Top Ten Best Things from 2016

Well, it's that time of year again. The end, I mean. Thank God we made it. I know it's been a rough year, guys, but there's been some good in there, too, and it's important to celebrate that. We should always reward good behavior. With that in mind, I'm laying out my ten favorite things from 2016. Not necessarily things that were made in 2016, but things I became aware of in 2016. (I tend to run about five to ten years behind everybody else when it comes to entertainment.)
1. Death Parade
By far the best anime series ever made, contained in just twelve episodes. Whenever two people die at the same time, their souls go to a bar called Quindecim, where an arbiter forces them to play bar games against each other while he judges whether their souls should be reinca
230px-deathparadevisualrnated or sent to to the void.
Death Parade played my feels like a blues man who's sold his soul to the devil in exchange for his unearthly musical ability. After the last episode, I wished I was a smoker so I could have a cigarette. I still get chills when I hear the opening notes of "Flyer" by BRADIO, the show's credits song.
A word of warning: If you watch the first episode and think it's terrible, watch the second right away. I was ready to shut it off—mad at the writers for screwing up such a great concept, disillusioned with the person who suggested the show for thinking it was soooo amazing when it clearly was not—but Josh wanted to see the second episode. Now I think it's the best anime ever made. The second episode is critical!
2. litRPGs
This is the coolest evolution the storytelling industry has gone through in a long time. A litRPG is a video game in a book. Not a novelization of a popular video game. A book about a gamer who is immersed in the world of an RPG. These books come complete with builds, quests, HPs, power-ups, mystical items, and gold. If you're new to the genre—and you probably are since the genre is basically still a newborn—I suggest Viridian Gate Online: Cataclysm. It's all the fun and satisfaction of playing Skyrim without the hassle of moving your thumbs.
3. Welcome to Night Vale
I know Night Vale has been around and awesome for a few years now, but I didn't hear about it until this summer when a friend suggested I give it a shot. The premise—radio broadcasts from a small desert town where all conspiracy theories are true—reads like someone sat down and wrote a show specifically for me. It is hilarious and wonderful. Each podcast is self-contained, but do yourself a favor and start with the first. You'll pick up on so many more recurring jokes and storylines that way.
4. Gears of War 3
Again, I know. But I warned you ahead of time that I'm always about a decade behind everybody else when it comes to entertainment. (This actually does wonders for my video game
gears-of-war-3-group budget. $60 on release day, $2.45 a year later in GameStop's preowned bin.)
What's so great about Gears of War 3, eden? I'm glad you asked. First of all, it's my favorite kind of game: one where you and your giant futuristic guns go to town on inhuman monsters threatening the human race. Most of them even explode when you kill them. So satisfying. But the best part is you can play co-op. Up until we found this game, Josh and I had just been taking turns playing. Now we slay lambent together while cackling maniacally.
5. Sudoku
I know the cool thing in relaxology right now is adult coloring books; I'll let you know what I think about them in my 2026 top ten. I've known about sudoku since high school when my sadistic math teacher used to give them out for extra credit. It's only been recently that I rose above that trauma and tried them again, mostly because my nerdy, nerdy, NERDY robot of a husband downloaded Andoku 3 to our phone. Turns out it's actually tons of fun and it really helps me unwind. And I think I know why: I spend so much of my brainpower every day on creative tasks where I have free reign and endless possibilities. But sudoku is so orderly and confining. There's only one solution to each puzzle, and it's so satisfying to solve it. If your analytical beast needs soothing, give sudoku a shot. The app is free here.
6. Siddhartha by Herman Hesse
This is one of the most beautiful books I've read in a long time. The thing is, I never would've looked twice at it if Josh hadn't begged me to read it. He found it this summer in a library throwaway box and now it's his favorite book in the world. And with good reason. It follows Siddhartha from his childhood as the most promising Brahmin's son to becoming a wandering Samana to giving up asceticism for a life of pleasure to the depths of self-loathing to finally finding enlightenment on the banks of a river. The language is so simple and gorgeous, and the words are so true, that every sentence resonates inside your soul as you read. And it's less than two hundred pages. Don't worry about it not being your usual genre, just try it. You'll see.
7. The Southwestern United States (specifically Las Vegas)
For those of you following along at home, my family and I live in a camper and travel full-time. This spring and summer, we crossed through the desert Southwest—Texas, Utah, Arizona, Nevada, and Southern California. It's some of the most beautiful scenery in the country. And as an added bonus, it's hot! If you're freezing all of the time like I am, then take my advice and move to the desert right now. You can thank me later.
Our favorite place within the southwest was Las Vegas. There's just something about that town, a vibe of incredibly relaxed excitement. Even far away from the strip, you can feel it. And if light shows and casinos aren't for you, there's Red Rock Canyon, an amazing place to go rock climbing. We took the boys out there a few times while we were in town for some Rock Climbing 101. It was their favorite part of Vegas. Plus, if you're a Fallout: New Vegas fan, it's tons of fun to visit all the places you've been in the game.
8. Dengue Fever
I actually stumbled across this band while listening to Night Vale. They're billed as a cross between Cambodian pop and psychedelic rock, but to me they sound like pure awesome. Currently my favorite song by them is "Sober Driver," but "Sni Bong" and "Cannibal Courtship" are tied in a very close second place.
[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mOT0ym9utg8&w=560&h=315]
9. Deadpooldeadpool1-gallery-image

This was Hollywood's birthday present to me and nothing anyone says will convince me otherwise. Like most other Deadpool fans, I dreamed of and feared the day Marvel would finally give him his own movie. Would it be another Xmen Origines: Wolverine? Heaven forbid! But the studio actually nailed it. The writers pulled an awesome origin story out of the schizophrenic histories Deadpool tells in the comics, the cast was spot-on, and the soundtrack was perfect. If you're in the mood for love and gratuitous violence, this is the movie for you. Whatever you do, though, don't watch it with your kids.
10. Bungo Stray Dogs
Josh says it's cheating to include this one because we haven't finished watching all of the episodes on Hulu yet, but I already know that I love it. BSD follows an orphan as he becomes part of Armed Detective Agency, a group of people with supernatural abilities who solve crimes and take care of problems the military police can't or don't want to deal with.
It was developed from a manga, so the reactions and emotions are over-the-top and hilarious, but it's got plenty of darkness, too. I feel the same way about Bungo Stray Dogs as I feel about Buffy the Vampire Slayer. If you loved Buffy and want to test the anime waters, you should definitely check it out. The characters are also all named after famous writers, so if you want a literary nerdgasm, look no further.

That's my top ten. What about you? What new and exciting things did you find to entertain you in 2016?



I almost never pray for myself. Things have happened lately that brought that fact to light, things that hurt and things that feel good and things that I can’t feel yet but are still leaving a mark. Even though I usually do the majority of my introspection in writing for the world to see (by “world” I mean the two of you who read this blog), I won’t be writing about these things. Partly because the magical thinker in me doesn’t want to destroy them by putting them into words. But also because these things aren’t just mine. It’s okay when I’m standing up here naked pointing out my flaws so I can find a way to fix them; it’s not okay to pull other people up here and do the same to them.
If this is your first time here and you’re not aware of my feelings for God yet, then let me catch you up with a quick summary: I love Him. Every good thing in my life has come from Him. He rocks.
I also talk to Him pretty much all day long. We talk about my husband and sons, my friends and family, I ask Him to heal them and protect them and give them the strength to endure or the victory over sin, I thank Him for letting me know them, for loving me and saving me, for being patient with all of my screw-ups, for letting me exist at all.
But I almost never ask God for anything for me.
That’s not out of selflessness. I’m no saint. Far from it. I just sort of…forget. Y’know?
If you don’t know me or any moms in real life, you’re probably thinking, “Oh, it’s a mom thing. They’re constantly forgetting about themselves while doing things for their kids.”
First of all, you should be ashamed of yourself for perpetuating a racist stereotype. Second of all, that kind of mom died out sometime after my mom’s generation. I’m a real mom. If we’re on our way to get ice cream and I tell my kids to stop fighting or they won’t get any ice cream and they don’t stop fighting, guess what? I’m still getting ice cream. They can cry while they watch me eat it, I don’t care.
Does this mean I love ice cream more than I love my children? If we’re talking a butterscotch milkshake, it does. More importantly, though, it’s also proof that I’m not selfless enough to forget about eden. If I’m standing at the counter, and I want a butterscotch milkshake, believe you me, I am the last person on this planet who will forget to ask the guy at the register to make me butterscotch milkshake.
But here’s where the butter meets the scotch—I ask because I can’t make that milkshake myself. I don’t have the ingredients, the milkshake machine, anything. If I did, I wouldn’t have come to an ice cream shop in the first place. (I would also weigh roughly seven thousand pounds.)
I forget to ask God for the things I need because I feel like I should be able to get them myself. I feel like I should be able to do anything for myself. When life knocks me down, I grab my bootstraps. When the bootstraps break from being pulled on too much, I go barefoot. Hey, I’m tough. I can do whatever has to be done, and I can do it alone. Can’t walk anymore? I’ve got two good arms, I’ll drag myself. Surprise double brachial amputation? At least I can still breathe. And now the water’s rising and I don’t seem to be floating? That’s fine, I’ll just hold my breath until I figure this out, too. I can figure it out. I know I can.
Last Sunday while we were driving, Josh and I were listening to our favorite rock star of Christian apology, Ravi Zacharias. He said that strong men have been laid low by sins that would’ve been easy to avoid…if not for their pride. God has allowed many a good man to be shamed in front of everyone as a way to break that pride, reteach them the humility they’ve lost, and bring them back to Him. Only then can He start to build them back up into something beautiful.
As someone who’s always had problems with self-esteem, it’s never occurred to me just how proud I am. I think I can do anything in spite of the fact that also think I’m the scum of the earth. Literally anything. If I don’t already know how, I’ll learn how or I’ll figure out a way around it altogether.
I’m drowning, but that’s okay. I’ll just hold my breath until this ocean dries up. I would rather die than I admit that I can’t.
For the past few weeks, I’ve been examining these things that happened, dissecting them, magnifying them, turning them over and over looking for where I went wrong, what I should’ve done, what I should do now. The whole time, God’s been sitting beside me patiently, handing me scalpels and clamps, and suctioning away the blood when it hemorrhages.
You want to talk about pride? The God Who made the universe listens to me pray for my friends and family all day long, and I haven’t even considered asking Him to help me put my own heart and mind back together—get this—because I think I should be able to do that all by myself.
I trust that God will help the people I love; I’ll even tell them that they should depend on Him for everything. But me? No, I’m just going to keep holding my breath until this water dries up. Don’t worry about it, God. I’ve got this under control. I’ll figure it out.
These things that happened? They were to show me how inflated my pride really is and how much damage that particular cancer has already done. There was no other way to get through to me.
The truth is, I don’t have this under control, and nothing I try to do to make it seem as if I’ve got control is going to put me in control. Why would I want the illusion of control anyway? That’s what brought me here in the first place.
God, I have no idea what to do next. Even when I thought I knew, all I managed to do was screw things up worse. Please help me clean up this mess. I can’t do it by myself. I’m not strong enough. I’m not smart enough. I’m drowning and it’s not okay. Out of the depths I call to you, Yahweh—please help me—and the answer comes back from right beside me—“Sure, kiddo. All you had to do was ask.”


How to Get the Most Out of Your Wristpiece by Jubal Van Zandt

a guest blog on Revived Earth Tech by the greatest thief in the history of the planet

There’s no bit of tech across the Revived Earth as pervasive as the wristpiece. You’ve got one, and you use it every day for basically every—

Oh yeah, guy who always contradicts better-looking guys to make himself sound smart, you almost never use yours? Then how do you pay for stuff? How do you message your coworkers? How do you download books, articles, and infograms? How do you reserve flights or watch hyperporn or hack into your coworkers’ wristpieces to find out why they’re ignoring your messages? Yeah, that’s what I thought. Now shut up and let me talk.

The rest of you want to get the most out of your wristpiece. I’m here to tell you how to do that in four easy steps.

1. Get the e-skeleton key app
I know it sounds like the kind of thing only a common breaker would download, but I—the best thief in the history of the Revived Earth—am here to tell you that an e-skeleton key app can be the difference between life and death, especially when you’re trying to escape armed authority figures. Give the goons the slip, find a getaway vehicle, break in, download the brand-specific override, let your wristpiece interact with the electronic ignition, and vroom, you’re burning rubber. It’s also nice for breaking into and out of compounds with first-gen locks.

2. Stay out of third-world countries
This is a biggie, and not just because most third world countries can’t be bothered to build a decent luxury hotel. Almost all underdeveloped nations are too focused on fighting pointless civil wars and complaining about their food crises to maintain a decent laptic grid. (Looking at you, Nytundi.) Your $700 UltraDef Holochannel add-on? Completely useless when there’s no reception.

3. Hook up your incidentals accounts to your wristpiece and set it to autopay
Pretty self-explanatory. When you’re on a job, you can’t be expected to pay out-of-pocket for daily necessities like meals, parking, and the naughty-spanky holochannel.
Side note: Make sure your client sets up the incidentals account in your name or they’ll feel like they can check your charges and complain about the definition of “necessity.”

4. Hidden weapons are a must
I don’t care if you’re a stay-at-home parent of two, a Guild knight, or a devilishly handsome rogue dictating a how-to about wristpieces to your biographer, you need a weapon hidden somewhere in your wristpiece. For this, I say play to your strengths. If you’re the hands-off type, download a hypersonic effect app and make that jerk who always contradicts you vomit up his spinal column at the daily staff meeting. If you’re more touchy-feely, a retractable brushdeath set into the band might be more your style. Whatever works for you.

The point is not to underestimate the usefulness of your wristpiece. Mine even has an app for telling time. If you’ve got other tips or tricks for getting the most out of your wristpieces, speak up in the comments section. We’ll crowdsource the balls off this topic.

Jubal Van Zandt is the greatest thief in the history of the Revived Earth. When he's not writing guest blogs, he's breaking into and out of unbreakable fortresses, lifting priceless objects, and bedding gorgeous women. His striking physical beauty is only surpassed by his incredible mental prowess. He wrote this bio himself because no one else proved capable of sufficiently capturing his roguish charm in words. You can read more about Jubal in Jubal Van Zandt and the Revenge of the Bloodslinger.


Jubal Van Zandt and the Revenge of the Bloodslinger Release and Giveaway

Or, "The longest post title on this blog so far."

[Scene Two Days Ago]
Josh: Two days!
eden: Until what?
Josh: Are you serious right now?
eden: Oh right, the book!

Guess what, everyone! Jubal Van Zandt and the Revenge of the Bloodslinger is out today!

I could tell you a little bit about Bloodslinger, but OneBookTwo’s Invested Ivana reviewed it like a such a boss that I would just be wasting time you should be reading her words. Check it and the rest of her reviews out:


The Redneck Apocalypse Special Edition Box Set is here! It's got all of the exclusive content and special features you would expect to see on a DVD Special Edition, such as Director's Cuts, Deleted Scenes, Playlists, and more!
Box Set Cover WEB
Kindle -- Nook -- iBooks -- Kobo -- Etc.
But, eden, you didn't release an original edition of the box set, did you?
No, I did not, other eden. No, I did not.


I quit the internet.

I guess I should preface this post by explaining that I didn’t actually quit the whole internet. Obviously, I still do the blogs and the emails and the occasional Googling of how to spell things like “EpiPen” and how handguns function underwater. But I did quit the social media part of the internet, which at this point in our technological evolution is what the majority of us seem to use it for.

Why, eden? Why would you quit twitter, facebook, or some other third social media site?
I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with social media–and every other kind of social setting, for that matter. I like people. I like to listen to them talk. I like to make them laugh. But being around people makes me uncomfortable. It makes me hyper-aware of all my flaws, inadequacies, and ineptitudes, of every visible blemish and scar I have, of my bad posture and loud breathing and the weird ways my lips and eyes and limbs move, and worst of all, the monotonous sound of my own voice. I can’t be around other humans without these things constantly running through the back of my mind.

But Twitter and facebook aren’t real life.
No, they’re not. Which is why when I realized that my self-consciousness couldn’t tell the difference between IRL and not-IRL, that my brain still reacted in the same painfully awkward ways, constantly overloading its self-awareness circuits, I quit.

But now you know they’re not real. You could come back to social media and train yourself not to react as if they were real.
Honestly, I don’t want to. That sounds like a lot of effort. Also, while I do miss joking around with my twitter friends, I’ve gained something unexpected from not having a twitter or facebook account to check on those rare occasions that I get a second to myself: free time. If I’m waiting in the car with the boys while Josh runs into the hardware store to grab something, I don’t whip out my phone and scroll through a news feed. I just sit. I daydream. I gather wool like it’s going out of style. I ponder life, the universe, and everything. I work on scenes and build new worlds in my head. Without social media, I have nothing to do while I’m waiting for something, and that’s okay. It’s better than okay; it’s just how I like it.

But eden, as an author in this modern world, don’t you need to have a social media presence?
The truth is, I don’t actually know. When I interned at a lit agency in college, the in-house publicist was desperately trying to convince their authors to build their social media platforms. “You should be on twitter, you should have a facebook, and you should be using them!” was her motto. On the one hand, she made a good point. Fans always want more of their favorite writers, celebrity chefs, actors, or sportball players. Whatever business you’re in, if you have fans, they probably always hope to hear something new and exciting from you.

On the other hand, this kind of thinking leads to a weirdly inflated sense of relevance for the person in question. Like you need to have opinions about things and tell people what they are. Or that all of your jokes need to be hilarious. Or that people need to know about your day or work or progress on a certain book or show. Kind of like the feelings of significance people with mental disorders have. I’ve been away from twitter now for a few months, facebook about the same. A couple people might’ve missed me, but no one has needed me. I wasn’t saving the world 140 characters at a time. I wasn’t curing cancer by thumbs-upping a status or a picture. Based on the still-steady nature of my book sales, I wasn’t even attracting new readers. I was just wasting time that I could’ve been spending with my kids, writing another book, or staring intently at a tree, half pondering the poetry of nature, half wondering if this is a elaborately fake tree filled with surveillance equipment, and if so, who or what are they surveiling, and why go to all that trouble to build an elaborate fake tree in the first place?

If I had to guess, I would say monsters. Or maybe supernatural phenomena that only goes on when humans aren’t around. But that’s neither here nor there.

Growing up I didn’t have the internet. We didn’t even get a computer until I was in high school, yet I somehow managed to write a ton of short stories, build entire parallel dimensions with thousands of years’ worth of history, and write my first novel in a pair of college-ruled notebooks. I was more productive back then than I’ve managed to be since leaving home because the only means I had of entertaining myself were writing and reading.

The biggest-name authors out there will tell you that there is one formula to lasting success in the writing world:
1. Write a good book.
2. Sell or publish that book.
3. Write another good book.
4. Sell or publish that book.
5. Write another good book.
6. Sell or publish that book….

Sure, there are plenty of other factors that go into whether you’ll get rich or famous, but if you want to make a career of this writing thing, you have to write. It’s the most important part of being a writer. That’s why they put it in the job title.

So, I guess the answer to whether or not the modern author needs a social media presence is no. Maybe getting the word out about your new book is easier if you have ten thousand followers on twitter and a hundred thousand fans on facebook, but facebook and twitter won’t write the book for you. (Sometimes they even serve as clever distractions from having to write.) The modern author, like the authors of the Roaring ’20s, and the authors in Shakespearean England, and even the authors forming cuneas into wet clay tablets, just need something to write on and someone to read it.

Well, I’m not going to quit twitter. Or facebook.
That’s cool. I don’t think all writers should quit twitter or facebook any more than I think all people should give up drinking just because I can’t control mine. For me, social media is unhealthy. So, I quit.


The View from February 2016

Usually that's what I title my New Year's Resolution Update post. I look back on what I resolved to do--learn to skateboard, say "classy as balls" 100 times, publish a book--and then I measure how far I've come. But this year I didn't make a resolution and there are even more important things for me to look back on. As an added bonus, this year I have visual aids to demonstrate my progress.

This is what my desk looks like right now:

The arrangement changes frequently because my desk is at the same table we use for meals, work, and homeschool. You can see one of our kittens lounging behind my computer on the geography materials. The Oreos are because today is the first day of my birthday. Don't hate the playa, hate the game.

This is what my desk looked like four years ago to the day:

Joshua brought that rose home for me because I'd just finished writing halo (which became Halo Bound, the first book in the Redneck Apocalypse series), and he was proud of me.

In twenty-eight days, I'm going to publish the fourth and final book in the Redneck Apocalypse series, God Killer. Some people will read it. Most won't. Some people will love it, some will hate it, some will be totally indifferent.

But four years ago, only one person read every word I wrote. He was even proud of me for writing them. He still is today.

Many of the greats throughout history give off this illusion of having gotten where they are on their own. "Writing is a lonely business" and all that. Maybe they did, but I did not. There is one reason I've made it this far, one reason I can sit down at my computer and bleed into a word document, then stand back up and grin like a dog with brain damage. His name is Joshua and I love him.