sci-fi

Check-in and regular features

Greetings, I’m night blogging again! Being on the West Coast, it seems like I get to it a lot later than everyone else. But I come bearing news.

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Chris and Ling travel the world in search of rare, exquisite curiosities, but treasure hunting is rife with danger and comes with a price. In order to retrieve a lost treasure deep within a perilous mountain, Chris hires on a vampire. But traveling with a predator comes with its own risks, and their venture may collapse into absolute loss unless they can each find the opportunity in one another.

I’m excited to announce that Convergence will be released in the second Proud to be a Vampire collection on October 8th. It’s listed here on Goodreads. The story was a lot of fun to write, and I pitched it as vampires meets tomb raiders–I’d love to write more in that universe at some point.

In more delightful news, Signal to Noise will be available in audiobook format starting next year. I was really pleased to agree to that offer! Details aren’t firm yet, but I’ll be signing the addendum to my contract for the audiobook rights very soon. It’s tentatively slated for June 15, 2014 availability.

But wait–there’s more! Body Option has been accepted for Less Than Three’s mecha anthology, A Loose Screw. I got a contract to print up, but sadly my printer has notified me it’s out of ink, the jerk. I suppose I’ll have to schlep over to Office Depot some time this week.

Time to set up regular blog content over here, and stick to some kind of weekly schedule. It’s been too long since I updated, and regular features might keep me on track. Of course, it’s figuring out what kind of regular content would work here that’s been giving me a bit of a hang-up.

Manicure Monday wasn’t a good fit for the author blog, so I’m considering a topic of the week, intermittent daily anecdote, book reviews, WIP Wednesday, and Free Fiction Friday (an excerpt) – pending my publisher’s approval on that last. Four to five regular features should give me something to blog about every other day or so. I can also do some kind of “Ask the Author” feature but I may wait until there’s a bit more traffic. πŸ˜‰

If WIP Wednesday sounds good to you, hit me up with a comment, and tomorrow you’ll get to see a clip from one of my works in progress!

Pacific Rim was not a romance, and didn’t need to be

Over the weekend, I saw Pacific Rim with my BFF and girlfriend. My anticipation for this movie has been building up for months–basically ever since I saw the first trailer and heard a very familiar, GLaDOS-esque voice for the computer interface. It was, in fact, Ellen McLain, who voiced GLaDOS in the Portal games. (Not a spoiler.)

The rest of this reaction post will contain spoilers.

Also, this post contains my opinions and reactions to the movie. I hate that something so inherent as far as I’m concerned isn’t necessarily obvious, but there you go.

The movie promised Big Damn Monsters, and Big Damn Heroes – by way of Giant Robot. It delivered on that from the outset, and kept delivering right up until the wrap. This movie never promised to be more than a Giant Robots vs Big Damn Monsters movie, yet it delivered so much more.

I’ve already seen some talk about shipping Raleigh Becket and Mako Mori, and to those people I might suggest they’ve entirely missed the point of the movie. It wasn’t a romance. Furthermore, it didn’t need to be a romance. And two people can share a deep, emotional bond and life-threatening experiences that they overcome, together, to subsequently ride a helicopter into the sunset without the vaguest promise of a future romance between them.

Guillermo del Toro did this on purpose, and it’s something that is pretty revolutionary for a summer blockbuster film. And make no mistake about it, this is bred and designed to be a summer blockbuster, and it does it very well. Two hours of giant robots vs monsters is total popcorn fare, and oen of my only complaints was that I wanted more–more Crimson Typhoon, more Cherno Alpha, more Coyote Tango that didn’t even make it into the movie. More Stacker Pentecost, who brings nothing to the drift: no ego, no past, no baggage. More of the Wu triplets, more of the unyielding Russian Kaidonovsky team who held their wall for six years undefeated against all takers. There’s allegedly about an hour of footage that got left on the cutting room floor in del Toro’s drive to pare the movie down to a two-hour release, and I hope beyond hope that we’ll get to see it all.

Before I dive back into the fantastic platonic relationship that del Toro built, and his two leads represented on screen so well, I want to touch on all the high points that the movie realized for me, personally. I went into this movie with such high expectations, such keen anticipation, with each of my friends who saw it before me only whetting that further, once or twice I thought to myself “surely, it can’t live up to all I hope it will be.”

It did. It definitely did. It had everything I wanted and more. Let me break it down.

GIANT FUCKING ROBOTS.
They epitomized FUCK YEAH MECHA in every regard. The design, the color, the vibrancy, the weapons … the breathtaking scale of them. To me, robots are self-guided, and mecha, or suits, Gundams, whatever you want to call them require pilots. These were mecha being piloted by people, real human beings, and they were epic in scale and completely real in the way they came across onscreen. The excited geek in me who put together a Deathscythe Hell Gundam kit with only Japanese instructions fifteen years ago was completely hyped by all the mecha detail. I didn’t think about how much thought and planning went into the physics of them, the blueprints, the design, mapping out the way they moved–it was up there in all its megaton glory, bringing mecha to live-action life.

BIG DAMN KAIJU.
I have to acknowledge the two most massive, obvious draws for the film. The kaiju (monsters) really delivered. They were all very different, and each of them were realized to the last detail. Reflecting back on it, you could tell that a lot of production, a lot of thought, went into each one–like any good mecha story, the monsters had distinct traits and characteristics, evocative, individual names that reflected their traits (Knifehead!), different classifications – in this case, they were categorized One through Four, Four being a massive kaiju that dwarfed any that had come before. They movied and attacked in varied ways, and there was a clear evolution in the way they fought and learned over time.

Breathtaking visuals.
If this movie doesn’t receive some kind of Oscar nod for the stunning visual effects, the amazing cinematography, and the strong use of color, it will be a sick Hollywood snub. Then again, it wouldn’t be the first time an action and/or sci-fi movie has been passed over for critical acclaim. Pacific Rim was a fully immersing visual experience that, even without 3D, really leapt out of the screen and wrapped you in what was going on.

The female character has the strongest character arc.
There are enough movies depicting the moving journey of the young man overcoming his hardships to triumph in the end. We’ve seen it plenty of times, okay? And though Raleigh Becket has his own share of troubles to work through, in many ways they are an afterthought, a sub-plot, to Mako Mori’s journey. We see her timeline, in scattered pieces, from a helpless child with her heart laid bare to a determined, resourceful person overcoming past trauma and difficult odds to pull out the win.

Mako comes into the movie in the second act, but she dominates it. She does not yield. She carries through and pulls together past the point her mentor is certain may break her, or be her team’s ruin. She isn’t the love interest. She isn’t the prize. She doesn’t exist for the male gaze. She is the hero.

Strong mentor/surrogate parent relationship.

So many times, what we see in Big Damn Action movies is broken relationships, failure to communicate, or child vs. parent because The Parent Is Wrong. Pacific Rim gives us a strong mentor and surrogate parent figure in Stacker Pentecost, and a strong person who has been guided and encouraged to make her own decisions in Mako, yet clearly seeks to follow and emulate the person she holds in such high regard. She doesn’t want to defy Stacker; she wants to prove she can do it. When he draws the line, she respects it. When there is conflict between them, you can see it’s because they’re both trying to do their best by the other person.

In a certain sense the movie relies on familiar tropes to pre-tell the story for us, but those are built upon in the way these characters react and embody them. Throughout the story, Stacker Pentecost and Mako Mori are considerate of each other, they want to do right for each other, and they establish a strong, positive relationship that carries through to the end.

One of the moments in Pacific that is less likely to get any kind of scrutiny is toward the movie’s conclusion, and it’s not subtitled. Mako’s last message to Stacker Pentecost is “ε…ˆη”Ÿγ€ζ„›γ—γ¦γ„γΎγ™,” or “Sensei, ai shiteimasu.” It’s hard to translate the inflections and unpack the meaning of this phrase for a Western audience, which is why I’m sure del Toro chose not to subtitle it. It was important that she say it, but so many people would misunderstand a flat translation. That translation boils down to “Teacher, I love you,” but it means more than that, in terms of the culture and context. Better people than I will probably tackle this subject, but there are different forms of “I love you” in Japanese, and saying the more serious forms of it to someone is a once in a lifetime occurrence. You can bet that Mako never said such a thing to Stacker before. And it didn’t mean she was in love with him, which a Western audience would assume. She loved him, as a teacher and as a father. But that was the first time she’d ever said it to him because it’s so powerful and understood without words. It was respect, and love, and farewell.

It takes a team.
The entire movie epitomizes team spirit, and the fact that we can’t go it alone and be successful. The Jaegers can’t be piloted alone–it takes two. And this concept shapes and sets up the entire spirit of the movie. There is no lone hero, no one person shouldering the load. The neural handshake requires at least two to drift together and share the burden. Gipsy Danger isn’t successful without the team behind it, however soon we lose that team. The Americans can’t win without all of the world nations banding together. The last Jaeger pilot crew standing is half American, half Japanese. The scientist team is also multi-national, and each of them brought resolution to pieces of the puzzle, without which everything would have failed. The Jaegers needed the scientists as much as the scientists needed the Jaegers for protection. We did it together. It’s an important and powerful and deliberate message.

People of color in command and heroic roles
This is lower down on the list because, frankly, they could have done better. It’s a shame that one POC in a main role, one POC in a major supporting role, and a plethora of Asians in the background (I’m sorry, Wu triplets, but you were in the background) can be seen as “good enough” from a diversity standpoint. You could argue that cis, hetero white men were a minority in the film overall, but they were also the most prominent, visible characters that got the most screen time. We got to see the Wu triplets playing basketball for about five seconds, and going to a valiant death. Wait, now I’m not sure which point I’m arguing.

For all that the movie could have stood improvements from a diversity standpoint (vast, kaiju-sized improvements), it does portray people of color in arguably pivotal roles with (mostly) positive representation. When is the last time you saw someone who wasn’t white commanding the troops, and launching a last stand defense to successfully save the world? Go ahead, think about it. I’ll wait.

It’s an important foothold that I only hope moviemakers can build off of and continue. I’m sick of whiny white guys saving the world and getting “rewarded” with white girls. (Specifically with Shia leBoeuf in mind, here.) And yes, for the record, I am white. Like it should matter when I’m bringing this point.

Science nerds win.
This point is pretty short, because nerds have been gaining a lot of traction in popular culture though there’s still a great deal of misunderstanding and bullying out there for people who are “different” and “other” compared to the expected norm. But in short: the science nerds save the day. They had an entire subplot, and without their efforts, the team and the whole world-saving initiative would have been unsuccessful. (It would have been even cooler if one of the science nerds had been a lady, but hey, we take what we can get.) The science nerds were played for comic relief as always, but they still brought forward some plot-pivotal moments while moving through the typical science nerd tics.

Realistic fights, and real damage.
In war there is a death toll, and Pacific Rim did not sugarcoat it. I saw a factoid regarding Cherno Alpha on one of my many Pacific Rim-diving Tumblr tag searches: the Jaeger cockpit for Cherno Alpha is centrally located. That provides the greatest possible amount of shielding for the Jaeger pilots, but it also means no escape pods. When they fight, they win or they die. When Stacker Pentecost said they held the line for six years, it’s significant. These are tough, all-in Jaeger pilots.

You can’t fight a war without losses. The movie takes place at the end of a long war of attrition, and we get to see the worst of it. People die, Hannibal Chau makes money off war profiteering and scavenging, and the effects of war linger and take their toll on the main characters, especially Raleigh, Mako, and Stacker. A father loses his son. Husband and wife die together fighting. There’s self-sacrifice and blind panic and fatalism. These people aren’t walking away with a few bruises and dusting themselves off to build an awesome new world. The damage is substantial.

Bombast and unabashed spectacle.
Pacific Rim hits all of the notes you’d expect from an over the top, loud, action-packed summer flick, and it hits them well. It’s not reinventing anything, and it knows that, and it uses that, playing off your expectations to show you what you may have seen before, plus a little bit more. It knows what it is, and it revels in it – and maybe you’ll revel in it too, in all its sheer giant-mecha-fighting-monster glory.

Some people are making noises about Pacific Rim ripping off this, that, or the other. This film isn’t trying to be anything it’s not–it knows it’s coming from a rich melange of source material dating back decades. It’s not trying to be new and original. It may be trying to be the biggest and the best so far, and that I’m willing to grant it.

Because it bears repeating: THERE IS NO ROMANCE. And the movie deals with emotions on several levels successfully without a romantic subplot.

From the very first opening frame of Mako’s introduction, she is purposefully portrayed as someone who stands on her own, not as a sex object, and while she starts out in a support role, not as subservient.

Raleigh didn’t see Mako as a woman. He saw her as a person. This is a very important distinction, and one reason that validates the fact that Pacific Romance didn’t have a romance sub-plot. You could quite legitimately say it had a relationship sub-plot, where two people learn a great deal about one another and experience important, life-changing moments.

There’s this moment on the candidate testing floor where Mako accuses Raleigh of holding back. He’s winning all his matches, but it’s clear he over-matches them. He stands straight, looks her in the eye, and basically says the same to her. She’s hand-selected all the candidates who faced him, but she’s holding back her best. She is the best candidate, and it’s something that is quickly proved on the testing floor. Also, I don’t know anything about the ranger training program, but 51 simulations with 51 take-downs, which Mako mentions in a self-effacing manner (which is very Japanese) sounds pretty damned impressive. And Raleigh recognizes that, as well as her all-around competence, immediately.

Another pivotal moment happens in the Jaeger cockpit of Gipsy Danger when Raleigh enters his rebuilt Jaeger for the first time, and I was wondering how Raleigh would handle that moment. He returns to the cockpit from which his brother was torn, while they were drift connected. How can he take the same place he had before? But how can he take the other place, where his brother stood? Raleigh doesn’t even hesitate. He takes his brother’s place, and I believe this is a consciously figurative as well as literal decision. He becomes Mako’s big brother. He accepts the greater responsibility, and the greater risks.

If Raleigh seeks to defend or intercede for Mako it’s not because he sees her as an object of lust. It’s because he sees her as a person worthy of respect, someone who should be granted her choice to fight, or toward the end, because he’s seen someone torn away from him and this time, he’s going to take the fall and send his partner to safety.

On Mako’s side of things, she’s not watching out for him through peepholes because she’s got a crush on him. Raleigh unnerves her, and she wants to observe him. She’s studied him closely enough to choose fighting partners, potential drift matches for him, but he’s maybe different from what she was expecting, though she still believes he’s unpredictable enough that he poses a risk to their all-important mission. There’s a connection there, but it’s not love, it’s drift compatibility. They prove it with such a strong neural handshake, they’re both caught up in reliving their past traumas.

They push past that and save each other, and they save the world. They manage to do it without trying to get into each others’ pants, and thanks be to Guillermo del Toro to have a female lead who doesn’t have to be sexualized in order to do that.

Anyhow, these are all my initial impressions, my first takeaway from my first viewing of the film. There’s so much to see in Pacific Rim it’s impossible to catch it all in a single viewing, so I’ll definitely be hitting the theatre again while it’s still playing on the big screen. And I hope you will too, because FUCK YEAH MECHA. Also, stay for the extra clip embedded in the end credits. Blake Perlman’s song Drift was pretty good, too.

Upcoming content … when I find the time!

Things I have meant to blog, not ranked in any particular order:

Book reviews:

I meant to roll out a book review feature every other week or so, but the sad fact of the matter is that I don’t get to read as many books as I’d like to. I have a veritable stack, physical and virtual – Brandon Sanderson’s Warbreaker, the new Melanie Rawn fantasy, and a pile of ebooks, including the copy of Queer Fear that I won during the Hop Against Homophobia.

Last month I finished a couple of books. I could review Bound, but it’s hardly a new release. Quite a popular book, though!

Consider the prospect of book reviews a work in progress. I managed a mega-review a couple of weeks ago; I may be able to roll out one a month and have to consider that good.

Conference/meet-up news:

I’m registered as an author for Rainbow Con 2014, so more on that later. What it means for the immediate future is I won’t be able to take my typical two-month writing vacation in November. I’ve got to reserve a week for February, because my parents rented a guest house in Florida and want me to join them, and I need another week for April to attend the conference. It’s going to be way too much fun, I can tell already, though I feel somewhat presumptuous attending as a full-fledged author.

Tips and tricks of the trade:

Coming soonest, hopefully, a brief tutorial on how to use the Word Track Changes feature, on MS Word 2010 and the earlier edition. (The two are very different, and now that I’m used to it, I prefer Word 2010’s version.)

It still surprises me that a lot of writers don’t know how to use this feature. It’s a basic staple of editorial work, so when the author doesn’t know how to use that feature to incorporate edits, it can make everyone’s job harder.

My plan is to give a quick rundown on how to turn it on and how to use it to accept/reject edits and add comments. The three basics! I really hope it’ll be something people may find useful. I planned on getting that posted this past Saturday, but the weekend provided some unexpected challenges.

No rest for the wicked:

I can’t remember the last time I talked about my current projects in any depth, but this summer is shaping up to be super busy.

Klaxon at the Core is the sequel to Signal to Noise, and I’m currently writing that one. It’s progressing really well, and I hope to be finished by the end of the month. The original beta editor for Signal to Noise volunteered to beta Klaxon before I submit it for publication, which is fantastic because not only is he a superfan, but yay continuity!

The More Plausible Evil is back to the outline-wrangling stage. An editor friend that I’ve had a writer/editor relationship with has reconnected with me, and we’re going to be working together to usher this from first rough draft to a much better, fully developed second draft! Right now the outline is giving me trouble (and there are only so many hours in the day) and I intended to have to outline finished last weekend. This weekend or bust! The More Plausible Evil is due in November.

Body Option is a mecha story I’m planning to write for a September anthology. So long as I get started by August, I think I’ll still be okay on this. There will be action, sci fi, and a man and his mech. It’s not intended to be a long story, and my outline is only two pages – that’s a good sign, for me. (Watch it end up being 40k.)

Somewhere in there I expect I’ll be incorporating edits and doing any necessary re-writes for Convergence and The Fall Guide.

And after that! You’d think I’d take a break, but I’ll be writing My Sexual Superhero, a story about a geek and the charismatic hook-up who saves him from his sexual doldrums. It’s for a submission call for December, and it’s early enough in the planning stages that making my poor geeky protagonist work two retail jobs will fit in just fine.

That’s it for updates – more to come! And if you’ve got content for the author blog to suggest, I’d love to hear it. πŸ™‚ Have a great rest of the week, everyone!

Tour de Foodie Day Four

Did you check out Masterchef and the Spirit of Rivalry over at World of Diversity Fiction? Of this week’s blog tour entries, I think it’s one of my favorites.

If you haven’t told me what you think of the blog tour yet, I’d be mighty obliged if you took a moment to drop a comment. I’d love to hear your thoughts on what worked, and what I could have improved.

So much has been happening this week, my senses are reeling as I do my best to stay caught up. I’ve got a new cover tease to bring you, signed two contracts, pre-registered for Rainbow Con, and pre-registered for the Gay Romance NW Meet-up in September. And that’s the tip of the iceberg. More to come on all that, and other things yet to come.

Writing for Klaxon at the Core is going really well right now. I’ve caught up with my deficit and I’ve written quite a lot this month, and though I’ll be writing into this summer, I’m really pleased with the outline and my pre-reader’s responses to the story. It’s been wonderful to explore more of Theo and Bastian’s lives.

Signal to Noise is featured!

Less Than Three Press has chosen Signal to Noise for the book of the week!

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It’s been three years since the Incursion; three long years since Bastian and his twin brother Theo became the sole survivors on the planet Noise. Their distress calls have gone unanswered, and they are running out of supplies. They have no one but each other. And when the long-awaited rescue finally arrives, it brings with it complications that make being alone and forgotten look easy.

See what others thought of this story on Goodreads.

Stop on by and pick up your ebook or print copy. Use code: MAYBOW3 to get 25% off this title!

Code is only valid Friday, May 17 – Saturday, May 18, 2013.

And please, spread the word. πŸ™‚

Review for A Cut Above the Rest

Hooray, a review site left the most marvelous review for A Cut Above the Rest.

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Click here to see what Andrea posting on Reviews by Jessewave has to say. Andrea rates the story at 4.75, and says it would have been perfect if it hadn’t ended with “to be continued.” πŸ˜‰

Of course, The Competitive Edge comes out May 29th and will be up for pre-order soon, so there’s not much longer to wait!

If you haven’t picked up your copy yet, you can put A Cut Above the Rest in your cart and add the coupon BOM40 when you’re checking out.

In writing news, the pieces for Klaxon at the Core, sequel to Signal to Noise, are really coming together. I’m working on the outline tonight because I figured out the ending. I just need to connect the dots between the beginning, middle, and end.

Besides that, I got an idea lobbed at me for a sexy contemporary story with a Dr. Who fan and a sexy Safe Sex advocate. It already gave me a title and some other lovely details, and I have a feeling I’ll need its lighthearted fun when the horrors in Klaxon at the Core become too much. I’m not even sure I should mention the title yet, but I kind of adore it.

Final piece of good news: Convergence has been accepted for Less Than Three Press’s Proud to be a Vampire anthology! I sent in my (surprisingly specific) wish list for the cover art.

Here’s the summary:

Chris Bryant and his faithful childhood friend Ling Tam travel the world in search of the rarest and exquisite of curiosities, but such treasure-hunting comes at a cost. At times, they tangle with danger in order to seek the most well-guarded artifacts. In order to retrieve a lost treasure deep within a mountain where they tackle the elements and walk the balance between life and death, Chris must hire on a vampire. In this great risk, he has the chance to find an opportunity he never expected–or lose it all, if the predator takes them for his prey.

Exciting things afoot in the writing world! With more to come, I feel sure.

Of reviews, giveaways, and writing

In a pleasant surprise today, Joyfully Jay reviewed Signal to Noise and gave it 4.5 stars!

Signal to Noise is one of my most tightly-plotted stories and it’s such a pleasure to see it getting this kind of reception, from a nomination for Best Debut to all the great things people are saying. Don’t forget, there’s still a week left to sign up for the giveaway of a free signed copy with a personalized greeting. Full disclosure: it’s classified as science fiction, but it is definitely sci-fi horror, and it also contains incest. (Which is relevant to the plot.)

All this makes me want to haul out the bare-bones outline I penned for a potential sequel. There’s a lot left to cover in that world.

Being a nail polish fiend, I thought I’d make mention of the Zoya 2013 “Color Your World” giveaway, which goes through Sunday, January 13th. Click here for details but, in brief, you can get three free nail polishes from a selection of most of their inventory, excluding the 24K gold top coat or the Spring 2013 or Pixie Dust collections, check out with promo code ZOYA2013, and pay a $10 shipping/processing fee. That’s $3.33 per nail polish including shipping … I considered it an irresistible deal.

Speaking of nails, here’s what’s on mine:

China Glaze in China Rouge, with matte squares.

Interestingly enough, my obsession in all things nail polish led me to plot the story I’m working on right now, The Fall Guide, in which a young male beauty blogger experiences failure to launch, and relies on the help of a smooth producer who happens to treat him better than his boyfriend does. It’s been fun to write so far, and I’m hoping to wrap it up around 50-60K and clean it up for submission.

I got back to that this afternoon after reaching a stopping point in edits for someone. The More Plausible Evil has been sent off to a couple of people for a deep cleanse, and I’m striking a balance between edits and writing.

With so many things going well for me, I’m considering being daring enough to establish a New Year’s resolution of flossing my teeth more consistently.

Parting note: I received a $5 credit on Amazon. Does anyone have any ebook recommendations for me?

Award nomination and a giveaway!

It’s great to close out the year on a note like this.

Click the badge to take you to the poll, if you are so inclined (in case you forget, it’s under ‘Best Debut’)! I’m happy simply to be nominated; I didn’t expect it and it’s a really awesome thing for my first book, especially considering the company I’m keeping.

Next up: the long-promised giveaway.

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I will send a signed copy of Signal to Noise anywhere, with a personalized greeting of your choice.

Rules for the giveaway:

1. The giveaway is open to sign up through Tuesday, January 15th at midnight Pacific time.
2. Sign up by commenting here on my blog entry. Include your name or a pseudonym, and your email so that I can contact you if you win. Your email needs to be accurate so that I can get in contact with you for a shipping address for the book!
3. You can get an extra “entry” by:
– Following my blog. (Let me know what your username is if it’s not obvious.)
– Following my Twitter, @TalyaAndor (again, let me know your username).
– Following my Tumblr, http://talya-andor.tumblr.com/ (just for good measure – yep, you guessed it, tell me your username).
– Edited to add another category: Goodreads! If you are following me as a fan on Goodreads, you get another entry. Annnnd you’d need to tell me your name on there too.

I will count your name once for a comment here, and an additional time for each follow.

On Wednesday after the sign-up closes, I’ll put names in a spreadsheet and give the number range to a Random Number generator which will choose the winner.

Thanks for reading, and happy New Year! Stay tuned for word on upcoming stories, and I’ve got stories to rec.