alanajoli: (Default)
I've been working with Scott Colby for some years now -- he's been my editor for several of the Baeg Tobar pieces I've written, all of which have been better for his input. Now, he's just released his first self-published novel as an e-book! (It also features cover art by the awesome Jeremy Mohler, who was my editor on Cowboys and Aliens II.)

Shotgun is now available at Amazon, and if it's anything like the quality of Scott's short stories for Baeg Tobar, it will be well worth checking out. You can also keep up with news on Scott's novel on facebook.

In honor of the recent release, Scott wrote up a guest blog about his writing process. Without further ado: Scott Colby!


--

When I self-published my debut novel, Shotgun, a few weeks ago, it was the culmination of years of hard work, several dozen gallons of coffee, and lots of time spent staring off into space debating whether my latest idea was a brainstorm or just a brain fart. I wrote the first version of the story ten years ago, in the back of my high school classrooms, when I should've been taking notes. Following several rewrites later and a decision to finally get serious about it this summer, I've got a story I'm very proud of and a world I plan to play with for a while.

One of the most fun parts of this process has been looking back at how my work has changed. I'm not sure what happened to my original spiral notebooks, but thanks to the magic of technology, I can look back at what I wrote in college and directly after. I didn't do much thinking ahead back then, but for some reason I had the presence of mind to save multiple versions of Shotgun rather than just overwriting my previous attempt at literary stardom. I can find the point where, after reading Frank Herbert's Dune, I introduced a reluctant traitor and commoditized an item that had previously just been a plot device. There's a few discarded documents where the comedy went way over the top, and there's a version where I brought it back down to Earth–well, as close to Earth as contemporary fantasy with a dash of very silly magic can get. There's the point where I ditched my terrible original first chapter which featured my main character singing along to “Sweet Home Alabama” as his pickup truck bounced along a dirt road on his way to meet his soon-to-be-murdered friends in a hunting cabin. And there's the time I decided to stop taking my elves too seriously and just let them fall off the rails. I've got fifteen chapters of an unfinished sequel that doesn't work at all anymore and another twelve of a prequel that might be salvagable with a bit of finagling and a strong pot of coffee.

What I've got is a complete record of my favorite hobby. It's proof that even though I don't know all there is to know about writing, at least I'm improving. It's an in depth look into a corner of my psyche throughout the years, flavored with elves and magic and terrible, horrible ideas I'm glad I got rid of but which I know seemed awesome at the time. Nullet the talking donkey? Pike's live-in groupie? Good riddance! None of you were as good as the pound cake summoning scene that's survived three iterations.

Anyway, to the point: keep copies of what you write, even if you think it's absolute garbage. Maintain files for different versions, too, rather than just overwriting what you've all ready done. I've been lucky with my computers, but I'm not foolish enough to keep anything in just one place anymore. I'm a big fan of Dropbox and I suggest you find something that works for you. Losing work is one thing; losing memories is another.

Oh, and check out Shotgun. I guarantee it's worth at least the $2.99 I'm charging. And if you read it and you think it isn't, well, just be glad this easy self-publishing technology wasn't around when I was an even crappier writer.

Interview!

Oct. 6th, 2010 03:15 pm
alanajoli: (Default)
The Baeg Tobar team and I all got interviewed back in March for the site Conversations with Writers. My interview has been posted today -- I think we'll see something from [livejournal.com profile] lyster, Scott Colby, and Daniel Tyler Gooden soon, as well. I'll post the links when they're up.

A quick excerpt from one of my answers (that I hadn't remembered writing, but definitely sums up my feelings on the nature of story):

I love telling stories, no question about it. I think there's a magic in it, that we're following in a grand tradition that goes back to the beginning of language. Even if the story doesn't seem to have much to it, the act of telling, and of connecting, is -- I think -- part of what makes us human. And hopefully, if we can relate to each other's stories, we can relate to each other.

When you have a chance, please do go check out the rest of the interview.
alanajoli: (Default)
It's one of the wonders of the age that I have never met most of my coworkers in person. I realized when reading one of the science fiction stories about people living in an online reality that actually, that's not too far different from what my life as a writer is like. I contract with, network with, and hang around virtual water coolers with other freelancers who work in bubbles like I do, or editors with whom I'll never share a real world cup of coffee. The really amazing part about this, however, is that you actually do get a feeling for these people you may never meet, and you get to know them about as well as you know coworkers the next cubicle over. Some you know better than others.

It's been my tremendous privilege to get to know Daniel Tyler Gooden in this way. He's a wonderfully talented writer (he's the author of the BT novel The Unmade Man and cowriter of the main storyline web comic, The Torn God), a great editor, and an ace with keeping continuity in his head. As the Baeg Tobar content editor, he worked pretty closely with [livejournal.com profile] lyster and me when we first started fleshing out Blood and Tumult, and once our draft is done, I imagine we'll be chatting more frequently again. I'm also hoping we'll start talking parenting: his son sounds just a bit older than Bug, and it's always exciting to watch kids just a bit older than her do momentous things -- like take their first steps -- when I know that's in Bug's near future.

Without further ado, here's a musing from Daniel on my favorite subject: mythology in fiction.

--


I had been mulling around the importance of mythology in fiction when Alana asked me if I would like to guest blog. Knowing she is a fan of the topic, it seemed destined to be the subject of the day.

Two works recently had me thinking about mythology’s importance in fiction, specifically for world building. I read Patrick Rothfuss’s The Name of the Wind. In the same week, I ran across an article in Analog, September ’09, by Richard A. Lovett, "From Atlantis to Canoe-Eating Trees: Geomythology Comes of Age."

Rothfuss has a well-developed world, much of it due to his main character, Kvothe, being born into a traveling group of entertainers. Stories spill out in every direction, as Kvothe performs with his family and learns of the legends and lore that are the core of the troupes’ trade. Rothfuss takes it one step further with Kvothe’s father's quest to writing an accurate song around the world’s greatest boogieman, the Chandrian. What I liked best about the Chandrian is that they are so feared that the only place you hear their name not whispered is in the play songs of children. Needless to say, the Chandrian take a big part in the storyline as it develops.

The use of bards, minstrels and storytellers to flesh out a world certainly is not new. For me, though, Rothfuss used it so well that the importance of mythology for building solid back-story really drove home. I felt I had a solid sense of not just the history of Rothfuss’s world, but why its people were who they were.

Lovett’s article further shored up the great value of mythology with a number of excellent examples of our own legends explained through the study of Geology and science. The story that stuck with me is from the Indian legends of the Pacific Northwest.

Twin sons of the Great Spirit, Wyeast and Pahto, spent their time feuding from opposite sides of the Columbia River. The cause of their spat was the beautiful woman Tah-one-lat-clah. Tired of the sons throwing fire and rock at each other, the Great Spirit intervened. To honor the brother’s truce, the Great Spirit built a stone bridge over the Columbia, near present day Bonneville Dam. Long story short, the brothers couldn’t keep the peace, accidently set the woman on fire, and all three retired to be later known as Mt. Adams, Mt. Hood, and, as Tah-one-lat-clah, Mt. St. Helens.

It is a good myth -- just a good story -- until you look at Louis and Clark’s journals. They found tall trees submerged in a slow section of the Columbia. It was figured that a large landslide had blocked the river. Geological studies of Mt. Adams and Mt. Hood show evidence of eruptions several hundred years ago, and Mt. St. Helens somewhere in the late 1400s. Dating on the tree trunks in the Columbia put the landslide early to mid 1400s, right in line with the legend. Lovett produces many more such examples, and if you like this kind of detective work, hunt down this article.

For myself, I have used mythology a handful of times in a world-building project, Baeg Tobar, Alana and I are involved with. Needing a legend surrounding a tall natural stone tower, I wrote of a curious boy who wished to see all the world. Climbing for days, he reached the top but found his curiosity unabated. Following the gods' advice (everyone knows you can hear godly voices better from high altitudes) he casts himself off the tower. The boy hits the ground, shattering into hundreds of crows who spread their race around the globe, ever watchful and curious. The best part of writing this as fiction is it might be a story wrapped around a more plausible event, or maybe it is just true.

Thanks for lending me your time, even though, if you are a writer as well, you know you should be writing.
alanajoli: (lol deadlines)
Between the hyphens is a bit that I'm copying over from my Kaz's Summer Camp check-in comment this week, because it'd feel too sad to type it twice.

--

I wrote a book review. Plus column!

Minus column? I realized, in looking at my saved fiction files, that aside from my ongoing role playing games, I've created nothing of my own since last June. A whole year has gone by without any unique creative input from me. (I'm cowriting that novel, which I'm behind on, as seems to be my wont these days, but it's a collaborative effort in someone else's world, not my own. It's a great project and I'm glad I'm doing it, but it's not -mine- in the way that other fiction has been mine...)

I'm hoping this is my hump, that this realization is the one that motivates me forward. I'm hoping.

--

I'm proud to be working on BT, don't get me wrong. I love cowriting with [livejournal.com profile] lyster. But I need to do *something* to get back on the writing horse, to write things that are uniquely mine.

In the meantime, copyediting is piling up and a couple of reference book essays and a slew of obituaries are waiting for me. Here we are, back again to the learning-to-balance side of life. If I get back to blogging this week, I want to talk about priorities, so maybe bouncing ideas off of all of you will help me figure out how to manage my work and writing time better.
alanajoli: (Default)
I've had several thoughts for blog entries lately, but it's not always easy to find the time to sit down and write. Luckily, I have a netbook, which makes it possible for me to type this right now with a sleeping Bug on my arm. Another reason I've been putting off blogging, as I mentioned earlier, is that I don't like to post when I owe [livejournal.com profile] lyster a chapter of Blood and Tumult. If I can sit down to write a blog entry, I think, shouldn't I be writing 1500 to 3000 words of a chapter instead?

Cowriting Blood and Tumult has been a lot of fun thus far. I love playing in Baeg Tobar, as the setting has so much potential. And the way that Max and I are writing -- trading off chapters -- makes the fact that we have an outline less of a detriment to my creative process. Usually, knowing what's coming next doesn't work well for me. Once I write it down, it's no longer the surprise that keeps me excited about the story. But since I'm only writing half of the chapters, the excitement becomes wondering how Max will tell that next part of the story, how he'll flesh out the details, because I probably would have chosen a different way if left to my own devices. That then feeds into what I'll write next, since his interpretation of the outline naturally impacts how I'll see the next part of the story.

(Speaking of Baeg Tobar, did I mention that my second short story, "She's Never Hard to Find," is up? The first story featuring the same characters is "No Matter How You Hide Her.")

It's not quite the same as working on a comic script, but it does share similar qualities. The best part, for me, of working in comics is seeing how the artist interprets the words I've put down on the page. Even when I give a panel by panel script, which is how I tend to write comics, there's a lot of room to interpret every detail. Seeing how the art turns out is a huge adventure!

Speaking of which, Steampunk Musha -- for which I was the co-writer on the original RPG, the editor for the d20 version (which never came out on its own; it's currently being converted to the Pathfinder system, but it will be released eventually!), and the writer for a couple of comic scripts that have yet to become full comics -- is now a Kickstarter project! I'm tremendously excited, as funding will enable creator Rick Hershey to develop a lot of projects that have been sadly languishing in the pipeline, waiting for funds to make them possible. The goal is quite modest ($5000), but will go a long way toward making fiction, games, and comics in the setting a reality. He's also offering up art, products, and even becoming a character in the setting as donation incentives.



If you're interested in seeing more Musha (or you're just interested in seeing me back in comics, which I'd love), please consider a small donation. Or just spread the word! We appreciate it.
alanajoli: (Default)
Hello readers!

I'm sorry for the long hiatus. Since I last wrote, the saying my mother always used to offer has come true:

Spring haz sprung, the grass iz riz; tell me where the flowers iz.

(She did not, of course, say it with the z's in place, but that's how I always heard it. My mother's grammar was always correct, except when she was quoting something silly.)

February and March were very busy months for me preparing for Bug to arrive, and then having Bug here with us! She's healthy and happy and a month old.



(Pictured here are Bug and the editorial staff outside with me. This is from week two -- all the more recent photos are still on the camera or are on a different computer.)

At any rate, the weather is lovely here in Shoreline Connecticut, the family is happy, and we've had a lot of company and family time. Next week, Bug and I are on our own again while Twostripe is at work, and after all the excitement, some quiet time will be good for us, too.

Along with learning about how to be a mother, I've done some creative work as well. I've mentioned before that Max Gladstone ([livejournal.com profile] lyster) and I are working on the novel Blood and Tumult for Baeg Tobar together, and we've finally managed to make some progress. (This means that I've finally managed to sit down and write chapters back to Max -- he was waiting on me to contribute for quite some time.) We're writing chapters back and forth to each other; it's back to my turn again, so I need to send him about 3000 words before the weekend is over. Collaboration is exciting, though, and it's fun to see how characters change or appear differently when they're built in tandem with someone else. (Also, it's brilliant motivation, now that we're in progress, to know that someone else is waiting -- perhaps even with baited breath! -- to see what happens next. *g*)

As far as blogging, I'm hoping to be back to my regular blogging schedule of at least several times a week, with guest blogs or excerpts lined up on Fridays. YA novelist and fellow Mythopoeic Society member Alma Alexander has agreed to talk about differentiating fairy tales and myths sometime in the near future; she and I corresponded recently on what being "mythopoeic" is all about, and I thought her notes were so interesting that I wanted her to share them here. (I haven't yet read her novels, though I have no idea how I missed them -- they look wonderfully mythopoeic and right up my alley!)

And finally, thanks to everyone who, while I was on hiatus, contacted me outside of livejournal. It was lovely to hear from you! And now, it's good to be back. :)
alanajoli: (lol deadlines)
I don't know how I do this. When I start out with a new calendar, it's blank and clean and pretty! (My 2009 calendar is a lovely print calendar by Lindsay Archer (the 2010 version is available here if you're interested.) And yet, somehow, those dates get filled with black ink to mark my day job hours, blue for appointments, purple for classes, and green for social engagements. (I switch colors on pretty much everything except the red deadlines and the black day job hours -- I'm not as organized as I'd like to think.)

Usually, I'm a few steps ahead on the autobio project -- though, granted, the first half of the year deadline is always much easier than the one late in the year (because I get the contract for both in the late summer/early fall, which means the first deadline is a crunch and the second deadline is languid and serene). This time around, I had to hand off more than usual to fellow copyeditor and Substrater Michelle while I organized the administrative details. (It's a good thing she's a copyeditor I really enjoy working with! I love working on the essays myself, so it's hard to hand over the work to someone else. It has to be someone I trust -- and Michelle certainly fits that bill.) I've got a great batch of writers this time around, and I'm very much excited to see them all in print.

But in the meantime, there's a 4e adventure that needs to be finished over the weekend, not to mention the rest of my first chapter installment in my joint Baeg Tobar project with [livejournal.com profile] lyster. (Have I mentioned Blood and Tumult by name yet? No? It's in progress! I'm 1500 words in on my first segment -- unfortunately not the full 3000 that would let me pass it back to Max. *sigh*) I have School Library Journal reviews that need to be written, not to mention the overdue reviews for Flames Rising.com and the overdue article edit for Journey to the Sea. (Alas, the free work always ends up falling behind those paid assignments.)

I was raised to keep myself busy as a kid, and I think I've taken that lesson to heart. My mother was the kind of teacher who always had several projects going outside of the classroom -- the biggest one was building a life-sized rainforest in an empty mall store. So I'm sure I get some of this impulse to take on so many projects from her.

One of these days, though, I think I'd like a vacation. It's a good thing I've forbidden myself from taking any work that's due in March! (I'll be busy with another little thing around then, but she's sure to be a handful.)
alanajoli: (Default)
If you read my short story on Baeg Tobar or have been following the Web comic, you've already heard a bit about the Black Queen. She reappears in this week's story, "Shadivengen" by Mark Adams, one of my co-writers on the Steampunk Musha d20 RPG (which is still in limbo somewhere). Mark is also working on the newest incarnation of Steampunk Musha, and "Shadivengen" is (I believe) his first published short story. It's exciting to see his work out there for everyone to read!

If you have a chance, please pop by, read Mark's story, and drop by the forums to say hello and let him know what you thought!

--

On a completely different note, my wild selkie photos went up at Nicole Peeler's blog today. I had a lot of fun with the selkie hunt, and the shot I took of the selkie I found at Branford Point (near where I live) is one of my favorites.
alanajoli: (Default)
I missed my Friday post this week (I'd thought to do an excerpt from some philosopher or other) because I was at an excellent play in New York. Hide and Seek by young playwright Richard Vaden made its Manhattan premiere this week. I first saw it at the Berkshire Fringe Festival last summer, and the current production is even better -- it feels more like a whole piece. (That said, everything I appreciated about the show the first time was still there -- both humor value and deep, thought provoking moments, so the changes only enhanced what I'd really found compelling before.) At any rate, it was a trip well spent.

But on to my very quick announcement before I head to bed. My first Baeg Tobar short story, "No Matter How You Hide Her," has posted! You can find it here, with a little bit of commentary from me in the forums here.

I hope you'll check it out!
alanajoli: (Default)
We break the Friday rules of Guest Blogs only here at Myth, the Universe, and Everything to bring you a huge announcement: Baeg Tobar has officially relaunched! Today's content includes several pages of the new webcomic, written by team extraordinaire Daniel Tyler Gooden and Scott Colby with art by Alan Gallo and colors by the indefatigable Jeremy Mohler, called The Torn God, as well as two pages of Daniel's serial novel The Unmande Man, illustrated by Scott Godlewski with colors by Jeremy.

My first Baeg Tobar short story should be appearing soon.

Now, back to your regularly scheduled guest blog with the woman who wields words and parasols with equal aplomb, Gail Carriger.
alanajoli: (Default)
I'm paging through all the e-mail in my inbox that can't just be archived and realizing that I've been keeping some of it around to post here in a link soup edition. Things are looking up, as far as finally getting caught up is concerned, but I'm taking it easy, because I think everyone needs a day or two, now and again, to just breathe.

On to the links!


  • I did an interview with Cynthia Leitich Smith ([livejournal.com profile] cynleitichsmith) about the autobiographies project. It's at her lj and associated other places (like her main blog) that she syndicates to. I hope you enjoy reading about the project as much as I enjoy talking about it!

  • Egyptian author Marwa Rakha, whom I met over at SheWrites, has uploaded a new English edition of her novel, which she's released independently due to troubles with Egyptian publishers. She's giving it away for free, so if you're interested in Egyptian fiction, check it out!

  • The big Baeg Tobar relaunch is scheduled for October 2nd. I'm really excited to see the stories that I've been working on come into existence in a public sphere -- along with tales by Max Gladstone ([livejournal.com profile] lyster) and Daniel Tyler Gooden, among others. The art work previews are, as I expect from the BT artists, stunning, and I'm excited to see the project up and alive again.

  • [livejournal.com profile] cinda_cite did a great entry about how books you're reading influence each other by proximity, mentioning her contest win from here at Myth, the Universe, and Everything. I've not had the time to actually comment on it over there, but I hope you'll pop over to read it.

  • C. E. Murphy also had a great blog post up recently about how she never noticed a lack of women in fantasy, which I think is a nice counterpoint to all the discussions about how strong women aren't present in the genre. Like Murphy, I've always been able to find strong female heroes in my fantasy novels, but I acknowledge that this is because I grew up in the era of Alanna the Lioness, Lady Aerin, and Harry Crew. In younger books, there was almost always a mix of girls and boys as heroes (Narnia, Edward Eager's novels, etc.), and by the time I was reading YA fantasy (still a new genre), there were scores of girls taking on traditional boy roles to be their own heroes. This isn't to say that there isn't a lack of women heroes, written by men, in epic fantasy (which seems to be part of the argument), but that I find Murphy's perspective on the thing refreshing, and pretty reflective of my own experience. (She doesn't mention Robert Jordan's women, who are politically the power of the world [and include some admirable heroines, despite the weird love trinity that forms around the central hero], nor Brandon Sanderson's ([livejournal.com profile] mistborn's) women, who show up as capable, independent heroines with as much meat as his men [at least in what I've read so far -- he has books out I haven't had the chance to read yet]. I think the gender work of those two epic fantasy writers are at least worth noting.)



Now, off to convince the day that I've begun, and to prepare for my pre-natal exercise class in New Haven. I've been itching for some new Nalini Singh, and she's among the authors featured in Must Love Hellhounds (as is Ilona Andrews/[livejournal.com profile] ilona_andrews, who I'm always glad to have more fiction from), so I may stop at the B&N downtown and pick up a copy, to further encourage relaxing alongside catching up. :)
alanajoli: (british mythology)
[livejournal.com profile] devonmonk inspired me with her goals system awhile ago, and while I haven't been keeping up with setting them (my to-do list keeps getting longer than my accomplishment list), I wanted to do that whole public accountability thing and set some goals here for the creative work I hope to get done on the England trip.

Reasonable Goals
Take photographs
Read 7 books
Finish one short story
Compose a photo essay for Journey to the Sea
Copyedit one autobiographical essay
Blog at least once

Unreasonable Goals
Take photographs and upload them for sharing
Read 10 books
Finish four in progress short stories
Finish a new short story for Baeg Tobar
Write the first three chapters of my Baeg Tobar serial novel
Write a hundred pages in either of my two WIPs (100 pages split between them would also be acceptable)
Compose the photo essay and an essay on sub-creation for Journey to the Sea
Copyedit both autobiographical essays and update the sketches that go with them
Blog once from every location with wireless internet

Aside from my goals, I'm still plotting out my book tourism.

Highlights of What We'll Be Seeing
British Museum
Stonehenge
Salisbury Cathedral
Avebury
St. Michael's Mount (Penzance)
Tintagel Castle
Cadbury Castle
Glastonbury Abbey
Glastonbury Tor
Chalice Well

I don't know if I'll have book tourists for all 10 of those highlights -- it's hard to decide what I want to take with me!
alanajoli: (Default)
I haven't done one of these in awhile, in part because I just haven't been blogging very much, and in part because I've been busy doing writing that isn't fiction. There has been plenty of copyediting lately to keep me busy, and one of my May deadlines got moved up to the end of April (writing obituaries and short biographical essays), so I'm focusing on keeping up with those. Soon, though, I should have excerpts from the serial novel I'll be working on for Baeg Tobar. In the mean time, I do have another finished short story for BT, and I thought I'd share a few paragraphs from that today. This is the second story featuring the characters from "No Matter How You Hide Her" -- it's titled after the next line in the lyric: "She's Never Hard to Find."

--

He was too old for this.

About half of the group charged down the street, leaving a group of looters across the street from the ship providing Howell with cover. He closed his eyes, touched the tips of his fingers to the beads at his neck, and let out a deep breath. Then he lifted his fiddle and his bow and began to play.

The chaos of the looters’ emotions rolled over him. Their will—their grief, their desire to destroy and cause harm to echo their own pain—rushed through him. He controlled his breathing, feeding his own will into the quiet tune, a song of home and family. It was a traditional Norrington ballad, something that would have resonated with audiences in the old days, and he hoped that it carried enough of him along with it that, even though the Pileans would not know the words, they would feel the emotion. Their violence battled with his calm, and he struggled to keep his focus. He breathed in the music, drew on the power that lingered there, and sent out waves of magic on the notes.

The looters began to approach, drawn by the notes, and their rage slowed. One man at the edge of the group seemed to come to himself—he dropped the armful of stolen goods he’d gathered and headed off away from the rest. Many of them had homes to go to, and the song reminded them of the places they belonged, homes with beds waiting, the sweetness of a lover’s arms, the laughter of children who would miss them if anything happened in the madness of their grief.

Without exchanging words, the looters wandered away as the last notes of his song played.

Howell sighed, feeling the drain in his bones. He wouldn’t be able to do this much longer.
alanajoli: (Default)
I haven't done a teaser in awhile, so I thought I'd do a short post today (because we had Substrate this weekend, and it was awesome!) and then post an excerpt from the story I've had accepted over at Baeg Tobar. (I have another one on review with the editor, but haven't gotten edits back yet.)

So, quick thoughts on Substrate:
1) Eeeee! I have a critique group! And they are awesome!
2) Seven stories per meeting is too ambitious, so it's good that two people ended up not having time to send us anything this past month.
3) I should reread what I've submitted the day before the meeting so I remember as much about my piece as my critique group does.
4) Despite all of us being spec fic writers, all of us approach the genre (as wide as it is) from different angles. And that delights me.
5) A lot of different critiques came up, but a lot of us found the same flaws in each piece, which is helpful--because then it's easy to recognize what amounts to an actual flaw and what amounts to a matter of taste.

For example, the piece I submitted to the group was "The Water of Life," which I'd submitted to a publisher awhile back and had rejected. It was interesting to see that some of the people agreed with the editor's commentary, but other's didn't. (He'd thought the ambiguous ending was a cheat; at least one of my critique partners questioned whether or not the ending was in keeping with the character motivation; and another of the critique partners loved the ambiguity--which is, then, a taste issue, because I loved the idea of it being an ambiguous ending myself. Given the other critiques I got, I need to do some work earlier in the story to make the ambiguous ending feel genuine at the end, but it was good to hear that the ending wasn't a problem in itself, since I'd liked it that way!)

At any rate, you'll definitely be hearing more about Substrate here on the blog as we move forward. We're looking at once-a-month meetings (roughly), and I couldn't be more delighted with how things have started off.

And now, a teaser! This is from "No Matter How You Hide Her," set in Baeg Tobar. The tale ties in with characters from Daniel Tyler Gooden's serial novel and web comic, which will be available when the site relaunches.

--

Beads clattered around his ears, tumbling forward with his hair, as he slammed his mug down, barking for another, despite the fact that he'd slopped most of the last one on the bar's surface. The bartender – a Pilean import as much as his whiskey – took the pay without noticing, and Llew's eyes wandered over the crowd. Few enough of them wore their colors any more, not openly. The beads that had once decorated the hair of every man and woman there had now been relegated to smaller decoration – a bracelet here, an embroidery there. The people of Norrington were hiding amongst themselves, waiting. All except Llew, who'd never bothered to hide from anyone.

He ordered a second drink, the same that the short man with the axe had just ordered, and waited for the opportunity to offer it to the fellow. If habits from the previous night continued, the short man would begin telling stories of his own glorious exploits, which practically begged for people to buy him drinks.

And then Rhia came in, and his plans flitted off. The girl came in behind her, a waif of a thing in a too-big cloak, nearly thirteen but still slender as a reed. People rarely noticed Dilys in Rhia's shadow, and Llew would hardly have seen her himself if he hadn't known to look. But he'd learned that watching Rhia was a danger of it's own, and so he kept his eyes locked on Dilys as Rhia let her cloak fall down around her shoulders, showcasing her slim figure and amplifying her curves through a gauzy dress in the Mana'Olai style. Llew saw the way Dilys looked around, looking for familiar faces, waving with a grin as she saw people who’d recognize her and faltering when she noticed they were too busy looking at Rhia to make eye contact. Dilys almost resigned herself into a pout until she seemed to feel Llew's eyes on her, watching her so he could ignore the way that Rhia tossed her hair, the way she searched the room for her mark. Llew mirrored Dilys's shy wave, and she giggled. Rhia's face broke out into a dazzling smile that even Llew could not manage to ignore, and she approached the bar, Dilys in tow.

But they did not approach Llew – instead, they made their way toward the short man with the axe. Dilys tried to heft herself onto the too-tall barstool while Rhia touched the short man's shoulder lightly. The bartender, enchanted by Rhia as much as the next man, called for music without her so much as asking.

Llew cursed as Rhia and the short man made their way out onto the dance floor.
alanajoli: (Default)
So, back at the beginning of January, I posted some goals: one about developing a spiritual practice and one about returning to an actual writing practice. Then [livejournal.com profile] devonmonk posted another entry about goals over at Deadline Dames, and I set a couple of mini-goals, mostly about meeting my deadlines (with additional uber-goal of doing actual fiction writing between then and now). How am I doing?

With the spiritual practice, actually pretty well, comparatively. I'd been doing nothing, really, so anything is an improvement! Breakfast with Barfield is going well, and I'm pleasantly pleased with how easy Saving the Appearances is to read this time around. It's not as hard to wrap my brain around the ideas as it was when I first started contemplating them, and I'm glad of that. I've also been back to lighting candles for people with some regularity, which is in part due to the ridiculous number of candles we found when we moved, but largely because I've been thinking about people who need positive spiritual energy sent their way--and even if candles are only a representation, it's a meaningful practice for me.

As for the writing practice, I have say I'm not doing as well as I'd like. This is, in part, because I keep taking more work. I haven't yet gotten up to Jayne-level ("The money was too good. I got stupid."), but I'm keeping myself busy and working. If all goes well, I'll have an adventure gig shortly, and I've been working on Baeg Tobar shorts; I'll soon be starting the long project for them as well. That's definitely good work flexing my writing muscles, and I'm enjoying it. But "Good Company," "Chalice Girl," "Saving Tara," and the Blackstone novel are still just hanging out, waiting for me to pay more attention to them than I've been able to.

What about those mini-goals? I mostly made them. Considering my schedule being shifted some by new work that inserted itself, I think I met them all. Specifically, though, there's one piece that didn't get written that I still need to work on this week, before next week's deadlines catch up with me. To use Devon's technique, I'll put my goals here for my next two week period: one reasonable goal and one completely unreasonable, sky-high goal, and then I'll check back in two weeks from now and see how I did.

Reasonable Goal: Finish the essay that I meant to complete for the last set, complete the first set of copyediting/writing assignments that go with a three-part project, complete one reference writing project, and complete one large review/article project. Blog at least twice a week. Provide good critiques to the Substrate crew. Make progress on either "Good Company" or the Blackstone novel.

Unreasonable Goal: All of that, plus finishing another reference writing assignment early, blogging every day, and completing "Good Company," "Chalice Girl," and several Blackstone chapters.

For those of you who do resolutions, how are you keeping up with your January goals?

P.S. Congrats to [livejournal.com profile] devonmonk on getting contracted for six Allie Beckstrom books! I really enjoyed Magic to the Bone, and I'm thrilled that there will be that many in the series!
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!
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)
There's a nifty interview with me posted over at Jazma Online, a comics, art, movies, and entertainment website about my involvement with both Cowboys and Aliens and Baeg Tobar. They've actually done interviews with a lot of the Baeg Tobar crew, including Daniel Tyler Gooden, Emma Melville, and Jeremy Mohler.

As a note, if you're at Wizard World Chicago this weekend, see if you can track down Jeremy. He'll be there promoting Baeg Tobar, Cowboys and Aliens, and various projects of his own. He'd love to have folks stop and say hi!
alanajoli: (Default)
I got my contract in the mail today, so it's official: I'm the new writer for Cowboys and Aliens: Worlds at War, the sequel to the original Cowboys and Aliens graphic novel by Platinum Studios. The first volume is still available online, and though we'll be departing from the style of storytelling in the original, we are drawing on the first volume for characters and set up.

The entire project is being led by Jeremy Mohler (of Baeg Tobar), and everyone working on it is part of Empty Room Studios. Rick Hershey, the creator of Steampunk Musha, is the primary penciller for the series. Daniel Harris, who I haven't worked with before, is the colorist.

Doing the research on this has been skads of fun. After doing some initial research on the world in 1873 (Platinum provided us with quite a bit), I started looking up information about the Apache to better flesh out two of the main characters. I studied Native American Anthropology in college, so doing linguistic and religious research has been refreshing, even though I imagine very little of the actual research will show up obviously in the comic.

The really exciting thing about Worlds at War is that the stories take place all over. So we'll be covering everything from the shift between Edo and Meiji Japan to the Boers (Dutch rulers) of Transvaal (South Africa) and their ongoing conflicts with the Zulus. Because we want to keep everything as realistic as possible--to provide a counterpoint the fact that the series revolves around an alien invasion--each section is going to involve a research period getting us up to par on the cultures and politics of the area we're working in.

As soon as the project goes live, you can be sure I'll post the link!
alanajoli: (Default)
I just thought I'd share the remaining to-do list (and hint at the secret project I've been talking about--I should have a contract soon, so I can make it official!):

1) Finish a reference assignment
2) Decide whether I have time to do another super-quick reference assignment, and then either say I can't take it, or get it done.
3) Edit a Living Kalamar module, as soon as I get the final draft.
4) Write a blog entry I promised [livejournal.com profile] shanna_s I'd write.
5) Write two press releases for Baeg Tobar/Empty Room Studios.
6) Write five pages (ten entries) of script for a web comic. (Oooh, there are whiskers on this cat I've got in the bag...)

This neglects to mention the reading that I need to do for the trip, but I'm hoping that my research arrives on time! [livejournal.com profile] banana_pants was kind enough to order a library book for me from the system he can access and I can't, so hopefully that will help as well. (He went to find it and it wasn't on the shelf. It's a library mystery!)

In other news, I got my copies of Allies and Adversaries today! The artwork, as usual, is superb, and it features the nifty descriptions of the Into the Reach characters that I originally worked up for the White Silver website, as well as nine other characters I wrote up, including Johnny Twostep. He plays a bigger part in Regaining Home, and I've heightened the mysery of his background. But just as Shepherd Book never revealed his past, Johnny's not likely to, either.

Other contributors include Trevis Powell, who wrote the novel No Hero for White Silver; Lydia Laurenson, author of Scroll of the Monk and other White Wolf projects; up and coming game designer Andrew Schneider, who is working on some Empty Room Studios projects; and several of the contributors to the original Chronicles of Ramlar rulebook. From what I've skimmed, the writing is quite good, and the character profiles are fairly extensive. It's a neat little book (and by "little," I mean 226 pages).

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Alana Joli Abbott

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