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.

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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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.

Best Dramatic Presentation – Long Form – Star Wars – The Last Jedi

I’m a huge Star Wars fanatic. As you can see from the picture above with my home made Jedi robes, plastic light saber, and frosted tips (It was 1999 believe me they were super cool back then). I like Star Wars a lot. I have my Episode I ticket that I camped out for in a 1/4″ thick plastic case. I don’t even really like The Phantom Menace and I’ve seen the movie in the theater 9 times. So of course the release of a new Star Wars film is kind of a big deal for me.

I honestly never thought that we’d get more Star Wars after the critical reception of Episodes I-III. But thankfully George Lucas sold the rights and Disney will churn their Billion dollar making machines out like candy. I started getting super obsessed with Star Wars in high school. I collected the cards, had my mom buy me tons of prequel toys (some of which are worth surprising amounts of money now), and watched the special edition re-releases A LOT. I had my mom make me a Jedi costume (As seen above) for the Episode I premier and I even practiced a choreographed light saber fight with my buddy the entire weekend before. I now am the proud owner of an Obi-Wan Kenobi Cosplay that cost me a shameful amount of money to put together. But I love it and Star Wars.

I really liked The Last Jedi. It was surprisingly funny while still keeping the darkness and gritty feeling that most 2nd movies of the Star Wars triple features usually have. In terms of the overall Star Wars Universe I’d say it’s in my top 5 films. I’ve been thinking about my ranking of Star Wars films lately. Mainly because I’ve been watching Rogue One every weekend for the past month or so. I don’t have any kids and my wife travels to dog shows on the weekends a lot so I have a lot of free time. Sue me.

Rogue One is in my top 3 favorite Star Wars films and probably top 5 or 6 movies of all time. It perfectly captures how I imagine the Star Wars universe to look and feel during that time period. I’ve read almost every Star Wars books and the nixing of what is now termed the “Legends” canon is one of the saddest things about the Disney acquisition. I loved so many of those books but I’ve been voraciously reading all of the new books as well and they are pretty solid so far. Especially anything by Timothy Zahn.

Along with Rogue One I’ve also caught up on the animated series Star Wars: Rebels, which means as usual I’ve got Star Wars on my brain all the time. Rebels has some of the best characters in the Star Wars Universe. Grand Admiral Thrawn is one of the best big bads period. He was awesome in the Zahn Legends trilogy and he is awesome in the new timeline and canon. I’m very excited he’s a part of the universe still and I hope he comes back for Episode IX since the finale of Rebels left a lot of unanswered questions. Speaking of best characters ever Ashoka Tano is one of my favorite characters of all time in any universe. so with all that said here’s my rankings of the movies (shows not included but they are awesome).

Empire Strikes Back

Return of the Jedi

Rogue One

A New Hope

The Last Jedi

The Force Awakens

Revenge of the Sith

The Phantom Menace

Attack of the Clones

 

One of the goals I’ve set for myself in this crazy journey to become a writer is to work on/write for Star Wars. Someday It’ll happen.

Ready Player 2018?

2017 wasn’t too bad to live through and it sure seemed to go pretty quickly (I’ll be 36 in April and the years just seem to go by quicker the older I get). After 11 days of a nice little staycation where I left my house as little as possible, but didn’t have to work for the holidays, 2018 is upon us. Other than politics, which 2017 at least helped me learn I need to pace myself in consuming certain types of media, the year went fairly well. I did get some decent work in on my Novel revision during my time off, I’ve got a good path forward, and powered through the chapter I was stuck on writing. But overall working on revision and writing in general was lacking in 2017. 2018 has plenty of opportunities for success in it and I plan on journaling more, blogging more, and writing and revising much much more!

My wife and I sold our first house and bought our 2nd in 2017. Moving sucks in general but it especially sucks when you’ve just bought a new house and have 5 days to get your old one ready to sell. It was quite a hectic few months in the fall but we got moved in and are now nice and settled. Our five dogs are doing much better in a .35 acre yard as opposed to a .17 acre yard. Having a shorter commute is also fantastic, but has definitely cut into my audiobook listening time. Oh well. Changes are a foot at work with a new assignment but Hanford treats me well so I can’t complain.

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My wife and I saw this Icelandic tradition where you give books on Christmas eve and then hang out, read, and drink hot coco then rest of the evening. So we decided to partake and start it up in our family. Much to my surprise and delight she got me Ready Player One. Not only that but she got me a signed first edition copy. Getting a signed copy of Ready Player One was a hell of a way to start of this new tradition. Good luck topping this next year! We’ve added a stipulation moving forward that books for this new tradition should be signed (I got her a signed Joe Hill, Horns book) since both of ours were. I read almost half of RPO that first evening and had a hard time putting it down until I had finished it. I love this book so much! The movie comes out in March and I know its going to be different than the book but I’m still freaking stoked anyway. 2017 was apparently the year where I re-read a ton of books. I’ve just recently started up a book club to help find new authors so I don’t think I’m going to re-read as much in 2018 but I wouldn’t be surprised if I read RPO again after the movie.

My goal for 2017 was 40 books and I finished 28. Not quite where I want it to be but I’m going to set it at 40 again for 2018 and hopefully hit the goal this year. 2017 was definitely the year of the re-read for me. The books I re-read in 2017: Dune, Harry Potter books 2, 3, and 4, Name of the Wind and The Wise Man’s Fear and Ready Player One. I even ended up reading Name of the Wind twice in 2017 because they released the 10th anniversary edition at the end of the year. In 2017 I also got 3 books deep into The Expanse, tried out Terry Pratchett for the first time, read a new Crichton novel for the first time in a long time, and continued to read the Jim Butcher Furies and Dresden series. I also read quite a few Star Wars books, with Thrawn by Timothy Zahn being the best. I also made sure to read some comics in the form of Rat Queens and Calvin and Hobbes.

I started a book club with my buddy at work in late 2017. We’re looking for new authors and stories to read and decided to start with some Hugo Award winners. We’ve only read one book so far, The Fifth Season, but we’ve got a nice long list of potentials to be read and a goal to meet monthly. I’m currently finishing up our second entry, Blackout, for our book club and it’s interesting so far.

I also won this awesome Kindle Fire tablet through The Portalist that had 10 YA Sci-Fi Fantasy novels on it and got through several of those. I’ve been making myself use my e-readers more and I’m definitely getting used to it, but still prefer an actual book. It’s nice having options though, especially for travelling. Speaking of travelling, 2018 has some potential good times lined up. We also had some good R&R in Kauai this year, I got my tweet shown on the fan photos on the Mariner’s broadcast while at Waimea Canyon and it was so epic! I’m planning a 10th anniversary trip with my wife that may take us to Canada or maybe somewhere a little more tropical, we haven’t decided.

Joe-Waimea

I’’ve decided I’m going commit to going to at least one writing convention this year. I need to coordinate with my writing friend at work, Bob Brown. He has a new anthology out of political speculative fiction stories, Alternative Truths and More Alternative Truths. Go check them out they’re a lot of great stories. If things go as planned 2018 could be big for my writing so networking sooner rather than later is going to be a good way to make sure things keep moving forward with Harbingers. I’m considering some projects for the blog to help with a regular writing schedule, it’s good to just write everyday that I can. More to come! That’s all I’ve got for now, I’m going to be utilizing Cuppa more this year and possibly even upgrading my blog, so expect to hear from me more. I’m considering posting chapters of Harbingers on the blog if it’s upgraded.

Thrawn’s Back and Bluer than ever?

Thrawn (Star Wars)Thrawn by Timothy Zahn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The original Thrawn trilogy (now Legends), by epic Sci-Fi/Fantasy author Timothy Zahn, are some of my favorite Star Wars books of all time. I’ve read every single Zahn Star Wars book and the new Thrawn is just as fantastic as expected. I’ve been looking forward to Disney adding Thrawn back into the official Canon and I plan on seeing what the Grand Admiral with the Blue Skin and red eyes is up to in the Star Wars Rebels TV show. This book follows the meteoric rise of Thrawn within the Imperial Navy as he and a fellow Imperial officer, Eli Vanto from the Outer Rim, make a name for themselves. Eli Vanto is one of my favorite new characters that I’ve met through the new Star Wars books. There was however a character in this book that I didn’t particularly care for at all. Arihnda Pryce. I kept thinking that she was going to play some super important role in the grand scheme of things, and she sort of did, but I never looked forward to reading her chapters. This is a first with me and the characters in the new Star Wars books, I’ve liked all of them up to this point, even the crazy droid Bones. My only other complaint about this book, which overall was really fantastic, was the time jumps. Maybe it was because I was listening to the audio book and not reading the physical copy but there were several instances where it was months or even a year later. It makes sense why there are time jumps it just confused me when they happened and there was no indication other than the characters reminiscing about how long they’d been at a particular post.

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Two for One: Eragon and Scoundrels

I haven’t gotten around to reading any Crichton lately, because I really haven’t been in the mood, but I still have been doing lots of reading and I have finished two books in the last few weeks. As I’ve gotten older I noticed that I tend to go through phases with reading, I will read a lot and want to read a lot for a few months or so and then I will not read at all for a while. I’m hoping that I can make this current reading phase that I am in last longer than a few months and finish up the initial draft of my novel while I’m at it. The wife and I are doing the camp Nanowrimo in July and if I can stick with it I will make my goal of 100k words total on my novel by the end of the camp. I already have several Alpha readers lined up and I am ready to start my first of many revisions, this ball needs to keep on a’ rollin. So with that this will be a two for one blog on Eragon and Scoundrels, fair warning there will be spoilers ahead for both of these books.

First a shot from my hotel room where I recently spent a week and a half in Kona Hawaii.

View from Hilton in Kona

The epic views of the Pacific were a great setting to finish this book up and I look forward to reading the others in the series sometime soon. Overall I really enjoyed the book even though I have read many others that are set in high fantasy worlds with Dwarves, Elves, Dragons, Magic and the like. It was very much a YA fantasy novel, much in the same genre that I hope to market my own book. My book will have considerably less Dwarves, Elves, and Dragon riders. But I do plan on keeping at least some Dragons around, but there will be no riding of them allowed, maybe… Eragon is the name of the main character who, while out on a hunting trip in some mountains surrounding his tucked away little farm where he lives with his Uncle and Cousin, finds a mysterious stone that appears out of nowhere. He was looking for something to eat and not a strange glowing stone so promptly tries to trade it for a bunch of meat to help his family survive the winter. It does not go well at the butchers but the blacksmith swoops in and hooks him up in exchange for some help at the Forge over the next year. Eragon gladly accepts and heads back to his farm with the haul that will help them make it through some tough times. Everything seems to be going fairly fine until the strange rock decides to hatch one night and blammo, Eragon now has a full-fledged Dragon to look after. It grows really fast, making it hard to keep a secret and after asking the local old Curmudgeon in town about Dragons, Brom, gives him a list of all the previous Dragons names and keeps asking very pointed questions about Dragons. Eragon consults with the Dragon who he can now communicate with telepathically and they decide her name will be Saphira. Saphira is my favorite character in the book and as things keep happening at a fairly quick pace all throughout their adventures she seems to grow as a character along with Eragon of course. Lots of bad things happen very quickly, some bad guys come and kill his uncle and destroy his farm so Brom and Eragon head off after them seeking revenge. Along the way Eragon learns he can perform magic and also learns the finer points of fighting by practicing every day with Brom, he even learns how to read. Lots of other fun and interesting things happen along the way and I would greatly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys fantasy, especially YA fantasy. Next up Scoundrels! But first a picture of the best beach I have ever been on, Hapuna beach on the Kona side of Hawaii.

Hapuna Beach Kona

Scoundrels is the latest Timothy Zahn Star Wars Expanded Universe novel, since Disney has taken over the Star Wars franchise they gave the EU some sort of new name but I forget what it is. This isn’t my favorite Zahn novel in the Star Wars universe but after a slow start the book really picked up for me and had a really crazy twist ending I didn’t see coming. The book is framed around a Heist, think Oceans 11 but instead of Brad Pitt and George Clooney, Han Solo and Lando Calrissian are running the show. Chewbacca along with a bunch of other characters are thrown in to liven things up and we get a little more detail on exactly how Lando came into Cloud City and what the old beef between he and Han was. There was a prequel novella included at the back of the book which I didn’t get to until about halfway through the novel, I wish I would have read it first because it really helped set things up and introduce some of the other cast that appears in Scoundrels.

I decided to pick up Justin Cronin’s The Passage after I finished Scoundrels and I have not been the least bit disappointed. It has really been hard to put down and I look forward to reading more as soon as I finish up this blog post! After that I am thinking of finishing Asimov’s Foundation Trilogy to help myself get back into the Sci-Fi writing groove. I started Camp Nanowrimo today and have about half my word goal for the day completed, I will write a little more before bed. That is all for now, I will probably update the blog next when I get the Michael Crichton Experience timeline up to speed, hopefully soon. Also I am disappointed the USA team lost to Belgium today but glad that Soccer got a little bit of the headlines I love the World Cup and I have my own personalized USA jersey to prove it!

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