alanajoli: (mini me short hair)
It's been a long time since I've posted, but I have a lot of news to make up for it!


First: Today is the release of my newest interactive novel game for Choice of Games: Choice of the Pirate. Right now it's priced at $2.99, which is a 25% discount on the full price of the game. It's probably the most ambitious game I've written yet; set in the fictional Lucayan Sea, it borrows all the old pirate tropes from cursed treasure to ghost ships and adds a little extra magic to the mix. I'm very pleased with how it turned out, and I hope that many people enjoy the adventures!
You can read all about the game here at the Choice of Games blog.

Second: I'll be at the James Blackstone Memorial Library's local author expo tomorrow (5/21) afternoon. If you're in the area and would like to stop by and chat about my novels or games (or just shoot the breeze), please come on down! There are about thirty local authors attending, including reporters and children's book authors, so it should be an interesting mix. I'm not on any of the panels, but I may see about leaving my table for a bit to hear them.

For more information, you can visit the event website.

Thirdly: In honor of the game releasing and the author expo, I've finally uploaded the Redemption Trilogy to the major booksellers! You can nnow find them at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and Kobo.
They're also still available at DriveThruFiction, Smashwords, and iTunes as well.

Lastly: I've accepted a position as Editor in Chief of Outland Entertainment, where I'll be editing a number of very cool comics! You can find out more about us at our latest newsletter or by checking out the comics lineup!
alanajoli: (mini me short hair)
Happy New Year! It's been some time since I posted; it was a busy year at Casa Abbott for non-writing reasons. We've welcomed baby Fish into our family, joining his sister Bug, Three-stripe, cats Jack and Tollers, and I as members of our household. But while I'm behind on many things, I've continued to read a lot! Since I posted last year and the year before about my reading goals, I wanted to post last year's results and this year's goals before 2015 progressed too far!

This year, I did not count all the picture books I read, but I did count all my review picture books individually. For the year, I totalled 163 books, which is up from last year's 129 (probably in part due to counting all the review books individually). There was a method to my madness, however: I wanted to see what percentage of titles were review books as compared to non-review books. Here's some of the interesting breakdown:

  • 89 titles were review books

  • 106 were children's or YA books

  • Only 12 were graphic novels, which is rather low

  • I read 7 romance, 69 SFF, and 2 nonfiction


I did reasonably well on my goals. The 2 nonfiction titles beat my goal to read just 1. I read 13 out of the 15 novels from my TBR pile I'd hoped to read, 4 titles by autobio writers, 6 rereads (out of a goal of 3), and read one non-genre novel.

The most interesting statistic I kept last year was print vs. digital. I surprised myself by reading 91 books in paper and 72 digitally. I thought I skewed toward e-books, so it's interesting to me that I'm not even at 50% digital reading. Some of this is due to reading for the MFAs. I rely heavily on the library to provide me with MFA reading, and though some are available as e-books, most are more readily available in print.


Highlights of the year?
  • Rereading Max Gladstone's Three Parts Dead--and seeing it make the MFA finalists list--was great fun. It's been especially fun to read more of the Craft books, both post-publishing and in mss format, in combination with playing Max's Craftverse game Choice of the Deathless. Without the books being required for the game and vice versa, they work so well in conjunction!

  • Finishing Devon Monk's "Allie Beckstrom" series was bittersweet, but starting the "House Immortal" books makes me confident there's more excellent reading to come.

  • I had the fantastic opportunity to interview Gene Luen Yang for the autobio project, and I read The Shadow Hero and Boxers and Saints in preparation for that. They were both some of my favorite reading for the year, for very different reasons. I'd recommend The Shadow Hero to anyone, but especially readers who have a fondness for Golden Age superheroes. Boxers and Saints is a fabulous moral and ethical investigation of a historical period with a lot of magical realism thrown in, and I found it both enjoyable and tremendously moving.

  • The biggest surprise read was probably Eleven by Tom Rogers. It's a book about 9/11, mostly from the perspective of a boy who's just turned 11, and it's fantastic both as an exploration of the event through fiction for middle graders and as a coming of age story. It was also pretty wild to realize that 9/11 happened before the middle grade age group was born--so it qualifies, on some level, as historical fiction.

  • I'd also recommend without reservation the Super Lexi middle grade books by Emma Lesko. Lexi is neurologically and developmentally different from her peers, which makes her a fascinating POV character, and Lesko's commitment to neuro-diversity in children's books shows in how beautifully she captures Lexi and makes her so easy to empathize with.

  • I loved finally finishing Shanna Swendson's "Enchanted, Inc." series, which for ages looked like it wouldn't get to continue beyond book four. (I'd still read more books in that world!)

  • I'm also really eager to see where the "Kate Daniels" (Ilona Andrews) and "Safehold" (David Weber) books end up next!


There were, of course, a lot of other great books, but listing them all would be fodder for TLDR (if I haven't already hit that point).

I was pretty happy with this year's goals, so I'm planning to keep them the same. Here's to another year of good reading!
alanajoli: (mini me short hair)
The big news of the day: I've started blogging about webcomics (and, soon, interactive fiction) for Black Gate, where I've previously been an occasional book reviewer. My first post is about Ursula Vernon's Hugo Award and Mythopoeic Fantasy Award winner Digger, which I loved and had fun getting to write about. Why am I over at Black Gate instead of just blogging here? They've got a great readership over there, and hopefully some of them will find their way over here to Myth, the Universe, and Everything -- and maybe decide to pick up the Redemption Trilogy when they're all finally released. It's a bit of marketing, a bit of fun, and hopefully a great fit for everyone involved.

As for my social media updates, I realized I don't have my Facebook page and Twitter on my website. This clearly must be remedied as I'm -- hopefully -- driving new folks over to Virgil and Beatrice. I'm also updating my Facebook page a lot more frequently than my blog -- every time one of my blog entries for Questia or Cengage Brain goes up, I post a notice on Facebook -- so if you're interested in my to-the-minute news, that's where you should find me.

Last thought for the day: every time I write about social media, using that phrase, the Common Shiner tune "Social Mediasochist" starts running through my head. It's catchy.
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I am down to 33 messages in my inbox. This is the closest I've been to "success" since the end of September. I'm getting there! This means that work is getting done on this end, for which I'm glad -- but more on that topic later. Now, to the important business of interesting links, so I can close some browser tabs...

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

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


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

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

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


And with that, I think my links are expended!
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I don't watch a lot of TV. We don't actually have television service, and I watch my current TV shows from my computer screen. We do have a Roku for our Netflix service and find it incredibly useful, and we've rented movies from Amazon that way as well. Recently, I gave HuluPlus a look, but since it carries only one of the three television shows I'm currently committed to (yes, TV is a relationship: I have an ongoing friendship with Castle and Leverage, and sadly a limited remaining time of my dedication to Eureka), we won't be continuing to use that service. While I have it, though, I thought I'd try out two new television programs on the big screen to see if they'll be worth following on the computer later on. I speak, of course, of Grimm and Once Upon a Time, two fairy tale spin offs of very different flavors. The fairy tale hook clearly appealed to me, but whether or not I'll be staying to see how they go depends very much on the shows themselves.

Of course, I'm not the only one to pay attention to their very close release schedules. Teresa Jusino over at Tor.com posted her response to the pair, which I intentionally didn't read before writing this. (However, most everything over at Tor.com is worth reading, so I'll blindly recommend going and comparing her notes to mine.)



Here's my assessment: Grimm is actually an urban fantasy in the UF Noir style (ala the Dresden Files and others) that uses fairy tale elements for its paranormal component. As it's made by some of the writers who were on the teams of Angel and Buffy, the similarities don't entirely surprise me: in some ways, the series strikes me as Buffy if the core audience being targeted were mid-career adults rather than teens and twenties. It's also a cop show, and I suspect it may end up feeling like a cop show with paranormal elements rather than a fantasy with cop show elements. I think that may work in its favor.

Once Upon a Time, on the other hand, is a fairy tale writ long. In the tradition of fairy tale retellings like Bill Willingham's Fables comics, Sondheim's Broadway musical Into the Woods, and (most recently) [livejournal.com profile] jimhines's Princess Quartet, Once Upon a Time takes the familiar stories and twists them, just a bit, recasting real fairy tale characters as unknowing modern-day humans, for whom time has stopped. The only one to know about the Curse that has brought them out of their fairy tale reality and into the real world is Henry, a little boy, who is the biological son of the destined hero (the daughter of Snow White and Prince Charming), and the adoptive son of the Evil Queen. The hero herself, Emma Swan, is a tough girl loner who doesn't really believe in Henry's story, but finds herself drawn to the child. The cuts between the fairy tale backstory and the modern break-the-curse plot honor the romantic atmosphere of fairy tales -- and, thus far, aside from some off-stage cutting out of hearts, are doing it in a pretty tame way. Sure there's swordfighting and sorcerous battles, but it's not the sort of gritty and dark flavor that Fables and Into the Woods brought us. The fairy tale versions of the characters don't have anywhere near the depth they do in Jim Hines's books.



But that may be part of the point: while Grimm is, from the get go, down in the brutal side of those beloved and scary German folk tales, Once Upon a Time is Disneyfied, right through the use of the name Melificent for the wicked fairy who cursed Sleeping Beauty. Because the team of Once Upon a Time, was also part of the team on Lost, there is some worry that the fairy tale elements may end up being a lie after all -- but from some quick research on what the creators wanted to bring to the show, it doesn't sound like that's their intention. But while I think Grimm starts by knowing what it is, as a show, right from the very beginning (and, by virtue of the Monster/Villain-of-the-Week potential, could go on for seasons), Once Upon a Time launches its major plot in episode one, and that full plot arc needs to be resolved in the first season to feel like the story is going anywhere. The quest structure could work in its favor if they can raise the stakes for Season 2 -- or it could mean that the show has a one season maximum until we all get back to happily ever after.

It may sound like I'm being hard on Once Upon a Time here; I am being pretty critical, because it's a subgenre I'm invested in. But I'll definitely say that after watching two episodes (I've only seen the pilot of Grimm), I'm drawn in enough to keep watching, at least until the end of the season -- or however long it survives this season! I have a feeling that in the current TV climate, Grimm with its gritty appeal and its ambiguous morality will find its audience with no trouble at all -- and unless things get too scary for my fluffy-bunny-horror self, I'll be sticking with it.
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Sorry for the radio silence -- the hurricane had us off the air here for a few days, and I've been busy catching up from the lack of power. It's amazing how just a few days can set back your schedule!

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



The list goes on, but while my geek side would love to put me back on a night-owl schedule, my mom side knows that Bug is going to be up at six, so I'd better get some rest between now and then. In the mean time, celebrate your geek! Check out the posts at Flames Rising and elsewhere around the internet, including Max Gladstone's over here. Join us on facebook or tweet whenever you see a geek post with the #speakgeek hash tag. Unite!
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For those of you at GenCon right now (who still have time to read blogs while you're in Indy), I'd like to recommend that you pop by the Ookoodook booth (#1649) and take a look at Rich Burlew's new Order of the Stick compilation, Snips, Snails, and Dragon Tales. I preordered it back when it was initially announced, and due to printer delays, I just received my copy last week. I think this is the most fun collection that Rich has put out -- and it was all content that was new to me, which is a plus in my book. It includes the full OotS run from Dragon magazine (and though I love the new Dragon online, I think the sadness about the print version's demise is handled with the love it deserves in the final Dragon strips). There's also a whole 3.5e vs. 4e section that made me giggle; mocking the rules was one of the things that hooked me on OotS in the first place, so I'm glad to get some new jokes about the edition I'm currently playing. A final section, presumably meant to occur after the current web arc, give us fairy tales as told by Elan and Haley, a James Bond parody by Belkar, and Hamlet as told by Roy. (The last is clearly my favorite, if only because Hamlet is required reading for every student at Simon's Rock, and thus, seeing it get the gamer treatment was awesome.)

Several of my gamer buddies have taken a break from reading OotS as it posts, due to the delays in posting in recent months (years?) and because it's become very plot-centric as opposed to joke-centric. Snips, Snails, and Dragon Tales brings back the funny that made me love OotS in the first place without sacrificing any of the character interactions that I've stayed on for. So, if you're at GenCon and have a chance to get by the booth to check it out -- or if you're wavering on buying the new book from the site -- you should. It gets my thumbs up.
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For the last two years Lora Innes of The Dreamer has spearheaded the Comic Creators Alliance, which raises funds to end human trafficking. In the past two years, I've discovered two incredibly awesome comics through the fundraiser: in 2010, I found an awesome comic that deals with the American Civil War, Dovecote Crest. This past year, I discovered Thistil Mistil Kistil, a compelling story that features characters from Norse Mythology with a distinctive art style that I love. I corresponded with creator Sarah Schanze and asked if she'd like to talk about using mythology for her comic -- I did a little jig when she said yes! So, without further ado, here's Sarah. After reading her blog, check out the comic from the very beginning. You won't be disappointed!

--

My name is Sarah Schanze, and I write (and draw and color, etc.) a fantasy webcomic called Thistil Mistil Kistil. It’s about Vikings and Norse mythology and follows a fifteen-year-old boy (who happens to be a dead warrior) named Coal on a quest for the gods. To complete this quest he needs the help of none other than Loki the Trickster. Coal and Loki then embark on a journey (with a somewhat living ship no less), picking up a few stragglers along the way.

Norse mythology is popular. It’s in comics, movies, books, video games, you name it. Its characters are re-imagined and recreated by different people every day. There are several other webcomics out there taking inspiration from the same source I am – as well as a big blockbuster movie based on a comic book character whose entire world was ripped right out of the Eddas (Thor). Lots of other people have ripped things from these Eddas, including me.

My interest in the mythology started with the history. I did research into Vikings for some other thing not related to comicking, and the culture and the world spoke to me. I read about what the people wore or ate or how they were buried before I read about the mythology. I’d already known about Loki and Odin and Thor just from random browsing on the ol’ Wikipedia. After reading specific Wiki articles, then books, then the Eddas themselves (the Poetic and Prose Eddas respectively), I decided to incorporate the gods and myths into the vague story idea I had with Coal.

But then I ran across a problem, or at least a concern. I felt taking characters -- like Loki -- and using them as my own personal characters for my own personal story ran the risk of people waggling a finger at me and comparing my interpretation negatively to the original. I even worried about reading other people’s interpretations of the characters for fear I might come across a reinterpretation like my own. I’m happy to say that, so far, neither concern has actually materialized, but in the beginning it definitely colored how I thought about the story. How could I make my version unique?

(Chapter 2, p. 22)

As it stands now, Coal has to find three pieces of the gods’ weapons before his quest is over and everything is hunky-dory. When I first started, he had to find seven pieces (maybe even nine) since seven and nine are magic numbers. He also forced some demon-dog thing to help him, and this demon-dog thing was related to Loki. Originally I didn’t intend to use the actual Norse gods as anything more than side characters, Loki included.

Then, after brainstorming and whittling, I decided to just bring in Loki as a mainstay. He’s the most intriguing character from the myths, and probably the most popular thanks to his sly ways (and coercing Thor to dress like a woman). He’s often the antagonist, the sidekick, the loveable jerk, or the hapless victim, but he never seems to be a hero. In the myths he’s the villain, a representation of chaos and evil (as all the jotnar were), so it stands to reason he’s more an obstacle than a throughway in most retellings.

Then there’s Ragnarok. Whether or not the myths were skewed by Christianizing monks, Ragnarok is still our basis of the end of the world in Norse mythology. Loki plays a pretty big part in it. While he’s shown for most of the myths to be on the gods’ side, he fights against them in the last battle. The biggest reason for this, in the myths, is simply that he was always a bit evil to begin with. He’s a jotun, a giant, and that race is considered the embodiment of evil and destruction (no matter how many of their women the Aesir married and slept with).

When I was figuring out TMK, I struggled with this particular aspect of Loki’s character. In the stories it’s simply written that Loki became bitter and angry. It’s not understated, it’s spelled out for you. I couldn’t really do that in the comic. I wanted to show, or at least allude to, more subtle reasons for his growing bitterness. This involves a departure from the myths, establishing a different personality, and incorporating elements hardly mentioned in the myths–like Sigyn and Angrboda, the two women in Loki’s life. They’re given only a passing mention in the Eddas, but who knows how they could have impacted Loki’s development?

When TMK begins and Loki makes an appearance, it’s kind of obvious (or I hope it is) that he’s not some exuberant prankster out to make everyone miserable. Those myths he’s famous for happened in his younger days. In TMK, he’s matured. He helps Coal throughout the story, and becomes a parental figure to Coal and the other secondary characters. The real difference between TMK Loki and other Lokis is that he is a parent. He feels that responsibility. The third chapter has him going home to his wife and kids, and he obviously loves them and cares about them. He’s a family man; he’s an adult. He’s grown up. He’s changed. I can’t go into the reason behind those changes without spoiling the story, but he has changed nevertheless.

The fact he has changed is what makes him unique in Thistil Mistil Kistil.


(Chapter 3, p. 4)
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We've been going through a lot of kids' movies from the library here at Casa Abbott, as Bug enjoys a little bit of screen-time to settle down when she's getting sleepy. It typically takes three or four days to make it through a regular cartoon movie (unless I finish it after she's gone to bed), since we watch it in spurts, which is not an optimal viewing experience for me -- but it does give me the excuse to catch up on the cartoon movies I've missed over the past few years. I'd missed Disney's Meet the Robinsons, for example, which I think was pretty poorly branded and misrepresented by the trailers. (I ended up thinking it was pretty cute.) We've seen Tangled (which I loved), Ratatouille, and we're in the middle of The Tigger Movie now. We also picked up Megamind, which I decided was not really a kids' movie after all, and so finished on my own.

If you're not familiar with the story (and it's a familiar one), Megamind is one of two aliens that get sent off in small space pods from their dying worlds to live on earth. Metro Man has all the super powers you'd expect, while Megamind has a big blue head, a minion that's a fish, and can make crazy mad science inventions (but otherwise doesn't seem too inherently bright). He also ends up being very good at escaping from jail. They go to the same school as children, where Metro Man is the popular one, and Megamind is always picked last for everything. Naturally, they become rivals, with Metro Man as the hero and Megamind as the villain. The story ends up having this great feel of the hero and the villain completing each other in a fluffy bunnies version of the Batman/Joker relationship, but it takes awhile to get to that realization.

In the mean time, I started wondering just what has happened to heroes lately.

I admit that I'm behind on some of the great super-stories that have come out lately, so I can't speak to the trend in its entirety. (I even own Black and White by Jackie Kessler and Caitlin Kittredge and haven't read it yet; I'm super excited to get a hold of Carrie Vaughn's After the Golden Age as well.) But here's what I've noticed based on a few recent samplings of the spin-the-super-story genre. The hero? Not really the good guy. Megamind is a prime example of this: despite the fact that Megamind is all about being the villain, he ends up being the character the audience really identifies with -- and, no real spoiler here, he ends up turning a new leaf by the end of the story. (Thus, it may actually be a kids' movie after all.) Better still: Doctor Horrible's Sing Along Blog. Metro Man ends up having some redeeming qualities; Captain Hammer's only redeeming quality is that he's played my Nathan Fillion -- otherwise, he's a complete jerk. Even in Austin Grossman's Soon I Will Be Invincible, the villain, who is a mastermind (also the common thread here), is extremely compelling as a sympathetic figure.

Now, take a look back at the uber-superhero: Superman. Apparently he can sort of be a jerk in some of the early comics, too -- but not at the expense of a nerdy rival. No, Supe's secret identity *is* the nerdy guy. Originally created by a couple of pretty nerdy guys, Supe was a fantasy that bought into the whole Charles Atlas mentality of self-improvement: even nerds could have awesome body-builder style strength. (Of course, Superman was even more awesome than just a strong man -- but still, he's a fantasy that nerds were supposed to identify with, rather than despise.)

And Clark Kent isn't the only super-nerd. Let's wander into the Marvel-verse. Take Spiderman. Peter Parker: total nerd to start with. Reed Richards? Actually makes a name for himself as a nerd -- who cares that he can go all bendy as Mr. Fantastic when we need his super brain? Even Tony Stark has some serious nerd cred (though, granted, he never really embraces the nerd lifestyle, and no one ever gives him crap for being smart, unlike the other heroes I've mentioned).

So, nerd has always equalled good in the comics world -- but strong has not always equalled jerk. I'm wondering if this trend of the super-strong hero-as-villain trend has to do with embracing geeks-as-overlords. (That's mostly tongue in cheek -- but, as Alec Hardison on Leverage says: "Age of the geek, baby. We rule the world.") The thing is -- I get the geek-as-hero trend (see: Chuck as an example). But this geek-as-villain thing? Is this a subversive, refusing to work for the man thing? Is it supporting the idea that we who were picked on for our nerdiness as kids are out for revenge (rather than being willing to save our tormentors)? Clearly, Doctor Horrible doesn't end up happy with his career choice, and Megamind converts to the side of good... but still. What is going on right now to make the supervillain nerd anti-hero a popular trope?

I would love to hear thoughts on this that don't come from inside my own head. :) In good news, the whole thought process inspired a quick short story, which I drafted in one day and Max Gladstone has already gotten me crits for. Hooray for creative contemplation resulting in actual word count!
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I probably don't actually have enough links for an extravaganza, but it sounded good in my head, so I'll let it stand.


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

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

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

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

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


Actually, that ended up being more links than I thought I had. Ta da, extravaganza complete!
alanajoli: (Default)
Well, looks like there went my resolution to blog more often! I just wanted to drop in tonight to talk about the interview I just recorded with Brian LeTendre from Secret Identity Podcast (who is also the writer for the fantastic webcomic, Mo Stache) about Into the Reach. The idea was to do sort of a director's cut on the novel and we actually chatted about the book for a whole hour. Brian had just reread the book, and to my chagrin, he remembered far more about what happens than I do! I've not reread it since 2006, the year it was published, so it was incredibly fun to get back into that story and think about those characters, who were, effectively, good friends of mine for a couple of years. During the interview two sort of unexpected things happened. One, I read some sections of the e-book while talking to Brian, just as a refresher, and thought, "Hey, this was actually pretty good!" It's always both a surprise and a pleasure when I can look back at earlier work and be pleased with how it came out. The second was that feeling of reuniting with old friends, which I really hadn't expected. I realized, I miss these guys. It'll be very nice to get my head back into the world when we eventually start in on the editorial process again for Regaining Home.

In the meantime, I'm tickled that a few more copies have sold on DriveThru since I last checked. They're not going like hotcakes, but copies are selling -- which means that somewhere out there, folks are meeting the characters for the first time. They've got lives out there beyond me, and that is also exciting.

I've been thinking about my writing process lately, and I have some overdue blog entries I meant to write earlier -- but in the meantime, you should go look at Lindsay Archer's Steampunked Mythbusters, because they'll totally make you smile.
alanajoli: (Star Cruisers)
...and have I got a teaser for you! It's the first page from Star Cruisers, all pretty and colored. No text boxes or balloons yet, because the comic hasn't been lettered, but I thought y'all might like a peek. :)



Clint Hilinski is the artist; Chandra Ponnusamy is the colorist.

If you want to see the script, look behind the cut!

Read more... )
alanajoli: (british mythology)
I took a week off back earlier in January and just read library books and books from my TBR pile and a few old review books that I'd needed to finish up. It was nice. Then I got a gig for School Library Journal that involves reading a bunch of series titles on world history and writing them up, and so I've moved from urban fantasy books to titles on technology in ancient cultures, how children lived in different eras, and the most daring raids in history. They're an eclectic mix, and even though they're short, it takes a long time to get through a pile of 100 page books! (Some, of course, read more easily than others, which is part of why they send them off to a reviewer.)

In the process, I've discovered that the Romans, who previously held little interest for me, were fascinating. They're not as interesting in the way that other ancient cultures are, to me -- they're interesting because they're so much more like us than other ancient cultures. The Romans strike me as a very material culture, interested in contracts and business arrangements, even with their gods. That certainly feels a step away from the all-powerful Greek gods, who would smite you for thinking for yourself (unless you're Odysseus -- there's a moment in the Odyssey where some non-Odysseus character has the idea that he doesn't need the gods, and he's immediately killed). It also feels far removed from the ongoing interference of the Tuatha de Danaan of Irish mythology or the pervasive sense of the Land-and-King unity in British legend. The Romans appear to be individuals with practical, material thoughts and goals -- and a tendency to observe other cultures and write about them the way that 19th century arm-chair anthropologists did. (And then, like good imperialists, they'd absorb those cultures into Rome.)

So, yeah, Rome is now on my list of interests -- which means I'm digging an ancient culture for its History rather than for its Mythology. This is sort of a shift from my usual thinking.

I've also been reading some web comics lately -- I finally decided I should read Schlock Mercenary by Howard Tayler. I also discovered that Love and Capes is publishing old strips online, which is exciting -- I got an issue of Love and Capes as a trial, either on Free Comic Book Day or through a special at my Friendly Local Comic Shop, and I really liked it -- but then it wasn't ever in stock. So now, I can catch up on all the back story and enjoy updates on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.
alanajoli: (cowboys and aliens)
As promised!



Does it look much like the comic? In tone, yes. In plot? Generally. In characters? They seem to have renamed them and given them different back stories... so, you know, not really. Zeke and Verity are replaced by Jake and Ella (though I have sneaking suspicions that Ella may combine Verity and Kai... we'll have to see what they decide to do with the alien element in the film). Instead of War Hawk, we've got Nat Colorado. Padre Breen is missing (sadness!), and rather than the ineffectual mayor of the first volume, there's Col. Woodrow Dolarhyde.

Will it be fun?

I'm betting on yes.

(Will they invite me and the C&AII team to the premiere? Alas, I'm betting on no!)

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.

Link Soup

Oct. 25th, 2010 10:46 pm
alanajoli: (Default)
I hate to do a link soup after not having posted in awhile, but I just had an article about Halloween costumes go up today at Flames Rising that I wanted to share! You'll see a couple of my favorite costumes posted there (in all my do-it-yourself splendor). I'll add another one here, from two years ago:



I love Halloween.

More fun stuff on the internet? Well, Tor.com is doing a Steampunk series, including this nifty Steampunk timeline. I also encountered a very nifty marketing campaign for a paranormal YA novel, Nightshade, as covered by PW. I've thought about doing something like that -- I set up a facebook page for the Blackstone Academy at one point, which isn't something I'm currently utilizing -- but never with quite the oomph Andrea Cremer's putting into it. I'm tempted to go friend her character on Facebook...

In other news, I love How to Train Your Dragon, and between watching the movie and reading the (very different) book, I think I'm out of my reading funk. I started -- and put down -- four novels last week after reading the first chapter or so. (One of them is a review book to which I have to return.) But HttYD by Cressida Cowell was a quick read, which restored my I-can-read-a-whole-book confidence. I'm in the middle of Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad now, so I can rework some of the references I made in Star Cruisers (which is going well -- I've seen the first five pages of art, and as always, it's astounding to see words become images. Clint's doing an awesome job).

But for now, bed. And tomorrow, maybe more work will get done.
alanajoli: (Default)
Again with the delay in contest announcement! Shame on me. [livejournal.com profile] kattw, you're the lucky randomly selected entrant -- so shoot me your address and I'll get you some Weis and Hickman goodness in the mail.

It's a shame that I've had to give up my night hours in favor of sleeping when Bug is asleep, because I really am very productive in the late hours. For instance, I've been working on sooper sekrit project -- which shall now be known as Star Cruisers issue 0 (a comic for Platinum!) -- in my head for weeks, but hadn't had the chance to actually put it all on paper... and Editor Dan wanted to have the script this week so artist Clint Hilinski will have time to get the art done for the print date Dan's hoping for. I thought I'd have time to do more of the work in spurts over the weekend, but as it ended up, after Bug (and Twostripe, actually) went to bed last night, it was just me and the keyboard and the words. Everything I'd been working at in my head poured out onto the paper in panel after panel... and the draft ended up being good. I'm really pleased with it, and Editor Dan gave the draft the thumbs up today, so we're on to stage two!

Right now, my work on Star Cruisers is just for the intro issue, which could launch a series. If it flies, we're looking at a lost-in-space goes to college type story: a group of twenty-odd, modern-day college students end up on a star ship at the far reaches of the galaxy, without any idea how to get home. Editor Dan developed the property and created all the characters; I've spun my own ideas into them, including making one of them an early college student (since my whole college experience was an early college experience). I really, really hope it goes well, because the cast is great, and I'd love to do more writing for these characters (and I'd like to name my favorite minor character who I came up with on the fly; in my script, she's just called RED SOX GIRL).

At any rate, I stayed awake last night until it was done, which means it's definitely time to crash before it's a late night here at the Abbott Abode. Because sleep? It's a good thing.

Link Soup

Oct. 4th, 2010 09:22 pm
alanajoli: (Default)
I've been building up links to share in my e-mail (I always e-mail them to myself until I have enough for a post). I was thinking about reviewing Breaking Waves, which I've just finished, but that may wait until tomorrow. Short version: really worthwhile anthology with a wide variety of stories.

But here are your links for digestion:

  • Apparently, the Man Booker Prize committee has a thing against books in the present tense, according to an article in Salon. I tend to prefer books in the past tense, myself, but every so often there's a present tense story that proves me wrong. (As I explained to a friend, if it's written in present tense, the narrator can't die -- or the book would just stop. Which, I suppose, would be an interesting conclusion to a first person present tense story.)

  • Josh Jasper at Genreville, among others, has blogged about Sir Terry Pratchett's sword made of star metal. That he forged himself. No, really. I salute you, Sir!

  • I'm, of course, posting behind the ball on this, but Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson is under attack. It looks like yet another case where the person trying to censor the book didn't even bother to read it.

  • An impressive statistic: one in ten Americans uses an e-reader.

  • PW did an excellent long article about Top Cow's new book, Artifacts, which I reviewed at Flames Rising.

  • Comics and lit crit intersect with American Vampire, by Scott Snyder, who teaches courses like "The Monster Under Your Story." Sounds like fun, no?

alanajoli: (Default)
Did you all like my disappearing act? Next, I'll saw my assistant in half! But really, what have I been up to in the past month?


  • Copyediting. A lot.

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

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

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

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

  • Going to kempo with Twostripe.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

If you were stranded on a deserted island (with comfortable amenities and the knowledge that you'd be rescued within a week), what five books would you want to have in your luggage?

Interview!

Jun. 26th, 2010 09:08 pm
alanajoli: (Default)
A little while ago, [livejournal.com profile] dcopulsky, who was a student on the trips in both Ireland and Greece and Turkey, asked if I'd do an interview for his site Question Riot, where he posts new interviews on Thursdays. The interview is now up, and it gets into all of the different kinds of writing that I do, from my bread and butter freelance work to my fiction, RPG, and comics work. Dan asked questions covering the whole gamut, and I had fun answering.

Work has been pouring in lately, which is great in that it means pay checks, but does complicate those goals I submitted to Kaz's Summer Camp. I may have to revise my plans this Tuesday! I have gotten through all of the children's finalists for the Mythopoeic Fantasy Awards, and I turned in my votes this morning. I've got one more adult novel to finish before votes are due on Wednesday, and hopefully I'll finish it tomorrow so I can get back to my review books!

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Alana Joli Abbott

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