Best Books To Date: Plump Up Your 2020 Reading List

Amazon.com announced their list of the Best Books of 2020 So Far, and so many Knight Agency authors made the cut! We had six represent across the various genres, including my clients Nalini Singh and Milla Vane. Congratulations to all these wonderful writers! Several of the titles sit on my TBR pile already, and I’m excited to read the rest, too.

Knight Agency Books on Amazon's Best of 2020 So Far List

You can check out the entire list of this year’s best books to date over here. You can find the books themselves at all your favorite retailers, either brick-and-mortar or online, including your local indie.

Friday Links: Honoring Juneteenth Edition

Today we honor Juneteenth, not yet a national holiday, but hopefully on the way. I put this blog mostly on the back burner the last few months, for so many reasons. But today requires acknowledgement, and it feels like a perfect opportunity to discuss racism and humanity. Throughout these weeks of protest and activism following the killing of George Floyd, I’ve been active on Twitter and Instagram and Facebook, trying to support and elevate Black voices. But it’s important for me to talk more broadly about my support of the Black community and that needs a little more space.

Racism comes in all shapes and sizes, but it surrounds us. As a white woman, I understand that I have grown up in this system. It’s in my DNA through decades of exposure. I have to do the work to resist that exposure because even if I am not actively, purposefully racist, I can still say or do things carelessly without understanding their effect. Doing that work means listening. It includes reading, viewing, paying attention. Supporting financially, emotionally, professionally. On Juneteenth, and every day after.

Publishing remains a painfully white industry, for all the active discussion about diversity the last few years. I am closed to queries at the moment, but when I reopen I will be rewriting my information about what I’m seeking. Currently I encourage diverse submissions, but I plan to be more specific about addressing BIPOC authors individually. As a reader and consumer, I work to diversify my reading choices, but I know I can always do better. I try to give money to a rotating list of charities and organizations that focus on providing opportunities to those who need them. In recent weeks, I’ve donated to the Thurgood Marshall College Fund for African American Students and We Need Diverse Books.

Boosting Black Voices

I’m just one person, with limited resources, but I have something of a platform. A decent Twitter following. Some terrific friends and colleagues who are on the same page about the need to boost Black voices. The older I get, the more I understand that networking can take you far, and a diverse network surpasses one with a narrow focus. More ideas, more connections, more chances of clicking with the right partner or finding that perfect opportunity. It’s not about scrambling to the top of the mountain by yourself; it’s about helping others and watching everyone rise together, then toasting your achievements with an amazing view.

Juneteenth week_Black_Publishing_Power_challenge

Amistad Books proposed the simple idea of purchasing two books by Black authors this week. Any two you wish. The concept? Flood the bestseller lists with Black voices, fiction and nonfiction. Boost the writers, give them sales, but also introduce readers to new names they might not have encountered. Have you picked up your books yet? There’s still time for this challenge, but any week counts. Go discover a new-to-you voice.

Books: The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin and Rage of Dragons by Evan Winter
My #BlackoutBestsellerList purchases: One known-to-me author–N.K. Jemisin–and one new to me–Evan Winter.

24 Black Bookstagrammers Who Should Be on Your Radar. – Looking to read more Black authors but overwhelmed by the choices? Follow a couple of these folks for great recommendations.

A frank conversation about YA literature, police brutality, and the nuances of Black storytelling. – A very timely interview with authors Nic Stone and Kim Johnson about their writing and how their books fit into the current landscape.

Resources for Writers in Support of Justice and Action. – A varied list of links including places to donate, a reading list on racism, and some really creative ways to support the Black community, especially writers.

I Am Not Your Negro: the Film. – Many streaming services are showing an array of important Black films for free right now. Of the ones I’ve watched the past couple of weeks, this one struck me as a beautiful balance between the big-picture narrative of racism in the United States and a very personal story of James Baldwin’s experience watching his friends getting gunned downed for standing up for Black rights. Available on Amazon Prime among other places. Highly recommended.

Patronizing Black Businesses/Products

Bookstores in the United States that Specialize in Black Literature. – Plug in your state to see what’s near you, or check them all out to find out who ships.

An Anti-racist Nonfiction Reading List. – A great assortment of titles, including the broad scope ones we’re seeing everywhere but also some less frequent recs that get more topical.

49 Black-Owned Bookstores You Can Shop Online. – For those of you still shopping from your armchairs (as you should be–stay safe!).

21 Black-Authored Cookbooks to Add to Your Shelf. – For the foodies, so many wonderful-sounding cuisines to choose from. Check a few of these out.

Black-Owned Etsy Shops. – Check these out for your next round of gift giving or to splurge on yourself.

16 Black-Owned Organic Loose Leaf Tea Brands. – I love how very specific this list is. And I love tea.

I could keep going on and on, obviously. But this smattering of thoughts and links serves as a beginning, only. We need to keep having the conversation, to keep doing the work, if we’re ever going to approach a world that looks somewhat equitable. And even then, as with everything, we’ll need to keep doing the work. Change isn’t permanent; it’s a process.

Happy Release Day to Alpha Night by Nalini Singh!

Happy book birthday to ALPHA NIGHT by Nalini Singh, book 4 in her Psy/Changeling Trinity series, out today! This latest installment in the series will keep your heart racing. Oprah Magazine included it as one of 38 Romance Novels That Are Set to Be the Best of 2020. And check out that cover!

ALPHA NIGHT

New York Times bestselling author Nalini Singh returns to her breathtaking Psy-Changeling Trinity series with a mating that shouldn’t exist…

Alpha wolf Selenka Durev’s devotion to her pack is equaled only by her anger at anyone who would harm those under her care. That currently includes the empaths who’ve flowed into her city for a symposium that is a security nightmare, a powder keg just waiting for a match.

Ethan Night is an Arrow who isn’t an Arrow. Numb and disengaged from the world, he’s loyal only to himself. Assigned as part of the security force at a world-first symposium, he carries a dark agenda tied to the power-hungry and murderous Consortium. Then violence erupts and Ethan finds himself crashing into the heart and soul of an alpha wolf. Mating at first sight is a myth, a fairytale. Yet Selenka’s wolf is resolute: Ethan Night, broken Arrow and a man capable of obsessive devotion, is the mate it has chosen. Even if the mating bond is full of static and not quite as it should be. Because Selenka’s new mate has a terrible secret, his mind surging with a power that is a creature of madness and death…

Gear up for summer with this exciting, romantic read. Find ALPHA NIGHT through your favorite online retailer, in hard cover, e-book, or audio, or try your local indie bookstore. Be sure to call your favorite store to see if they’re open or doing curbside pickup. If not, order through Bookshop.org, which shares proceeds with a host of independent booksellers.

 

Friday Links: ‘It’s Finally April!’ Edition

April arrived, finally. March was possibly the longest month I have ever lived through. My mother likes to say March is her least favorite month. I think it’s mostly a weather thing, but this year, I have to agree. So welcome to April, and this week’s link roundup. I hope you’re all well and staying home, safe, and sane.

I add that last one because I know a lot of people are really starting to feel the magnitude of the situation. Millions of Americans filed for unemployment last week. People are worried. I wish I could help with that, but I hope I can at least provide a small distraction. Don’t be hard on yourself. Do what you need to in order to manage. If being creative helps, go for it. If you can’t focus on writing, go ahead and binge Netflix or bake or nap. If you’re still out there working in the trenches, thank you for taking that risk for all the rest of us, and stay as safe as you can.

I offer up another mixed list of links this week. Enjoy, and have a good weekend.

This Week’s Links:

We Need Art Right Now. Here’s How to Get into Poetry. – For the skeptics who looked at my post earlier this week and shook their heads.

Writer’s Digest 89th Annual Writing Competition. – In case you are feeling productive. Or maybe you have something in the drawer you can dust off and tweak a bit.

Ted Chiang Explains the Disaster Novel We All Suddenly Live In. – An interesting look at the world through the eyes of an excellent science fiction author.

The Debate: How Many Books Should You Have on the Go at Once? – The reader’s dilemma. Are you a one-at-a-time reader or are you surrounded be reads-in-progress?

Ann Patchett On Why We Need Life-Changing Books Right Now. – A lovely article on Patchett’s first encounter with the works of Kate DiCamillo.

Returning to Analog: Typewriters, Notebooks, and the Art of Letter Writing. – A slightly older read, but as so many of us rely on tech to communicate and work from home, it’s nice to remember the slower side, too.

Happy National Poetry Month!

National Poetry Month does not always hit my radar. I love poetry, but it’s the first thing to fall by the wayside when I’m busy. I realize that’s counterintuitive. Poems slip into cracks of time much more deftly than long novels or even short fiction. But they also require a different sort of thought process. Poetry demands time for reflection — time I don’t always have. But recently I’ve found myself reaching for favorite volumes more often. There’s something soothing about reading poetry when the world is on fire.

National Poetry Month poetry shelfie
A few beloved poetry titles, sharing space with some plays on my office bookcase.

Falling into Poetry

I know I read poetry as a child — so many children’s books feature rhymes or short free verse. However, my first awareness of poetry as a formal genre came in fourth grade, when my teachers introduced it. In my homeroom, Mrs. Brown posted a new poem up on the wall each month for us to memorize and recite in front of the class. (I can still remember the first one, though the rest faded with time.) My reading teacher, Ms Islan — this was the first year we changed classes for reading and were grouped by skill level — did a biweekly poetry day, where she would read us a few poems. After the first week, she had us sign up to read a poem aloud, too, encouraging us to discover and choose what we would share.

I first encountered Robert Frost and Emily Dickinson in that class, but the most memorable discovery was Alfred Noyes. One day, Ms Islan stood in front of us and read The Highwayman. It was the longest poem I’d ever heard, a complete story. It was so exciting that I nearly fell off my chair, leaning forward in anticipation. More than forty years later, I can still close my eyes and hear the rise and fall of Ms Islan’s voice.

Later came Shakespeare. T.S. Eliot. Auden and Dylan Thomas, Shelley and Yeats. Edna St. Vincent Millay. e.e. cummings. Sylvia Plath. And modern poetry, discovered in The New Yorker or The Paris Review or tiny, obscure journals from the newstand at Border’s. But when I’m in need of comfort, I return automatically to those old, foundational favorites.

Poems as Meditation

Poetry runs the full range of human emotions. I’ve read poems that stir anger or frustration, that serve as a call to action. But in times like this, I reach for poetry that feels calming. Gentle rhythms, soft ideas, images of nature or quiet spaces. I’ve tried, repeatedly, to develop a meditation practice, but my brain insists on churning ahead. But a peaceful poem can occupy my thoughts, fill up all those frantic corners of my mind. Just the right poem can serve as a small time-out.

Acquainted with the Night by Robert Frost

I have been one acquainted with the night.
I have walked out in rain, and back in rain.
I have outwalked the furthest city light.
I have looked down the saddest city lane.
I have passed by the watchman on his beat
And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain.

I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet
When far away an interrupted cry
Came over houses from another street,

But not to call me back or say good-bye;
And further still at an unearthly height,
O luminary clock against the sky

Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right.
I have been one acquainted with the night.

The other day I asked for poetry recommendations on Twitter, so now I have some new poets to check out. I hope to find more ideas now that National Poetry Month has started.

How about you? Do you read poetry? Who are your favorite poets? What sort of poetry moves or relaxes you? I’d love to hear about your choices.

Friday Links: Late-Night Fly-By Edition

Sneaking in a little late this evening for a quick edition of Friday Links. It’s been a weird week for everyone, trying to keep all the wheels turning while battling the stress and anxiety of recent events. I did not want to forgo posting this week’s links, however, because routine is important. So here’s a pocket of normal in the middle of the insanity.

First off, if you didn’t see my post earlier this week, please check it out now and join us for the Virtual Writing Cruise. We kick things off tomorrow with a virtual happy hour. Just sign up for The Creative Academy — membership is free — and you’ll be able to RSVP for any of the workshops that interest you. Please do click those buttons, however. We want to make sure the room tech can handle everyone who wishes to attend.

Now on to the rest of the links. Like last week, these are a little more random than usual, things designed to distract and entertain. Enjoy!

This Week’s Links:

The Value of Owning More Books Than You Can Read. – A look at why you shouldn’t feel guilty about the state of your TBR stack.

Winchester Mystery House Virtual Tours. – Take a virtual tour of this bizarre building, offered temporarily while the house is closed to in-person visitors.

Harry Potter: A History of Magic. – The British Library presents this virtual tour of the popular exhibit.

Ellen Datlow Recommends 13 Dark & Creepy Books to Read in the Time of COVID-19 (That Are Not Apocalyptic). – Pretty much as described.

Personal Data: Notes on Keeping a Notebook. – So many writers are revisiting the idea of keeping a journal or notebook in the midst of the pandemic, I thought this slightly older piece might be of interest.

 

Virtual Writing Cruise Setting Sail, March 28th!

None of us are heading to a writer’s conference any time soon. Spring vacations are canceled. Writers everywhere find it difficult to focus. But your muse is not lost, just in need of a creative boost! Join me, and a faculty of terrific publishing professionals, for a week of virtual cruising and writing inspiration.

The Creative Academy Virtual Writing Cruise presents a full lineup of online workshops and Q&A sessions, plus daily writing sprints to get you back in the groove. All workshop sessions will be recorded and available later as part of the community’s resources, so sign up even if you can’t attend live. Both Academy membership and the cruise itself are free.

We kick off Saturday, March 28th, with a virtual happy hour! Courses over the week range from craft to research to the business side of publishing. I hope to see you in my query workshop, Friday, April 3rd, at 11 am PDT.

Why are you still here? Go sign up!

Friday Links: Shelter at Home Edition

As of last night, the entire state of California is sheltering at home unless involved in some essential activity. Since I live in the Los Angeles area, this was pretty much what I was doing already. Except for a very brief run to my local bookstore last Sunday, I’ve only left the house for groceries and to pick up my mail for the last 12 days. But knowing 40 million people are in the same boat? Kind of feels a little weird.

That said, plenty of cars have passed my window this morning and I can hear someone down the street with a leaf blower. I am not sure what is considered essential, but I somehow don’t think landscaping makes the list. We’re in this weird in-between place where we have to weigh people’s employment and ability to earn a paycheck against everyone’s health. And while the situation brings out the best in so many people who are offering up forms of assistance, it brings out the worst in a lot of people too. I predict a long haul.

On that note, I’ll have some new things up here next week that I hope will offer distractions from the larger world issues. I’m not saying you all should be super productive at the moment; we’re all dealing with trouble focusing and anxiety and a slew of other problems. But for those of you interested in finding ways to fill some time, or to polish up some skills, I aim to please.

But of course it’s Friday, which means links. Not a ton this week, as I’ve been rubbernecking virus news right along with the rest of you. There’s some fun/interesting stuff, though, so I hope you get a little inspiration. Don’t forget about this weekend’s 24 in 48 readathon–officially #StayHome24in48. Very informal. Join in if you can. Otherwise, stay home and stay safe!

This Week’s Links:

Interlude: So Your Book Launch Has Been Canceled. – Great tips for writers struggling with canceled book events, trying to get word out about their work, etc. Keep in mind the situation keeps evolving, so cross reference against your location/severity of restrictions.

Tolstoy Together. – An online read-along of War and Peace. It started a few days ago, but they’re only doing about 12 pages a day, so there’s time to catch up.

12 Museums with Virtual Tours. – Pretty much what it says on the box, plus a link to a list of other museums with online resources. Great for a bit of downtime, education, armchair travel, or research.

7 Prolific Women Authors with More Than 10 Books. – Take some time to really catch up with an author’s works with a deep dive into entire backlist.

Creative Academy for Writers. – Previously a paid membership platform, The Creative Academy has recently dropped the paywall. They have a considerable backlog of writing and marketing advice, so check them out.

Friday Links: Social Distancing Entertainment Edition

Happy Friday the 13th! It feels appropriate, doesn’t it? As the world loses its mind and everyone struggles to determine the appropriate level of self-quarantine, I am here to remind you you’re better safe than sorry. Even if the measures you take seem ridiculous, please err on the side of caution anyway. You might be healthy and unlikely to get ill, but that doesn’t mean you aren’t capable of carrying the virus from one place to another and infecting someone more vulnerable.

And on that note, I’m moving on to the fun stuff. Namely, links to lots of great book recs so you can fill your spare time with brilliant reads. I’m also curious to hear what you’re all reading and loving these days. So, share your own recs in the comments! The more the merrier.

Stay safe, stay healthy, and have a wonderful weekend filled with reading and writing.

This Week’s Links:

#24in48: The Social Distancing Edition. – The ladies behind my favorite readathon have drummed up a low-key version for the weekend of March 21st/22nd. Go check it out and sign up for some serious reading time and wonderful online chat about your reads.

11 New Books We Recommend This Week. – A roundup of some new releases from the New York Times.

24 New Books We Couldn’t Put Down. – More new reads, courtesy of BuzzFeed.

National Book Critic’s Circle Awards. – This year’s winners have been announced, and there’s some great titles here to add to your TBR stack.

12 Books about Pandemics. – Personally, this isn’t my preferred reading at the moment, but I know there are folks out there who are gobbling up everything in this vein, so these recs are for you.

14 of the Best Fantasy Heist Novels. – Great list of books in this sub-genre, including a few of my favorites.

What to Read When You Feel too Much. – An assortment of books to offer a quieter place when life and the world have your emotions spilling over.