Friday Links: Farewell to February Edition

Happy Friday! Somehow we’ve reached the end of the month. When did time start moving normally again? I take it as a sign of hope for good things to come. But as we kiss February goodbye, I have some random housekeeping announcements to share before the links.

Photo by Neel on Unsplash

First, I’m happy to let you all know that I am in the process of prepping an online version of my course on synopsis writing. I’ve offered this before through various venues, but pandemic times call for more availability. The new, updated course will go into greater detail than I could previously due to time constraints, and include handouts. More details to come next week.

Next, to address the state of my inbox (otherwise know as submissions). It’s no secret I am woefully behind. I did virtually no reading of new material over the holidays and came back to a bunch of client projects, which means I’ve not caught up. No, I am not closing to submissions in order to do so. However, I am about ready to switch up what I’m looking for, so I will be closing over the weekend to make that adjustment. I’ll post a revised wish list early next week. As always, please follow submission guidelines! If you’re waiting to hear from me on something, I’m reading as fast as I can. I’ve requested more pages on quite a few queries, which is great, but also means… more to read. So please hang in.

And on that note, I’ll share some fun links and let you all get on with your Friday. Wishing you a wonderful weekend, filled with bookish goodness and inspired writing. Enjoy!

This week’s links:

These 15 Feminist Books Will Inspire, Enrage, and Educate You. – A terrific, diverse roundup including both fiction and nonfiction.

Why Do Some Writers Burn Their Work? – An interesting look at this most final, destructive means of anihilating your writing.

35 Must-Read 2021 Book Releases By Black Authors. – So many great sounding titles coming up. Make note now.

Bird Brain: Lauren Oyler, Patricia Lockwood, and the Literature of Twitter. – Social media has been worming its way into our collective culture for a while now, but this piece dives more specifically into the link between Twitter and some recent books.

Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Poet Who Nurtured the Beats, Dies at 101. – Excellent obituary that includes a worthwhile video history. Ferlinghetti lived a wonderful, long life, and left a real mark. I’ll look forward to getting back up to City Lights books as soon as travel is safe again.

Pandemic Pen Pals. – A lovely little write up of Penpalooza, the pandemic-era pen pal exchange started by New Yorker writer Rachel Syme over social media. Matches are still happening, so head over to penpalooza.com if you’re interested in some old fashioned snail mail. You can check out the #penpalooza tag on Twitter to get a feel for things. There are somewhere in the range of 11,000 people signed up at the moment, from all around the world.

Happy Book Release Day to QUIET IN HER BONES by Nalini Singh

New York Times-bestselling-author Nalini Singh sends her latest thriller, QUIET IN HER BONES, into the world today. Set in Singh’s native New Zealand, the novel offers readers a tense, rollercoaster ride and an intense murder mystery. And I confess that this cover alone gives me chills. It perfectly depicts the dark mood of this story.

In this gripping thriller set in New Zealand, New York Times bestselling author Nalini Singh takes you into the twisted world of an exclusive cul-de-sac located on the edge of a sprawling forest.

My mother vanished ten years ago.
So did a quarter of a million dollars in cash.
Thief. Bitch. Criminal.
Now, she’s back.
Her bones clothed in scarlet silk.

When socialite Nina Rai disappeared without a trace, everyone wrote it off as another trophy wife tired of her wealthy husband. But now her bones have turned up in the shadowed green of the forest that surrounds her elite neighborhood, a haven of privilege and secrets that’s housed the same influential families for decades.

The rich live here, along with those whose job it is to make their lives easier. And somebody knows what happened to Nina one rainy night ten years ago. Her son Aarav heard a chilling scream that night, and he’s determined to uncover the ugly truth that lives beneath the moneyed elegance… but no one is ready for the murderous secrets about to crawl out of the dark.

Even the dead aren’t allowed to break the rules in this cul-de-sac.

Singh offers readers a series of twists and turns, dark secrets, and a multilayered mystery. With its lush New Zealand setting, QUIET IN HER BONES whisks you off for the weekend, no quarantine required.

In stores now!

Grab a copy and a hot drink, and settle in for the ride. Purchase QUIET IN HER BONES from your favorite retailer, either brick-and-mortar or online. And don’t forget to support your local indies. Enjoy!

Friday Links for February Doldrums

February feels endless, even as I wonder how we got here. I may not be buried by snow, but I do have work piled all around me. That answers the question of how it’s been so long since I updated here. But today I return, with links to kick off the weekend, and a promise for some exciting news and content next week.

Photo by Emily Rudolph on Unsplash

Whatever your weather, we’re still dealing with the pandemic, which means staying indoors and reading a good book. Right? Maybe it means time to work remotely or cook endless meals, or children to chase down for online learning. But try to squeeze a little you time in there. It’ll help keep your brain on an even keel.

Most of this week’s links are book related, because so many great titles keep hitting shelves. But I have some fun, writerly extras, as well. I hope they keep you entertained, and that you’re all staying safe and well. There’s an actual light at the end of the tunnel. Happy weekend.

This week’s links:

The 2021 Rainbow Book List. – This year’s list of terrific LGBTQIA+ literature aimed at readers from birth to 18 years old. I’m glad to note it includes works by two Knight Agency authors, Loriel Ryon, for the middle grade novel Into the Tall, Tall Grass, and T.J. Klune, for the YA novel, The Extraordinaries.

All the New Fantasy Books Arriving in February. – Pretty much what it says on the label. But since we’re more than halfway through the month, a good number of these beauties are already available!

On the Unconventional 19th-Century Women Who Ventured to Write Novels. – On how a new art form offered the opportunity for women to make their mark.

75 Books to Add to Your 2021 TBR List. – I know, I know. 75! But honestly, I kind of wish I could read most of these. It’s a mix of fiction and nonfiction, the latter being mostly memoir. New titles from old favorites plus debuts. Listed by month of release, and this only goes up to September. Better get reading.

Miniature Book Nooks Belong on Every Bookshelf, It’s Just a Matter of Time. – This is from last year, pre-pandemic, and I might have shared it then, but now it feels particularly appropriate. Miniatures seem to be a lock-down hobby, particularly among writers, so what’s better than creating a mini book nook and combining obsessions?

50 Great Classic Novels Under 200 Pages. – Perfect for those of you who are twitching to read but find your schedules packed.

New Year, New Reading List: Books for Your 2021 TBR

Happy 2021! The year took off with a bang suitable for the heels of 2020, but I remain hopeful about the months ahead. Not everything will be roses and sunshine immediately. We need to work for better times. I do believe, however, that despite notable chaos, we can turn things around. And I’m starting with my reading list. I want to focus on reading more broadly and discovering a few new authors that I love.

Child lying on a bed reading a book, surrounded by more open books.
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

I read quite a bit in 2020, but I still have a tall pile of books I meant to get to. It’s always the case. But I refuse to deny myself the pleasure of upcoming releases just because I’m behind. I will dive into this new year of books with gusto. How about you? If you’re like me, you’re looking forward to new titles by favorite authors and new discoveries as well. So this week I’m offering up links to some lists of books on the horizon, as well as a wrap up of things read in 2020, both recent and old. Whatever your take on reading in the new year, I hope you find some new favorites and a lot of inspiration. Happy reading!

This week’s links:

A Year in Reading: 2020. – One of my favorite features at The Millions is their annual year in reading series. Dozens of writers weigh in with brief reflections on their readings for the past year, sometimes a whole list and others one or two notable choices. The master list links to all of this past year’s contributors.

43 Books by Women of Color to Read in 2021. – A wonderful list of upcoming releases.

7 Historical Romances to Read After Binge-Watching Bridgerton. – For those of you with a holiday hangover from the Netflix series, here are some great romances to keep you in that romantic mood.

The Astrology Book Club: What to Read This Month Based on Your Sign. – Fun and a little fluffy, but the book choices are great and varied. Fast readers might want to pick up a bunch.

The Most Anticipated Crime Books of 2021. – A year’s worth of crime novels on the horizon, with enough coming out each month to keep you pretty busy.

I Will Never Watch “Children of Men” the Same Way Again. – A writer looks back on the dystopian film in the wake of recent events. Please note that the novel, by P.D. James, came first, and is well worth a read if you haven’t checked it out previously.

24-in-48 Readathon. – My favorite readathon is back this February in a slightly pared down version. I love this event, which challenges you to read for up to 24 hours out of a 48-hour period. No pressure, though. You can drop in for an hour or two and enjoy the social media bookishness, or hang in until the bitter end. Chat is about books read and loved, what snacks are best for a reading weekend, and other bookish joy. Go sign up.

Happy Book Release Day to All That We Carried

Happy book release day to Erin Bartels, whose new novel, All That We Carried, hits shelves today. This beautiful book follows two very different sisters as they embark upon the adventure of a lifetime.

All That We Carried

Ten years ago, sisters Olivia and Melanie Greene were on a backcountry hiking trip when their parents were in a fatal car accident. Over the years, they grew apart, each coping with the loss in her own way. Olivia plunged herself into law school, work, and a materialist view of the world. What you see is what you get, and that’s all you get. Melanie dropped out of college and developed an online life-coaching business around her cafeteria-style spirituality. A little of this, a little of that, whatever makes you happy.

Now, at Melanie’s insistence (and against Olivia’s better judgment), they are embarking on a hike in the Porcupine Mountains of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. In this remote wilderness they’ll face their deepest fears, question their most dearly held beliefs, and begin to see that perhaps the best way to move forward is the one way they had never considered.

A Michigan Notable Book Award winner, Erin Bartels loves highlighting the beauty of the state in her work. Here, she draws on her own experience hiking with her sister to bring readers an exploration of grief, faith, and the bonds of sisterhood. This hopeful, uplifting story feels especially appropriate as we all face separation from friends and family.

Pick up your copy of All That We Carried today, at your favorite brick-and-mortar or online retailer. Happy reading!

Goal Setting for the New Year Ahead

Most years, I start discussing goals for the new year a few weeks before the end of December. I advocate for taking time to review the year you’ve just gone through to see where things stand. Have you written as much as you’d like? Did you make more progress or less than you wanted? What needs finishing? Improving? Where do you need to just keep up the good work? You need to know where you stand to figure out where you want to go.

Photo by Estée Janssens on Unsplash

As with all things, 2020 proves the exception. I still think it’s important to take stock of your current writing progress, but looking back over the year is a personal decision. For many of you, it’s better to just plow forward because it’s been a year of frustration and lost focus. If you’ve achieved your goals for 2020, kudos! But many, many people will have fallen short. Don’t beat yourself up. We’re living through extraordinary times and it’s important to be kind to yourself.

So what does this mean for 2021? New years deserve new goals. I’m not a huge resolution person, as many of you might know. I feel like the expectations are huge and the follow-through unlikely. Goals come at any part of the year, however, and you can always add to them or adjust them based on circumstances. Consider them guideposts for your writing plans.

Setting Goals for 2021

By all means, take a day or so to think about what goals you’d like to set for your writing next year. Make them measurable, and things you can control, especially after this past year. Don’t say “I’m going to get an agent,” because you only control part of that scenario. Instead, plan to complete the steps required. A series of goals related to finding an agent might include:

  • Finish writing manuscript.
  • Revise/edit manuscript until it’s ready to submit.
  • Research agents and agencies (to see who reps your type of writing and who might be interested in your work).
  • Write a synopsis and a query letter.

Those are all manageable steps, things you can check off your to-do list and call completed. Finishing a manuscript takes far more time than writing a query letter, so it would be a larger goal. You might research agents in small bursts over several weeks. Revising requires more time, especially if you plan to let a manuscript sit until you have a fresh perspective.

Wherever you are in your writing journey, from newbie to pro, I recommend setting a few goals of different sizes and then estimating when you might reasonably finish them. A big goal might take all year, but smaller ones might be complete in a couple of months or so. Set them up on a calendar, and stagger some of those smaller projects. For instance, you might have a major goal that runs until December, as well as a medium one that runs January to June and a smaller one from July to September.

Making Allowances for Life

2020 won’t be the only year to mess with you careful planning. Consider your typical year and allow more time during periods where you get busy or have other responsibilities, whether to a day job or family. If the December holidays are usually packed with chores and family gatherings, you might aim to finish a larger goal in mid-November so you don’t feel the pinch for time. But keep in mind, you can also tweak your timelines based on your life and what comes up. Stay flexible. They’re your goals; unless you have a publishing deadline or something similar tied to your goal, you’re the only one who can say when and how it needs to be done. Don’t let yourself off the hook for every tiny detour, but don’t beat yourself up if you honestly need to alter your original schedule.

Finally, remember to write your goals down somewhere you’ll see them often, and keep them fresh in your mind. Review them at the end of each month or quarter to assess your progress and see what needs to be updated. If you’re ahead of schedule, you might wish to add a new goal at some point during the year. And always find at least some little way of congratulating or rewarding yourself when you hit one of those goals. Achievement should be celebrated.

Mini Prompts for the December Writing Challenge

Finding it difficult to steal time for your current writing project? Or maybe you can find the time, but your brain refuses to cooperate. I know it can be difficult to focus when so many other things are going on. The world continues to spin at a slightly wonky angle, and now all the holiday fuss piles on top.

Photo by Katie Az on Unsplash

Sometimes all you need is a little nudge or a fresh idea to keep you writing. I’m not suggesting you toss out your current project, but maybe you need a little break. Instead of skipping a writing day, try working on a fun mini project that can keep your creativity flowing. Here are a few little ideas to get you started.

Mini Prompts:

  • Think of a holiday from your childhood when things went wrong, and write up a few pages to save for posterity. Did the dog get the turkey? Did a storm knock out the power? Were family members fighting? Remember what it felt like from your perspective at the time, whatever age you were.
  • What’s your favorite holiday tradition? Write up a description and why you love it that would help someone from a different culture appreciate why it’s special to you.
  • Plan your holiday for this time next year, once people have been vaccinated and we can get together once more safely. What would make a perfect occasion? Write about it.
  • Think of your favorite holiday movie. What do you like about it? Now imagine how you could change it for a fresh version, whether that means a gender swap or a modern take or something entirely different. Write up some notes for it, and if you like the concept, add it to the future projects file.
  • Consider things historically considered important at this time of year: light, warmth, food, family, comfort, hope. Pick one or two and write some thoughts about how those things matter in the 21st century.

Go grab yourself a cozy warm drink and some paper or your laptop, and give yourself a few thoughtful moments to write from the heart. Not every project has to be the next great novel or something to pitch. Find a peaceful corner, and remember why you love to write. Consider it a little holiday gift to yourself. Enjoy!

Friday Links for a Bookish Weekend

I try to bring you a shopping guide this time of year, suggesting gifts for writers. This year, between the number of people staying home for the holidays and the overall stress of the pandemic, I’ve gone back and forth on whether to do one. Gifts are lovely, but getting them to people is difficult. Particularly when you consider the slowness of the post in recent months. So instead of suggesting all sorts of presents that require purchase and shipping, I’m just going to include some bookish links today, to go with the ones last week. Remember that you can call indie bookstores near your loved ones and arrange gifts through them. Or you can send gift cards, either by email or tucked into a holiday card. Bookshop.org now offers gift cards, so you can still support indie booksellers. Give the gift of something cozy to read.

Photo by Alisa Anton on Unsplash

Gift-giving aside, don’t forget the December Writing Challenge is still in full swing. It’s a low key year, but with everything going on, try to prioritize your own interests a bit. Schedule time to work on your current project. You don’t need to hit a certain word count or number of pages. Just sit with it and keep your brain tuned in so you don’t lose momentum. And if you do find yourself on a writing roll, by all means take advantage of it!

Wishing you a great weekend, filled with some holiday music and stories and a bit of writing time for yourself!

This week’s links:

16 Authors Share the Best Books They Read in 2020. – A nice list of recs from authors through the folks at Bookish.

Our 65 Favorite Books of the Year. – This roundup, from Lit Hub, offers a good cross section of genres and titles less frequently discussed.

The Twelve Days of Christmas. – For Austenites and fans of Regency life/writing, a look into Christmas life of that era, brought to you by the staff at Jane Austen’s house. Includes bits of Austen’s letters, recipes, illustrations, and some short readings courtesy of Emma Thompson.

The Talented Ms. Calloway. – An intriguing look into the world of a certain sort of publishing, and what it means to self-promote and to publish oneself in a very literal manner.

Electric Lit’s Favorite Novels of 2020. – As it says. A nice selection for reading/gift-giving inspiration.

The 50 Greatest Apocalypse Novels. – For those of you thusly inclined. Given the state of 2020, once I saw this, I felt I had to include it.