heard of this type of nationwide event, it’s a thing encouraging visits your local independent record shop (on Record Store Day) or comic book store (Free Comic Book Day) or bookstore in general (Indie Bookstore Day).
This is a big deal because, let’s face it, some indie bookstores haven’t always been the most welcoming to the genre of romance. These days even the snootiest of literary culture stores will have mystery, science fiction, and the other fiction genres that grew out of the pulps of the 1940s, but many seem to think that romance is “trash” and therefore beneath them.
This is a trash opinion, of course, as I said on the panel.
But many indies in the wake of millennial feminism, scholarly studies on feminism and romance, and award-winning documentaries (not to mention a 2016 panel at BookExpo America on how to make your bookstore romance-friendly, and support from the American Booksellers Association and the RWA) are waking up to the fact that not only are they missing out on a billion-dollar fiction market, but romance has the same breadth and depth of talent, quality, style, and political messaging as every other genre.
Romance picks of the month at Harvard Bookstore displayed alongside The Mueller Report.



View this post on Instagram


#BookstoreRomanceDay at @harvardbookstore with @lorettachase1995 @satinr @ctan_writer @kerrywinfrey moderated by @mrsfridaynext

A post shared by JayneChanger (@jaynechanger) on

In her intro to the panel, bookstore staffer Katharine told the story of how the Harvard Bookstore became romance converts 4-5 years ago. It started with staff members like her asking “Why don’t we sell romance?” and the negative answers eventually wearing thin. They added a section, and for the first year or so it didn’t do very well because for so many years romance readers had been told this bookstore didn’t carry “that kind” of book. But they gradually began to discover the change, and some previous romance-focused events helped spread the word.
“If there’s one thing that I’ve learned from reading romance novels,” she said, “it’s that sometimes you can make mistakes, but if you have someone who’s patient with you, you can earn people’s trust and a happy ending.” Now that the readers are feeling more welcome, the romance section is taking off and just doubled in size! (Not only that, once the Harvard Bookstore added romance to their shelves, publishers sales reps started nagging other indie stores in the area to do the same, since if the stuffiest of all booksellers could do it, why couldn’t they? I’m happy to report Porter Square Books has a nice selection, which I browsed and bought something from just last week.)
She then handed the mic off to our fabulous moderator, librarian and podcaster Margaret H. Willison, who kept the conversation lively all evening, giving each of the four writers ample opportunities to talk about what brought us to romance in the first place, how we had to overcome our own learned prejudices from the literary establishment, and why we feel writing love stories is so important.
The four of us write in drastically different sub-genres of romance, but what we found was that we had so much in common. Loretta Chase writes historical romance who had started out studying English literature. “What I found was that in these works of literature that I loved, though, was that the women in them, if they showed any spirit or interest in pleasure, they tended to end up dead. And I thought, well, if I write a book, I’ll fix that. Little did I know there was a whole genre of historical romance where writers were doing just that! The first one who really influences me was Edith Layton. I read one of her books and realized oh, here’s a woman who loves English history, who has a real ear for language, who writes beautifully, this is something I can get into!”

Margaret H. Willison, Loretta Chase, Satin Russell
Historical romance author Loretta Chase spurs laughter from Margaret H. Willison and Satin Russell with tales of her romance writing career.

Satin Russell, by contrast, grew up in a household where her mom read a lot of romance and she probably read her first romance when she was 12 or 13. She does a lot of author events at various locations. “One was in a local Elks Lodge. Downstairs they were having the manliest event ever: a meat auction. Up comes this guy after the auction ended to check out the fair upstairs, a big guy in his Harley Davidson leather jacket and boots.” She’d previously come to expect men at bookstores to pooh-pooh her romantic suspense novels, even though they’re suspense. “But you know, men fall in love, too. Men have romance. Why shouldn’t they read about it?” (He bought both books.)
Kerry Winfrey writes YA romance and recently branched out (up?) into romantic comedies for adults, too. She was wearing earrings with Tom Hanks’ and Meg Ryan’s faces on them, which might possibly be the most awesome, on-brand accessory I’ve ever seen, given that her book is called WAITING FOR TOM HANKS. “I majored in creative writing in college and we were mostly reading literary short stories that were super depressing. So I was secretly reading YA romance and not telling anybody. It took me a while to realize that I didn’t have to only read things that were super depressing! The point where I totally tipped over was about three years ago when I had my son, and I was up at all hours of the night holding him because he wouldn’t sleep, and reading with my phone propped up in my other hand. That was when I realized this is really all I want to read and I don’t care if there’s some kind of stigma attached to it. When you’re that sleep deprived you can’t read something heavy.”
Author Kerry Winfrey
Author Kerry Winfrey meets readers and autographs books at Harvard Bookstore.

I told the story about how I came into romance via erotica, “Talk about a genre that people have weird ideas about and want to shame you for writing or reading!” And one of the main things that kept me from having to struggle with any kind of stigma around it was not just the fact that I was starting to do it at a time when feminism had a wave of sex-positivity (the early 1990s) but that my mom went all in on normalizing it, accepting it, and just expecting everyone in the family and friends to follow suit. And they did. She never acted like it was anything to be ashamed of, and so no one ever tried to shame me for it. If they had those kind of thoughts, they kept them to themselves!
When my first big book, Black Feathers, came out from Harper Collins in 1998, my mom threw me a book launch party in backyard of the house I grew up in, in suburban New Jersey, with a tent and a band and our favorite filipino caterers. It was exactly like the party people usually throw for their kid’s high school graduation. She invited everyone who’d ever known me while I was growing up, all our relatives, my dentist, my schoolteachers, you name it. So everyone just kind of had to take it in stride that it was something to be proud of. (More recently my mom has had me come speak to her book club a few times and had them read my books, yes, even the really sexy ones.)
The panel ended with a really fun bang, as Margaret showed each of us a photo of a cute guy and had us cast him as a romance hero and tell his backstory. This was a total hoot as the photos she had picked were early “before they were stars” headshots of Chris Evans (complete with earring), Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson (wearing the most confusing mix of bling and leather fanny pack — a photo which has apparently started a meme of people cosplaying as him?), Chris Pratt (with dark sideburns but long tousled blond locks), and young Stephen Colbert looking like (as I cast him…) “a young playwright about to drop out of his soul-crushing MFA program and reach his true creative dreams with the help of the supportive partner he’s always needed, but has never been able to admit his feelings for… until now! I think the gender of the partner is still in question, though.”
If you’d like to pick up some of our books, we autographed all the stock at the end, so if you missed the event, you can still go get the signed books. In fact, you can order the books pictured below directly from the event page on the Harvard Bookstore website.
Signed romance books on sale at Harvard Bookstore

InVocation, an art installation by Midori

Ancient, grimy-looking Mac keyboard from the 1990s.
Today I was inspired to ship off this ancient, grungy Mac keyboard (see photo) that has been gathering dust and grime in my office for over 20 years. I’m in the midst of cleaning out my office in general, unearthing all kinds of interesting things in the excavation, but this one was sent not to the dumpster but to Midori, who is collecting objects from queer sex workers around the world to be woven into an art installation she’s calling “InVocation.”
She texted me to ask if I considered erotica writers (or myself in specific) to be sex workers, and here’s what I told her: “I don’t think most sex workers would consider us part of their group, but I do, at least from a political coalition standpoint, because erotic writing work is subject to different laws and restrictions from other writing work on the basis of the sexual content. We’re treated differently, our product can be outlawed or flagrantly destroyed with no recourse for us, our books are hidden, etc.”
When you write erotic work, even places like Patreon restrict you. Even when what you do isn’t illegal, they make your page un-findable from the search bar (you have to know exactly what URL to put in to find any X-rated artist). Amazon does the same, plunging not only individual books but sometimes whole keywords into the “adult dungeon” where they languish, unfound by searches. Erotic writing is reportedly more likely to be pirated or stolen than non-erotic writing, as some people both feel shame about buying it and NO shame about ripping off a mere “sex writer.”
Erotica writers have to fight harder to get paid than non-erotic writers do and we’re offered less for our work (compare the $50 a story standard for erotica anthologies to the 8 cents a word standard demanded by the Science Fiction Writers of America = $200 for a 2500 word story). This despite the adage “sex sells.” Even in the wake of 50 Shades of Grey, the top selling book in English-language history, many bookstores still have no erotica section, and those that do have one often won’t label it visibly. Some stores won’t carry it because they believe it’s illegal to sell to customers under 18 and they don’t ID their customers. And so on.
All those barriers — moral, structural, logistical, societal, and legal — makes making a living as an erotica writer even harder than making a living as any other kind of writer.
I’ve been living with this reality for so long that I sometimes forget it’s there. But at the RWA conference a couple of weeks ago I took a step back and had it hit me all over again. So many of the avenues for building a career, gaining readers, promoting a book, and so on are restricted to non-sexual content. For example, Facebook ads are a huge part of most of the marketing campaigns of top-selling books these days. But Facebook won’t let us advertise a book that’s too sexy unless we can plausibly make them look “clean.” (Heck, even the website where 50 Shades was first posted as a Twilight fanfic and built up a huge following had rules against explicit content! They were just ignored…)
Anyway. Midori is creating a sculptural art installation at the Leslie Lohman museum in New York City, as detailed in her post here:
The sculpture will be part of an exhibition called ON OUR BACKS, and it couldn’t be more up my alley. To quote from the exhibition’s description: “This exhibition explores the history of queer sex work culture, and its intimate ties to art and activism. [It shows] queer and transgender sex workers’ deep community building, creative organizing, self-empowerment, identity/desire affirmation and healing and the use of pornography as a deft tool for queer and trans liberation.”
My manifesto, as I’ve been banging the drum since 1992, is that stories change lives. Fiction changes hearts and minds. And I write about sex and sexuality because our society has so many fucked up ways of thinking about those things that the only way to change people toward thinking about them another way is to tell them a story. I write a lot of science fiction and fantasy to change the viewpoint as far from “normal” as possible, but even a story like Daron’s Guitar Chronicles is saying the same thing: we who don’t love within the narrow confines of society’s enforced “normal” of heterosexual vanilla marriage need freedom in this world to exist and to express ourselves as fully accepted human beings.
So, yeah, off my grungy old keyboard goes. I had thought maybe I had one of my old old original laptops — I had a Toshiba T-1000 back in 1989! — but it appears I recycled them long ago because of fears their batteries were dangerous to keep around. But I have clung to a lot of ancient tech. Macs haven’t used keyboard with this style of connector since… 1997? You can see from the grime on it that this keyboard had a lot of mileage on it.
Midori wrote that what she is looking for is objects that were used in sex work that we’ve held onto but we’re ready to let go of. “Objects, which even as you hold on to them, you would like to let it go, give it a new home, recognize that it doesn’t need to take up space in your drawers or storage or heart, or something you’d like to respectfully let it dissolve into the universe. ” I didn’t have a dried out old lipstick case, but I did have this.
I’m looking forward to seeing the final installation.