Monday Earworm: The Cure

Just about everything about the movie The Crow is horrifying, deeply tragic, and compelling. One of the worst details connected to this film is the accidental death of its star Brandon Lee from a stray bullet fired during filming.

One of the best things about the film — utterly, utterly unrelated to that awful stuff — is this song from its soundtrack.

 

Writing Goals

Each year during The Week Between (i.e. the week between Christmas and New Year’s) I like to think about what I’ve accomplished in my writing life during the previous year and set my sights toward goals for the new year coming up. Sometimes these goals involve manuscripts, publications, things like that, but sometimes they’re administrative. Being an author is also being a small business/owner.

As such, going over my full list of yearly goals would probably not be riveting content for most of you, but I do like to mark this practice with a little reflection. In 2021, which was honestly kind of a not-fabulous year, I managed to remember that at the very least it was better than 2020, and still, even with a pandemic, it was better than approximately 2017-2019, on balance. So we’re headed in the right direction on enough things for me not to feel utter despair all the time at the state of the world. (Yes, I am fundamentally optimistic, but also realistic enough to know this magic carpet could be yanked out from under me at any time. Welcome to anxiety in the 21st Century. Gah.)

But I digress. I was going to reflect on my writing goals in 2021.

  • One of the best things I did this year for my writing was to relaunch my zine, Sonic Chihuahua, which has been quite successful and also personally fulfilling. So thank you for that!
  • I also finished editing one of my novels and started querying it.
  • I took a lot of writing workshops online for professional development.
  • And I finished the 2020 August Poetry Postcard Fest. (Yes, I was tardy on that. It happens.)
  • I also got my published books into more stores (yay!),
  • increased my blog subscribership (wheee!),
  • let go of some things that weren’t serving me well, like my Mailchimp newsletter (whew!),
  • and made progress on two new novels that I’m still drafting.
  • I also started a new collection of poetry.

Okay, when I lay it out like that, it seems like more than it felt like while I was doing it. Yeah, I’ve been keeping busy. Still, while I was going through it, I often felt like I wasn’t getting nearly enough done. On a day-to-day basis, I’m still sometimes having trouble making time for writing on school days. Last semester was a beast in terms of work load. But as it always does, the semester came to an end, and now we’re in a new term with a chance to do things over in a better way. As always. This is one reason I sometimes really appreciate the cyclical nature of teaching.

So what are my writing goals for 2022?

  • I want to keep working on my fiction and poetry and maybe finish drafting one of these books this year.
  • I’m going to continue producing Sonic Chihuahua, but with some improvements to my production schedule.
  • I’ve made a return to in-person author appearances and plan to do a few more this semester.
  • And I’d really like to get my blog readership up over 1,000 subscribers. (Feel free to share my blog posts using the buttons on this site that make it automatic when you’re inspired to do so, but as always, avoid plagiarizing my content. Thanks!)
  • There are some other administrative things going on behind-the-scenes. If any of them are outwardly noteworthy, you’ll hear about them here, of course.

So that’s where things are here in Authorland at the moment. How about you? Do you make new year’s resolutions or avoid them? Do you set goals for yourself at the turn of the year? What are you hoping to accomplish in 2022?

2021 Romance Titles Ranked By Heat Level

The last two years when I posted my Reading Years in Review, I was asked to provide more detail on the books I read that were category romance, and that was so well received, it looks like this is going to be another annual tradition here on the blog. (Click on these links to read the 2019 and 2020 rankings.) So once again, I’m providing a list of the romance titles I read over the past year ranked by heat level. For those who might be unfamiliar with that term, it essentially refers to the sensuality level or raciness of the story. There are several technical guides and explanations for how to rate such things if you go looking for them online, but I’ll summarize the widely accepted definitions below.

Continue reading “2021 Romance Titles Ranked By Heat Level”

2021 Reading Year in Review

Here we are on the last day of 2021, and I’m confident I won’t finish by tonight the book I’m currently in the middle of reading, so I’ll just go ahead and do my 2021 Reading Year in Review post now. In case you haven’t seen these posts in the past when I’ve done them and would like more context for why I write them, please click here for 2019 and here for 2020.

The short version is that I’m happiest when I’m reading a lot for fun. Not just reading student papers (which I can enjoy but which is work), not just reading emails or social media posts (rarely fun, and usually decidedly worse), not just reading my critique partners’ manuscripts (can be enjoyable but definitely uses a different part of my reading brain). Reading for pleasure is actually one of the few activities that I can reliably depend on for a dopamine hit. I love reading when I’m reading something good.

So in an effort to read fun books more, and in an effort to broaden my reading diet, I started several years ago keeping a list of the books I read each year. The listmaking accomplished both of these goals really well. I will admit, though, my pleasure reading quota this year was not quite as many books as I would have liked, nor were the titles on it as broadly varied as I typically strive for. Part of this was because of the overwhelm of my job, which was really something else entirely this year — so I read fewer books overall — and part of it was my apparent need for predictably happy endings in the stories I was reading — so I read more category romance. I also started writing (actually drafting, not just making notes and transcribing random scenes from my imagination) a romance this year, too, so that influenced my choices somewhat. Finally, I took some poetry classes over the summer and am working on another poetry collection; the beneficial effect this had on my reading list was to add more poetry titles.

It’s useful to note that on my list, I will include books I reread, but if I read them more than once in a single year (which happens occasionally, particularly when I’m studying a text), I will list them only once. Books I read but which are not yet published will not be listed here, nor will I list books which I started but did not finish (or do not intend to finish). You might notice that some of these titles are part of one series or another and when I enjoy a series, I tend to keep reading it, even if I don’t typically binge all of the books one right after another. 

So without further explanation, here is my 2021 Reading Year in Review. (I’ll do a little more category analysis after the list.)

Here are some of the books I read. Obviously not pictured are ones on my Kindle or laptop (which ended up being a lot this year), ones that are at school (campus is closed), ones which have gone through my Little Free Library, and ones which I’ve lent out to friends or family members.

All At Once by Brill Harper
Any Rogue Will Do by Bethany Bennett
The Viscount Who Loved Me by Julia Quinn
An Offer from a Gentleman by Julia Quinn
Meaty by Samantha Irby
Beneath the Keep by Erika Johansen
The Millionaire Booklet by Grant Cardone
Cinderella Is Dead by Kalynn Bayron
You Can Do Anything, Magic Skeleton! by Chuck Wending
The New Yorker Book of Lawyer Cartoons by The New Yorker
Spoiler Alert by Olivia Dade
Steering the Craft by Ursula K. LeGuin
The Sugared Game by KJ Charles
The Warrior King by Abigail Owens
The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker
Ten More Poems by James Hoff
Lullaby by Christine Hume
Almost Perfect Forms by Michael Stewart
City: Bolshevik Super-Poem in Five Cantos by Manual Maples Arce
Men to Avoid in Art and Life by Nicole Tersigni
Space Opera by Catherynne M. Valente
You Can Never Tell by Sarah Warburton
The Cure for Writer’s Block by Andrew Mayne
Funny Business by Kayley Loring
Witch Please by Ann Aguirre
Their Nerd by Allyson Lindt
If She Says Yes by Tasha L. Harrison
Before We Disappear by Shaun David Hutchinson
Dearly by Margaret Atwood
All Together by Brill Harper
The War of Art by Steven Pressfield
A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry
The Old Cities by Marcel Brouwers
Blame It on the Mistletoe by Beth Garrod

So now for a little light category analysis — and please note that a few of these titles actually fit comfortably in more than one category.

There are 34 books on this list. I mostly read narrative fiction this year, which is typical for me as it is my favorite thing to read, by far. But I also read other genres:
* non-fiction — 7 titles
* poetry — 6 titles
* plays — 1 title
* humor — 4 titles
* graphic forms — 3 titles

Most of what I read is typically considered adult fiction, but I do also like YA. In the YA category, I read 3 titles this year: Cinderella Is Dead, Before We Disappear, and Blame It on the Mistletoe. And while the three YA titles I read this year might also be marketed as YA romance, I’m not including them as category romance because I think the other important plot elements (and in fact, their entire overarching narratives) really do bear more of the weight in those stories.

And that’s it, my reading list for 2021! I had a generally good year for reading, not gonna lie. Watch in the coming days for a post on this year’s romance titles ranked by heat level, which is something a few of you excellent blog readers requested a couple of years ago and which has been a hit every time I’ve done it.

So…what on this list is interesting to you? Have you read any of these titles, and if so, what did you think? Would you like a review of any of these books? Let me know in the comments.

SONIC CHIHUAHUA at the Turn of the Year

As of today, the December issue of the SONIC CHIHUAHUA is ready to go out the door and to a mailbox (or eagerly awaiting open hand) near you!

So how are things going, eight issues in, with my little zine?

Well, frankly, WELL.

I will be the first to admit that restarting this zine after a twenty-nine-year hiatus was an impulsive lark. It was a decision that I made quickly, even if the seeds of that decision had been planted and quietly sprouting for a couple of years or so. And for the first couple of issues this spring, I was very much feeling my way (again) around the mechanics and logistics of putting a project like this together.

Every month. With paper and black pens and scissors and an adhesive roller.

The first issue ended up being almost twice as long as I’d intended, but it was a good length and is one I’ve stuck with. Figuring out the layout of the zine and the formatting of the content that was printed involved a fair bit of trial-and-error, but I got there. During our pandemically deprived social life, the Sonic Chihuahua became my new Friday night jam, and I loved it.

And even better was the reaction I enjoyed from nearly everyone I sent it to: excitement, enthusiasm, eager support, encouragement. Even, occasionally, someone giving me money for it! (Though financial contributions have always been optional.) There were even a couple of months when the income earned from the zine surpassed the royalties earned on my books!

And the zine grew. Oh wow, did it grow. The distribution, which wasn’t small to begin with, is half again larger than it was when it started, and now I have regular contributors sending me wonderful content to include. I’m loving that!

Without putting too fine a point on it, the Sonic Chihuahua has been, for me, exactly what I needed, exactly when I needed it. And I’ve heard from several readers that it has been what they needed, too, and this also makes me quite happy.

In November, Han and I went to Zine Fest Houston. I’d never attended before and was thrilled that Sonic Chihuahua got in. The event itself was excellent — it was a gorgeous day with perfect weather, the fest was in an open-air warehouse space that caters to arts events, the organizers were totally on the ball, and the crowds were big enough for Han and me to be busy all afternoon but not so thick that we felt unsafe. (And yes, we wore masks.) It was a delightfully good day, and we got to browse around and see dozens of other zinesters and their work. I learned a lot.

  1. For one thing, our little zine was well-received. That’s always nice.
  2. For another thing, there’s a whole bunch of incredible indie and self-publishing and artwork happening out there, and it’s well worth checking out.
  3. And finally, our production schedule is way aggressive! 

Putting an issue out there once a month, turns out, is rather more frequent than most zinesters are doing. (In fact, we encountered maybe none who were, besides us.) Add to that the increasing costs to produce the paper zine, and the fact that a few of my readers have told me they don’t always finish reading it before the next issue comes (there’s a LOT in each one, y0), and the other fact that I would really like to finish at least one of the novels I’m currently writing… 

You can see where this is going, can’t you? I’ve decided that in 2022, volume 3 of the Sonic Chihuahua will come out every other month instead of every month. I’ve also standardized subscription rates — for those who wish to pay for it — and even added a limited digital option (by subscription only). All of this feels like the right direction to go in, for various reasons which are boring but which I’m happy to expound upon if people want me to. (Leave your questions in the comments, if you have them.)

You’ll see the same awesome content as before. You’ll just have more time to enjoy it before the next issue comes out. Also look for more art in the zine, starting with December’s issue this week.

So on balance, I would say the zine has been a highly worthwhile project for me personally and highly appreciated by those who read it, and therefore I will keep making it. Woot! Thank you to everyone who has subscribed and/or read and/or shared photos of the zine on their social media. I appreciate all of this more than you know!

Monday Earworm: Bonus Wintry Tune That Won’t Make You Miserable

I recognize it’s a bold claim to say that music I choose won’t make you miserable, but aren’t hot takes what blogs are for? Anyway, today’s song — “The Week Between” by Jonathan Coulton and John Roderick — has made the 12 Days Playlist in years past, and I had considered making it a bookend with The Waitresses for the Day 12 spot each year. I chose not to, though, because I honestly had too many other good tunes to share this time around (as is often the case), and the week between Christmas and New Year’s had a Monday that felt well-timed for this earworm.

I’ll catch up with you all more in the coming days and weeks to debrief on 2021 and cast a glance at 2022, but for now, here you go. Enjoy this song which I love, that sums up this week — almost every year of my childhood — so beautifully. The song’s subtextual premise is about nostalgia, and it definitely hits that for me.

What about you? What’s nostalgic about the week between for you?

 

12 Days of Wintry Tunes That Won’t Make You Miserable (Day 12)

Perhaps you’ve had a long and festive day filled with family, friends, food. Perhaps you’ve had a mellow and safe holiday. Perhaps you’re not celebrating. Perhaps you’re ready to settle in for the end of the holiday season and just want some quiet.

Whatever your state this evening, here is one last holiday earworm to finish things off until the next chapter. Stay tuned to the blog this coming week for more details about where things will be heading over here.

I wish you all the very best Saturday night, no matter what or if you’re celebrating. Cheers.