Tuesday, December 27, 2016

2016 Wrap-Up

So Cat Rambo—current President of SFWA and an absolutely amazing human being. Seriously, if you haven't gotten the chance to spend some time with her, even in passing, do it—posted on Facebook, encouraging authors to collect up everything they had that could be Hugo or Nebula or whatever-other-award eligible from 2016. And a lot of people have taken the call to action… myself included, as it turns out. I think it's a good idea, both from a professional standpoint—if you do the work for them, maybe they'll be more likely to read your stuff—and from a personal standpoint—look at how much I did this year, go me.

So yeah, it is a little chance for authors to pat themselves on the back… and the way this year has been so far, I think we could all use a little upper.

So, what did Voss Foster put out in 2016 (Please shoot me. I just referred to myself in the third person completely unironically.)?

BOOKS

The Inn (EvenstadMedia Presents #3): Book Three of my dystopian epistolary sci-fi series. I feel like this one was a big improvement from the second book, which for me is the weakest of the series so far. I'll openly admit that. It's not bad, but it's not the strongest book.

The Tunnels(Evenstad Media Presents #4): Book four of the same series. This is the midpoint of the whole series, and it does exactly what I wanted it to. The stakes really ratchet up on every side of a very multi-faceted conflict in this book, and it sets up a good run for the climax (Note: this is very uncomfortable, talking about my own books this way. FYI. I apologize for the bragging.).


SHORTS AND ARTICLES

Rifle in Hand (Horseshoes,Hand Grenades, and Magic): This is less a story and more a vignette. An old woman is called in for a job that the young soldiers just can't quite seem to get right. And, as with all the stories in the anthology, close enough definitely counts.

Ivory (Merely Thisand Nothing More: Poe Goes Punk): My retelling of some classic body horror (Poe's Berenice.). It's, to me, the most horrifying of all Poe's stories. Something about it is just chilling, and I was super-excited to get the chance to put a new spin on it. I won't say that I did it justice, but I'd like to think I at least managed a humble homage to one of literature's most talented masters.

I've Never Known aWorld Without Mass Shootings (Vox.com): This was my gut reaction to… everything. I started really looking into it after the San Bernadino shooting, and actually had a very early draft of the same article that I wrote just for myself at that point. It had finally become too much after that, and I had to do something. Writing is what I know. After Pulse in Orlando, I tossed it out into the world, and it really caught fire. I'm still proud of this one. I'm proud of all my work, but this one is really special to me, because it's so real and so raw.

Hii Shadir(Domesticated Velociraptors): Apparently 2016 was the year of the vignette, because this is skirting very close to that, as well. But with a concept as intriguing as "domesticated velociraptors," I couldn't very well pass up the chance to write for it.

In the end, 2016 was a pretty light year for publishing, but it was also the best financial year I've had since I started writing professionally. I feel like I made strides and am really in a good position for 2017. Also, I'm back to the crazy idea of undertaking the Bradbury Challenge. The whole thing: 1000 poems, 1000 essays, 1000 short stories, and a short story written every week. I've attempted this all in the past, but I'm determined. So keep me on track if you see me straying. By any means necessary.

Here's to 2017 being better… because it would have to try pretty hard to be worse…


Voss

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Shameful Author Secrets: Hidden Books

I'm going to spill one of those dirty, dirty little authorial secrets to you all. This could get me killed, so if I disappear… well, I hope it was all worth it.



Okay, it's not that big of a deal, per se, but it is something that authors maybe don't talk about as much, even in this wide and open new world of indie authors where nothing's really a secret anymore. This is still something that, in my experience, authors hold close to their breast and don't let out into the world. Well, I'm going to let it out right now. Here it goes… any second now.

Okay: there are books we want to write that we probably won't, and books we want to publish that may never see the light of day. And I'm not just talking about the whole "Authors have more ideas than they have time" thing. This is different. Let me just toss some examples out. Names redacted to protect the innocent, of course.

I have a very close friend who made her career writing romantic suspense novels. That's her brand. It's what she does. But I also hear a lot about wanting to write straight-up thrillers from her. She wants, just once, to try tossing the romance aside and going for a suspense/thriller novel. She also has a book that she wrote already that doesn't fit the romantic suspense themes, so it's sitting untouched.

Yes, this is a thing that happens.

Another friend dreams of writing action/adventure novels in the vein of Indiana Jones, but SF/F series are everywhere already. Again, we have a difference in branding and, yes, not much time to devote to things that aren't really on-brand.

I'm in the same boat, too. I'm constantly toying with the idea of writing a series of crime novels a la Criminal Minds or Bones or something like that. Shorter, episodic, and character driven. But they aren't what I've got plastered all over the internet as what I do. I do speculative fiction. Which makes it a little tricky to consider doing something so comparatively "mundane" as crimes on Earth with regular people.

And I, too, have a book written that is just sitting there. Two, in fact, with the third one due to be written in 2017. Yeah. Basically a series that I'm just not doing things with. It's one that I personally love a lot, too. It's on-brand… but I am nervous. And this is one you especially won't hear authors talk about. But we're all friends here, right? No one on the internet is ever mean or cruel to strangers, right?

Oh... nevermind.

I am nervous about it, though. I love it maybe a little too much. Enough that I still tout it as my best work… that no one can ever get their hands on. I tell myself how brilliant it is every time I think about it, but it's not out in the world. It's been schlepped to a couple agents, but that's it. I haven't really been ready to pull the trigger.

I wish I was here to tell you that I'm going to put it up immediately. I'm not, however. I'm still holding onto it until there comes a time when I'm flat-out ballsy enough to tackle it. And that might come in 2017. I hope it does. But we'll see, won't we?

So next time you encounter an author… well, just know that we have those nerves and those hidden professional desires. I don't know what you're going to do with that knowledge, but hold it close. Maybe it'll help you remember that we're just people, too. Personally, I have a hard time remembering that one, even from the other side.

Voss

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

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Amazing Representation, Brought to You by... Network Television?

So, normally when I talk about a show or a movie or a book or what have you, I try to keep it to sci-fi or fantasy. Maybe horror, paranormal, wuxia, bizarro. That’s for hopefully pretty obvious reasons. I’ll never deny the power that sci-fi and fantasy has to bring people together (Perhaps I’ll go in depth on that at a later date.).

But not today. As much as I’m for SF/F, I’m also for diversity a hundred times more. With my work, that tends to cover sexual diversity, gender diversity, and ethnic diversity more than anything else. That’s my schtick, so to speak, and it’s important, and there’s a lot of room to work with in there. But there’s so much more that can be done than that. There’s religious diversity and socioeconomic diversity. But I’ve even touch on that. A lot of people have.

I want to talk about something I’ve never seen anybody have (Pardon my French) the BALLS to cover before. I certainly don’t have them. I’m sure it’s been done, but I would bet not often. And I have to hand it to Jenna Bans for not only taking this plunge, but for hitting it out of the fucking stratosphere.

I want to talk about The Family. So, if you haven’t seen it or haven’t caught up, this is your warning: Spoilers. All the spoilers. Well, maybe not all of them, but definitely spoilers. So… turn back now if you don’t want any, basically.

(And seriously, you really should watch this show. Because fucking Christ on a bike is it a head trip.)

All right, so if you’re here I’m just going to assume you’ve seen it or you don’t care if the show gets spoiled. I take no further responsibility. If you have seen the show, you can probably figure out where I’m going already: Hank Asher. He’s easily the most likable (Read: only likable) character in the entire show. He’s the moral center of the whole program.

He’s also a pedophile. And before you run for the hills, I want you to note that A: I didn’t say child molester and B: there’s a difference. There is a child molester in this show. That’s Doug Anderson, the man who kidnapped the boy who’s the center of the entire plot and kept him locked up to molest him at his leisure (Did I mention the adult themes in this show? No? Oh… well, there are adult themes.).

But Hank Asher is a pedophile. He doesn’t molest children. He’s attracted to them, and the entire show, you see him fighting against his urges at every last second. He admits to kidnapping a boy and gets sent to prison, because he knows he won’t be able to hurt anyone there. He voluntarily receives hormone injections to curb his desires. He’d rather not feel any arousal than risk doing something he knows is wrong. And sure, he has some genuinely creepy moments. He has a box of children’s toys under his bed. But you see how he got at least one of them, and can extrapolate that it’s how he got all of them. A boy left it behind. He never touched the boy, but he kept that one thing… and that’s as illegal as it gets. Technically, I think that’s theft, but it’s really just an accident that happens sometimes.

Hank Asher knows he has these urges, but he works to protect children… from himself. At least once, he attempts suicide, because that's the most complete solution to the problem. A boy comes to see his mother, a piano teacher, and he refuses to open the door. He tells another boy that he can’t come over there anymore. And in the finale, we see a brilliant scene. He almost does give in. We’ve all been there with something we know is not right, although I’m guessing to a lesser degree for most people. A twelve year old boy asks for a ride home after he takes a bad crash on his skateboard. Hank tries to resist, but he ends up giving in… and giving a false name. As the viewer, your heart just jumps up into your throat. You’ve watched him resist and fight the entire season, and he’s skirting so close to it, now. He’s missed his latest hormone injection. He’s capable of this, and his desires are back.

And you cut to them in front of the boy’s house. He’s given him a ride home, and he’s obviously having some issues. He’s saying more and more insistently that the boy needs to get out of the car. Starts yelling. The door is sticking. Tension is building. Hank’s just not holding it together, and all you can think is “Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck.”

And he reaches across and opens the door for the boy, yells at him to get out. And that’s it. He stays in control. And I don’t think that’s a narrative we see often enough. Whether or not you like the plot, I think The Family is worth watching just for the character study that is Hank Asher. You initially think he’s super-creepy, but it’s not long before you start really feeling sorry for him. And then you start siding with him, out of everyone on the show. By the end, he was the character I was most invested in.

While this family is dealing with stupid shit, like the upcoming election, or an affair, Hank’s the only one who notices that their son is sneaking out in the middle of the night. And it gives you one of my second favorite lines from this whole show. “Your head’s so buried in the sand, you need the friendly neighborhood pedophile to come over and tell you that you should be a better mother and keep an eye on your son.” And he tells this family even after they filed a restraining order against him, and have just generally been vile people. After it came out that Hank Asher didn’t even commit the crime in the first place.

But I think my favorite bit is what really sums up why I love this show so much, and more specifically the way Hank Asher is handled. If I could track down a clip, I’d put it here. I’ll link the whole episode if you’re interested. Just jump to 28:48. But I’ll transcribe the important little bit (It’s of note that John is the boy’s father.).

Hank: Have you ever wanted to have sex with a woman who didn’t want to have sex with you?
John: That’s rape.
Hank: Yes.
John: That’s wrong.
Hank: Yes.
John: I’d never do it.
Hank: Neither would I.

That’s why this show wins, in my opinion. In our society, we conflate child molesters with pedophiles. And yes, this is a touchy subject, but that’s why it doesn’t get talked about, and that’s why I can’t do anything but commend this show for the way it handled Hank. It’s a big fuck you to the way things “Should be.” It said, “We’re going to make you like this pedophile way more than the rest of the people on this show.” And then it delivered.

If you want to see a character done right, I can’t recommend The Family enough. And you can watch the whole run of the show for free (And legally.) on ABC’s website. So yay!


Voss

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Release: The Elf's Apprentice by Frances Pauli

She's back again! You all know by now how much I love Frances Pauli's books. Well, there's another one to add to my shelf, and maybe you'l add it to yours too: The Elf's Apprentice. Book One of the Love and Magic Series. I got the privilege to read this one early, and it's an incredible book.



A sorcerer, a rebel, and a whole kingdom under fire...

As the sorcerer's new apprentice, Kia's fiery temper is bound to get her into hot water. Evander is obnoxious, arrogant, intolerable, and undeniably the most beautiful elf alive. Even if she passes his relentless testing, working at his side just might kill her. 

Worse, her master has powerful enemies inside the palace. When their attacks turn personal, the sorcerer's apprentice becomes the perfect bait in a deadly trap set to destroy the man who has become far more than just her boss. 

Two lost souls must defend their world, but even if they save the kingdom, they risk losing each other forever.


Excerpt:
"That's a human," he said. "You're getting desperate."

"She's very good. The best I've seen yet." Lyssia's tone brooked no argument. She got one, just the same.

"And you're the expert on apprentices, I suppose. Perhaps you should stay up here and do my work, and I'll attend to your throne?"

"I am not unskilled, you'll remember."

"And I'm no diplomat." Evander sniffed and stepped away from the wall.

Kia forgot for a moment that they were debating her. The elf sorcerer moved like honey flowing. Each gesture was measured, considered, and then executed with the typical elvin grace, but melded with the deliberate intellect of a master sorcerer. He peered around Lyssia at her, and his eyes held her entranced, frozen as if they truly could cast her in ice.

"I don't need an apprentice," he said.

Kia felt the rejection like a slap that time. This room, this opportunity dangled in front of her, and he meant to snatch it away again without even giving her a chance to try for it.

"Yes you do," Lyssia said. "If for no other reason than to manage this disaster."

"What disaster?" Evander released Kia from the grip of his attention and turned the full chill of his mood on the princess. "This room is exactly in the order I prefer it."

"That book is on fire."

"What?" He spun that time, lost a fraction of his composure in the realization that one of his braziers had, in fact, caught a book on fire. His arms waved in an arc. The sleeves of the heavy red robe he wore billowed, and the flames died. A single line of smoke rippled up to the rafters. "Bother."

"You see?" Lyssia crossed her arms again and winked at Kia over her shoulder.

As if they'd won, Kia thought, but she very much doubted that they had. The way she saw it, they'd only irritated the beast.

"You bring me imbeciles," Evander complained. He kept his back to them now, as if they weren't worth noting, and he moved to the nearest table and adjusted a stack of papers. "Idiots. I can't work with them."

"You haven't even tried."

"What? This one? What does it matter? The last seven were morons. Why should this one be any better?"

"You will test her." Lyssia's tone shifted now. He'd pissed her off good, and Kia held in place when the princess marched toward the sorcerer. "You'll do it, Evander, or I'll schedule a full month of diplomatic dinners."

"You wouldn't." He stopped fiddling with the papers and stared up at the wafting smoke.

"Try me." Lyssia stood taller and stuck out her chin.

They left Kia to herself, standing alone inside the door, forgotten except as a topic for their argument. She was unwanted, invisible, and he'd never, ever let her work here.

"She probably can't even cast a column of fire."

"You are the most difficult man..."

Kia focused on the slate tiles in the center of the room. Don't speak unless addressed, Lyssia had said. Well, Evander was not about to address her, and casting magic wasn't exactly speaking. She drew the symbols in her mind, pulled the ambient magic out of the ether and felt the full weight of the room's history in that flow. Sparky wild magic with a mind of its own.

It tasted of him, of charcoal and orneriness.

She drew the power into her skin, molded it with her intent backed by the magic of the sigils she'd selected. Then, she threw it outward, anchoring the package with a final symbol, to a tile in the middle of the floor.

Flame lifted from the square of stone. It rippled upward. An eruption of fire rising in a dense, dancing column. It burned under her command and made a pillar seven feet high before flickering back on itself like a fountain. Kia held the spell, kept the fire alive and waited for anyone to notice what she'd done.

"....perfectly capable of maintaining my own affairs. What is that?"

It didn't take long.

"I believe it's a column of fire," Lyssia answered. She put a little triumph in her voice, but the look she cast at Kia held a warning.

Be still, it said. Don't push your luck.

"Barely." Evander sniffed, pulled himself out of his argument with Lyssia, and focused instead on Kia. The eyes. This time when they found her they had a darker edge. "So the monkey can do a trick, I see."

Kia held the spell together, but only just. The flames at the top shot a few sparks, sputtered as if a gust of wind had snatched at them. Evander seized up that weakness. He meant to force her to lose concentration, to distract her into failure. But at least he was actually testing her now.

"Can your pet manipulate it?" He still didn't address her directly either. He kept his words for Lyssia, but he unleashed a fully self-satisfied smile upon Kia. "Can she change its form?"

Kia focused. She ignored the sorcerer, even when he stalked closer to her. The column tried to resist her, and she couldn't help but suspect his hand in that. Still, she drew the lines in her mind, imagined the form she wanted, and pressed her full desire to succeed into the weaving.

The column shifted. It branched and flowered, transforming into a burning tree in full bloom.

Evander harrumphed and stepped directly in front of her. He leaned in, and her view of the column was replaced by a fall of white hair and a pair of eyes that darkened like gems, glinting, daring her to keep going.

"Make it taller."

Kia stretched the tree another three feet.

"Now shorter."

She cut it down to half size.

"Hotter," he said.

Kia sucked in a breath and stared directly into the blue of his eyes. The fire tree blazed white hot, but Evander didn't even turn to look.

"Passable." His lips moved like honey too, making soft graceful lines. "Now make it fly."

Saturday, May 7, 2016

All Aboard Flight 442 to Way-Too-Deep-Ville

I’m going to open up to you. I feel like I can trust you. You have a kind face (Flashbacks to the episode of I Love Lucy where they do “Slowly I Turn…”).

But in all seriousness: if you don’t want to get a little deep, go ahead and move on to one of my old blog posts, or one of my books. Or watch a cat on Youtube. Because today, I want to talk about the Depression, the Unfriendly Ghost (Note to self: write a children’s book about depression, maybe… probably not. But think about it.).

Okay, if you’ve made it this far, I figure you’ve made your choice and you understand what you’re getting yourself into. If at any point you wish to evacuate, emergency exits are located toward the back of the plane. I think we stocked the parachutes back up after last time. I take no responsibility if not.

Right. Putting it off. Well, it’s not fun to talk about. But I think it’s important. Especially if we run on the assumption that a writer will have some things in common with their readers, I feel like I have to say something. And I have to say something for myself. I like to be honest with you guys, and it’s time to unload a double-barreled shotgun full of honesty.

I’ve dealt with depression and anxiety since I was in middle school. It wasn’t because of some singular traumatic event or anything like that. It rarely is, at least as far as the people I’ve talked to. Not to say never. I don’t discount anyone’s experience with this kind of thing, because that’s annoying as fuck and totally not my place.

But yeah. I’ve dealt with these issues for quite some time, now. And you learn how to work around them in a lot of ways. I wasn’t always so good at it, obviously. I still have cutting scars on my wrists, though they’re mostly faded. It’s been a while, which is its own victory, for me.

The thoughts don’t go away. I’d like to be able to tell you that I haven’t considered self-harm in years. That would make me feel more accomplished. And up until a few weeks ago, I could have said exactly that. But it snuck up on me. That’s what no one tells you about depression. It sneaks up on you. If you could see it coming, you could maybe try to head it off at the pass. It probably wouldn’t work, but you could try (I should note, though, this is only my experience. It could very well be different for someone else.).

I don’t know if it was before Norwescon, during Norwescon, or after Norwescon. What I do remember is feeling really edgy when I was actually at the con. It was toward the end of the con, so I figured it was just me dealing with way too many people without a break. Which I went in expecting. And I was away from home longer thanks to the weather (Had to go over the Cascade Mountains to get between there and here, and it snowed. Like, it snowed a foot in a few hours.).

The very first thing I did when I got back home was completely clean my room. Clear off the floor, wash all my bedding. Make it look nice and neat and comfortable. And then I holed up in there for three weeks without even realizing it

If you’ve been through depression, you might very well be nodding your head. It’s not an uncommon story. It’s hard to do anything when you’re in the middle of it, even just getting up and leaving the room. I did it to eat and that’s about it. I didn’t even work during that span. I couldn’t. I watched Youtube videos for hours, slept a lot… and that was all. That is one good luxury of working from home. I was able to. I don’t know if it was helpful or harmful, mind you. Maybe if I had to get up and go to work, it would have been better. Or it would have been worse. I can’t say. That’s not how things went.

So about the three week mark, I realized it had been three weeks, and that I hadn’t actually seen, like, sunlight, in that long. Certainly not people. I wasn’t online. I just… wasn’t. And it’s one of the scariest things when you know that you’re feeling this way, and you know that it’s entirely irrational, but you can’t stop it. Because that’s what happens. You’re fully aware that this is ridiculous and without cause, but it still sits on your chest so you can’t get out from under it.

Even after I realized what was happening, it’s taken me several more weeks to fully pull myself free from the Swamp of Sadness (Stupid horse…). Part of that’s because some things just really have fallen badly (Found a tumor on the dog, for one.), and part of it’s because I was so damned deep into it again, without even realizing it. It’s super easy to fall into a hole. It’s a lot harder to scrabble your way out.

Why share what is objectively not a happy story? It’s not for sympathy or anything like that. I wanted to put it out there, because I think that sometimes, we need to know that other people are going through it, too. I think that’s one of the most comforting things that can happen. Knowing that you’re not the only one who has to decipher this mess. And you can know it intellectually, look at the statistics and everything, but maybe one thing that a specific person says will actually click. Maybe me. Maybe Chuck Wendig. Maybe someone else. Maybe not an author, but a celebrity. Maybe a blogger with one follower who you’ll never read again. But they aid exactly what you needed to hear to know that you aren’t alone.

It helps, it really does. And while I don’t assume that I’m going to be that one for anyone out there, if there’s a chance that I might? I can’t sit here and not talk about it. Because depression is a real problem, no matter what anyone else thinks. It’s not a matter of just cheering or just doing something. It’s pulling teeth until you get yourself out of it, and maybe you don’t. That’s the worst part, always, is “Maybe you don’t.” or your friend doesn’t. Or your favorite cousin. Your aunt. Your father. Whoever. It’s scary. Depression is scary. It’s not frightening or terrifying or any of that. It’s baseline, down deep in the core of you, scary. No better word for it in my opinion. Just scary. No pretenses or trying to filter it or gussy it up.

It’s scary, and I get it, and if you do happen to be reading this and you’re there right now, I hope it helps. And I hope you can wriggle away from it. And I hope you have someone to talk to, when you’re ready for that. And if not, talk to me. I’ll answer.

Deepness is over and the plane is landing. So tata for now.

Voss

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.


Voss

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.

Voss

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.

Voss

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!

Voss