Zima Answers Your Valentine's Day Quandaries

Zima gives Valentine's Day (mis)advice. Author spotlight on Steven D. Brewer. Website provider woes. Sac Comic-Con. Upcoming book trailer. An unfortunate DNF.

Portrait of white-haired woman w/ blue eyes on left. "Zima Answers: Valentine Edition"

It's been a few years since a significant storm hit, so I guess we were due. We lost power for 30 hours and sadly had to empty both fridges. 😞 On the plus side, I just pre-registered for Readers Take Denver 2025. This will be the first dedicated reader convention I've ever attended. I won't be book signing or anything author-related, just absorbing the reader energy and probably collecting swag. Any tips you have for getting the most out of an event like this would be greatly appreciated. 😁

Speaking of cons, I'll be at my publisher's table at Sac Comic-Con March 9-10. If you live around those parts, stop by and say Hi. I'd love to see you!

My website provider just announced that they will be doubling their hosting fees next month. I've been unhappy with their service anyway, so I've paused all other work to re-write my author site using a stack I can deploy anywhere (probably Next.js / tailwindcss / Postgres) and not worry about being tied to a particular platform. The best part is that a friend in Armenia has volunteered to pair with me, so we should be able to knock it out quickly, and it'll be a lot of fun. (Thanks Tigran!!)

The one project I haven't paused is an exciting new book trailer for Enigma. I'm working on it with my brother, who is an After Effects guru (shameless plug: Fizzrock Studio). We have a storyboard and everything. Can't wait to share the finished product with you!

If you're curious about the process of world building (and the process I use), I published an article that walks through different methods and tricks I use to keep it immersive without slowing down the story. You can check it out here:

World Building
Different approaches to building your world and bringing it to life without overwhelming your reader.

In honor of Valentine's Day, this month I'm debuting a new feature called "Zima Answers," modeled from the classic Dear Abby column, except where Abby was helpful, Zima is... well, let's just say I'd think twice before following her advice. Actually, for the love of Pete, just don't do it. Please. You'll see what I mean.

Lastly, we have a Q&A with author Steven D. Brewer about all things writing.


In this newsletter

  • Zima Answers: Valentine's Day (Anti-)Advice
  • Author Spotlight: Steven D. Brewer
  • Free Books, Sales, and Events
  • Currently Reading
  • Other Authors You Might Like

Zima Answers: Valentine's Day (Anti-)Advice

Welcome to the debut edition of Zima Answers! In this month's column, Zima from The Z-Tech Chronicles gives advice to some poor souls who are struggling through their personal Valentine's Day trials.

DISCLAIMER: Zima's views do not reflect those of Ryan Southwick. Like, at all. While well-meaning, her opinions are colored by her dark past and tend to be extreme. Readers are cautioned to NEVER act on her advice. Ever. You've been warned.

Unwelcome surprise

DEAR ZIMA: My boyfriend and I have been living together for five years. We both like to schedule things well in advance, even dates, so we can plan and mentally prepare. That's just how we roll, and I thought we were both cool with that.

This year, he decided out of the blue to surprise me with a Valentine's Day getaway. He told me the dates so I could request time off work, but he refuses to say anything about what we'll be doing or where we're going. Not even to which country! Needless to say, not knowing has launched my anxiety through the roof, but at the same time I don't want to spoil his fun by making him spill the beans. What should I do? — CONTROL FREAK-ING OUT

DEAR CONTROL FREAK-ING OUT: I do not understand how beans apply to your situation, but it is clear that your boyfriend has either been compromised by an enemy organization, or is himself a secret agent.

Your life is in imminent danger. Consider stabbing him in his sleep, disposing of the body, then fleeing to a country that does not honor extradition to the US. Should you instead choose to face the danger and accompany your boyfriend on the trip, be vigilant during your stay, and carry adequate weaponry at all times to turn the inevitable ambush around to your advantage. However, I advise the first option.

The perfect gift

DEAR ZIMA: My wife always goes above and beyond when it comes to gifts. They're not necessarily expensive, but always so thoughtful that I often didn't know I wanted the thing until she gives it to me. (I'm obviously not as thoughtful or I wouldn't be writing to you.) Worse, she buys whatever she wants for herself on the spot, so I have no wishlist to pull from.

This Valentine's Day, I'd love to really wow her with the perfect surprise gift, but I don't have a clue where to begin. She's an accountant by trade, and her interests include poetry, playing tennis, astronomy, and Garfield. Can you help? — FLAILING MOOCH

DEAR FLAILING MOOCH: I am very glad you consulted me. The situation sounds truly dire; nowhere on her interest list are self-defense skills of any kind.

This must be remedied immediately. I recommend purchasing a combat knife for your wife. CPM-3V steel will ensure a sharp blade, and will also demonstrate thoughtfulness to your gift and that you care for her well-being. That should be accompanied by instruction from a professional who possesses real combat experience. Navy SEALs are ideal. An excellent follow-on gift would be a reliable sidearm and appropriate training. I can provide references on request.

I have just been informed that the above recommendations do not fulfill the romantic requirement of Valentine's Day. I therefore recommend purchasing a two-layer box of chocolates in the shape of a heart. Replace the bottom layer with the knife, then present it on bended knee. Romantic criteria met.

Unrequited love

DEAR ZIMA: So... I work with this guy that I like. We're close. Really close. He's funny, intelligent, very successful, and we get along fabulously.

The problem is, he sees me as a daughter, so to speak, even though I'm not. This Valentine's Day, I really want to take our relationship to the next level, but I'm terrified of ruining what we have. Help? — POKER QUEEN

DEAR POKER QUEEN: Cappa, I know this is you. You spend all day every day with Charlie. I do not understand why you cannot schedule five minutes to talk with him, especially since the topic appears to be a source of significant anxiety. Resolving the issue may also provide a much-needed improvement to your disposition, which everyone at Z-Tech would appreciate.

Should you continue to delay, then as my Valentine gift to you—and for the sake of us all—I shall tell him myself.

You have three hours to comply. You are welcome.

DISCLAIMER #2: Did I mention to not follow her advice? I mean it. Don't.

Have a wonderful Valentine's Day!

Author Spotlight: Steven D. Brewer

Bearded man in a red sun hat wearing glasses and steampunk glasses over the brim
Steven D. Brewer

Steven D. Brewer writes LGBTQIA+ speculative fiction and teaches scientific writing/scientific instrument creation at UMass Amherst. His series "Better Angels" and "Revin's Heart" are being published by Water Dragon Publishing. As an author, Brewer identifies diverse obsessions that underlie his writing: deep interests in natural history, life science, and environmentalism; an abiding passion for languages; a fascination with Japanese culture; and a mania for information technology and the Internet. Brewer lives in Amherst, Massachusetts with his extended family.

How did you get into writing?

I’ve always been a writer, ever since I was a kid. As an academic, I’ve always been writing, though most of my work has been in my field. Most of my creative writing, while I was engaged professionally was actually in Esperanto: I dabbled in speculative fiction (publishing two or three short stories, haibun, and several chapbooks of haiku (with English translation). But during the pandemic, I needed something more, so I started writing fiction in English. 

What was the biggest surprise or revelation during your author career?

Oh, it was definitely the realization that, as an author, you need to do a lot more than write. You have to write biographies and advertising copy and promotions. I think a lot of writers have this naive idea that when you get published, you just start writing the next story. And nothing could be farther from the truth.

What are your favorite subject areas, themes, or tropes to write about?

I’ve been particularly drawn to queer themes. Even when I was a teenager, I knew I was not strictly heterosexual. But, in those times, admitting that would open you up to constant marginalization and harassment — even assault. But I read something a few years ago pleading with queer elders to help young people understand what conditions were like then. I had always written about queer themes (in Esperanto), but when I started writing in English I “came out” and began being a lot more open about my sexuality.

Tell me a about your latest story and where readers can find it.

My debut work, Revin’s Heart — a steampunky fantasy adventure with pirates and airships and a trans protagonist — was serialized and appeared originally as seven novelette length (~10,000 word) stories. They have now been collected in a single volume and updated, with short interludes between them, three “side quests” (short fiction that provides backstory about some of the key characters), and a sneak-preview of Devishire! the forthcoming sequel. But I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention Better Angels: Tour de Force — a lighthearted space opera about non-human biological androids that act as magical-girl singing-and-dancing idols who can change up their programming to become a covert military force — which came out in December. You can find both anyplace books are sold online — or directly from my publisher, Water Dragon Publishing.

What’s your next project and when can we expect it?

The next big project I want to work on is entitled The Ground Never Lies. It’s sapphic romance about a geomancer with an anger problem who does land assessments as her day job, but who moonlights for the Chief Constable to do crime-scene reconstruction. I’ll probably start working on it next summer. I also have an unpublished novel, A Familiar Problem, I’m very pleased with and would like to get published so I can write the sequel. And I have two other Revin’s Heart series I’d like to work on.

How can readers connect with you?

I have a blog at stevendbrewer.com, a presence on Mastodon at @stevendbrewer@wandering.shop, an author page at Facebook, an Amazon author page. Or you can even sign up for my mailing list.

What final thing would you like readers to know?

If you like my writing at all, please leave reviews of my work. Even a review that says, “It wasn’t so bad I couldn’t finish it” is better than no review at all.

Free Books, Sales, and Events

  • Mar 9-10 – Sac Comic-Con. In addition to all the normal comic con craziness, I'll be at the Water Dragon Publishing table with my books. Tickets are cheap. If you're in the Sacramento area, stop by and say hello!

Currently Reading

Sweep of the Heart

By Ilona Andrews

I'm halfway through this fifth book of the Innkeeper Chronicles and enjoying it as much as the rest. Andrews doesn't take their magic systems too seriously, which is good and bad. On the good side, there are very few rules to remember, so you can focus on the story and characters. On the bad side, there are very few rules, so it's a tad easy for the protagonist to sweep aside (har har) any problems that get in her way, and no practical means for the reader to even guess how each conflict will go. Andrews are also prone to prolific descriptions that can slow the pace to a crawl, which is especially tough in a book where they introduce 12 new alien races at once, each with their own delegations, cultures, etc.

But these are just minor quibbles. The story and characters are intriguing enough to draw me along, and its isn't-meant-to-be-serious style makes it easy to glaze over the hard to track portions and simply enjoy the ride. I'll definitely have a full review for the next newsletter.

The Martian (DNF)

By Andy Weir

I tried. I really tried. But the thought of picking the book back up felt like such a chore that I'm finally accepting that I will never finish it. Maybe I'll catch the flick. Eventually. (sigh)

Other Authors You Might Like

Revin's Heart

By Steven D. Brewer

A young man falls in with airship pirates … and discovers how to follow his heart.

Revin, a young man from a poor mining town, has pulled himself up by his bootstraps to become the student apprentice of a law professor. But then, everything goes wrong: their airship is captured by pirates and Revin loses his mentor. Born female, Revin must make his way in a world oriented toward men while he struggles with his own identity.

Set against the backdrop of a war between island nations, Revin must navigate a world divided between the aristocracy and the common people. And, as a promising young man, he must choose whom to align himself with — and to serve.

But what does Revin’s heart say?

Learn more

My Books

Timeless Keeper Saga

On a war-ravaged Earth no longer able to sustain life, a half-blind dome farmer and a mysterious city dweller may hold the keys to humanity's fate.

The Timeless Keeper Saga is a science fiction dystopian thriller series about forbidden love, mysterious ancient artifacts, hidden powers, and the indomitable human spirit.

Learn more

The Z-Tech Chronicles

In the face of a rising, ancient evil, a traumatized San Francisco waitress may be the only thing standing between humanity and oblivion.

The Z-Tech Chronicles is a science fiction / urban fantasy saga that follows Anne Perrin on her journey from a traumatized waitress to becoming more than she ever imagined.

Learn more

One Man's Trash - A Truck Stop at the Center of the Galaxy Story

Croft Winder grew up believing that love is blind.

It wasn't until he took his fiancée on a little vacation to the Truck Stop at the Center of the Galaxy, however, that he learned it can also be downright insane.

Will the wonders of the Truck Stop save their relationship or send it to the executioner’s block? Not even the ancient Delphians could have guessed.

One Man's Trash is a cozy sci fi romance set in the Truck Stop at the Center of the Galaxy universe.

Learn more

Dragon Assassin - A Steamy Shifter Romance

Half dragon. Half human. All woman... and all killer.​

Humans think Charon is a monster. Dragons consider her an abomination, condemning her to a lifetime of isolation.

Now her half-breed body is changing in ways she doesn't understand, torturing her with strange desires. Her only hope may lie with a handsome young assassin who, in courting her, might be getting more than he signed up for.

If you're into sexy shape-changing half-dragons, suave assassins, absurd anatomy, and steamy female-led relationships, then this thrilling paranormal romance adventure is for you!

Learn more