Saturday, April 16, 2016

Book Recommendation - Sacre Bleu by Christoper Moore

Now, if any of you are following me on Goodreads (What?You’re not? Well, go! I’ll wait here.), you may have noticed my love for Christopher Moore. If you’ve never read his books, I highly recommend them. I won’t lie and say that they’re, like, child appropriate… because they’re not. But they’re funny as all hell. Irreverent, sometimes sacrilegious (Here’s looking at you, Lamb.), and very well-written.

But today, I want to talk about another books entirely. The black sheep of the Christopher Moore family of books.

Sacrè Bleu.

When this book came out, I was so fucking excited. Not only was it Christopher Moore, it was Impressionist Era France. Monet, Morisot, Toulouse-Lautrec, Cezanne, Pissarro, Manet. I was hooked before I even read a single word. And, although we haven’t actually started the review yet, I’m going to spoil the ending – I love it. It’s not my favorite Moore book, but it’s right up there (It would take a lot to unseat Lamb from the top spot.).

Unfortunately, that’s not a popular opinion. Moore fans were sort of unhappy with the book, in general. And admittedly, it’s aa departure from his other books. It’s not just humor. It’s intellectualism. It’s historical fantasy. But it apparently missed the mark for a lot of his audience, which saddens me. This is a book I whip out for people to read all the time. And since I just finished it again and it’s fresh in my mind… I figured there wasn’t any better time to take a proper look at it. Maybe you’ll decide that you love it, too.

The Good: I can’t actually just say everything, as much as I’d like to. There’s a lot of good in this book. It’s got Moore’s normal wit, it’s all about art and painting and creating. That’s enough to sell me on it right there, but there’s also romance. There’s debauchery. There’s historical aspects to it. And there’s actual scans of famous Impressionist Era paintings. Not just the big ones, either, which is a nice change of pace.

But more than that, even, the historical bits work into the fantasy elements perfectly. It’s not easy to do even a few times, but he manages to seamlessly fit some pretty powerful magic (Time travel, immortality, that sort of thing) into the already strange world of art. Now, it’s more complex than all this, but the basis of the magic is that ultramarine blue, (The Sacrè Bleu of the title) can distort the flow of time. It’s used to explain a lot of the oddities you see with artists, but my favorite is probably with Claude Monet. When his first wife died, he painted her to capture the color blue she was turning. Yeah. That part’s not fictional. You can see the painting. Camille Monet on her deathbed.

But in the book, it’s a little less creepy, and more desperate. He uses the blue. He tries to stop her from dying by painting, tries to twist time with this magical blue paint so that she doesn’t have to die. And both in real life and in the book, painting that tore him up.

It’s that kind of attention to detail, digging out those things and putting them together, finding everything to do with blue in that era and that location. The amount of work and devotion is staggering by itself, but the fact that it works? That’s where the real magic comes from.

And, as much as I love ebooks, I have to say to get this one in print. It’s a piece of art in itself. All the text is blue, which tickles the shit out of me, and the pages are thick and ragged. To me, that heightens the experience of reading the book.

The Bad: There’s not much I can criticize in this book, but one thing does stand out, if I’m being nitpicky. If you’re looking for a super-intense book, this isn’t the one for you. It’s going to take its time, and there are going to be parts where you could be okay putting it down. It’s not a thrilling ride. It’s a meander through the Louvre, which is enjoyable in its own right.

The Ugly: I had a really hard time coming up with anything to put in the ugly category on this book. So this is a little bit of a stretch to call it ugly. There’s a little bit of a disconnect between the first and second halves. Really, it’s just about the marked difference between the plot before and after the midpoint, but it can feel a little inconsistent. That’s it. That’s all I’ve got. There’s literally nothing ugly in this entire book, in spite of what some reviews might say. If you can find this book, grab it quickly and love on it. It won’t do you wrong.


Monday, March 21, 2016

On Pokemon and Fandom and the Genre Ghetto

So, in the last blog post, I promised I’d talk about Pokemon. And I’m happy to oblige on that front, because it’s my weakness. It’s the only “real video game” I still play, and I have since I was a kid. I was raised firmly in the arms of the Pokemon Generation. I watched the show, played the games. I even had the board game and the novelizations. One of the first things I remember saving up for was a poster that showed the first 150 Pokemon. I sat and stared at that and memorized the entire thing, too (Don’t ask me to recite it, now. It’s been too long.).

With the next main series games coming out this year, I figured this was the time to talk about it if I was ever going to. I won’t go into my journey with it or how I got into it, what changes I want to see in these games, theories about the way this world works. That’s all been covered by hundreds of other fans, and so much more than that, so you can turn to them if you want all that. I wouldn’t do nearly as good of a job at it.

If you’re this far into my blog, and you somehow haven’t noticed, I’m a writer. I’m also a massive geek. But the thing is, some of this geeky stuff people like me love so much moves beyond being just this niche thing. I’m looking at Harry Potter and Star Wars and things like that. There are plenty of books and movies about wars in space or magical schools, but they mostly stayed firmly settled in SF/F fandom. In the same way, Pokemon has moved far ahead of other similar works. These are things that are objectively geeky and nerdy. Space and wizards and dragons and mice with electric cheek pouches.

It’s the kind of thing I like to bring up to people when I get into conversations about nerds and geek and SF/F culture. I’ve said for years that everyone is actually a nerd. Everyone who liked The Hunger Games or Harry Potter or The Magic Treehouse. They’re all undeniably SF/F, but they become accepted for one reason or another. I think there’s good and there’s bad in situations like this. I’ve spent a lot of time considering this type of thing, and a lot of time drenched in fandom. So here’s my take on Pokemon in particular. The basic ideas apply to anything that breaks out into popular culture, but I’m going to focus on this one franchise this time through.

The Good: The clear good that Pokemon brings is togetherness. It’s for everyone, and the Nintendo Direct video where they announced really focused on that. It showed all different types of people playing and enjoying Pokemon together. When something breaks out of just being for SF/F fans, it opens the doors a little more. More people getting into SF/F, and possibly moving past their one thing. It gives people a common baseline to discuss things. Google “Games Like Pokemon” and you’ll see that. Common language, common thoughts. Even people who know nothing about gaming or SF/F or anything like that can get an idea of something from the baseline of “Pokemon,” because it’s a part of the culture at large, now. And that’s beautiful and brings people together, which we can always do good things with.

The Bad: Now, this is no fault of the Pokemon franchise. This is a cultural thing, instead, but it’s something that definitely applies to the franchise. SF/F writers are all very familiar with what’s known as the “Genre Ghetto.” Essentially, there are real books, and there’s sci-fi and fantasy. That’s a problem in itself, but that’s not the part I’m covering here. The thing is, when an SF/F book does well and breaks out, suddenly the people in power aren’t as willing to mark it as science fiction or fantasy. Look at Fahrenheit 451. It’s a sci-fi classic… but it’s bundled in with literary fiction.

That’s the bad. A game like Pokemon breaks out of being “just for nerds” and is suddenly held up as a standard of video gaming. This problem isn’t as prevalent in gaming, from what I can tell, but it’s there. Games are already for nerds, but some games are particularly nerdy (Starcraft, anyone?). And of course, the people who really geek out about the popular things are always going to somehow be seen as lesser. In Pokemon, those are the people who breed for IVs and EV train, but also the people who compete in the battles and write out team strategies and that sort of thing. They’re the nerds that casual fans don’t want to talk about as much, because they’re “too into it.”

I love Pokemon. I always will, and the good it does is amazing. Seriously. I about shit myself when I found out they were doing Gen 7 (Or 6.5 or whatever you want to call it.). 20 years of Pokemon. 20 years. That’s most of my life by a huge margin. But I think it works to expose some of the issues that genre artists and fans see and, as I said, it’s a widely-accepted piece of work. It’s a baseline people can work from.

I’m a small enough fish that I’m pretty sure that most people who are looking at this are already geeky in the more “traditional” sense. They get it. But I like to draw attention to this aspect of geekery, because I think it’s important. It’s important for the SF/F fandom to acknowledge that this happens, and it’s important for people who don’t see themselves that way to maybe take a peek at this side of the equation.

Because fandom is for everyone.


Tuesday, March 8, 2016

This Message is Brought to You by... Someone Else

Today, I’m going to talk very little. I know, I know. Words are kind of my thing. I’m an author, for fuck’s sake. But I’m going to step aside after a bit and just let you watch something. Hopefully, it’ll touch you the same way it touched me.

So, as a bit of backstory: I have a bad habit when it comes to Youtube. I know the first step is admitting I have a problem, but I don’t know the other twelve. All right, it’s not that serious (yet). I still manage to work. it popped up when the insomnia did. I was too tired to work, which would have been the ideal usage for all that time. But no. I wouldn’t have produced anything of actual quality. So I took to watching Youtube videos, and I eventually stumbled over to the gamers of Youtube.

I would spend hours and hours just watching other people play video games. I don’t play that much anymore. The occasional foray into Pokemon (More on that in a later blog post!) or a silly online game. I sometimes play solitaire, and I judiciously care for my dragons in Dragon City. But in all, that’s maybe an hour of my time a day, and if I miss it, oh well. I don’t Game with a capital G anymore. It’s just not something that stuck with me the way it did for other people I know.

Now, I was failing to sleep one night, so I thought I’d put on a video. Just something simple in the hopes that it would lull me off into dreamland. I saw that jacksepticeye had put up a new one, and that it was massively long. About 2 hours. I didn’t think I’d make it through the whole thing, but I know that long gaming videos are normally slower paced, so I wouldn’t be invested. Take a couple melatonin tablets, turn it on, and shut it off when my eyelids started to droop. Not the first time I’d done the exact same thing.

Cut to two hours later when I’m still wide awake. I’ve got chills, and I’m just staring at the screen and reading theories about this game I’ve never actually played, because it dug under my skin that much. Dug in and really took hold of me.

That game was The Beginner’s Guide.

I won’t tell you what happens exactly. You should experience it. But I want to include this little end note all the same, just to convince you to watch this, or at least click the little Watch Later button in the corner (Which has become my best friend, of late. Yes, I have no social life.). It’s about the creative process. It’s emotional. It’s about recovering from success rather than recovering from failure. It’s unique and wonderful (Did I mention the chills? I got chills.).

If you do anything creative at all, or you even want to, or you just want to give up two hours for a moving experience, I recommend it. I sometimes put it on while I write, which is why I’ve seen it five or six times since it came out. It’s that good.

In fact, I think I’ll watch it again while I work today.


Tuesday, February 16, 2016

RadCon 7 Wrap Up!

Well, I’ve mostly recovered from RadCon 7, so I guess it’s time for another round through the yearly wrap-up. Strap yourselves in for this one, because this con was different.

Wait, though. Before we get into this, I’m going to answer the question some of you might have. Last year, I posted about RadCon 6C… so why is this one 7? The short answer is that it’s the leap year, but that never helps anyone. It took me years to understand this numbering system. Basically, they start a new number every leap year, and then go three letters, and… it’s weird. But this was the 25th anniversary of the first RadCon, and it’s still going strong. In my opinion, it’s stronger than ever.

I got in Friday… and then there was that particular insanity. I was going from 7:45 until 1 in the morning Saturday. School visits to try and encourage the children (I’m hoping some of them listened, at least.), working in the room selling books, talking about the rabid puppies/sad puppies/happy kittens (Google it if you’re interested.), and then Rocky Horror Picture Show. We had a huge turnout this year. Even with three times as many goodie bags, we were short, and the mess was beautiful… until cleanup, but that’s sort of the point. For all of the background issues that popped up, I think it was great. I had people approaching me after the show thanking me, saying they only stayed because it was so entertaining. Really not trying to brag, but it’s always nice when the audience has a good time of it.

Saturday was talking about “Adult Stuff” in kids’ books. That one was recorded and should be going up online if you want to hear it. I’ll of course be linking to it and crowing a little when I find out it went up, so stay tuned for that. Unfortunately, my partying took a little bit of a hit just because I was so damned tired. I did stick around long enough to finally try RadCon’s signature drink, Toxic Waste. Mind you, I didn’t find out it was, like, 150 proof until after I chugged a glass, but now I know. I also – and I can’t believe I’m seriously typing this – tried the buttstallion shot. Another very dangerous drink, because it tastes too damn good.

I mean it. Buttstallion. They even give you a ribbon if you shout the name. I may or may not have shouted buttstallion in the middle of a crowded room in order to get a strip of pink fabric. I plead the fifth.

Basically, I was tired, but it was still the Best Con Ever. My little crew of authorial friends and I have been saying that so much since the very first day. It’s a little ridiculous, but it’s completely true. I love RadCon as it is, but this one was much more peaceful, and much more financially successful for me. More sales than any other year, and a very different vibe. I’ve made some personal changes, and they’ve made me a lot happier. And it showed.

I don’t have any great brilliance I can pass down to you, unfortunately, other than this: go to RadCon. If there’s any way you can possibly make it up to Pasco for President’s Day Weekend, you should do it. There are bigger cons in the area, older cons, more niche cons, but in my opinion, there still isn’t a better con in the area. I love it, and I love the people who put it on… with a special shoutout to Tina the Baking Queen for making that delicious fucking Chicken Cordon Bleu Soup. I’ve linked it because it’s amazing. I don’t do soup very much, but I’ll eat this all day.

Okay, enough soup talk. Go to RadCon, even if there isn’t soup. It’s always wonderful. Plus next year we’ll have Todd McCaffrey! Go Todd McCaffrey!


Saturday, January 23, 2016

In Defense of Adult Power Rangers Fans


It’s hard to live in an English-speaking country and not know anything about the Power Rangers. Probably a lot of non-English-speaking countries, too, but I can’t speak about them. Not from personal experience anyway. Whether the extent of your knowledge is teenagers in skin-tight suits doing karate, or you can name each Ranger from each season, something certainly comes to mind when you hear those words.

Power Rangers, man. They’re not a choice. They’re a lifestyle.

Okay, maybe that’s a little extreme. But the fact is, as much as they’re designed for kids, there are older fans. I’m not the only one at all, I assure you. It wasn’t some tech savvy ten year old who set up the Power Rangers Wiki. Chances are, it was someone around my age, because people my age have had Power Rangers thrust into our formative DNA.

As with most things, there are detractors. Older fans obviously have no taste. We’re watching kiddie shows. We’re stuck in the past. We’re somehow or another socially unacceptable because we like a TV show. We should be watching Keeping up with the Kardashians and Duck Dynasty instead.

I call bullshit on that, if you couldn’t tell. Complete bullshit. I’m absolutely a Power Rangers fan, even at age 24. To a lot of people, that probably seems obvious. I’m just a kid, anyway. But I’m old enough to catch crap for being a fan, so I’m old enough to argue against it.

See, there are a few points that are raised against us fans over and over and over. Often enough that we’re all pretty familiar with them. The big one, of course, is that it’s for kids. That’s a stupid argument, because it doesn’t raise any points. It never says why it’s for kids, just that it is.

If you make it past that, you get the plots. They’re weak. It’s a bit of a sweeping statement, though. I dare you to watch Power Rangers in Space and not get into the whole thing with Andros and Karone. It’s powerful stuff, and that season saved the entire franchise. Yes, the plots aren’t deep when compared to, say, a show like Empire or Once Upon a Time. That doesn’t mean they have no value. And, during the sort of halcyon age of Power Rangers, when they had it figured it out, but hadn’t yet sold it to Nickelodeon (Shudder), the stories were pretty damn good. And not just that, they were universal. Even played out on these grand scales the way they were, you could always relate to them.

Let’s take, I don’t know, Power Rangers Dino Thunder. A bunch of kids fighting against human/dinosaur hybrids to stop them from plunging Earth back into the Jurassic Age. I don’t know about anyone else, but this isn’t a daily occurrence in my life. But you see a kid dealing with stress from his father. You see dating. You see people trying to make friends. Yah, it’s all pretty bog-standard for a ‘kid’s show,’ but that doesn’t mean we don’t all get it.

But what is it specifically that still captures the attention of so many adult fans? Well, that’s less universal. There’s definitely some level of nostalgia for a lot of us who watched it as kids. We’re getting to go back and see these things again. Yes, there are flaws, but look at how cool thing X is. Remember watching that on antenna television fifteen years ago? Wasn’t it cool?

It’s not enough, though, to explain the number of active fans, and the devotion. Now, I’m just firing off ideas, here, but this is what I think. Power Rangers has serious ass-kicking. It has magic. It has cool, advanced tech. It had aliens. It has family drama. It has clear good and evil in it. And it’s half an hour long. We can devour an episode without completely losing a day. Because they aren’t so in-depth, we don’t mind leaving after one or two to carry on with normal life. Not that I, and many others, haven’t binge-watched Power Rangers. It’s dangerous, having every season on Netflix, I tell you. But you can always stop… well, except during the Green With Evil plotline. That’s a non-stop, two-and-a-half hour commitment. Accept it and move on.

Then there’s the ‘Pokemon Factor,’ as I’ll call it. You can collect all the Rangers, so to speak. In fact, that’s what Super Megaforce was all about: collecting all the other Rangers (Okay, not technically, but there was certainly a good bit of appeal in getting to see past Rangers returning.). There’s a crap-ton of them, let me tell you. There’s the stupid TV effect, which is the same reason fifty year olds watch Spongebob: sometimes you just need something simplistic to fill the house with noise, or to decompress at the end of a long day.

And really, is Power Rangers the worst thing? It’s hardly the only thing adults enjoy that wasn’t marketed at them. The Hunger Games. The Chronicles of Narnia. Avatar: The Last Airbender. Digimon. But Power Rangers catches so much more flack than any of those. Every single one of those is great. I love them. I’ve dissected A:TLA a dozen times to look at different aspects of it. I devoured The Hunger Games in two days, easily. They weren’t made for me at the time I got into them, but that doesn’t make them invalid. No one tries to invalidate them, either. Not the same way they’ll try to invalidate a love of Power Rangers.

It’s hard to make non-fans understand why we love it so much, but I’m here to tell the other fans out there that it’s cool. Power Rangers is still cool, after all this time. Whatever you like about it is awesome, no matter what anyone says about it.

And to those who aren’t fans (yet), I have a challenge: find that friend you think is a little weird and ask them to give you the best of it. Whatever they think is the number one season or episode, or the one they think you would personally like the most. Whatever it is. Let them take you on a journey. Take that first Power Rangers joint, drag deep, and see if it’s not a gateway drug.


Wednesday, January 6, 2016

The One Where Voss Shares Too Much

(Sorry. Couldn't resist the Friends reference.)

The ground is covered in a sheet of snow, I have four half-drunk bottles of wine in my kitchen, and I keep scribbling out 2015 and correcting it to 2016. Seems like an average New Year to me. Although I’m really hoping not. I’m hoping for a kick-ass New Year this time around, and it appears to not be sucking totally right now (Knock on wood.).

Now, I’m going to give a hat tip to the elephant in the room before I continue on with things that are a little more fun. The third Evenstad Media book is coming, I promise. There was a bit of a snafu on the production side of things, so it’s going to be a bit delayed. Good news for anyone who needs to catch up, but bad news for anyone who’s been waiting for this one to release, so I do apologize. At the very latest, it’ll be out by mid-February, but a lot sooner if I get my way.

So, what about the year going forward? Well, Evenstad four is also on the docket, though I’m keeping it pretty well under my hat right now. Details will come when we get closer to the actual release date for that one (Some time this summer, unless gremlins gum up the works on this one, too. Here’s hoping not.). And, with The King Jester Trilogy totally finished at long last, I’ll be able to give some more focus to other ideas. Old ideas. Pretty ideas.

If you’ve been here for a while with me, you might remember the odd mention of Rings of Treachery here and there over the years. Well, it still exists, but I’ve vowed that I’m going to put it out this year, come hell or high water. In the interest of full disclosure, it’s currently out on submission with a publisher, so I should hear back within a few months… hopefully. If that works out, then I might have to bend a little on my schedule. Let’s say ‘published or contracted’ this year instead, yeah?

After that, depending on the phases of the moons and what the chicken intestines tell me (Or, you know, whatever I feel like), I could pick up a number of other projects. I have an old book about puppets that’s been weighing on my mind lately (Though that may just be because the puppet army is taking over Radcon this year…). Or I might turn to something a little less well-formed and see where that leads me, in the end. It’s really open. That’s what happens when a series closes off. Something that’s sort of filled your attention for months on end is finally gone, and you begin to see past it to what you can do next. Completely the opposite of reading a series. Then you just sort of feel lost and hungry for more books that don’t exist.

Or maybe that’s just me.

I’ll also be picking up on writing short stories again so I can spread tiny versions of my writing far and wide. Kind of like a plague, but slightly less deadly. Very slightly.

And when it comes to things in a non-writing sense, I’ve made some decisions about the year ahead as well. The main one is to have less anger and negativity. I tend to get rather upset with people, but it does me no good. So I’m working on it. Not to say I’ll turn all peaceful—anger is still an emotion and it’s still useful—but I’ll be more careful with how it comes out, and evaluate it more. See if it’s doing anything, or if it’s just causing me pain.

I’m also going to return to some of my other passions (This is where the part when the sharing begins. First and last warning.). I consider 2015 the year where I sort of got lost. There was really a lot of turmoil going on in my psyche at that point. I’d put back on all the weight I’d lost and shot back over 300 pounds. I wasn’t reading. I was even angrier than usual. I’d just moved away from most of my friends and family (It was really a good decision, but still. It’s hard no matter what.). I was readjusting, and things just started to drop off. I wasn’t reading anymore. I wasn’t singing anymore. I hadn’t played trombone in months and months. And eventually, that started to encroach on my writing. I hated doing it.

Eventually, I figured that I hated doing the actual writing work because I wasn’t doing anything else for myself. I used to say ‘If I’m not singing, then I know that something’s wrong.’ Except I ignored that advice and kept digging through the writing. The more I did it without anything else going on, the more I just hated doing it. And when I hated it, I hated myself a little more. The writing didn't suffer, just me.

Well, suffice it to say that’s over and done with, now. I’m not a New Year’s resolution kind of person, but I made some this year. Read more. Sing more. Make time for things that I’m passionate about. I still haven’t gotten around to belly dancing with any regularity again (Working on it.) and my trombone has only been out of the case once or twice in the past few weeks (And one of those times was to clean and oil it, so…), but it’s going to come. I’m determined not to fall into the Swamp of Sadness again this year.

Stupid horse…

So that’s my uncomfortable level of sharing. How about you? Are you taking 2016 as a chance to get shit back on track, or are you just going to continue to rock the socks off life? Let me know.


Friday, December 25, 2015

Top 5 Post-Holiday Gifts for Authors

Assuming that you’re not reading this in advance for the 2016 holiday season or something like that, it’s too late to get these for Festivus, Hanukkah, Christmas, or any other winter holiday. Sorry. I didn’t get around to writing this up in time.

But fear not! The wonderful thing about the holidays finally being over is that it’s actually a prime time to pick up some gifts and such for friends and family, and that hopefully includes your authorial friend. I mean, sure, we can be a bit distant, and often a bit drunken, but we mean well… for the most part. Let’s not look at this relationship too closely, otherwise it might fall apart.

See, once you’re done with the holidays, there’s an amazing convergence of things going on. Everything that the stores couldn’t move in time goes on super-ultra-discount, and you also might well have some extra money because Great Aunt Ida still insists on giving you a hundred dollars every year, bless her heart.

So, with some holiday cheer in your wallet, what exactly can you do to make your author feel loved? Well, I can’t speak for everyone, but these are five things I certainly wouldn’t say no to, if some kind soul inserted them into my writer’s nest.

5: Review/Buy Book/Et Cetera
Okay, if I’m being frank, this is the best thing you can do. Snag a copy of your author’s book, read it, review it, pass it on to someone else, hell, buy it as another friend’s post-holiday gift if you think they’d like it. It’s awesome, and it will make your author feel unbelievably wonderful. This is the top thing you can do, but I have it at the bottom. Why? Because all these sorts of lists have that as the number one thing, and I enjoy being contrary. Also because it’s more or less an anonymous gift, in a lot of ways, and giving feels good. I love being able to see someone receive my gift.

But mostly to be contrary, and to get it out of the way. Seriously, when it comes to spreading cheer to your author, this is the big one. But if you’re looking for something a little more material…

4: Hooch
Liquor. Booze. Alcohol. Goofy juice. Whatever you want to call it, writers tend to like it. It’s not universal, so use your best judgment, but I’ve only met a handful of authors who don’t like a hearty nip every now and then. If you don’t know their drink of choice, you can always get them a basket of miniatures (My local liquor store will even arrange four mini-bottles of liquor into a bouquet with chocolates for an extra five dollars) to cover your bases. But, being the oddballs we authors are, something classic is always good. Something that makes us feel more like Hemingway. Whiskey, rum, scotch. Old school writerly drinks. Something off the wall will normally be welcome, too. If you find a weird flavor or a cool-looking bottle or something like that, you can bet a writer will crack it open with you. Or something that goes well with coffee, so we can ‘kickstart our muses’ in the morning.

Maybe you’re not quite comfortable with the booze, or you’re not old enough, or they’re not old enough, or you know they just plain don’t drink. Go straight for the heart of the matter. Coffee. Or tea or hot cocoa. Whatever their morning wake-up drink is. Personally, one of my favorite gifts I ever received was a collection of hot cocoas. Different flavors you just dump into hot water or milk. I’m simple like that. But I wouldn’t say no to a bag of coffee, either, and you can get decent deals on that, too, after the holidays are over. Especially the more specific flavored coffees like gingerbread and snickerdoodle and such. One of the best I found was for my sister, at a Ross of all places (White chocolate macadamia nut coffee. I didn’t even know this was a thing.), so keep your eyes peeled. Tea is also good, and especially nowadays, you can go nuts with it. Places like Steeped Tea, Dryad Tea, and FridayAfternoon Tea will ship bags of loose leaf tea to your doorstep. I’m down to one cup of my vanilla Earl Grey that I got for Christmas last year, and I’ve been nothing but happy with it. And if you want to get really fancy with it, there are coffee and tea subscription services, too. Or just a gift card to a local coffee joint works too.

2: Music

During the whole run of the holiday season, CDs seem to be on sale (Believe it or not, CDs are still actually a thing.), with instrumental music being particularly easy to get a hold of. I find that there’s always a section in the back of Hastings or Wal-Mart with symphonic and orchestral music, and it’s always super cheap as it is (I got a five-CD collection of Tchaikovsky music for about 5 bucks), and post-holiday sales make it even easier to get your hands on it. And as a general rule, writers like instrumental music. I’m one of the weirdos who actually writes to music with lyrics, but even I like to use instrumentals. So if you see something lying around, give it a buy.

1: A Day Out

This isn’t exactly a physical gift, but it’s still one of the best things you can do for a writer. We’re terribly solitary, reclusive little creatures. I hear that if you put us out in the sun, we burst into flames. Okay, not really, but a lot of us do tend to burn something awful. We don’t leave our caves very willingly, because there’s always another book to be written, edited, or submitted. Or if not, there’s a short story. Or we need to do marketing. And if there’s a looming deadline, you’re lucky if we even sleep.

Your writer, like most, will likely be resistant to your insistence that they actually move. But force your way through the hemming and hawing and drag their ass out the door. It’s best if you somehow force it. Buy the movie tickets ahead of time or make lunch reservations. Make sure they know that there was legwork involved that would all fall apart if they didn’t leave. If your writer actually does have a looming deadline, they’ll stay in anyway, most likely, but otherwise, get them out. As much as they’ll hate it at first, they’ll end up having a good time. See, we might be good with words, but no so god at self-care. That’s why we need moderately normal people to remind us that there’s a world out there not made entirely of pixels on a screen. And even if they never say thank you, they’ll appreciate it.

But if they don’t say thank you, guilt them into it. Guilt works wonderfully well on writers. Pro tip.

So, hopefully you’re armed to gift something to your favorite author buddy. Happy holidays, everyone.