2023 in Review

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?

They do.

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.Continue reading →

Readercon 32 (2023) Schedule

I’m finally returning to Readercon after a few years of pandemic-forced break! And the schedule I’ve got looks quite juicy! Readercon, if you’re not familiar with it, is a science fiction convention, but it’s focused entirely on books and magazines (no costumes, no gaming room, no film room). Outside of academic conferences, it’s got the highest level of discourse of any con I’ve ever been to. It now takes place in the Boston area in the Quincy Marriott on July 13-16.

Thursday Night Reading
Things open with my reading on Thursday night, 9pm in the Blue Hills room. Traditionally, programming on Thursday night at Readercon has been free and open to the public, so please come by and hear me read from my brand-new erotic short story collection, Bent for Leather. (I’ll probably even read the newest story in it…)

“What has RWA got that we ain’t got?”
Salon 4, 12 noonContinue reading →

Cover reveal! 17 “Hot & Sticky” Summer Reads from @PassionateInk

Summer beach reading season is almost here, and so is the release of a new anthology from 17 authors in Passionate Ink, including myself! Passionate Ink is the leading organization for erotica and erotic romance authors (and was founded by Sylvia Day back in the day!) and we’re getting together this collection of delicious novellas and stories as a charity for ProLiteracy. The cover is revealed TODAY!~ and pre-order links are going live! Scroll on down…

Set your summer beach read list on fire with seventeen scrumptious stories in one BIG package.

Join Passionate Ink’s celebration of all things summer with their release of “Hot & Sticky.” These steamy shorts will heat you up, wet you down, and make you melt. From historical dalliances, fantasy monsters, shifters, and sci-fi, to fated mates, friends to lovers, and parties of two (or why choose), there’s a perfect flavor to fill your ice cream cone.

Authors Ryley Banks, David Camily, Lil DeVille, W.D. Drames, Jordyn Kross, Darah Lace, Katherine McLellan, Minette Moreau, Leslie Morris Noyes, Michal Scott, Belle Sloane, Cecilia Tan, Vixey Todd, Marie Tuhart, Mandy Valentine, Cadence Vonn, and Sharla Wylde have joined together to create this scorching summer-themed collection. Proceeds for this anthology will be donated to ProLiteracy. ProLiteracy is the leading resource and champion for adult education and literacy worldwide.

My own story in this one is a steampunk erotic novella that has made the rounds to various steampunk anthology and magazine editors over the past 10 years or so, all of whom said that the writing and historical / alternate history details were wonderful… but it was WAAAAAYYYY too sexy for their publications. Story of my life, eh? Then along came this anthology and it just seemed like a perfect fit. I’ll post more about it in a separate post, but for now, it’s called “The Blossoming of Summer” and you can preorder it with the links below the cut and above the now-revealed cover!

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Eulogy for Dr. Sergio S. Tan, my father

My Dad passed away a few weeks ago. This past weekend was his funeral, and here’s the address I gave to the over-100 friends, family, and neighbors who gathered to celebrate and honor him.

I wrote this eulogy in my mind so many times.

There was the time in the ’90s when Dad was supposed to fly to the Philippines where his own mother was on her deathbed, only to land in the ICU with 90% collapsed lungs. Thank goodness he didn’t get on that plane, and after a hospital stay he was just fine.

Then there was the time he had a heart attack in Myrtle Beach. I get a text from my mother saying “I think Dad’s having a heart attack. My phone battery is dying, call you later.” Later, of course, Dad’s main worry was whether he’d be able to watch the Yankees in the World Series from his hospital bed. And he was fine.

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Editing Beyond the Non-Western World: Notes on a panel from ICFA44 in 2023

Screencap from Zoom with Oghenechovwe Donal Ekpeki, Cecilia Tan, Mimi Mondal, Neil Clarke, and Mary Anne Mohanraj
This morning was the ICFA panel on “Editing Beyond the Non-Western World,” which was intended to feature guest of honor Oghenechovwe Donal Ekpeki, as well as myself, Mary Anne Mohanraj, Neil Clarke, and moderator Mimi Mondal. As it has turned out, Oghenechovwe was detained when he traveled to the USA to attend the NAACP Image Awards and denied a visa for entry, meaning he could not attend ICFA, either. And I am missing the convention also, even though I’m currently only a 90-minute drive away, because I’m in the Tampa area where my father’s health is failing. (He was giving last rites in the hospital a few days ago when his doctors believed his expiration was imminent, so I cancelled my plans to go to Orlando, but now that he is home and having home hospice care, he seems to be holding up…! Thank you everyone for all your good wishes and prayers!)

Although the panel room had no WIFI, Mimi had the idea to try to bring us into the panel via Zoom using her own cellular data plan, and this effort was largely successful, but in many ways was a perfect metaphor for the difficulties of publishing writers from outside the USA or Great Britain. One common theme of the panel’s remarks was that there are systemic and logistical barriers to entry for writers from the non-Western world, including issues with currency conversion and difficulty of access to markets and source materials. And another theme was how often the only entities redressing the situation were individuals applying their own resources.
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Support BENT for LEATHER, Cecilia Tan’s short story collection

Banner image from the Kickstarter for Bent for Leather showing a pair of polished boots
Guess what I did? I launched a Kickstarter in the wee hours, hoping to be able to publish a collection of my queerest, kinkiest short stories in time for International Ms. Leather and Bootblack in April.

My previous short story collections have jumbled my kinky and vanilla erotica together, and have also mixed my heterosexual stories with my queer ones. BENT FOR LEATHER, the title I’ve chosen for this one, is specifically the stories that inhabit the particular queer corner of the leather bar in my soul where my lesbian, butch, and transmasculine characters hang out.

Over on the Kickstarter campaign page I’ve listed the table of contents, and I’ve described a bit more about my aspirations for this book… as well as why it took until I put this table of contents together to realize that my own relationship to my gender has always been one of my central themes. I feel like it’s only in the past 5-6 years that I really have been dealing with my “gender stuff,” but obviously, it’s been there all along.

The main thing I’d like to spend the Kickstarter money on is professional proofreading, design, and layout. If we exceed the initial goal, the stretch goal I’d really like to hit is the one that makes me write an all new story to add to the book. That would of course be the most fun of all!

Please help me spread the word if you are able to.

2023: The Year of Speeches

Speaking engagement plans for 2023 are shaping up:

  • March 15-18: ICFA, Orlando, FL
  • April 20-23: IMsLBB Piscataway, NJ
  • May 19-22: MISTI-Con 10th Anniversary, Laconia, NH
  • June 5: StoryStudio workshop online
  • July 5-9: SABR National Convention, Chicago
  • July 13-16: Readercon, Boston area
  • August 20-23: EFACon, Alexandria, VA

Okay, maybe it’s a bit of an exaggeration to call this The Year of Speeches, but it’s what it feels like. Yes, I’ve been a keynote speaker or guest of honor for a few conventions before, including HELIOsphere and the OutWrite festival. But this year there will be two really disparate ones that really frame my extremes:

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Duck Day 2022: Bistronomy

Now that I finally posted last year’s Duck Day notes and photos, I can do this year’s, which had the theme of “Bistronomy.” This year’s meal had the constraint on it that we were going to be in Singapore for the TwoSet Violin concert and wouldn’t get back until basically 6 days before Thanksgiving — functionally 5 days since jet lag wiped out an entire day — and normally we would have to start more than a week in advance to both source all the ingredients and do other prep of pickling, growing sprouts or herbs, etc etc. So we knew we had to keep ourselves from getting too ambitious, and we wouldn’t have time to run test recipes.

As it turns out, we’ve got so much stuff in our larders and already in process, though, and have stockpiled so many cooking techniques over the past several years, that we could pull it off in 5 days without straining ourselves too badly.

This year’s meal was highly influenced by last year’s trip to Paris. (The trip to Singapore was of course also an influence but there’s no way we were going to come home and try to work out Peranakan cuisine in 5 days, so it’s only there in a few spots.) In addition to the fancy ADMO dinner, we also managed to eat at Septime, one of the leading restaurants in the “bistronomy” movement. If you are from the Boston area you might have eaten at Journeyman, which was also a very bistronomic place. The Green Goddess in New Orleans was another notable US entry to this type of restaurant, and my fave is Edison Food Lab, Jeanie Pierola’s original place in Tampa (still there!).

“Bistronomy” was coined when various chefs, trained in the usual French haute cuisine style, found themselves not wanting to spend seven figures on tableware and having to have a huge staff needed for the typical fancy restaurant, and instead preparing a hyperlocal, constantly changing menu in more casual settings. (I’d almost call it “food forward” if it weren’t ludicrous to imply that stuffier, more traditional restaurants were not somehow also about the food…?)

Among the hallmarks of bistronomy: pickling your own stuff in house, growing your own herbs (since you are a small place and not trying to do 200+ covers a night…), inventive “outside the box” fusion…. heeyyyyyy, does this not sound like the way corwin and I cook and eat all the time?? A second theme emerged, though, which was basically: reuse – recycle – repurpose.

So he bought the Bistronomy book by Jane Sigel (get it on Bookshop, Amazon, Indie boosktores) just to look at recipes and read up on the history a bit more, and we planned our menu while jaunting around Singapore. (I think we were at the Michelin-starred restaurant Meta, which is deeply Korean while at the same time being very much in the French tradition of fine dining, when we came up with most of the menu.)
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Duck Day 2021 (last year’s food porn, finally posted!)

grid of photos from my phone, showing mostly various iterations of the ampersand shaped cookie, but a few of corwin prepping duck with the cleaver

grid of photos from my phone, showing mostly various iterations of the ampersand shaped cookie, but a few of corwin prepping duck with the cleaver
Apparently, I never got around to posting last year’s Duck Day compilation of photos and recipes…? So I’m quickly trying to put it together now before I post the 2022 ones…!

Since there was no Duck Day in 2020 because of the pandemic, we decided our theme for 2021 would be “Togetherness” expressed as menu items that included an Ampersand (&). But it being us, some things were not as simple as their names might imply:

Bacon & Eggs
Bread & Butter
Spaghetti & Meatballs
Soup & Sandwich
Milk & Honey
Salt & Pepper
Cookies & Cream
Peanut Butter & Jelly

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Paris: ADMO: December 2021

So, corwin and I went to Paris (yes, France) in December 2021, to celebrate our 30th anniversary and also to celebrate our latest booster shots and go somewhere that still had COVID regulations in place that made sense to us. (Of course we know so much more now about re-infection and all, but this post is not about that.) At the time I posted a long twitter thread with lots of photos but who knows if Twitter is even going to be around or functional soon, so I’m reposting here, with some tweaks for blog format:

So, the big thing that got us out of our semi-quarantine and all the way to Paris was some friends invited us to join them for what promised to be a stellar meal, a tasting menu worthy of corwin and my 30th anniversary. So, yes, here is a food porn thread!

It’s my first time in Paris, and we had been here a few days already before the night of the big dinner, but hadn’t made it over toward the Eiffel Tower yet. We took the Metro from our hotel in the 11th arrondissement and came up to a stunning view.

corwin and ctan with the Eiffel Tower on a moonlit night

The Eiffel Tower at night, across a moonlit river Seine, is pretty hard to beat. Our destination was just across the water, where a couple of the world’s most decorated chefs have set up for 100 nights. You can’t really call that a “pop up,” can you?

Alain Ducasse, the current leader in most Michelin stars, Albert Adria, of el Bulli fame, and some of their associates, collaborated on this unique gastronomical effort and they dubbed it ADMO and situated it in the Musee du Jacques Chirac.

I’d love to talk about nothing but the food, but really it’s not possible to discuss the meal or ADMO without the context, and that context is COVID and the tremendous impact on the restaurant industry, on travel, on the food supply, and on how people gather.

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