Alyssa’s Emo Journal
The last few years have been off. I think most of us can agree on that, though everyone likely has different contributing factors as to why, in addition to the world being a trashfire. During this time, a phrase that’s become pretty common is “I give zero fucks.” There are fuck deficits, negative fucks, and intriguingly, fields of fucks. The metaphorical fuck fields are most often described as: fallow, dead, razed and salted. I’ve certainly felt this way, drawing more deeply into myself, away from bad news, away from people who do hurtful things, away from caring, because having fucks and giving fucks hurts.
I got to thinking recently.
Some of our fields of fucks are fallow. Fallow has a meaning: “when a field lies fallow, the soil regains nutrients that are sucked up by over-planting.” What if we’ve left our fields of fucks unplowed, unattended, hoping they’d withered and would never grow back—but in the end we’d created a more fertile space for them and now stand to reap more fucks than ever?
Some of us razed and salted our fields, but what if our fucks are like poppies, lying dormant under scarred earth, waiting for a bit of light? What if they’re baobabs, waiting to be left unattended so they can grow to unknown heights?
Some of us burned our fields of fucks and roasted marshmallows in the spitting flames. What if fuck trees are pyrophytic, the heat and destruction of fire necessary to clear out the choking tangle of vines that bound them, and the seed pods can only burst open after a conflagration, and are now germinating in the ashes?
Some of us felt that our fucks had abandoned us without any particular effort of our own, leaving us in an endless dark. But, now, we hear the rustle of leaves and sense the tug of roots in soil. There is a breeze wending through the darkness.
We blink against a thin ray of sunshine—it hurts our eyes because it’s been so long—and then slowly, slowly, the darkness around us begins to writhe, to move, to untwist.
Maybe, our field of fucks had grown over us, around us, protecting us from those things too difficult to feel. The darkness had been our cocoon, inside of our overabundance of fucks, and now we sit blinking in the light. *
No one knows the genus and species of the fuck plant, after all, or it’s true properties, so I’m going to name it: Adansonia futuere.
*Fuck tree hibernation endows you with the strength to crush enemies of good, as does reaping your overabundance of fucks. An overabundance of fucks also provides your skin with a glow from within, which is actually your inner fire as you prepare to smite your enemies.
2020 is starting off with a lot of “wut?”! I got asked to write an op-ed in The Washington Post about Harry and Meghan stepping back from their royal duties!
Then I was on CNN talking about Meghan and Harry!? o__O
I was also in a segment on the Today show (along with HelenKay Dimon and Stacey Freaking Abrams!!!!). They also went to the photoshoot for How To Catch A Queen adn the chemistry between the two models was *blushing emoji*. My interview was recorded back in July at the last RWA conference (that we didn’t know would be the LAST RWA conference for many of us) so it was cool to see the segment come together:
Inspired by a tweet from Deanna Raybourn, I wrote a short story about the life Bulgom Pamplemousse von Bearstein, Johan’s teddy bear in A Prince on Paper.
My name is Sir Bulgom Pamplemousse von Bearstein.
I don’t remember my life before Jo-Jo—my human. My first memory is of Laetitia tucking me against a crying wriggling pink thing with a cap of fine orange hair—I didn’t like this, non. But the pink thing seemed to sense my presence. It stopped wailing into my stuffing, like a siren winding down, and gripped my paw tightly. It sucked at the fur on my ear, which wasn’t’ entirely pleasant but not so bad as one might imagine.
“You have your first friend, Jo-Jo,” Laetitia said softly, placing a hand on both me and the baby. “He will watch over you.”
I felt it then, the burst of something deep in my stuffing that leapt out to meet something from this small wriggling human’s warm body and loop into an unbreakable knot between us.
I would protect this child.
Read the rest HERE. [Note: this is flash fiction and it has not been edited!]
GWG Interview: Nana Prah
1) Hi, Nana! Can you introduce yourself to the Lunettes?
Hi Lunettes! I’m so happy to be here. You have no idea how much I’m fan-girling over being in Alyssa Cole’s newsletter. I’ve been writing romance since about 2010. What started out as a fun email to a friend about how she’d meet her future significant other ended up turning into a book (It’s hidden deep in my computer archives, never to see the light of day).
I write multicultural contemporary romance set in Ghana and the US. I like to show off that romance is everywhere. The Astacio series published with Harlequin Kimani is set in the US while my Destiny series with Decadent publishing is set in Ghana. I’ve even ventured out into the Gulf of Guinea with Healing His Medic published by Love Africa Press.
2) What is your favorite part of writing romance?
My favorite part about writing romance is having a story idea pop up into my head. I feel powerful when I establish situations where the characters get to know each other, go through some level of hell, but then end up with their HEA. Some people might call me out on having a god-complex, and they may be right.
3) Love and Hiplife is a Ghana-set romance about the sparks that fly between a rising music star who needs to learn French to reach the next level of success and the language genius PhD student he enlists to help him achieve that goal. This sounds amazing! Can you tell the Lunettes what inspired this story?
I love hiplife music. Unfortunately, I don’t speak any Ghanaian language fluently (I’m not the best with learning languages) so when I sing it, people are always shocked and ask me if I understand the lyrics. I tell them that you don’t need to comprehend the words to enjoy the music. That’s where the idea of Lamisi’s PhD doctorate came from.
I know of only one song in hiplife which is partially sung in French, I thought it would be incredible if an established hiplife artist could bridge the music in Ghana with those of the Francophone countries. He would become epic. And so the idea for Love and Hiplife was born.
(The song is below, and you can find a Nana’s curated hiplife playlist here or in the “Listen Up!” section later in the newsletter! -AC)
4) Can you describe hiplife music to anyone who might not have heard of it? Who are your favorite artists?
Hiplife is a style of music that fuses Ghanaian culture and hip hop. It will get you up on your feet dancing because the beats are so catchy. The lyrics can be sung in any Ghanaian language including, but not limited to Twi, Ga, Ewe and Pidgin English and are usually mixed with English. There are a variety of subgenre’s under hiplife. The older hiplife songs are very different from the current ones, and yet they’re all fantastic.
So many amazing artists!
5) Your hero, Blaise, is Muslim and Lamisi, the heroine, is not, which causes some troubles in their relationship. Was it important to you to address religion in this romance, or did it just rise organically from the setting of the story?
The most northern regions of Ghana tend to have a high concentration of Muslims. I lived and worked in the north of Ghana (I’m a nurse by profession) for about five months. During this time, not one guy asked me out. When I asked a female friend about it, she told me that the men were pretty sure I wouldn’t convert to Islam so it would be a waste of time. That really opened my eyes to the impact of religion on marriage in Ghana. A true conflict which people, especially women if they want to overcome it, tend to convert.
With Blaise being from the north, it made sense to include his religion and the pressure he had from his family to marry a “good Muslim woman” into the story. Lamisi ended up surprising me, though. You’ll have to read the book to find out how.
6) Can you share some of your nerdy interests with the Lunettes, outside of writing? What do you do for fun? What is your favorite fandom (film/tv show/comicbook/etc)?
Buffy the Vampire Slayer is my favorite show of all time. ALL TIME! Angel is in the mix, too. The best Star Trek show is The Next Generation (I recently got into a discussion about it with an Uber driver). The Big Bang Theory is hilarious. I’m not much into comics, but Marvel and DC movies are my jam.
I love to read (usually romances of all subgenres, including urban fantasy). If I could go to school and still be able to make money, I’d do it for the rest of my life.
7) Can you recommend three of your favorite romances to the Lunettes?
Why do you want to limit an avid reader like this? It’s painful.
I’m not including The Reluctant Royals Series by Alyssa Cole on my list event though it totally is. I’ve read every book in this fabulous series and I can’t wait for more to come out.
The Mercy Thompson along with the Alpha and Omega series by Patricia Briggs- It was love at first read.
Hook Shot by Kennedy Ryan – That book had me reading all night.
The Princesses of Saene Series by Nana Prah (His Defiant Princess), Empi Baryeh (His Inherited Princess), and Kiru Taye (His Captive Princess). Yeah, I went there by mentioning my own book.
8) What are you working on/what's coming out next for you?
My current WIP is a series where the heroes own a gym. The first book is about a former MMA champion who is, um, coerced to train a woman who is being bullied at work.
For the first time, I’m working on all the books in the series before releasing them so there will be minimal waiting between each. I’m looking forward to sharing them with the world.
9) Where can readers find you online?
Blog : www.nanaprah.blogspot.com
Interview: Cal from Dragonsworn Cosmetics
Can you tell the Lunettes a little about Dragonsworn, your shop, and how it came to be? What fandom inspired it (for those unfamiliar with the name), and how did you get started?
"Dragonsworn" in this specific instance comes from Warcraft -- the dragonsworn are those mortals who act in a particular dragon's service or at their direction. I used it for my business name because not only do I have A Dragon Thing, but it's a term used in a bunch of different fantasy settings that also really embodies the whole Sparkly Hoard of Glitter that I like to have going on.
I have always loved cosmetics but I was never able to really use them, because I have a ton of obnoxious chemical allergies and sensitivities that made wearing them uncomfortable. I was a born nail-biter and I only avoided biting my nails when I had polish on them, but the smell in normal polish made me really sick. A few years ago, I got a bottle of organic polish as a gift, and I discovered that I didn't bite my nails OR get sick, so I went on a hunt to purchase some more and found only that it was really expensive and really boring: pastels and neutrals, almost exclusively. I knew there had to be a better way (with a whole lot more added glitter), and tons of late-night hyperfocus research later I figured out how to make my own. As is the way of things on the internet, when I shared my in-progress stories on social media I discovered that I wasn't the only person who wanted a) no gross stench and b) tons of glitter, so my storefront was born!
The tagline for your business, Dragonsworn, is "wearable fanart" and this really shines through (literally) in your creations! In addition to signature scents, you also blend fandom inspired make-up like eyeshadow and nail polish. It seems kind of magical to be able to transmute your fandom squee into sparkly make-up, but I'm guessing it comes with a lot of non-magic-aided hard work. If possible, can you give some insight into your creation process?
When inspiration strikes me (costumes, color palate, character design, cool descriptive notes), I start throwing notes down on paper, which can range from something as specific as "0.25g iron oxide" to more general reflections on how something makes me feel -- "springtime, sunshine, wildflowers." Once I have those ideas down I refine them through time and trial-and-error testing to specific reproducible recipes. Sometimes things work out the first time, and sometimes I can see changes are necessary, but when I'm happy with what I've come up with I get a batch of volunteers together to give me feedback on samples because colors and scents are so subjective and work differently on every individual person. Once recipes are ready for the store and the wider world, actually MAKING things is a lot of tedious digital scale and measuring work with the world's tiniest immersion blender, and glitterbombing my workshop so often that the blinds sparkle.
(Image: Dragonsworn’s Valentine’s Day Gift Set, featuring colors inspired by three heroines: Portia Hobbs (!!!) from A Duke by Default; Jane Fairfield from The Heiress Effect by Courtney Milan; Ada von hasenberg from Polaris Rising by Jessie Mihalik)
Girl geeks are often made to feel uncomfortable about overt displays of femininity, like make-up, so in a way this particular business feels somewhat subversive. Have you encountered any reactions, good or bad, related to this?
Bringing traditionally feminine-coded goodies into traditionally masculine-coded spaces is my favorite low-key subversion, which is part of why I started with gaming fandoms (my first lines, and still my favorites, were Dragon Age and Mass Effect). I've had a lot of really incredibly positive reactions from all across the gender spectrum, and I get a lot of joy out of stressing that makeup and perfume be for anyone who wants it. I do get the occasional comment from dudebros at conventions who look at my table and say "oh, so it's just for girls," but my friend if you think soap is only for girls then you have much larger problems than cooties in your clubhouse.
What is your favorite aspect of making wearable fanart?
My very favorite thing is what my family calls Secret Nerding: when I have to put on my Well-Adjusted Professional Lady costume and do suburban mom things like go to PTA or HOA meetings I will wear Iron Bull eye shadow and a Chaotic Evil manicure so that I can embrace all of my nerdery without worrying the avenue of sniffy gatekeeping small talk that usually happens when I do things like wear a Critical Role t-shirt to the grocery store. Ha ha ha my nails are EVIL and you don't even know it, Karen!
What is your dream collaboration?
I have been blessed to have been able to work with a ton of awesome creators! But I have to say right now my dream is for costume pictures from the Wheel of Time set to start hitting the internet, because that was one of Baby's First Fandoms and I need, desperately NEED, to get some White Tower soap up in this place.
Do you have any advice for other Lunettes who are looking into becoming entrprenerds?
The absolute best specific practical advice I have learned: don't stress out about hiring photographers or dropping thousands of dollars on a fancy photography DSLR rig for your product photography. All you need to start out is a clip-on macro lens for your phone camera and a little folding desktop lightbox. Basic white balance color correction in Adobe Lightroom is free on both iOS and Android, the lens and lightbox will only set you back between $20 and $50 on Amazon depending on the size you want, and this combination will make your photos AMAZING without killing your startup funds.
If you’ve read Nana’s interview above, here is the playlist she curated with a selection of hiplife songs!
Smart Bitches has done a four-part series about the RWA implosion. Check out the first one, in which she speaks withC Chilove, Laurel Cremant, and Diana Neal, the officers of CIMRWA, the Cultural, Interracial, Multicultural Special Interest Chapter of Romance Writers of America, here.
Amazing author and historian Katrina Jackson discussed my book An Unconditional Freedom on Shelf Love: A Romance Novel Book Club Podcast! This podcast, hosted by Andrea Martucci, is fantastic overall, and I highly recommend even if you don’t listen to this episode.
Whoever Said Surfing Is for White People Never Met These Women - Love this article about Black and brown girls who surf!
The People Who Have No Voice Inside Their Head - A fascinating look into interior thought and how the way in which YOU think may be absolutely different from those around you because not everyone has an inner “voice” (and conversely, not everyone thinks visually). Kind of like the “wait, not everyone puts their bra on backwards then turns it forward” twitter debate, but with brains”.
The Legacy of the Mississippi Delta Chinese - Article about the American descendants of Chinese immigrants who settled in Mississippi Delta during Reconstruction.
ROGUE WAVES ARE SCARY AS HELL - That isn’t the title of the article, but it’s the truth. Read at your own peril.
Black Horror: Dawn of a New Era - “To say that the horror genre is having a moment would be an understatement…Within this larger horror revival lives a renaissance of Black Horror.”
Relevant to Black horror, check out this amazing and moving short film, Suicide by Sunlight, directed by Nikyatu Jusu: (cw: grief, trauma, gore) “Valentina, a day-walking Black vampire protected from the sun by her melanin, is forced to suppress her bloodlust to regain custody of her estranged daughters.”
When Black Women Go From Office Pet to Office Threat - A very real phenomenon where people are very happy to have you around, until they realize you’re actually talented and not dependent on them for success. Vital for people in all industries to read and absorb, and publishing in particular.
Introducing 78 new emotions - More word nerdery with authors inventing words to describe various emotions (not all are successful of course but a fun skim read to see what catches your fancy)
The Chilean exiles who escaped to Scotland - If you’ve read A Duke By Default (which is on sale right now!), you know that the hero, Tavish, is half Chilean . Here’s a bit of history relevant to his mom’s backstory that that I came across when researching.
Black history tours of Paris (which is like many of the places that show up often in movies and TV: pop culture makes it seem totally white, then you get there and see how diverse it truly is):
Videos of people just walking around New York City. I love this because it gives me a taste of home, but also it’s just relaxing! Also a good resource for people writing stories set in NYC who can’t visit or need a refresher:
Some heavy history (and something that didn’t only play out in Argentina):
Wishing you calming capybaras-in-a-hotspring vibes.