Author & editor Catherine Lundoff of Queen of Swords Press on queer fiction & fantasy #PrideStoryBundle

2021 Pride StoryBundle
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.

Can you tell us about the book you have in this StoryBundle?
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Author Melissa Scott on the 2021 #PrideStoryBundle of Queer SF/F

2021 Pride StoryBundle

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?
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Pandemic Baking: Queen of Hearts Strawberry Rose Frangiapane Tarts

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.
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Pandemic Retail Therapy: Ebay Shopping for my main characters

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.

Spyderco Q: The knife I would never have let the TSA take if I knew they were going for $200 to $350 on eBay now…!
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?

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.Continue reading →

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…Continue reading →

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.)
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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 https://americansexpodcast.com/
There’s also bonus content only available to subscribers to the American Sex Patreon: https://patreon.com/americansex 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: https://patreon.com/ceciliatan

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: https://bit.ly/HPbingewatch

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: https://bit.ly/HPbingewatch


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