I discovered a ton of new favorite authors this year!

Those who know me know that I enjoy a wide range of genres. I’m intrigued by writing that’s unique: new concepts, subversions of expectations, genre blending. Interestingly enough, most of the books that fit my preferences this year came from independent authors.

This list covers a range of genres. Comparing most of these books to each other would be impossible, so they’re organized alphabetically by title instead of numerically. If you’d like to read more, each heading links to my review of that book.

Without further ado, here are my favorite reads of 2018.

Continue reading “Favorite Reads of 2018”

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Corrupt GVEA Logo

One of the hallmarks of my writing is an unflinching appraisal of the problems within our society, and what it says about where we’re headed. This commentary is heavily influenced by my own experiences. Enraging, traumatic, frustrating or humorous, in the end it’s all story fuel one way or another. What follows is a humorous look at some recent battles with my electric company.

Inspiration struck last night when I noticed that my ISP hadn’t charged my credit card when they should have.
GCI rep: We’d be happy to look into that for you. What’s your passcode?
Me: Heck if I know. I only have to call you guys once every couple of years. I’m really surprised your new e-bill system lost my payment– you guys are usually the opposite of GVEA.

For reference, Golden Valley Electric Association is my electric company and the gold standard of suck. Shortly after that conversation with my ISP’s billing department, my neighborhood was struck by a blackout.

GVEA: THAT’S for having the gall to criticize our broken payment system and lousy service.
Me: For freak’s sake, it’s barely even windy!
GVEA: I’m sorry, our outage line is currently out of service.

Continue reading “Commonplace Corruption”

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Johnny always was an odd kid.

He got beaten at school almost as much as he did at home– and that was saying something, since he rarely left home without fresh bruises. The beatings gave him a fatalistic streak, but they never seemed to break his spirit. Even when he was spitting out teeth, he always had a middle finger up and a defiant “Fuck you!” on his lips.

We lost touch after high school. I went into the trades, and Johnny went wherever kids raised by violent single dads go. I heard he got busted for something stupid and did a stretch in Arizona. I heard he found true love, got a minimum wage job and tried to go straight. Found out he had cancer. Lost his girlfriend after he tried to kill himself. After that, I didn’t hear about Johnny anymore.

When an angular shadow shambled out of a dark alley, staggered into me, and darted away crowing with glee and waving my wallet, I hadn’t thought of Johnny in years.

Continue reading “Flash Fiction: Middle Finger to the World”

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Writing from a state of exhaustion

As a night owl and someone who typically requires nine hours of sleep, I’m well acquainted with exhaustion. It’s been a constant companion for most of my life.

In addition, exhaustion and depression go hand in hand for me. Exhaustion sucks the light out of life. The world becomes a grey, flat place where I can’t remember being happy. The future is a grey landscape, dull and pointless, stretching on without end. I can’t imagine enjoying anything, and I can’t imagine that changing.

You might scoff and assume that this is laughably easy to cure. In my case, you’d be wrong.

Continue reading “Writing From A State of Exhaustion”

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Tweet advocation the privatization of libraries.

On Saturday July 21st, 2018, Forbes triggered a flood of outrage from the literary, academic, and library-using communities by publishing an opinion piece advocating for the replacement of libraries with for-profit retail outlets. Specifically, Amazon retail outlets. While Forbes has since pulled the article, it can still be found here.

The owner of this controversial opinion is Chair of the Department of Economics at LIU Post and guy whose name sounds like someone’s about to unleash an army of evil dead, Panos Mourdoukoutas.

In a piece that sounds like it was written by a fourth grader badly in need of an editor, Mourdoukoutas argues that libraries have become obsolete. Their services are provided by other (coincidentally not free of charge) entities like Amazon and Starbucks. No, really. I’m not joking. Stop laughing.

Continue reading “The Library Question”

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Conflict ahead sign

Let’s talk believable antagonists and realistic sources of conflict.

I’m not going to get into the four types of conflict, or six, or however many it is now. I am going to talk about creating a believable antagonistic force, rather than one of those cardboard caricature, source-of-all-evil bad guys.

The concept of a having one person be the source of all of a story’s conflict has always seemed overly simple to me. Either the antagonist has help, or the protagonist’s problems are going to be disappointingly simple to solve. A lone enemy, unaided, is easy to overcome.

Continue reading “Antagonistic Forces”

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You should be writing. No. Seriously.

I see a lot of motivational posters aimed at authors. You know the ones: a movie character pointing out that you should be writing. Or maybe it’s a pop culture icon. Or maybe the message is framed as a comic strip. Or maybe it’s just a blank page with the words “You should be writing!” emblazoned across it.

And while some are fairly benign, many seem designed to guilt the viewer. I don’t know about you, but I write to feel free of my daily obligations. Writing is my own world, a world free of deadlines and restrictions. The concept of feeling guilty because I haven’t put enough words on paper lately is anathema to the whole reason I write.

Why is it that we, as authors and as a society, conflate guilt with motivation?

Continue reading “Motivation vs Guilt”

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Today on the author blog, I’m going to do something different. What follows is the first page of a short story that will be released as part of an anthology this summer. Hel’s Fury is set in Fairbanks, Alaska, in a dystopian near future. And yes, the spelling is deliberate.

A Taste of Things to Come: Hel’s Fury

As Fairbanks Police Captain Nathan Spencer waded through the soggy snow toward the crime scene, a growing sense of dread supplanted his annoyance at being called out first thing on a Monday morning. Dozens of other pairs of boots had already made the same journey, clearing a wide path from the parking area to the underside of the nearby Steese Highway bridge.

To his right the Chatanika River rushed by, muddied by year-round mining operations upstream. A forest of scraggly black spruce marched off into the pre-dawn dimness on the far bank. To his left, a handful of Alaska State Trooper SUVs and several Fairbanks Police cars sat in the parking lot of an abandoned campground. Ravens circled overhead.

The crime scene was thirty-some miles northeast of Fairbanks, and fell under the Troopers’ jurisdiction. Spencer silently cursed whatever circumstance had connected the scene to one of the FPD’s many open cases.

A FPD detective named Henriksen met him at the edge of the highway overpass, expression grim.

“This had better be good,” Spencer snapped. “I’m going to be pissed if you called me all the way out here just because someone strung up a couple more drunks.”

The detective grimaced. “These weren’t drunks. That’s why I called you. These are some of ours.”

Continue reading “Sneak Preview: Hel’s Fury”

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Content warning: this post discusses suicide, depression, traumatic events, and Facebook’s unwillingness to protect their users from credible threats.

Hello folks! I’m guessing that by now most of you have heard about Facebook’s new “proactive suicide detection” AI. Reactions have ranged from relief to disbelief to outright horror, but Facebook has already made it abundantly clear how little it cares about users’ privacy. It will not be possible to opt out of monitoring while continuing to use the platform.

Facebook says it trained the AI by finding patterns in the words and imagery used in posts, videos, and live streams that have been manually reported as a suicide risk in the past. It also looks for comments like “Are you OK?” and “Do you need help?” The AI will scan all posts for patterns that seem to indicate suicidal thoughts and forward “worrisome” posts to Facebook’s human moderators. “When necessary” the program will send mental health resources to the user or their friends, or contact local first responders.

Sounds fantastic, right? Well, at least if you don’t mind a Facebook algorithm and a team of dubiously qualified human moderators snooping through your most personal posts– regardless of your privacy settings. Aside from the fact that this is a massive violation of users’ privacy, here’s why this might not be such a great idea.

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