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!

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!

Do You Know What Doesn’t Suffer From Supply-Chain Problems?

Happy Small Business Saturday!

I hope you’ve had a lovely Thanksgiving (for those of you celebrating it) or else just a very nice week. Here in the US we have launched ourselves full-force into the holiday season, and the day after Black Friday is Small Business Saturday, a day designated to encourage and buy from small businesses in an effort to shop local and indie. And something useful to remember is that authoring is a business, and therefore every author is a small business owner. (That includes me!)

I have several items that might be of interest to you and yours:

  • My books include Finis. and Homecoming in the Animal Affinities series (urban fantasy), and The Sharp Edges of Water (poetry). I also currently have the international anthology The Milk of Female Kindness–An Anthology of Honest Motherhood available; I was one of the lead contributors on that project, which includes fiction, poetry, essays, interviews, and art.
FINIS. (Book 1) – $5.99
HOMECOMING (Book 2) – $5.99
THE SHARP EDGES OF WATER – $13.00
(not pictured: THE MILK OF FEMALE KINDNESS – $15.00)

 

  • I have my zine, Sonic Chihuahua, issues 1-7 in stock. (Click on this link to see what’s in each issue.) These are $3 each and include poetry, essays, fiction, art, recipes, interviews, and fun-and-games. Rejoice in the 90stalgia that is this fabulous and popular zine!
Click on the link above to see the Table of Contents for each issue!

 

  • Poetry art cards, which include my handmade designs and often my poetry on them, are blank on the inside and — with your thoughtful note written in — make lovely gifts in themselves, suitable for framing. Click here to see all 19 designs in more detail. Cards are $8 each.
Click on the link in the description to see the individual cards.

 

You can order all of these items from me directly. You can also see all of these, plus my handmade jewelry and decorated blank journals, at the Sawyer Yards Market on December 11th.

Although you can buy my books Finis., Homecoming, and The Sharp Edges of Water in bookstores — and I hope you will! — you can also buy them directly from me. Just leave a note in the comments about it, and I’ll be in touch with you, or else email me (forest [dot] of [dot] diamonds [at] gmail [dot] com), and I’ll put your items in the mail to you right away. (I recommend you order from me before December 12th for the best chance of receiving your package in time for Christmas, if that’s what you’re aiming for.) Shipping costs will be as low as I can make them.

Of course you can also get my books from Amazon and Bookshop and other big online retailers. If you’d like to get them from local and indie bookstores — and I encourage you to do so! — I know they’re currently on the shelves at Blue Willow Bookshop (Houston) and The Twig Bookshop (San Antonio). And any bookstore can order it from Ingram if they don’t currently have any copies left in stock. (Interesting note about Amazon: they currently have Finis. and Homecoming on sale, though I don’t know how long that promotion will go for.)

So that’s it! I hope you’ll support your local and indie shops and authors and makers, not just now at the holiday season but all year round. Happy holidays to you! And thank you for your support.

The SONIC CHIHUAHUA: Volume 2, Issues 1-7

Many of you know that after a 29-year hiatus, I restarted my zine, the SONIC CHIHUAHUA, this spring. It has been one of the best decisions I made this year! I’m pleased to report the zine is thriving and growing far beyond my expectations, and that it feeds a part of my creative spirit I wasn’t aware I needed to be fed. It will continue.

For those of you who are not yet subscribers, here is a preview (i.e. a look at the Table of Contents) for each of the issues that has come out this year.

VOLUME 2, ISSUE 1: * Why “SONIC CHIHUAHUA”? What Does That Even Mean??? * The Year of Living Pandemically * apple pie (seriously!) * convo with author Sarah Warburton * a Top 5 List not to be missed! * poetry and art

 

 

VOLUME 2, ISSUE 2:
* A Graduation Message: The Fundamental Lies of Our Culture
* Chocolate Disaster Cake (seriously!)
* convo with Jamie Portwood of Writespace (wide-ranging, and it gets DEEP, yo)
* a Top 5 List not to be missed!
* poetry and art

 

VOLUME 2, ISSUE 3:
* Vacationing in Purgatory: The Spice Lady of Maine
* fiction and bingo
* rainbow trout (seriously!)
* convo with author Adam Holt
* a Top 5 List not to be missed!
* poetry and art

 

VOLUME 2, ISSUE 4:
* The Twi-Moms’ Lament
* yet more fiction
* chocolate chip cookies (seriously!)
* convo with Vali Reinhardt (frontwoman of Black Market Tragedy)
* a Top 5 List not to be missed!
* poetry and art

 

VOLUME 2, ISSUE 5:
* an essay about the day this country shifted
* kittens and fiction
* pasta sauce (seriously!)
* convo with Sean Fitzpatrick (executive director of The Jung Center)
* a Top 5 List not to be missed!
* poetry and art

 

VOLUME 2, ISSUE 6:
* Embracing My Inner Goth (part 1)
* NeriSiren’s Coffee Grotto
* zeitunes (seriously!)
* convo with renaissance woman Christa Forster
* a Top 5 List not to be missed!
* poetry and art

 

VOLUME 2, ISSUE 7:
* Embracing My Inner Goth (part 2)
* NeriSiren’s Coffee Grotto
* turkey (seriously!)
* convo with Aaron Herrick
* a Top 5 List not to be missed!
* poetry, fiction, and art

Witchy Weekends: Review of WITCH PLEASE by Ann Aguirre

Witch Please by Ann Aguirre is an entertaining paranormal rom-com that nibbles at some important social issues without treading into heavy-handed territory.

Danica Waterhouse lives with her first cousin Clementine in a small midwestern town. They own a fix-it shop and perform technomancy, a form of magic that repairs broken gadgets, appliances, and electronics, for their fellow townspeople. The catch, though, is that they can’t let anyone know they’re using actual magic, because for one thing, they can’t let people know that witches (the actual magical kind who have metaphysical powers) are real, and for another, they don’t want to bring witch hunters onto themselves and their coven. (Or, as they like to call themselves, their “book club.”)

The challenge comes in when Danica meets Titus, a mundane (i.e. not a witch), and they have instant romantic chemistry. And since this book is firmly in the romance genre, working out whether they’ll end up together is most of the plot. But the journey through that plot is pretty fun.

I won’t lie, this book feels like a confection sometimes, and not just because Titus is a supremely talented baker. But Witch Please does begin to explore deeper issues, too, including real-life dangers and prejudices against pagans, bigotry rooted in fear, emotional manipulation within families, and the importance of ride-or-die friendships against the pull of one’s heart.

Other reviews online have made some valid points about some of this book’s features and quirks that are not satisfying for every reader, particularly Titus’ arguably underdeveloped bisexuality and the question of whether the varying gray shades of honesty within their relationship would work well in the real world.

The second book in this series focuses on Clem, and the foundation of her storyline is significantly developed, dovetailing quite nicely with Danica’s in this first book. I haven’t read the second one yet, but since I generally enjoyed Witch Please, at some point I’m sure I probably will.

What fun witchy books have you read? Or entertaining romances? Tell us in the comments!

24 Hours Left…

Hey there! If you were on the fence about taking my Gothic Story Elements class this Saturday afternoon, please note that you have about 24 hours left to sign up for it. (That *might* be flexible, but seriously do it before tomorrow evening.) The course will be conducted over Zoom — and you don’t need your own Zoom account, since you’ll get a link to join at registration — so you can take it from anywhere online.

Writespace sometimes offers discounts on classes at the last minute, and it looks like they’re doing that with mine, woot! If you want that discount code, let me know ASAP.

You can register for the course here.

Here’s the course description, too, in case you missed it before…

GOTHIC STORY ELEMENTS

photo by Bee Felten-Leidel on Unsplash

What do a darkly beautiful aesthetic, #WitchyGirlAutumn, and a tantalizing sense of foreboding all have in common? They can be part of the rich pageant of Gothic story elements that make so many “classic” — or “forbidden” — literary pleasures so deep. In this three-hour generative workshop, we will dip our feet into the chilling waters of Gothic literature to find out what that genre entails. Expect a multi-faceted exploration as we discuss a range of examples in visual art, film, music, and mentor texts. Our writing time will include the opportunity to use these Gothic  elements to begin a story or enhance one you’ve already started. Students will have the option of sharing what they’ve written during the workshop. Come with your favorite writing utensils (a laptop, a legal pad and sharpened pencils, a leather-bound journal and a fancy feather quill—whatever works for you). Let’s kick off the Gothic season in writing style!

All levels of writing experience welcome.

Dipping into the Gothic and Magical Waters

Here in the northern hemisphere, the autumn equinox fast approaches. Earlier this week, as my family was driving to my parents’ house to have dinner with them and my brother who was in town, we saw our first house of the season decorated for Hallowe’en. I saw two more this weekend, including one in our own neighborhood. We’re slated to get our first real cool front of the season in a few days. (I CANNOT WAIT. I’ve already got a sweater picked out to wear the minute one becomes even a little bit necessary, and I’m drinking pumpkin spice chai tea even now as I write this blog post.)

Partly in celebration of the season and partly because it’s going to be really fun, I’m teaching two new workshops at Writespace next month. The first is Gothic Story Elements, a three-hour generative writing class happening on Saturday, October 2nd. The second is a two-day workshop focused on Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus, happening during the afternoons of two Sundays, October 3rd and 10th. You can click this link to learn more about and register for all the October and November workshops Writespace is putting on (including mine), but I’m also including the descriptions of both classes below.

I’d like to mention also a note about the formats of these classes, which are, as I said, generative. This means you will not be listening to me lecture for three hours. Far from it! I will teach you some interesting things, sure, but you will also be doing your own writing and idea work — generating, as it were. The Gothic Story Elements class will help you with writing stories in the Gothic genre, and the class about The Night Circus will include some focused literary analysis as a means to writing well. (And yes, you will be writing.) I’m SO excited about them both!

I sincerely hope you’ll join me for one or both classes. Since they’re being conducted on Zoom, there are no covid-related safety concerns, and you can join us from anywhere in the world where you have an internet connection. (My previous Writespace classes this year have included students from a variety of states in the US and even other countries. That has been awesome.) And while Writespace classes are typically an incredible bargain, the organization also offers scholarships with glee, so never feel embarrassed to ask for one.

Now without further ado, here are the course descriptions:

GOTHIC STORY ELEMENTS

photo by Bee Felten-Leidel on Unsplash

What do a darkly beautiful aesthetic, #WitchyGirlAutumn, and a tantalizing sense of foreboding all have in common? They can be part of the rich pageant of Gothic story elements that make so many “classic” — or “forbidden” — literary pleasures so deep. In this three-hour generative workshop, we will dip our feet into the chilling waters of Gothic literature to find out what that genre entails. Expect a multi-faceted exploration as we discuss a range of examples in visual art, film, music, and mentor texts. Our writing time will include the opportunity to use these Gothic  elements to begin a story or enhance one you’ve already started. Students will have the option of sharing what they’ve written during the workshop. Come with your favorite writing utensils (a laptop, a legal pad and sharpened pencils, a leather-bound journal and a fancy feather quill—whatever works for you). Let’s kick off the Gothic season in writing style!

All levels of writing experience welcome.

READING YOUR WAY TO WRITING WELL: THE NIGHT CIRCUS BY ERIN MORGENSTERN

In this series of workshops, Writespace instructors select a work of literature and guide participants in a deep dive into craft, style, technique, and device. In these six-hour workshops, the instructor will lead an analysis of the work, and participants will practice using the techniques and devices discussed, leading to generating ideas and techniques for their own writing. Participants will need to read the selection in advance and come prepared to discuss it. 
 
Erin Morgenstern’s highly acclaimed debut The Night Circus rocked the literary world with its lush writing, clever structure, magnetic characters, and gripping story. In this two-day course, we will explore some of the reasons why Morgenstern’s novel is so well written and use it as a mentor text to generate some innovative writing of our own. Expect to discuss various elements of the text and to write original creative work, using Morgenstern’s techniques for inspiration. Attendees will have the opportunity to share their writing in class both days. Homework involves reading The Night Circus in its entirety before the first class begins and one or two writing exercises between class sessions.

This course is open to all levels of writing and literary analysis. Reading the text before the class begins is necessary.

***

If you’ve been wanting to take a workshop from me but haven’t found the time yet, please note that these might be the last classes I offer before the new year. Jump on this bandwagon — you won’t be disappointed! You can find these classes listed under Writespace Houston’s offerings at Eventbrite, or just click on this link to register. Thank you!

A Class on Character

Great news! I’m going to be teaching my one-day course on character development for Writespace at the end of this month!

I’ve taught it once before, and it went really, really well, and so Writespace has me teaching it again on Saturday, July 31st, from 1:00-4:00 p.m. (central time). This three-hour session (with a break) focuses on creating characters who drive their own stories in smart ways. We’ll be drawing from sophisticated craft/technique, pop culture, and literary analysis in this generative workshop, at the end of which you’ll have written a good strong start to a new story — or gained a better grasp on a story you’ve already got in progress. This class is open to all skill levels.

I’ll be teaching on Zoom, so you can take this course from anywhere with an internet connection. Last time we had people joining us from Houston, the farther US, and even Mexico! Very cool stuff.

Here’s the link to register for the course.

One last note: one thing that’s so good about Writespace courses is that they tend to be far more affordable than other organizations for the same quality or better. (Writespace offers scholarships, too.) Early bird registration lasts until July 26th.

I hope to see you there!