Authors Are Small Businesses, Too

Hello! Here in the U.S. (and perhaps other places too?) today is Small Business Saturday, one of a series of themed commerce days that launch us from Thanksgiving into the full brunt of the Christmas Shopping Season. It is what it is.

That said, did you know that authors are, in and of themselves, small businesses? Small business owners, I suppose would be more grammatically accurate (if not practically so), but the point is that we are entrepreneurs as well as artists. That is a big part of the job of being an author. Not everyone likes it. It’s not the art form we signed up for. But again, it is what it is.

If you are looking for a delightful stocking stuffer (“Take two, they’re small!”) or gift for someone who enjoys reading, you might consider one of my books. As of now, we have no supply chain problems. (Yay!) You can order directly from me (send an email to forest.of.diamonds@gmail.com) and I can ship it to you usually within 1-2 days, or you can order from any bookseller (online or brick-and-mortar).

At the moment, I have four titles available:

Finis. (fiction, Book 1 of the Animal Affinities Series) — Click here to read the first two chapters.

Homecoming (fiction, Book 2 of the Animal Affinities Series) — Click here to read the first two chapters.

The Sharp Edges of Water (poetry) — Click here to read a poem from the collection.

The Milk of Female Kindness: An Anthology of Honest Motherhood (international anthology of writing and artwork for which I am one of the lead contributors)

I’m happy to sign books and get them to you ASAP. (You will pay shipping.) If you order them before December 15th, there’s a much better chance you’ll have them in time for Christmas, if that’s your thing.

Leave a comment here on this blog post or email me at forest.of.diamonds@gmail.com to order them from me directly, but again, you can get all three of my own titles just about anywhere. (If a bookstore is out of stock, have them order it from Ingram.) The Milk of Female Kindness is available through me directly or through Amazon.

Thank you for supporting your local indies!

Fond Regards, Marcus Sedgwick

I was astounded and saddened yesterday to learn of the death of Marcus Sedgwick.

For those of you who didn’t know of him, he was a celebrated author with a list of accolades as long as a swan’s stretched neck. I did not know him well — and in fact spent only one afternoon with him several years ago — but he made a distinct impression on me, enough that learning of his unexpected passing gobsmacked my day.

Many of you are aware I teach Creative Writing at a prestigious high school. One benefit of my program is that we bring in a lot of excellent authors to work with our students, and I met Marcus when he was touring in the US to promote his novel Saint Death and visited my school. We had a lunch and book signing, and then he came in to work specifically with just my high school students. The lunch and signing were pleasant and lovely, and he was pleasant and lovely, but the real impression he made on me happened afterward, in the brief open time between the lunch and my class arriving.

Our librarian and the local bookseller who was sponsoring his visit and one of the parent volunteers escorted him to my classroom, where I was alone and preparing for the next session. He was a youngish man, I thought — in fact only a few years older than I am — but he was walking slowly, with a cane. Our librarian had alluded to some “health concerns,” but I didn’t know what they were. But Marcus was cheerful with a charming British cadence in his voice, gentle and kind in the way that everyone who has mentioned him over the last two days has said. As he sat in a desk at the front of the room, the ladies escorting him said, “It was nice to meet you today. Angélique, he’s all yours!” Then they disappeared from my doorway, and I realized we had almost twenty minutes to fill before my students came in. The small talk lasted about two minutes.

Then I asked if he would like a cup of tea. His face brightened. “You have tea? I would love one, thank you.” I brought over the box of teas I keep in my classroom (several varieties, all high quality brands, because I love tea and don’t see how anyone makes it through a work day without it) so he could select the kind he wanted. (He chose a mint/tarragon blend with no cream or sugar.) Then I left briefly to make the tea while he pulled his presentation up on his computer.

Even after making sure all the technology worked and everything was in order, we still had some time left before my students arrived. That’s when he turned to me and said, “I understand you’re an author, too. What do you write?”

Reader, I was stunned.

It would be a logical assumption to believe that at a school like mine, the person teaching Creative Writing would be an author. In fact, quite a few of our English teachers are also authors. In fact, quite a few of our faculty in other departments are also authors. And by most metrics outside of the school where I teach, I am considered a successful author.

But among all of the dozens upon dozens of authors I’ve had visit my students over the years, he is almost the only one ever to ask me if and what I write. I felt seen in a way I didn’t realize I hadn’t been before. There are countless ways in which I am sometimes invisible to the people around me, but on that day, I was not, and the comfort of that feeling, like a sliver of light, has never left me.

So seeing the news yesterday was kind of tough. I wish the warmest feelings of comfort to his family and friends, whose loss is no doubt immense. May their memories of Marcus bring them peace.

 

 

Monday Earworm: Suzanne Vega

I woke up with this song in my head. Literally a propos of nothing. As usual. There are worse things to have living rent-free in one’s brain than the music of Suzanne Vega, though, especially the tracks from Nine Objects of Desire, which might be her best album? Maybe? I do love it so.

Also, fun trivia fact for you Pulp Fiction fans: Vincent Vega is Suzanne Vega’s cousin. And fun fact for you Ani diFranco fans: her song “Napoleon” is about Suzanne Vega.

Cheers!

 

Zine Fest Houston Is Today!

Hey there! If you’re in the Houston area today, stop on by Zine Fest Houston and see Han and me at the SONIC CHIHUAHUA table! It should be super fun — it certainly was last year, and once again, we’re going to have the PERFECT weather for it. Han and I will be out there from noon until 4:00 p.m.

Click here to see the details, but the short version is this:

Zine Fest Houston
The Orange Show Center for Visionary Art
2334 Gulf Terminal Drive; Houston 77023

(This is not the Orange Show proper, please note, but their other nearby exhibition space.)

There are going to be dozens of zinesters and authors there, and this all-ages community event is always excellent.

We hope to see you there!

Monday Earworm: Sarah Vaughan

A Katz’s Deli (Katz’s Never Kloses) just opened up recently down the street from our house. We looked forward to it for the entire time it was being built and could not wait to walk down the block and a half for breakfast the weekend it opened. Fresh bagels! The best latkes! Blintzes filled with bliss! All the yummies!

And we have made Katz’s something of a habit…

This Sunday, with that delightful extra hour of sleep, we woke up early and walked down there again for breakfast. It wasn’t even 8:00 in the morning yet, and we were almost the first customers in the breakfast crowd. Frank Sinatra was playing over the speakers, and then the divine Sarah Vaughan came on with this number I hadn’t heard in far too long, and it’s been my earworm ever since.

Now it will be yours, too, perhaps. Enjoy.

Up-and-Coming Writers of the World

I’ll be doing something exciting in the new year — can you believe it’s already time to start thinking about “in the new year”?? — in conjunction with Writespace and Houston High School for the Performing and Visual Arts.

Writespace and HSPVA are teaming up in January, February, and March to offer a mentoring program for middle school students interested in Creative Writing. At the beginning of each of those months, a professional writer will teach the kids in the program a course on poetry or fiction or playwriting, and then over the course of the next four weeks, those middle school students will be mentored regularly by CW students at HSPVA.

I cannot begin to tell you how excited I am about this! I taught middle school Creative Writing way back in the day for several years, through Writers in the Schools and Johns Hopkins’ Center for Talented Youth and their Institute for the Academic Advancement of Youth, and it will be fun to get back to working with young students again.

I’ll be teaching the Poetry course on January 8th and the Fiction course on February 5th, and then my colleague Kathryn Peterson will be teaching Playwriting on March 5th. There will be a reading of the students’ original work at the end of the three-month program.

If you have or know any middle school kids interested in Creative Writing, please do send them our way! These courses will be conducted over Zoom, so location is not as much of an issue. This could make a wonderful holiday or birthday or bar/bat mitzvah gift for a young author-to-be! Space will also be limited, so I recommend signing up earlier rather than later.

Click this link for more details and to register.

The New Issue of SONIC CHIHUAHUA Is Here!

The latest issue of my zine, Sonic Chihuahua, has dropped. (Get excited!)

If you’re in the Houston area on Saturday, November 12th, you can get this and many of the still-available back issues at Zine Fest Houston, where I will once again be a featured zinester. (I’ll also have my books and stationery available for sale that day.) Click the link for all the details. (Note: I will be there until only about 4:30 p.m. due to another show that evening. Busy day!)

Here’s is the official Table of Contents for the new issue:

* The Pep Rally I Cannot Forget
* NeriSiren’s Coffee Grotto
* pumpkin cream cheese muffins (seriously!)
* convo with renaissance man Olen Rambow
* voting information
* a Top 5 List not to be missed!
* fiction and art

Fabulous changes are coming in the year ahead. (Get excited again!)

See the official Sonic Chihuahua page here for submission guidelines and subscription rates. Woot!

Monday Earworm: The Proclaimers

Tomorrow begins NaNoWriMo! Woo-hoo!!

I have to tell you, I have never completed the NaNoWriMo in November. I love the concept dearly, but I have to believe that whoever thought writing 50,000 words in 30 days during a month which includes a major holiday was never a schoolteacher or anyone with a day job. I mean, come on.

And yet, people do it! (The slew of horribly rushed and minimally edited self-published ebooks every January is proof, amirite?)

And sometimes the NaNoWriMo yields extraordinarily wonderful results. (See also: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, which was reputedly her NaNoWriMo project for three years.) So yes, people do it.

But I do not. With my familial and employment obligations, it would be utter madness for me even to try. But I heartily cheer on those who do! Genuinely! I am in awe and significant envy of those who have the ability to “win” NaNoWriMo in November. I just can’t manage that myself — at least, not at this precise time.

But I do still, sort of, participate. I make the commitment to just write something every day in November. Maybe it’s a blog post or a scene or a revision to a chapter in a novel I’m already working on, or maybe it’s something else like a poem or a flash story or a micro-essay, but I do it. And I will again this year. I’m working on an R&R of one novel and drafting another, so those are my more pressing manuscript projects. (But they are not my only ones, so I’ve got plenty to work on in case I get stuck on or finish those — both unlikely circumstances at this point, though knock on wood.)

But my earworm today is going to help us get pumped up for NaNoWriMo! Yes, it is! Do you know why??

I present to you The Proclaimers.

Happy Hallowe’en!

It has been *quite* the busy October around here, all the way up until…well, it’s still busy. So I’m closing out Witchy Weekends this year with some lovely pictures from Pumpkin Nights in Austin. If you ever get the chance to go see it there or in Dallas, which I think also has a Pumpkin Nights festival, do. It’s worth it!

The festival has vendors and food booths and a Haunted Bus (which we didn’t go into), and there are also giant inflatables to take your picture with and a fire spinning show (which was truly excellent). The main attraction, though, is the pumpkin trail itself, which goes through a wooded area and is light up in various colors. Each section of the trail has a different theme, and the scenes are carved from pumpkins (most of them artificial sculptures, so there’s not an overwhelming pumpkin smell!).

You’ll see photos here of a gnome village and a giant dragonfly and an underwater scene, but there was so much more, like the giant moon in the first “room” we encountered. (I don’t have more pictures because I tend not to take many most of the time. I just wander around experiencing things in real-time and forget to capture the moment. Ah well. I’m sure there’s a way to manage a better mix of experience and photo. I’ll keep trying.)

And here is one of Han as Dream from The Sandman, in a homemade costume which includes a 3D-printed helm my husband printed and which Han painted.

Happy Hallowe’en, everyone!