Action Dispels Anxiety

EDIT: I’m going to continue adding resources to this post so that everything can be found easily in one place. I will note on my Facebook author page and on Twitter when new items are added.

I really haven’t wanted to throw my voice out there so much this week. For one thing, my voice isn’t one that needs to be amplified right now. I want to be useful, though, and I do have an audience. So I should make something clear:

I categorically do not support the racist and fascist views of the current regime. I categorically do not support the racism entrenched in our country’s culture and daily workings, nor the genocide and other injustices this nation was founded upon. This past week has been brutal, and up until yesterday, each day was simply filled with more and more reasons to feel depressed and discouraged. To say I’ve been disheartened would be an understatement, except that I — like so many of us — have been feeling it for a long while now.

Edit, June 11th: I now also want to make extremely clear that I support equal rights for the entire LGBTQ+ community, that trans women are women, trans men are men, trans non-binary folk are non-binary, and these are not the only ways one can transcend the cis-het experience. There are many valid ways to exist in this world, and no one has the right to dictate these ways for people other than themselves. Moreover, all people who do not identify as cis-het still absolutely deserve to be treated with dignity and respect because they are people just like everyone else. And no matter how much I may have enjoyed a certain billionaire’s books when they came out, I absolutely do not support her boneheaded stance on this issue.

Hwaet.

One way to diminish anxiety about The State Of Affairs (aka the garbage fire in our news feeds) is by taking action, as so many of us learned a few years ago. So here are some ways you can, if you choose, take positive action to help chip away at the awfulness around us and replace it with something better.

Be safe. Wear cloth coverings on your face in public. (I like these and these and these.) Amplify marginalized voices. Wash your hands. And pick one of the following things to do or read or understand better each day.

75 practical actions — a long list of practical actions (some of them very easy and some of them only a few minutes long) that you can take to participate in the pursuit of racial justice

Here are worthy organizations (which I lifted straight from Chuck Wendig’s blog today — Thanks, Chuck!) that you can donate to in support of those who need our positive attention:
links to support black trans organizations
The Audre Lorde Project
Black Lives Matter
National Bail Fund Network

non-exhaustive (but more than enough to get started) book lists — books in a variety of categories and genres to help you learn and understand more about what all this is about, as well as stories where Black characters are front and center

more book lists — a slew of books coming out soon by Black authors that you can pre-order now

If you like reading speculative fiction (such as science-fiction and fantasy), check out FIYAH, a quarterly magazine by and about Black people of the African diaspora. If you can’t afford a subscription, Chuck Wendig is doing a giveaway for subscriptions on his blog today (June 8).

Here is a list (likely not a full list, but what I could find so far) of Black-owned bookstores you can support. Buy books from them! Perhaps even the ones on the above linked lists!

And here is a link to another list of Black-owned independent bookstores — fifty of them!

If you aren’t already well-versed in understanding privilege or need an easy way to explain it to someone else, consider these two excellent videos.

And finally, coming soon, an eagerly anticipated podcast called “Other People’s Potato Salad” coming from two of my dear friends and colleagues, which is sure to be excellent. You can find them here on Instagram, so stay tuned!

HOMECOMING Cover Reveal

Okay, not gonna lie, this is some very exciting news. The last eighteen hours have been a mild frenzy of posting on my various social media and to my newsletter, because I am finally able to reveal the cover of the new book!

Homecoming is the second book in the Animal Affinities series, and for those of you who are fans of Finis., rejoice, because at long last the next book is coming! I hope you’ll enjoy it. It’s a bit longer than Finis. and focuses on the wolves. I’ll do a first chapter reveal here on the blog in the near future, so stay tuned for that.

But here is the gorgeous cover, designed by Lauren Volness, who also did the incredible cover art for Finis.

cover design by Lauren Volness

The pandemic has delayed the release of this book but not canceled it — so keep an eye out for it late this summer. More details as I’m able to share them!

Also, now might be a great time to remind you that if you’d like to get Finis. or my most recent book of poems, The Sharp Edges of Water, both are available from Blue Willow Bookshop!

Monday Earworm: Queen

I hope that you enjoyed this year’s Poem-A-Day series in honor of National Poetry Month. It’s such a popular series — maybe the most popular thing on the blog some years? — I’ll try to put more poetry up here throughout the rest of the year. But otherwise I’m already curating next year’s lineup.

Now that we’re back to Ordinary Time on the blog, though, Monday Earworms will resume. Lately this song keeps popping up on Pandora, and I love it, but also it figures prominently in Casey McQuiston’s Red, White and Royal Blue, which was one of my favorite books I read last year and which I will probably be reading again this summer as a cheer-me-up. It is definitely the alternate timeline I’d rather be living in than this one! Give it a look.

In the meantime, though, how about some Queen?

Monday Earworm (on a Tuesday): Blue October

Does anyone else remember when Blue October was just a local Houston band snagging gigs at landmark fall-down dives in the Heights? Good times. And good on them for being awesome and making it.

Does anyone else sometimes feel so overwhelmed by work that they just can’t imagine how they’re going to get through the next week or two? Good times. (Not really, but it’s a finite problem. See also: “next week or two.”)

You know what’s helping me get through things right now? Looking forward to stuff, like having a day off on the 22nd to just chill, like valentines day coming up this week, and like BrazCon on Saturday the 15th, where I’ll be meeting readers and selling books and answering questions on a panel and and and and AND giving away copies of the first chapter of my new book Homecoming, for free! BrazCon is free, but you do need a ticket, and it’s completely family-friendly. Imagine a cross between Comicpalooza and TeenBookCon but on a manageable, see-it-all-in-one-day scale — and you get the idea. This will be my third year at BrazCon, and I admit it’s one of my favorite author events every February!

Homecoming is the second book in my Animal Affinities series, after Finis. (the first book). On Saturday I will also have Finis., The Sharp Edges of Water, and The Milk of Female Kindness available — as well as maybe some other nifty surprises, too. You should come see me.

Also, I love this song.

2019 Romance Titles Ranked By Heat Level

After I posted my 2019 Reading Year in Review, there were a couple of requests for me to give a ranking of the category romance novels I’d read according to their heat levels. For those who might be unfamiliar with that term, it essentially refers to the sensuality level or raciness of the story. While there are several different explanations for how to rate such things, Continue reading “2019 Romance Titles Ranked By Heat Level”

2019 Reading Year in Review

Would you like to know what I’ve been reading the last twelve months? I made a list.

As I have done for the past few years, in 2019 I kept a list of the books I read. Generally books I read only for fun and not for school, but sometimes they crossed over. I realized a while back I just wasn’t reading enough for pleasure, and that was making my life, well, much less pleasurable. Reading has always been a vigorous Continue reading “2019 Reading Year in Review”

The FINIS. Book-iversary Comes to Instagram

This month is the book-iversary for Finis., and I haven’t had a lot of time to devote to it while I’ve been promoting The Sharp Edges of Water and starting the school year back up. But I have managed to get a few IG posts. I don’t know if they’re as visually dynamic as the one I made recently for SEW, but they do tell a little bit of a story in a series of three posts. My favorite part of all of this is that these posts contain new character cards for Elsa, Lois, and Gerard that were made by my daughter. Her interpretations of these characters go beyond what I visualized, and I really like them! I’ll let you head over to IG to read the accompanying text, but here are the visual details.

In Which I Create A Halfway Decent Instagram Post In Support Of My Book Party This Weekend

I am not a good photographer. I’m not even a mediocre photographer. I have trouble taking decent pictures of inanimate objects in natural light, let alone anything more complicated than that.

But I’m trying to make the effort over on Instagram to make worthwhile posts. Tonight I made a book post that I actually think might not be too bad. It took me a while. And since I don’t share nearly enough photos here on the blog, I’m sharing it with you here.

This Saturday at 3 p.m. you should drop by Blue Willow Bookshop if you’re in Houston, because we’re having a party there and then for The Sharp Edges of Water. Expect poetry and gifts and merriment. Expect Houston and Los Angeles. Expect mermaids. Bring your questions. It should be fun.

Two Upcoming Readings and a Sneak Preview of My Next Book — For You!

Today I have a few announcements: some upcoming readings and a sneak preview opportunity for you.

This gorgeous mug will be part of the Writer’s Gift Box, one of the door prizes being given away at the BWB event.

The most exciting news here is my upcoming event at one of Houston’s most beloved independent bookstores, Blue Willow Bookshop! If you’re going to be in town, definitely mark your calendars now for Saturday, August 17th, at 3:00, when I’ll be reading from and discussing The Sharp Edges of Water. This promises to be a fun event with an author Q&A­­­­––that’s right, bring your questions for me!––and door prizes and books galore! Even if you already have a copy of my book, come and pick one up as a gift for a friend or family member who likes to read or write. You can check out Blue Willow’s site here for more details. Their address is 14532 Memorial at Dairy Ashford 77079. I don’t mind telling you that the Blue Willow event is a Very Big Deal, and it would be really helpful to make a strong showing there, so please come out for it and pick up one (or more) of my books there!

I’ll also be reading with a few other Mutabilis Press poets at River Oaks Bookstore in Houston on Saturday, August 10th, at 4:00. We’ll celebrating the new anthology, The Enchantment of the Ordinary, and while I’ll be reading my poem from that book, I’ll also be sharing a more recent poem or two, including from the Moss Wood Writing Retreat I attended back in June. The bookstore address is 3270 Westheimer Rd. 77098.

beautiful cover art and design by Lucianna Chixaro Ramos

Finally, would you like a sneak preview of my next book? I’m offering my readers the chance to get a free advance reading copy of either of my next two books––one fiction and one poetry, depending on your preference––before they’re published. You’ll even have the opportunity to give me beta-reader feedback on it if you’d like to! In order to take advantage of this offer, just post a review of The Sharp Edges of Water on Amazon. Now, if you follow the writing/publishing industry, you might have heard that Amazon has been taking down people’s reviews in an effort to remove illegitimate ones, though some genuine ones have been removed inadvertently in this process. I have not experienced this (knock on wood!) and also know that all my reviews are genuine and not planted (except for one baffling troll who posted a weird review of Finis. back in the day). Anyway, Amazon has changed the rules for how reviews get accepted. Fortunately, we know how to navigate their guidelines. You can watch a full explanation here, but I’ve summarized the basics for you:

  1. To contribute a review on Amazon, you have to have spent at least $50 there in the last year, not including promotional discounts.
  2. Amazon doesn’t allow reviews to be posted from people in the author’s household, or from more than one person connected to any same household or bank account or credit card.
  3. Amazon doesn’t allow paid reviews, so your review shouldn’t indicate that you’ve received compensation for it.
  4. Amazon deletes reviews that come in under two days after you’ve purchased a book from them because they assume you can’t possibly have read the book so quickly.
  5. Avoid sounding too chummy with the author in your review: in other words, please don’t ever refer to the author by their first name only, but by either both first and last name or just their last name or “the author”; also avoid sounding “unbiased” by not indicating in your review that you regularly see the author in person or are friends with them in real life.

Watch the video for a full explanation of how all these things––and others specific to authors and not readers––work, but these simple guidelines I’ve distilled for you will get you most of the way there. To find my book on Amazon, be sure to type in the title and my last name into the search bar. (And once I get 50 reviews, my book will actually get into their searches! So yes, reviews do matter, even if they aren’t 5-star reviews.)

Thank you again for all your love and support, and I hope to see you on August 17th at Blue Willow! Bring your friends. And if you take me up on the review/ARC opportunity, send me a screenshot of your review on Amazon, then tell me which book (fiction or poetry) you’d like to get a sneak preview of. Until then~

All the best.

“Women Writers Wednesday” Meets “Whom I’ve Been Reading”: Naomi Novik

Sometimes you read a book that defies some of the more basic “rules” of writing, or one that’s outside your usual category, but it works for you in so many ways that you can’t help but tell people about it. Naomi Novik’s Spinning Silver, which I just finished reading on vacation last week, embodies both of these for me.

This book follows Novik’s Uprooted in what I hope will become a series of standalone novels. Both these excellent stories take familiar western European fairy tales and then transform them into an uncanny valley version of themselves, blow them up and out into something so original that you might not recognize the source material in it. Whereas Uprooted played fast and loose with “Beauty and the Beast” in a medieval Slavic world with magic, Spinning Silver borrows key elements of “Rumpelstiltskin” and drops them in the middle of…Russia perhaps? At the time of horse-drawn wagons, the Jews as money-lenders in walled communities inside of walled towns, the tsar and the boyars.

And how does this story break conventional wisdom? It’s a multi-POV novel where all POVs are told from the first person, and new perspectives come into the story late in the novel. Yet all the voices are distinctive and clear, and they all enhance the story well. This is a novel where marriages are strategic and the three young women at the center of the story grow and think and create agency within the limits of their world and the situations, magical or mundane, they find themselves in.

Spinning Silver falls squarely in the YA category, which I often enjoy but which is not usually my very first choice. It doesn’t shy away from genuine violence now and then, but those scenes are vital and artfully crafted, and I could easily recommend this book to any sharp reader as young as late middle school. If I could find a way to weave it into the curriculum for one of my high school classes, I would. The writing is gorgeous, and the structure of the novel really lends itself to deconstructive analysis as a model for what works.

And for those of you who like a long book for your money, this one will do — without feeling like its pacing drags. You should also look into Uprooted if you like fairy tales, and if you like alt-history, Novik’s Temeraire series is particularly charming: the Napoleonic Wars fought from the sky on the backs of dragons.

Spinning Silver won the 2019 Locus Award for Best Fantasy Novel and was nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Novel (also in 2019). I am just not remotely surprised.