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.

 

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.

Happy Release Day to Nalini Singh’s LOVE HARD!

The latest installment in New York Times bestselling-author Nalini Singh‘s Hard Play series, LOVE HARD, is out today. This contemporary romance marks the third book in the Hard Play series. And according to Amazon, it’s one of the Best Romances of the Month!

Love Hard Cover Art

Jacob Esera, star rugby player and young single father, has worked hard to create a joyous life for his six-year-old daughter. After the death of his childhood sweetheart soon after their daughter’s birth, all Jake wants is safety and stability. No risks. No wild chances. And especially no Juliet Nelisi, former classmate, scandal magnet, and a woman who is a thorn in his side.

As a lonely teenager, Juliet embraced her bad-girl reputation as a shield against loneliness and rejection. Years later, having kicked a cheating sports-star ex to the curb, she has a prestigious job and loyal friends—and wants nothing to do with sportsmen. The last thing she expects is the fire that ignites between her and the stuffed-shirt golden boy who once loved her best friend.

Straitlaced Jacob Esera versus wild-at-heart Juliet Nelisi? Place your bets.

LOVE HARD can be found at your favorite e-tailers, including Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and Apple Books, as well as from Audible, Tantor, and other audiobook retailers. Or order a copy through your favorite independent bookstore. Check it out today!

 

Friday Links: The Plague Edition

I opened Twitter this morning to a post that included a photo of Daniel Defoe’s A Journal of the Plague Year. In the midst of concerns about COVID-19, we turn to eighteenth-century fiction. Or maybe it’s just a reflection of who’s on my Twitter feed. Bookish people like books. Even when the news threatens us with a pandemic.

I’m not making light of the concerns about coronavirus. I find it just as alarming as everyone else. But it’s also depressing to hear about the cancelation of the London Book Fair, and to get emails about vendors supplying employees with laptops so they can work remotely. Friends are backing out of plans to avoid public transportation. Companies are suspending work-related travel.

You’ve all heard the advice. Wash your hands well and often, don’t touch your face, etc. But I’m here to offer up some ideas to keep you entertained while you’re avoiding that crowded movie theater or your local happy hour this weekend. Because staying home means more time to write, and to read. (You knew that’s what I was going to say, right?)

I’ve got some terrific lists of books to check out, plus some general writing advice and industry gossip this week. So plump up the sofa cushions, grab your laptop or e-reader, and enjoy. Happy writing!

This Week’s Links:

20 New Books to Read in March. – A ton of wonderful-sounding titles hitting shelves this month, so check a few of these out.

8 YA Sci-Fi and Fantasy Novels to Pick Up This March. – More fun reads, specifically for fans of YA SFF.

Top 10 Writing and Grammar Mistakes that Even Published Writers Make. – Excellent list of things to check for when you do that last pass on your manuscript.

Aaron Sorkin on How He Would Write the Democratic Primary for ‘The West Wing.’ – Less about politics and more about Sorkin’s approach to writing in general. There’s a particularly interesting bit on what interests him in terms of writing conflict.

Are Novelist Obliged to Tell the Story of Their Private Life? – Interesting read in the age of #MeToo and #OwnVoices.

52 Books for 52 Places. – Intended as a tie-in for the NYT article on places to travel, it’s also a great list for some armchair traveling if you don’t want to leave the house.

10-1/2 Commandments of Writing. – A good refresher of some basic things to keep in mind while you’re hermitting away with your work-in-progress.

When Did Reading Books Become So Competitive? – A look at the age of reading challenges and bookish social media.

Announcing the 2020 Women’s Prize Longlist. – The 16 books that made the long list for this year’s Women’s Prize for Fiction.

Friday Links: The Leap Year Edition

This week’s Friday Links decided to leap over to Saturday, courtesy of my insane schedule. I considered skipping the post entirely, but I missed last week and guilty feelings won out. No great unifying theme, however. Just a bunch of things I’ve come across and found interesting, informative, and/or entertaining.

Is anyone doing something special with the extra day this year? I love the idea of considering February 29th a bonus day–one you get to spend at will. I’m devoting my day to a project that I’ve been trying to squeeze into my regular calendar for way too long. Fingers crossed I can make some huge progress.

Wishing you a wonderful Leap Day, whatever you choose to do. Enjoy!

This Week’s Links:

Wired’s 13 Must-Read Books for Spring. – Some fun titles to consider adding to your TBR.

The New Wave of Fantasy: How Millennial Authors Are Transforming the Genre. – A quick round table with four prominent young fantasy writers.

The Man Responsible for Cut/Copy/Paste Has Died. – A brief acknowledgement for the passing of Larry Tesler, who made the lives of many writers easier.

Author’s Guild Releases Grim 5-Page Report on “The Profession of the Author in the 21st Century.” – Not great news, but really, it’s never been great news.

A Library Story. They Say Everyone Has One. – A lovely, uplifting read about the good libraries do.

Open Access Image Libraries: A Handy List. – A helpful roundup of the libraries currently making collections of images available for open use through their websites.

Confessions of a Hate Reader, or Bad Writing Habits I Picked Up from Bad Criticism. – Takes a look at the difficulties of creating with a laundry list of “shouldn’t”s in one’s brain.

 

Nalini Singh’s WOLF RAIN Now in Paperback

Attention, Psy-Changeling-Trinity fans! Book three of Nalini Singh‘s series, WOLF RAIN, hits stores today in mass market paperback.

New York Times bestselling author Nalini Singh takes us on a new adventure in this next novel of the Psy-Changeling Trinity series…

The end of Silence was supposed to create a better world for future generations. But trust is broken, and the alliance between Psy, Changeling, and human is thin. The problems that led to Silence are back in full force. Because Silence fixed nothing, just hid the problems.

This time, the Psy have to find a real answer to their problems–if one exists. Or their race will soon go extinct in a cascade of violence. The answer begins with an empath who is attuned to monsters–and who is going to charm a wolf into loving her despite his own demons.

Check out this latest exciting, sexy adventure in the series, available online and at your local bookseller. Enjoy!

Friday Links: Writers On Writing (and Reading)

I sifted through the links I discovered this week and found many focused on writers discussing writing. Normally, I need to hunt for these sorts of links to share. They appear mostly on niche sites. This week, for whatever reason (and I could speculate), the world is discussing narrative. Points of view. Truth versus fiction. Who should have a voice. I love that so many writers have joined in, whether to tell personal stories or to share a wider perspective. Regardless, I’m pleased to pass along these interesting stories, as each offers up some wonderful food for thought to take back to your own efforts.

Next weekend I’m heading off to Utah to teach at the Futurescapes Workshop. In case you missed it, I posted yesterday about how to attend my masterclass there if you’re in the neighborhood.

This weekend, however, I’m nose down in a client manuscript, plus a pile of submissions. I’ve closed the query box temporarily, because I was a bit behind from the holidays and then more than 400 of you queried me in January. That’s not even counting partials/manuscripts I’m trying to get through, so I’ve shut the gates. I plan to reopen on the 21st, once I’m back from the workshop and a bit caught up.

In the meantime, wishing you all a wonderful weekend, filled with good reads and some productive writing time. Enjoy!

This Week’s Links:

How to Write Fiction When the Planet Is Falling Apart. – Author Jenny Offill discusses her new novel, which addresses climate change.

Screenwriter and Novelist, Turned YA Author, Christopher J. Moore: Author Spotlight. – An interview with the talented, versatile writer.

Women Writers Are Driving Philadelphia’s Literary Renaissance. – An interesting look at the group of authors leading the recent surge of notable books from the Philadelphia area.

A Year in the Life: 2019. – Author Roxane Gay shares her annual roundup of books she’s read and things she’s written in the past year.

I Don’t Want to Be the Strong Female Lead. – Filmmaker Brit Marling talks about the difference between male- and female-centric stories, and what gets lost when women replace men at the head of a traditional quest narrative.

The Secret Feminist History of Shakespeare and Company. – A look at the life of Sylvia Beach, original owner and driving force behind the bookstore. I’m not sure how much of a secret it all is, but it’s definitely interesting.

The Great Vision of Houston’s Arte Público Press. – A brief history of the publisher’s efforts to bring Hispanic authors ignored by mainstream presses out into the public’s eye.

Happy Book Birthday to A Heart of Blood and Ashes by Milla Vane

A very happy release day to Milla Vane (aka Meljean Brook), whose fantasy romance A HEART OF BLOOD AND ASHES hits stores today. This book kicks off her A Gathering of Dragons series, perfect for fans of epic sword-and-sorcery adventures. Fair warning: It’s on the violent side, because: Barbarians.

A Heart of Blood and Ashes cover art

A generation past, the western realms were embroiled in endless war. Then the Destroyer came. From the blood and ashes he left behind, a tenuous alliance rose between the barbarian riders of Parsathe and the walled kingdoms of the south. That alliance is all that stands against the return of an ancient evil—until the barbarian king and queen are slain in an act of bloody betrayal.

Though forbidden by the alliance council to kill the corrupt king responsible for his parents’ murders, Maddek vows to avenge them, even if it costs him the Parsathean crown. But when he learns it was the king’s daughter who lured his parents to their deaths, the barbarian warrior is determined to make her pay.

Yet the woman Maddek captures is not what he expected. Though the last in a line of legendary warrior-queens, Yvenne is small and weak, and the sharpest weapons she wields are her mind and her tongue. Even more surprising is the marriage she proposes to unite them in their goals and to claim their thrones—because her desire for vengeance against her father burns even hotter than his own…

Find A HEART OF BLOOD AND ASHES wherever books are sold, including Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Apple Books, and IndieBound.