The Road So Far

My first published story comes out tomorrow and I’m amazed that I can actually now say that I’m a published author. It’s been quite the journey over the past 9 years since I decided that I wanted to be a speculative fiction writer. As with many things in my life I found that it’s not necessarily about what you know it’s about who you know and I’m happy to say that I know a small press publisher.

Bob Brown has been very encouraging ever since I told him that I was writing a YA Science Fantasy book. He has enthusiastically told me to submit stories for each of the books he has published. Somehow my story, “Temple Tantrum,” was accepted and I’m still over the moon about it.

Alternative Theologies is the third in the Alternative series (all published by B Cubed Press) and the lineup of writers and contributors that my story is included with is nothing short of amazing. I feel very much in awe of the awesome storytellers that my tale about what it might be like if Jesus returned to modern times gets to be included along side.

I’m not used to this whole being published thing. I finished the first draft of Harbingers a few years ago and have been working on revision ever since. It’s been a slow process but I’ve kept at it and just recently submitted to short stories and a novella version of Harbingers to publishers. They were, as I expected, all soundly rejected. Being rejected is part of publishing though so I took it in stride and kept on writing and revising.

I’ve dabbled in short stories, mainly with a few of my Harbingers characters, but I’ve tried my hand at writing and submitting a few for B Cubed’s Anthologies and “Temple Tantrum” was somehow accepted. I still can’t quite believe I’m setting up author pages on Amazon and Goodreads. I’m even working on setting up a signing at the local bookstore Adventures Underground.

I would also like to give a special shout out to Derrick and Brie Seiner for reading and providing excellent feedback on everything I write. Most importantly, I definitely could not keep writing without the love of support of my amazing wife Ellie Allen Cook. One of the most amazing things she has ever done for me was to look me straight in the eye, shake her head yes and say “Yeah, of course,” when I asked her if she could believe it that I had actually sold a story and would be published author. I can’t wait to keep on writing and getting better at story telling.

Please go check out Alternative Theologies and give it a read. I will be at Worldcon, my first writing convention, August 16th through August 20th. Bob Brown and B Cubed Press will have a table at the convention, I will gladly sign your book if you have a copy and enjoy my story enough to want a signature.

Worldcon

My first convention of any sort was last weekend. It was AWESOME! I’m not sure how but I’ve never been to one before but I’m glad that Worldcon was my first. Worldcon was in Spokane a few years ago and I remembered thinking then that I probably should go check it out but never did. So when I found out that it was going to be in San Jose this year I immediately made plans to go.

I was able to convince my fellow science fiction and fantasy nerd friend from work, Derrick Seiner, to go and then my friends Doug and Jess said they were down and we were on our way. Jess is an amazing artist and she has been gracious enough to work on some Harbingers maps and drawings for me, all of which are amazing. When I did The Brainery online workshop she even let me use one of her paintings for my cover and I now have the original hanging in my geek room. I hope to use her maps and artwork in Harbingers some day soon. IMG_3605.jpg

By some awesome chance of fate the Anthology, Alternative Theologies, which has my first ever published story was also going to be sold at the B Cubed Press table at the convention. There was a snafu with shipping so I ended up bringing the only copy of the book but it was so awesome to meet some of the other authors and editors, like Phyllis Irene Radford and David Gerrold and get them to sign my copy of the book. I also got to meet and hang out with the crew/family that helps Bob Brown make B Cubed Press so fantastic; Cheyenne Brown, Nathan Ockerman, and their daughter Eden/Hermione.

I’ve got a ton of stories from the convention and a few pictures to boot but I’ll just share some of my favorite moments here on Cuppa. The convention started off with a loooong line to get our badges. It was fun to see some familiar faces and chat with people as we made our way up to get setup. I found out that one of the things that you do at Worldcon is collect Ribbons. IMG_3606I ended up with a nice variety but I saw some people walking around with nearly a hundred attached to their badge. The only one I regret not finding was a Star Wars themed one that said Rebel Scum. I’m still sad I never found the person handing them out.

My favorite ribbon is the one with the feather that I got from Becky Chambers. She had an amazing panel with her mom Nikki Chambers, who is an Astrobiologist, on how to consult with scientists when writing Science Fiction. So when I saw she was doing a signing, even though I hadn’t read any of her books (I currently can’t put down The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet) I bought a copy of Wayfarers #1 and had her sign it. I asked if she had any ribbons for her books and she made me answer what my favorite starship is and why I would want to fly around on it (Millenium Falcon because I would get to go on awesome Star Wars adventures). Now that I’m almost done with her book I know the meaning of the feather and it makes it that much more awesome.

The ribbon with the craziest story is the In Loteria We Trust. The first night, after Derrick and I had got our badges and checked out the opening ceremony. We headed back to our hotel room trying to figure out what to do. Right next to our room there was a suite, with a door open and an obvious party going on inside. Derrick went and peeked in and saw that it was Worldcon related and so I also went and peeked in. We were then hurried inside by the catering crew who were setting up a giant spread of delicious food.

We didn’t know anyone but we had our Worldcon badges so everyone was super nice and friendly. Naturally we made our way to the dresser in the second room of the suite that was filled with bottles of liquor. I went and got some ice while Derrick chatted with a fellow we had seen on our flight from Seattle. As we were filling our cups, expecting to be kicked out of this obviously exclusive party, I looked in the corner of the room and saw none other than George R.R. Martin.

I naturally freaked out and didn’t go say hello like I wanted to. It was early enough in the party that he wasn’t surrounded by a gaggle of people yet but Derrick and I didn’t want to make assess of ourselves spluttering over how much we love Game of Thrones. But we stayed and met tons of great people and had several adult beverages while George R.R. Martin sat in the corner about 10 feet away from us, holding court like Jon freakin Snow or something. It was one of the highlights of our trip.

My favorite part of Worldcon was getting to meet the authors and get books signed. I came back with 20 new books. But getting my first edition, first printing of Old Man’s War signed by Scalzi was my favorite moment of the convention. He immediately recognized that it was one of the 3700 first printings and tried to talk me out of having it personalized. He said that when he died in a dolphin incident that it would be worth more if it just had his signature. I didn’t care and asked him to personalize it anyway.

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There were so many great panels and the Star Wars ones were some of my favorites. I even bumped into the Senior Editor of Star Wars fiction, Jennifer Heddle, after a panel and told her how much I love all the new Star Wars books. One of my goals as a writer and as a human being is to write for Star Wars in some capacity. So I hope to meet Jennifer Heddle again someday.

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Besides the convention we went and checked out the Winchester Mystery House. It was cool but super touristy.

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This is me with Doug and Jess in the couryard of the Winchester House.

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Crazy bird fountain selfie!IMG_3572

(It’s 220,000 square feet total with all the buildings on the estate)

We ate lots of delicious food in San Jose and I was really surprised how much I liked the city itself, it had a great vibe. Of course one night when we went out to meet Bob, Irene, and the B Cubed crew there was a Harry Potter pub crawl going on. Naturally Newt Scamander was there.

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There was a ton of cool artwork and costumes and cosplay going on at the convention so naturally I had to get a picture with Han Solo frozen in Carbonite.

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The convention wrapped up for us on Sunday night with the Hugo awards and we flew back Monday. Well we tried to fly back but smoke and the fires currently blazing all across the Pacific Northwest had other plans, but we eventually made it home.

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I can’t wait to go to more conventions and to another Worldcon. I met so many great new people and the community was so friendly and welcoming. I hope one day to attend when I’m a nominee and not just a fan. I felt really inspired and motivated to keep on writing and grinding, so I think I’ll do just that.

The Collapsing Empire

I love me some John Scalzi. Like track down a first printing, first edition of Old Man’s War love me some Scalzi (I found one for what I believe was a reasonable price and plan on trying to get it signed at Worldcon so I can add it to my collection). I’ve read and thoroughly enjoyed most of his writing. So when I saw that his newest Science Fiction story, The Collapsing Empire, was a Hugo Nominee I was very excited. The voting period is now open and ends July 31st so I need to step up my nominee reading game!

I’ve had this audio book (read by the amazing Wil Wheaton) downloaded for a while so I queued it up and started listening. I then found things getting in my way of listening. Things like work and life, really anything that wasn’t listening to the Collapsing Empire was getting in my way. I had a hard time not listening during my every waking moment. When I finished listening this last weekend all I wanted to do was listen more and get to know the characters and this amazing world more.

The story follows three characters perspectives throughout. Cardenia, the new Emperox/leader of the Interdependency, house of Wu, and Interdependency church. Cardenia is an unanticipated Emperox. Her brother the heir to the throne was tragically killed and she, a known heir but not from the official line, is chosen as the successor in his stead. There are of course too many political machinations occurring to even recount but needless to say the new Emperox’s reign doesn’t even last until the coronation is over before it’s quite literally attacked. Cardenia puts things together fairly quickly but I look forward to her character being flushed out more in the subsequent novels.

Kiva Lagos, Noblewoman and trade representative for the House of Lagos and their fruit monopoly who starts out on the backwater planet of End and then makes her back to the heart of the Interdependency at Hub.  Kiva was probably my favorite character in the book so far. She reminded me a lot of another foul mouthed badass space faring woman, Chrisjen Avasarala, from the Expanse series of books. She isn’t quite the same level of awesome as Avasarala, yet.  She really hates the House of Nohamapetan and for this I like her even more. Damn those fool Nohamapetan’s.

Lastly we have Marce Claremont, the son of a Count who has been doing secret research of the Flow with his father on the furthest planet from the center of Interdependency, and only planet where humans actually live on the surface, End. Everything in the Interdependency depends on the Flow. Marce has some grim news he must deliver to the Emperox though, the flow is disappearing.

The Emperox and House of Wu control the Flow and this is how they wield so much power. Problem is with the Flow collapsing most of the Interdependency is going to be doing the same right along with it. All of the systems are meant to work together and the trade monopolies that the various houses run are part of how control is exerted and power wielded over the mass of humanity that now exists among the stars. Earth is known of but the Flow was cut off from it long long ago.

One of the most interesting aspects of the books was how Earth was treated. Most humans you come across think End, the only planet which has humans actually living on the surface, is a giant dump at the end of the universe that only criminals are sent to. Most humans prefer living on the artificial space stations or below the planetary systems which they inhabit. This is a very strange concept to me and Marce Claremont’s character was used to great effect to show just how strange this concept was to someone who had lived on the surface of a planet and never even been to space.

The problem that arises, along with the scheming of the damn House of Nohamapetan, is that with the changes to the Flow the Interdependency itself is forced to change. While the new Emperox is trying to piece all this together as the flows are literally collapsing while trying to also avoid assassination attempts, things finally click into place once Marce shows up. He has his audience with the Emperox and the brains behind the Nohamapetan’s plotting is exposed. Whew lots of craziness, but excellent reading.

I’m very much looking forward to the next book in this series and I’ve heard that it will now be a trilogy which makes me even more exited. As far as voting for the Hugo’s is concerned this is definitely a contender. I’m currently reading New York 2140 and unless it does something super amazing to dazzle me The Collapsing Empire will be staying at the top of my list. I think I’m going to check out Six Wakes next from the Hugo Novel lists. Cheers to everyone out there, keep reading and keep writing!

Last Shot and First Shot

Last Shot: A Han and Lando NovelLast Shot: A Han and Lando Novel by Daniel José Older

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is not only one of the best of the new Star Wars books, it is one of the best Star Wars books ever.

I have been looking forward to this book for quite a while. I actually sort of met Daniel José Older. I did an online workshop called the Brainery for a YA novel I’m working on and he was one of the guest speakers. So I got to video chat with him and all the other workshop members. It was fun. Anyway I have always wanted to check out his work and never have, but with a new Han and Lando adventure on the horizon there was no way I could stay away any longer. I pre-ordered this from audible the day it was announced and eagerly downloaded it when it released last week.

I love all the Zahn Star Wars books and really enjoyed Scoundrels. Some of the new Star Wars books have just been ok but I usually end up really liking the characters. Sinjir Rath Velus comes to mind as a character I really liked and he was the first openly gay Star Wars character in the Canon if I’m not mistaken. There are so many characters and things to like in this book. Lando’s wardrobe alone needs at least a paragraph. There is a a narcoleptic Ugnaught, a slicer Ewok, a well spoken Gungan and more droids than you can count. There is even a non-binary character. Taka is excellent and the non-binary they/them confused me at first but I thought Older was going for non-binary. I love how they advertised themselves as Han Solo to get people to try and hire them. Its fantastic that no one treats being non-binary as a big deal.

I’ve really enjoyed the voice acting on the audio book and Older even does some sections. I can practically hear the smile beaming through his voice and can feel his excitement during the chapters he reads. Marc Thompson does a fantastic job as always (he’s been the voice for the majority of the new Star Wars books i’ve listened to) and January LaVoy is also sharing the audiobook duties and I don’t know if I’ve ever heard her before but she is fantastic. I’m having a really great time listening to this book and I like it so much I picked myself up a signed copy.

So this Star Wars book pretty much has it all so far and I’m having a hard time not listening to it all the time and I will definitely be doing a re-read because it’s that friggin good. More Daniel José Older Star Wars books, now please.

Quickly in other news I’m submitting my story to the tor.com novella open entry. I’m sure it will be soundly rejected but its the first time I’ll be submitting to a publisher and someone in the industry will hopefully read my drek and professionally soundly reject it. Exciting times.

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Columbus Day – Expeditionary Force # 1

I was recommended the Expeditionary Force series by my buddy and I really enjoyed it. The author has an interesting story according to my buddy. He couldn’t find a publisher or an agent and so decided to self publish using Amazon. Now I don’t know if this is true (I couldn’t find a blog post or biography to corroborate) or how effective it was but I do know that this series and author is definitely worthy of a big fat book deal. I listened to the audio book, which was narrated by R. C. Bray, who is just fantastic. Bray does such a great job with all the different voices and I’m intrigued to check out more audio books with him as the narrator.

Columbus day follows Joe Bishop, a Mainer who is on some shore leave from his post in the Army. I love the way Bray does the Maine accent, it’s fantastic. I say ayuh a lot from my reading of Stephen King as a lot of his characters are Mainers as well. Joe Bishop and his accent felt familiar to me. It’s Columbus day in America and the sky and stars start sparkling strangely. Turns out it’s an alien invasion by these Hamster like creatures called the Ruhar. Craziness ensues and Earth is introduced to the wider milky way galaxy and it’s variety of alien inhabitants. A different species called the Kristang show up and kick the Ruhar off of Earth and form an alliance with humans. Having somehow capturing one of the hamsters that has shown up in Bishop’s little town in Maine he becomes infamous and dedicates himself to kicking some Ruhar ass however he possibly can.

The United Nations Expeditionary Force is formed and head out with the lizard like Kristang to learn how to fight and prove themselves. Bishop signs up and is accepted into UNEF of course. After some training with sort of new technology that the lizards allow us to have, the UNEF is given its first assignment on a Ruhar planet that is slowly being evacuated. Turns out the lizards are more like space Nazi’s than allies and the Ruhar aren’t so bad after all. The hierarchy of species and how the seemingly never ending war is fought was interesting but I still don’t have all the names and such down so I won’t go into the details of that.

At this point I was actually starting to get sick of Joe Bishop a little bit. It just seemed so damn obvious to me that the Kristang were space Nazi’s but Bishop doesn’t finally take the leap and believe they are the bad guys until a decent way into the book. Everything changes when the Ruhar take the planet back and then Joe finds an Elder AI that he dubs Skippy. I got super back into the book and Joe started annoying me way less once Skippy showed up. Their interactions are seriously hilarious and they are actually able to get some shit accomplished like getting the hell of the Ruhar world that humans have dubbed Paradise. Crazy space adventures ensue and Joe and a band of merry pirates, as they dub themselves, return to Earth and save the day.

I honestly can’t wait to listen to more Expeditionary Force. The world and characters that Alanson have created are really fantastic. It also helps that the main character has the same name as me.

 

Best Dramatic Presentation – Long Form – Wonder Woman

In general I have been much more of a fan of the MCU than the DCEU. Even growing up I never read DC comics, I was all about X-men and Spider Man 2099 (Which they need to make into a movie or TV show). The Marvel movies have been far superior, in my opinion. However, DC hit it out of the park with Wonder Woman. After the horrible Batman Vs. Superman I really had my doubts about whether or not they would be able to make Wonder Woman work. Only a few weekends ago did I finally watch Justice League and I was actually surprised how much I enjoyed it. Wonder Woman was probably the best part but the Flash was a close second.

Back to the Wonder Woman movie I think that DC and Patty Jenkins made a lot of excellent choices that really made the movie work. We get a decent amount of time with the ass kicking Amazons on Themyscira and they also set the movie in WW I. There was a decent amount of humor and the casting, especially of Gal Gadot was pretty spot on. I think I could watch Gal Gadot read the phone book for 2 hours and I’d pay to watch it. The fight scenes were also fantastic.

That leads into my main complaint about the movie. It lasted a little too long and I didn’t particularly care for the big bad. The final fight scene just dragged a little bit for me, I honestly thought the movie was over and then there was another 15 minute fight scene. I thought the big bad in Justice League, Steppenwolf, was much better than Ares who didn’t even reveal himself until the very end of the movie. Overall Wonder Woman was awesome and if you haven’t dipped your toes into the DC cinematic universe I would suggest you watch Wonder Woman first.

Best Novelette – All Systems Red, by Martha Wells

As a frequent visitor to tor.com I have of course heard of Murderbot. I didn’t really know anything about the story or the author other than I thought the name was kind of cool. So when Tor made All Systems Red the free e-book for April I immediately downloaded it and gave it a try. I found it really hard to put down.

It immediately hooked me in and I didn’t want it to let go. I’m already plotting the next Murderbot book I’m going to read. Which for some reason isn’t out yet and won’t come out until May this year followed by books in August and October. Having to wait that long for more Murderbot just makes me want to scream, NooooOooooooOooooo (#Vader). In doing a little more research on the author it looks like she’s written a Star Wars book, which is one of my life goals, so I’ll have to check that out and she has some fantasy series that I’ll have to give a read as well. I haven’t read any of the other nominees from this category yet but if they are even a fraction as good as All Systems Red, it’s going to be a tough choice for which nominee to vote on.

But, I can’t wait for more Muderbot.