alanajoli: (mini me short hair)
Some days are like this:

idothejob

Some days are more like this:



Today was the second kind of day.

(Credit to Leaky News for that animated gif. Just what I was looking for!)
alanajoli: (mini me)
I had a conversation last week with John Andrews (whose tech articles I've linked to on the blog) about freelance life. He sent me a link to an article about copywriting, which advised how to always get paid for your work. The writer's answer? Get paid up front. Ben R. Palmer-Wilson, writing for Design Taxi, probably makes more money than I do -- he clearly works on the higher end of the copywriting industry, based on my read of his April 30, 2013, article, "How to Always Get Paid as a Freelancer." Which is to say, he works for businesses, not directly in the publishing industry. Back when I first started as a freelancer, I read about pursuing clients outside of the publishing industry and decided not to do so, though it would mean a lower income on my end, because I wanted to stay as close to books and literature (and games!) as I could.

At my end of freelance writing, things work more like this:

idothejob

Well, without the guns.

But I don't often get paid up front for anything. I sometimes get paid an advance, or part up front, which is great! But what I do get at the beginning is a contract. When I'm working for larger companies -- or small, trustworthy ones -- that contract is a binding agreement that's a reliable indication that I'm going to get paid at the end.

Sometimes, though, this happens instead:

idontgetpaid

That mostly happens with speculative work, where the company or editor is very forthcoming about the possibility of rejecting work even after it's completed. Sometimes it happens with large companies where they lose an invoice in the shuffle -- I've been able to recover all of those, but it can take awhile. And it's definitely happened with small companies that then evaporate.

The Kickstarter for Regaining Home is actually my first, paid-in-full in advance project ever. It's a novelty! I don't have any sage wisdom for always getting paid, but I do think it's worth noting that Palmer-Wilson's sage wisdom wouldn't work in my neck of the industry. I'd just get laughed right out of my contracts.
alanajoli: (Default)
Okay, not really. But for the Browncoats out there, remember that convention panel where someone suggested that Joss do a Firefly musical and Summer Glau totally lit up before someone else on the panel shot it down? When Max Gladstone pitched Avengers as an opera, that was the very first thing I thought of.

Max's entry compares the use of music in a Mozart opera to the use of combat in a superhero movie with hysterical results. As you can see here:

The battles throughout the movie never pit the same group of characters against one another twice, and are careful to pit all the characters against one another at least once, even when (as in the Iron Man-Thor fight scene) the fight makes little sense in context. We don’t care, watching, because we want to see these characters, with these specific styles, fight–in the same way that even if there’s no real reason for the bass and soprano to be singing together, we won’t frown at an excellently-composed duet. In fact, it’s these duets that show us the true quality of our characters, and illuminate the tensions between them–tensions which simmer under the surface when they’re in the same room and can’t use violence and action to communicate.


If you've not seen Avengers yet (unlike some ungodly proportion of us who saw it opening weekend and sent Joss Whedon skyrocketing into household namedom), you should. It's not a perfect movie, but it is awesomely good fun, and it may be the best superhero movie since The Incredibles (which still tops my chart, followed by Iron Man -- the Dark Knight movies have actually been a little too deep for my full enjoyment and endorsement, though I fully acknowledge that they're quality films). I'll have to see it again to be sure; this time I'll be ready for that quintessential Joss Whedon moment where someone gets impaled (yes, I knew it was going to happen, and I should very well known who it would be who got impaled, because it so perfectly fit Joss's pattern, but I didn't, and I cursed the name of Whedon right there in the theater) and won't be pulled out of the story by its occurrence. But if it's anything like The Muppets, I'll like it more each time I see it.



One quick announcement -- tune in tomorrow for an excerpt from Jennifer Estep! Her new Mythos Academy book is out at the end of the month, and you can read the first in a series of blog tour excerpts right here!
alanajoli: (Default)
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!
alanajoli: (cowboys and aliens)
So, along with the new C&A trailer, Twostripe spotted the trailer for The Warriors Way, which is, of all things, a ninja western. For all you twitter writers who can't seem to get your head around cowboys in space, is Old West + ninjas any easier? (Also, Spacewesterns.com has a list of all the space westerns that have gone before. Nevermind the fact that you missed Firefly or Serenity or even Cowboy Beebop. Cowboys + space = awesome.)

I think this just goes to show that the western is now the cross-genre component of choice for Hollywood.

--

For folks who are interested in reading the original Cowboys and Aliens before the movie comes out, you can still read the original C&A comic for free at Drunk Duck. Cowboys and Aliens II is also still up, in all its half-finished glory, for your reading pleasure.

Fly-by Post

Nov. 2nd, 2010 10:10 pm
alanajoli: (Default)
Two quick thoughts of the day.

1) I really like working with Platinum's Dan Forcey. His editorial e-mails are full of fun, and they make me giggle. (He also offers excellent feedback, of course!)

2) For folks who read my article at Flames Rising and wonder what I came up with for my spin on being a shepherd, it dawned on me that I could be a Shepherd from the Firefly verse, so that's what I did.



That's me with my flock of one (as she's trying to eat my prayer book). :)

Edit: Also, [livejournal.com profile] devonmonk is posting over at Bitten by Books today. You guys know I am a huge fan of Devon, not only for her fiction writing, but for her blogging and general good advice in the writing life. So, buzz on over and say hi, and tell her Happy Book Birthday for Magic at the Gate.
alanajoli: (serenity adventures)
Many of you have probably already seen this, but DriveThruRPG is doing a special promotion: donate $20 and receive a huge bundle of gaming products worth over $1000. A lot of publishers have donated, including Margaret Weis Productions. Both the CORTEX system and Serenity RPG are part of the deal. (Either of those by themselves cost more than $20 digitally through DriveThruRPG on a normal day.)

The money is being donated to Doctors without Borders. If you've been thinking of donating to the Haiti earthquake victims (or have been thinking about getting some new game supplements and sourcebooks), this is a great enlightened-self-interest promotion. It's been so popular that their servers are having trouble keeping up with all the donations and downloads!

Interviews

Nov. 25th, 2009 02:53 pm
alanajoli: (Default)
I got interviewed! I'm over at Weird Westerns talking about Serenity Adventures. Something will go up there about Cowboys and Aliens II soon, also.

Is it because the holidays are coming up that my brain is fried? If others are experiencing the same fried-brain symptoms, then I'll be happy to blame the season rather than myself. To everyone celebrating Thanksgiving in the U.S. tomorrow, I hope you have wonderful time with friends and family (and food)!
alanajoli: (Default)
Kelly Meding had me at "A Coupla Throw Pillows and a TV News Reporter." That's how she started her introduction thread at the League of Reluctant Adults, and between her obscure references to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (did you catch it?) and her obvious love of things Whedon (especially my favorite, Firefly), it was instant fandom for me. Nevermind that her debut novel (Three Days to Dead) hasn't debuted yet -- you can pre-order it at all your friendly local bookstores! Only four days 'til publication!). Kelly impressed me with her awesome over at the League and then at her blog with some of the coolest trivia contests ever to be seen on the Web. I knew that when the time came, I wanted to have her guest blog to promote the novel. And luckily, she felt the same way!

So without much further ado, I present Kelly in her own words, writing about one of her favorite fairy tales, complete with an excerpt from Three Days to Dead. If you (like me) just can't wait the next four days to get your hands on her book, you can read some free fiction set in her new world at Suduvu, where a five part serial will be posted over the next ten days. And now... Kelly!

--

Books and stories have been a part of my life for as far back as I can remember. As a child, many of my favorites were fairy tales, legends, and nursery rhymes. I had a book of Mother Goose tales and a cassette tape that read the tales aloud as I followed in the book. One of my favorite things to watch on television was Shelly Duvall's Faerie Tale Theater.

Urban fantasy has a wonderful tradition of taking those old stories and putting new spins on them. Sometimes they remain recognizable, and sometimes they don't. But what is fiction, if not a chance to take an idea and explore it?

In developing the world of Three Days to Dead, I had a wealth of information and choices at my fingertips. Some folks don't like the "kitchen sink" idea. They prefer a narrow slice of the paranormal. I wanted to toss in as much as I could without bogging down the book. Beyond the staples of vampires and shifters, I wanted Fey and trolls and gremlins and gargoyles, but I had to make them my own.

One of my favorite folk stories is that of the Three Billy Goats Gruff. I can't possibly say why that story sticks with me, but it does. Simply, it's the story of three goats who wish to cross a bridge and feast on the grass on the other side of a stream. Under this bridge lives a terrible troll who wants to eat the goats. The first, smallest goat crosses safely by telling the troll his brother his larger and a better meal. The second, middle goat does the same. When the final, biggest goat crosses, he has big horns and gores the troll to death, allowing the three goats to feast and grow fat.

This evil thing that lives under bridges and demands a toll for crossing is what my mind has always first associated with a troll. I wanted to use trolls in TDTD, but I wasn't sure how to do it. So I Googled.

Google is a wonderful tool. I found hundreds of images, but one in particular really stuck with me—the Seattle Bridge Troll. If you've not seen it, it's an amazing work of art. As soon as I saw it, I knew there was a character in it. I had found my troll. He would still live under a bridge, but he doesn't charge a toll for crossing. In fact, his actual role in this world came out a bit later in the book and surprised even me.
And so was born Smedge, the Bridge Troll.


Excerpt from "Chapter Five," Three Days to Dead, by Kelly Meding

Copyright 2009

"Are you sure he's going to recognize you before he decides to pound on us with a big, gravely fist?" [Wyatt asked.]

"Bridge trolls are blind, remember?" I stomped my foot again. "They don't rely on five senses like humans. He'll know me."

Sure enough, the solid concrete began to vibrate. Slowly at first, like the gentlest shiver. Then it built to a roar, and what was once solid began to run like quicksand. It drew inward, gathering like a miniature tornado beneath the bridge. I raised my hand against the wind, as every bit of dirt was drawn toward its center.

An arm reached out from its whirling vortex, a hand uncurling and dividing into four fingers. Those fingers splayed against the ground by our feet. Wyatt stepped back, but I stood my ground. A second arm joined the first, and then a head pulled out, forming from the dirt and sand and stone, as large as my entire body, with pronounced eyes that couldn't see and a mouth that couldn't taste. A neck and shoulders grew last, until Smedge the bridge troll appeared to have pulled himself out of a giant hole in the ground, only to lounge beneath the bridge, perfectly at ease.

Sounds rumbled deep within his throat, as he remembered how to communicate with other, more verbal species. Bridge trolls were part of the earth itself and communicated through tremors and vibrations of the crust and core, rather than of wind through the larynx. Some of the largest earthquakes in recorded history were because of troll wars--something no one taught kids in geology class.

"Him," Smedge ground out. His voice came across like sandpaper against metal--harsh and unpleasant. "Not…welcome."

"I'll make sure he behaves," I said. "Smedge, do you remember me? It's Stony."

Sandy eyes made a show of looking at me, but I knew better. Air circled me like a cyclone, caressing my skin with fine particles of sand. He was smelling me in his own way, making sure I was telling the truth. I only hoped his unusual senses could "see" past my new appearance and identify his friend.

"Yes, Stony," Smedge said.
alanajoli: (Default)
As I mentioned earlier, I got my Serenity Adventures earned Origins Award, known as a "Callie" (because it's in the shape of the muse Calliope) in the mail in the last few weeks.



In honor of Calliope's arrival, I came up with my very first contest question: Who is your muse? This could refer back to which of the classical muses you prefer (I admit to having a soft spot for Terpischore, the dancer, who appeared in a couple of mosaics and paintings I've seen as a red-head, so she reminds me of my sister, but I know I work for Calliope). If you'd like to take a less literal interpretation, feel free. On August 8th (one week from today!) I'll choose the answer I like best -- or, more likely, I'll think they're all good and won't be able to choose, so I'll use a random number generator like all the cool kids.



Your fabulous prize is an advanced reader copy of Troy High by Shana Norris, which just released today. I had the opportunity to review this one for School Library Journal, and I have to say that The Iliad works brilliantly well as a high school football rivalry. (I can't say more than that here -- you'll have to do a search for my SLJ review.)



So, who's your muse?
alanajoli: (british mythology)
It's been a week and a half since I posted? This whole summer thing is wreaking havoc on my blog schedule. (The beach is such a homey place, though... I just can't stay away! Thank goodness for review books that are portable "work" that isn't on my laptop.) The big news is that Serenity Adventures won an Origins Award this weekend! I'm really thrilled -- the competition was very stiff, I thought -- and I wish a huge congrats to editor Jamie Chambers and the other contributors. Good work team!

I've been pondering a number of posts since I was last here, and the one that's been sticking with me is similar to a post I wrote after coming home from Greece and Turkey last year, about alignment. I suspect I recalibrate my spiritual life a little bit every time I come back from a study tour, because I always learn something about myself while I'm away. Sometimes I learn even more when I come back.

When I first went to England as a student on the Myth in Stone tour in 2000, Mark Vecchio advised me that if I wanted to buy a cross necklace for myself, I should look in Glastonbury. Read more... )
alanajoli: (british mythology)
Three years ago, when I was the teaching assistant on the trip to Ireland, I mentioned Firefly, because it was quotable (and because I often reference it). Only one of the people on the trip -- a group of seventeen students and three chaperons -- had seen it. This eliminated a good chunk of my referential humor (since that had been one of my main staples at home) and counfounded me some. How had they missed that show?

This year, in the airport in Boston, a passenger with the first name Kaylee was paged over the loudspeaker. The conversation went something like this:

Mark (the myth prof): Everyone with the name Ceilidh ought to be required to break out into song and dance on request.
Cody Jones (student): I think anyone with the name Kaylee should be required to know how to fix my starship.

And on it goes. Several of the students on this trip are familiar with the works of Joss Whedon (I was able to give them the good news about Dollhouse, which I still haven't seen, and they told me the good news about Chuck). We talk a lot about collective representations -- the given understanding of what something is or means that's common in a group of people -- on these myth tours, and I think it's delightful that Joss Whedon has changed a collective representation here and there. It's been fun to see that pop culture understanding evolve with a very similar group of students over the past three years.

The students in this group are, no surprise, brilliant and interesting people who are much quicker to think Big Ideas and have Deep Thoughts than I am, in part because they're in so much better practice. I do think that the big benefit of being in an academic setting the majority of your time, particularly in fields like philosophy and myth, is that you don't have so much practical business getting in the way of thinking on things like Knowledge and Being and the theories of Existence. (All starting with caps, because I think often when thinking big, deep thoughts and conversing on the nature of the universe, capital letters are warranted.) I imagine I'll catch up reasonably well by the end of the trip, but in the mean time, I'm just enjoying basking in the conversation that's flying back and forth and the ideas swimming in the air around me.

We went to the British Museum today, in large part to see the Lindow Man, the body of a corpse, possibly the victim/subject of a ritual murder/sacrifice and discuss the implications/meaning of his death and the way he was killed, not just from a modern perspective, but from the hypothetical perspective of the people involved in the whole affair. Moving around the museum trying to see artifacts from that perspective -- trying to imagine what they might have been -- is both a good thought exercise and a good writing exercise, but is always challenging. The layer of glass between you and the objects can be frustrating -- it reminds you that you're in a museum, and that you're far separated from the people at whose objects you're looking. So much to my delight, the British museum had four stations in the building devoted to letting you touch old objects (and when I say old, I mean a stone hand axe dating back to, well, the stone age). Of the objects I touched, the most impressive were an idol from the UK, a small, copper figure of a god that weighed in the hand like a worry stone might, as though its weight was designed as a comfort; several silver dinari, worth, in their day, about 30 pounds each, from the varied reigns of Claudius, Hadrian, and Antonius Pius, who put his son on the same dinari that his head was on in order to insure proper succession, and who put his wife on a separate coin, opposite a peacock, in his efforts to make her a goddess after her death; a chunk of a vessel from a burial chamber from the Babylonian city of Ur; and a piece of wall brick inscribed with cuneiform that proclaimed it built by Nebuchadnezzar. It is a qualitatively different experience to touch pieces of history than it is to simply see them, and the British Museum has won itself an even bigger fan than it had before. Any time I return, I'll look first for the places where I can touch small pieces of history, and imagine those before me who held these pieces in their hands when they were new.

Tomorrow we're leaving London for Salisbury, where I may or may not have internet access. In the mean time, I'm taking pictures and reading books. No writing progress to report thus far (aside from the class exercises and this blog entry), but I anticipate having more done on my goal list when next I write!
alanajoli: (serenity adventures)
Still embroiled in assignments, and I'm just hoping to stay ahead before I go to England in two weeks. In the mean time, I've had some great news! Serenity Adventures is up for an Origins Award this year! I'm delighted that the book is up for the award and am so proud to be one of the writers who contributed to the collection of adventures!
alanajoli: (Default)
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: (advice)
I had the privilege yesterday of visiting Dona Cady's science fiction course at Middlesex Community College. The class sounds like something I would have loved to take as an undergrad: they study the hero's journey, talk about myth and literature, read a lot of really excellent books, watch some great movies, and are required to play Warhammer as part of the course, using that character as the voice for a travelogue that takes them through the hero's journey as a creative writing project. Amazing, right? Dona has a real passion for her course material, and is really dedicated to giving her students a really good picture, not only for what the academic/critical side look like, but also for what the industry looks like. That's where I came in. She has several other guests coming, including Christopher Golden, and all of the guests talk about their career and their writing.

For me, that meant telling the story of handing out business cards, getting my first gigs through EnWorld, and talking about Dungeons and Dragons. Most of the students weren't tabletop gamers, but a couple who were asked some really great questions. More of them were familiar with the Forgotten Realms through the fiction, so we talked a little bit about the way games and comics do ret-cons, and I discussed not only the Spellplague (more of a reboot than a ret-con), but also taking over Cowboys and Aliens II from a different team, and thinking about what details (sometimes culturally and historically incorrect) we felt we had to keep to prevent ourselves from doing a ret-con. It was overall a great experience, and there are things that I'll do differently when I return to the class next year, hoping to get a little more cross-talk instead of Q&A. But we'll see--I studied in a very conversation based environment for all of my undergrad classes, so I acknowledge I'm a little more on the everyone-talk-around-the-table side of things than the lecture side.

That said, sometimes Q&As are great on their own. [livejournal.com profile] devonmonk did a great Q&A on her blog the other day and addressed one of my questions about online presence (since I've been thinking about that since Monday). I loved her thoughts on the topic (and they reassert my opinion of her as a genuinely sweet individual). The online presence and how it impacts how people read your fiction is definitely I'll continue to explore--not only because it's relevant to me as a writer, but because there's something really interesting going on with virtual worlds and how we create ourselves. According to Professor Cady, there's a correlation between virtual worlds and Asian philosophy, and that's a paper I'd love to read once she has it published.

Thanks again to Shelley/Dawnsister, one of the original New England Browncoats, for the introduction and encouragement to come up. She's another person I'd only known virtually until yesterday, and it's lovely to put a face to her online identity. :)
alanajoli: (Default)
I just have to say: you livejournal people are far too interesting and difficult to keep up with. I had far more concrete writing plans for today, but spent a good chunk of the day reading other people's ljs instead.

Note: I am still not entirely caught up. But I think I'm as close as I'm going to get.

Today is a link day, in part because there's contests that require linking (and I'm a sucker for that) and in part because there were some fun Joss Whedon articles that got tossed around on my mailing lists, and dutiful Browncoat that I am, I must share them.

So, first, the Whedon:

WGA magazine has an article about Joss as a writer (and mammoth-drawer, were he a Cro-magnon) and about the Dr. Horrible phenomenon.

[livejournal.com profile] caitrin posted news about Joss's movie, Cabin in the Woods, which will apparently star Bradley Whitford. I didn't know anything about this project, so it's a nice head's up. (It's not Goners, though, which is somewhat disappointing.)

For contest number one, the Urban Fantasy Land Readers Choice Awards need your votes! There are so many good books up for awards that it's tough to narrow it down: [livejournal.com profile] devonmonk, [livejournal.com profile] blue_succubus, [livejournal.com profile] antonstrout, [livejournal.com profile] mdhenry, [livejournal.com profile] rkvincent, [livejournal.com profile] frost_light, [livejournal.com profile] blackaire, [livejournal.com profile] melissa_writing, [livejournal.com profile] stacia_kane, [livejournal.com profile] katatomic, [livejournal.com profile] ilona_andrews, Jes Battis, and Carrie Vaughn are among the nominees. The polls close on the 30th, and if you also link to the blog, you're entered for a $25 amazon gift card. Who doesn't need one of those?

And finally, the Deadline Dames (including [livejournal.com profile] devonmonk and [livejournal.com profile] rkvincent) are hosting a number of contests on the new blog, which launched on the 19th. Devon's involves setting goals--and one of mine is to post on livejournal at least twice a week. (The unreasonable expectation? Every day.) So, we'll see how I do!
alanajoli: (tuam face - celtic mythology)
Back in October, I contributed to Flames Rising's Halloween Horror Creatures series--and since I missed blogging for that whole month, I never mentioned that it had gotten posted! I did a piece on hounds of the Morrigan, using bits and pieces of real Celtic lore mixed with what I thought would be a fun monster, which is accompanied by a cool image from artist Jeff Preston.

Via Barbara Vey's Beyond Her Blog, the Carolina Romance Writers are hosting an online writing workshop using Firefly as the course material. It runs from January 5 through 30, and the cost runs $20. (I don't know what online writing workshops usually charge, but that sounds pretty reasonable to me.) If I thought I could actually commit to the online course structure, I'd definitely be there.

This one's interesting for web comic writers and artists--uclick is not only putting comics into format for iPhones, they are considering creating original content. Cell phones have already had an impact on the comics industry in Japan--whether the industry here will see a positive or negative spin if this catches on, we'll just have to see. And hey, this could be the next Zuda...

In other news, my new first reader (joining prior solo first reader Arielle), [livejournal.com profile] violet_whisper, did an awesome job going over "Rodeo in Area 51" with me. It clocked in at just about 7500 words after an edit I did with her notes. The most exciting part about it, though, was that she really got what I was trying to do. Since I knew from the beginning what the story was about and how it would end, I wasn't sure if all the ideas would come through--they were so clear to me, would another reader pick up on what I was doing? So talking to her about the piece and hearing her thoughts on what the story was all about was a great experience, because it meant that it worked as a whole.

I also just finished reading [livejournal.com profile] mindyklasky's Girl's Guide to Witchcraft. I'd already read Sorcery and the Single Girl, the second book in the series, without realizing I'd started in the middle. Having now read the first two, they actually work pretty well as stand alone novels; some series you have to pick up and read in order or you'll be lost. Klasky's seem to be enhanced by reading the other volumes, but also independent enough that they're still enjoyable out of order. They're both a lot of fun--I'd recommend them to folks have read and enjoyed [livejournal.com profile] shanna_s's "Katie Chandler" series. Both series are good, light-hearted contemporary fantasy without the grit of most urban fantasy or the described-in-detail romance scenes of paranormal romances. And they're fun.
alanajoli: (Lydia)
So, I really have to stop agonizing over my work and just *do* it. A lot of good advice has been given by a lot of writers who say that writers write. They don't think about writing, they don't talk about writing. They write. That's what makes them writers.

This could definitely apply to module writing as well. I was so nervous about doing my first adventure in 4e that I agonized over it. I spent more time worrying over the module than I actually spent writing it. This, my friends, is not intelligent behavior.

So now that I have a draft in to my editor, I have some thoughts about writing for 4e:

1) Building encounters is easy. Seriously. I used some pre-built encounter groups that seemed appropriate, but substituting one creature for another is not hard. There are nifty charts in the back to help you out, and the DMG has pretty easy recommendations for putting things together.

2) Putting together an encounter requires three books. Or, at least, it did for me. I wanted to add conditions to some things, or talk about surprise rounds--the rules for which are in the PHB. Monsters are, of course, in the Monsters Manual. The DMG puts it all together. Add having a tab open in my browser for the updates, and that's four resources to keep track of, along with my outline. Once I have more of this stuff memorized, I'm sure that won't be an issue. I knew a lot of stuff for 3.5 that I didn't have to look up, and I'm still learning how to do the same in 4e.

3) Less is more. That seems to be the 4e philosophy, which in some ways I really like. In other ways, it meant that I had to change my entire way of thinking about module writing. I'm used to providing tons of details, trying to anticipate every player reaction. This, of course, is impossible. So 4e really frees you up to *not* do that kind of thing. On the other hand, it means being verbose no longer works. Strunk and White might be pleased, but I found it a challenge. When it comes back from my editor, we'll see if I still over-wrote.

4) Skill challenges are harder to write than they are to design, or to run. If the point is player creativity, there isn't much that I, as a writer, feel like I can bring to the DM except for talking points to get them through guiding their players. My editor may have some brilliant suggestions on how to improve that--and there are a couple of ways to handle skill challenges that I didn't explore. So we'll see.

5) Making new stuff is easy, assuming I did it right. Since templates are consistent throughout, if you want a new poison or trap or item (not saying what I made, since that would be a spoiler), you can just do it. It's not labor intensive.

6) Leveling up creatures is also not labor intensive. Nor is downgrading them. I was nervous about doing this and put it off. It took me all of two minutes to change the stats on one creature. Gone are the days of that 3.5 nightmare level of work!

So, all in all, I think it went pretty well. (I mean, I can say that now that I've wrapped it up, and since I turned it in to my editor technically on the day of the deadline. I've got to send a shout out to the folks at Margaret Weis Productions on this one--because they're in Central Time Zone, which gave me a whole extra *hour* on my deadline day to get my Serenity adventure turned in. This is not a particularly good habit of mine, either.)

I'm looking forward to running a playtest, and I'm very much looking forward to getting my editor's comments back. In the meantime, though, I should have an assignment rolling in, and I've got [livejournal.com profile] jonowrimo starting today, so there will be more fiction to do. I also, to my delight, had a proposal accepted by Hog River Journal, (thanks to Mish for her help on the abstract!) so I'll be working on an article for them as well. It's my first nonfiction history article, and I'm really excited to get started on it.

But now it's late, and while writers need to write... sleeping also comes highly recommended.




Reading
My Swordhand Is Singing, by Marcus Sedgewick
Barnes and Noble
  Writing "Head above Water," and adventure for LFR, Cormyr (by page count, roughly)
 
alanajoli: (Default)
I always forget that Joss Whedon is of the Stephen Sondheim school of storytelling when I'm in the thick of the story. The I remember, and I think, "Yup, Joss, you caught me again."

That's my non-spoilery review of Dr. Horrible's Sing Along Blog. Go watch it.
alanajoli: (Default)
Back in 2005, I had the opportunity to go out to Los Angeles to see the premiere of Serenity in the land of glamor and fabulousness. Being neither particularly glamorous or fabulous, the event was in some ways overwhelming. But the best part about going was getting to hang out with the friends I already knew (first reader Arielle was the one who got me a ticket), friends I'd only met before at conventions (the whole Margaret Weis Productions team was there, and the lovely Renae Chambers was showing off her back-of-the-neck Serenity logo tattoo, which impressed upon me how much those folks were devoted to the cause), and friends I was meeting for the first time. Arielle's friend, [livejournal.com profile] waywardbound, introduced me to a pal of his who had recently released her first book. That was the first time I met Shanna Swendson ([livejournal.com profile] shanna_s)--and without that meeting I don't know if I ever would have discovered her wonderful books. So, officially--thanks [livejournal.com profile] waywardbound!

Shanna is now on the fourth book of her Katie Chandler series, and the adventures just keep getting better. Don't Hex with Texas is already getting great reviews all over the web, and the sales are reflecting the true appeal that comes from mixing fairy tales with modern life. Shanna was kind enough to write a guest blog on how she uses elements from fairy tales to hit home with modern readers. Thanks Shanna!

--

I've often thought that fairy tale characters have it easy. Okay, so they do often end up persecuted by wicked stepparents or endangered by giants, but they also have opportunities the rest of us don't get. We don't have fairy godmothers to show up and make things better, and kissing frogs never really turns them into handsome princes. I have often wondered what would happen if you took some of those fairy tale conventions and put them into the modern world, and I get to play with that concept in my series of modern-day fairy tale novels.

For instance, that frog-kissing thing. I don't know how many times I've heard that saying about how you have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find a prince. I do know that it's what people always seem to say to me to console me after a bad date or relationship break-up or to encourage me to accept a blind date I'm lukewarm about. But what if it really were true that you might meet a prince if you were willing to kiss a few frogs along the way? In a New York where magic works, you might find magical people picking up real frogs in the park instead of picking up figurative frogs in singles bars. At least if a real frog doesn't turn out to be a prince, you don't have to worry about him getting the wrong idea and turning into a stalker. It is interesting to note that in the original frog prince/king fairy tales, the princess doesn't just kiss the frog and get a prince. Usually she has to go through some humiliation first, like letting him eat from her plate in public, allowing him to sleep on her pillow and sometimes even marrying the frog before he clues her in to the fact that he's a prince. That certainly parallels modern dating. Then there's the version where the princess throws the frog against the wall before she learns he's a prince. I'm not sure what message there is in that, but I'll admit that I've been on dates where that sounded like a good way of dealing with the situation.

I don't know how many times I've uttered the lament, "What I really need is a fairy godmother!" Dating would be so much easier if I had someone to help me get into the right situation to meet Prince Charming. Then again, when I think of the various would-be fairy godmothers in my life and all the really, really awful blind dates I've been on -- the ones where, when I meet the men who are supposedly perfect for me, I can't help but wonder what my friends really think about me -- it's probably best that none of them have magical powers. It's bad enough when they have telephones and e-mail that allow them to meddle. So, I inflicted a magical fairy godmother on my heroine to see what would happen if one of those inept but well-meaning matchmakers did have magical powers to interfere in her love life.

Fairy tales and folklore have a lot of other topics that are fun to play with in the modern world. Cinderella knew long before Manolo Blahnik that the right pair of shoes really can change your life. Ogres and trolls are bad enough when they just impede your progress through the enchanted forest or stop you at a bridge, but what if one is your boss? Does spending time as an enchanted frog result in post-traumatic stress? Is that bum begging for coins really a powerful enchanter in disguise who might one day turn up to help you in your hour of need? And isn't a skyscraper just another kind of beanstalk?

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Alana Joli Abbott

April 2017

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