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Seems to me that there was a time, not so long ago, that I used to keep up with dozens of bloggers, who I liked and felt a kinship with. That also used to be the time when I updated my own blog with some regularity. Clearly, that time has passed.

It was a very busy, and fantastic, summer here in Connecticut (and surroundings -- this summer marked my first ever trip to the Bronx Zoo!).

Tiger, Tiger

There has not been a whole lot to report writing-wise. I am currently at work on a project for Choice of Games, featuring a kung fu theme. Considering I am also preparing for my black belt test in kempo (to take place in November), I have a lot of martial arts on the brain. I've been meaning to write about the process of creating a text-based interactive novel game, but I have been spending more time writing than writing-about-writing. (And also learning how to balance my work-from-home time as Bug is deciding that naps are no longer a guaranteed part of the day.)

Here is the news in a nutshell:
Writing
My newest article for Dragon magazine, "Songs of Sorcery," is out in the current issue. As usual, it's myth based, but it's also got a lot of silly lyrics that I wrote to common tunes. Quite a lot of it ended up being cut from my original draft, and some additional fun lyrics got added by the designers (I suspect developer Tanis O'Connor should be credited with some of the new work!), which makes it feel (to me) like a fun collaborative effort. I'm quite pleased with the final result (though I am a little sad that the hero theme song to the tune of "Funiculì, Funiculà" didn't make the cut).

Reading
This summer has included several book birthdays of those blogging writers I used to keep up with. I'm pleased to be entirely caught up on three current urban-fantasy series (instead of the most recent installments sitting on my TBR pile): Ilona Andrews's Kate Daniels series, which had Gunmetal Magic come out in July; Devon Monk's "Age of Steam" series (July's release was second installment Tin Swift; and Kalayna Price's Alex Craft series, which also had a July release (Grave Memory).

I'm also really excited about the launch of three new series:


Since I am at the moment one step ahead of my paid-review pile (I do have several books for unpaid lounging around the office), I'm trying to catch up on both review books and books I just really want to read. I'm currently at 116 books read in 2012 -- three short of last year's total -- but in order to make my specific reading goals I posted on January 1, I've got sixteen non-review titles to choose and read before the end of the year. Four moths to do it in? No problem.

If anyone has a recommendation for a non-SFFH, non-romance, adult fiction book they read this year and would endorse without hesitation, I'm all ears. I made it a goal to read two books outside my genres this year, and while I've picked one, I'm still undecided about the other.
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Apologies for the long blog absence without warning! I was off on a family vacation that involved not one but two family weddings in beautiful Michigan. We had a lovely time, and when I returned home I jumped right into finishing up the last round of autobiographical essays, which included an original piece by Tananarive Due. Due and her husband, Steven Barnes, who has also written an autobiography for the autobio project, ought to be considered one of the power couples of the SFF world (if they're not already). They're both amazing. If you've not read either of them, you're missing out. (Luckily, their books are pretty widely available, so it's a loss that can be rectified pretty easily at your local library.)

So the last round of autobio has wrapped up, I got to do a cool secret project for Wizards of the Coast, and a computer crash didn't stop me from completing an assignment of obituaries. All in all, things are good on the work front, and I'm looking ahead to the assignments that come next! The Steampunk Musha Kickstarter's success means I'll be doing some adventure writing with Rick Hershey and maybe a short story or two coming up!

I'm also catching up on Eureka. Since my writer-buddy Margaret Dunlap worked on that show, I ponied up and bought a season pass on Amazon so I can watch it on the television. I just finished watching episode 4, which involves a scene where two characters start a D&D game, basically functioning as a step toward helping one of them cope with grief. I thought it was an incredibly touching moment and a wonderful way to celebrate the power of shared storytelling.

Speaking of writer friends, several writer friends of mine are already on to the next project, and here's their news:

  • Since in writer-time, Eureka wrapped ages ago, Margaret's been keeping busy working on a new project, the web show The Lizzie Bennet Diaries. It's a modernized Pride and Prejudice, and it sounds right up my alley. More when I've had a chance to catch up on the already-existing episodes!

  • Fellow Substrater Max Gladstone just announced his fantastic news that he's sold an additional two books to Tor. This comes on top of his first two book contract -- his debut novel releases this October and is available for preorder now.

  • I can't remember if I linked back to Francesca Forrest's "Tilia Songbird," which was published in Gigantosaurus at the beginning of May. If not, here it is! If I did, and you didn't read it the first time, I hope this inspires you to go check it out.

  • And for a celebration of meta-text, John "jaQ" Andrews just had his e-book guide to Castle come out! (It's a book about a show about a guy who writes books -- it gets awesomely circular, and I can't think of a better person to write about it than John.) Check out Quicklet on Castle Season 3, in which John has promised to explain the conspiracy behind the death of Beckett's mother.


I love good news like this!
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I am down to 33 messages in my inbox. This is the closest I've been to "success" since the end of September. I'm getting there! This means that work is getting done on this end, for which I'm glad -- but more on that topic later. Now, to the important business of interesting links, so I can close some browser tabs...

  • So, after I celebrated Amazon's cooperation with Overdrive as a success for library patrons (and library e-book circulation statistics), Amazon launched their own lending service for Prime members. The initial Publishers Weekly article gives some details, including how Amazon intended to launch without the Big Six publishers. PW blogger Peter Brantley followed up with his observations on the program, as well as the impact on libraries. Then yesterday, PW's Rachel Deahl reported that Amazon might be headed toward litigation, since they had apparently planned to lend books they didn't really have permission to lend. Additionally, agents are in an uproar because, although Amazon will pay publishers for books as a sale, the borrowed books will register differently from traditionally sold titles, meaning that the royalties could get very messy. I am never surprised at kerfuffles surrounding Amazon's business practices, and though I think the Kindle is a fantastic device (and I do rent, and occasionally purchase, streaming media from Amazon, at least so long as my free trial Prime membership lasts), every time a situation like this comes up, I'm glad I'm not further in bed with Amazon. Of course, if I eventually make the Redemption Trilogy available to Amazon customers, that relationship will inevitably change once again.

  • Speaking of e-readers, friend of the blog and former college classmate of mine John Andrews of the Hippo posted a concise and helpful overview of the different options on the market right now, including the new updates about the B&N line and price cuts (which, of course, come within months of my purchasing a Nook SimpleTouch, now known as the regular Nook). You're all familiar with my B&N company loyalty, of course, and thus can take all my commentary on e-readers with a grain of salt; John has no such biases that I'm aware of, and is, you know, a journalist and stuff, so his commentary is much more trustworthy.


  • The Muppets are coming soon! Tor.com very nicely linked to the last of the parody trailers for the film, which lampoons the first parody trailer and takes hits at the Twilight Saga. It makes me giggle. I'm so looking forward to it!

  • DriveThruRPG is hosting Teach Your Kids to Game Week from November 14 through November 21. Bug's already got her first set of dice, and she loves our huge-sized minis, so I figure we're already well on the way to a future gamer.

  • Jeffrey Taylor, another classmate of mine from Simon's Rock, is launching a new comic starting tomorrow. Clockworks Comics has its online launch party tomorrow -- you can check out more info on the facebook page.


And with that, I think my links are expended!
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Sorry for the radio silence -- the hurricane had us off the air here for a few days, and I've been busy catching up from the lack of power. It's amazing how just a few days can set back your schedule!

With that out of the way, it's time for me to join the voices raised in celebration of the geek community. Writer/editor Monica Valentinelli posted over at Flames Rising about how the negative stereotypes of geekdom are continually perpetuated by the media. As Josh Jasper reported over at Genreville last year, the New York Times is one of the guilty outlets. So Monica suggested that we geeks unite a bit and share how proud we are of our various geeky hobbies.

My dear readers, you know a lot of the geek hobbies in which I indulge, just from reading bits and bobbins here at the blog. Here's a list of these things, in descending order from commonly known to possibly previously unknown online. If you partake -- or have partaken -- in any of these lesser known hobbies, I'd be glad to celebrate our mutual geekdom!


  • Not only do I play RPGs like Dungeons and Dragons, I'm a game writer. This makes me a professional geek in this sphere of geekdom.

  • For a long time, I was also a card-carrying member of the RPGA. I really kept the card in my wallet.

  • The same that went for RPGs goes for comics. I admit that I came to comics late in life -- after graduating college -- but I fell for them hard. And now I get to write and *review* comics! Best job ever.

  • If geeks are pop culture related and nerds are academic (one of the breakdowns I've heard recently and have begun to use), I am both a geek and a nerd in general. I went to college after 10th grade and graduated at 20.

  • More specifically, I'm a myth and history nerd. I have been known to geek out -- or even squee -- about archaeology news.

  • I am not a serious videogamer, but I do drive a mean MarioKart. I grew up with a hand-me-down Nintendo (not even a Nintendo 64) and played computer games on our old Commedore 64. Currently, we have an Xbox at the Abbott house. Plants vs. Zombies lives on my desktop.

  • I am completely tempted to play The Old Republic, not because I love Star Wars (even though I do), and not because I love MMORPGs (MMOs have the potential to eat my life), but because I am a huge BioWare fan. Love those guys!

  • Speaking of Star Wars, I did used to read all the Extended Universe books. Being a lit major in college totally made me fall behind, but I do pick up a novel now and again if the continuity isn't too confusing. I also own several volumes of the Star Wars: Legacy comic.

  • Clearly, you already knew I was a Browncoat. I also dig Star Trek and Eureka. I was super excited to find Earth2 and SeaQuest on Netflix.

  • Before I was a gamer geek and a comic geek, I was a band and choir geek. I was in marching band and swing choir. After graduating college, I took my music geek self and performed with a semi-professional choir at Renaissance festivals across the state of Michigan. I have an awesome Italian Renaissance era costume which is, sadly, not as accurate as a member of the SCA would make it.

  • Speaking of getting dressed up in costumes, I have LARPed and enjoyed it, and I have worked in True Dungeon at GenCon, playing a drow.



The list goes on, but while my geek side would love to put me back on a night-owl schedule, my mom side knows that Bug is going to be up at six, so I'd better get some rest between now and then. In the mean time, celebrate your geek! Check out the posts at Flames Rising and elsewhere around the internet, including Max Gladstone's over here. Join us on facebook or tweet whenever you see a geek post with the #speakgeek hash tag. Unite!
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How did it get to be Saturday again already?

First, some quick celebratory news: My very first Dragon magazine contribution is in the current issue! "Surely You Joust!" is available to D&D Insider subscribers, and it gets into how to customize a 4e character for jousting and, for DMs, how to integrate jousting into your game. (Lest the illustrious Shawn Merwin put me in the penalty box for punning again, the title was actually assigned that way. Not that I wouldn't have come around to the same pun on my own, of course!)

My very first solo-project as a game writer was Gallia, for DogSoul, back in the 3rd edition Open Game License days, so I drew on some of the same real-history research I'd done for that project about chivalric competitions. I also used jousting in a module I wrote for former LFR Regional director Andrew Schneider (who has an adventure up in this month's Dungeon), so it was great fun to be able to put all of that together in a new format.

It's also super exciting to be published in Dragon!

--

But on to the thought that spurred me on to blogging: namely, Maryah Morvena. If you've not read her fairy tale (she's here as Maria, and she's in Andrew Lang's Red Fairy Book in "The Death of Koschei the Deathless"). Max Gladstone mentioned this story to me awhile ago, but I hadn't gotten around to reading it until today. It's a very odd tale for a number of reasons:

1) Maryah is not at all a damsel in distress. When Prince Ivan, the hero, comes upon her, it's because she's just slaughtered a whole army. Possibly by herself.

2) The tale reads like you've come in at the middle. Prince Ivan, despite being a hero (and a weepy one at that), is the least powerful, and possibly the least important person in the tale. Before he enters in, Maryah has already captured Koschei the Deathless and held him captive. Koschei has already stolen a horse from Baba Yaga. All sorts of things that we never get the full story of have transpired before we step in -- which makes me think that Maryah is probably in a host of other tales that are less well known than this one, just like Koschei and Baba Yaga are.

3) This one is the most striking to me: there's this great synergy between Maryah and Baba Yaga herself in one important detail. They both ask Ivan if he's come of his own free will, or because someone else has compelled him to be there. This doesn't sound like your usual "are you friend or foe?" greeting -- no, something else very cool is going on here. It makes me think that Maryah has a relation to Baba Yaga that doesn't get mentioned in the story, either because they are both women of Power in some fashion, or in a more archetypal connection.

I don't have any thoughts beyond these musings at the moment, but I really wanted to point this story out. It's a great, weird little tale, and it's obvious why folks like Catherynne Valente have grabbed onto it for retelling. There's a lot of meat here, and I'd chew on it for a novel or two.
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I started last week so well! Alas, life is busy busy busy.

I had stuff to write about, but it'll have to wait, as today is another busy day, with our Crossover Mythic Greece / Viking Saga game this afternoon, as well as a multitude of errands, and more copyediting than you can bat an eye at.

First, from last week's contest, congrats to Beverly Gordon! She's our Happy Hour of the Damned winner. Thanks to everyone who entered.

Now, for this week's contest: post your answer by Friday -- it's short by a day, but I'll try to announce on Saturday next week. This week's winner gets a copy of Angels' Blood by Nalini Singh.

So, while pondering Loki for the Viking Saga game, I thought, wow, he'd have a great twitter account. Imagine if you will:

@AesirLoki: OMG, they're throwing stuff at Baldur again. Get over it.
@AesirLoki: Srsly, I'm going to kill that kid.
@AesirLoki: So, just talked to mistletoe...

I read Blue Milk Special, a Star Wars parody web comic, and they have a gimmick for Leia that she's a twitter fiend. Most of the characters from Questionable Content actually do have twitter feeds. It's a great concept.

If you could pick a mythological figure or a fictional character to follow on twitter, who would it be? Bonus: I'll count you as two entries if you post three sample twitter entries for your choice!
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Did you all like my disappearing act? Next, I'll saw my assistant in half! But really, what have I been up to in the past month?


  • Copyediting. A lot.

  • Watching Leverage. (Thanks to [livejournal.com profile] lyster and [livejournal.com profile] publius513 for the recommendation!)

  • Watching Eureka, on which my friend Margaret Dunlap is a writing assistant.

  • Realizing that catching up on back episodes of cool TV shows takes a bite out of my reading time.

  • Spending time with Bug, who is awesome and amazing to watch as she learns all about the world.

  • Going to kempo with Twostripe.

  • Reading books to review. I'm all caught up on my PW reading, but I have a review to write, and a pile of SLJ books, and some Flames Rising books and comics still piled up.

  • Writing fake romance novel back cover blurbs as a game for a friend. I may post some here at some point, with the names changed to protect the innocent (or not so innocent, as the case may be).

  • Reading books for fun. I just finished Ally Carter's Only the Good Spy Young and am reading Breaking Waves on my nook. (Breaking Waves is an anthology edited by [livejournal.com profile] tltrent to raise funds for the Gulf Coast Oil Spill Fund. Great writing and a worthy cause? It's totally worth checking out.)

  • Keeping up on industry news. The NYTimes published an article about color e-ink displays. Remember how I was asking about this earlier this year? Yay news!

  • Sending the Viking Saga team through Europe. This weekend: Italy! Next weekend: Crossover game with the Mythic Greece group! I can hardly wait.

  • Finishing up at the library. I've decided I can spend my time more the way I'd like to spend my time -- on both writing/editing and on being a mom -- without those library hours. As much as I love my coworkers and my library, it's a good move. And we'll still be storytime regulars.

  • Traveling for cool events. Last night I went to see Abundance with [livejournal.com profile] niliphim. Friends of the blog Mark Vecchio and Richard Vaden are involved in the production (Mark is the director; Rich is performing). If you're in Pioneer Valley over the next two days, go see it! And check out this article about the production, and a sense of the mythic in the Old West.


And finally, I've been writing. Not as much as I'd like, but I am doing it. I'm back to owing [livejournal.com profile] lyster a chapter of Blood and Tumult, but I'm also working on the sooper sekrit project -- which I can now say is a comic, and as soon as I tell my editor I'm going to start talking about it, I'll start writing about it here! The portion I'm working on is actually due sooner rather than later, so if I want to talk about the process, it'll have to be coming up soon!

In honor of my return, and to help with my going-digital initiative, I'm giving away my mass market copy of Happy Hour of the Damned by Mark Henry. Answer the following question by Friday the 24th, and I'll pick a random winner!

If you were stranded on a deserted island (with comfortable amenities and the knowledge that you'd be rescued within a week), what five books would you want to have in your luggage?
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One of my very favorite editors, who I've worked for on D&D projects, and who was my editor for Departure, has started a new column over on Critical Hits. Shawn Merwin is just an awesome possum guy, and he has a lot to say about gaming (including some tips I'd forgotten to think about in my home games) and about the nature of writing and editing. This is definitely going to be a column to follow, especially for gamers who are writers (and writers who are gamers).

Go check him out!
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It has been far too long since I posted here. Unsurprisingly, I also owe [livejournal.com profile] lyster a chapter of Blood and Tumult. When it comes down to it, writing is hard. :(

I write in a very immersive way -- I like to set time aside and completely delve into what I'm writing. If I have a block of a few hours, I can bang out a chapter and be on my way. But finding a block of time is difficult, and it's hard to prioritize that over holding my sleeping baby some days. It's all about finding balance, I know (it's my libra motto), but right now the scales are definitely tilted over into my daughter's court.

That said, I don't mind reading while holding a sleeping baby, so I've gotten a lot of books read recently. I've been plowing through the long lists for the Mythopoeic Society Fantasy Awards, both the children's list and the adult list. (I'll happily talk about the short list when it's revealed; the long list is secret.) I've also been reading review books. And I've noticed a trend in the past two years -- there are a lot of Arthur retellings out there. There are some coming out right now that were originally published in the 1980s, but are being released in new editions. There are new versions based on a historical Arthur, retellings based on Welsh myths, and modern stories with Arthur tie-ins. There's obviously been a market for Arthur stories since, well, Arthur became a legend, really, but there seems to be a glut of them lately, many of them quite good. (The ones I like best are, of course, the ones with good portrayals of Glastonbury.)

So here's my question: Is this new? Or am I just noticing it because I went on a rant to one of my editors about a particularly bad use of Arthurian legend, during which she realized I was an Arthur nerd, so she now sends me scads of Arthur related novels?

On a complete tangent, I'm getting ready to send my 4e Viking Saga team to the Continent from the Isles. Early on, we decided we'd just make Europe awash with tiny kingdoms, most of them feuding with each other, which our historian player said wasn't actually too far wrong around 800 AD. So the idea is that the Continent is going to feel like a fairy tale sort of place until the players get to the Scandinavian nations. I have yet to figure out good fairy tale rulers to make use of, however. Anyone have a favorite fairy tale king, queen, or other ruler I should use with Vikings and Celts?
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I use Google Chrome here at home, and about 50% of my bookmarks bar is Web comics that I read (followed by blogs, followed by a few links for my freelance work). So it's amazing that I forget about MySpace Dark Horse Presents -- which is currently featuring not only a Buffy-verse comic by the fabulous Jackie Kessler, but is also featuring part 2 of a new series by Mark Crilley, who you might remember I raved about back when I reviewed Miki Falls for School Library Journal. The story, Brody's Ghost, which appeared in the last issue of MySpace Dark Horse Presents with part one is Crilley's new project, and is scheduled to be a six-volume Dark Horse series. Sign me up!

I feel like I've been getting by mostly on links lately -- in part that's because I've been so busy with the whole work/other work/pregnancy classes & appointments schedule that I don't have much brain for blogging. As it is, I think we are officially done with our pre-baby purchases as of today -- everything we don't already have can wait until later (except maybe some minor, medicine-chest type things we have on a list in a folder somewhere that's surely in the house, but is not where I looked for it before our shopping trip). Bug is growing so big that I have no idea where she's got left to expand -- the doctor at my appointment last week guestimated she's already at seven pounds five ounces, and she's still supposedly got three and a half weeks left before she's due.

I know I posted about my grandmother's rainbows here. I don't remember if I posted that I did get two prisms from Twostripe for Christmas, and they've been giving me rainbows nearly every morning. Lately, I've been making sure that Bug gets in on the rainbow action:



And that's life around here lately. There have been a few great mythic D&D games (featuring one in which I made a character Originally Participate, Barfieldians -- so. much. fun! in the evil DM sort of way), and I'll try to write a little bit more about those in the future.
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Wow, has it been that long?

Why yes, yes it has.

The holidays were fabulous around here -- lots of great time spent with family before the actual dates themselves and then lots of extra hours at work to cover the time I took off! We had some fun gaming in New York on the first with our characters from the 3.5 continuing Xen'drik Expeditions campaign (we couldn't just let it go when it stopped being an organized play game). Twostripe has ramped the karate schedule back up, and Bug is big enough in my belly now that I can feel her from the outside of my belly even when she's not moving. That, by the way, is wild. There's a little person in there! The editorial assistants are now eating grown up food ("We're not kittens any more, boss!"). And I've been copyediting, book reviewing, finishing up my Living Forgotten Realms Adventure (slot zeroes starting soon!), and doing reference writing -- my usual ridiculous pace of work. My big fun project for the weekend (besides crib shopping!) is creating a map of the kingdoms in Great Britain for the Viking Saga game. Since we're somewhere between 700 and 900-ish A.D., ambiguously, I have some great fun maps to play around with to help me decide. (New favorite resource: Anglo-Saxons.net.)

The other big news for the beginning of the year is that I've just gotten a Nook, and am in the testing phase to decide if I want to keep it. Much to my embarrassment (since I posted the assurances of a bookseller on several forums), the Nook does not, in fact, read .doc or .docx or .txt files, which was one of the primary convincing factors for getting it. (I had intended to use it primarily as a tool for 1) reading digital review books, and 2) keeping up with Substrate submissions.) The Nook does read pdfs natively, however, and there are plenty of free programs to convert files from Word to pdf. Next hurdle? It doesn't annotate pdfs yet (actually, it might -- there are differing reports from users on this, and I need to play around with it more; B&N just says it doesn't support the feature as yet). That's a hurdle for me, since I want to be able to annotate Substrate pieces to remember what my thoughts were while reading -- and want to be able to have other people do the same for me. (Twostripe has not yet given much response to my thought that he could, perhaps, read drafts of my manuscripts more easily on an e-book reader this way; he is a print guy.)

The reading function, however, works beautifully. I've had an overdue review for Flames Rising since, what, August? The book came to me as an e-book, and despite reading the first twenty-odd pages on my computer screen, and then printing it out to three-ring-binder in hopes that I'd actually read it in print, I hadn't managed to actually read the thing. With an e-reader, though the formatting is still a little wonky (the pages are about a screen-and-a-half, so every other "page-turn" is only a small portion of the screen), it's been a much easier read to digest. It's a short story anthology, and in the last two days, I've read the various introductions (there are three -- two nonfiction and one fictional) and three short stories (including the first actual fiction I've ready by Cherie Priest of Team Seattle, who I've been meaning to read for ages), which amounts to nearly a third of the book.

The Nook is easy to use, loads fast enough that I don't feel like I'm waiting, has decent wallpaper installed for when you put it to sleep (they recommend never turning it off), and seems like a pretty straightforward device. I'm enjoying the e-book reading experience far more here than either on computer screen or printed from a three ring binder, so it's a major coup in that regard (though whether it's better than any other e-book reader, I couldn't say). Since reading e-books for review was half of the point of buying it, I'm satisfied on that score. I'm still playing with the annotation function to see if I can make it work for the rest of what I need it for -- which will impact my final decision on whether I remain an e-book reader owner, wait for a model that does everything I want it to (the Kindle has a lot of the functionality I'm looking for, but doesn't natively read ePubs, and the conversion process for that sounds like a bigger hassle than .doc to pdf), or decide to purchase another of the devices on the market (despite what their flaws might be). In the mean time, I'm having a fun reading experience and generally enjoying using it, so I have no doubt I'll be an e-book reader owner in the future, if I don't end up keeping my Nook this time around.
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(x-posted from [livejournal.com profile] kickstart_tu)

Dear Friends,

Any of you who follow my livejournal know that recently, I had the opportunity to have Stacy Whitman ([livejournal.com profile] slwhitman) write a guest post about her plans for her new publishing house: Tu Publishing. The mission is admirable: the books put out by Tu Publishing will feature multicultural heroes and heroines, helping science fiction and fantasy for children and teens become a more diverse genre. Young readers should be able to find fantasy and science fiction where their own culture is reflected in the world of the novel, and the goal of Tu Publishing is to offer just that. (You can read more about the goals on Tu's mission page.)

Here's the catch: ever publishing endeavor needs capital to start. Stacy is using Kickstarter as a fund drive to get the project started. As of today, she's reached 29% of her goal, and only 25 days remain for contributions! That's where we come in.

In order to help her reach her goals, this community has been formed to auction off items, services, crafts, and other various and sundry offerings, with all the proceeds going to the Tu kickstart page. We hope to help Stacy and Tu reach the goal of $10,000 by December 14th.

How can you help?

1) Donate something to our auction.
2) Bid on something donated to our auction.
3) Spread the word! Get lovers of fantasy and science fiction to pop by!

Contributors decide on the starting price and the end time of their auction. Because the turn-around is so soon, auctions will begin as soon as the listing for the offering is posted.

Auction winners will make a donation directly to the Tu Publishing Kickstart page and send the receipts to the contributor.

Thank you so much for your support!

--

In old news, I completely forgot to resolve my contest on November 7th. Congrats to [livejournal.com profile] karenkincy, [livejournal.com profile] asakiyume, and [livejournal.com profile] vita_ganieda, who will be getting Andrew Lang fairy books in the mail. :)

In somewhat less old news, my Norse Saga game on Sunday caused the second best fit of laughter I've ever had in a role playing game. (The first still goes to Cody Jones for the dirigibles.) I did not quite fall off my chair (hence the dirigibles maintaining the number one spot), but I did cry, I was laughing so hard. This is one of the many reasons I love table-top role playing games. (Also, I got to totally myth-geek the table with references to Taliesin, Cerridwin, Annwn, Bridget, Manannan, Gwyn ap Nudd, Loki, and sundry others.)

But now, off to figure out what I'm going to put into the auction!
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I love traveling. I enjoy being in new places and seeing new people (or going to old places and seeing familiar people). Changes of scenery are largely good. But even I have limits, it seems, and I apparently hit them over the weekend. Allow me to paint you a map:

Thursday: Branford to Great Barrington to Branford.
Friday: Branford to Long Island (via ferry) to Brooklyn.
Saturday: Brooklyn to Branford.
Sunday: Branford to Cambridge to Somerville to Branford.

This, my friends, is a lot of time in a car, and not a lot of time being stationery.

As I mentioned in my last post, I had a really excellent time with the students at Simon's Rock on Thursday. The myth conversations that started Thursday managed to continue on through the weekend (largely with [livejournal.com profile] banana_pants and [livejournal.com profile] lyster, who were kind enough to both listen to my myth geekery and contribute their own right back). [livejournal.com profile] banana_pants and I traveled down to Long Island together on Friday to go to I-Con, the science fiction convention that's usually at Stony Brook, but moved this year to be at three locations. The trip down was fine (although rainy), and the mist covering the island when we got there totally gelled with the stories I'd been telling about Manannan and the Isle of Man. (Having to wait an hour and a half in the mist before I could pick up my pre-registered badge was not the height of fun for my weekend, but [livejournal.com profile] banana_pants kept me company, and we met up with [livejournal.com profile] lyster in line, so the company was excellent. We also had a great time enjoying the parade of costumes and watching Yoshi give Yoshi-back rides to anime characters and other video game stars, including Wario, without prejudice.)

The point of going down to I-Con for me was in part to meet up with the Browncoats of NYC, with whom I've corresponded but not met in person, and largely to see editor Jamie Chambers, who I worked with on Serenity Adventures. Jamie, Cam Banks (also from Margaret Weis Productions), [livejournal.com profile] lyster, [livejournal.com profile] banana_pants, and I all went out to dinner and talked shop, then headed back over to one of the convention hotels and chatted with a bunch of industry folks before [livejournal.com profile] lyster and I headed off to Brooklyn to stay with friends (including a fellow Substrater). Jamie not only filled us in on a lot of cool projects that are upcoming, but introduced us to some folks who have also worked with MWP and White Wolf. (He also got a bit into the myth geek chatter with us; who knew he'd actually written his thesis in college about mythology? There are an awful lot of us myth geeks in gaming...)

Saturday was a short recovery day -- I had work at the library -- before we headed out on Sunday for Mythic Greece, in which our heroes finished their first major quest, delivering little Odysseus to Chiron for study. Now they've been cut loose from their first mission, given to them by the Oracle at Delphi -- only the Fates know what they'll be up to next.

At any rate, I'm mostly recovered now from all the travel and I even turned in some work early for one of my deadlines, so things are pretty well right with the world. How were your weekends?
alanajoli: (british mythology)
This may seem a complete tangent from my last post (and it sort of is), but it's come up several times in conversation recently, and I suspect it has to do a bit with training your thinking, so it's vaguely relevant. One of the things I have trouble with as a writer and as a freelancer is self-motivation. People who work for themselves have to be very self-motivated in order to accomplish anything, and figuring out how to find that motivation and drive can be a struggle. I suspect that anyone who works alone has to deal with the same thing, as humans need interaction (we're social creatures) to keep our spirits (and thus our motivation) at high levels. We have to train ourselves to find motivation in unexpected places, since the usual community routes aren't open to us.

One of the ways I'm finding compelling recently is having the benefit of mutual admiration. I've spread out my writing projects among a bunch of different people and groups, so I'm not hitting up the same folks for motivation all the time. In addition, I'm surrounding myself with people who are, in short, brilliant. An old saying (or at least a repeated one here) is that "excellence recognizes brilliance." I've long known that while I'm pretty good at a pretty wide variety of things, I'm rarely the best at any of it. (Some of this comes from being related to extremely talented people and surrounding myself with incredibly smart friends --and vice versa.) I strive for excellence, but really appreciate it when the brilliant folks show up in my life -- and better yet, are interested in the stuff that I'm doing. There are few things so satisfying as having someone who you admire creatively asking for more of what you're up to.

Today was a great day for remembering this. Not only do I have an e-mail from one of the Substraters in my inbox, asking when he'll get to see some more of the new super-secret (super-drafty) new novel that may or may not become anything more than a first chapter, but I was up visiting students at Simon's Rock. The purpose of the trip was to become acquainted with the students who will be going to England in May, but it also served as a brain refresher. The myth students are usually a clever bunch, and this group is no exception. The ideas they were throwing around -- and catching, and tossing back -- were just delightful to witness. (The discussion was of Barfield's Saving the Appearances, and the refresher on those ideas was also a motivator for me to get back to Breakfast with Barfield -- and then move onto the Mabinogion, so I can keep up when we're abroad.) After class, I spent some time with the students I've traveled with before, just chatting and catching up, and then went out to dinner with Mark Vecchio. All in all, it was a wonderful day of feeling appreciated by people who amaze and challenge me, and that's just the sort of day that can fuel my motivation for a long time to come.

Perhaps tomorrow, I'll even get back on track with guest blogs and posting here more regularly. But I'm off to ICon on Long Island tomorrow, and up to Boston for Mythic Greece on Sunday, so my best intentions may have to wait 'til next week.
alanajoli: (Default)
One of the things I've been doing while I haven't been on livejournal is planning a new mythic home game. Several of the players I was interested in bringing into the game are fans of Norse myth, which is one of my weak spots in my myth studies, so this is a good excuse for me to expand my horizons. As we're doing the set up, a lot of my ideas about myth studies appear in the e-mails or in conversation, and something interesting is happening: I'm remembering that most people, even those well versed in mythology, don't have the same background in mythic analysis that I do, and that some of the concepts that I take for granted these days about sacred time/space (Eliade) and the evolution of consciousness (Barfield), are, in fact, foreign ideas. That people have pretty much always thought the way we think now is a basic assumption that I've had trained out of me. I'd just completely forgotten that it is a basic assumption, probably for most of the academic world.

But just like I've been trained to think of the history of thought in a non-standard way, I suspect there are a lot of ways in which we're trained to think in modern academic systems that aren't necessarily the way we'd think without the training. I was considering the Socratic dialogues I read in college this morning, and I remembered that within them, logic was used to show that knowledge existed outside of man, independently, and could be accessed, with the proper lead in, by even the simplest child. But later use of logic and reason, most specifically in the scientific method, doesn't have the same assumption of form, from what I understand. Applying the scientific method is a comparatively new way of thinking about the world -- the people who first applied it (arguably Muslim scholars in the 11th century, but it didn't get picked up in a broad sense until much later, possibly post Newton in the 1600s) knew it was a new way of thinking at the time. They were changing the way people think.

I recently had a conversation with a prof about how associative thinking is a style of thought that also has to be trained -- not everyone can do it naturally. Being able to look for similarities and group them together -- even if they have absolutely nothing to do with each other (though they might!) -- isn't something that all people do automatically. Robert Graves certainly did it on his own, and The White Goddess is a great example of associative thinking, as well as what happens when a poet eats a lot of mushrooms and thinks about myth on a Mediterranean Island.

This makes me wonder quite a bit about the ways people thought before academic training was as widespread as it is now: the way you'd be trained to think would likely be various rules of how to get on with the spirits around you -- leaving milk out for the brownies, etc., etc. The Puritans were terrified of the woods when they arrived in the Americas, if Hawthorne's writings about the subject have any merit. Why? Because it was unknown? Because it was wild? Because it was the domain of people other than themselves? Did they lack the training to think about it, because it was something they hadn't encountered before? Or had they, in fact, been trained to think about it as something to fear?

It also makes me wish I'd been keeping up with my Breakfast with Barfield project, which has, sadly, fallen by the wayside. I'm reading quite a lot of books for the Mythopoeic Society Awards lists, and much of my reading time has been with those titles rather than my normal TBR pile. (Luckily, the two have intersected quite a bit.) Hopefully, I'll have the chance to discuss more of these concepts with both the folks from different academic backgrounds, as well as the students who will have just covered evolution of consciousness before we go to England in May. I'll actually be visiting Mark Vecchio's Mythic Imagination course next week, so it'll be nice to have the refresher!
alanajoli: (Default)
The Google Alert has turned up something fun! Dane of War just posted a review of the Chronicles of Ramlar Soundtrack, The Dreaming, and Into the Reach got a mention!

First and foremost, the music is based on what appears within the pages of the game’s Core Rule Book and Alana Abbott’s novel – Into The Reach. Both are so rich in detail that inspiration literally oozed forth from the pages.

Now, I'm not sure if those are the words of Dane of War or if they're from composer Bryan K. Borgman, who wrote and performed the music on the album. Either way, it's very nice to hear. :)

In other random news, it is totally possible to overload on D&D if you are running a ten hour, two round expedition on Saturday and have to figure out something interesting to do with only half of your regular gaming group (instead of the adventure you planned) on Sunday. It is possible to have too much D&D in one weekend. Luckily, all the players I was hanging out with this weekend are awesome, and I had a really good time, though I ended up quite exhausted, and I'm glad I'm not gaming again until Saturday night.

Last thought of the day: I think [livejournal.com profile] asakiyume's guest blog may be my most commented on post ever. :)
alanajoli: (Default)
We're a week into the New Year, and I haven't really put together a list of resolutions. I'm not sure that I will. I do have a goal of forming an actual spiritual practice (rather than a haphazard spiritual observance). The same is true of my writing. I think I lost track of my apprenticeship somewhere along the way and need to get back on the right path.

But 2009 is looking pretty exciting for a number of reasons. Here's some of what's coming up:

1) Substrate. This is my new, semi-local writing group! Since we're based out of New Haven, it's very local to me, but some of the writers will be coming from Boston and D.C., so it'll be a trek. Luckily, New Haven is an old stomping ground for everyone but me (as the person who has spent the least amount of time living here on Connecticut's shoreline, or so I believe), so the writing group meetings can be combined with other events as well. Like, say, D&D games.

2) Baeg Tobar. I've gotten involved with BT again, and am very excited to be working with Scott and Jeremy and Daniel and the BT crew. There are some amazing things in store for the site this year, including serial fiction, short stories, and a regularly updating web comic.

3) England. I've been invited to be the TA/driver/chaperon for the Simon's Rock England Trip in May of this year. The last time I was in England was 2003, when my sister and I went on our (now infamous, I'm sure) Isle of Man trip, where we were attacked by gulls and almost fell into the Chasms. (I exaggerate only slightly.) We'd begun the trip in England, and we stayed in Glastonbury for a good chunk of it. I am very excited to return, and hope to become reacquainted with Geoffrey and Pat Ashe. I've fallen out of touch with the Arthurian scholar and his wife in recent years, and am looking forward to seeing them again.

4) Getting past 1st level. My Mythic Greece players, with the exception of the one who is currently nannying in England (and so hasn't made the past few sessions) are all second level. Also, I got a GM medal at Worlds Apart for running sessions there. (They were shocked with how excited I was with a little virtual medal, but I am constantly in awe of how well we're treated there. They are good people, and if you're near Pioneer Valley and in need of a game store, they should be your go-to point.)

5) Since it's up on the site, I think it's fair to announce that my LFR module, "Head above Water," is premiering at DDXP this year. I won't be going to Fort Wayne to usher it into the world, but I'm really excited to have it given such an excellent spot to begin play!

6) Dogs in the Vineyard. The old Dogs game is coming to a close, and the new Dogs game is ramping up. There are fun times waiting to happen.

7) Another Shoreline summer. There will be sailing, there will be beach cook outs, there will probably be grill outs in our new back yard. (We moved in December.) I may be dreaming in advance about sunshine, but man am I looking forward to beach weather!

8) A million things to read. Moving made me consolidate my TBR pile--the ones I've actually *purchased* and not just added to the list in my head. I'd take a picture, but it's a bit embarrassing. Add to that the number of awesome authors with books coming out this year (or just released): [livejournal.com profile] frost_light, [livejournal.com profile] melissa_writing, [livejournal.com profile] ilona_andrews, [livejournal.com profile] sartorias, [livejournal.com profile] jimhines, Carrie Vaughn, [livejournal.com profile] rkvincent, [livejournal.com profile] blue_succubus, [livejournal.com profile] antonstrout, [livejournal.com profile] amanda_marrone, [livejournal.com profile] jenlyn_b, [livejournal.com profile] m_stiefvater, [livejournal.com profile] mdhenry, [livejournal.com profile] nalini_singh... all of them on my Must Be Read list. (And that's just with what I know from livejournals or can back up with Amazon research. Heck, that's mostly for the first six months of this year.)

So, yes, 2009 is looking up. I know, I'm probably one of the few people in the world who is sad to see 2008 go, but it was a good year for me, as far as my short stories getting published, and I'm pretty pleased with it on retrospect. But, as they say, onward and upward!

Anonycon!

Dec. 17th, 2008 09:53 am
alanajoli: (nap)
So, here's the thing about me and conventions.

I go to them. I stay so busy that I have no internet the whole time I'm at them. I come home and I'm either sick or just very sleepy. A new addition to this is that I have some hundred facebook notifications to go through before I'm caught up. The result? It takes me awhile to get back to lj.

But back I am! Anonycon was a wonderful way to spend my weekend, and continues it's status as the most enjoyable convention I go to. It's small, which I think is part of the charm--since this is my third year, the majority of the faces are familiar, and that makes the whole convention feel like a gathering of friends more than a gathering of strangers.

I went expecting to play/run maybe three slots. I'd volunteered to work the desk on Friday and go up early to help unload, which was a great way to start out the convention. Being there early and seeing folks come in meant the crowd grew slowly--and also meant that I got to learn a new board game, Race for the Galaxy, and play a couple hands of Teachu with folks like [livejournal.com profile] emilymorgan, [livejournal.com profile] banana_pants, [livejournal.com profile] banana_plants, and [livejournal.com profile] niliphim. It also meant that when there weren't enough players for the first Living Forgotten Realms slot, I was more useful to everyone at a table than at the desk, and I got to bring out Urtog for the first slot of the convention.

Saturday, I expected to play or run maybe two slots, and I started out the day with another LFR game, happily with some of the same people I'd played with the day before, as well as folks who I don't get to game with often enough on the home front. When the second slot came around, I thought I'd be playing again, but it turned out that they were short a judge for LFR. I hadn't actually prepped any adventures, expecting instead to run the last of the Xen'drik modules, but I realized that "Gangs of Wheloon" (by Andrew Schneider) was running, which I'd had the opportunity to run as a playtest months before. Given a little time to prep (and some very patient players, who waited while I looked things over), I got to run that adventure in a completely different way than it had run during the playtest, which was delightful. Hopefully the players had as much fun as I did!

Now sleepy, I had every intention of going back to my room and crashing for the night. I called up Nat Rowe (one of my Dogs in the Vineyard buddies, who'd also been my train buddy and at two of my game tables) and asked where he was going to dinner. Since he and his dinner companions (including [livejournal.com profile] hellpossum and [livejournal.com profile] lyster, who you may remember from a guest blog entry here last July) were still waiting for a table, they graciously expanded their reservation for me. And so I found myself at dinner with very excellent people with whom I'd corresponded but not previously met, and they very quickly convinced me that I needed to play in a Mutants and Masterminds game with them that evening. Since the time over dinner had quickly convinced me that I would definitely enjoy further adventures among their company, I joined their number as a femme fatale in an Indiana Jones inspired quest for the Spear of Destiny (and had exactly the fun you'd expect from hearing just that much).

Receiving very little sleep that night, I have to confess that I was relieved when I had no players for the Xen'drik slot the next morning. I played some more Race for the Galaxy with [livejournal.com profile] banana_pants, had a bottle of Coke, had a coffee delivered to me by the other Indiana Jones gang (who had slept in but heard the sleepiness in my voice when I called to find out what they were up to), and brought Urtog to another table of LFR (happily accompanied by the coffee-bearers). (Yes, you're counting right, that is in fact five games in three days, which is probably a tie for the limits of my gaming stamina--and better yet, I had fun at every table, which is not something I can always report.)

I also had some really great roomies in the hotel, which impacts sleeping in a negative fashion, but definitely enhances the fun of the convention. *waves at [livejournal.com profile] emilymorgan, [livejournal.com profile] spyscribe, [livejournal.com profile] militiajim, and [livejournal.com profile] niliphim* So, convention assessment: definitely a fun convention, and I'm already looking forward to next year. In fact, I'm sad that it's already over, because every time someone says Anonycon, I think of this:



And how can you not smile with that in your head?
alanajoli: (Default)
As the first Sunday of the month, today was Mythic Greece day, and I had a lovely time in the company of heroes. This was my first attempt at presenting one of the well known heroes of the Trojan War as a child (we're just enough before the Trojan war that these characters are all around, but are youths and young teens). I'm finding myself fonder of Odysseus as an eleven-year-old than I was of him in The Odyssey, but I suspect that's because I'm trying to make him likable to the players (since they'll be traveling with him starting next session, if all goes well).

This was my first attempt at running a 4e session without any combat, and I was roundly thwarted. The players wanted combat, and the 4e rules are really designed so that combat is an important focal point of any adventure. The skill challenges are great, and we had a lot of good role play--but all the cool stuff the PCs can do really revolves around their combat stats. I'm honestly not sure how I feel about this. Combat is certainly imperative to this type of adventure game, and I pretty much like the 4e rules that have been created for it. But I also like adventures where combat can be avoided, evaded, talked around, or otherwise handled--or at least those in which combat is neither a major focus nor necessary to the plot. That said, as a 4e player (my main 4e PC at this point is a fighter), I know I'd be disappointed if there was no fighting in a module, simply because that's really what my character is good at.

That said, it took me all of five minutes to piece together a combat encounter that was not only appropriate in challenge and to the plot, but was also exactly the right amount of xp to get four of the players to 2nd level. I think that's really a great strength of 4e: the speed at which impromptu encounters can be created.

--

In other, completely different news, a short story I wrote awhile ago for a Dark Quest anthology, Crown Tales, edited by [livejournal.com profile] dqg_neal, is up for order online. I got this gig through Empty Room Studios, and while I didn't work directly with the Dark Quest editors, I definitely enjoyed having the chance to play in their world. Their material is very rich, and they're playing with some really neat religious concepts--which I made heavy use of in my short story, "Choosing Fate." The anthology also features fiction by Mark Adams and Daniel Tyler Gooden, ERS compatriots of mine. (Mark worked on Steampunk Musha's most recent incarnation, and Daniel is a Baeg Tobar writer.) If you enjoy short fantasy fiction, go ahead and peek over at the sale page and give it a look. :)
alanajoli: (Default)
I realized today, as I talked with one of my early readers (one of my Mythic Greece players who was kind enough to actually read and think about some very drafty chapters of what I hope becomes the Blackstone Academy novel), that the people in the Blackstone Academy novels are people I can gossip about. Some of them, in particular the professors, appeared in early drafts of a story (called "the Janie story" because I didn't have a title for it) that I intended to write about a young woman leaving to go to college early and discovering that her college was actually a school to train magic users. Some of those same concepts came over into the Blackstone Academy, and some of the characters came along as well. But instead of doing a tale about the incarnation of the person who would be the villain of the Age as the World Age shifted (something I may still experiment with, but not in this book), I decided to do something that drew more on local history and less on cosmic forces at work.

But some of those back story elements are still there. One of the main professors has brought along all the baggage he originally had in the other plot, though I suspect none of it will ever come out in the Blackstone Academy novel. It's all in the back of my mind, though, and until I discover whether or not it's true in this incarnation, I can gossip about the past as though I'm certain. This is what happened. This is what formed this character.

I've always loved reading blog posts where authors gossip about their characters--or answer reader questions about what happened next/before/between. ([livejournal.com profile] sartorias is wonderful at this--she knows so much more about her characters than there is room for in her novels!) But before today, I hadn't ever had the experience where my characters could be gossiped about, and I'm excited to think that I have characters with that kind of back story, that kind of past living in my head.

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Alana Joli Abbott

July 2017

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