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!

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!

Witchy Weekends: Steampunk Tarot

Welcome to another Witchy Weekends post here on the blog, my annual online celebration of October.

This weekend I’m featuring the Steampunk Tarot by Barbara Moore and Aly Fell (illustrator), published by Llewellyn Worldwide in 2012.

The Steampunk Tarot is a wonderful deck for anyone fascinated by the Steampunk aesthetic or iconography. It’s firmly founded on classic Rider-Waite imagery, and while you won’t find a whole lot that’s groundbreaking about this deck because of this, the lush illustrations will absolutely be comfort food if you’re into Steampunk literature and graphic novels. You can see this quite evidently in the major arcana, such as on the card for the High Priestess, which is replete with gears, a top hat adorned with goggles, a somewhat edgy stylized version of Victorian clothing, and various other elements of familiar Steampunk imagery.

As we move into the suits, we never stray too far from the expected, but the artwork is done with such elegance, it’s okay. The suit of wands encompasses stories of resolve, of will, of bold or audacious action or intent. Some of the wands cards in this deck actually give me strong Mistborn (a book by Brandon Sanderson) vibes, such as the two.

This deck’s cups, the suit of water and emotion, are particularly adept at conveying whole narratives in a facial expression.

The suit of swords has a lot to say about our (or the characters’) thoughts. One card that has always represented this best to me is the ten, whose image depicts a dead man with ten swords sticking up out of his back. As the adage goes, never beat a dead horse; well, stabbing a dead man is much the same thing, isn’t it? This card reminds me of someone who needs to let go of obsessive or intrusive thoughts that aren’t serving any useful purpose.

Finally, the pentacles, the suit of physical experiences and the material world. I’ve chosen the ace here because the aces in the tarot represent the pure form of the element or suit, and the imagery on this card is another iconic sample of the Steampunk aesthetic, with brass and gears and a cybernetic arm holding the coin up to glow from within, juxtaposed almost ironically against a polluted sky above a pastoral setting.

The Steampunk tarot is great for fans of the genre, full of decadent artwork and a wealth of storytelling possibilities.

Witchy Weekends: Nicoletta Ceccoli Tarot

I am all in when it comes to autumn and think the holiday season begins pretty much as soon as Labor Day is over. I love decorating my house for the holidays, starting with Hallowe’en. I even decorate for Thanksgiving and celebrate that aesthetic for several weeks before launching myself headlong into Christmas. I put my house back to Ordinary Time sometime in January — and depending how things are going, sometimes it’s late January. It’s all good. The more festive the better, am I right?

So it’s October again, and if you’ve been reading this blog for a minute, you know that means it’s time for Witchy Weekends! This year I thought I’d do something a little different, so each week my intention is to feature a different beautiful tarot deck. I have collected these my entire adult life, and while yes, of course, I have the classic Rider-Waite and its popular derivatives, the decks I most love are the ones with more unusual imagery, the ones that interpret the stories of the Major and Minor Arcana in unexpected, or at least thoughtful, ways. I’m fascinated by the way the cards have traditionally embraced the plot structure archetype of the Hero’s Journey. Maybe one day I’ll learn how to read them all, but even if I never do, I can admire the gorgeous artwork.

The first deck I’m featuring is the Nicoletta Ceccoli Tarot, published by Lo Scarabeo in Italy, copyright 2014. The collection was edited by Pietro Alligo.

The artwork on this deck is reminiscent of Mark Ryder’s work, I think, in the way it blends the Gothic with a sort of candy-coated palette. It fetishizes youthfulness but not in a particularly indecent way: I don’t find a significant theme of sensuality in these cards. Rather, there’s a strong undercurrent of precociousness in this artwork and an acknowledgement that the innocence of youth is a cliché. You also will not find a wealth of diversity here.

Many of the cards allude to fairy tales or other children’s stories. Wonderland’s Alice shows up more than once, and this example from the Major Arcana references Snow White.

Now for the Minor Arcana. The first suit, cups, typically deals with emotions and corresponds to the element of water. Many of the cards in this deck reflect nautical imagery or creatures or interpersonal connections.

The next suit — called discs in this deck but sometimes called coins or pentacles — concerns itself primarily with material issues and the element of earth. Like many reflections on consumerism or materialism, you’ll find depictions of power imbalances here.

The wands suit is primarily about actions and the element of air. In this deck the wands appear to be clubs; in some decks they’re called staffs or staves. Many of these cards, in this deck, include animals, suggest movement or travel, and portray interpersonal dynamics.

The final suit, swords, concerns itself with conflicts and the element of fire. In this deck, the artwork for this suit includes many images of implied or explicit peril.

The artwork of the Nicoletta Ceccoli Tarot is just lovely, if you’re interested in a pale and waifish aesthetic with a dose of world-weariness thrown in.

Are there any tarot decks whose artwork you particularly enjoy? Tell us about them in the comments section. And Happy October!

Monday Earworm: Fiona Apple, Summer Debrief, and Newsy Bits

Hello! I hope your cultural summer has come to a delightful close and that you’re excited for fall. Tonight’s post is going to do triple duty because it’s been that kind of summer over here. I don’t know whether to be glad it’s finally over or what! I’m going to tell you all about it, but first, let me start us off with a lovely tune to get us in a very mellow September mood. Then read on…

 

So, this summer. Goodness gracious.

I never realized how much I depended on my summer holidays — the poolside barbecues, getting together with family and friends. Even during the first year of the pandemic, we still managed to have socially distanced, masked-up, teensy-tiny outdoor get-togethers with my parents and brother. It was something. And like I said, I had no idea how much I relied upon those events to set the cycles and rhythms of my year until I couldn’t have any. This year, I didn’t get to participate in Memorial Day because the day before, I came down with covid. July 4th was canceled because my oldest had it. And last week, my son came down with it, followed by Dear Husband. So no fun Labor Day weekend festivities, alas. And I find myself focusing on the loss of the traditions because, frankly, in my house we’re all vaccinated and boosted and so for us, so far, covid has not been tragic KNOCK ON WOOD. (DH isn’t well yet. Hopefully soon, though! He does seem to be slowly on the mend.)

I found myself going through a lot of feels about it all this summer, though, all this sickness. Quite the range of emotions. There were so many things that got canceled, besides just the backyard fun. Vacations, projects, even some extra-curricular activities. All of them just pre-empted. And I had to do some real internal investigation into my mindset about how I approach summer break in the first place.

I inherited a stunning, even shocking, work ethic. I won’t say it’s the healthiest thing I could have learned — in fact, it conclusively is not — but here we are. And I was thinking of summer break not as a real break, but as a chance to cram in all the work that I have to put off the other ten months of the year while I’m working sixty to seventy hours a week teaching. This was, needless to say, bonkers. I’d been coming back to school every August at a deficit already because how on earth could I ever fit in All The Things (and by “Things” I mostly mean work, usually including but not limited to writing a new book) that I told myself at the end of May I would?

I needed a reset, and I rather unwillingly got one. It took me a while to formulate a good attitude (or semblance of one) about it. I came to recognize, by the time I went back to school last month, that I need to not think of June and July as a marathon to some accomplishments finish line. I need to think of them as a break. Yes, get some stuff done: there will always be house projects I want to tackle and books to write. But also? Freakin’ relax. Do these that make me happy.

So here, in no particular order, are some things I *did* get done (yes, I’ll be working on new ways to cast that) over the summer that made me happy:

  • I made some crucial updates to my website, including adding in some newer reviews of my books. The site as a whole is still not exactly where I want it to be, but web design is not my super power, so this will have to do for now. (Feel free to send along suggestions for improvement.)
  • I made some crucial updates to the blog here, too! Most notably, I restructured the pages, and now I have dedicated pages for my zine Sonic Chihuahua, the classes I’m teaching, and my hobbies — including the jewelry I make. (If you click on the Hobbies tab above, you’ll see some other features there, too, and more will be added to this section as time goes on.)

(Side note for shameless self-promotion, because writers have to make a living, too: The poetry class I’m teaching for Grackle & Grackle this month has sold out, but you can still jump into my two one-off fiction workshops coming up in a few weeks, offered by Writespace and back by popular demand! They’ll be on Zoom, so you can join us from anywhere. The first is a three-hour generative class on building character-driven stories using a blend of literary analysis, pop culture, and narrative craft, happening on September 24th. The second is a three-hour generative class on writing Gothic fiction, happening on October 1st. Click here for more details and to register!)

  • I read lots of books. Like, lots of them. The first week I was sick with covid, I read literally ten. And while I also read the things I needed to in preparation for the school year, I also gave myself permission to read plenty of books that just flat-out made me happy. Fun books, funny books. That was crucial, especially while I was sick. (You’ll see the epic list at my Year in Reading round-up come January.)
  • I also did a fair bit of writing. In addition to getting out two new issues of Sonic Chihuahua, I did a full-scale edit of a novel which is currently out on submission, and made real progress on the novel I’m currently drafting. Did I do enough writing? I never do (Can you hear that old mindset creeping back in?), but I moved the needle forward, and that’s what matters this time around (And there’s the new mindset; I’m still breaking it in).
  • Some of my work was published this summer. I had two poems come out in A Fire To Light Our Tongues: Texas Writers on Spirituality, and my essay reviewing Kristen Bird’s The Night She Went Missing was published by Literary Mama.
  • I made two baby blankets for new babies in my life. Both new babies live far away, and so I haven’t met them yet, but I can’t wait to give them snuggles!

blanket for Valerie
blanket for Rosie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • I rekindled my love for the card game Solitaire. (As in with actual cards, not on a screen.) I played it all the time when I was growing up, and I played it a lot again when I got sick at the beginning of the summer and had to isolate. I found that it brought me a sense of inner calm that worked better for me even than formal meditation. So then I kept using the game as a way to soothe myself during times of stress or fatigue, and it worked beautifully. The game requires just enough strategy to distract me from whatever might be causing me anxiety — or even eyestrain — and relies on just enough luck for me to not care too much about whether I win or lose. 

I have much to be thankful for, orneriness about my dashed summer plans aside. Not least of those is my relatively good health now KNOCK ON WOOD AGAIN. So I’ll sign off for the moment, with the intention that I’ll get back to more regular blog posts around here in the new season. Such is the plan.

Be well!

Monday Earworm: Bonus Wintry Tune That Won’t Make You Miserable

I recognize it’s a bold claim to say that music I choose won’t make you miserable, but aren’t hot takes what blogs are for? Anyway, today’s song — “The Week Between” by Jonathan Coulton and John Roderick — has made the 12 Days Playlist in years past, and I had considered making it a bookend with The Waitresses for the Day 12 spot each year. I chose not to, though, because I honestly had too many other good tunes to share this time around (as is often the case), and the week between Christmas and New Year’s had a Monday that felt well-timed for this earworm.

I’ll catch up with you all more in the coming days and weeks to debrief on 2021 and cast a glance at 2022, but for now, here you go. Enjoy this song which I love, that sums up this week — almost every year of my childhood — so beautifully. The song’s subtextual premise is about nostalgia, and it definitely hits that for me.

What about you? What’s nostalgic about the week between for you?

 

12 Days of Wintry Tunes That Won’t Make You Miserable (Day 12)

Perhaps you’ve had a long and festive day filled with family, friends, food. Perhaps you’ve had a mellow and safe holiday. Perhaps you’re not celebrating. Perhaps you’re ready to settle in for the end of the holiday season and just want some quiet.

Whatever your state this evening, here is one last holiday earworm to finish things off until the next chapter. Stay tuned to the blog this coming week for more details about where things will be heading over here.

I wish you all the very best Saturday night, no matter what or if you’re celebrating. Cheers.

12 Days of Wintry Tunes That Won’t Make You Miserable (Day 10)

This is a delightfully dance-chaos remix of a standard I really like, in honor of Nerija, Sonic Chihuahua contributor and blogger well worth checking out, who recommended it to me.

I had previously known only the Dean Martin version of “I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm,” and like most of what he did, it was Rat Pack Smarmy — in other words, entertaining at best and just tolerable most of the rest of the time. Deano always reminds me of my grandfather, who spent more of his time than strictly necessary singing for local audiences and generally being known as “Houston’s Dean Martin.” I loved my grandfather, despite his flaws, and we were close when I was young.

But my grandmother and I were a lot closer, and I miss her all the time. She passed away twenty years ago last week, and today I made lizzies, an unusually delicious fruitcake cookie she used to make for Christmas.

This video which features Kay Starr, today’s singer, will give you an idea of what my grandmother looked like in the 1940s, when she and my grandfather met and fell in love and married, while he was on leave from the war.

Enjoy this festive little moment with your favorite cookie.

12 Days of Wintry Tunes That Won’t Make You Miserable (Day 9)

So my post tonight is a little late because we were watching the new Matrix movie.

It was…umm…very…meta.

It’s like the people who made it decided they loved the other movies they made so much they were going to make yet another one that was in homage to the previous ones. I honestly can’t tell whether they were taking themselves seriously or not. I can say with certainty that the fourth movie is better than the third one, which we saw again last night. AND which we understood and could follow along better than when it first came out, but which is STILL very much the weakest link in this chain of movies. (When the third one first came out, I thought it was so bad it retroactively made the second one, which I had enjoyed, worse. But I digress.)

Tonight’s holiday earworm is fun and a little strange in that I can’t tell how seriously SheDaisy is taking themselves. I don’t know their work beyond the holidays songs of theirs I’ve heard. I first heard them a year ago with their somewhat mystifying rendition of “Jingle Bells.” Take from all of that what you will.

And enjoy!