Whatever Holiday Shopping Guide 2013, Day Four: Fan Favorites!
Posted on December 5, 2013 Posted by John Scalzi 98 Comments
For the first three days of the Whatever Shopping Guide 2013, I’ve let authors and creators tell you about their work. Today is different: Today is Fan Favorites day, in which fans, admirers and satisfied customers share with you a few of their favorite things — and you can share some of your favorite things as well. This is a way to discover some cool stuff from folks like you, and to spread the word about some of the things you love.
Fans: Here’s how to post in this thread. Please follow these directions!
1. Fans only: That means that authors and creators may not post about their own work in this thread (they may post about other people’s work, if they are fans). There are already existing threads for traditionally-published authors, non-traditionally published authors, and for other creators. Those are the places to post about your own work, not here.
2. Individually created and completed works only, please. Which is to say, don’t promote things like a piece of hardware you can find at Sears, shoes from Foot Locker, or a TV you got at Wal-Mart. Focus on things created by one person or a small group: Music CDs, books, crafts and such. Things that you’ve discovered and think other people should know about, basically. Do not post about works in progress, even if they’re posted publicly elsewhere. Remember that this is supposed to be a gift guide, and that these are things meant to be given to other people. So focus on things that are completed and able to be sold of shared.
3. One post per fan. In that post, you can list whatever creations you like, from more than one person if you like, but allow me to suggest you focus on newer stuff. Note also that the majority of Whatever’s readership is in the US/Canada, so I suggest focusing on things available in North America.
4. Keep your description of the work brief (there will be a lot of posts, I’m guessing) and entertaining. Imagine the person is in front of you as you tell them about the work and is interested but easily distracted.
5. You may include a link to a sales site if you like by using standard HTML link scripting. Be warned that if you include too many links (typically three or more) your post may get sent to the moderating queue. If this happens, don’t panic: I’ll be going in through the day to release moderated posts. Note that posts will occasionally go into the moderation queue semi-randomly; Don’t panic about that either.
6. Comment posts that are not about fans promoting work they like will be deleted, in order to keep the comment thread useful for people looking to find interesting gifts.
Got it? Excellent. Now: Geek out and tell us about cool stuff you love — and where we can get it too.
Elise M makes beautiful jewelry with equally beautiful names. You can see her latest works at http://elisem.livejournal.com/1843759.html
The complete Game Of Thrones: A Song of Ice and Fire 5-volume set is now on sale at Amazon for $9.99 (ebook versions). You can send ebooks as a gift to anyone, too. link: http://amzn.to/1cY2WSn
The Plaid Jackets are a nerd/geek culture band! They have played at Comic Cons internationally and I love them. Not to mention that the guitarist, Brandon Adkins, and I share a love for Superman.
Check out their latest album at https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/new-adventures-plaid-jackets/id405383185
I don’t know if Hugh Howey is the poster boy for digital publishing of his Silo Trilogy books. All I know is the books are a great read. And the latest, released this summer, ends the dark storyline of the human future. http://www.hughhowey.com/books/
The Ocean at the End of the Lane, by Neil Gaiman. Fantasy/horror/wonder (if wonder is a book category…I declare it so!). It was a compelling and beautiful read. I couldn’t put it down and finished it in a night. http://www.neilgaiman.com/works/Books/The+Ocean+at+the+End+of+the+Lane/
Well, I had something nice typed up, but my computer malfunctioned while I was trying to put some accented letters in to appropriately venerate Our Glorious Host’s dread Name, and it got eaten.
So, short version: I recommend Brandon Sanderson, bearer of the Great Pen Scalzibane and Our Host’s heroic nemesis. His books, while written in a style that is a polar opposite of Our Host’s style, are equally awesome. Oh, and “The Way of Kings” changed my life. Not many things can say that.
For epic fantasy that will blow you away, without fail, I recommend Brandon Sanderson. If you’ve ever wondered “What if Frodo kept the Ring and used it to rule Middle-Earth?” or “What, exactly, are those stereotypical mystical runes based on?” or “Why does EVERY piece of advanced ancient alien tech in certain franchises seem to use crystals for everything?” then I recommend Brandon Sanderson. If you like fantasy, but also prefer hard systems (on the Mohs scale of Science-Fiction Hardness), then I recommend Brandon Sanderson. If you want kickass battle scenes with people altering gravity (like Kaladin Stormblessed), shooting coins through other peoples’ heads (like Kelsier), making random articles of furniture beat up the evil priests about to sacrifice his wife (Susebron, most romantic nick-of-time save EVER), or just using nigh-unstoppable divine power (like Ruin and Odium), I recommend Brandon Sanderson.
He’s got something for everyone. Even his prose is simple, clear, and direct. No fancy artistic wordplay like a GRRM book, just the story. The beautiful, wonderful story.
Emily’s fantasy art is top notch. Great books on how to draw too. Give her love.
There’s some really good artwork going on over at Eyes On Walls, and they’ve got some holiday specials. I’m especially into Lora Zombie’s work. (http://www.eyesonwalls.com/collections/lora-zombie)
My friend makes awesome bags, aprons, and other things using very cool fabrics (like movie monsters or star wars or elvis!), for sale at her etsy shop: Crescent City Couture. Check her out. You won’t be sorry.
Velveteen vs. The Junior Super Patriots http://www.isficpress.com/velveteen.php
Velveteen vs. The Multiverse http://www.isficpress.com/multiverse.php
By Seanan McGuire
These are great books for anyone who likes super hero stories.
Great idea John! Here is a link http://www.etsy.com/shop/opalandollie
to custom etched mason jar coffee travel mugs. Environmentally responsible and cool! To receive in time for Christmas, place orders by December 14th.
Blood Song by Anthony Ryan. He writes like Patrick Rothfuss had a love child with George R.R. Martin. You will not regret reading this book but be aware that it may be hazardous to sleep schedule. As an extra bonus the second book comes out in July 2014 so if you like this one you will not have long to wait for more awesome!
I have two recommendations:
First, Scott Lyerly’s first installment of his novel How it Ends, because impending robot apocalypse stories are always fun.
Second, Austin Lucas’s new album Stay Reckless. Lucas is an amazing songwriter, and he’s got American Treasure-Grade band Glossary backing him here. This Link is to one of his songs over on SoundCloud. If you like it, the rest of the album’s just as good.
Thanks, and particularly thanks to John for giving us a place to make recommendations!
I’ve purchased candles several times from https://www.etsy.com/shop/TheSpiritedFairy and been very happy. They come packaged very nicely and the candles look beautiful and burn cleanly. A wonderful gift.
My friend Anji is an awesome artist.
Art prints: http://www.zibbet.com/anjimarth
My friend Jen makes beautiful baby things
My friend Jess makes pretty baubles to wear:
My friend Dee writes some steamy romances in various genres:
I’ve gotten really into short eBooks this year, so much so that I started an entire site to post my recommendations. If you buy someone an eReader this year, why not also give them a few short things to read to try it out? I remember from when I first got my Kindle (as a Christmas gift!) that I felt a bit at loose ends trying to figure out what to put on it to see how it worked.
Anyway, here are a couple of my favorite short ebooks that I think would appeal to the Scalzi-fandom:
It’s Better This Way, by Travis Hill, a post-alien apocalypse story with a twist. I don’t want to say more for fear of ruining it. Bonus: last I checked, this was a free ebook.
Don’t Eat Cat, by Jess Walter is set in a different sort of dystopic future, in which people are taking a drug that turns them into zombies (but you’re not supposed to call them that). I’m pretty sure this story predates the advent of Krokodil in the news- certainly I read it before I ever heard of Krokodil. The story is funny and thought-provoking and definitely worth your time.
Some folks I like:
Dragonsmith Armoury http://www.etsy.com/shop/DragonsmithArmoury
Marian Call http://mariancall.bandcamp.com/
Sawdust Bear http://sawdustbear.storenvy.com/
Mad Fish Market http://www.etsy.com/shop/madfishmarket
If you have not already done so, rush over to the retailer of your choice (I like Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Silver-Bell-Patty-Griffin/dp/B00E0P8VQQ) and purchase the fabulous “Silver Bell” album by Patty Griffin. What are you waiting for? NOW.
My friend Sue Schlabach along with some of her friends run Hen House Fibers. http://129twigandvine.com/henhouse-fibers/ Sue is an professional graphic artist and her aprons and hot pads are works of art. So fun to wear and use works of art on a daily basis. If you live close to Vermont you can find her in Strafford this saturday at the annual craft fair.
You can also find Sara Dakin’s jewelry there. Sara does not have a web site as of yet but her work is excellent if you can find her in person. I have some examples of her work at http://kategeorge.com/amazing-people/ and I’d be happy to pass your contact info on to her.
There are many more, but alas, the Christmas presents won’t make themselves!
Mistress of the Dancing Bones by Thomas Alexander.
This is his first book and it is worth your time/effort. I have a longer review over at Goodreads.
Just discovered Ray Litt, a young adult writer. She’s got two books that just came out recently. I met her at Spooky Empire in Orlando and bought both her books, which she graciously signed. Just got done reading her second book, Westward to Strange. It’s about cannibal cults and killer mermaids. It’s definitely worth reading: http://www.amazon.com/Westward-Strange-Ray-Litt-ebook/dp/B00ED2GMO4
Do you like art? How ’bout science? If I drew a Venn Diagram of the two, are you in that overlapping center part? Then John Meszaros is the artist for you!
John, over at http://www.nocturnalsea.com/, gives life and colour to extinct, microscopic, or otherwise weird and cool science that even the heartiest of sci-fi readers could barely imagine. Turns out life on Earth is crazy weird. You should totally check it out to see what some of the weirder animals on Earth look like, and while you’re there pick up a print or t-shirt (or two)!
And just in time for this Christmas thing, check out his Christmas cards over at his Etsy shop: http://www.etsy.com/shop/Nocturnalsea
I am particularly enamoured of the Octopus Santa cards!
Or, you know, go ahead and like him on facebook for all those social-media-y reasons: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Nocturnal-Sea-Biology-Art-by-John-Meszaros/155549834511097
My friend Anji is an awesome artist.
Art prints: http://www.zibbet.com/anjimarth
My friend Jen makes beautiful baby things
My friend Haley makes gorgeous headbands, wreaths, earrings, and ornaments. She’s a jack-of-all-trades.
My friend Wendy is an awesome quilter and artist.
My friend Marla makes awesome jewelry!
I’m a huge Doctor Who geek, so my first two suggestions are aimed at the DW fan in your life! It’s the 50th anniversary year, so Who-themed gifts are extra-meaningful and easy to come by this holiday season!
Who’s 50 The 50 Doctor Who Stories to Watch Before You Die-An Unofficial Companion by Graeme Burk and Robert Smith? — The authors have a great back-and-forth rapport that’s delightfully easy to read. It’s perfect for new fans discovering the show, but includes plenty of nifty tidbits to entertain old-school fans like me too.
Chicks Unravel Time: Women Journey Through Every Season of Doctor Who edited by Deborah Stanish and L.M. Myles — This came out last year, but the 50th celebrations make it just as perfect now. Female DW fans examine each season of the show. It’s full of insight and love and fun!
And for something more musical…
Arthuriana by Sunspot — This hard-working band from Madison, WI are often described as “arena rock for geeks.” I agree with that assessment. This new name-your-price (thus it could be FREE!) EP has songs about Arthurian myths, time itself, and the fact that we’re all made of stars. (I can highly recommend their earlier full-length albums as well!)
If you haven’t checked out The Possum Posse, you are missing out on a seriously good and funny Roots band. Also known for their “Guy On A Buffalo” series on YouTube.
Fans of fun, independent films with the highest reverence for everything that made 50s sci-fi films great should DEFINITELY check out the films of Christopher R. Mihm. For eight years running, he’s released a new feature-length film every year, each one in the vein of the classic science fiction movies of the past. Like William Castle film’s? Check out “House of Ghosts.” Are big bug movies like Tarantula or Them more your speed? Check out “The Giant Spider.” Other titles include “Attack of the Moon Zombies” (a multiple award-winner!), “Terror From Beneath the Earth”, “The Monster of Phantom Lake”, and more! I HIGHLY recommend you head to http://sainteuphoria.com/merch.html#dvds . . . !
My aunt sells her super warm and cozy winter hats, beanies, scarves, and ear warmers on Etsy. All knitted by hand, with fiber she shears and spins from her own goats, sheep, and alpacas. Fun colors and patterns for your kids this holiday season.
She also sells skeins of her handspun yarn and fiber rovings by the pound!
Thanks, John! Happy holidays, everyone!
Tally Heilke does a lot of awesome crafts, including some really great plushies. She’s made monsters from Magic the Gathering, piranha plant “roses,” dice bags, and a LOT more. She also takes commissions!
I’ve bought several things from her and I love them to death. You can find her shop at https://www.etsy.com/ca/shop/TallysBestiary
My friend Noriane makes beautiful handmade jewelry, using only nickel-free, hypoallergenic precious metals. Her jewelry has been featured in Vogue magazine. I always get compliments when I wear her pieces and her customer service is fantastic. Check out her online store at http://www.ever-designs.com/servlet/StoreFront or ask for a custom design.
I have been reading novels of every description for half a century, including many SF novels. I am not someone who generally has a favorite anything, but my favorite novel — period — is Mary Doria Russell’s SF classic The Sparrow. (The sequel is excellent also, but not quite in the class of the first book.
I bought one of these little felted wool dogs for someone as a gift and now I want all of them. It’s really tiny and a bit delicate but I think they would work for an older kid who is careful with their stuff. She will also do custom orders:
It’s time to be an adult and stop giving out dollar-store greeting cards. Matt over at TheOatmeal makes cards so glorious I can only buy one at a time. Just kidding. I only ever buy the 12-packs. Mix and match and give a card that will clutter up someone’s refrigerator for years. http://theoatmeal.com/horrible
Francis Tsai’s an amazing concept artist, who’s been diagnosed with ALS and progressively lost the use of his hands. So he moved to using his toes to draw on a tablet; and now he’s using his eyes and eye gaze technology to keep on making art. His art’s beautiful, and even more so knowing the determination that goes into creating it.
CRAP FREE. GUARANTEED.
Soaps, lotions, massage & bath oils – all of them natural and hand made!
The Vagabond Tabby
I’m sure my comment will wind up in moderation. There are too many to choose just one or two!
Cindy Pon does amazing Chinese brush painting, also check out her YA series Kingdom of Xia for the young readers on your Christmas list! https://www.etsy.com/shop/cindypon?ref=pr_faveshops
Also a big fan of https://www.etsy.com/shop/worldinchainsmaille?ref=pr_faveshops
And Emma SanCartier https://www.etsy.com/shop/esan01?ref=pr_faveshops
LOVE Rebekah Joy Plett. I’ve got several of her pieces, both jewelry and paintings https://www.etsy.com/shop/RebekahJoyPlett?ref=pr_faveshops
Can’t beat the Copper Poppy for fun and unique but functional https://www.etsy.com/shop/theCopperPoppy?ref=pr_faveshops
And Roza’s wearable art is phenomenal. I have the wing scarf and get compliments all the time. Perfect combination of ‘different but chic’.
I would recommend “S.” by J.J.Abrams and Doug Dorst:
Its unique kind of book: On the first level you have a novel “Ship of Theseus” by a mysterious Author V.M.Straka about a man shanghaied by ship with a strange crew. On the second level there are all kind of interesting footnotes by the books translator FX Caldera. On the third level you have two students scribbling into the book and using it to communicate with one another and trying to solve/decipher the hints and riddles of the book and the footnotes.
The book contains also all kind of additional items like postcards, a photo, a copy of a german telegram (with translation), or a map scribbled on a paper napkin.
There is a short video how that all looks like on amazon: http://www.amazon.com/gp/mpd/permalink/mE8MN369E9L0B
Its another instance of JJ Abrams “Mystery Box”-Pattern (see http://www.ted.com/talks/j_j_abrams_mystery_box.html ) and it takes a while to find a way how to approach (read) it due to its multilinear structure but is very rewarding if you love mysteries.
I’ll give a shout out to Tara Tallan’s Galaxion comic. It (from her about page) “feels something like a mix between Star Trek, classic Star Blazers anime, and a Lois McMaster Bujold novel”. Very true. Strong characters, interesting story line, and a fun read. She uploads a page every week, but you can get hard copies from here site here:
I am a huge fan of the Liaden Universe series of books by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller. The stories follow various members and friends of Clan Korval as they live their lives. There is something for everyone in the universe: espionage, military actions, spaceships, romances, academic infighting, ESP, cats and tea.
Links to e-books for various titles are below
The most recent installment is Necessity’s Child (http://www.baenebooks.com/p-1762-necessitys-child.aspx). It is the sequel to Balance of Trade (http://www.baenebooks.com/p-626-balance-of-trade.aspx).
If you’re looking for a free portal into the universe, I highly recommend both
Agent of Change (http://www.baenebooks.com/p-595-agent-of-change.aspx) and
Handcrafted, holistic, easy-to-use skincare and home products: The Brooklyn Herborium. This popular line now has a new Holistic Introduction Collection, which will take care of all your skincare needs!
Run by a nice friend of my wife; nice things to peruse and buy
“Handmade jewelry, sock monkeys, gemstone jewelry”
Because SOCK MONKEYS
The Citizens Artist Collective is a group of artists who have studios in Tucson’s historic Citizens Warehouse. They’ve created an art book – full color throughout – that talks about the warehouse and highlights a few pieces from each artist. It’s like getting 24 artists for the price of one. Limited edition, but if you can snag one, it’s so, so worth it. Disclaimer: I am not an artist, just a huge fan of this project.
So I guess this is really location specific, but if you live in the DC area and want to give some one some really, really good beer, check out Forge Brew Works. It was started by a buddy of mine and he brews really excellent beer. He provided the beer for my wedding and it was a huge hit. They offer 32 and 64 oz glass graulers and a 64 oz stainless steel brauler with a cozy that. I will be giving some of these way for Christmas myself. And there’s a tap room for if you want to try before you buy!
But don’t drink and drive.
My mother is a metalsmith working with reclaimed metals to make earrings and necklaces (and lightweight shawl pins and buttons for knitters and other fiber people) and my sister salvages bicycle innertube and cuts it into animal silhouettes and organic-seeming jewelry. I am such a hopeless addict to their work that I essentially wear no other accessories.
My mother’s studio, Gone Metal: https://www.etsy.com/shop/gonemetal
My sister’s, Gloomstopper Studio: https://www.etsy.com/shop/gloomstopper
This is very location specific, but if you live in the DC metro area and want to give someone some really awesome beer, check out Forge Brew Works in Lorton. My buddy opened this brewery about 2 months ago and is doing well, but could always use more business! The tap room is open 3 days a week, and they do 32 and 64 oz glass graulers and 64 oz stainless steel braulers (with a cozy!) They provided the beer for my wedding last January (pre-brewery opening) and it was a huge hit with everyone who was of legal age to drink.
Sorry for the double comment – I’m a terrible person.
My friend, Annette Sexton-Ruiz, is an amazing artist:
Marian Call makes wonderful heart cockle warming music also songs about shark week and the man called Jane.
Digger Omibus by Ursula Vernon is a fun and crazy tale of a lost wombat in a strange land. It has both wonderful art and a delightfully amusing story.
Berkley Illustration makes wonderfully whimsical fancy animal portraits for those looking to add a bit of fun to their walls.
For those looking for a great bookish iDevice/Kindle case, Dodo Case offers traditional bookbinding cases. I tell you, it feels sooo nice to hold an iPad or iPhone in a book cover. Plus they have an adorable dodo bird ex-librīs inside the front cover. :)
The Coolest Way to Kill Yourself by Nicholas Tanek
I would like to give two warnings right up front:
1. Despite what the title says no one actually kills themselves in this book. (It’s explained in the book. Trust me when I tell you that it’s pretty awesome)
2. This is not your traditional love story, because it’s laced with kink and drugs. (Don’t look at me like that. I told you it wasn’t your typical love story)
I had the unique pleasure of getting to know the writer not only through his book, but on a personal level as well. It made my reading experience something really amazing and special. I like to tell people that he electronically held my hand as I rode this roller coaster of emotion from one page to the next. This is not the type of book I normally pick up, but I really loved it. So to support him I’m sharing this with all of you!!
You can get the book on Amazon or Barnes and Noble.
The band She has some of the best, smartest electronica out there – as far as I’m concerned, anyway. They’re an indie band outside Japan, where Coloris got picked up by Pony Canyon, and could use the love.
HeyLasFas! is … kind of amazing, actually. You want a progressive rock concept album about the fall of Princess Luna? Here y’go. He’s got other releases too, and just got out of school, so could use the dosh.
Austin Microphones sells DIY ribbon microphone and microphone preamp kits. I’m just finishing up my first ones of each; my build report for the pre-amp went up on Monday. It’s a little esoteric, I agree – this should be no one’s first microphone and the preamp can only be used with ribbon or dynamic mics – but if you’re interested in this kind of high-grade studio microphone technology, you will not find comparable for anywhere near the price, and personally I enjoy building things, so there you go. ^_^
I really like the sound of this microphone preamp. I’ll know more about the ribbon mic in a few more days. :D
Tom Lloyd’s Twilight Reign series.
I wanted to post an author who is not very well known. Its easy to learn about well known and popular authors. The Elitist Book Reviews raves about him. It is a very creative series that has an atypical plot line and world. The good guys are not perfect and the bad guys are not all that bad. It has a lot of Egyptian and Greek mythology built into its fantasy. It is action adventure. The writing in the first book is a little weak, but its the authors first book. His prose improves a lot with each book.
This is a 5 book series that is complete so you don’t have to wait years for it to be finished.
oh, so many cool artists & artisans out there…here are some you might like:
Marian Call – http://mariancall.bandcamp.com
Beautiful, fun, geeky music by a singer/songwriter in Alaska – themes of love, joy, spaceships, Firefly, nerdery, SciFi.
Scott Barkan – http://scottbarkanmusic.com
Lately, guitarist/singer/songwriter Scott Barkan has been accompanying Marian Call on her tours of North America & Europe, but he’s way more than an accompanist – he’s an amazingly talented player, and his lyrics are strong. I highly recommend the ‘hard copy’ of his latest CD, Flightless Bird, for the wonderfully delightful & whimsical album artwork.
SurlyRamics – https://www.etsy.com/ca/shop/surly
SurlyAmy makes ceramic art jewelry with sciencey, geeky & atheisty themes – pendants, earrings, bracelets, cufflinks & more. Also does some cool drink coasters, pet portraits in ceramic and happily takes custom orders. I have an entire section of my jewelry cabinet for Surlies, many of them custom colours & glazes. Also, ships fast and in ready-to-give boxes.
Clay and Yarn Barn – https://www.etsy.com/shop/ClayAndYarnBarn
Gifts for knitters, crocheters, weavers or anyone who likes sheepy things. Polymer clay sheep stitch markers, knitting needle toppers, pins, brooches – even keychains. Some adorable Santa sheep & Santa PENGUINS too. Super fast shipping and Devane replies quickly to convos.
John Bateson – http://www.imagekind.com/MemberProfile.aspx?MID=B9E08DE1-FB1C-4D3F-9930-EA129BABFAAD
Canadian painter (just outside Ottawa) offers prints in a variety of sizes & on varying media of his original paintings. I love the flowers, but there are colourful abstracts and fantasy landscapes too.
Broodhollow Book 1 is Kris Sraub’s debut horror graphic novel. Who knew so much was brewing beneath the quiet veneer of a small West Virginia town in the 1930s! Stop by the Shop for the digital copy here: Broodhollow.chainsawsuit.com then jump right into Book 2, currently serializing online.
If you enjoy masterful storytelling, pick up *anything* by Mikey Neumann! He will grab you and not let go. The apocalypse, historical figures, sci-fi: Neumann does it all. The Returners, vena cava, The Ending– these books/stories will leave you exhausted from the thrill ride. Various formats: Bozpublishing.com
I’ve taken a chance on and really enjoyed Chris Ward’s The Tube Riders books, about a group of — I guess teenagers — in a dystopian London. It’s a pretty dark series, and the author takes his time to get you acquainted with the place, but keeps rolling out new things and new twists pretty consistently. I just finished the second book and I’m really enjoying it.
Vielmond is a fantasy artist I’ve been following for a while. Love her style. She’s great with armor and a lot of her art looks like it belongs in video game artbooks (no coincidence since she does video game art).
She’s recently started offering prints through DeviantArt. Check out her art and if you like it, I’m sure she would appreciate your patronage:
My son makes handcrafted jewelry. His prices are negotiable. Just contact him for prices, and if you want something specific, he will try to find the materials.
His Facebook page is “Hand crafted Jewelry by Nicholas Hull” https://www.facebook.com/Thehandsofnick
The Milkweed Tryptych by Ian Tregillis. In 1930, the Germans develop a new secret weapon – super-powered soldiers! The British respond with Warlocks. Extra-dimensional beings, Nazi X-Men, time travel, a psychopathic pre-cog playing her own, private long game, and a normal British agent in the middle of it. An excellently written page turner. Only down side – my productivity suffers whenever a new book comes out.
Start with Bitter Seeds:
First, I’ll recommend Steve Umstead’s Evan Gabriel series. Start with Zero Point, because it’s free, and you’ll see that what you might think is a well-trod path of scifi tropes is really not and the writing is really good.
I also recommend Nathan Lowell’s The Golden Age of the Solar Clipper series, starting with Quarter Share. It’s inter-planetary science-fiction that has no great space wars or aliens and it’s still entertaining and engaging. Definitely well worth a look!
For the reluctant reader (2nd-4th grade), I recommend Tiny Titans–a series of fun graphic novels that won the Eisner Award. I gave several volumes to a nephew who has difficulty reading, and his parents were thrilled. They reported that for the first time in memory, he was reading for pleasure, curled up on the couch for over an hour. http://www.amazon.com/Tiny-Titans-Vol-01-Treehouse/dp/1401220789/ref=sr_1_1/190-6344871-3146711?ie=UTF8&qid=1386265490&sr=8-1&keywords=tiny+titans+comics
I would have to recommend Terry Mancour’s Spellmonger Series. Well thought out fantasy series that makes me laugh. Currently there are 3 books in the series along with a selection of short stories that flesh out some of the smaller details.
Scott Wegener, the artist for Atomic Robo, is having a 40% holiday sale on back issues, covers, art, etc. It’s one of the few comics I still read and that’s a great deal.
Atomic Robo on Comic Art House
Music! American Folk, Irish Trad, Brand New…Stuff–stop pigeonholing! You can dance, you can sing or sit quietly and listen to everything Patrick Clifford delivers. His words are poetry, his tunes, the fabric of the wind. It isn’t often a performer can appeal to anyone–Clifford can. American Wake, Chance of a Start or any of the other CDS/EPs, available in various formats, here:
Try it, you’ll like it! (Shoot, do I have to pay someone for that…?)
Lovely hand knitted scarves: https://www.etsy.com/shop/KnitMeKnots
For unique jewelry designs check out this place: https://www.etsy.com/shop/WingedLion
I bought a pomegranate pendant that I wear everyday because I love it so much!
Folk’d by Laurence Donaghy.
Best book I read last year for free on kindle, now out in dead tree and I own two copies, Laurence signed one for me and the other is for proselytizing (its that good). But I live in England so unfortunately you can’t borrow the spare so go out and buy a copy.
If you’re a writer and you don’t check out Scrivener, you’re doing yourself a huge disservice. It’s made by writers for writers and it shows. It’s not a mere word processor. You can manage your projects in ways I never managed using Word. It’s simple, intuitive, and the deeper you dig the more it can do.
Windows and Mac versions. I use both and the file type is common between the two so I can open my projects on any machine. It’s got an awesome 30 day full trial so you can test drive it yourself. My productivity skyrocketed, editing became do-able, and I absolutely love being able to convert my work in progress to an epub with one click so I can read on my ipad.
Areca Roe is an amazing, Twin Cities-based photographer. She is wonderfully talented, both in conceiving of and then executing lush photographic series (large prints of The Den, The Flowers, and The Parlor hang on my very own living room wall). Here is a link to her (bargain priced!) Etsy shop:
Claire Sanders is an almost-too-talented toy maker from the Bay Area, who designs and hand-crafts gorgeous, playful, lively stuffed animals and monsters–and creates and sells patterns so you can try your hand at them, too! Here’s the link to her portfolio:
Also, Alec Longstreth is a brilliant comics creator and educator who creates MUST-READ comics! He teaches at the Center for Cartoon Studies, self-publishes an Ignatz Award-winning mini-comic called Phase 7, and just crushed a Kickstarter campaign for his longform fantasy graphic novel, Basewood. Check out his comics page, where you can order issues of Phase 7, and read a ton of comics for free!
Yay, now I can do a Fangirl Squee!
M.C.A Hogarth! Here is her Amazon page, but I don’t want this to be in moderation, so I’ll leave the Smashwords, B&N, and Apple links off. Amazon also has trade paperback versions of many of her books, and Audible.com has audio-versions as well. (Very, very nice audioversions.)
M.C.A. Hogarth has a few (maybe even “several”) new books out — and frankly, I wouldn’t be surprised if she had the most recently-finished one out in time for Christmas. If not, it’ll be soon enough to spend some gift-card stuff on. She writes science fiction, such as Spots: The Space Marine, but also the Her Instruments series, and… Well, the Kerishadar series, which I would call “Science Fiction of Manners,” in the sense that some books are comedies of manners. She writes fantasy, with Flight of the Godkin Griffin and its recent sequel. She’s written angels-and-demons. She’s written low-tech aliens (with a touch of active alien gods). She’s written humor (“The Perfect Totem,” for one). She’s got a “meet-cute office romance.”
…she writes a lot, in a lot of different styles. You can look for her art at Zazzle.com, too. She has denominational and non-denominational holiday cards there!
For people who are more into sparkly trinkets, might I suggest http://wyrdingstudios.com/ ? Much, much glitter. (I believe she’s even made work with dice!)
My friend Amy McNally is an amazing fiddler. Her CD, Hazardous Fiddle, features Celtic/Irish tunes, some traditional and some self-composed, alongside other great musicians.
As a man obsessed with that genre, my spouse adores this CD. As a casual listener to the genre, I am delighted by the energy and emotion in every tune and can’t tell her originals from the classics – they’re that good.
Christopher R. Mihm makes movies–playful homages to science fiction and horror B-movies, to be specific. Start with The Monster of Phantom Lake, but don’t stop there. http://www.sainteuphoria.com/merch.html
I love pens/mechanical pencils and paper, and I’m always looking for the ultimate lab/life notebook. There are a zillion web sites out there, but I like
Levenger’s – not the cheapest, but good quality, and I love their Circa products.
Jet Pens – because why buy one of every pen at Staples when you can get the really cool versions from Japan?
Book Factory – blank books, but personalized to be _your_ blank book
Can I also say that while I like the idea of Moleskins, I find the reality to be disappointing? I know it’s heretical, but I find they disintegrate rapidly when carried around.
I am a fan of the handcrafted-in-the-USA fezzes from Fez-O-Rama: http://fez-o-rama.com/ . If you are part of the Geek Contingent or are Geek-Adjacent, the embroidered graphics cater to your niche: Cthulhu, GenCon-type Gamer, Classic Movie Buff, Technophiliac, Tiki, etc., odds are you’ll find something that piques your interest or speaks to your intended giftee. Seasonal fezzes of Krampus and Santa are currently available for order, as well a classy formalwear-worthy new seasonal Snowflake Chapeau.
Pietersma Tinworks sells tin tinsel. In my experience, four tins should cover a 6′ tree. It is a much safer alternative to plastic tinsel for my cats.
Newly made retro SciFi & Horror movies by Christopher R. Mihm. Especially good is this year’s THE GIANT SPIDER. And they’re inexpensive, too! Something that your SF/H fans don’t already have. Great stuff!
Check out this cool novelization of “White Zombie” by Stephen D. Sullivan!
When Madeline Short travels to Haiti to marry her fiance, she’s soon caught in a web of superstition, lust, and fear. Will she find wedded bliss, or fall victim to the witch doctor known as Murder Legendre and become a White Zombie?
Award-winning author Stephen D. Sullivan brings “White Zombie” into the 21st century with this modern novel based on the classic horror film starring Bela Lugosi.
In addition to the novel, this Special Edition of “White Zombie” contains a recreation of the original film script!
Mallory and McCall, a duo who perform (and record!) pub songs, pirate tunes, sea shanteys and the like… Mac the Wife also makes jewelry using seine line and old-fashioned marlinspike work: http://www.malloryandmccall.com
Also hand-knitted geekwear, including the new Harley Quinn hat: http://www.etsy.com/shop/wantmakehave
If there’s a handspinner on your list, I heartily recommend the handdyed wool fiber from Corgi Hill Farms. Beautiful colors, easy to draft, and generally excellent fiber. https://www.etsy.com/shop/corgihillfarm
I love the work of La Perla Pottery, and she does custom orders. It’s too late to get something for Christmas except for the few things she’s currently got in her shop, but if you or someone on your list likes her style, you can order now for a break-the-winter-doldrums late January gift.
Jewelry: Jezebel Charms’s literary bracelets, necklaces, and earrings. Won’t arrive for Christmas in the U.S., but should arrive at UK addresses in plenty of time.
I’m also very happy with the jewelry I’ve gotten from Belaurient Arts.
Willow Tree Minerals has some nice water-based nail polish. (Favorite color name: Bookworm.) I haven’t worn it often or for more than a couple days at a time, but I found it easy to apply and not too hard to remove (use isopropyl alcohol or ethanol, or go to their off-Etsy website to buy their polish remover).
Last year I gave relatives a couple puzzles from Puzzimals. Haven’t heard from the out-of-state person, but the one that was given in our household has survived being played with by a kindergartener, so I’d say they’re pretty durable.
For someone who likes gritty fantasy YA, my friend Patrice Sarath’s novel The Crow God’s Girl might suit. While it’s a sequel, you don’t need to have read Sarath’s previous books in the Gordath Wood universe to follow the story in this one.
(The ebook’s also available on Smashwords.)
Ooh, ooh: Chris Beckett’s “Dark Eden” (some of the best new sensawunda sf I’ve read in years), David Gullen’s “Shopocalypse” – mad, cynical, funny, astonishing – and Feral Strumpet’s gorgeous gothy jewellery. http://feralstrumpet.com/
Max Overacts is a great web comic that’s available as a book..
First discovered via Patrick Rothfuss’ glowing review here. Although he bears a superficial resemblance to Calvin (& Hobbes), Max is definitely his own man.
My son and I had a great time reading this together, and if you buy the book writer/artist Caanan Grall puts a little sketch in each one.
My friend Karen makes the most beautiful scarves and cowls I’ve ever seen. Some are more for fashion/dressy, some are functional/warm (and still fashionable!), and all in a variety of colors and designs. She’s also started adding bags that can be used to hold tablets and other assorted things. Check out her shop at: https://www.etsy.com/shop/willieru
Recently enjoyed a great book by L.S. Burton, called This Land. Set in a place that may or may not be earth, it centres around a group of small town folk trapped inside an ancient, crumbling monastery by giant beasts that seem to have come from the sky. Very different from most sci-fi that I’ve read, it very much focuses on the human condition, displaying a depth that is rare in the genre. And the writing is exceptional, too.
Shana Logic (http://www.shanalogic.com/) sells geeky/quirky jewellery, art and accessories from local indie creators. Rainbows galore, stuff with tentacles and a very funky anatomical heart necklace! Based in North America but ships internationally for fairly reasonable prices.
I have a friend who writes books. Intrigue! Suspense! (and, in some of her books, amazing explorations of heavy-duty fantasy/steampunk themes, which are *really* interesting; what I find more impressive, though, is that she goes with what each book needs rather than tacking gears/glitter/vampires/zombies on just to match the Popular Formula of the year)
The first book in her latest co-authored series is Painted, and it’s only a dollar for the ebook version.
One book that came out this year, that I actually read was Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice and I can recommend it. Very good first novel. Then there’s Alastair Reynold’s Blue Remembered Earth. Everything I’ve read by him sofar is good. Also recently finished Jo Walton Among Others. As her protagonist, Mori, would say, it was brill.
A good friend of mine, Gregory Hoffman, has written two novels, both of which he previously posted on Amazon and Barnes And Noble but has since taken them off and offered them to us for FREE on his blog, little-differences-in-japan.blogspot.com. EDEN is a vampire romance unlike any seen before, and THE ABNORMS is about a group of unlikely superheroes with barely-useful abilities who must band together to rescue one of their own. I take claim to be one of Greg’s first fans, and take great pride in that fact. Check out his blog and you’ll find the books readily available for download. Thanks all!
Please check out FishBiscuit Designs, my friend’s cleaver, funny t-shirt shop. She’s a teacher and a mom who loves to design fun, geeky things.
There’s something for geeks of every stripe. I’m especially partial to the “Keep Calm and Blind Them with Science” design.
Neverword • E Racine
A really awesome young adult fantasy adventure.
Kindle ebook only, it would seem.
$10-$20: Jeremy Whitley’s “Princeless” comic book series, if you can find it. ISBNs for the first two collected trades are 978-1450798945 and 978-0985965242. Good for most ages.
$25-40: 13th Age. Fun and accessible indie fantasy pen-and-paper RPG, particularly for people new to tabletop games, without being training wheels or a designed upsell product. Nice re-emphasis on story and character over mechanics without sacrificing tactics.
$45-$330-Diaz bags, made by a man and a few apprentices in Antigua. Might be cutting it close for Christmas, but worth a late arrival.
I enjoy the assorted geeky cross-stitch patterns at Wee Little Stitches. They also do custom work in fandoms as varied as superheroes, Mean Girls and Star Wars.
Out of the 83 novel-length books I’ve read so far this year, here are the ones I gave 5 stars on Goodreads (my reviews are here, whence you can also get to the various bookseller websites: https://www.goodreads.com/review/list/941876-mike?shelf=read&sort=rating):
Lindsay Buroker’s Torrent. First in a new urban-fantasy series with (apparently) aliens and a female would-be Indiana Jones, from the author of the Emperor’s Edge books. Proudly indie, and well-executed.
Seanan McGuire’s Velveteen vs. the Junior Super-Patriots. Supers (if you couldn’t guess), exploited by the evil Marketing Department. A real pity that the sequel is stuck away on the small-press publisher’s obscure website and priced at $9.99, or I’d have bought it by now and so would lots of other people.
Leonard Richardson’s Constellation Games. Learning about benevolent aliens via their video games. Deserves slightly better editing than the small-press publisher gave it, but still excellent.
Christine Amsden’s Secrets and Lies. Second in an urban fantasy series with a non-powered but super-smart main character (read Cassie Scot: Paranormal Detective first, it’s also good).
Matt Posner’s The Ghost in the Crystal. Harry Potter without the whimsy, set in New York. The series as a whole is simultaneously flawed and wonderful, also like HP.
Andy Gavin’s Untimed. Best-edited indie book ever, and an excellent YA time travel yarn to boot.
Robin Sloan’s Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. Bibliophilic secret-society cryptography kind of technothriller (but more techno than thriller, and a bit literary in the best way). Also funny.
Bonita of Bonita’s Paper Creations (http://bonitaspapercreations.com) makes wonderful, original greeting cards for all occasions.
I highly recommend a few less well-known writers of very good science fiction and/or fantasy.
First, Jane S. Fancher. Last year, her brand-new book Netwalkers was published as an ebook in 2 parts; recently the rest of this strongly character-driven science fiction series was published in brand-new, expanded ebook editions, as Wildcards, Nexus and Coldfusion.
The whole series can be found here on Amazon (sorry for the long link): http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=wildcards#/ref=nb_sb_noss_2?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=netwalkers%2C+fancher&rh=n%3A283155%2Ck%3Anetwalkers%5Cc+fancher
Or, preferably, you could buy them straight from the authors at http://www.closed-circle.net/ebook-catalog/ where you will also find a new short story by grand master C.J. Cherryh, set in the Foreigner universe, about the first day on the job for new young paidhi Bren Cameron: Invitations. This is only available at Closed-Circle, nowhere else!
Second, Andrea K. Höst, a young Australian writer who is making a name for herself with her well-written fantasy and science fiction books.
She just published Bones of the Fair, set in Darest. It is a sequel to Champion of the Rose, but can also be read singly. Her ebooks are available through many venues, including Kobo and Amazon; the latter also sells print editions: http://www.amazon.com/Andrea-K-H%C3%B6st/e/B004F99RRY
Dave Freer may be best known for his collaborations with Eric Flint and Mercedes Lackey, but I rather prefer several of the books he wrote solo. Dragon’s ring, and its sequel Dog and Dragon, are pure fantasy, and I recommend them to anyone who likes that genre. His short story Without a trace is something special too, with the added feel for the South-African life. http://www.amazon.com/Dave-Freer/e/B001HCXOD0
Finally Lazette Gifford, who publishes her books and short stories at Smashwords. Some of the books suffer from less-than-optimal proofreading, but there are some nice stories there. My favorites are Ada Nish Pura and Devlin’s Team (science fiction), Silky 1-2-3 (fantasy), and Muse (mystery/romance). https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/zetteG
My friend Megan makes beautiful watercolor paintings and fantastic beadwork. You can see her work at her Etsy shop https://www.etsy.com/shop/meinoel
Rescue Toto dogs. I volunteer as a reference checker. This organization is national and run on the Internet with no salaried employees and no overhead. Every dollar goes to the dogs. Send money or volunteer to foster at http://www.cairnrescueusa.com
On DVD are a couple of films which got far less positive notice than they deserve:
First, there’s DREDD, an adaptation of the Judge Dredd comic series that reminds you why the source material was so entertaining. Karl Urban makes the steel-girder-up-the-butt Dredd always compelling despite never taking his helmet off. Lena Headley plays a wonderful ruthless drug lord named MaMa, and will take the edge off your longing for more Cersei Lannister action.
Second, there’s PACIFIC RIM. If you’ve ever enjoyed movies where giant monsters trash cities and giant robots fight, this is like the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup of genre combinations.
On the graphic novel front, a couple of titles from DC Comics:
DIAL H was a short-lived comic series written by China Mieville. It concerns a magical telephone dial that changes the user into a random super-powered hero. Mieville uses the idea to create lovably absurd characters such as Captain Lachrymose and Cock-A-Hoop. Two volumes, INTO YOU and EXCHANGE, collects all of Mieville’s stories,
BATWOMAN: WORLD’S FINEST collects one of the best storylines from J.H. Williams III’s run on the title. This team-up between Batwoman and Wonder Woman works thanks to Williams’ ability to create wonderful character chemistry between the two heroines as well as some spectacular art.
Finally, if all else fails, go with this year’s Hugo winner for Best Graphic Novel: SAGA. It may be the story of two civilizations involved in an endless galaxy-spanning war. But its emotional heart comes from the struggles of its young and sometimes naive family to survive. If you don’t fall in love with Izabel, Marko and Alana and Hazel, or Lying Cat, I pity you.
My sister makes a variety of block prints with various themes from industrial to fantasy which can be seen here:
She has also written a number of books for small children through young adults (and adults enjoy them too).
My friend and martial arts teacher, Robin, also does amazing and beautiful jewelry:
I love checking out the great deals in http://www.gbvalleystore.com! They have some cool stuff and also things that I haven’t seen in any shopping place!
Amy Speace, “How to Sleep in a Stormy Boat.” Buy this one in hard copy. Each song is based on a Shakespearian quotation, and the liner notes have information about each one. This CD has a song that may be the most beautiful I’ve ever heard, ever, anywhere: “The Sea and the Shore.”
Jason Isbell, “Southeastern.” This one should be winning all of the best of 2013 awards. Of course, it’s not, because people are too busy listening to Miley Cyrus, but whatever.
Sam Baker, “Say Grace.” If you don’t know Sam Baker, that is just a shame. He writes songs that are *blessings* — and that is not a play on words with the CD title.
And, as always, my kid. (Not my offspring; just “my kid.”) His new CD won’t be out until next year, but there’s still the one that WAS PAID FOR WITH A KICKSTARTER AND NOMINATED FOR A GRAMMY. (I’ll let you know when that stops being cool.)