2020 Signed Books Update

Picture of the books that were subsequently signed.

For everyone who ordered books this year from Jay & Mary’s Book Center: All the books have been signed as of last night and will begin winging their way to you starting today. We ended the signing window a little early to compensate for mail being a little slower than usual this year due to COVID and the mail service being sabotaged for political purposes, so hopefully that will allow your books to arrive when they need to be somewhere.

I was also delighted to see that many of you took advantage of the “Buy Two, Get One on Scalzi” deal we were running this year, and was intrigued to see which other books and authors you chose to get. There was a pretty wide range within the genre and even outside of it. Which is cool.

Also, thank you all very much for taking advantage of that special; it made a difference for Jay & Mary’s in a tough year. I hope you are also supporting your local independent book store and other local businesses; now as much as ever it means a lot.

If you missed the annual signing and personalizing thing I do, but still want to get a signed book from me, don’t panic, because once I was done signing and personalizing books for people I also signed the rest of Jay & Mary’s Scalzi titles. So you can still get a signed book from me through them, although it will be necessarily be limited to what stock they have on hand.

— JS

The Four Movies That Have Made Me Ugly Cry, Part 2: Coco

Scene from Coco.

Athena ScalziYou had to have known this one would be on the list at some point, right? If this movie isn’t on your list, I question whether or not you have tear ducts at all. Disney, Pixar, and Disney-Pixar movies are exceptionally good at making people cry, no doubt. I’ve definitely cried at just about every single one of them, but Coco is the only one that made me sob for forty-five minutes straight in the theater.

I actually saw it twice in theaters, once with my ex and once with my family. I cried the second time too, with my family. Not as much, but still a pretty decent cry. But it was really that first time through that hit me like a truck. It’s just so damn tear-jerky.

Oh, this is a good time to include your OFFICIAL SPOILER WARNING!

With any Disney/Pixar movie, you can expect to cry at the end. The end always gets ya. And in Up’s case, the beginning, too. However, Coco was special in the fact that it made me cry from the middle all the way to the end. And cry disgustingly hard. I was wiping snot on my damn sleeves for thirty minutes straight.

As many of you know, I am extremely white. Just, the palest bitch around. However, part of my family is Mexican. And I’ve always been interested in Mexican culture, festivities, food, etc. (I mean, who doesn’t absolutely love Mexican food?) This list of interests includes the Day of the Dead! I’ve always wanted to celebrate it, like authentically celebrate it with my family, but never really have. My grandma makes tamales and the like, but that’s about it.

Despite this, Coco felt familiar to me in many ways. The familial love, that value of family above all, is something very apparent in my family, especially the Mexican side. I saw my own great grandma, or as my grandma calls her, mamacita (little mother), in Mama Coco. After my family and I saw the movie together, it was nice hearing my grandma talk about how much it reminded her of her past, her life in Chula Vista and her family.

Scene from Coco.

So, I think Coco hit me different for many reasons, personal reasons to do with family and the desire to be a part of a culture I’m not. This all of that is beside the point that the film has some seriously heart-wrenching moments.

From the moment Miguel finds out he’s related to Hector, to the part where Hector and Imelda send him back to the living world, to the scene where Coco walks across the marigold bridge with her parents, Coco is packed to the brim with emotional scenes that will at the very least make you tear up, if not full on cry. These tearful moments were so back-to-back, so relentless, that (like I previously mentioned) I cried from the middle all the way until the very end. The film just keeps hammering you with them!

Coco is regarded as one of the most beautiful animated films of all time, and while it’s true it is visually stunning, it is also beautiful in the way of writing. Disney-Pixar movies have storytelling and making people cry down to a science. Or maybe an art. An artful science. A scientific art? Yeah.

I truly love this movie, and if you haven’t seen it, I can’t recommend it enough. The music, the animation, the characters, everything about it is to die for. HAHA. Okay, you’re right, that was terrible.

Anyways, if you have seen this movie, tell me what you thought about it! Did you cry (your answer better be yes)? Did you love it? Let me know in the comments! And have a great day.

-AMS

Additional Technical Notes, 12/6/20

I noted last week that WordPress was transferring me over from its now-shuttering-VIP hosting tier to its business tier, and that there were likely to be a couple of changes, mostly not on your end but on mine. That switchover is (mostly) done, so I thought I’d give an update on things as they stand.

As promised, most of the changes were invisible on your end. The biggest change on this end is that I’m learning to use WordPress’ “Gutenberg” editor, which has a tiny bit of a learning curve and which doesn’t have a couple of functionality bits I typically use (like, for example, an easy way to put a border on a picture). On the other hand, once I do get the hang of it, there will be some cool things I can do with it. Also, uploading speed for posts is much, much, faster. So it will be worth making the effort. In the meantime, look! I can make photos with wavy borders!

Krissy, obviously.

Also, I’m talking with WordPress about making a couple of small changes. One, the return of an easy way to add borders on pictures; two, adding dates and bylines to posts. The photo bylines are fine but kludgy, so just being about to have “by” right up at the top will be nice.

There are a couple of weird technical issues I want to alert people to. The first is that Google has changed the way Web Fonts get served on the Chrome browser, which means that sometimes on loading a page on the site you’ll see different fonts than what you’re used to. Hopefully Google will fix how this functions, or I’ll have to figure how to download and put the fonts up on my end. But in the meantime, if you see different fonts, wait a minute (for the font to download) and then reload the page. Annoying I know, but it’s Google, not me.

The second is that the header images don’t appear to be automatically resizing anymore, which I think is related to some WordPress updating on their end (this would have been prior to my switching plans). We’re looking into it and it’s really not a big deal since the worst-case scenario is that I just go in and resize all my header photos and re-upload them. But if you’ve at all been wondering why the header photos look a little wonky, that’s why.

Oh, and: We’re looking at restoring a comment preview function, one that’s hopefully more up-to-date and functional than the one I had before.

These changes will take some small amount of time to implement, not in the least because it’s currently the holiday season, and also because I’m not the only person WordPress switched over to a new plan, so they’re having to deal with a bunch of clients. But these are mostly cosmetic things, not issues directly relating to the functionality of the site, so I’m perfectly willing to be patient about them.

On the mobile/AMP side, I implemented a new theme which I thought better reflected the site and is easier to use in mobile. If you dislike it, just snip off the “/amp” bit in the URL or have your mobile device force the desktop theme and everything will be fine again.

That’s where we are with the technical bits regarding the site at this moment. If any other momentus things happen, I’ll let you know. But by and large: This is it.

— JS

The Littlest Hibiscus Flower

Slow day here at the Scalzi Compound, so, here, have a picture of our hibiscus plant, which we potted and placed in the garage for the winter, so it wouldn’t die in the cold. The hibiscus is determined to keep doing its thing and is throwing out flowers — tiny flowers, relative to the ones it has in the summer, but even so. I admire its tenacity and endurance, and feel there’s probably a metaphor for all of us, trying to get through the waning days of 2020. Keep at it and find beauty where you can.

— JS

Whatever Holiday Gift Guide 2020, Day Five: Charities

For the last four days, the Whatever Gift Guide 2020 has been about helping you find the perfect gifts for friends and loved ones. But today I’d like to remind folks that the season is also about helping those in need. So this final day is for charities. If you’re looking for a place to make a donation — or know of a charitable organization that would gladly accept a donation — this is the place for it.

How to contribute to this thread:

1. Anyone can contribute. If you are associated with or work for a charity, tell us about the charity. If there’s a charity you regularly contribute to or like for philosophical reasons, share with the crowd. This is open to everyone.

2. Focus on non-political charities, please. Which is to say, charities whose primary mission is not political — so, for example, an advocacy group whose primary thrust is education but who also lobbies lawmakers would be fine, but a candidate or political party or political action committee is not. The idea here is charities that exist to help people and/or make the world a better place for all of us.

3. It’s okay to note personal fundraising (Indiegogo and GoFundMe campaigns, etc) for people in need. Also, other informal charities and fundraisers are fine, but please do your part to make sure you’re pointing people to a legitimate fundraiser and not a scam. I would suggest only suggesting campaigns that you can vouch for personally.

3. One post per person. In that post, you can list whatever charities you like, and more than one charity. Note also that the majority of Whatever’s readership is in the US/Canada, so I suggest focusing on charities available in North America.

4. Keep your description of the charity 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 charity and is interested but easily distracted.

5. You may include a link to a charity 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 people promoting charities they like will be deleted, in order to keep the comment thread useful for people looking to find charities to contribute to.

All right, then: It’s the season of giving. Tell us where to give to make this a better place.

My Experience With Getting a COVID Test

Athena ScalziI made it ten months into the pandemic without getting tested for COVID. Honestly, I think that’s a pretty good run.

I know several people that have to get tested frequently for work or school and whatnot, and I’m ridiculously glad that’s not been the case for me, because it was, shall we say, less than fun. In case you’re someone who has managed to avoid getting one so far, and want to know what it’s like (as I so desperately wanted to before I got mine), then read on!

Like many people, I have a handful of friends that I’ve hung out with regularly during the pandemic — little bubble that we’ve deemed “safe” (safe enough, anyway). However, unlike me, all my friends either go to school, or work outside their house, or live with roommates, or all of the above. So it probably wasn’t really that safe, even though I’ve cut down on hanging with even those I consider “safe” lately.

Still: one of these friends tested positive earlier this week. I figured I should get tested, too. My fear of getting tested, plus me not actually feeling sick at all, made me really hesitant to get tested. But I knew I had to do it. I couldn’t chicken out of something so important, even if I was terrified of it.

So I went to the urgent care two towns over and tried to walk in, but their door was locked. It was then that I noticed a sign on their front door that said their waiting room isn’t open. You had to scan a QR code, give them your information online, and wait for them to call you to come inside. I sat in my car and waited for a bit before they called me in.

I walked in, sat down, and was pretty much immediately asked to tip my head back. In every video I’ve seen of the test being administered, they always jammed the swab in really far back, but I’m pretty sure that in my case they didn’t really go that deep. Not that it didn’t feel like, really uncomfortable, but I’m pretty sure the videos make it look way worse than it normally is. And they also didn’t do it as roughly as what I’d seen in the videos.

It was definitely a little more than just uncomfortable, though: there’s no denying it hurt. I squeezed my eyes shut and literally groaned out loud from the feeling. The initial insertion was tolerable — it was more the ten seconds straight of twirling and swabbing the Q-tip around that burned and hurt. I immediately teared up when it was removed, but I wouldn’t say I cried. Much…

After I got tested, it hurt a little bit to breathe in through my nose. I think that’s probably just because it was like, irritated. It took a few hours before it stopped feeling funky. My friend that originally tested positive said it was uncomfortable and made her feel like she had to sneeze, but other than that wasn’t so bad. And my other friend that got one said the same, that it was just tickly for a second and didn’t hurt or feel bad afterwards. So I guess I’m just a huge baby or something.

So, yeah. Not the best experience I’ve ever had, but not bad enough to warrant not getting tested. If you think you have it, or have been exposed, get tested, even if it hurts a bit. It’s worth it.

If you’ve gotten tested, tell me about your experience! Am I really just a wimp or was it bad for you, too? Let me know in the comments, and have a great day.

-AMS

The Big Idea: Matthew Castleman

A near-lifelong, almost forgotten about idea of author Matthew Castleman’s ended up turning into his newest novella, Privateers of Mars. Read on to learn how a child’s drawing transmuted itself into a published work.

MATTHEW CASTLEMAN:

Mars will be free. It’s a trope well-trodden into the red sand, and for good reason. The Free Mars story that I hold dearest is in Babylon 5, one of many smaller stories tucked into the bigger arc. I’m sure lots of you have a personal favorite Mars rebellion. But what then? Mars breaks its Earth shackles, and what happens next year? Or next decade? What’s the Solar System look like in, oh, 200 years?

That’s the question I ask myself at 11 years old, sitting at a study desk in my dad’s library, waiting for him to close up. It’s a peaceful place to sit and read and sometimes pretend to do homework. This question enters my mind, and I draw a map of the Solar System. Most of the sci fi I knew was about exploring the stars, and what I’d read that was confined to our humble system was about exploration and early settlements on Mars and asteroids and various moons. But unless we stumble on an FTL breakthrough real fast, there’s going to be a long period in between, a period with a full-fledged Solar civilization.

That’s what I drew on my map. Earth and its territories, Mars and its territories, an independent Republic of Mercury just for fun, some city-states on asteroids and moons. I thought about Earth and Mars, hundreds of years after Martian independence. The phrase ‘cold war’ popped into my head. I technically was around for the end of the Cold War, but it was basically done by the time I was eating solid food. So I studied up on some history and talked to my parents. The phrase “demilitarized zone” entered my vocabulary. I looked at Jupiter, which had gone unadorned so far. I drew a dotted circle around it and called it the Jovian DMZ. How’d that happen? I didn’t know, but I liked the idea.

Six years later I’m a high school senior feeling my eyes start to glaze as I type an essay, and I’ve just found an old piece of paper with a map I drew of the solar system. I haven’t really started ‘writing’ much at this point, but my worldbuilding habit’s in full flower, so I look at this map and create a timeline of events leading up to it, starting from barely-the-future all the way to somewhere in the 2600’s. In case you’re wondering how wild I was in high school.

Skip to senior year of college. I’m planning to run a game of Alternity, the old sci fi sister-game to D&D. I need a setting for my friends to adventure in, and so this world that’s only existed in my brain and a couple documents for a decade encounters some other minds. Based on their experiences and feedback, I start tweaking and editing it. Then other college concerns take over and it sits around a while more.

In 2010, I finally decide to write a story in this world. I still have the map. I think about Big Story Characters – admirals, ambassadors, prime ministers, folk heroes-to-be. After a few false starts, I think about the long journey this world’s taken, tucked away in my head. I think about all the real world events that happened in that time. And that nobody I knew had jack to do with any of them. I scrap my character sketches, and collect a little crew of wanderers doing their best to dodge the swings of interplanetary titans and make it back to port. I’ve always loved the ‘little band of space misfits’ style, but I come to better understand why as I write a story called ‘Ceres Lament.’

The at-all-eyed among you may’ve noticed that 2010 occurred 10 years ago. My story, like so many stories, went on a series of quests to first readers, and occasional senior editors, at a variety of science fictional publications. My life took me a whole lot of places and I did a whole lot of stuff, and in 2018 I got word that after its *cough*th submission, ‘Ceres Lament’ had been accepted for publication. As soon as I heard, I started writing a follow up. One thing led to another and those two things led to a third thing, and what was going to be a short story became a novella. 

Privateers of Mars has existed in some form for a long time, and my aim for the narrative was similar – the scope of history is massive, and every poor little collection of souls straggling their way through it has to contend with their slice as best they can. Just as I have through my brief time hunkering in the wings of the world stage as the stars enter and exit, doing whatever little bits I can to steer the performance in good directions. Jacob Rhys and his privateers embody the contradictions most of us live – they’re smart but struggle to comprehend the world, badass yet vulnerable, working together like a machine whose parts really like snarking and yelling at each other. As the great Deep Purple once said: Come on, let’s go space truckin’.

—-

Privateers of Mars: Amazon

Read an excerpt here. Visit the author’s website. Follow him on Facebook and Instagram.

Whatever Holiday Gift Guide 2020, Day Four: Fan Favorites!

Whatever Holiday Gift Guide 2020: Fan Favorites

For the first three days of the Whatever Gift Guide 2020, 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, 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. If they are from or available in other countries, please note that!

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.

A Tale of Billboards and Burritos

First, you should know that Amazon took out a big damn ad celebrating The Last Emperox and put it up in midtown New York, and that got the social media folks at Tor books pretty excited.

So naturally, I tried to press my advantage.

The folks at Tor offered an alternative.

I was, naturally, amenable to these terms.

Fast forward to later in the day… and this happened.

Turns out… they had.

To which I was appropriately appreciative.

But wait, there’s more!

The folks at Tor thought that was pretty great, actually.

But there was one more way I wanted to say thank you.

And there you have it, a holiday story with billboards, social media, Mexican food and charitable giving. Not a bad day on the Internet, I have to say.

— JS

Not Necessarily a Miracle on 34th Street

A big ad for my book on 34th street in New York City.

But still lovely to see: A big ‘ol advertisement for The Last Emperox in NYC, through the good graces of Amazon, which included the book in its annual Best Books of 2020 list, along with, of course, many other very worthy tomes. You can see the science fiction and fantasy selections here, if you have an interest in such things, and inasmuch as you’re visiting here, it’s a reasonably good bet that you might.

Not gonna lie, this little bit of egoboo feel good right now, since I’m running a smidge late on the new book. It’s a reminder that, hey, I am in fact pretty good at this whole writing thing. Uuuuuhh, sometimes.

Speaking of which, back to it.

— JS

Whatever Holiday Gift Guide 2020, Day Three: Arts, Crafts, Music and More

Whatever Holiday Gift Guide 2020: Other Creators

The Whatever Holiday Gift Guide 2020 continues, and today we move away from books and focus on other gifts and crafts — which you can take to mean just about any other sort of thing a creative person might make: Music, art, knitting, jewelry, artisan foodstuffs and so on. These can be great, unique gifts for special folks in your life, and things you can’t just get down at the mall. I hope you see some cool stuff here.

Please note that the comment thread today is only for creators to post about their gifts for sale; please do not leave other comments, as they will be snipped out to keep the thread from getting cluttered. Thanks!

Creators: Here’s how to post in this thread. Please follow these directions!

1. Creators (of things other than books) only. This is an intentionally expansive category, so if you’ve made something and have it available for the public to try or buy, you can probably post about in this thread. The exception to this is books (including comics and graphic novels), which have two previously existing threads, one for traditionally-published works and one for non-traditionally published works (Note: if you are an author and also create other stuff, you may promote that other stuff today). Don’t post if you are not the creator of the thing you want to promote, please.

2. Personally-created and completed works only. This thread is specifically for artists and creators who are making their own unique works. Mass-producible things like CDs, buttons or T-shirts are acceptable if you’ve personally created what’s on it. But please don’t use this thread for things that were created by others, which you happen to sell. Likewise, do not post about works in progress, even if you’re posting them publicly elsewhere. Remember that this is supposed to be a gift guide, and that these are things meant to be given to other people. Also, don’t just promote yourself unless you have something to sell or provide, that others may give as a gift.

3. One post per creator. In that post, you can list whatever creations of yours you like, but allow me to suggest you focus on your most recent creation. Note also that the majority of Whatever’s readership is in the US/Canada, so I suggest focusing on things available in North America. If you are elsewhere and your work is available there, please note it.

4. Keep your description of your 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 your 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. As noted above, comment posts that are not from creators promoting their work as specified above will be deleted, in order to keep the comment thread useful for people looking to find interesting work.

Now: Tell us about your stuff!

Tomorrow: Fan Favorites!

A Small Technical Note

Last night WordPress, which hosts Whatever, switched me over to a new plan, which has additional and/or different functionality from my previous plan. Most of this functionality relates to the back end of the site, which no one except me and Athena see, but there are a couple of minor things on your end that you might notice being different, and some functionality that’s changed or at the moment is not working — for example, at the moment the sidebar search function isn’t working, and the comments have lost their preview button (apparently I was using a preview function that was deprecated, like, nine years ago).

In the short-term (i.e., the next few days), if you notice changed/different/broken functionality, don’t worry and don’t panic. I know about it and will be addressing it in reasonably short order. Because I’m running the Holiday Gift Guide at the moment, I don’t want to futz with things too dramatically until it’s done, but I may tweak a few things here and there. This is simply to let you know I’m aware a couple of things might be wonky.

The good news is, in the long run, this backend switchover is going to allow me to have more and better functionality for the site, and should make it easier to integrate new features here. So we have that going for us, which is nice.

And now, back to our regularly-scheduled Whatever —

— JS

Guest Post: Why You Should Run For (Local) Office, by Adrienne Martini

The cover to

Hey, did you know we had an election last month? Seems so long ago now, I know, but it’s true! And in the wake of the national, state and local elections — and the attendant hoofraw about the results — we here in the US have been getting a bit of a refresher in what it means to run for office and to be part of the political process. Author Adrienne Martini knows just a little about this: she ran for local office, and then chronicled the experience in her 2020 memoir Somebody’s Gotta Do It. Now she’s here to talk a little bit about that experience, and why it’s something you might consider thinking about as well.

ADRIENNE MARTINI:

If nothing else, we can be thankful that the last four years provided a crash course in civics. From 2016 until now, we’ve struggled to understand the difference between a law and a norm and how gray the area in-between can be. For the first time in a very long time, the emoluments clause in the Constitution’s first article was a thing people cared about. To say nothing about our discourse into the President’s pardon power.

(We’ve also learned a fair bit about which of our coping strategies will cause long-term damage but that is a discussion for another day.)

But this post — thanks to John and Athena for letting me hijack Whatever — isn’t about national politics. No matter how you feel about how 2020 turned out, the next chance you’ll have to change the federal government won’t happen for two years. In 2022, our entire country will vote on its house rep and one-third of the country will choose a senator. The presidency won’t be up for grabs again until 2024. Two years is forever from now. Four years is so far out on the time horizon as to be meaningless.

Which is fine, really, because these aren’t the elected positions that have the most impact on your daily life. Really. While a national office is great for influencing policy in broad strokes and between nations, it is the wrong instrument for local details. State, county, municipality, township, and/or parish offices are where the rubber meets the road and ensures that the road is plowed and resurfaced. Many of those offices will be up for grabs in November 2021.

You — yes, you — should consider running for one of them. Or supporting someone who is running for one of them. Or, at the very, very (very) least, paying enough attention to this election to choose a candidate to vote for.

Without getting too far into the weeds, local government ensures that the things that make quasi-civilized life possible function. Do you like having your green spaces green and your watersheds blue? Are you a fan of not letting the elderly and infirm starve or freeze? Do you think that there are problems with your community’s policing? How do you feel about potholes and emergency services? Are you concerned about how those who aren’t straight, white, and cis-gendered are treated? And, most important right now: are you happy with how your locality has handled COVID and mask mandates and distance learning?

The framework for how every single one of these issues in your community is controlled by local boards, assemblies, and councils. Nearly all of them have elected members, which gives you an opportunity to make real changes if you think they are doing it wrong. I can promise you that your service will make a difference in the place where you live and to the people you know.

That’s a promise I can make because I hold a seat on the Otsego (NY) County Board of Representatives — and my butt has been in it for more than three years now. And, just as a point of fact, my opponent from that race still hasn’t conceded. It’s not a requirement for the transfer of power, no matter what you might be led to believe.

The idea of me running for public office is one that I would have laughed at five years ago. It never dawned on me that a) local office is important and b) anyone can and should run for one. My resume as a newspaper reporter turned freelance writer turned teacher turned magazine editor does not scream political animal. My biggest relevant experience is that I give a damn about other people and am willing to figure problems out. This is a feature and not a bug. Our system needs fewer politicians and more everyday citizens in it.

For me, the presidential election of 2016 starkly illustrated how divorced so many of us had become from the political process. It also showed me that democracy doesn’t just happen, nor is it inevitable. There is always work to be done in the communities where we live.

I wrote all about campaigning, fundraising, and governing in Somebody’s Gotta Do It: Why Cursing at the News Won’t Save the Nation, but Your Name on a Local Ballot Can. While I have zero qualms about a moment of self-promotion — you should read my book for the 8,000 words on coroners, if nothing else — my goal goes beyond shifting units. The national offices consume all of our attention but aren’t where the action is. This coming year is the time to look homeward and make real, sustainable progress. For just about any issue a person could care about, there is a local office in charge of it.

The most effective way to make your voice heard is to make sure your butt (or the butt of someone you support) is in that chair after November 2021. The country needs a wide variety of people in power to ensure that the diversity of experiences can be represented, rather than defaulting to the things that worry the same old white dudes.

If I can do it, you can, too. And I promise it will be worth it.

For more information about which local offices will be up in 2021 in your community, check out https://www.wherecanirun.org/. This site is run by an organization called Run for Something, who is dedicated to filling local offices with progressive candidates. You may or may not agree with their stand but the tool is incredibly useful. You can also contact your local (usually but not always county-based) party office for more information.

Adrienne Martini is a writer and editor. She also represents District 12 of Otsego County, New York. Her most recent book Somebody’s Gotta Do It is both a how-to and a why-you-should run for local office.

Whatever Holiday Gift Guide 2020, Day Two: Non-Traditionally Published Books

Whatever Holiday Gift Guide 2020: Non-Traditionally Published Books

Today is Day Two of the Whatever Holiday Gift Guide 2020, and today the focus is on Non-Traditionally Published Books: Self-published works, electronically-exclusive books, books from micro presses, books released outside the usual environs of the publishing world, and so on. Hey, I put my first novel up on this very Web site years ago and told people to send me a dollar if they liked it. Look where it got me. I hope you find some good stuff today.

Please note that the comment thread today is only for non-traditional authors and editors to post about their books; please do not leave other comments, as they will be snipped out to keep the thread from getting cluttered. Thanks!

Authors/editors: Here’s how to post in this thread. Please follow these directions!

1. Authors and editors of non-traditionally published books only. This includes comics and graphic novels, as well as non-fiction books and audiobooks. If your book has been traditionally published — available in bookstores on a returnable basis — post about your book in the thread that went up yesterday (if you are in doubt, assume you are non-traditionally published and post here). If you are a creator in another form or medium, your thread is coming tomorrow. Don’t post if you are not the author or editor, please.

2. Completed works only. Do not post about works in progress, even if you’re posting them publicly. Remember that this is supposed to be a gift guide, and that these are things meant to be given to other people. Likewise, don’t just promote yourself unless you have something to sell or provide, that others may give as a gift.

3. One post per author. In that post, you can list whatever books of yours you like, but allow me to suggest you focus on your most recent book. Note also that the majority of Whatever’s readership is in the US/Canada, so I suggest focusing on books available in North America. If your book is only available in the UK or some other country, please let people know!

4. Keep your description of your book 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 your book and is interested but easily distracted.

5. You may include a link to a bookseller 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. As noted above, comment posts that are not from authors/editors promoting their books as specified above will be deleted, in order to keep the comment thread useful for people looking to find interesting books.

Now: Tell us about your book!

Tomorrow (12/2): Other creators (musicians, artists, crafters, etc!)

First Snow of the Season

A light dusting of snow on the ground.

The weather forecast was that the snow would begin this evening, but when has 2020 waited for anything? It started this morning and while it’s not been in great amounts, it also never really stopped coming. And thus: lots of white to welcome in December. Which apparently will shoo it away quickly — there will be several days of above freezing temperatures if the forecasts are correct — but from now on, snow is likely never too far away.

Fine. Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.

— JS

Whatever Holiday Gift Guide 2020, Day One: Traditionally Published Books

Whatever Holiday Gift Guide 2020: Traditionally Published Books

Welcome to the first day of the Whatever Shopping Guide 2020 — Our way of helping you folks learn about cool creative gifts for the holidays, straight from the folks who have created them.

Today’s featured products are traditionally published books (including graphic novels and audiobooks); that is, books put out by publishers who ship books to stores on a returnable basis. In the comment thread below, authors and editors of these books will tell you a little bit about their latest and/or greatest books so that you will be enticed to get that book for yourself or loved ones this holiday season. Because, hey: Books are spectacular gifts. Enjoy your browsing, and we hope you find the perfect book!

Please note that the comment thread today is only for authors and editors to post about their books; please do not leave other comments, as they will be snipped out to keep the thread from getting cluttered. Thanks!

Authors/editors: Here’s how to post in this thread. Please follow these directions!

1. Authors and editors only, books only (including audiobooks). There will be other threads for other stuff, later in the week. Any type of book is fine: Fiction, non-fiction, graphic novels, etc. If you are not the author/editor of the book you’re posting about, don’t post. This is for authors and editors only.

2. For printed books, they must be currently in print (i.e., published before 12/31/20) and available on a returnable basis at bookstores and at least one of the following three online bookstores: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Powell’s. This is so people can find your book when they go looking for it. For audiobooks, they must be professionally published (no self-produced, self-published audiobooks) and at least available through Amazon/Audible. If your book isn’t available as described, or if you’re not sure, wait for the shopping guide for non-traditional books, which will go up tomorrow. 

3. One post per author. In that post, you can list whatever books of yours you like (as long as it meets the criteria in point 2), but allow me to suggest you focus on your most recent book. Note also that the majority of Whatever’s readership is in the US/Canada, so I suggest focusing on books currently available in North America (if your book is available only in the UK or elsewhere, please note that).

4. Keep your description of your book 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 your book and is interested but easily distracted.

5. You may include a link to a bookseller 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. As noted above, comment posts that are not from authors/editors promoting their books as specified above will be deleted, in order to keep the comment thread useful for people looking to find interesting books.

Got it? Excellent. Then tell the folks about your book! And tell your author friends about this thread so they can come around as well.

Tomorrow (12/1/20): Non-traditional books!

The Four Movies That Have Made Me Ugly Cry, Part One: The Fault in Our Stars

Ansel Elgort and Shailene Woodley in

Athena ScalziLike most teen girls in the 2010s, I was enamored with The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green. I read it during my freshman year of high school, and the movie came out when I was a sophomore. I also met John Green when I was a sophomore at NerdCon, so that was like, really well-timed (and also an awesome convention and experience all around)!

Before I continue, there will be spoilers for both the book and the movie in this post, though to be fair it’s the same spoiler? Since the movie follows the book pretty decently? Not perfectly of course, but not a bad adaptation in my opinion. Anyways, yes, here is your OFFICIAL SPOILER WARNING.

The Fault in Our Stars was the first book that ever made me cry. I was sitting on my bed reading it, feeling totally fine. Things weren’t going well for Augustus but I knew he was the main love interest so he was safe! No author would ever kill a character that essential, right? Right? The next thing I knew, Augustus was dead and I burst into tears. I ran into my dad’s office down the hall and cried to him about a fictional boy he knew nothing about but I’ll be damned if he didn’t handle my hysterical crying well.

I loved the book. I loved Augustus. I loved the love that he and Hazel had. I loved the book so much that I did an art project for class involving the iconic speech bubbles that say “Okay.” and I memorized the quote about the bigger and smaller infinities of infinite numbers between numbers. I let my friends borrow my copy just so they could join in on the awesomeness that is The Fault in Our Stars.

So, naturally, I was excited for the movie to come out. I knew my mom wasn’t going to read the book, but I figured I could drag her to the movies with me to see it. And little did I know this movie would spark my love of Ansel Elgort, who is not only a good actor but also has a music career not many people know about (you should totally check out “Supernova“).

When we went to the theater, there was a group of six girls my age in the row behind us. I knew that I was about to hear an onslaught of crying. Little did I know I’d be contributing. Not only contributing, but crying so hard that I had to gasp for air between sobs.

There are many, many, many movies that have made me cry. But this was different. I was crying to the point that I was holding my breath in an attempt to stop bawling so much. It hurt how hard I cried.

I haven’t seen the movie since I saw it in theaters, and I never reread the book, either. Some things just hit you hard the first time around, and then after you see it enough times, you become a little numb to it. And I didn’t want that to happen with The Fault in Our Stars. I want it to be forever in my memory as something so impactful that it made me cry when reading it and sob while watching it. I don’t want to be numb to the tragic loss of Augustus Waters, or get used to the scene of Hazel reading the eulogy at his funeral. I want to preserve the sadness, the emotions that were in evoked in me that had never been before.

Like I said, there’s a lot of movies I cry at, but this is one of four that have turned me into a teary, snotty mess. Did you cry from it? Did you like the book or the movie better? Don’t you just adore Augustus? Let me know in the comments, and have a great day!

-AMS

Whatever Holiday Gift Guide 2020 Starts Monday!

Graphic for the Whatever Holiday Gift Guide 2020

John ScalziEvery year as the holiday season begins I run a gift guide for the holidays, and over the years it’s been quite successful: Lots of people have found out about excellent books and crafts and charities and what have you, making for excellent gift-giving opportunities during the holiday season. I’ve decided to do it again this year.

So: Starting Monday, November 30, the Whatever Holiday Gift Guide returns! If you’re a writer or other creator, this will be an excellent time to promote your work on a site which gets tens of thousands of viewers daily, almost all of whom will be interested in stuff for the holidays. If you’re someone looking to give gifts, you’ll see lots of excellent ideas. And you’ll also have a day to suggest stuff from other folks too. Everybody wins!

To give you all time to prepare, here’s the schedule of what will be promoted on which days:

Monday, November 30: Traditionally Published Authors — If your work is being published by a publisher a) who is not you and b) gets your books into actual, physical bookstores on a returnable basis, this is your day to tell people about your books. This includes comics/graphic novels and audiobooks.

Tuesday, December 1: Non-Traditionally Published Authors — Self-published? Electronically published? Or other? This is your day. This also includes comics/graphic novels and audiobooks.

Wednesday, December 2: Other Creators — Artists, knitters, jewelers, musicians, and anyone who has cool stuff to sell this holiday season, this will be the day to show off your creations.

Thursday, December 3: Fan Favorite Day — Not an author/artist/musician/other creator but know about some really cool stuff you think people will want to know about for the holidays? Share! Share with the crowd!

Friday, December 4: Charities — If you are involved in a charity, or have a favorite charity you’d like to let people know about, this is the day to do it.

If you have questions about how all of this will work, go ahead and ask them in the comment thread (Don’t start promoting your stuff today — it’s not time yet), although I will note that specific instructions for each day will appear on that day. Don’t worry, it’ll be pretty easy. Thanks and feel free to share this post with creative folks who will have things to sell this holiday season.

— JS

A Short Note on Thanksgiving Day

Notwithstanding the existential trash fire that 2020 has been on a global and national scale, I can say that on a personal level I have had a lot to be thankful for, and that today I am going to set aside a little time to reflect on that, in between, of course, stuffing myself silly with food. I hope that you also have had things to be thankful for in 2020, and that you set aside a little time to reflect on them as well. And also stuff yourself silly.

Have a good Thanksgiving, folks. See you tomorrow.

— JS

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