Kubo and the Two Strings: A Review

Once every week or so, a friend comes over to my house for a long standing movie/tv night with the roommates. I’ve occasionally skipped out if I’ve had other things going on, missed an episode or two of the series they’ve been watching, or have placed writing time (productive) over movie time (consumptive). This week is a week that I’m glad I did not skip out. This was the week we watched a charming film called Kubo and the Two Strings. Continue reading “Kubo and the Two Strings: A Review”

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NerdCon: Stories 2015 !

Good day, gentle readers! Today I’m finally bringing you my long overdue recap of the wonderful NerdCon; Stories 2015. This post is long and a bit ramble-y, so most I’ll sum it up at the top by saying that this was one of the best conventions I’ve ever been to, all of the presenters were amazing, and driving 3000 miles can give you a pinched nerve in your shoulder.

The first few days are road trip related, skip to the middle if you just want to read about NerdCon.

Continue reading “NerdCon: Stories 2015 !”

Book Review: Hit

Good day, friends, strangers, and web crawling robots! It’s time for another book review. Since I was in the air last week, I diverted once again from my big stack of books from home and switched to an audiobook (I get motion sick, so me reading on planes is a bad idea for everyone) of Hit by  Delilah S. Dawson! Here’s a BookPeople link (support local) and the audible link (in case you need the words read to you).

The basic (spoiler-free) premise behind Hit is that America’s debts have been bought out by a huge bank. In order to get rid of freeloaders, the bank offers two choices: pay in full, or become a debt collector for a period of five days. Anyone unwilling or unable to do either will be killed by their debt collector. Hit follows Patsy, a seventeen year old girl, as she starts her five days of indentured servitude with a list of ten names.

Dawson’s writing style is fast paced and easy to understand, a plus for an action novel. There are elements of comedy and romance woven unobtrusively throughout. It’s a coming of age story. It’s a mystery. It’s an action adventure road trip thriller. It’s less genre blending and more genre smoothie making, but the result is quite tasty.

This book claims to be Teen/YA. As a thirty something year old, I’d say that it can also be enjoyed by folks a bit older (or I’m just really immature) . Either way, don’t be put off by the label/shelving.

Goodreads/Amazon/Bookpeople also claim Hit is dystopian. That’s the part I find the most interesting about this book. It’s not really dystopian, not in the traditional sense. One of the most unsettling things about this novel is how normal everything is for everyone else. It’s pre-dystopian. You, as the reader, get to see the birth of a dystopia, and that’s really freakin’ cool. Like, worthy of ALL CAPS COOL. There’s also a message about handling debts and not building a life on credit that really might be why it’s classified as a YA book, so it can reach people for whom it’s not already too late.

Now, my biggest disclaimer. This book is from an unfinished series. If you’re the type of person that will reach the end, scream “MOTHERFUCKER!” and spend a few minutes glaring at the back cover hoping that the next novel will spring fully formed from the author photo, then, well, don’t say I didn’t warn you. It’s no ending-of-the-first-lord-of-the-rings-movie, but there’s also not everything wrapped up in a nice bow with subtle hints there might be more.

Since this is the first audiobook I’ve reviewed, I want to give a shout out to Rebekkah Ross for an amazing performance. She truly exemplified the character of Patsy, managing to pull off quirky-semi-sullen-but-mostly-cheerful teenage assassin. I look forward to hearing her (hopefully) read the next installment.

TLDR: Fast-paced action/adventure/road trip/thriller/coming of age/pre-dystopian mystery. YA-ish. Quite enjoyable. Best first line I’ve read in a while. (5/5)

Book Review: Aftermath

Today’s book review bring you my thoughts on Chuck Wendig’s Aftermath.

Most of you might have noticed that a fair number of my posts have started with “Flash Fiction Challenge:” and in the little blurb before each story, I include a link to the blog at terribleminds.com, the wordy-talky-type-place hosted by none other than Aftermath’s author, Chuck Wendig. This is my roundabout way of saying that I came to this story on a different lead than a fair number of folks reading it.

I grew up on Star Wars. Being a bit too young for the theatrical release, I still managed to wear out a Betamax copy of Return of the Jedi. More specifically, the Tatooine portion of that film. Once they got to the live action care bears, my five year old attention span wandered, and I never quite grew out of it. I was excited as anyone when the prequels were announced, and just as disappointed with how they turned out (though I still think 2 & 3 are watchable, but that’s the subject of another blog post). I gave up three episodes in to the clone wars cartoon, and, most relevant to this, I’ve never read any of the Expanded Universe books. I picked up this book because a) it was announced as official cannon and b) written by a writer who’s works I’ve read and enjoyed.

Continue reading “Book Review: Aftermath”

ArmadilloCon!

In other news: This weekend I had a pretty amazing time at Armadillocon.

For those of you that don’t know, Armadillocon is a SFF literary convention in Austin Texas. They’ve got an excellent writer’s workshop, a wide number of panels covering the business of writing for a living and dealing with social issues, and a chance to meet with authors, editors, and publishers. There’ve been quite a few other write-ups, but here’s the highlights of my weekend.

Writing Workshop

Marshall Ryan Maresca put on an amazing workshop this year. I got a chance to meet several published authors, several aspiring authors in the area, and generally have a great time. Special thanks to Marshall for putting the workshop on, Martha Wells and Rebecca Schwarz for leading my little critique group, everyone for taking the time to read and give feedback on my story (which felt like a hit, though definitely needs some work), Steven Brust for allowing me to mumble at him about how much I loved the Taltos books, Stina Leicht for being a fount of clever,  Derek Johnson for some of the best advice on what not to do, and Ken Liu for an authorial Silent Bob. (by which I mean, during several of the workshop discussions he would sit and listen to different camps go back and forth on a point, then drop some poignant remark that effectively tied up and closed out the conversation)

It was well worth my time, inspiring, and I’d suggest that if you’re an aspiring author and find yourself in Texas next summer, you should sign up.

Panels 

I scheduled myself from early morning until late into the night each day of the con. The panels covered topics from Research to Humor to Feminism to Silkpunk to Lovecraft to the Hugos and everything in between.

I learned so much, but my biggest takeaways were:

  • Learn to be ok with failure and rejection
  • You won’t know how good you are until you try
  • Listen to others, especially if you are writing from their view point
  • Talk to people after panels. You’ll make new friends.
  • Research
  • Read

Side note: If you ever get a chance to see a panel with Marguerite Reed or Justin Landon, it will be worth your time. If you get a chance to see a panel with Marguerite and Justin, it will be worth skipping out on something else that’s worth your time.

Dinner 

Another awesome thing that happened occurred while I was hanging out at the bar, downing a ginger beer and conversing with a few of the authors about life, writing plans, and the like, when someone brought up food. I mentioned that I was fine, as I’d had a grand total of three candy bars since that morning and should be able to grab something once I got home around 11pm. Fortunately for me, they insisted that I not starve myself to see more panels and we wound up at the hotel’s restaurant. So, a big thanks Derek, Gwen, Stina, Marguerite, and Marshall for letting the new kid tag along and break bread with you. The conversations were delightful, silly, and made me feel at home. Someday I hope to be able to do the same for someone just starting out (and to hang out with you all again). You folks rule.

TLDR: 

I had a great time, learned quite a lot, and made new friends! All in all, a great experience.

I seem to have caught the con bug. Next stop: Nerdcon!

(but for now, back to the word mines)

— Fred Y.

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Day 2: Game face
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I lied when I said 3 candy bars. I had forgotten the words for cashews and fried apple pie. Probably still good I ate.
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Marguerite and Marshall on Day 3
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Pass 1 through the dealers room
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After the third and final pass through the dealer’s room. So, so broke now.
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DogeFace was happy when I got back. Actually, I have no idea why this picture is here, but it’s cute, so I’m just going to run with it. Something about being hard at work on revising my story after the workshop.

Bring a #kittenConsul Party to Austin

Just so I’m covering all my social media bases, I figure I’ll post this here too.

Exploding Kittens is a card game that broke a number of kickstarter records. #kittenConsul parties are a chance to beta test the game, and I want to bring one to my hometown.

If enough people like our application video, then we could get a play test party at Dragon’s Lair, one of Austin’s best shops for all things nerdy.

So do me a favor, watch the video, and click like. When we reach 200 likes, we’ll post a video of outtakes and our cat person friend doing her thing for several minutes.