Friday, December 9, 2016

Ten Gifts Your Author Friend will Actually Appreciate

So last year I wrote a post about Post Holiday Gifts for Authors. Partially because after the holidays, people have gift cards to run through and partially because… I forgot to do anything with it before that.

Not this year. I’m here with another collection of things you can get for the authors, aspiring authors, and other book-creating people (Editors, formatters, etc.) who might be in your life.

Or, you know, you could get them for your favorite author, too. *cough cough*

(I feel compelled to note this: I link to products on Amazon through this article, and they go through my Affiliate Account. No extra charge for you, but I do make a small percentage of what you spend if you buy them through these links.)

10: Pens
If there’s one thig that authorial types are always lacking, but never getting, it’s pens. It’s an interesting and stubborn approach most authors and editors seem to take to pens. We never have them, because they go missing. We let someone borrow them at some event, we hand one to our friend at a writer’s group because, being an author, they don’t have one either, we use them to stir our coffee (I’m very guilty of this.). Whatever reason, we don’t have them, but we know we just bought two dozen. So we refuse to buy more on principle… even though we’re the only ones paying for it.

These lovely Z-Grip retractable pens would be a good choice. Plus they come in lots of colors, which is always a must for me.

9: Whiteboard
Whiteboards are surprisingly useful little things for anyone who works from home, really. They’re a quick way to have a to-do list every day without running through reams of paper every year. They can be a place for a calendar. Writers can use them for quick plot sketches or brainstorming. Editors can mark down things to come back to without filling up the manuscript with comments that have to be deleted. It’s awesome, and I actually love giving them as gifts to my authorial friends. It’s not something most people get for themselves, but they use the hell out of it once they have it.

This is the one I have. It hangs up in my bedroom so I can add my to-do list first thing when I get up. And, in line with my love of colored pens… a colored marker set. Dry erase markers are also very appreciated if you have a teacher in your life. Trust me on this one. A pack of dry erase markers for a teacher will be received very well.

8: A Mug
Writers, even if they don’t drink coffee, pretty much all have a hot beverage of choice, and we pretty much all have a slightly unhealthy devotion to whatever that beverage is. Me personally, I collect mugs. I have a bit of a problem, actually. I have to be very careful in thrift stores because I’ll just buy all the mugs. But I have one in particular that I, as a writer, adore.

This little number sits on my desk when it’s really time to buckle down. It’s seen the start of books and intense edits and tight deadlines, and it just sits there and holds my java, ready for whatever is to come with its inspiring message.

7: Flash Drive 
This is another one that most authors have—or had—and like. But it’s like pens—they go missing, or we just break them and never buy a new one for whatever reason. Then we kick ourselves—and throw things—when our files corrupt and we don’t have a backup…

… like I don’t because I haven’t used my flash drive in months. Whoops.

This is a nice affordable one with lots of storage. One this size can last an author a long time, since Word documents are so very tiny, so for ten bucks you can get them something they can use for years and year… as long as they don’t lose it in the first week.

6: Timer
One of the hazards anyone working from home faces is time management. Some authors I know (Or have heard of.) are incredibly good at it. Nora Roberts, for example, works four hours, takes an hour lunch, and works for more hours. That’s sort of the ideal for most authors, or something close to it. 6+ hours every day, barring things like holidays and emergencies. However, we tend to be… well, we suck at it, by and large. Sometimes a day of work is 15 hours not moving from the chair because the writing just sounds really good. Other days—and far more often than the former—it’s half an hour staring at blank page before giving up and watching cake decorating tutorials on Youtube.

Not that I would ever… I mean, I wouldn’t… Okay once. Or twice. Or more.

It’s why timers come in handy. Now, Google has a timer that pops up if you just search “Timer.” Most phones and tablets have a timer/stopwatch app, or you can download one. Even my flip phone has one, I think. But there’s something to be said for having an external one. You’re not having to involve the internet for anything, which cuts back the risk of falling into Facebook… or those damned cake tutorials.

It doesn’t need to be fancy. This is a basic model that can either count down (For working specific times.) or count up (Just to keep track.). And that’s all it really needs to be.

5: An Excuse to Read
Authors pretty universally love reading, but we just don’t make the time for it. This is your chance to help us remember the joy of reading. Buy your author or editor or whoever a new book from an author they love. That might just be the spark that convinces them to crack open a book and actually read.

I can’t really recommend a book to you, since I don’t know your friend, but scan their bookshelves, get them talking about books, and see who comes up. Or find out which books they’ve lost over the years. But get them a nice, relatively risk-free book and they might very well take the time to tear the words off the page.

4: A Plant
Your lovely author friend or family member likely spends a lot of time sitting in the same place looking at the same things and breathing the same air that’s been in there with them for the past several months. You’re not going to convince them to stop all that sitting very easily, but you can maybe help clean the air up and get something exciting to look at.

Buy them a plant. I would personally recommend going to your local nursery and getting something that can thrive inside in your area… possibly with minimal care, depending on the temperament of your friend. But if you want to order online, you can get this Peace Lily for under $20.

3: Address Labels
This is especially prevalent if your author runs a lot of giveaways or has one of those publishers that still insists on snail mail (I have one of them. It’s slightly annoying to deal with.). They’re constantly writing addresses on things.

While you can’t fix the whole problem—the address things are being sent to—you can make the return address easy with address labels. Now, you’ll need to know the address they do all their businessy things through, which might not be their home address. This is when asking someone in the know might be good. But you can even get customized labels on Amazon, which was kind of a shock for me. These ones are super-affordable, and should last quite a while.

2: Healthy Snacks
If you love your author enough to buy them a gift in the first place, you probably hope they’re healthy and all that stuff. Unfortunately, a lot of us just aren’t healthy at all. Or not as healthy as we should be. When you’re working a tight deadline, is it easier to make a proper lunch, or throw down half a bag of Cheetos and call it good? It’s the latter, if you couldn’t guess. Snacking works the same way. We grab what’s easy, and that tends to be something shelf stable and about as natural as a drag queen’s breast plate.

Enter this thing that I’ve recently discovered: snack care packages. You can order them on Amazon, and can even get them delivered on a recurring schedule if you want to really shell out the money. They’ve got things like granola bars, dried fruit, and low fat chips, all individually packaged. Most of them are enough to last for an average month.

Now, it’s the most expensive thing on this list, but it’s still not bank-breaking. But maybe save this for an author close to you instead of just an acquaintance. I’m dropping my recommendation for this one in particular, but there are a lot of different options out there. And keep the link so you can send it to them if they want to keep getting it delivered. Or just stick it inside the card with your gift. Easy-peasy.

1: Planner
As authors, we can handle the “putting words together” part. You don’t get into this if you don’t have some kind of grasp on that. What we—and I imagine a lot of other artistic types—struggle with the most is organization and planning. Time management. Motivation. All those pesky things that get in the way of “putting words together.”

There’s a reason this is the number one thing on the list, and a reason that so many of these entries seem to touch on organization and things like that instead of passion. I’ve never met a truly passionless writer. We all love writing. It’s the other crap that kills us.

A yearly planner can really help with that. And there’s even one specifically for authors floating around out there: The 2017 AuthorLife Planner. It’s brilliant and it really lays things out step by step. And it does arrive before Christmas, if you get it today. (That would be 12/9).

So hopefully this is something that can help you out. A little look into the gifts an author will appreciate. And before Christmas this time, which is a pleasant change for me.

I really hope, if nothing else, this was an enjoyable read. Maybe useful. And more than that, I hope you have an awesome rest of your day,

Voss

Friday, December 2, 2016

Christmas Withdrawals

Yes, run for the hills right now if you so choose. I’m listening to Jingle Bell Rock as I write this… oh, it’s switching. Hold on. Dean Martin’s version of Winter Wonderland, now (I love Pandora. Have I mentioned that before? Because I do. I really, really do.)

Okay, this is sort of an odd post for me. We’ll categorize it as one of the posts where I get perhaps a bit too personal. Sound good? (Bing Crosby, Silver Bells, now.)

I’ve always liked Christmas. Ever since I was a kid. I mean, okay, most kids like Christmas so that’s not terribly unique, but I think I had a bit of a different experience with it. Not anything massively divergent, but different. We had three every year when I was younger, all the way up until I was in high school. We’d start with the immediate family, which was a pretty average Christmas. Some gifts, some family and food, some ornaments. A little of everything.

Then we’d go to my grandma’s house for Christmas with my mom’s side of the family. This was all about the food and the family and my aunt getting drunk on boxed wine and calling herself the queen of the party (I have photo evidence, but I’m not sharing it to protect the innocent… also to protect myself from her vengeance.).

Then we’d be rushing over to somewhere else either that night or the next morning to be with my dad’s side of the family. That was, to put it bluntly, the Christmas about presents. Not just for the kids, either. It’s not a big side of the family, per se, but my two aunts were pretty well off, so was another aunt, and the rest of the family wasn’t hurting for money, exactly. Honestly, we were the ones who really didn’t have that much money on that side (Frank Sinatra, I’ll be Home for Christmas.). That’s not to say that it was just material. It was a chance to see all the aunts and cousins you never got to run into outside of special occasions. We’d get to travel, there’d be a huge tree. It was about family, too. But I feel like I got to see three different sides of Christmas, and I feel like that let me examine things.

When I was a kid, I was selfish and materialistic. I mean, that’s pretty usual, I think. So I liked my dad’s side’s Christmas best. But as I’ve gotten older, that one means the least to me. That side had a falling out, and we kind of just stopped getting together on my mom’s side after grandma died, so I’m back to the middle of the road Christmas.

And that’s really the one that means the most to me now. The one with the best memories and the sort of “warm fuzzies” is the one from my mom’s side, where the most we got as gifts were calculators and homemade jam. That one still holds a very special place in my heart, and it informed my love of decorations and traditions (Ooh! Baby it’s Cold Outside with Idina Menzel and Michael Buble!). That’s honestly a big part of what I pine for this time of year. Santa Claus mugs and shiny baubles and tinsel all around the room with a big wood stove crackling.

But it is the one with the immediate family I want the most nowadays. My sister and brother-in-law and all their kids are back up here from Texas, which really helps. The house is packed, and we have all the bright shiny packages spilling out from under the tree every year to make sure the kids have plenty of things to open. And I personally take it upon myself to make sure everyone else has at least one gift to open. My mother instilled in me the importance of that. Everyone should have something to tear into on Christmas. Even if it’s just socks and T-shirts.

And I like giving gifts. That’s another thing. Around Christmas, I get to buy all these presents and really think about the people I love and figure out what it is they might want. Then I get to wrap them, which I also enjoy (Yeah, I’m weird.).

All this is preface for the actual point of this post, I guess. This took a turn I really didn’t expect, but we’re finally here: I’m ready. I’m ready for Christmas to be here (Holy crap, Pandora. You’re playing the original Mr. Grinch? Go you, and go Thurl Ravenscroft.). I’m always a fan of this time of year. I look forward to it. But this year it’s a stronger desire than I think I’ve ever had. I want it. I even want the parts I normally hate. I want to watch stupid shitty Hallmark movies that push Golden Girls out of their regular slot. I want the annual running of the Harry Potter movies. I’ve been pumping out Christmas music like crazy since about… well, a week before Thanksgiving.

I had to wonder why this was. Why did I want Christmas to be here quite this much? No, not even want. I need Christmas. I bought a candle that smelled Christmasy specifically so  could be immersed. I was desperate. I was having withdrawals for freaking Christmas, and they honestly haven’t improved much (Frank Sinatra, O Come All Ye Faithful.).

I think it’s 2016 that’s to blame. We can all acknowledge that it’s been a rough year. Bowie and Rickman, the election, global politics, and just a general shittiness that seems to be here this time around. I’ve never known a year where so many people close to me and my friends have died. It’s been an exhausting fucking year, but Christmas is something different. Because of us silly humans, this day is powerful. Powerful beyond measure. It can stop vicious wars in their tracks. It can bring out the inherent kindness of strangers. It can make even the glummest scrooge smile (I’m living proof of that.). I have a lot of bad things to say about people as a general rule. I don’t like most of them. But damn it all if we haven’t done something right with Christmas.

Past all the consumerism and materialism and profit profit profit, we’ve set aside basically an entire month of the year to devote to being kind and giving. I wish it was more than that, but we managed a month, and that’s something we should be immersing ourselves in.

Now, maybe you don’t celebrate. No judgment at all from here. I didn’t write this post to say that people who celebrate are in any way better. Christmas itself doesn’t matter as much as the feeling. Whatever and whenever you get that feeling is freaking amazing, but this is my experience with it.

So I’ll just be here with my advent calendar, egg nog, and candy canes, listening to Perry Como and wrapping my dogs in pretty ribbons. Because I’m really, really ready for Christmas to be here. And if it wanted to go all Groundhog Day for a week or so, that would be okay with me.


Voss

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

On Pokemon: 20 Years, Seven Generations

So, I may have kept this a secret, but probably not a very good one: I like Pokemon. I’m a fan. I’m a competitive player (Not a great competitive player, but I can hold my own, thank you very much.). I’ve been a part of the fandom since I was little-little. That was my very first video game: Pokemon Yellow. I was atrocious at it. I was so much better at Pokemon Blue, because you didn’t have to start with that ridiculous Pikachu (Honestly, it colored my entire opinion of Pikachu – still don’t particularly like it.).

I mean, come on, you’re giving 8 year olds an immediate type disadvantage, here. Not cool, bro. Not cool.

I digress: we’re here to talk about Pokemon Sun and Pokemon Moon. Now, I know this isn’t my normal topic. As an author of books, I don’t see other authors as my competition: I see video games and Netflix and The Walking Dead as competition, since we’re all vying for your time. Drawing more attention to them is a bit terrifying. But I’m coming to you all as a fan rather than as an author, and as a fan, I’m going to make a statement about our new seventh generation games.

They’re going to be the best of the bunch.

I know that’s a bold statement, and especially with all the generation one and two love out there… well, let’s just say that some people might have a difference of opinion. But I’m standing by this until something comes along to prove me wrong, and by God I hope that never comes. I want these games to live up to all the hype, and surpass it by a whole hell of a lot.

But it’s not just blind, fanboyish hope that’s making me say this. The game developers are dumping everything they can think of into this game. You all liked generation one? Cool, we’ll give you gen one Pokemon, but cooler. Cooler how? Well, we’ll light Marowak’s bone on fire. And we’ll make Exeggutor a million feet tall. And a dragon! And Raichu’s a psychic type! Also, let’s make it so you can fight against Red and Blue.

You wanted HMs gone? Nifty, here you go.

You think the formula’s getting stale? Well, all right, screw using gyms. We’ll send you into… trials! And there’ll be giant Pokemon you have to fight! Yeah!

Our evil teams are too extreme? Okay, here’s one that just wants to steal Pokemon.

It’s proof that Game Freak are massively in tune with their fan base, and also proof that, no matter what anyone might say about them, they aren’t “running out of ideas.” There’s lots of new ideas in Sun and Moon, and that’s not even counting everything they haven’t revealed yet, which I’ll guarantee are in the game somewhere. They definitely haven’t played all their cards quite yet, which is impressive since they’ve released approximately a butt-ton of trailers so far.

I guess this post isn’t the most interesting thing to everyone. It’s just… it’s very exciting for me, and we’re less than three weeks from the launch date. I needed to put all this anticipation somewhere, so you’re receiving the brunt of it. If you’re not a fan, then I apologize. Your regularly scheduled programming will return shortly.

If you are a fan, which version are you playing (I’m Team Moon for sure.)? Which starter (It was always Rowlett, but especially now that they’ve released the final evolutions.)? Which new Pokemon are you most excited to see (Mimikyu!!!)? Let me know and let’s geek out together while we wait.


Voss

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Just Another Update

Well, it’s been a while, hasn’t it? Let’s sit down with a cup of tea and catch up for a little bit. Or coffee. Or hell, maybe wine.

This won’t be a long, drawn out thing where I apologize and make a bunch of promises about posting more often and all that stuff. That’s my intent, but that’s not exactly the kind of riveting content you’re likely looking for in a blog post. I will take a little time, though.

I don’t particularly like leaving long gaps in posting, but I was working on a pretty tight deadline. Stupid me, I decided I’d promise a publisher three books in a very short timeframe. I did manage it, and I think it’s going to turn out as something very worthwhile. That deadline fell in the middle of a convention I was headed off to, so that happened. And then we came back and one of our dogs died the next day.

Suffice it to say I was a little bit distracted.

This is basically just a little spit of a post to explain what’s been going on, and to reassure you that I’m not dead and I haven’t forgotten anything or stopped writing. Nothing like that, I promise. Just a bit of a clusterfuck, for lack of a better word.

So I’ll talk to y’all later. I’m going to jump back in and get my knuckles popping and moving. Writing writing writing.


Voss

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Subtle Diversity in Fiction

It’s pretty common knowledge that I’m an advocate for diversity in fiction. Gender, sexuality, ethnicity. Those are where I’ve managed to, I think, do something with my books. I’ve actively tried to include people from diverse backgrounds in those areas, and I have intentions to include other kinds of diversity when I feel I can do justice to the experience. That includes religion and, more cogent to this post, neurodiversity. People with bipolar disorder, or dissociative identity, or on the autism spectrum. Which is what I want to talk about, but we’ll see about that very shortly.

I think the best way you can include diversity isn’t to make it overt. Not that there are no stories to be told in regards to all that. There are important stories with a very intense connection to the diversity they hold, and they need to be told. They need to be told with respect and knowledge and a damned good understanding of how fiction works, and they will be. But for me, the things I deal with and the way I tend to deal with them, I do my best to make the diversity less in your face. It doesn’t always work out that way, of course. I have characters who are a bit more “right there” with how they’re different.

I was thinking about diversity today, looking at which works I loved that really nailed it. And one came immediately to mind. One that made quite a stir in its time, is still much loved and respected among readers (And film goers, in that format.): Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower.

Now, you might thing I’m talking about Patrick, who’s gay. But, as much fun as Patrick is, and as much as I love his story and his characterization, I would hardly call him subtle or understated. His plot is very much focused on how he’s gay and people are not okay with that. Super heart-wrenching for me personally, for hopefully obvious reasons, but not what I’m talking about.

I’m talking about Charlie, the main character/narrator. He’s a perfect example of neurodiversity done extremely well, in my opinion. Now, it’s not that it’s never brought up (Obligatory spoiler warning: turn back now if you want to burst into tears reading this book like I did.). Charlie was known to be suicidal, and that does come back around. He even medicates for it.

But that’s not the beautifully subtle part of his character that works so damn well. Now, I’m not a psychologist, but I think there are two very possible options, both of which have strong evidence. What matters most isn’t the exact definition of how Charlie differed from what’s considered average, but the fact that he did, we readers knew it, and we felt for him and loved him anyway. But for matters of clarification, I’m going to lay down two theories: Charlie was either on the autism spectrum, or he was suffering from PTSD from (More spoilers!!) being molested by his aunt as a child… and/or her sudden death that he blames himself for. Most likely and instead of or, if you ask me.

Charlie is emotional over relatively small things. He’s prone to depressive episodes, blind rages, violence. He doesn’t appear to know his own strength. He’s socially awkward, to the point of having only one friend, and for a while none. And so many smaller things that would be difficult to catalog. It's not clear cut to be labeled, especially when I'm not a psychologist in any sense. But they are signs of something other than what we consider baseline neural activity.

And that got me thinking about diversity, and a way things can be handled. We don’t make them a large spectacle, because sometimes that isn’t the best way to make an impact. Sure, sometimes it is, but not always. As a writer or a reader, you make that decision for yourself. But for me, I like to see it handled gently.

So I’m curious: what books do you enjoy that display subtle diversity? Let me know in the comments: always looking for good book recommendations, after all.


Voss

Monday, August 15, 2016

On Reading

This is a post inspired by… well, by a lot of things. For one, I’m always going to be a fan of reading. I mean, really, that’s a big part of why I write. If I hadn’t grown up a reader, raised by a reader, devouring books until I ran out of them, I wouldn’t be writing books.

For two, I’ve been desperately trying to read more. My reading severely slowed down when I started really writing professionally, taking it seriously, all that. There’s a great breakdown I just read about this over on Chuck Wendig’s blog. As always when I share my favorite curse-fueled penmonkey (That’s what I call Chuck Wendig when I’m alone.), I’m going to say it’s an NC-17 blog, and this post is no exception. But it’s also one of my favorite blogs on the entire internet. I mean, admittedly, I’m a writer, so it’s in my wheelhouse, but still. It’s an excellent one worth checking out (So are his books. FYI.).

And for three, I see all my friends and acquaintances actually reading, which I really do miss. One of my best friends has been reading James A. Mitchener, my mother just reread all the Harry Potter books, and I’m always seeing my Goodreads friends blast through a book in a couple of days. Plus with so many good books out there I haven’t read… well, it just seemed like it was high time for me to get started.

But it does make me curious, in a sort of existential, philosophical way: why do we read, and why do authors not read as much? Again, I would turn you to Chuck Wendig for the bit about authors, because I think he nails it (And it’s entertaining, if not entirely universal.). But why do we read? Why, when there’s plenty of other things providing a more immediate option for entertainment, like movies and video games and your fifteenth rewatching of Frasier (I’ve seen the series front to back at least that many times. Don’t judge me.), do we choose to devote hours upon hours of our lives to reading books?

I don’t know enough about psychology to make any actual judgments on the real implications of reading, but for me, it’s relaxation. When I watch movies or play games, those aren’t relaxing for me. Those make me tense. And it’s not that books never illicit any real emotion from me, but when I feel stressed or sad or shocked in a book, it’s less of a strain on my system, for a lack of a better term. I can relax with a book. I mean, all right, sometimes I’ll get sucked into a book and read it until 4 in the morning, but that’s also something I can’t do with movies or games. They don’t grab me in the same way, except in exceedingly rare situations.

So I’m curious – why do you pick books? Why do you read instead of anything else? I’m honestly curious. Let me know and I’ll love you forever. Or something like that.


Voss

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

State of the Voss

Jesus H. Christ, it’s been a crazy couple months. I’m sorry I kind of vanished like that, but life has been in pretty massive turmoil. However, I have been working, so there’s that. I have good news on that front… but first, the less than good news that’s kept me a bit distracted.

There’s a couple things that sort of conspired to make this mess. The biggest one has been the dogs with cancer. I talked about this in my last newsletter (Which was admittedly forever and a half ago), but we’ve had two dogs with tumors in the past couple months. One of them was a benign little mammary tumor, so that was just a surgery and she was good. The other one was a grade 3 histiocytoma… not quite as easy. Poor little guy went through a month of radiation, and he’s getting chemo every 10 days until they’re sure that he’s good to go. As you can imagine, that held quite a bit of my attention. For a while. But we’re settling into a routine around here again.


So, on to the good news. I’ve definitely not forgotten about Evenstad Media Presents. This cancer adventure (Let’s call it that.) put the brakes on a bit, but I officially can give you some actual information on this. Are you ready? The Tunnels, Evenstad Media Presents #4, is written. It’s edited and it’s formatted and all that happy whatnot. I’ve got the art request form in with my cover artist, so once that’s done, I’ll be able to get it up on the ‘Zon, get the print book put together, and it will (finally) be in your hot little hands.

I think The Tunnels is the best book in the series since The Park. I know I should love all my books equally, but… this one. Without giving too much away, this book sees a lot of long-running plot threads come to a head, and it sets us all up for a strong run to the final book (#7). Things start to get really shaken up in this book, and they only get more and more shaken until the series is over, which just excites the crap out of me.

Beyond that, I’ve started working off of a yearly schedule. I mean, sure, it starts in July instead of January, but it lasts a year. Not important. What is important is what’s on it. By next June, I should have Evenstad #5 and #6 done and either out or ready to ship out very shortly, and then it goes on to the final installment. I also have Rings of Injustice, the third book in my big, sweeping sci-fi series (That I still haven’t published. Don’t worry, that’s coming soon, too.) on the schedule, as well as five books for The Other Me. I figured I can do about 9-10 books each year as long as I stick to my schedule.

Anything else? Umm… well, I’ll be at some conventions and such in the area with the Northwest Authors Co-Op. I believe our next event is at the end of September, for V-Con in Vancouver, BC. And I’ll be presenting a workshop at the Idaho Writers League conference in Couer d’Alene and at the Moses Lake Public Library Comic-Con in Moses Lake… at the library. Go figure. If you’ll be at or around any of those events, go ahead and swing on over and say hi!

I believe that’s it. I’ll make sure to keep y’all much more updated than I did the past couple months… unless something completely insane happens again. Then I may disappear for a bit. But barring the unforeseen? I’ll see you on the bestseller lists (Maybe… hopefuly?).


Voss