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I am delighted to have Jennifer Estep back here at Myth, the Universe, and Everything in honor of the release of her second book in the "Mythos Academy" series, Kiss of Frost. Rather than doing a guest blog, as Jennifer did for the release of Touch of Frost (here), we decided to do an interview, which gets into bits of the novel that I enjoyed, as well as some series questions.



Jennifer has also graciously offered to do a giveaway of Kiss of Frost to one of our commenters! Leave a comment answering the question: What kind of Mythos Academy warrior do you think you'd be: Valkyrie, Viking, Roman, Amazon, Celt, Samurai, Ninja, Spartan, Gypsy, or something else? Give us a second comment with a link to a tweet or blog post where you mention the contest and we'll enter you a second time. (This contest is U.S. only -- sorry international friends!) Only livejournal comments will be counted as contest entries, so if you're reading this on a syndicated site, pop over to lj to comment! Comments must be posted by 11/30 at midnight EST to be counted as contest entries. I'll announce the winner on December 1st.

And without further ado: here's Jennifer!

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MtU&E: Although Kiss of Frost is the second "Mythos Academy" book, it's actually the third story -- you published the prequel story "First Frost" as an e-book along with Touch of Frost when the first novel was released. We've got some interest in e-books here at MtU&E: What made you decide to release the e-prequel, and has it done well for you?

JE: It seems like more and more authors are doing prequels, short stories, and other bonus material to tie into their books. As a reader, I like extras like that, and they can be fun to create as an author. I’ve written several free short stories to go along with my "Elemental Assassin" adult urban fantasy series. Readers really seem to have enjoyed those stories, and I thought it would be fun to write something for the "Mythos Academy" series too. My editor and publisher agreed, and we came up with First Frost, a prequel story that shows exactly how my heroine, Gwen Frost, winds up at Mythos Academy. I’ve gotten a lot of nice comments from readers about the prequel story, which I appreciate.

I’ve also written "Halloween Frost," a "Mythos Academy" short story, that is in the Entangled e-anthology that I am participating in with several other authors. Proceeds from that e-anthology benefit the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. "Halloween Frost" takes place after the events of Touch of Frost.

There are also some extras in the back of Touch of Frost and Kiss of Frost, including Gwen’s class schedule, a who’s who of characters, and things like that. Hopefully, readers have as much fun reading the material as I did writing it.

MtU&E: One of the ideas in Touch of Frost that is mentioned very briefly in Kiss of Frost is that if a person believes an illusion is real, that illusion is as dangerous as if it were real. Awesome metaphysics! Will illusion magic like that come into play as the series progresses?

JE: Thanks. Glad you liked that. The illusion magic is something that I hope to do more with in future books. I think it would be fun to dream up different ways the heroes and villains could use that sort of magic. As the series goes along, I hope to introduce some new magic/powers as well. For example, in Dark Frost, the third book in the series, someone has a similar power to the illusion magic mentioned in Touch of Frost.

MtU&E: In Kiss of Frost, we get to hang out with not one, but three Spartan warriors. How did you decide that their most formidable ability would be using improvised weapons?

JE: When I was thinking about the warrior whiz kids at Mythos Academy and the various abilities they might have, I thought it would be interesting to have some warriors who didn’t need traditional weapons to fight with. So I decided to give these warriors a killer instinct that would let them pick up any object and automatically know how to wield it as a weapon, and that this instinct would make them some of the most feared fighters at the academy. So the idea just sort of snowballed into Logan Quinn and his Spartan friends, Oliver Hector and Kenzie Tanaka.

MtU&E: In Norse mythology, Fenrir (or Fenrisulfr) is one of the big bad monsters, destined to kill Odin at Ragnarok. One of Gwen's lessons in myth-history class is about how the monsters trained by the Reapers have free will -- that they are not inherently evil. There's a great scene in the book where a Fenrir wolf shows just how true that lesson is. What was the impulse behind that moment in the story?

JE: There’s a lot of talk and stories in mythology about things being fated, and that you can’t escape your destiny, good or bad. Then, you have beings like the Fates themselves.

So I thought it would be interesting to do a mythology story and play around with the idea of what may or may not be destined versus free will. A couple of characters talk about free will in the "Mythos Academy" books, and the idea that people are responsible for their own actions and their own destinies. I thought if people are responsible for their own actions, then why not the mythological creatures too? So that’s something that comes into play with a Fenrir wolf in Kiss of Frost. Plus, the idea of free will is something that will also play a part in future books in the series.

MtU&E: Last (and easiest) question: how many "Mythos Academy" books do you currently have under contract, and how many do you hope will eventually finish off the series? (Here's hoping that those two numbers match!)

JE: Right now, I’m under contract for six books in the "Mythos Academy" series. Dark Frost, the third book, will be out in June 2012, while Crimson Frost, the fourth book, is tentatively set to be published in January 2013. At this point, I’m not sure if I will finish out the series with these six books or not. I’ll just have to see where Gwen and the other characters take me.

For more information about my books, folks can visit my website at www.jenniferestep.com. Happy reading, everyone!
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No guest blog today, in honor of my first participation in a huge giveaway contest. I've been talking about Barbara Vey's anniversary bash all week, and today's party, set in a castle, features a give away of a copy of Into the Reach, alongside a number of other amazing prizes (like e-readers!). Please pop by and comment!

I figure it's been a long time since I posted anything from the "Redemption Trilogy" on the blog, so in honor of Into the Reach being a prize, I thought I'd post an excerpt. Enjoy!

--


In his years as a knight, he’d learned that there were two types of people in the world: those who thought that being called on by their superior commander was a good thing, and those who wondered, even when they were not guilty, what they had done wrong. And even though every time he’d been called upon by his superiors it was to be given a greater opportunity to serve his people and his city, he was the second type.

So now, as he, Lydia, Taru, and the Osarian called Nara, waited to be let in to Watchman Johnny Twostep’s office, he felt the same old anxiety return. His shoulders clenched beneath his heavy armor, and trails of nervous sweat added to the dampness his scalp beneath his hair, still sticky from the heat of combat. When they were finally let in, Taru and Lydia practically flowed into the office with the assurance that they were about to be praised for having saved the lives of villagers—though Taru looked more serious than Kennerly had seen him before. He and Nara both hung back, and when he glanced over at her, he saw the guilty expression on her face that he knew he wore himself.

“Well,” he muttered to her, offering his elbow, “shall we face our fates with honor?”

She looked at him in surprise, but put her hand gently on his elbow, and they stepped into the room together.
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My second article for "The Town with Five Main Streets" went live today! It's all about the founding of Branford, CT, and dips into an interesting bit of history about how there was no difference between church and state here back in the 1600s. Please drop by and comment, if you feel so inspired!

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

Hope everyone had a happy Tuesday. I finished Poison Throne today and, rather than move straight into the second book, I'm starting Kage Baker's The Anvil of the World. I figure, if I don't get into it in my usual time frame, I can take the whole trilogy back to the library tomorrow when we go for story time. If I do like it, then I'll have another series I dig and want to finish post haste!
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Here it is, the post you've been waiting for! I "met" Alayna Williams (who is also the pseudonym for urban fantasy novelist Laura Bickle) over at Pocket After Dark in a discussion about book blogging. She mentioned her plans to do a blog tour this coming March for the release of Rogue Oracle, her second novel in the Delphic Oracle series...

At which point I came to a full stop, went and looked up her books to this point, and send her an e-mail. Delphic Oracle, you say? Magic using tarot cards, you say? (And, as Laura Bickle, you're writing UF in Detroit?) Already convinced that she must be awesome, I shot her an e-mail, and all our interactions have confirmed it. Alayna rocks, and she's got a really fun mythic sensibility.

So instead of waiting 'til March, I've brought her over to the blog now to talk about the Oracle at Delphi and Delphi's Daughters. She's also generously offered to give away a copy of her first novel, Dark Oracle (which came out in June), to a commenter on this post! No sophisticated rules, here, gang: one comment is one entry, and if you leave me a link to where you've posted about this elsewhere, we'll give you another entry. (As usual, if you just want to comment, but not be entered, please mention that. *g*) Contest runs through Wednesday the 29th -- we'll announce the winner on Thursday the 30th.

And without further ado: Alayna!



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Ancient and Modern Oracles
by Alayna Williams

The Delphic Oracle is probably the most famous oracle of the ancient world. The priestess of the Temple of Apollo, the Pythia, wielded a great deal of political influence over leaders who sought both her advice and the advice of the priestesses who served the temple. The Temple of Apollo was sited over a crevasse in the earth emitting noxious vapors, leading to modern-day speculation that the Pythia’s visions were not sendings from Apollo, but toxic hallucinations. The Delphic Oracle operated from roughly the eight century BC until 393 AD, when all pagan oracles were ordered to be dismantled by the Emperor. After that, no one knows what became of the priestesses.

I was intrigued by the idea of an order of women exerting subtle and powerful influence over the ancient world. I wondered what would happen if that order of priestesses went underground and survived to the modern day. What would their role in world events be? In Dark Oracle, the title of Pythia is handed down through generations of women, all oracles with their own unique talent for foreseeing the future. Delphi’s Daughters are a secret organization, nudging world events and gathering information through vast networks of helpers. Their behavior is sometimes sinister, sometimes pure, but always secretive. No one but the Pythia herself knows how the puzzle of world events fits together, and her priestesses are often left in the dark, guessing at her motives.

In the worlds of Dark Oracle and Rogue Oracle, the current Pythia is a pyromancer. She sees the future in dancing flames. The heroine of the story, Tara Sheridan, is a cartomancer who uses Tarot cards to create criminal profiles. Other characters have abilities with scrying, astronomy, and geomancy. Delphi’s Daughters come from all walks of life: they are physicists, soccer moms, artists, farmers, and dancers. They are women just like women you know and walk past on the street. But they are women with a secret.

Tara's talents were a challenge to create. Use of Tarot cards requires both an intellectual understanding of the ancient symbolism of the cards, as well as the ability to make intuitive leaps from the cards to one's current situation. Using the cards in her work as a profiler, Tara spends a great deal of time in her own head. She's not a brash woman who rushes into situations with guns blazing. She's a thinker, a planner, and it's simply not in her analytical nature to shoot off at the mouth -- or with her guns -- when she can get her mission accomplished using less attention-getting means. She is accustomed to having to hide her talents from the people with whom she works, which makes her very circumspect... and isolated. Especially since she's survived an attack by a serial killer that has left her scarred for life. She's withdrawn from her work as a profiler and as a member of Delphi's Daughters.



In thinking about how such an order might survive into the modern world, I imagined the limitations inherent in being an oracle in a secret organization. It would require secrecy, sacrificing a large part of one’s life, and committing to a larger ideal. I decided that, as time passed, fewer and fewer women would be interested in unquestioningly serving Delphi’s Daughters. In Dark Oracle, the order is dying out. Tara Sheridan has left the order after her mother died, refusing to return. After surviving an attack by a serial killer that left her scarred for life, she is unable to bear children. And there are no young women in Delphi’s Daughters any longer.

The Pythia must try to continue the line, whatever the cost. She is challenged to convince the rebellious Tara to return. Or she must find new blood to move into the future, a new order for a new age. And blood will be spilled in the process.

-Alayna Williams
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I got next to nothing done that I'd had on my list to accomplish today.

In the plus column: Awesome substrate meeting! We talked about a new short story by Substrater Vlad -- he originally wrote it in Russian and submitted to us in English in synopsis form, which makes for a really engaging way to talk about a story! -- and discussed "Shotgun Wedding" (which I'll be making some edits to shortly, due to the good conversation) before I had to absent myself from Skype and do real-worldy things. (I missed the discussion on the first two chapters of [livejournal.com profile] lyster's new novel, which, like its predecessor, has the appearance of being absolutely fantastic.*)

Someone asked me to post about finding a writing group awhile back, and the truth is, I don't actually have really good advice. I fell into this one almost by chance -- Substrater Nat had an inkling about getting a group together when [livejournal.com profile] lyster got back from China and did most of the inviting of folks who, then, I didn't know well and had never read. I invited [livejournal.com profile] notadoor, who I'd met briefly at Simon's Rock when I'd gone back on TA prep for one of Mark Vecchio's study abroad courses, and who I'd gotten to know (and admire) via LJ. Most of us write, and are interested in, the same kind of fiction -- F/SF stuff, largely. We write in different areas of the genre, and we bring different opinions as readers to the table. And, this is kind of important -- we all seem to like each other. I don't know if that's critical for a writing group, but I've found it's really important for a gaming group, and I think the two are more similar than might seem obvious at first appearance.

But as far as writing itself goes, I wrote a few new sentences in a review that's due on Monday... Yeah, not exactly an inspiring total. On the other hand, Twostripe and I spent some time reading Off Armageddon Reef by David Weber (it's our family read aloud book right now -- we've done The Hobbit, Unseen Academicals, and, as you may recall, the last two books of "The Dark Is Rising" sequence since Bug was born. Picking grown-up books means that progress is sometimes quite slow. But we kept going ahead in Off Armageddon Reef after Bug fell asleep tonight. I'm hoping she won't notice.) Spending family time together, especially over a good book, was an excellent use of time, despite meaning that I didn't get to check anything off my to-do list.

Tomorrow is a Christmas pageant at church, which I'm excited about, and then perhaps I can be constructive in the afternoon. Here's crossing my fingers!

(Don't forget the Tarot / Greater Trumps contest! And keep getting ready for Alayna Williams on Friday!)

--

*For the record, I don't just build up the Substraters because they're my crit group. Anything that I mention thinking is awesome is because I think it is awesome. (And really, I know from awesome, so you should take my word for it.)
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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.
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According to Random.org, last week's winner (with a twitter feed from HeldenSiegfried) is [livejournal.com profile] holmes_iv. Congratulations! Let me know the best way to get you the book. :)

I have to say, I really enjoyed the Trickster love that showed up -- from Coyote to Anansi to Sun Wukong ([livejournal.com profile] lyster, is he the Monkey King?). I also liked the idea of Q, who is arguably a Trickster figure (and certainly as verbose as [livejournal.com profile] kattw suggests). There really is just something about Tricksters, whether they're gods or culture heroes or just the lovable rogue archetype (aka Han Solo) that makes life fun.

And sometimes also terrifying. But that's their job.

--

In other news, I met what I think was my one major resolution this year: I finished "The Dark Is Rising" sequence by Susan Cooper. The last two books were read-aloud family books, so that Bug could be included in them, and we wrapped up Silver on the Tree today. I have to say, the last chapter is hard for me to swallow, as it contains something of a bitter pill for several of the characters. (I'm trying not to spoil the ending here, since if I'd gone this long without reading them, someone else may have, too.) Mind you, it's not the same kind of trouble I had with Philip Pullman's very well-written but ultimately not-my-thing The Golden Compass and sequels, where I realized two-thirds of the way through the last book that he was telling an entirely different story than I'd thought he was, which ruined the books for me. Cooper's story is fantastic, and the ending has some qualities reminiscent of both Tolkien and Lewis. But one of the final consequences is not sitting well with me (much like Susan's fate in the Narnia books made me angry as a child), and I wonder how I would have reacted to the ending had I read them when I was the same age as the characters. I suspect that, like Narnia, I would have rewritten the fate I didn't like in my head, and believed the story ended a different way, at least, in my telling of it. Now I'm too caught up in the authorial decision -- why was a certain fate chosen for the characters? what does that imply about the rest of the story? -- and can't just imagine my own way out of it because I'm stuck in the analysis.

Which is to say, I highly recommend the series. I hope Bug loves them when she's growing up. But I'd love to hear (in a spoiler-filled way) from others who have read the books about the consequence I'm discussing, and their interpretations. So, gang, comments to this post are not spoiler free. Please, please, have at, and I'll respond.

But on to the contest. Tell me about a children's book that you either a) read as an adult and thought you'd have experienced it differently as a child, or b) rewrote the ending in your head. This week's prize is a double whammy: two "Death Gate" novels by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, Fire Sea and Into the Labyrinth. Good luck!
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Did you all like my disappearing act? Next, I'll saw my assistant in half! But really, what have I been up to in the past month?


  • Copyediting. A lot.

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

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

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

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

  • Going to kempo with Twostripe.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

First: Bitten by Books is having an awesome contest for the Linger release: a book club kit! The prize is ten copies of both Linger and Shiver, plus a $100 Visa card to host a party with. Definitely check it out!

Second: DriveThruRPG and DriveThruComics are having a huge Christmas in July sale, and the Flames Rising store is one of the participants. There's plenty of RPG material to look through (and, perhaps, add to your collection).
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I went out and took some leaf pictures the other day while we've still got color in the yard, and I thought I'd share.



More behind the cut:

Read more... )

In honor of the fall colors here, the prizes for the new MtU&E contest are both the Red and Yellow Fairy Book by Andrew Lang. Two books, one contest! What do you have to do?

Post an image, in the comments or at your own lj (posting a link to it here), of fall in your neck of the woods -- or whatever landscape it is that's local to you. I think we'll give this context until Saturday, November 7th, and I'll randomly pick an image thereafter.

Happy photo hunting!
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Nope, not a contest from me today (though I should probably do another one soon). This is a contest from Ilona Andrews to promote her new On the Edge, a series starter paranormal romance. Not only is she doing a media blitz contest (linked above), it's a pre-contest to promote the Bitten by Books contest coming up next week. Double the contest, double the fun?

One of the things I found most interesting about Ilona's contest is the top prize: getting to be a beta reader (without the pressure of offering critiques) for six months. The idea of being a beta for a published author is getting to be a more popular idea, I think, and it's a trend that interests me. Brandon Sanderson posts chapter excerpts over at [livejournal.com profile] mistborn; Dylan Birtolo does the same at [livejournal.com profile] eyezofwolf. Lora Innes just introduced a Fan Flow group for The Dreamer on a subscription basis. I believe that Michele Bardsley gives her "minions" free content as well. The Glamazombies used to get a paragraph a week of spoliery goodness from Mark Henry, which I imagine will start up again in the future.

So, what is going on here? This seems different from the usual technopeasant wretch business. This is *pre* published writing being shared, letting readers in on the whole writing process. Any of you writers out there doing this sort of thing -- how does this impact your writing? Readers who are in on the pre-pub end -- how does this impact your reading? I think this is a trend to watch, and I'm curious who else has noticed it and what they think is happening.

In the meantime, check out Ilona's contest on the 28th at Bitten by Books.

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Egads, has it been so long? I had company all last week (delightful company -- my parents came to visit from Michigan!) which meant my internet time was somewhat limited, as we were busy spending time in each others' company. Sadly, we did not get a chance to play bridge, but that can wait until the next time.

First order of business: [livejournal.com profile] cinda_cite, you have won the book & CD combo! Congrats. I hope you enjoy Common Shiner. :) I'll talk more about my own thoughts on music and myth later in the week.

In the mean time, some important things happened in the publishing world this week:


  • Most importantly, Genreville, the Publishers Weekly blog on science fiction, fantasy, and horror, has relaunched! Their first post is a contest for a John Scalzi ARC, so get over there and say hello. (You can also find them on twitter @Genreville.)

  • You must have heard it by now, because it's all over the news: Disney bought Marvel. I have no pithy commentary to add at this time (especially since Jeph Jacques ([livejournal.com profile] qcjeph) of Questionable Content already took the cake with his twitter feed, @jephjacques, which is NSFW).

  • One of my fellow substrate members relaunched his two websites today: ThomasScofield.com and Nursery Tymes. He also shared a great blog entry about what your job is as a writer, from the blog of James Scott Bell. All are worth a look.



In slightly more self-centered news, I got asked by a fellow alum of Simon's Rock if I'd sign a copy of Into the Reach for his daughter. They'd made a bet of some kind, and her reward was that he'd buy her a book and get it signed by the author for her. She must have won, because she got the book (and enjoyed it!), and it'll soon be on its way for me to sign it and send it back. :) That definitely made my day.
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Inspired by one of the Muse posts in the first contest, I started thinking about music and the way that it relates to stories. But before I give my account on that, I'm making it up to you. Tell me about myth and music, fairy stories and music, or any assortment thereof.

In honor of such a vague contest, there are two prizes: a promo CD with two Common Shiner songs (in its original concert packaging) and a copy of The Orange Fairy Book.





Possible bonus points if you can relate the two prizes in your post. :)
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I posted an entry on Sunday night, announcing the contest winner from last week. (Congratulations, SiNn! Your book went in the mail today!) Unfortunately, LJ ate it. So, no contest this week. You'll have to wait 'til Friday or Saturday (whichever day I wind up posting) to hear about the new fairy book (and additional incentive).

I've been reading a couple of really interesting books lately. One, The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists, was recommended to me by Locus writer and artist Adam Black, who I met during my active DrunkDuck days. (He was writing the KISS Web comic while I was working on Cowboys and Aliens II; we've had some great discussions about the treatment of female characters in comics.) It's essentially a book about men who learn the necessary social tricks and cues to get women to go home with them. Both fascinating and disturbing (due to the complete objectification of women that, unsurprisingly, results), it's an incredible study of human interaction, much of which, I think, can be applied beyond the very specific sphere covered by the book. To some degree, people all manipulate situations to their best advantage -- or play roles based on their social circle or family position -- and we all learn skills of how to "manage" friends or peers or family. We know which co-worker will react best to blunt criticism, and which friend will have to be coached through any sort of life upheaval with great care and support (rather than the swift kick in the pants they might sometimes deserve). This is that same idea taken to an extreme, for what might be considered a nefarious -- or at least dishonest, selfish, etc. -- purpose. And, of course, the book is set up such that it's clear the situation will crash and burn by the end -- we're just watching the train wreck get set up.

The other title is a book that was recommended to me by Contrapositive Diarist Jeff Duntemann ([livejournal.com profile] jeff_duntemann) when I was talking about crosses and other symbols. Called Outward Signs: The Language of Christian Symbolism by Edward N. West, it's an amazing reference book that includes brilliantly simple line illustrations for symbols of the church, from different crosses to the meanings behind animals to heraldic representations of saints. Perhaps best of all is a lovely introduction by Madeline l'Engle. I'm returning the library copy but have already placed an order through Alibris.com to procure a used copy for my own. (The book, sadly, appears to be out of print.)

I very rarely make my way all the way through nonfiction titles (it's no surprise that I've been picking up Outward Signs in spurts, and is a huge surprise to me how quickly I got wrapped up in The Game), so posting about two together is quite a rarity for me. What are other folks reading these days that they find worth talking about?
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Quick reminder: tomorrow is the last day to enter this week's contest. The Blue Fairy Book could be yours!

Randy Hoyt, the editor of Journey to the Sea, and I have been talking back and forth for awhile about some of the concepts that come up in my blog entries here, particularly, recently, the difference between what a thing *is* and what a thing *means.*

Let's start again.

In our modern consciousness, we tend to think first about what a thing is -- its physical components, its solid substance -- without thinking much about any sort of cosmic significance the object might have. I immediately recognize my cell phone as my cell phone -- it's plastic parts in a pretty green color that I picked because it was the "green" environmental phone and is also lime green. It's back lit, has a screen, has some programs in it. It has the function of being a device for communication, something I completely take for granted these days, as compared to when I was in college and calling home was still an expensive thing to the point that I bought phone cards that had cheaper rates after 9 p.m.

In a more mythic consciousness, at least the type depicted by Owen Barfield in Saving the Appearance, all of those features are far less relevant than what a thing means. Meaning is kind of a vague and bogus (V&B) word, so I'll try to describe a little better, again relying on the master. Barfield writes that a mythic consciousness doesn't think of metaphors the same way a modern consciousness does. When they talk about blood as life, or the stars guiding fate, they're not being poetical. Real blood isn't those cells wandering through your body passing oxygen around. Real blood is life force, is family, is connection, is all of those things that blood symbolizes in a modern consciousness. The symbol, in this context, is the real meaning -- not the physical liquid that shows up when I cut myself. (In a more mythic consciousness, I'd first identify my cellphone's most important quality: it is my bridge to those who are far away, the cord that allows me to connect beyond the local distances.)

Randy wrote some mythic interpretation of Neil Gaiman's Batman comics, collected in What Ever Happened to the Caped Crusader, which hinges on the idea of subjective vs. factual experience. It ties in very nicely to the ideas he and I have been batting about, some of which I touch on, very briefly, in my photo essay on Arthurian sites that will be up on Journey to the Sea on Saturday. He's also written and published some great essays on the idea of "myth beyond words" (in an issue to which I contributed) and wrote a great essay on mythos vs. logos, which I think is worth a read.

In the meantime, Randy brings you Batman!

--

In the last year or two, I have become fascinated with storytelling mediums that use more than just words to communicate narratives or recall them to mind. The great myths and legends of humanity have long been depicted in non-narrative works of art like marble statues, stained-glass windows, and totem poles. I have recently become fascinated with a much newer form of narrative art: the comic book.



Comic books combine images and words to tell stories. These could be stories of any kind, though stories about superheroes seem to have dominated the medium. My recent interest in comics got sparked late last year when I heard that Neil Gaiman was writing two new comic books about Batman. I knew Neil Gaiman as an award-winning fantasy and science-fiction novelist, but I had just discovered that he began his writing career with comic books. (His popular comic series The Sandman, seventy-five issues that ran from 1989-1996, has been reprinted in eleven volumes that are still in print.)



Gaiman was slated to write his two new issues about Batman's death, which certainly surprised me at first. But Batman would have to die, I suppose, and his death would be an important part of the overall Batman story. The two Gaiman comics came out in the spring, and I could not have been more impressed with them. The setting is Batman's funeral. The wide range of guests at the funeral includes Alfred, Commissioner Gordon, the Penguin, and even Superman. Batman's spirit is somehow there, as well, observing his own funeral.



Some of the guests come forward to pay their respects. Catwoman speaks first, recounting their meeting and describing how Batman died in her pet shop. Alfred speaks next, describing how young Bruce responded to his parents' murder and how that led to his death -- but I should quickly point out that Alfred's story is completely different than Catwoman's story! Seven other characters also tell different stories of Batman's untimely death throughout the two issues.



Gaiman's comics resonated with my interest in and study of myth on two counts:



  • First, storytellers throughout history have incorporated elements from other stories into their own or retold existing stories with alterations to produce new versions. Gaiman is telling a new story that obviously incorporates existing characters and events created by others. But Gaiman is also re-imagining some of these existing narrative elements. Alfred's story in particular is wickedly clever, in which Alred reveals that he was somehow the Joker. (I believe this story is original to Gaiman. But since I'm not familiar with all the existing Batman stories, please correct me if I'm wrong.)



  • Second, the approach to the world that produces myth and art often concerns itself with the subjective experiences of meaning and significance rather than with objective facts. By using a frame narrative to place the accounts of Batman's death into the mouths of characters in the story, Gaiman puts the emphasis on these subjective experiences. All nine stories discuss what Batman's death might mean or signify, and they all ring "true" in their own way -- even if they could not all be factually accurate.



You can find these two new issues at your local comic shop by asking for Batman #686 and Detective Comics #853. DC Comics last month released a hardcover book containing these two issues (along with three earlier Batman comics written by Gaiman), which is available at Amazon and other booksellers. I would highly recommend these two issues, even if, like me, you have had little previous exposure to comics.

alanajoli: (Default)
Congratulations to [livejournal.com profile] dcopulsky! The d10 of Fate choose him to win the ARC of Troy High. I thought all the muses and inspirations were excellent, and was glad to see both the classical muses and modern inspirations get equal screen time.

This week starts what will be a series of prizes in the same vein. When I worked at Barnes and Noble, all of Andrew Lang's fairy books went on the bargain table. I bought all of the ones we had in the store. Recently, I inherited another nearly complete set, which means I've got a number of duplicates. This is great news for you! Classic fairy stories in books of rainbow colors are going to be up for grabs, starting with the most famous: Lang's Blue Fairy Book.



To win a copy of this classic, all you need to do is describe your favorite fairystory. Feel free to define that term as you see fit -- for this contest, it's open to your definition.

To inspire you, here are some more antics from the editorial assistants:


Jack: So I just rub the lamp like this...


Jack: Hey, there's supposed to be a genie in there!
Tollers: Boss, where's the genie?
alanajoli: (Into the Reach)
Don't forget to to post about your Muse in MtU&E's first contest before the deadline on Saturday!

--

I've been putting this off and putting this off, because I think some part of me was really hoping for a resolution other than this one. It looks like WhiteSilver Publishing, the company that published Into the Reach and Departure, is well and truly vanished. That means that Regaining Home, the third novel in the series, really never will come out as a published book. (Due to its being set in the setting for the Chronicles of Ramlar, and being the third in a trilogy, I can't see taking the draft to another publishing house and expecting that it would go anywhere.)

We'd started the editorial process on the novel back in the summer of 2007, when we originally expected the novels to come out fairly close together. Those edits were put on hold when WhiteSilver first started to have problems. So what I have is the pre-edited finished draft of Regaining Home. Because there's no possibility of my ever being paid for the novel, I'm not inclined to go through the whole editorial process (despite the fact that it would give me another chance to work with the fabulous [livejournal.com profile] smerwin29) or solicit artwork for a cover (despite how much I'd love for Lindsay Archer to do another cover for me). But because I wrote the thing, and because I ended Departure on a cliffhanger, I'm not inclined to let the book just rot on my hard drive, either.

I've gone through a number of options since I started to suspect that this was the inevitable outcome, and the idea that I've pretty much settled on is releasing the draft of the novel on my home page, where people could read it for free. (Stephenie Meyer released her draft of the unfinished Midnight Sun on her home page, so there's at least a precedent, though obviously for very different reasons.) The writing isn't polished (because it's a draft), and there are things I'd change if I were going back to seriously work on the project (because it's a draft), but it is an end to the story, and despite all it's problems, I want it to exist.

So, that's the plan. I'm still working on details (such as format for release -- just as html, or as a download? -- etc.), but I'll announce here when it goes up. If other folks have released their fiction for free on a novel-sized scale and have advice to offer, I'd love to hear it.
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: (Default)
It's been awhile.

I've been involved in sort of a big new project that's been taking up a lot of my time. It's called: being pregnant. It's very exciting for both me and my husband! That said, it's amazing how much your time management skills change when you have to sleep a much larger portion of the day. I should be back to normal in a few weeks, assuming I'm a text book example of how these things are supposed to go. (I suppose this is also practice for learning new time management skills when I have to balance being a writer and being a mother!)

Now that I've finished up a few deadlines that I was trying to balance with my new schedule over the last few weeks, I'm hoping to be back on track to blog here at MtU&E. There's a lot to talk about! We had Substrate today, which always gives me fodder for thought, I got my Callie award in the mail and will post a picture of that soon (along with the first of my weekly contests, until I run out of prizes!), and Maggie Stiefvater ([livejournal.com profile] m_stiefvater) has done a brilliant guest entry for this Friday. I'll get to talk about Maggie's new book, Shiver, and I've read a couple of really interesting blog posts from other folks that deserve conversation here. I've also submitted my first blog post to Flames Rising ([livejournal.com profile] flamesrising_lj), so I'll make a note when that goes up.

Yes, lots happening in this part of the universe, and there will be much activity here next week. It'll be good to be back.
alanajoli: (advice)
As you all know, I enter a lot of contests online. (This is not, by the way, much different in feeling from writing grants, which I now do part time for my library. You follow the instructions, submit your application/entry, and then wait to see if you won. The only grant I've received thus far was right along with my usual track record: free books.)

Not too long ago, League of Reluctant Adults Member and soon-to-be-published Urban Fantasy novelist Kelly Meding hosted a trivia contest with some really excellent and tough questions. With the help of Lord Google, I searched for the answers while watching the finale of Chuck (which, if you haven't watched, it's not too late to start, and might help us fans get a third season). I wasn't sure I got all the answers (The Monster Squad question was the toughest), but I turned in what I'd figured out and crossed my fingers. Not only did I get them all right, I won Kelly's awesome prize pack!



So, soon, I'll be catching Victorian fairies with the best of them. (Other fae wouldn't really fit in the vial, so they have to be the Victorian kind.) Kelly's book Three Days to Dead comes out in late October, and hopefully we'll have her guest blogging here shortly before that. It's available for preorder at amazon, but keep an eye out for it this fall at bricks and mortar stores near you!

Meanwhile, I'm selecting the books that will be coming with me on the England trip, so I can do a books-on-tour project like I did last year in Greece and Turkey, which was tremendously fun. This year I'll be taking at least two hardcovers, because they just can't wait to be read 'til I get back!

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Alana Joli Abbott

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