An Invitation For You

EDIT:  In light of Hurricane Laura making landfall nearby this week, I’ll be postponing this reading until September. Stay tuned for more details!

 

So I’m doing a livestream toward the end of this month: I’ll be reading my work online at Facebook live and on Instagram. Here’s the official invitation. I hope you can join us! (And please do spread the word.)

Relief Efforts for Beirut

Many of you know I am of racially mixed heritage. Some of you know that I am half-Arab. In fact, I am Lebanese. My father’s entire family is Lebanese, in every direction and all the way back. So the news this week has been troubling.

In an effort to help with relief efforts in Beirut after the massive explosion there this week, I will be donating proceeds from sales of my books and poetry art cards to the Lebanese Red Cross, which is the largest national humanitarian organization in Lebanon, according to their website. They provide most of the ambulance services in the country and have been setting up first aid and triage stations as well as temporary shelter for the victims of the blast. (For other helpful places you can donate to help relief efforts, click here.)

So how to participate in my fundraiser? Go to my brother’s online shop, Ella’s Apothecary. There you will find my books and poetry art cards for sale (along with a bunch of other really excellent things my brother makes). For every copy of Finis., The Sharp Edges of Water, The Milk of Female Kindness, and my poetry art cards you buy there — from now through this Sunday, August 9th — I will donate proceeds to the Lebanese Red Cross. Feel free to spread the word on this, too.

Here are a few examples of some of the poetry art cards. All thirteen designs are listed at Ella’s Apothecary in more detail.

Thank you so much for helping out with these relief efforts. Stay safe.

Achievement Unlocked: Camp NaNoWriMo

So this month I participated in Camp NaNoWriMo for the first time. And I won!

Now, you might be wondering a couple of things: what is NaNoWriMo, and what does it mean to “win” it?

NaNoWriMo means “National Novel Writing Month,” and traditionally it is held in November. The idea is to write 50,000 words of a manuscript in 30 days. One might argue that 50,000 words is just the very barest minimum you could have for a manuscript and consider it a full novel, and in some ways one would be correct in thinking so.

There are some generally accepted word length requirements for different types of fiction forms, which can be verified in multiple places on the Internet, should you choose to do so, but for simplicity’s sake, feel free to go with these distinctions:

  • microfiction: under 100 words
  • flash fiction: under 1,000 words
  • short story: under 7,500 words (sometimes under 10,000 words)
  • novelette (which seems to pop up primarily in the various genres of speculative fiction): 7,000-17,000 words
  • novella (which sometimes encompasses novelettes as well): 10,000-50,000 words
  • novel: over 50,000 words

Obviously one will find some overlap here and there, but these are general guidelines.

And what does it mean to “win” the NaNoWriMo? Completing your goal!

You might be wondering how anyone can get that much writing done in 30 days, especially when we have day jobs and (in the US) the Thanksgiving holiday and other things going on in our lives. That’s a totally fair question. For me, as a full-time high school teacher who also has a family and who hosts Thanksgiving, the idea of writing 50,000 words on a single manuscript during the month of November is unrealistic at best (and insane at worst), and my thoughts on that craziness are well documented. And apparently I’m not the only one who feels that way, because NaNoWriMo also now hosts “camps” — such as the one which occurs in July every year.

Anyway, I have been working on a new novel and made it a goal for 2020 to reach 50,000 words on it, and my friend Christa encouraged me to do Camp NaNoWriMo with her this month, and we did, and I made it past 50,000 words! Yes!

Is my novel done? Hell no!

And there are a few important reasons for that:

  • first, this novel is probably going to be closer to 100,000 words long when I finish the first draft;
  • second, once I get to the end of the first draft, that only gives me something to then work with;
  • third, the path to publication is long and sometimes winding and definitely has a lot of repeat steps on it (see also: revision and editing).

(One thing that has unfortunately given self-publishing a rancid name is the slew of first-draft NaNoWriMo projects that turn into badly written self-published ebooks on Amazon every January. Ah well. It’s a shame, too, because there are quite a lot of self-published and independent authors who are churning out excellent work, and their marketshare is tarnished by the people who don’t quite fully participate in all parts of the writing process.)

Some brilliant novels got their start as NaNoWriMo projects: one of the more famous examples is Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus. If I’m not mistaken, I think I read that she worked on it three Novembers in a row. (Case in point of how really good literature often takes quite a long time to make really good.)

Anyway. I’m just pleased that I managed to unlock this achievement, and I’m going to keep working on the new novel in addition to my other projects. (More on those later.) I’ve created a new goal for this manuscript for August and will keep doing so each month until this manuscript is done.

Have you done any version of the NaNoWriMo? Drop a note in the comments here about your experience!

So, cheers to you. Stay safe by staying home when you can, wearing a mask when you can’t, washing your hands frequently, and paying attention to science over nonsense and legitimate doctors over politicians. All the best.

***

Want to read more of my writing that’s already published? Click here for poetry, click here for urban fantasy, and click here for realistic flash fiction. You can also buy my books at Blue Willow Bookshop and my books and poetry art cards at Ella’s Apothecary, and I hope you will! 

Monday Earworm: (Deleted)

EDIT:  It has recently come to my attention that the song I included here today was by a band whose members included a known perpetrator of sexual assault. I had no idea. The song I played here is the only one by that band that I ever really knew, and I hadn’t paid attention to anything else they’d done. I regret that and hope that my post didn’t cause anyone distress. I will leave up the anecdote but not the reference to the song, which I’ve removed.

Instead, please feel free to post in the comments on whatever music or book you’re enjoying right now to make your own part of the world better and more enjoyable for you. 

 

I’m cleaning out my classroom at school this week. Plans for the fall semester are still in flux, of course, but I know that some stuff needs to come out of there, so. One thing I’m doing is bringing home my classroom library so I can make more room on my shelves. These are primarily books which have been withdrawn from our school library and given away free to a good home. These are books which belong to me personally that I keep around for my students when they are looking for something to read for fun and need some inspiration.

Those who know me well know that I might be slightly obsessed with books. They were my most enduring form of entertainment the whole time I was growing up, and that has never really changed for me. I’ve been reading stories on my own since I was four and writing them since I was eight. And I cannot seem to stop acquiring books.

One of the reasons I have a Little Free Library — aside from the desire to provide free books of quality to anyone walking past my house — is so that I don’t feel I need to hoard books. So I brought home a literal carload of novels and culled through them this afternoon to figure out which ones I wanted to keep and which were going to the Little Free Library, either because I already owned a copy or because the story blurb didn’t interest me overmuch. Four large bags of books are destined for the LFL, and one large bag went up to my bedroom….

…where I already have a TBR stack that is, I kid you not, an entire bookshelf plus three tall stacks on top of my dresser plus two stacks on top of my nightstand plus my Kindle.

I might have a problem.

And what have I chosen to read for fun this week? I’m rereading Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston because it is, hands-down, my favorite alternate timeline I wish to all the gods that have ever been that we were living in right now. It’s also hilarious and sexy and deeply smart and character-driven and just all-around well-written. It makes me genuinely happy to read it.

*le sigh*

In the comments, tell us your favorite book obsession — whether it’s your favorite storyline or your author obsession or your book boy-/girlfriend. Inquiring minds want to know!

 

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”