I’m writing this post from Orlando, Florida, where I attended ICFA 43 (Int’l Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts). ICFA is always great: a mix of sf/f writers with academics and students presenting their papers on various sf/fantasy and sff-adjacent topics like games and gaming, or the immersive fantasies of theme-park design, or connections between gothic literature and gothic subcultures.
One of the program items is sf/f writers reading their work. I opted to do a reading rather than speak on a panel this year, but I was undecided what story I should read. When I was packing for the con I was waffling about this one, entitled “Sacred Heart.” The story appeared in the Unfettered Hexes anthology (edited by Dave Ring, Neon Hemlock Press, buy it from Bookshop.org, Amazon, or your local indie bookstore) which was published for Halloween in October 2021.
This was, without a doubt, one of the short stories I wrote while procrastinating from working on my novel. But it was one of those ones where I sat down at the keyboard with a blank word processor document and it just poured out. Dave, the editor, only had a few small suggestions to make. It’s so rare when something just crystallizes like that, where it’s like you kind of see the entire thing right from the start. When I write stories like that, it’s like I see the first sentence or the first paragraph but that little piece is a fractal which contains the whole, and as I write through the story, more and more of it reveals itself, but it was all there right from the start.
But, still, two days before the con my internal censor was yapping at me: this story is kinda weird, isn’t it too weird? Maybe it isn’t that good. Maybe you should find something else, or write something newer, or… or… or…
What’s a work-a-holic to do when the To Do list is neverending and winter is looming? Make a new To Do list of “not work” things to do, that’s what.
The truth of the matter is that it’s unlikely that my state or city will be going back into any form of lockdown this winter. But if we have a surge in COVID infections like last winter, especially of a variant that breaks through vaccinations, that could mean my household will decide to self-quarantine. Or there’s the possibility that extreme weather will visit us this winter in the form of heaps of snow and we’ll be snowed in. I’m almost hoping that happens a couple of times. Remember snow days as kids? A day off from school to stay in, play games, and read books while sipping cocoa? I could use the break, to be honest…
And if we end up back in some kind of quarantine, that’s the energy I want to take into it this time. Cozy time. So I’m daydreaming on what I’ll do. (Yeah, yeah, I know I’ll still probably work-work-work. But let’s dream a little, okay?) Continue reading →
This one brings together some of the hottest names in spicy romance, including LaQuette, Satin Russell, JR Gray, Kat Savage, and also a bunch of writers I haven’t had the pleasure to read before… but I will now!
Here’s a teaser sentence from my story, which is entitled “Art in Oils”:
Oil paints are so much better than watercolors for showing a sheen of sweat, for capturing that gravid droplet of arousal fattening at the engorged slit. My own thirsty tongue searches my lip.
FLESH FICTION is available for pre-order now on the following sites. It releases October 5! Continue reading →
Content warning: this book contains situations of sexual jeopardy, stalking, and coercive behavior on the part of the villains. It also contains consensual sexual situations, including public sex and bondage.
I have a new short story, free to read online at SABR.org! It’s a piece of near future science fiction told from the point of view of a female baseball pitcher making her debut on the mound at Fenway Park. It’s one of the few times I’ve gotten a chance to mix my baseball writing with my sf/f writing!
I also wrote a detailed breakdown of all the many threads of research, facts, commentary, etc that went into crafting the story in my Patreon, which is free to read here: https://www.patreon.com/posts/54679583
The Patreon essay was prompted by a Twitter thread I did about why I wrote it and The National Pastime, the publication that it’s in:
So, I wrote a story! It combines baseball, science fiction, and a glimpse of breaking the sex/gender barrier in MLB. It's a short-short, so of course every sentence has to do a lot of heavy lifting. That's one of the things I love about writing short-shorts. Thread: pic.twitter.com/6tpLXaM7sL
Going live on Scribd today! An audio edition of (as well as ebook of…) my erotic paranormal romance/romantic suspense novel Mind Games. It was the first romance I wrote for Ravenous Romance back in the days of the digital romance gold rush around 2009. I got the rights back a while ago, and put out a self-published edition, but I hadn’t put it into audiobook format. Scribd bought the exclusive audio rights and you can listen to it right now!
If you’re on Scribd, you can access it for free as part of your subscription.
If you’re not on Scribd, they have a 30 day free trial going on right now. Basically it’s a subscription service ($10/month) similar to Kindle Unlimited that not only gives you access to a large library of free books including many from major publishers and bestsellers, they also have audiobooks as part of the deal, as well as major newspapers and magazines. It’s a great alternative to KU if you’re trying to fight the Amazon near-monopoly or boycotting Amazon (like I am).
To wrap up Pride month and the celebration of the Pride StoryBundle of queer fantasy and science fiction, we have an interview with author and editor Catherine Lundoff. There’s only a week left to grab the Bundle!
Pick up your copy of the Pride StoryBundle through July 1st at https://storybundle.com/pride to read Catherine’s novel about menopausual werewolves, Silver Moon! If you buy the bundle at the $20 level, you get 16 books and you can earmark part of your purchase price for Rainbow Railroad’s life-saving work with LGBTQ refugees. Happy Pride Month!
How do you celebrate Pride?
Catherine: I’m often at a table selling books at a lot of our regional Prides. If I’m not doing that, I’m hanging out with my friends and talking to the vendors and anyone else who looks interesting. I also like to do author readings, see queer theater and films and engage in whatever interesting cultural and political events are happening. I like celebrating as many aspects of Pride as I can!
We have so many wonderful queer books being published these days, but new queer writers can still face unique challenges. What advice would you offer them?
Catherine: Don’t give up. Finding and building an audience can be hard and slow but have faith in your work and keep going. Support other LGBTQ+ writers and work with them when you can to make everyone as successful as possible.
This year’s Pride Story Bundle is out! And it’s available only for the month of June. Put together by Melissa Scott and Catherine Lundoff, the bundle features ebooks of queer sf/f to celebrate Pride month and the breadth of LGBTQ science fiction and fantasy. My contribution is Spellbinding–the Magic University anthology of short stories, half by me, half by other writers playing in my sandbox.
Pay what you want to get the main bundle of five books (pictured above) including Catherine Lundoff’s Silver Moon, Melissa Scott’s Burning Bright, AJ Fitzwater’s No Man’s Land, Highfell Grimoires by Langley Hyde, and Dropnauts by J. Scott Coatsworth. If you pay at least $15, though, you get 11 more bonus books, including mine. For deets: https://storybundle.com/pride
Today here on the blog, we have a little interview with Melissa Scott about the book Burning Bright, which is included in the bundle!
Can you tell us about the book you have in this StoryBundle?
Pilot and amateur game-creator Quinn Lioe comes to the planet Burning Bright, an independent world built on trade between the human Republic and the alien empire of the Hsaioi-An. It’s also a hub of the Game, and Lioe is delighted when she’s able to cut a deal to run one of her sessions at a high-level house. But she inadvertently gets involved with an ex-Gamer-turned-artist who is himself deeply enmeshed in local and off-world politics, and finds herself trapped in that new and deadly game. Burning Bright is about the intersection of art and politics, and the many prices one can pay for power.
What do you find engaging or important about writing LGBTQ+/queer fiction? Continue reading →
Around Christmas we got friends together for a Zoom cocktail party with a custom cocktail class with Tammy’s Tastings (I highly recommend her mix-at-home online cocktail classes. They are super fun and I’ve learned a ton from taking several over the course of this lockdown, now in our 11th month…)
The group was wondering what to do next, and we decided on a Zoom dinner party where we’d each make different courses and deliver them around, then heat them up and eat them together online.
The theme we chose was Alice in Wonderland, and when I saw after a month of sign-ups that no one had taken dessert, it seemed obvious to me I should grab it and naturally I had to make the Queen of Hearts’ Tarts. I don’t believe Lewis Carroll ever specified what kind of tarts the Knave stole from the Queen, but it’s winter, and I have been craving the ripe red summer fruits and berries. This is why we freeze as many strawberries as we can–for just such an occasion.
Next step, order heart-shaped mini tart pans! This turned out to be more difficult than usual because lots of places that sell them were sold out — not sure if that was because of Valentine’s Day or the pandemic, but I eventually found a place that could ship them to me in time.
Then I looked over a lot of different tart recipes. “Tart” seems to mean just about anything that can be called a pie, just smaller. Talking it over with some Pokemon Go playing friends who are into baking, one of them suggested the hip thing because of the Great British Baking show is “bakewells,” a kind of tart that includes a fruit jam and an almond frangiapane. You know how much I love the almond in the king cake, right? This seemed right up my alley. Continue reading →
I have a writer friend who, when she’s learning what it feels like inside the head of her main character, will sometimes go clothes shopping as that character (but not actually buy anything).
I hate shopping malls. I spent too much time in them as a teenager in New Jersey. So when I take my characters shopping, I usually do it either at Good Will or through online retail. Now that the pandemic has kept me out of public contact for the most part, I’ve been sticking to online spaces. By far the most fun place to shop online–especially for character shopping–is eBay, since it’s not just clothes but other things one can look for, as well. Unlike Amazon, eBay has rabbit holes and cul-de-sacs that one can go down, from vintage baseball uniforms to collectible playing cards, from used kitchen equipment to “smart” jewelry.
I sometimes even let my characters shop for me. When I won the RT Award in 2013 for Slow Surrender, I had Ziggy, one of the main characters in Daron’s Guitar Chronicles, pick out my awards ceremony outfit for me. I was utterly dithering about what would be appropriate to wear, and he put together an outfit that absolutely rocked (including boots by Harley Davidson and a double-breasted corset-back tuxedo jacket off eBay that one never would have found in a regular retail site–and which isn’t still available now or I’d link to it).
Right now I’m writing an urban fantasy series where every character has to have a knife. So of course I started researching what knives people might have, both so I can describe them in the text and so I can figure out what style each character would carry.
On eBay I discovered that several of the knives I personally own are now collectors items. In fact, I discovered that a knife I’d had since the 1990s–but which I didn’t think was expensive or hard to replace and so I let the TSA in Florida confiscate it–is now going for $200 and up on eBay. I’m talking about the “skeletonized” Spyderco Q. I own several Spyderco that are now rising in price. Apparently, Spyderco used to have all their blades made in Seki, Japan. The company was recently bought and moved all manufacturing to China, and blade connoisseurs are unhappy about this? And so the “classic” Seki Spydercos are going for premium prices now.
My search for a new skeletonized Q, though, eventually led me to GovDeals.com as well. This is a site where government agencies like the TSA (and state universities) sell off their surplus. You can buy pocket knives by the bucketful. I ended up picking up several nice police-issue Spydercos via GovDeals, which really made me wonder how that confiscation went down: was it a dick-sizing competition between the TSA officers and some police officer who thought they could get away with carrying a blade like that on an airplane?
I still haven’t found a Spyderco Q at a price I’m willing to pay. The one I lost had the spider-in-web cutout and serrated blade. I’ve decided which character will be carrying that knife.
I also researched knives so small they can be worn as a charm on a necklace. Spyderco has one called the “bug” (even smaller than their “honeybee” model) which fits the bill. I bought one of them off eBay to check that it would be as sharp and usable as the bigger ones: it is! It even comes with a hole for stringing the chain through. Research!
This eBay rabbit hole eventually led me down to ceramic “fruit knives,” which supposedly can’t be detected by X-ray machines. I picked up a few of them, too, on mega-sale via eBay ($15 for a set of four folding knives), and they are cute! They look like birds/fish, feel basically like plastic, but they are SHARP. I used them all summer to cut peaches to eat. When we are allowed to travel again (someday!) these will probably be my go-to travel knife. A couple of eBay shopping tips: SEARCH BAR: If you’re doing the pandemic thing of wanting ideas for home improvement, don’t just type “Home Improvement” into the search bar. You’ll get all items related to the TV show by that name, DVD sets, etc. If you search for “home improvement” and you set the search bar to search within the category of Home and Garden, on the other hand, you’ll find all the smart doorbells, fireplace accoutrements, door hinges, etc etc. Narrow your search if you aren’t finding what you want. On the other hand, sometimes you find some really interesting stuff if you look in unexpected places. COUPONS AND DEALS: I did not know this until recently, but there are sites that search for online coupons and EBay is one of the sites that quite regularly has coupons. So now I know to check Slickdeals at https://slickdeals.net/coupons/ebay/ before I buy anything. The deals change so you have to go see what’s current on any given date. Right now I see a 15% off anything and a 10% off any new product. DON’T GET SUCKED INTO AUCTIONS: If you want the best deal, sometimes it’s great when you bid on something with a really low starting bid. But if you get outbid, you really should look at what price you’d pay if you just flat out bought the item from a regular retail site. If you get into a bidding war with someone, the only way to “win” is to pay more money than the other bidder(s). More money does not sound like a bargain, now, does it?
So, I’ve ended up buying a bunch of knives. What about you? What have you found yourself buying during the pandemic?