Whom I’ve Been Reading: Elle Lothlorien

It is no secret to people who know me that I hoard books, maybe a little bit. We have thousands of books in our house and have given up any pretense of calling our living room anything but a library. I have an entire bookshelf in my bedroom just to house my TBR list. The acquisition of books that interest me makes me feel genuinely happy and excited about life because I cannot wait to read all those stories. Our Little Free Library might have been constructed in part to help me make peace with letting go of books now and then because we don’t live in a Tardis or have an Undetectable Extension Charm on our house (more’s the pity).

But yo, my job is not to be a Reader Just For Fun. So sometimes it takes me longer than I’d like to get around to reading books on that TBR bookshelf.

Over Spring Break, I finally read The Frog Prince by Elle Lothlorien, a novel which had sat on my TBR bookshelf for several years, enticing me with its romantic-comedy plot and not-pink cover art, and seriously, I cannot believe I waited so long to read it! I devoured it in three days and loved loved loved it!

This book is a romance, but it’s a very sweet one — meaning the main plot of the story is about an amorous relationship, but it’s not an explicit read. I would feel comfortable recommending this book to my high school students who enjoy romantic comedies.

And the comedy? I laughed so much in the first several chapters of this book that I had to put it down occasionally until I finished giggling. Lothlorien’s voice is strong and funny, and her writing style, very engaging. I will admit the book isn’t a laugh-a-minute all the way through: the comedy does dial down just a bit as we get into the thick of the plot to make way for a compelling story. The characters are fun and realistic, I genuinely cared about what was happening to them, and the writing is really good from sentence-level to narrative architecture.

This book is called The Frog Prince but it doesn’t have tons of parallels to the Grimm Brothers’ “Iron Heinrich.” (Think Naomi Novik’s Uprooted and “Beauty and the Beast.”) Lothlorien’s book is pretty original. But if you want an enjoyable romantic comedy in a modern setting with the same kind of feels as a fairy tale, this book is a good choice for you.

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Just a Quick Note About This Weekend…

Hey there. This is just a quick post to tell you about two fun events I have coming up this Saturday in Austin, Texas, so if you’re in the area, please do stop by!

First, I’ll be speaking to the Austin Poetry Society that afternoon. Among other poetry- and writing-related goodness, I’ll talk a little about my recent Kickstarter experience and also lead a poetry writing activity. Come join us at 1:00 at the Carver Branch Library (1161 Angelina Street, 78702).

Second, that night I’ll be reading and signing copies at Malvern Books. Nia KB will be sharing the stage with me. Our reading begins at 7:00, and the address is 613 W. 29th St., 78705. Here’s the Facebook event page for it.

Both events in Austin are free and open to the public. I hope to see you there this weekend!

Monday Earworm: Dar Williams (and February Events)

Hey, look! It’s an earworm for your Monday! Woot!

I’ve made a few forays outside of the Hamilton soundtrack lately, but my kids keep pulling me back to it. (I’m not complaining.) And lately I’ve been dipping a toe back into the music I listened to in my twenties. Dar Williams was — and remains — one of my favorite thoughtful singer/songwriters. Enjoy this sweet, intimate, informal rendition of her “When I Was A Boy.”

So what else is happening this fine February in Authorland? I have a couple of big and excellent events coming up and would love to see you there if you’re in the area.

Tuesday, February 19th, FIX Coffee Bar in Houston — I’ll be reading, along with Fady Joudah, at the Poetry FIX series hosted by Mike Alexander. Should be a super fun night!

Saturday, February 23rd, BrazCon in Manvel (very near Houston) — Imagine a cross between Comicpalooza and Teen Book Con, and you get BrazCon! Last year this was one of the best, most well organized events I attended, and I’m thrilled to have been asked back this year. Well worth the half-hour drive to get there! I’ll be on a panel about writing and ideas and such, as well as signing books most of the day.

More events are coming up in March in Houston and Austin; look for those details here soon, but you can always find them on my regular website which hosts my event calendar.

Want me to come visit your book club or writing group or Creative Writing class or favorite poetry and wine bar? Drop me a line and let’s work out the details!

Three New Treasures For Your Reading Self

I’m neck-deep in coordinating author events (maybe even a mini-tour!) and working on a new novel right now, and honestly, all I’m listening to these days is the Hamilton soundtrack, so the Monday Earworms are a little thin on the ground. Sorry about that — we’ll get back to them soon, I promise. In the meantime, what are you listening to? Tell us in the comments!

I want to take a moment to highlight three exceptionally worthy projects just made available. Give them some love, won’t you? I think they’re great.

(And stay tuned to the end of this post for a few more exciting newsy bits.)

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TWO BLOCKS FROM EMANCIPATION by Casey Fleming

This new blog project by essayist Casey Fleming bravely addresses emancipation in many forms, including on the subject of race. Casey is one of the most compelling essay writers I’ve ever read; she even did an outstanding guest post here years ago for the Fashion Friday series. Here is a brief excerpt from her site about the nature of this new project itself:

To live two blocks from something as wonderful as emancipation–as an ideal, a psychological space, a lived reality–is to live in the border between what’s possible and what’s yet to manifest, between what America aspires to be and what it is. Living on the border is always disquieting and dangerous. Some of us take up permanent residence there, and we must risk speaking from that painful proximity to liberation.

I encourage you to check out Casey’s essays and follow this new project.

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UNDER THE FLICKERING LIGHT by Russ Linton

Russ Linton hit the scene a number of years ago with his sci-fi debut Crimson Son, a book which defied typical conventions of the sci-fi/super-hero genre and gave us not just an endearing snarkster extraordinaire in its young adult protagonist Spencer, but also a series set in a compelling literary universe.  This new book stands alone but jumps far forward in time to the year 2300 in Spencer’s world, when AI overlords have made some…modifications to our human landscape. Russ has also written some really original fantasy as well. Check out his website for more about his books and his current entertaining and meaningful nomadic adventures in the real world.

I’m a big fan of Russ’ work and hope you’ll give it some attention, too.

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THE SOUL SNATCHERS by Richard Sanford

Richard Sanford is one of the fiction authors over at Odeon Press, which is how I know of him, and his new book sounds really exciting! Here’s the blurb about it:

The Soul Snatchers is a sci-fi thriller about social media addiction and cyber derangement. There’s also a love story, a secret code hidden in a mesmerizing mandala, and Svetla, the Bulgarian rideshare driver.

Tzaro Janssen, a seismologist in a next-gen lab in the San Juan Islands, sees his girlfriend Therica become … not herself. Stories like hers are lighting up media around the globe—psychotic breaks, social isolation, explosive violence. And no known cause. At the center is Therica’s obsession, the mega networking platform Wundrus.

From early reviews:

“The Soul Snatchers is an energetic and entertaining romp through Cascadia … a fast-paced and thoroughly enjoyable science fiction thriller with Sixties throwback touches.”

“I thought that The Soul Snatchers by Richard Sanford was a fascinating and fast-paced read. There was no good reason to put the book down … I am usually pretty good at solving mysteries, but was blown away by this one.”

And here’s a statement about the book from Richard himself:

I wrote The Soul Snatchers to be entertaining, but it also has a point to make about something we’re seeing everywhere—isolation, among ourselves and our kids. Everybody’s hyperconnected, but nobody’s talking.

That sounds both topical and timely, doesn’t it?

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Now for the promised newsy bits:

I may be adding another reading to my slate for Houston in early March. Stay tuned for details.

I’ve just settled another event in Austin for next month. I’ll be reading at Malvern Books at 7 p.m. on Saturday, March 16th. Come join us! Bring friends! Bring acquaintances and other people you want to impress! Or, you know, just bring yourself, and I’ll be thrilled with that.

I’m also looking at doing an event or two in the area of Blacksburg, Virginia. Drop me a line if you’re out that way and want to come do some booksy, writingsy things with me!

More exciting details about these events will be posted on my website as they become available.

My New Book and Upcoming Author Events!

This is going to be a quick post because, wow, it’s a busy week here in Authorland! But a good one. Let’s just get to the news right away, shall we?

The Sharp Edges of Water is out from Odeon Press! Yay!  And there was much rejoicing!

Honestly, I’m going to be so happy to be done with logistical details and get back to working on the new novel that I just can’t even. But for now, it’s all about the logistical details, such as…

Scheduling author events right and left! It’s exciting, even if it’s a lot of work. I hope you’ll come out and see me on one or more of these fun occasions.

January 25, Houston — I’ll be at the book launch for the new Mutabilis Press anthology, ENCHANTMENT OF THE ORDINARY, which contains one of my poems. We’ll be at the Jung Center, 5200 Montrose Boulevard, 77006. Doors open at 6:00, and the reading starts at 7:00. I recommend coming early to find good parking.

February 19, Houston — I’ll be one of the featured readers at the Poetry FIX Reading Series at FIX Coffee Bar, 415 Westheimer Road, 77006. The reading starts at 6:30, and the place tends to fill up. I’ve heard Fady Joudah might also be reading that night — exciting!! — and there is always an open-mic opportunity for audience members to sign up to read one poem if they wish.

February 23, Manvel (very near Houston) — I’ll be at BrazCon once again! This was one of the best events I attended last year, and I’m so excited they asked me back. BrazCon is like Teen Book Con meets Comicpalooza — so much fun, really well organized, and totally family-friendly. I’ll be selling my books there and also speaking on at least one panel (details coming soon). BrazCon is held at Manvel High School (an excellent facility) and gets bigger each year, with thousands of attendees generally geeking out to their literary fandoms. Many even come in cosplay, so don’t be shy! This event goes from 9:00-4:00; the address is 19601 Hwy 6; Manvel, TX 77578.

March 16, Austin — I’ve been asked to speak and read at the Austin Poetry Society meeting that afternoon from 1:00-2:15, at the Carver Branch Library. The address is 1161 Angelina Street, 78702. We’ll be talking about writing, Kickstarter, and some other fun things and just might even do a little poetry writing that day. This event is open to the public, so come join us!

ALSO, since I’ll be in Austin that weekend, I would love to get in another reading or signing for either Saturday night or Sunday midday. Watch this space for more details.

If YOU would like to have me talk with your book group or organization or class about writing — poetry or fiction — I’d be happy to! I’m available in person or via video chat. Contact me and let’s go over the details.

And that’s all the news that’s currently fit to print, so if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to get back to working on that new novel I mentioned. Oh happy day!

 

To Help With Your New Year’s Resolution To Read More Books…

Just chilling on the couch, you know, like ya do.

Remember when I mentioned yesterday that I’m trying to read more books for fun? Are you in the same situation? I can help with that…

You might have heard that Odeon Press picked up Finis. and released a 3rd edition of it. It’s looks slightly different and has more back matter — but the content of the story and the illustrations are identical. I still have some copies of the 2nd edition on hand, however, and I’m doing a giveaway right now in exchange for honest reviews. These reviews could be on Amazon or Goodreads or your book blog or anywhere else that publishes reviews!

Did you know it takes fifty reviews before Amazon will put your book into their searches? It does. Finis. has about sixteen reviews last I checked, and I’d love to bump that number right up!

So if you’re interested, please let me know, and I’ll happily mail you a copy. You can leave a comment here on this post, or email me at forest [dot] of [dot] diamonds [at] gmail [dot]  com (putting “FINIS. giveaway” in the subject line), or ping me on social media.

Thank you!

Happy New Year! (Also, Have Some Turn-of-the-Year Ritual)

Happy New Year! Now that all the time zones are in, I think we can safely say ciao to 2018 and look eagerly forward to 2019.

As a creature of habit, I appreciate the measure of structure and stability that routine and ritual provide, and at this time of year, I enjoy indulging in a little bit of year-in-review. I also tend to make public my writing resolutions for the new year, as if publishing them will help hold me accountable. (I mean, sometimes that works.)

So here we go!

On Sappho’s Torque this past year, the most popular posts, hands-down, were the ones in which I shared either my or other people’s poetry. In April, to celebrate National Poetry Month here in the US, I curate a poem-a-day series. It has been going strong for several years now and remains one of the most popular features on my blog. Here are a few of the other top posts — ones which had nothing to do with poetry — this year:

My Little Free Library
What We Say, Or Don’t
The Pep Rally I Cannot Forget

Interestingly, that last one is from 2015, but it always makes a big splash again during high school football season.

A couple of years ago, I made a commitment to read more books just for fun, and doing so has improved my quality of life exponentially. I became a writer in part because reading has been one of my absolute favorite things to do since I was very young; I loved reading stories and felt compelled to create new ones. Teaching and parenting tend to drain away one’s free time, and so reading just for fun (like other things I did for self-care) fell by the wayside.

Disregarding one’s self-care generally doesn’t end well.

So I started carving out the time to read, even if only for ten minutes before bedtime each night. It reduced my stress and improved the quality of my sleep. I incorporated free choice reading into some of my classes; that helped, too, because I did it alongside my students. And then I began keeping a list of the books I was reading for fun each year. I try to read a wide variety of things, but I will also concede that I most enjoy reading books in the genres I write or want to write, and at least half a dozen of the books on this list were for research for my writing or teaching. So here is my list for 2018; you’ll find a preponderance of fantasy and magic realism and poetry, as well as some science fiction, realistic fiction, romance, and comics. These titles are not ranked in any way but listed alphabetically by author. I strongly recommend maybe a dozen of them (starred). (A few of these books were re-reads from many years ago; I’ve also not listed books which I began reading but did not finish, for one reason or another.)

Dawn (Octavia Butler) *
Ready Player One (Ernest Cline)
Close to the Edge (Zara Cox) *
Unleashed (Caitlin Crews) *
When a Scot Ties the Knot (Tessa Dare)
The Mistress of Spices (Chitra Divakaruni) *
Like Water for Chocolate (Laura Esquivel) *
Outlander (Diana Gabaldon)
Shadow of Night (Deborah Harkness) *
The Book of Life (Deborah Harkness) *
The Midnight Queen (Sylvia Izzo Hunter)
Justice League: Volume 1, Origin (Geoff Johns, Jim Lee, Scott Williams)
At the Bottom of the River (Jamaica Kincaid)
Hallow Point (Ari Marmell) *
His Majesty’s Dragon (Naomi Novik) *
Binti (Nnedi Okorafor) *
Wicked Like a Wildfire (Lana Popović) *
the magic my body becomes (Jess Rizkallah)
The Joy Luck Club (Amy Tan) *
Mala of the Heart (various authors) *

This brings me to my writing resolutions for the new year. Most of my Writing Career Time has been consumed the last few months with finishing up my forthcoming book of poetry, The Sharp Edges of Water. We’re on track still for a January release date, which is awesome, but this process has really taken a long time (as it does). My goals for this year include finding some way to write at least 200 words a day (or a complete poem or blog post). What would be amazing is if I could finish the first draft of the new novel I’m working on, which has really taken a backseat to the book of poetry (as it had to).

But this week, I’ll be getting back to the WIP, and I’m super excited about that! I’m happiest when I’m writing a story I love.

I have a few other resolutions, too, such as hitting 100 rejections this year (which I came close to in 2018, I think, though I wasn’t honestly counting). The idea behind this is that if you’re submitting your work out often enough to hit 100 rejections in a year, you’re bound to get some acceptances. I’ve found this logic to be quite sound: the more I submit my work, the more publications I garner. The main obstacle for me is just making time to do it. (Don’t get me started on the millions of ways the publishing industry makes it a financial, emotional, and logistical challenge for writers to get individual pieces published. We’ll be here all day. I’m in the game and aware of it; that has to be enough for now.)

I’m also looking forward to participating again in the August Postcard Poetry Fest; last year was my first time to do it and it was awesome! And as if that weren’t enough, I have yet another collection of poems which will go into editing later this year. Watch for news on that when it manifests.

I won’t say it’s easy being both a fiction writer and a poet. I will say it’s fulfilling to do both, though, and for me, each type of writing informs the other.

So that’s all for now. I’ll write more later with some fun opportunities you might be interested in. Until then, enjoy the book you’re reading, and if you’re not reading one, find one. It will likely do you good.