Whatever Holiday Gift Guide 2019, Day Four: Fan Favorites!
Posted on December 5, 2019 Posted by John Scalzi 32 Comments
For the first three days of the Whatever Gift Guide 2019, 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 Home Depot, 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.
Sophie Labelle writes a web comic, Assigned Male, that has been running since 2014. It was originally available on Tumblr. Now it’s best read on her Facebook group, on WebToons at https://www.webtoons.com/en/challenge/serious-trans-vibes/list?title_no=206579&page=1, or on tapas at https://tapas.io/sophielabelle
But you’re here for the gift items, and I’m happy to say that she’s also got those. She sells books, both physical and digital, that collect her web comics and sometimes contain print-exclusive material. She offers a children’s book (which isn’t online) and a coloring book. She also sells patches, stickers, and other gift items. Some of the books are available in French as well as English. You can find them at her Etsy-powered store, https://www.serioustransvibes.com/
I would like to recommend checking out Idle Hour Library. It’s a privately run online library, it’s based out of Japan but because it is online you can access the books anywhere in the world and 90% of the collection is in English. You can sign up through their Patreon to become a member for as little as $1, or of course gift the membership to someone else this season.
I think it’s worth supporting because they offer free accounts to people who can’t afford the $1 or for people who don’t have a local library anymore. Also if you sign up before the end of the year then they are donating all membership fees for the month to team trees!
You can get all the details on their website, here – http://idlehourlibrary.com
Cherie Gerhardt makes fantasy digital art across several fandoms (Harry Potter, How to Train Your Dragon, Game of Thrones, Nightmare before Christmas, Disney, etc.) as well as general fantasy. It’s really high quality stuff! She makes prints, buttons, bookmarks, stickers, pillows, other stuff, some notebooks, and most recently a really nice Oracle card deck. Her most recent painting is of Krampus! She does commissioned portraits sometimes, too, as “Mystic Portraits”, if you’ve ever wanted to see yourself as a Mermaid, Centaur, or other fantasy creature. I was her first male Centaur model, and we’ve got a lovely portrait of my wife and daughter as mermaids and my son and I as centaurs. Everyone who sees it loves it!
Her website is https://www.mysticmoonmedia.com/
Her online Etsy shop is https://www.etsy.com/shop/mysticmoonmedia
Her Patreon is https://www.patreon.com/MysticMoonMedia
She’s on Facebook as well, and does a “daily photo” or similar on Twitter at @mysticmoonmedia
She’s also on Instagram, Pinterest and Youtube, all under “mysticmoonmedia”.
Thanks for supporting artists!
Great and very under-appreciated fantasy book: One Man by Harry Connolly. I cannot figure out why Harry seems to be struggling – his writing is excellent! Give it a try, help an author: http://harryjconnolly.com/the-one-man-post/
I recommend checking out “A Pocket Watch, Spray Paint & Morphine: How Viv the Librarian Weathers the Boom” by Kimberly Lynne, a first time author.
It’s a deeply unusual book, and any attempt I could do beyond the Amazon page wouldn’t do it justice: An unrecognizable Boom compels Viv, a retired librarian, out of her perfumed bubble bath. Dripping, confused, and curious, she soon finds the neighborhood emptier than her own nest. Her cherished husband is unreachable. Her geriatric spaniel is missing, as are all other creatures, except a single fish in a bowl. As though thrust into a post-apocalyptic novel from her library shelves, Viv, no doomsday prepper, scours her deserted town for answers. Instead, she finds disparate survivors as unprepared as she: a pregnant young wunderkind, a cagey physics professor, and a boy too reminiscent of her own lost son. Peril forges the group’s initial antipathies into alliances, but an ominous change in climate tests their tenuous bonds, sparking a feud over how best to survive. Venturing to more hospitable lands means Viv abandons any chance of reuniting with her husband. But clinging to home and hope means losing a family for a second time. A Pocketwatch, Spray Paint, & Morphine is a quirky, soft science fiction debut fleshed out with Southern-flavored themes of kinship, tenacity, and the survive-at-all-costs spirit.
You can check it out here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1948036045/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_search_asin_title?ie=UTF8&psc=1
The Wolves of Chernobyl, a “post-apocalyptic bluegrass” band hailing from Huntsville, Alabama (the “Rocket City”) released their Eschatologies album about two years ago. Impassioned vocals over electric guitar, stand up bass, banjo, and horns, it’s the music of Appalachia turned up to 11 trying to give you a place to breathe in a world stressed to the edge.
Jack makes superb jewellery, specialising in wire-wrapped labradorite and Swarovski crystals, but also using other semi-precious stones! I’ve got five pairs of earrings from him, and four pendants; he posts internationally (postage is included in the item prices), and you’re just in time to get stuff in the US for Christmas presents (you’ve got a bit more time for the UK/Europe).
His Etsy shop is at: https://t.co/wkfXzKZdrq – go take a look. I’m currently wearing a pair of baby lizard/dragon pendants, turned into earrings.
I’m a hobby board gamer and highly recommend a new game called “Coloma,” designed by Jonny Pac Cantin (JonnyPac for short). It is a Gold Rush-themed euro game published by Final Frontier Games. I am lucky enough to have Jonny as a friend, but was a big fan of his work first. This particular game is full of strategic options that make it very replayable and the art of production value of the game are phenomenal. The game should be available in your friendly local game store this month.
Lisa Luckstruck is a metal-smithing entrepreneur who makes hand-crafted sterling silver jewelry with vintage glass and semi-precious stones that she sources from around the world. I’ve purchased several pieces from her Etsy store for my wife, who loves them. She’s a fine artist, a music lover and cat lady who names a lot of her pieces after country musicians and their songs (e.g. the Dolly Hoop Earrings or the Good Hearted Woman pendant necklace).
I hope you’ll give her site a look. (No commercial arrangement here at all, I am just a fan.)
If you or someone you love has a penchant for silver jewelry (specifically Native American silver jewelry), I highly recommend NDN Silver by WIngs. Wings is a member of Taos Pueblo, and is a master silversmith. He uses traditional techniques, and has a variety of pieces for sale – earrings, bracelets/cuffs, barrettes, pins, pendants/necklaces, belts, rings, and more.
http://wingssilverwork.com/ is the main site (use the Galleries menu to see past & current works). Wings also takes commissions, if you see something you like that is marked ‘sold’, he can create a version uniquely suited to you. Use the contact form for inquiries/purchases. http://wingssilverwork.com/contact/
I own several pieces by Wings, and can attest to the quality and beauty of his work.
Shipyarn runs a small batch hand dyeing business for unique yarns. All are inspired by books, TV shows, movies, or video games, and she also takes commissions!
Check out her website here:
And Etsy shop here:
She also occasionally does a stream with a very cute dog in the background, and blogs about the different dyeing techniques used for different color effects.
My friend does crochet! If you have ever needed your own personal Hamilton character, a Frozen doll for the kid who can’t decide whether they like Anna or Elsa best, or a copy of Chip Zdarsky’s favorite fanart (fan-craft?) of one of his comic book characters (NSFW), she can hook you up.
Check out https://www.etsy.com/shop/CrochetbyNecessity for all these and more.
I’ve been looking forward to the chance to tout the work of Angela Jones-Parker, whose insanely gorgeous jewelry could hold its own in any high-end boutique (and would go for four times its usual price). Her work will be familiar to anyone who’s visited the dealers’ rooms at cons in the PNW (and elsewhere). My wife and I each have a growing collection of her earrings. She works in precious metals and semi-precious stones, and has a truly wonderful eye for line and color.
Her Etsy shop is here: https://www.etsy.com/shop/AngelwearCreations
She does custom work as well — she made our wedding rings when my wife and I got married, using an interlace design of mine, and adapting it into two unique and complementary styles.
I wanted to spotlight three authors today. First up is Ursula Vernon, who also goes by T. Kingfisher. She’s just absolutely fantastic at whatever she tries her hand at – she wrote a long-form webcomic, Digger, that won awards and hearts, she’s written fantasy novels, short stories, kid stories, horror, has multiple podcasts, just… everything. Check her out at https://www.redwombatstudio.com if you enjoy good things.
Next is Lois McMaster Bujold who… phew. The Vorkosigan saga is a series of (mostly) stand-alone science fiction novels that are multiple award winning and somehow still underrated/underpraised. Miles Vorkosigan is one of the great protagonists in literature, and I’ve never been disappointed with one of the books. But she’s moved into a series of novellas lately that are just stupendous. She manages to write *good* people, doing the best they can, in a way that makes my heart sing. Start at http://www.dendarii.com and read everything she’s ever written, you won’t be disappointed.
Rounding out my recommendations is Erin Wright. She writes western romance novels and is great. Her characters pop, her dialog is witty, and she just knocks it out of the park. If you’re looking for a good cozy romance series, check her out. She has multiple books free (the first in the various series she has going) to get you hooked. And while sales/downloads aren’t everything: she’s topped the Amazon charts. Not a subcategory – she had the literal top book at Amazon, iBooks, and Nook simultaneously. Start at https://erinwright.net and see what she has.
I would like to recommend “The Hands of the Emperor” by Victoria Goddard. It kind of reminds me of Katherine Addison’s “The Goblin Emperor”- it’s about the power of kindness and compassion. The hero is kind, complicated, wounded, lonely, good, giving… they’re also nearing retirement age, which resonates with me. ;-) You could say that nothing much happens in the book- a peaceful transition of power, good person finding respect from his family and hometown friends, and learning to recognize their own worth (and how they are a Hero, in the mythic sense of the word), the slow process of forging a just society from the ruins of an unjust one… but it’s engrossing, full of laugh-out-loud humor and passages of such beauty that they brought tears to my eyes.
I can also recommend the author’s Greenwing and Dart series, which are fantasy romps set in something vaguely resembling Georgian England… lots of fun though also full of heart.
My sister in law, Shannon Pufahl, had her first novel, “On Swift Horses”, published by Riverhead, an imprint of the Big Publisher. And truth be told, I’d recommend it whatever I thought of it (unless it was awful or problematic in some harmful way), because I love Shannon and I want her to succeed. But I am pleased to report it’s an excellent book. It’s not genre, it’s a literary novel set in late 50’s Southern California and Mexico and is a great choice for someone on your list who is interested in LGBQT issues and stories but it’s really great all around, beautifully written, touching and thoughtful.
Abney Park – steampunk the way it is meant to be.
Parasitology trilogy by Seanan McGuire (indeed, anything by her).
Raspberry Pi – because small, fast, cheap computers are so very useful. And so much fun!
I suspect you can work out how to find the above on the net.
I’d like to recommend the series by J.M. Guillen that starts with Rationality Zero: https://www.amazon.com/Rationality-Zero-Cyberpunk-Espionage-Eldritch/dp/B019QOOR54.
For me, it runs its tentacles over the same places so enjoyably tickled by Charles Stross’ Laundry series, and I’d quite selfishly like to see it really take off, so as to monetarily encourage the production of many, many more volumes.
ZOMG smells creates offbeat perfumes, along with soaps. I’ve tried a dozen of their scents so far, and only 1 or 2 didn’t make me smile. Many of their perfumes are themed; how can you go wrong with scents named things like Seagull Eating a Starfish or Captain of Industry?
If you enjoy eerie, horror, and/or weird fiction, Jon Padgett’s “The Secret of Ventrilloquism” changed the way I viewed short stories as well as narrative structure. It was delightfully unsettling at points and yet it eased me in so subtly that I didn’t realize I was terrified until it was too late.
Play Innovation. It’s a tableau building game like none other. I’ve been playing it consistently for 3 years now (I own a lot of board games). Thematically you’re advancing your civilization through the ages with points being awarded by ages that you dominate. There are two publishers. I prefer the art of the IELLO version, but it doesn’t have all of the expansions. So it depends if aesthetics matter to you or not.
Linda Johnson creates really lovely ceramic items. I own two of her bird-themed mugs and this year she has some very nice ornaments. http://www.lindajohnsonstudio.com.
Amanda Louise Spayd has created really cute and delightful creatures. http://www.amandalouise.com
Rowena Keall Walsh is a painter in Australia who makes the landscapes there even more beautiful. rowenakeallwalsh.com.au
Check out “Odd Jobs Mysteries” on Amazon by new author PL Hayes. Set in Denver, Colorado, a group of friends work together to solve some intriguing mysteries. These are easy reads with interesting characters and lots of fast-paced dialog.
I feel somewhat embarrassed to recommend Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited but one is allowed to check out 10 books at once and they have some authors that cannot be found anywhere else. Mackey Chandler, Terry Mancour, Randi Darren, William Arend, Christopher Nutall, Jamie Mcfarlane, and for those interested in something weird could I also recommend PS Powers and Michael Anderle whose first book was a spy, Vampire, werewolf, and more thriller mashup that made me laugh. Ten bucks a month to read a whole lot of books many of which I bought later because.
Thanks to Scalzi for allowing this space and to all of you who recommended books. As a natural speed reader I am always on the lookout for new authors. Happy holidays to all.
Last year, thanks to this very blog post, I discovered the beautiful papercuts at https://www.etsy.com/shop/Crafterall. I ordered an 8×10 print for my parents, which they had framed, and now have hanging in their living room. It’s a really nice, simple but beautiful piece of art. If you know someone who has a favorite island or body of water, I can highly recommend this as a unique gift.
If you love a knitter or crocheter, but are confused by all the yarn and sticks, Laura Mate makes beautiful embroidered project bags at https://www.etsy.com/shop/LauramateDesigns.
If you love a bullet journaler who loves to draw in their dot grid books, the women at MoxieDori make a “MoxieRule.” It’s a ruler set up to visualize the math of dividing pages into sections, so your journaler can spend less time counting. https://www.etsy.com/shop/MoxieDori
And like dchotin above, I also bought from Crafterall based on a post at this blog.
If you enjoy reading (and if you don’t how did you wander your way here?), I have a couple of recommendations.
The Affinities by Robert Charles Wilson https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22238149-the-affinities – No synopsis from me, just to say that the end of this book near destroyed me. I felt a pain and I felt seen by someone and something that had never seen me. Just conceptually it was a kick right in the gut.
The Diving Universe novels by Kristine Kathryn Rusch https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/6715610-diving-into-the-wreck (link to the first novel) – a series of books about the Boss who goes diving into derelict space vehicles. One time she finds more than she expected. The third book in the series is the most notable for me. Somehow the author manages to create a tension that the reader is not aware of, and it hits hard when the tension breaks.
I recommend smolrobots – it started off as a twitter account, You get regular smol robots that DO ONE THING ONLY (teabot brings tea, MrTbot brings tea and milk, there are a number of robots around mental health/accesibilty) and we (followers/fans) get into long discussions about could it also do this thing. They now sell merch on redbubble, have a pateron, are publishing a book and do one off commissions. https://twitter.com/smolrobots/status/1153562073021976576 has the proper links
I recommend Plum Brook Chocolates. They’re hideously expensive, but not necessarily overpriced. They are way too dark for me because I think a box is a serving and I have caffeine overdose symptoms, but I keep coming back because they are delicious and have a lovely mouth feel.
Betsie Withey is a fibre arts goddess & I love everything she makes. She specializes in free-hand embroidery on silk, & does stunning botanical designs that can be made into hair clips or pins, brooches, headbands, woven into (also handmade) scarves and lariats, and more! She’s also a colour wizard — I especially love her pimpernel series. Her Etsy shop is called The Faerie Market & it brings me so much joy! https://www.etsy.com/ca/shop/TheFaerieMarket
Long Home of the Soul is a superb science fiction novel written by J. Carl Denton. Set 111 years after 1984, this post-world detective novel brings back Big Brother in an other-worldly fascist state of the fresh New World Order. This stupendous allegory describes how our present is shaping the dystopian future we all hope never rises in this century, or ever. Four score from now, realizing the rarities of fresh fruit and water to the excesses of heat seeking handguns, synthetic salmon and flying cars, this masterpiece may put you into one of the government approved Prog Wards we never voted for. Don’t fret as the underground movement is as powerful and intelligent as the Mechanics who fix the stage of the world at large, for better or worse. Get pulled in and let this book glow in your hands as you discover the mind of the drunken detective Hawkins on a suicidal path for true justice within an all powerful regime. Will he get his day of justice or will they cover their tracks of him with their sweeping hammer? https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01HSMEAQW?ref_=k4w_embed_details_rh&tag=bing08-20&linkCode=kpp
I absolutely love L.D. Inman’s debut, Ryswyck. Fencing! Moral dilemmas! Courtesy! Really, just fun stuff and I’m very much looking forward to getting to read the next one. You can get your own copy and gift it to friends!
And if you dig the art on the Ryswyck cover or speculative art in general, check out more work by the inestimable Elizabeth Leggett at https://archwayportico.com.
Two recommendations for books here. First, Daniel Keys Moran is the author of one of my all-time favorite books, The Long Run:
He’s writing other stories set in that universe:
I will also recommend The Steerswoman by Rosemary Kirstein:
I will also echo the recommendation for Lois McMaster Bujold’s books; I am really enjoying the Penric series: