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For the past two Saturdays, I've had the delight of visiting small history museums in Connecticut. I visited Branford's Harrison House, which is a colonial home and museum, and wrote it up for my column in Branford Patch. The following Saturday, I headed out with my friend TJ to New London's Nathan Hale Schoolhouse, where a young Nathan Hale taught. I will admit that I know more about Nathan Hale since I started reading Lora Innes's The Dreamer than I had prior, in part because she inspired me to grab some revolutionary history off the bookshelves at the library and look him up. The reason we hiked out to New London on Saturday was because Lora was there in person, doing a presentation on her new graphic exhibit featured on the museum's walls. Lora talked about how historical fiction is a gateway into history (clearly, it worked for me).

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The Schoolhouse is small -- only two rooms -- but it's recently been restored, so it gives a feel for just how it would have been when Hale was teaching, and discovering his love for teaching. In the (very warm) upstairs room, the previous exhibit about spies during the American Revolution held our attention while we waited for the exhibit opening to begin. Of course, the Culper Ring (one of the most important spy rings of the Revolution) was mentioned, so I texted Arielle Kesweder, who, along with being one of my first-readers, is a in tune with all things geek culture, and asked her in what comic I'd heard of the Culper Ring before. (Answer: Y: The Last Man -- which further proves Lora's point about fiction opening doors to history.) The upstairs also revealed chalk drawings dating back to the Revolutionary period, including this one that is likely of the privateer ship, Nancy.

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The presentation began promptly at two with an introduction from state historian Walt Woodward, who celebrated the exhibit team's (Jennifer Eifrig, Stephen Shaw, Rachel Smith, and Lora Innes) approach to introducing Nathan Hale as a human, rather than a hero. A lot of people only bother to remember Hale for his failed spy mission and subsequent execution, but insight into his days in New London show a man who would have been a teacher, a husband, and a father had he lived long enough. Lora was up next, discussing how fandom brings a huge amount of enthusiasm not just for media, but for history. In fact, several other The Dreamer readers were there, including a librarian from just a few towns over (Lora introduced us and gave the two of us a chance to bond as grown up comic readers and history nerds).

I took many photos, but instead of uploading them all here behind a cut, I've put them up over at my facebook page -- they include some nifty images of Lora, the Dreamers, the exhibit team, and New London's very cool historical monuments. I hope you'll check them out, but in the meantime, will leave you with this image:

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Happy Fourth of July!
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I haven't mentioned my column on Branford Patch recently, though it's currently the most consistent place you can find me online (or in any published venue, now that I think about it). But before it gets too far buried in the column's archives, I wanted to point out the last pair of articles on a "Then and Now" feature: "Then and Now: The Year(s) The Sound Froze?" has my very favorite picture from the Branford Historical Society's photo archives, the image of a car parked on Long Island Sound, out among the Thimble Islands, when the Sound froze in 1934. (The article itself asks for guesses about the year in the image; this past week's column provided the answers I mention here.) At any rate, this is the first time that image has been available online, and because I love it, I think y'all should go over and look at it.

And if you don't feel like leaving livejournal to check it out, you can look at this pretty winter picture of the Sound instead, from last year, when we actually had snow. :)

Linkville

Aug. 20th, 2011 11:03 am
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Attempt number two at posting: I don't know if it's having so many tabs open (with links I've been collecting to share here) that's making Chrome slow down. I'm also not sure how my last livejournal tab got closed before posting (though that could have just been my slippery fingers). But I figure I'd better share some of this stuff and see if that speeds up my work process on this end.

  • In Reads takes a look at the Amazon royalty structure for Kindle books, and questions whether the cut off point for high royalties at $2.99 is fair. (Books priced between $2.99 and $9.99 receive 70% royalties; below $2.99 they receive 35%.) With Amazon pitching a new tablet to compete with the iPad, I bet we see this type of conversation keep cropping up.

  • When the agency model first came out, I, and others, questioned who was benefiting. From what I knew from working with physical books at a bookstore, the publisher sets a cover price, charges retailers a percentage of that price, and the retailer decides how to price it to best sell the books to their customers. The agency model takes away the retailer's options to price the book for their customers -- which looks to me like it's shorting the consumers. I couldn't figure out the benefit to the publishers for this, but apparently, it's that they could sell their books to Apple. And now, according to Business Week, Apple and the publishers who have embraced the agency model are facing a suit for e-book price fixing. So my feeling that there was something fishy about the model is not a unique thought!

  • A writer for the Guardian asks, again, if e-books are ushering print out. According to the commenters, the answer is still no.

  • Via Rob Schmidt from Newspaper Rock, National Geographic tested the representation of the Apache in the Cowboys and Aliens movie. Some of the things I mentioned in my review came up; other things they caught I did short pieces on in the history bits of C&AII. For example, War Hawk (who doesn't have a traditional Apache name) talks a little about naming conventions here. Apache names reflected something about their personal nature, and during the time in which C&AII is set, a lot of those names began with "Angry." I can't track down my original sources on that information, but photographer Rico Leffana wrote about some of that same history in a short essay on Fort Apache.


In the meantime -- plenty of writing and editing work keeping this Abbott busy! On the fun side, Bug and I both went on our first ride on the electric trolley, which I've written about briefly on Branford Patch, and had a great time.
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Monica Valentinelli, a fellow contributor to Flames Rising, posted a contest on her blog asking people to post about their passions, and I immediately thought of the first time I'd really tried to pin mine down. When I attended the Denver Publishing Institute back in 2000, [livejournal.com profile] jeff_duntemann was one of our guest faculty members. He talked about a number of issues in publishing (things he's still discussing over at ContraPositive), but the thing I remember the most wasn't really about publishing at all. Jeff talked to us about finding your passion and living it. As a young college grad, I remember writing to him afterwards about not being able to narrow down my passion any further than stories -- I wasn't completely enamored of any one type of publishing, necessarily, and not being passionate about a very narrow field made me nervous. But the idea of being passionate about stories made sense, and it's something that remains true for me.

Fast forward eleven years later and the same thing is, roughly, true. I have my fingers dipped in various types of publishing -- and while they're not all story related, most of them are. Writing obituaries ends up being about telling the story of someone's life, capturing all the bits that will be important to readers. Writing about history for "The Town with Five Main Streets" has a whole range of types of stories -- all of them that somehow impact the current landscape of the town where I live. Writing for Dragon ties in with helping other people tell stories. Heck, even teaching Mom-Baby Fitness has an element of sharing stories and experiences with other moms.

Monica's contest runs through midnight tonight, so write about your own passions and go over to her blog and leave a comment!
alanajoli: (stormynight)
For the last two days, I've covered breaking news that has involved our stormy weather here along the Shoreline. Yesterday, it was the story that our local high school graduation had been moved indoors due to the rain. Today, one of the main thoroughfares in town flooded and the road was closed.

Both stories ended (on the personal end) with me getting soaked in the name of journalism. Twostripe finds this incredibly amusing. I find it sort of soggy. (I was pleased with some of the shots I got of the water under the bridge, particularly -- art requires sacrifice, even if that just means wet socks, right?)

We'll be back to our (ir)regularly scheduled posts about mythology and fiction in the next few days -- just as soon as I dry out!
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I am very, very lucky to have my mother, code-named Maesi for purposes of the blog, visiting this week, because keeping track of my freelance assignments, teaching the Mommy-Baby fitness class, and being the guest editor at Branford Patch means wearing a lot of hats. If I thought that being a freelance writer meant a lot of multitasking, I had no idea how much more multitasking was required for a web editor. The job has been fantastically fun so far: I've gotten to do an interview about an upcoming animal summer camp hosted by our local animal shelter, and Bug, Maesi, and I did a photo shoot for an upcoming fundraiser in some gorgeous gardens. (Bug will not appear in any of the photos for the site, but she did make her way into a few that we'll keep for posterity.)

The thing that requires getting used to as an editor on this scale is that I'm even more attached to the computer than normal. There's no time to keep up with my web comics (I'll check them next week -- I can't even think about reading them right now), and games are an absolute no-no. I only have a few chapters left in Mythsoc Award finalist Megan Whelan Turner's A Conspiracy of Kings, and I've made very little progress in the last few days. The freelance assignment I expected to have completely wrapped up yesterday is still almost done -- I keep getting alerts that an article has been posted and needs to be edited, or remembering that I need to tweet a new article link or post recent news on the Branford Patch facebook page.

In short, I have a new appreciation for my editor (Nicole Ball), who made sure I'd have a light content week as her sub. She makes staying on top of the news look so easy -- and I'm glad she's getting her well-deserved vacation!
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The family and I had a fantastic week in Colorado (the editorial assistants did a nice job keeping the house in order while we were gone). Now I'm back at my desk, trying to catch up on the work I didn't take with me (and yes, I took work along, because I am a bad vacationer). Big news: next week I start my class as a Mommy-Baby fitness instructor. If you know anyone in shoreline Connecticut who has a wee one and is looking for a good way to exercise and socialize with other moms, send 'em my way!

On a similar note, Dancing Thru Pregnancy founder Ann Cowlin was interviewed at Branford Patch about DTP's 30 year anniversary here in New Haven area. Ann's an amazing teacher to work with, and I feel both incredibly lucky and grateful that I ended up in her class!

So, next week will involve all sorts of new work for me: my class begins, and I'll be the substitute editor for Branford Patch, which should be a great challenge. In the meantime, we've got the Branford Festival this weekend, complete with the Branford Historical Society's Strawberry Shortcake Festival. (Does the tradition go all the way back to Quinnipiac roots? I posited that in my recent article on Patch, but it's just a supposition!) Summer certainly has come with no intentions of slowing down for me, and I'm going to do my best to keep up!
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I like obituaries. This is not out of any sense of the morbid (although people have accused me of that). What I think is neat is how a person's life can be summed up in two hundred, eight hundred, or two thousand words, and you get this snap shot image of who they were. I used to clip the obituaries from the old copies of the Branford Review as part of a library archive project when I worked at the Blackstone, and I learned some interesting things about Branford's history in the process. I'd not known previously that we'd had a watch tower in town during World War II, keeping an eye on the coast, that was manned mostly by civilians. This I picked up from the obituary of one of the women who volunteered her time to help protect the coast.

I write obituaries for Newsmakers, a project for Gale Cengage (the publisher I used to work for, and for whom I edit the autobiographies project). I've covered scientists and environmentalists, humanitarians and football coaches. Usually, reading the obituaries gives me this feeling of work well done. The people selected for the project tend to be people who accomplished good things with their lives, and lived to a ripe old age.

Occasionally, however, I'm assigned celebrities who have died of drug overdoses or similar before their prime. And I'm left feeling, "What a waste!" That's the only time that the job is irksome for me -- in part due to the added fact that celebrity obituaries are always more work (because they're covered in so many sources, and thus require sorting through many more articles before I can write my own). Which makes me think that with this last batch, I should have saved the conservationist who lived to be more than a hundred for the last essay I write, rather than the actor who died before he was forty. Alas.

In other news, it has been an exceptionally good mail week for me. I got paid (always a cause for happiness), I got a book (yay for DAW and [livejournal.com profile] jimhines!), and I got a mysterious envelope from an elementary school. The class I visited last month to talk about Branford history and writing sent me thank you letters for my appearance, which gives me all sorts of warm fuzzies. It's astonishing to see what the students picked up -- and what I should perhaps have phrased better when I was speaking, as some of the things they say they learned weren't things I quite intended to teach! I imagine that teachers get used to this sensation, but watching kids learn is still a real novelty to me. From watching Bug learn to blow kisses to seeing just what third and fourth graders find important -- it's this amazing window into the way that human minds work, distilled in a different way from what I see watching teens and adults. Kids are awesome.

The first question I'm answering for that class will be going up this coming week on "The Town with Five Main Streets" -- I hope I live up to their expectations!
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On Friday, the students asked me for weird facts that I'd learned about Branford that they might not know. To my surprise, they'd already gotten most of the fun stuff I've been the most excited to learn! But despite how much this group already knew, they were a great audience, and they had a lot of enthusiasm, not just for history, but also for comics and fiction and the other fun stuff that I work on. They also asked me some questions that I'm hoping to cover in upcoming columns!

As a transplanted Midwesterner, I'm still adjusting to the idea that New England has about 150+ years on the type of history I'm used to thinking about -- more in my area, if you count the Dutch settlements. In my history classes growing up, our local history conversations started in 1803. Witch hunts and whipping posts had long gone out of style. And, frankly, the attitude in the nation was a different one. Manifest Destiny wasn't far off as a national policy, and that fear of devils lurking in the woods that Hawthorne's writings made so popular was replaced by that pioneer mentality of being willing to fight off whatever threatened the right to homestead. Or, at least, so I recall it from my own education.

And, of course, those are just the written records of the regions. There's a lot of local history that precedes settlement by Europeans and their descendants. Doing research for an upcoming column on the Quinnipiac, I started reading a book written about the Indians of Connecticut in the 1800s, and the tone of condescension is just incredible. That type of history is extremely hard to read (and I'm glad I was able to get in touch with the folks at the Algonquin Confederacy of the Quinnipiac Tribal Council, who gave me both traditional and documented answers that didn't leave such a bad taste in my mouth).

Now, I've visited the Parthenon, the Temple of Apollo at Delphi, and enough other ancient sites to know that the 1600s weren't actually that long ago. And yet, the difference in the way we experienced life between then and now is a profound one -- and it's looking at the differences in world view that I enjoy most about looking at local history. Even when those world views can be hard to swallow.

--

In other news, I know it's been awhile since I had a guest blog or an excerpt posted at the site, and I'm working on improving the occurrences. I'm happy to say that we've got one upcoming that won't even happen on a Friday! Friend of the blog Melanie Nilles ([livejournal.com profile] amsaph) is celebrating the release of Crystal Tomb, the third book in her Dark Angel Chronicles, and Myth, the Universe, and Everything is an official blog tour host. (Starfire Angels, the first book in the series, is currently available as a free ebook at amazon.) Keep an eye out for her to appear here on May 30th!

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I've been edging on that 30 messages in the inbox mark for the last three days. I just jumped back up to 35, and while I may be able to narrow it down by one more tonight, I don't think I'll get any closer to success between now and tomorrow morning.

The flow of work just keeps coming to me, and I'm grateful, if busy. This doesn't mean I haven't found any ways to procrastinate just a tad. The evil Arielle Kesweder (you know, one of my beta-readers? usually saintly? yeah, now evil) introduced me to Angry Birds for Chrome. I'd thought I didn't have the technology to experience the Angry Birds for myself, and was doomed to pop culture references that went over my head, but no, she had to show me the error of my ways. Luckily, while it's clever, it's not quite as addictive as, say, Plants vs. Zombies, so I think I'm safe.

I also spent some time personalizing my new nook today -- the old one has a cracked case, and since I bought the nifty warranty, I had a shiny new nook arrive in yesterday's mail. After adding a David Weber collection to the nook, I had to recreate my shelves and get organized. (For the record: Baen Books is awesomely ahead of the curve when it comes to using e-books as promotion -- they've been including CDs of previous books in Weber's Honor Harrington series in the back of the newest hardcovers for the last several books. Baen also launched a free library of backlist titles, which is amazing, and which I've utilized previously. I don't know how this impacts their bottom line, but as readers who have purchased several of the hard-copy versions of the series, we're grateful to have the e-versions as well, as some of the mass markets have dying bindings.)

Tomorrow is check in day for Kaz's Spring into Summer 50K writing challenge, and yet again, I've nothing to report. Summer camp was so good to me last year that I really want to accomplish something with the new SIS project. But tomorrow is also the day when I'm going in to talk to local elementary school students about writing and Branford history, and that seems like the more important priority for the day.
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I've been putting this off for awhile, but I've been getting quite a lot of spam and other anonymous screened comments lately, so I've decided that, since you can log into lj with facebook and twitter as well as a livejournal account, I'm going to no longer take anonymous comments. This is a shame, because I've gotten some really good anonymous comments in the past from users who just don't do the lj thing. I'm hoping with the multiple log-in options, I won't be losing too many opportunities to enhance journal conversations while I'll also be eliminating the spam.

In other news, my Q&A for the week is about the Branford Green in particular, but I'm expanding the answer to explore something of the history of village greens in general. I know there are some history buffs that read this journal -- if you've got information on the tradition of the village green and where the concept started, I'd love to have you post here or over at Patch! I've got some resources waiting for me at the library as well, of course, but the column ends up being a lot about getting history from people as well as books, so I'm always happy to add a personal touch!
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I probably don't actually have enough links for an extravaganza, but it sounded good in my head, so I'll let it stand.


  • I've been waiting until it was public to announce this, and since this interview at Operation Awesome is up, I'm going to say that makes the news officially out there: [livejournal.com profile] lyster , aka Max Gladstone, is being represented by Weronika Janczuk of D4EO Literary Agency! He talks about it on his blog here. So many congratulations, Max! The world is one step closer to seeing your awesomeness in print!

  • New bits of my writing on the Web: a series review I did for School Library Journal is up here. The history column is progressing with some fun questions and answers. I got to write about the mysterious Great Oak at Double Beach, which no one remembers coming down; a wacky local legend about early governor of Connecticut Gurdon Saltonstall and the lake that bears his name; and weird road names in Branford and how they came to be. I've also started doing some articles for Branford Patch beyond the column, the first of which is about our local toy store, Kid Wishes, closing the bricks and mortar store and moving online..

  • Other new fun stuff related to my writing: the director's commentary style interview that I did with Brian LeTendre (of Mo Stache and Secret Identity Podcast) is up streaming here, and is available for download at my home e-tailer, DriveThru. (The interview is downloadable for free.)
  • Speaking of e-tailers and e-book sales (with just a slight segue jump), Chuck Wendig wrote a great piece on how the low ball prices on e-books can impact your favorite authors. Don't get me wrong -- I love getting books at the $3 price point. [livejournal.com profile] sartorias 's books are available at around that price over at Book View Cafe. I priced Into the Reach and Departure at under the $5 mark. [livejournal.com profile] jeff_duntemann 's new novella and an accompanying novella by James R. Strickland are priced together at $2.99 at Barnes and Noble, and will soon be on Kindle for the same price. Clearly, authors I know and respect are offering their fiction at rates that are incredibly affordable -- less, as Cat Valente says, than folks pay for a cup of designer coffee. I don't know how the business model will shape out, but it is interesting to watch. And I agree with (and am a follower of) Chuck's final point: if you like a writer, buy their stuff, and recommend that your friends do the same. I don't always have room in my budget to do so, and I may hold off until after the release date when cash is flowing more freely (and my review pile has fewer books in it!), but I try to support the authors I really want to keep writing more books.

  • Of course, that crazy e-book market is doing things that the e-prophets have been anticipating since, oh, 2000 when I went to the Denver Publishing Institute and first heard the voice crying out in the wilderness. According to PW, e-book sales were up 202% in February. But while those percentages don't always mean much to me, the big number in this article is that publishers reported over $90 million in e-book sales. Despite this, and despite the uptick in college students reading e-books, most college students aren't using e-readers for their text books. I'm actually kind of astonished by this, since I first got hooked on e-readers as a great idea when thinking about how much I'd have preferred to carry around something the size of a nook on campus, rather than all my text books -- assuming that it took notes more like a Kindle. ;) (I'm still not a fan of the nook's note taking capability in comparison, but luckily, I don't need to take notes much anymore, unless it's in a review book, and those are almost always ARCs.)

  • And last in e-book news, Kindle owners are in luck: they'll be able to start borrowing books from their libraries just like nook and Sony users! PW's link is down, weirdly, but here's the news from Venture Beat. No word yet on a time frame, but I'm super psyched that Amazon decided to make library lending possible for the Kindle. It's a big win for libraries!


Actually, that ended up being more links than I thought I had. Ta da, extravaganza complete!

Pep Squad

Apr. 20th, 2011 10:15 pm
alanajoli: (Default)
I've decided not to make another entry on how long it's been since I've written an entry. Things have happened, largely in regards to live, and it's been difficult to keep up with all the online things I do. As I answered when a friend of mine asked after my writing and spiritual life yesterday, I often feel the best I can do is just keep up, rather than be a master at any part of my life at the moment. (I've bookmarked a blog entry about writers, time, and kids over at Book View Cafe. I have yet to find a chance to read it.)

But back to the subject: something I've discovered about myself as a writer recently is that when I offer up a piece for critique too early, I lose motivation to work on it. My brain switches gears from writer brain to editor brain, and I start looking at all the things that need to be fixed rather than what needs to happen *next.* Both Blackstone Academy and East Wind are currently suffering from early-critique syndrome.

On the other hand, I don't like to write in a void. I like to know that someone is out there reading what I'm writing and wants to read more. It helps keep me motivated to think that people are hanging on at the end of a chapter waiting to see what happens next.

To synthesize these two things, I decided to create a group that I'm calling my Pep Squad. Their job is to be excited about what I send them (even if they're not). They're so early in the reading process that they're not even alpha-readers -- they're the pre-alpha-readers. I've got a team of four friends who are taking on this role for me, and I've just sent them some pre-writing tonight for a new project I'm tentatively calling Liminals.

I am not giving up on either Blackstone Academy or East Wind -- I'm just trying to find a way to keep myself motivated to write fiction while I'm trying to keep up with everything else that's going on. (I'm not only a columnist at Branford Patch, now, I'm also writing articles! Copyediting is back into full swing! Review gigs just keep on rolling in! So, I'm staying plenty busy with the work life, plus family life, plus karate -- test on Friday next!, plus Mommy Baby exercise and teaching, plus gaming and otherwise socializing with people I like.)

In other news, counting review books, several volumes of Schlock Mercenary, and manuscripts, I've read 49 books so far this year. I'm just slightly proud of that number, given that we're only in month four of the year.
alanajoli: (cowboys and aliens)
I am apparently not terribly inspired with thoughty* words lately, but other people are saying interesting things, and you should read them.

  • I'm pretty sure I've raved about [livejournal.com profile] jeff_duntemann's work here before -- I've certainly done so other places -- which falls all over SFF land (mostly SF, but at least one in the F side of the equation). Some of his favorite stories of mine are set in his Drumlin world, and are fantastic examples of space westerns -- which he was doing before it was cool. He writes a bit about subgenre splicing here (and even gives a short mention to Cowboys and Aliens).

  • Starting with my blog post last week about Castle, a very fun conversation started happening among members of Substrate about meta-fiction and interactive-fiction, continuing at Max Gladstone's blog and then over to substrater Vlad's page. They both provide examples of the kind of fictional-into-reality writing I was looking for, including the classic Borges on Borges piece. (You can follow Max at on the [livejournal.com profile] maxgladstone feed, and can apparently follow Vlad's comments, but not his blog, at [livejournal.com profile] vlad43210 -- once I get some problems with my account worked out, I'll be fixing that one.)

  • Last, it's goblin release day! [livejournal.com profile] jimhines has just released his first goblin e-book, Goblin Tales, in which Jig the Goblin and his Fire Spider make their triumphant return. I bought my copy form my nook, but it's available at Amazon too, with Kobo, iBooks, and Lulu soon to follow. [livejournal.com profile] sartorias gave it an excellent review, which would have spurred me on to buy it if I hadn't already intended to.


Not much cooking on the homefront, aside from doing research to try to solve this mystery, writing reviews, copyediting, and playing peek-a-boo.

--

*thoughty: a word meaning "thoughtful," stolen, not from Firefly like many of my pseudo-colloquial words, but from the Disney version of Robin Hood.
alanajoli: (Default)
...when you drop it off the top of a very tall building.

Oh, look, it's Thursday already!

I've been in a reading glut lately, which is great because it means I'm finally getting through some of my TBR pile -- and also because I had to quick get through some galleys from Simon and Schuster's Galley Grab before they expire. (Pre-review: A Brush of Darkness by Allison Pang? Awesome! I've got to get her over here for a guest blog, too -- she does a whole Thomas the Rhymer thing, and I think I've mentioned before how I feel about Thomas the Rhymer.... Anyway.) I've also got a whole stack-o'-series to read for an upcoming SLJ article; luckily, those are all at a lower reading level than my usual UF novels!

It's been hard to get motivated to do much other than read when Miss Bug is napping, however, which means that other projects are languishing a bit. I've got a good start on East Wind, and I had a nice stretch of days where I got a couple hundred to a thousand words down on paper. I broke that stretch yesterday by getting ahead on "Five Main Streets" articles -- and that's super fun, too. Learning more about Branford's history is awesome, and I've gotten in touch with some community members who will make themselves available for interviews about specific landmarks and such. Very exciting!

But while I'm making progress, my reading brain is the one in charge lately. I'm hoping I'll plateau soon, write a bunch of reviews for Flames Rising and Mythprint (as well as the reviews I'm assigned), and hit that all-I-want-to-do-is-write phase. I figure it's just about time for that part of the cycle to hit the top.

--

New articles of mine online that you may not have noticed:



  • Thanks for checking them out!
    alanajoli: (Default)
    My second article for "The Town with Five Main Streets" went live today! It's all about the founding of Branford, CT, and dips into an interesting bit of history about how there was no difference between church and state here back in the 1600s. Please drop by and comment, if you feel so inspired!

    In other news, I just heard back from Alayna Williams, and Beverly Gordon is our winner! I'll be in touch to make sure we get your address and etc.

    Hope everyone had a happy Tuesday. I finished Poison Throne today and, rather than move straight into the second book, I'm starting Kage Baker's The Anvil of the World. I figure, if I don't get into it in my usual time frame, I can take the whole trilogy back to the library tomorrow when we go for story time. If I do like it, then I'll have another series I dig and want to finish post haste!
    alanajoli: (Default)
    ...and we're back. (As Google Chat would say after being randomly disconnected from the Internet.)

    I fully intended to write while I was on holiday last week, but the week was just too busy. It was wonderful to celebrate Christmas with family, both in Connecticut and in Michigan. Overall, things were very good -- I had one minor whoops when I realized that some of the material I needed for "The Town with Five Main Streets" was still in Connecticut and out of my reach, but it ended up working out. When we got home, the whole family went out on a photo-hunting expedition for images to accompany the upcoming articles and had a fantastic time.

    Twostripe and I also got to go out together twice over the weekend, which hasn't happened in ages. We saw Harry Potter 7: part one and Spamalot, which was playing at the Schubert. (I'd never been to the Schubert, and I'd never seen Spamalot: both parts of the experience were fantastic, and the actress playing the Lady of the Lake, Caroline Bowman, was amazing. The rest of the cast was also great.)

    But one thing that tends to happen when traveling and spending time with family and going to events is that I miss reading time. (I used to be able to read while traveling -- Bug makes that a definite challenge, despite being an *excellent* traveler. She just, understandably, needs attention!) We did finish our read-aloud, Off Armageddon Reef, on the flight home, and I both loved and hated that I called some of the plot points at the end. (I was dreading one character's death, because the character offered the fatal, internal "once this is all over, I'll confess X" decision, and characters sadly never survive that. But Weber made it work regardless, and I loved the book.) So today, along with trying to organize my upcoming assignments (which are, sadly, fewer than I normally have in January), I spent time just reading, which was really helpful in getting centered. I never realize just how much my brain depends on reading-breaks until I go without being able to catch more than a few minutes here and there for awhile. Spending a few hours (during Bug's naps) has been really helpful.

    I'm reading an excellent first book in a trilogy: The Poison Throne by Celine Kiernan. I will fully acknowledge that the cover grabbed me on this one, and while the first chapter didn't draw me right in, the book did capture me before my give-up mark (I think I gave it fifty pages, based on the blurb on the cover from Roddy Doyle, who is a fantastic Irish writer). I'm very much enjoying it.

    I also actually read a book mostly on my computer today (I finished it on my nook). Background: Simon and Schuster is doing an amazing and wonderful promotional e-reading project called Galley Grab. As a regular reader of Publishers Weekly's online newsletters, I saw the advertisement to be able to grab a few YA galleys and was surprised and delighted to be put on the list to receive the opportunity to read all of their e-released galleys. Of course, I don't have time for that, but it looks like I'll be reading at least a few! The e-books, which you get through Adobe Digital Editions, have DRM that allows you to read them only up until their real release date. So I was going through looking at the books that were about to expire, then looking to see if the books I'd downloaded were actually my thing (several of them weren't), and I got to Cryer's Cross by Lisa McMann, a YA horror novel. The cover did nothing for me, amplifying the horror aspects, which tend not to be my thing (despite all the dark fantasy I read -- yes, I know it's incongruous), and I thought, all right, I'll just read the synopsis, which other ARCs had provided, and I'll delete it. I discovered no synopsis, so I thought, all right, I'll just read the first page. It's told in present tense, which is another strike for me -- I prefer novels told in the past tense. But soon, I discovered I wasn't on the first page any more. I was three chapters in. Pages were just flying by as I got into the story. The main character, Kendall, has OCD, and reading from her perspective as she ends up confronting a haunted desk (obvious to the readers fairly early on, but not to the characters) works brilliantly. The characters feel convincing, and the horror aspect works (though it wasn't too scary for me -- I am less bothered by paranormal villains than, say, serial killers).

    At any rate, when Cryer's Cross comes out next month, check it out. It's a very quick read (as evidenced by my starting it this afternoon and finishing it this evening) and, clearly, draws in even readers who don't expect to like it very much.
    alanajoli: (Default)
    Actually, I'm not so sure about whether or not a Gingerbread TARDIS would fly. But it was a nice segue into an awesome new project that friend of the blog Thomas Scofield is involved with. It's a new Kickstarter project, The Geeky Gourmand: a cookbook that ties recipes into geek culture, having a good time with friends, and making yummy yet geeky projects. (LJ is not letting me embed the intro video, so go to the site and see how a Gingerbread TARDIS gets made!)

    In other news, how did it get to be Wednesday already? What's special about today? Well, my first "The Town with Five Main Streets" column post at Patch.com is live! It's an intro post about what we expect to cover in the ongoing column. Please pop by and check it out -- leave a comment if you feel like it, and I'll say hi there as well as here!

    I finished up a copyediting project earlier than expected, much to my surprise, and I'm trying to figure out what my priorities are at this point so I can get some work done before celebrating Bug's first Christmas. :) I've got a "Five Main Streets" article to write, a review that needs to get done and some others I'd really like to get off the shelf, a short story to finish, and studying to do. All I need now is to prioritize!
    alanajoli: (Default)
    I went to a convention one time where, when a friend sharing the room with several of us woke up, he said, "Can't brain today. I has the dumb." Apparently, he did not make up this phrase, but since he was the first place the rest of us heard it, we attributed it to him.

    (Waves @militiajim.)

    I had a recharge day today, reading a review book and hanging out with Bug. I have copyediting to tackle, but I spent Saturday cleaning the basement (it oh-so-desperately needed attention) and Sunday writing the first article for a new history column I'll be doing for Patch.com. (The site, Branford Patch, launches the end of the week! I believe my first article goes live on the 22nd -- the column is "The Town with Five Main Streets." You'll see it mentioned here!) I did have a nice break with my friend Leifr on Saturday night, but today I still felt the need to give myself permission to recoup.

    And to continue that trend, I'm off to bed. Hopefully, tomorrow I will be good at braining.

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    Alana Joli Abbott

    July 2017

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