Demon Hunting and Tenth Dimensional Physics: December 2016

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.)?


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.).


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 ( 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…


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.


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,


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.