Guest Post: Robyn Bennis Provides a Debut Author’s Guide to Social Anxiety

People frighten and confuse me.

It’s not their fault. Well, sometimes it is, but that’s a topic for a different day. Today, I’d like to take you on a journey into the awkward glory of social anxiety. If you don’t suffer from this annoying malady, this article may not be for you, though I’d appreciate it if you’d keep reading anyway, because my second book just came out and heaven knows I need the exposure.

Most people don’t peg me for socially anxious, and I don’t blame them for missing it. I’m chatty enough with people I know, and I’m always the first to throw out an inappropriate comment. Indeed, in groups of more than three but fewer than seven, with at least two friends present, I can be absolutely effervescent. You might even say that I’m the life of a very limited range of small parties.

But if you get me in a crowd and tell me to mingle, you had better be ready for a nervous breakdown.

Have someone you need me to introduce myself to? Sorry, they look really busy sitting alone at that table, quietly refolding their napkin. Maybe later, when they’re not so preoccupied.

Got a small favor I should ask of a friend? That feels too much like imposing.

Trying to make me the center of attention? Then the center of attention is going to be a cloud of dust where I was just standing.

Want me to maintain more than a tenth of a second of nervous eye contact with you? Whoa, save something for marriage there, Speedy McTooFast.
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The Merqueen’s Report: Nebula Awards Weekend, 2018

I will add more pictures in later, editing them in as they get processed. For now, I want to record some of my thoughts and memories from the past weekend and the Nebula Awards conference weekend, before a brand-new weekend eclipses any part of the splendor. Kudoes to the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America events team, particularly Kate Baker, Mary Robinette Kowal, Terra LeMay, Laurie Mann, and Steven H Silver, for work well done.

I flew into Pittsburgh on a Tuesday, getting there late enough that I didn’t look for anyone after checking in, opting instead for a glass of wine, a piece of cheesecake, and quiet reading. In retrospect, that may not have been my smartest move, because my stomach was thoroughly upset by the time I got up the next day.

We (the members of the SFWA board) don’t usually get there on Tuesday, but this year the board was trying something new, a strategic visioning session. As an escapee from the wilds of corporate management, I will admit that I was a little dubious about this but convinced by the end. I’m glad to say that just about everyone from both the incoming and outgoing sets were able to attend and I look forward to catching up the couple of absent folks with all the amazing stuff we got done.
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Guest Post: E.D.E. Bell Serves Up Five Simple Vegan Foods to Try

Hello. I love, read, and write fantasy fiction. Oh, and I’m a vegan.

When I sell my fantasy novels at Comic Cons, I’ll usually sneak a little reference onto the bottom of my table white board, such as Vegan, or Vegan-friendly. In my mind, this covert signal will draw vegans to my table, whispering, “I am one too. Tell me, sister, about your fiction.” Like that first moment of connection in a dystopian novel. This doesn’t happen. Instead, people skip all the other great things on the board, point right to vegan, loudly state, “Look, it says veggan!” and then laugh. This hasn’t dissuaded me from the attempt. About half of those times, someone will ask, “Vegan-friendly fantasy fiction? What’s that?” They laugh. Then when I start to answer, they leave. Even more often, they point and laugh, then turn away.

In my mind, whenever someone asks what could be vegan about fantasy, it proves to me that they’ve never been a vegan reading fantasy. In addition to a lot of the violence and war in the genre (it’s usually a central component, even outside of grimdark), the best scenes feature someone riding their steed in a fine leather vest to grab a hock of ham. I’m not even sure I know what hocks are, but I have concluded they are key to the development of fantasy heroes. So, you know, my fiction is just focused a bit differently. In fact, I think that diversity and exploration is what fantasy is all about.

I’m not here to get into all of that, though. I’m here to talk about one of Cat’s and my favorite subjects: yummy food. Now, I’m not an authority on gourmet cuisine. Go to a vegan restaurant or check out many amazing online vegan chefs for that. (I’m particularly fond of Richa Hingle.) Hey, I’m not even a great cook. But I haven’t eaten meat in almost a quarter century, so I can definitely speak to “what we eat.” Don’t worry. This is just a quick blog to spark some ideas. But if you don’t mind eating plants, here are five simple foods you could give a spin.
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Guest Post: Sheryl R. Hayers Stirs Up Crockpot Short Ribs of Hope

Image of crockpot short ribsI’m not the world’s best cook by any means. If given the option, to steal more time for writing I will order in or use prepackaged dinners. But there are things I make when I need that extra comfort that take-out or microwave meals won’t provide. It was no surprise that one of my favorite home-made meals made its way into my novel Chaos Wolf.

In that scene, Jordan is due to present herself to the alpha werewolf of the Black Oak Pack for one final test. Alpha Shane has made it clear that if she can’t prove that she is in control her shapeshifting, he will kill her. She has just confronted Montgomery, her vampire mentor, about information he has withheld from her. Her trust in him is shaken when she needs his support the most. She’s exhausted emotionally and physically and needs something she can look forward to beyond mere survival. So she cooks.

Jordan doesn’t toss something into the microwave that warms up in two minutes. She doesn’t reach for the take-out cartons from the dinner the night before. She chooses to make a meal that will take a half hour to prepare and ten hours to cook.

In an act of quiet defiance against all of those who think she’s going to fail, Jordan chooses to hope that she will be there to eat it when it’s done. In her mind, it’s not her last meal, but her next meal to look forward to when she returns home.

I have made crockpot short ribs many times. It’s a recipe my mother taught me, and now I make it for her. I can throw it in the slow cooker when I leave for work and it’s ready when I get home. Any crockpot with a low, medium, or high heat setting can be used. I make it when I know I’m going to have a rough day and want something comforting when I get home. While it won’t win any plating awards on cooking shows, it is a delicious and satisfying meal.

Crockpot Short Ribs

3.5 Lbs. Bone In Short Ribs
6 Russet Potatoes
1.5 lb. Carrots
2 large Yellow Onions
3 Tablespoons Garlic Salt
7 Quart Crockpot

  1. Peel and slice half the potatoes into coins and cover the bottom of the crockpot.
  2. Cut the carrots into chunks and layer over the potatoes. I cheat here by using bagged baby carrots.
  3. Cut your yellow onion into eights and layer over the carrots.
  4. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of garlic salt on top.
  5. Repeat with another layer of potatoes, carrots, onions and garlic salt.
  6. Place the ribs on top of all the vegetables. Sprinkle with the rest of the garlic salt.
  7. Cover with lid and cook on low heat for ten hours. If you want to do it the “fast” way and don’t mind tougher meat, cook on high for four to five hours.
  8. By the end, the fat on the ribs should have melted and the potatoes and carrots will be tender. Remove the bones and serve in a bowl.

Does Jordan get to enjoy her meal? You’ll have to read the book to find out.

Sheryl R Hayes Author PhotoAbout the Author: Sheryl R. Hayes can be found untangling plot threads or the yarn her cats have been playing with. In addition to writing, she is a cosplayer focusing on knit and crochet costumes and works full time at a Bay Area water company. You can follow her at her blog, on Twitter, or on Facebook.

Here’s a sneak peek at Chaos Wolf:

Bitten by a werewolf. Taught by a vampire. At this rate, she’s going to start a war.
Literature major Jordan Abbey ordered a double mocha latte, but it wasn’t supposed to come with a side order bite by a love-sick werewolf. When a vampire comes to her rescue, gut instinct tells her he has questionable motives. But he’s the only one she can trust to help get in touch with her inner animal.

Within a week, her smart mouth lands her in trouble with the hostile alpha of the local pack and the stiff-necked vampire elder. She now has less than a moon cycle to master shape changing… or else. And the besotted werewolf who started this whole mess is stalking Jordan and killing her friends. He won’t take no for an answer.

In the Northern California town of Rancho Robles where the children of the Wolf and the Bat share an uneasy coexistence, one woman makes an epic mess of the status quo.

Chaos Wolf Excerpt

He gestured toward the couch. “Would you like tea, coffee, or soda?”

“Soda, please.” Although she wasn’t thirsty, accepting what he offered seemed the polite thing to do. She sat down on the leather couch and rested her elbows on her knees. “Don’t you only drink… um—”

“Blood?” Montgomery finished the question for her. “No.” He stepped into the kitchenette. “I can and do drink and eat other things. It’s kind of like eating junk food. There’s no nutritional value. I enjoy the flavors and textures. I don’t like to do it too often, though.”

Jordan tilted her head to one side. “Why not?”

His lip curled into a half smile. “I can’t digest matter like when I was mortal,” he explained. “I have to purge it in a different way.”

She blinked, puzzling it out. Understanding dawned on her face. “Oh… Oh!”

One red-and-silver can in hand, Montgomery stepped out of the kitchenette. “When I last saw you, you were hightailing it out of here, never to return.” He gave her the soda and took a seat in the chair sitting at a right angle to the couch. “What happened?”

Jordan stared down at the soda and rubbed her thumb over the frosty top. “After I left, I went home. I didn’t tell anyone about you.” She gestured in Montgomery’s direction. “I went out to try to forget what happened. When I came back, I found out my roommate’s boyfriend had been mauled to death.”

Montgomery stiffened. “Did you see the werewolf?”

“No,” Jordan said. “I didn’t even think he was real until…” She paused and shivered, sloshing the soda in the can. “All I could think about was finding you.”

Montgomery’s lips moved to form a curse. “Did you come directly here?” He stood up and crossed the small space separating the chair and the couch. “Focus. It’s important. Do you think you were followed?”

“No. The police took me and Molly to the station. We’re not allowed to go back to our apartment until sometime tomorrow after the super gets someone in to…” Jordan’s voice broke. She swallowed. “Clean up. I spent two hours getting on and off buses to make sure I wasn’t followed.”

Montgomery sat down on the couch. “Good thinking. If the werewolf was following you by scent, that should have thrown him off your trail. If he was tracking you by sight, you would have spotted him. Or he would have broken in here by now. You’ve been lucky.”

“Lucky?” Jordan’s shoulders tightened and her fist clenched, denting the can inward. “I’m being stalked by something out of a horror film and you think I’m lucky?”

“Yes,” Montgomery countered. “If you had been there instead of your friend, the werewolf would have finished what he started.”

“Finished what he started?” Jordan put the soda on the table unopened. “You make it sound like he let me live.”

“He did,” Montgomery stated, as if it were the most obvious thing in the world.

She stared at him with an open mouth. All the movies and books she had seen taught that a werewolf would rip out her throat as soon as look at her. The female victim never survived the attack. “But why?”

“You haven’t figured it out yet?” Montgomery appeared nonplussed by her reaction. “He wasn’t trying to make a meal out of you, Jordan. He was claiming you as his mate.”

Universal Book Link

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Advice for Attending a Writing Workshop

Image of handwritten notesA student wrote in to let me know they’d made it into Odyssey, huzzah, and asked if I had any advice about attending a workshop. As a matter of fact I do. Like many things in life, you get more out of a workshop if you’re willing to invest a little effort beforehand, during, and afterward.

I went through a number of workshops in college at both the undergraduate and graduate level, but the place where I learned the most was Clarion West, a six week workshop in Seattle. My instructors were Octavia Butler, Andy Duncan, L. Timmel Duchamp, Connie Willis, Gordon van Gelder, and Michael Swanwick; my classmates included Ann Leckie, E.C.Myers, Rashida Smith, and Rachel Swirsky, among others. If you read a lot of F&SF, you may recognize many of those names and realize how incredibly privileged I was to be part of that year.

How I Prepared

  • Read work by your instructors. At least a few stories or a novel. Get a sense for what they will be able to give; there will be things you won’t expect, but you will learn what you like and dislike about their writing and what you want them to teach you.
  • Come with story ideas. Not stories, but prompts and scenes. A list of potential titles. A page where you took fifteen minutes to generate ideas.
  • Put other shit on hold. Clear the decks so unrelated work and deadlines is not distracting you. You want to give it your all. The spouse of one of my fellows had their children writing letters saying how much they missed the parent and wanted them to come home, and it was one of the clearest examples of someone sabotaging their partner that I have ever witnessed. Don’t let anyone do this to you. Make the most of the workshop while you can.

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Guest Post: Kate Heartfield Excavates Food of the Underworld

picture of a hellmouth

Miniature depicting Hellmouth from the Hours of Catherine of Cleves

Imagine a Hellmouth. No, not the one in Sunnydale, California—a medieval Hellmouth, straight out of a manuscript illumination. Pointy teeth, flames, unhappy people.
When I decided that I wanted to write a book about a medieval woman who leads a raid on Hell, that was the sort of underworld that immediately came to my mind. A mouth, though, implies a throat, and a stomach, and, well, everything else.

So I had a Hellbeast on my hands, a creature that spends centuries underground, but occasionally makes an appearance on the surface. It’s a little like a platypus, but without the bill. And a lot bigger.

Within the Hellbeast, there are revenants. But there are also humans—some have been altered in various ways, and some are extremely long-lived, but they are humans nonetheless. This led me to an unusual world-building question: What do people eat in the underworld?
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Recent Newsletter Stuff


It’s full-on spring here in Seattle. Trees are in bloom, and construction projects have shifted into high gear, so the sidewalks are full of pylons and freshly poured concrete.

I’m looking forward to comparing this weather to other places in a few days. First South Bend, Indiana, where I’ll be speaking at the University of Notre Dame, and then Tempe, Arizona, for a two-day workshop working with scientists to write a story about solar power.

Then home for a while, where I’ll have a chance to talk with people at Crypticon here in Seattle at the end of the month ( . Come to the Saturday writing workshop with me! I’ve secured the awesome Kay Kenyon as a co-teacher.

This newsletter marks some changes in the structure of my Patreon campaign ( , and its linkage into the Rambo Academy for Wayward Writers. Even if you’re not a Patreon supporter, you’ll want to bookmark the page, because I’ll be providing some free stuff there each month, courtesy of the supporters.

Everyone, signed up or not, gets the following on the Patreon page:
* 1-2 writing snippets each week from Cat’s current work and the chance to ask questions and offer feedback about them
* Access to the first Ask-Me-Anything Friday session of each month. Check out the post and ask whatever you like. Past questions have included career advice, recommended reading, insider SFWA news, writing feedback, and more.
* Occasional random stuff

All Patreon supporters get the above plus:
* 1-2 monthly stories or chapters and the chance to ask questions and offer feedback about them.
* Access to weekly Tasty Thursday recipes andAsk-Me-Anything Friday sessions
* Special patron-only events & giveaways at conventions
* The former student rate on live classes thru the Rambo Academy ($79 instead of $99)
* More random things at whim

$2 supporters get the above plus:
* 1-3 market news or advice posts per week
* 1-3 writing tip or resource posts per week
* One photo of Taco each month
* Random (usually writing-focused) things

$5 supporters get the above plus:
* All ebooks as they are released
* Access to the Chez Rambo Discord server and the #general, #bookclub, #critclub, #motivation, #news, and an exclusive #patreon channels.
* The usual randomness, usually in the form of chatter in Discord

$10 supporters get the above plus:
* 1 live or on-demand class per year (non-cumulative, starts on 3^rd month)
* Oh surprise, random things

$25 supporters get the above plus:
* Monthly story prompts post
* 1 live or on-demand class every 3 months (non-cumulative, starts on 3^rd month)
* *Rolls a dice* Something random

$50 supporters get the above plus:
* 1 live or on-demand class each month (non-cumulative)
* Even more

$100 supporters get the above plus:
* Monthly 15-30 minute coaching session, live class, or on-demand class

If you’re curious what Patreon is and how it works, there’sa two minute video of me explaining it here ( . We’ve been really enjoying the Discord community so far, and using it for writing sprints as well as chatter and questions.
Look what arrived literally moments ago! Yay! So excited to see all my hard work in tangible form. The electronic version is available for pre-order here ( ; the hardcopy preorder should be available again sometime this week.

** Class News
The next class coming up is Cassandra Khaw’s Writing Better Food ( on Saturday, May 12, followed by Ideas are Everywhere with Rachel Swirsky ( the following day on Sunday, May 13.

Scott H. Andrews has kindly agreed to give his Short Story Openings workshop ( again for people who missed the first version, this time on June 16. A recent addition is a workshop with Doug Smith on July 14 on story rights and reprints. Keep an eye out for it or drop me a drop to go ahead and preregister; usual price.

Find out about all current classes here ( .
If you enjoy gaming, check out Cat in Esper Genesis ( – D&D5E in space — in which Cat runs Petra Cinis, a woman with a Very Large Hammer.

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Press Release: Hearts of Tabat

Cover of Hearts of Tabat by F&SF writer Cat RamboLook at the pretty press release Wordfire put together!

Dryads. Minotaurs. Centaurs. Can magical creatures force social revolution in Tabat?

Monument, Colorado. WordFire Press is proud to announce the release of HEARTS OF TABAT, Book 2 of the Tabat Quartet by Nebula and World Fantasy Award Nominee, Cat Rambo.

“a fascinating world of magic, intrigue, and revolution.” —Publisher’s Weekly on Beasts of Tabat

In Tabat, Beasts — magical creatures like dryads, minotaurs, and centaurs — question a social order forcing them into its lowest level. Adelina Nettlepurse, scholar and secret owner of Spinner Press, watches history being made around her as the city prepares for change, only to find herself faced with the greatest challenge of her life.

In the second book of the Tabat Quartet, award-winning author Cat Rambo expands the breathtaking story from Beasts of Tabat with new points of view as Adelina, Sebastiano, and others add their voices. Tabat is a world, a society, and a cast of characters unlike any you have read before.

Adelina Nettlepurse, noted historian and secret owner of Spinner Press, watches the politics and intrigue with interest, only to find herself drawn into its heart by a dangerous text and a wholly unsuitable love affair with a man well below her station. When Adelina’s best friend, glamorous and charming gladiator Bella Kanto, is convicted of sorcery and exiled, the city of Tabat undergoes increasing turmoil as even the weather changes to reflect the confusion and loss of one of its most beloved heroes.

For interviews, more information, or to request a review copy, please contact us at

Hearts of Tabat
Trade paperback $19.99. ISBN 978-1-61475-637-8
Ebook $5.99. ISBN 978-1-61475-638-9

Coming May, 2018

WordFire Press is a mid-size new-model publisher founded by New York Times bestselling authors Kevin J. Anderson and Rebecca Moesta. You can find us at Tweet us @WordFirePress. Follow us on Facebook at

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Guest Post: R J Theodore Gives Away an Old Family Secret

Everybody’s tried to make a meal they mess up. A pile of perfectly good ingredients that just won’t come together into something palatable despite our best efforts. And when time and money and supplies are tight, sometimes tossing out the pot and starting over is not an option.

In each act of my new spacepunk steam opera novel, FLOTSAM, the four-person airship crew sits down to a meal. They come together to eat, to debate, and to problem solve. Their thoughts in these scenes are filled with worry over finding work, getting paid, keeping the ship in good repair, and staying out of trouble long enough to spend any money left after that.

Each meal is a backdrop to what’s going on in the story at that moment: an easy, familiar meal to celebrate getting away from a confrontation in one piece; a load of their favorite takeout as distraction from unpleasant news; and, finally, a dinner that goes horribly wrong before coming together in the end.
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Where I’ll be at Norwescon, 2018

I have a table in the Writers Alley this year and will be there starting Friday morning. Stop by! I will have books for sale as well as the “Writers Just Fucking Write” keychains.


Literary Techniques for Genre Fiction: Writing Workshop
10:00am – 12:00pm @ Cascade 13
Cat Rambo (M)

Speculative Poetry
2:00pm – 3:00pm @ Cascade 12
Brenda Cooper, Cat Rambo, Alexandra Renwick, Evan J. Peterson

Reading: Cat Rambo
4:30pm – 5:00pm @ Cascade 4
Cat Rambo (M)


Kandy Klatch with Cat Rambo
12:30pm – 1:00pm @ Presidential Suite 1360
Cat Rambo (M)

Autograph Session 1
2:00pm – 3:00pm @ Grand 2
Chris Pramas, Galen Dara, Ken Liu, Matthew Wedel, Nicole Lindroos, Alexander James Adams, Brenda Cooper, Cat Rambo, Donna Barr, Echo Chernik, Ethan Siegel, Evan J. Peterson, Greg Bear, Jennifer Brozek, Jeremy Zimmerman, John (J.A.) Pitts, Julie McGalliard, Kay Kenyon, Kent Hamilton, Laura Anne Gilman, Lisa Mantchev, Django Wexler, PJ Manney, Spencer Ellsworth, Dr. Vicki Wedel, Lish McBride, Kurt Cagle

Writer Talk: He Said/She Said/They Said?
5:00pm – 6:00pm @ Cascade 7 & 8
Cat Rambo (M), K. C. Alexander, Fonda Lee, K.G. Anderson


What is SFWA (Science Fiction Writers of America)?
11:00am – 12:00pm @ Cascade 5 & 6
Cat Rambo (M), Curtis C. Chen

Social Media for Authors
3:00pm – 4:00pm @ Cascade 11
K.G. Anderson (M), Cat Rambo, K Tempest Bradford, G. Willow Wilson

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