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So, there's been news lately about Wiley Agency starting an Amazon only imprint for their writers. It's sort of a weird deal -- a literary agency acting as a publisher and giving exclusivity to a single seller -- and it's much debated (which I won't get into here). It has got me thinking, though: in theory, writer royalties are supposed to be larger in e-books. (That's another thing being batted around the news lately.) If that's true, it would make sense for me to exclusively buy e-books instead of mass markets, as they're priced very similarly, and on e-books, my money would go more directly to the writer.

So, writer friends:

1) Are your royalties better on e-book?
2) Does my math make sense?

Twostripe has looked at my to be read pile, which I've now divided into three as part of the baby-proofing efforts at the house (it's far less likely to topple now). When I talk about buying a new book from my release list, he makes a funny gurgling noise that isn't at all a sound of approval. He suggested, however, that I look into saving us shelf space by buying digital, so I'm headed that direction. (I picked up Nalini Singh's newest, Bonds of Justice, when Kobo Books was having a sale the other day.)

This messes up my "I like all of my books to look the same on the shelf" strategy -- I'm compelled to buy matching book sets, which is why I have all the Percy Jackson books in hardcover, and why I at one point had three different incomplete sets of the Harry Potter series, since I picked up paperbacks of several of the books in England over two or three trips. On the up side for the blog, slimming down my print collection could mean a lot of fun prizes and contests coming up here.
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While doing some random internet searching, I discovered that Rosalind Casey one of the students from this past year's England Trip (who, in our trip role-playing game, we cast as the Victorian incarnation of The Slayer), has several poems published! Her most recent, "At the Woodcutters," appears in the current issue of Goblin Fruit (alongside Coyote Wild contributor Shweta Narayan). Her earlier work has been published in the San Antonio Express News and Mind Flights. All three pieces are very mythic and/or folkloric, and very good. I'm sure it's not news for her any more, but -- congratulations, Rosalind!

Also while searching the web, I discovered that Coyote Wild has changed its format. The old archives are still intact, just a little bit hard to find. ("Nomi's Wish" is still available here.)
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There are some fun, original new guest blogs coming up soon, but today, I was drawn back to my collection of the writings of Charles Williams, which I studied for my course on the Inklings in college. I've not read them in some time, and it looks as though I argued quite a bit with Williams in the margins! But his philosophy of co-inherence continues to intrigue me. (It played a large role in the game I co-ran on the England trip -- this is the trip that also made me giggle every time the word "dirigibles" has been used since, but that might be a story for another day.)

So, here is a short excerpt from Charles Williams: Essential Writings in Spirituality and Theology, which in turn is excerpted from The Descent of the Dove.

--

At the beginning of life in the natural order is an act of substitution and co-inherence. A man can have no child unless his seed is received and carried by a woman; a woman can have no child unless she receives and carries the seed of a man--literally bearing the burden. It is not only a mutual act; it is a mutual act of substitution. The child itself for nine months literally co-inheres in its mother; there is no human creature that has not sprung from such a period of such an interior growth.

...

It has been the habit of the church to baptize it, as soon as it has emerged, by the formula of the Trinity-in-Unity. As it passes from the most material co-inherence it is received into the supernatural; an it is received by a deliberate act. ... The faith into which he is received has declared that principle to be the root and the pattern of the supernatural as of the natural world. And the faith is the only body to have done so. It has proclaimed that this is due to the deliberate choice and operation of the divine Word. Had he willed, he could presumably have raised for his Incarnation a body in some other way than he chose. But he preferred to shape himself within the womb, to become hereditary, to owe to humanity the flesh he divinitized by the same principle--"not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh, but by taking of the manhood into God." By an act of substitution he reconciled the natural world with the world of the kingdom of heaven, sensuality with substance. He restored substitution and co-inherence everywhere; up and down the ladder of that great substitution all our lesser substitutions run; within that sublime co-inherence all our lesser co-inherences inhere. And when the Christian church desired to define the nature of the Alone, she found no other term; It mutually co-inheres by Its own nature. The triune formula by which the child is baptized is precisely the incomprehensible formula of this.

It is supernatural, but also it is natural. ... The denunciation of individualism means this or it means nothing. The praise of individualism must allow for this or it is mere impossible anarchy.
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All right, time to clean out my inbox and share a bunch of links I've noted lately. In no particular order:

  • Mary Pearson takes a stab at what YA books are all about at Tor.com. I find her prejudices against adult novels interesting, since I go exactly the opposite way about my adult reading (I have no need to read books I should have "grown into" by now). I do wish she'd delved a little more into what makes Margo Lanagan's Tender Morsels book a YA title -- I read it and didn't particularly like it (I expected to like it very much; it's fairy tales, twisted and changed, but they almost all end hopelessly, and I didn't feel I got more out of either the original tales or anything out of the new versions). I also could not for the life of me figure out why it was a teen book -- it didn't seem to be geared toward a teen audience; it didn't feature teens as protagonists; there weren't really any coming of age stories that I noted. I'd hate to think it was just YA because it was a fairy tale collection, and thus relegated to the "not for grown-ups" section. (Via [livejournal.com profile] janni.)

  • Like government conspiracy theories? Then you'll be fascinated to read about how the attack on the Death Star may have been an inside job. The facts just don't line up, people! (Via [livejournal.com profile] janni.)

  • Last year at this time, Halloween flash fiction and monster descriptions got posted up at Flames Rising. The link provides a list of the entries from last year (including my own Hounds of the Morrigan).

  • SLJ ran an interesting article about librarians as truth detectors, whose job is helping users sort out trustworthy information from information that needs to be debunked.

  • What should you not put in a query letter to an agent? Goals to write multiple books per year for multiple houses. That may eventually be your style, but your potential agent may be suspicious of your promise to write four to five books a year before you've worked with an editor at a publishing house to experience the whole editorial process. (Via [livejournal.com profile] irysangel.)

  • Friend of the blog [livejournal.com profile] cinda_cite posted a lovely entry last week about living local fiction, which is something I think about quite a bit in both my own writing and in my UF reading. She also brings in some Tolkien-esque tips on subcreation.

  • I'm a bit late posting on the new FTC regulations, so you may have already heard about the new rules for blog reviews. Apparently, getting an ARC or review copy of a book from a publisher is considered compensation, and must be disclosed. (The FTC is under the impression that reviewers return copies of the book they receive to the publishers. Huh?) There's also some discouragement about linking to sites where you can purchase the books, as this would then be considered a paid advertisement. I'm not sure whether the disclosure allows you to then freely link to a purchasing site or not. At any rate, expect to hear whether or not I received a book as an ARC when I mention it here.

  • PW ran a good article about the growing market for digital comics.

  • This week's NYTBR ran an interesting review of classics without universal appeal, prompted by the new film version of Where the Wild Things Are.

  • An amateur metal detector uncovered the largest Anglo-Saxon gold hoard ever found. Larger than the cache found at Sutton Hoo, one of the major Anglo-Saxon sites in England, this hoard was recovered in a field in Stratfordshire.

  • Jeri Smith-Ready is running an ongoing YA prize-a-day for October, to celebrate the five-year anniversary of her blog (congratulations!), as she gets closer to her new YA book release.


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

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

When I first went to England as a student on the Myth in Stone tour in 2000, Mark Vecchio advised me that if I wanted to buy a cross necklace for myself, I should look in Glastonbury. Read more... )
alanajoli: (british mythology)
I've had the good fortune, since my first trip to England in 2000, to have stayed in contact with Arthurian scholar Geoffrey Ashe and his wife (a scholar in her own right, and former professor) Pat. When I first began working at Gale, I was given the project that I now manage as a freelancer: coordinating the autobiographical essays to be featured in volumes of Contemporary Authors and Something about the Author. (As an assistant editor, I wasn't given charge of the whole project: I only worked on one end of the content spectrum, while another editor and mentor of mine, Motoko Huthwaite, did the actual solicitation; I took that work over after her retirement. Still another editor handled all of the image work.) I want to say that it was only three or four volumes into this work that I had the privilege of editing the autobiographical essay by Geoffrey Ashe. When my sister and I traveled to England together in 2003, we returned to Glastonbury and met the Ashes for church and Sunday roast. It was a great joy to get to spend time with them again this year.

Geoffrey's work spans mythology, history, literature, and fiction. He has written a biography of Gandhi, The Encyclopedia of Prophecy, and the occult novel The Finger and the Moon, as well as numerous other titles, the majority of which delve into the history and legend behind King Arthur. On the study tour, our most used text book was The Mythology of the British Isles, the preface of which provides today's excerpt.

P.S. I'm trying something new by linking to an assortment of booksellers rather than falling back on B&N (where I do the majority of my shopping). Any thoughts on that?

--

(Here, Geoffrey addresses use of the word "mythology" in the title:)

Is "mythology" justified here? Much of the material is unlike myth in the classical sense, being more miscellaneous and often closer to history of literature. Yet when all these things are assembled and considered together, it seems clear to me that they have an interrelatedness which is seldom realised, and that their significance goes beyond entertainment or weaving of individual yarns. Whatever their precise nature, they have mythic dimension. They express ideas about a certain territory and how it came to be as it is: about is place in the world, its landscape, its inhabitants, their society and government.

The time-span of the survey extends from prehistory to the ninth century AD. It ends where it does, not because there are no myths applicable to later times, but because, with the movement into better-recorded history, their character alters. We get tales that simply embroider the lives of well-known persons, such as the heroes of Scottish independence, and Francis Drake. We get conscious fictions, such as Frankenstein and Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. The difference is sometimes one of degree rather than kind, and with Robin Hood, for example, the older type of myth-making is still at work. But a line must be drawn somewhere, and I hope the ninth-century ending will be seen as a logical conclusion, beyond which it would be difficult to go without a loss of consistency.

It may be objected that most of the matter is retrospective. It is what has been believed or imagined long afterwards, not what was believed or imagined at the time or anywhere near it. But the same is true of the Greek myths as well, or any other. Mythology is long-term creation.


Geoffrey Ashe with the Myth in Stone tour, 2000, at the site of Arthur's Grave at Glastonbury Abbey.


Geoffrey and the Myth in Stone tour, 2009, at the same site.
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Picking the novels to come along with me as international travelers this year was a challenge. I packed course books and extra resources and had to hem and haw over which novels I would take along for this project. I also have a tendency to buy books while I'm abroad, so along with the large number of books in my bag, I knew I'd come home with more. Such is the way of traveling readers!

Books on the road! )

So that's this year's tour. Now back to uploading more of my photos for the students!
alanajoli: (mini me)
All right, one week to get myself back on my feet, and here I am, returning to ye olde blog. (I was delayed in turning in my short story to my editor, and one of the things I forbade myself from doing was blogging before it was finished and ready to turn in.) But a couple of cool things happened today, and I wanted to make sure to blog about them, and update you guys on my goals from the trip, before Saturday turned into Sunday. (Hopefully, the novel tourism post will go up tomorrow!)

So, first cool thing: my review of Caitlin Kittridge's ([livejournal.com profile] blackaire's) novel, Street Magic, went up on Flames Rising. Matt was kind enough to post it for me on a Saturday, because the book has just hit the shelves, and I didn't want to have gotten an advanced reader copy for nothing! It's a really, really excellent novel, which I expound upon in my review. Check out what I had to say, and look for the novel at your local bookstore!

Second cool thing: I finally got to meet Anton Strout ([livejournal.com profile] antonstrout) (who is, for the record, the most beloved low-to-midlist urban fantasy writer in America, or so I hear) live and in person. He did a book signing up in Pittsfield, his home stomping grounds and not distant from my college stomping grounds. So finally, I have my books signed. Hooray! I decided that bringing him a PEZ dispenser would border on creepy fangirl, so I decided to eschew it and just bring books and questions and a big smile. He did a reading from the first chapter of Deader Still, which was brilliantly creepy and got wonderful reactions from the audience (including me -- I'd forgotten how vivid, and, frankly, gross, that scene was!). The best part, however, was his commentary -- as he was reading, he'd interrupt himself and tell us little bits about the characters or his word choice or things that he liked about the scene, which was a huge enhancement to the story for me. Also (and I hope I'm not blowing his cover), he is super nice in person. Based on his blog and his books, I was expecting more snark, but he was totally gracious and sweet. (And I'm not just saying this because he might find this entry later. These are honest impressions here!)

The Barnes and Noble in Pittsfield is pretty darn great. They didn't have Pandora's Closet in stock, sadly, but I did pick up Red Headed Stepchild by Jaye Wells and Angel's Blood by Nalini Singh. The staff was really great, too, but my favorite part was walking in and seeing a young woman reading manga with this huge grin on her face, totally oblivious to anyone walking by. Seeing the power of reading in person like that gives me a little thrill.

So, those are my good things. Now to catch up on my goals... )
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A funny thing happened at the beginning of the trip. Mark bought a new course book for all the students (and one for me as well), since he discovered it after the initial course books had already been ordered and figured it would be easier just to procure them instead of having the students do it last minute. At the airport in Boston, he distributed the books to everyone, and I decided to take mine on the plane, so I could get ahead on the reading. The title, Stonehenge, by John North (which is also in my sidebar), is a discussion of astronomy and the alignment of ancient monuments and barrows not only to the sun and moon, but also to particular stars at particular times of year, accounting for the precession of the equinoxes (or the movement of the earth's rotation that accounts for the change in angles at which the stars appear over thousands of years). When I opened my copy to begin reading, however, I discovered not an investigation into alignment and ancient thought, but a novel of the same name by Bernard Cornwell. This, of course, was not entirely helpful (although possibly a more lighthearted read!). Some bookseller stuck a copy of the novel inside the jacket of the nonfiction title and thought all would be well -- but of course, it was not. We spent a good chunk of our first day in London tromping around to every esoteric book store (and several major chain stores here) in our general area trying to track down a copy of the North book to replace my novel. We didn't find one until the second day, when I poked my head into a store called Atlantis expecting the same result of "not in stock, but we can order it for you." Instead, the bookseller showed me to the section where she thought it would be, and lo and behold, there was a copy!

After I purchased it, one of the students asked, "So, did you check to make sure it's the right book inside the jacket?" Doh! I hadn't, but it was, indeed, the right book. I'm still catching up on the reading, having lost the flight and part of my opportunities on the first day to get some reading done, but at least now I have it. The excerpt below is from North's apologetics section -- he speculates quite a lot in his book, but comes to some pretty reasonable conclusions that support his hypothesis of star alignment, which he backs up with some interesting numbers. This has less to do with myth directly than most of my guest blogs do, but it gives you a taste for what we're discussing in the course these three weeks, and also offers a peek into what might have been important to people thinking inside a mythic consciousness.

--

It should now be clear that there are very many different types of initial assumption. A skeptic might argue thus, taking fairly wide limits for the ranges mentioned: 'I do not believe that long barrows were placed in relation to the stars. If I were to drop a typical long barrow on the landscape at random, the chances are eight in ten that I should be able to find a date within a plausible period of prehistory at which your roughly opposed lines of sight would align accurately on bright stars'. ... Following this line of argument in a very crude way, and multiplying probabilities, the chances of finding solutions for two barrows would be 64%, of finding three 51%, of finding seven 21%, and so on. One might reduce still further the chances that the claims against which the unbeliever is arguing are illusory--for instance, by appealing to multiple solutions for the same epoch (usually in close agreement with radiocarbon dating), especially solutions paired at right angles, and having relations with the surrounding landscape--but all this is unlikely to convince resolute skeptics, who are used to having figures in millions quoted against them.

So much for the 'generic barrow on the landscape'. A more reasonable approach is to take a single known long barrow, say Wayland's Smithy, and to ask about the likelihood of finding a solution by chance. It may be supposed, for example, that the long barrow is placed at random on the landscape, with appropriate closely limited characteristics. ... What then are the chances of finding a precise solution involving bright stars in both directions between 4000 BC and 3000 BC?

To take this specimen case, even after adding five more bright stars ... to the previous list, there are only three distinct solutions, each with two orientations (interchanging rising and setting), making six in all. Without giving the lengthy calculations, one can say that for the opening decades of the period, the barrow could be dropped into one of only six narrow sectors of the compass, each covering about 1.4 degrees and 3 degrees. with time, those sectors drift somewhat ... and one pair eventually ceases to be useful, but another takes its place. The details are not important, but it can be said that at a very generous estimate, the barrow could have been assigned an azimuth falling within sectors totaling 54 degrees of the whole compass. In short, a randomly placed Wayland's Smithy has a three in twenty chance (15%) of accommodating a pairing of bright stars in the way explained in the present chapter. This is generous, and on another count far too generous: the thousand years could have been narrowed down appreciably, greatly increasing the odds against finding a random solution. And even with odds of 15%, to find seven solutions--if they happened to produce the same odds, which of course they would not--would mean odds of less than two in a million of finding the whole set of solutions by chance. ... The odds against consistently hitting a solution by chance are very great indeed, and the conclusion must be that astronomical activity at the long barrows is not an illusion.
alanajoli: (british mythology)
Three years ago, when I was the teaching assistant on the trip to Ireland, I mentioned Firefly, because it was quotable (and because I often reference it). Only one of the people on the trip -- a group of seventeen students and three chaperons -- had seen it. This eliminated a good chunk of my referential humor (since that had been one of my main staples at home) and counfounded me some. How had they missed that show?

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

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

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

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

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

Tomorrow we're leaving London for Salisbury, where I may or may not have internet access. In the mean time, I'm taking pictures and reading books. No writing progress to report thus far (aside from the class exercises and this blog entry), but I anticipate having more done on my goal list when next I write!
alanajoli: (british mythology)
So here we are, the night before leaving, and I'm looking at piles of books, wondering what I should take. Last year, I painstakingly choose, and purchased, books that I thought would be appropriate for each site. This year, I'm finding myself pondering what each of the sites mean, in order to think what would be the most appropriate -- along with looking at my ever-growing to-be-read pile, and figuring out which choices best represent where I'm headed.

Then Percy Jackson waves his arms in the air from the bookshelf and says, "Even though I'm a hardcover, you're dying to find out how my adventures end!"

And, of course, Percy is right, even though I can't think of how The Last Olympian echoes Arthurian legend.

Tomorrow at this time, I'll be in the air, about five hours from landing in London. I'll be there above the world, looking down at what is. (Actually, I'll probably be asleep and ignoring the sites below.) I'd love to know what Jung thought of flying, of being in the sky and looking below at reality. If being underwater represents the unconscious, what does being above the land represent?

I'll try to pop by over the course of the trip, but if I'm not able to say hello, then I hope everyone has a wonderful end of May!
alanajoli: (Default)
Getting ready for the trip, I'm back to reading Barfield, hoping I'll be able to finish it before I meet up with the students in the airport, since they'll all be much fresher with it than I am. I've also been thinking a lot about subcreation from the perspective of Tolkien, since that's one of the topics I'm writing about soon for Journey to the Sea, and have been pondering my long WIP (the one I just started randomly and haven't yet gotten back to), in which some writers can exert their will over reality.

All of these thoughts were in my head when I picked up Lavinia, by Ursula K. Le Guin on my lunch break today, and the first few paragraphs hit home, so I wanted to share them here. I've long admired Le Guin's work (one of my favorite essays in college was a response, in Le Guin's style, to "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas"), though I've not read as much of it as, perhaps, I should have. At any rate, here is the opening; I hope you'll see why it intertwined so easily with my thoughts.

--

I know who I was, I can tell you who I may have been, but I am, now, only in this line of words I write. I'm not sure of the nature of my existence, and wonder to find myself writing. I speak Latin, of course, but did I ever learn to write it? That seems unlikely. No doubt someone with my name, Lavinia, did exist, but she may have been so different from my own idea of myself, or my poet's idea of me, that it only confuses me to think about her. As far as I know, it was my poet who gave me any reality at all. Before he wrote, I was the mistiest of figures, scarcely more than a name in a genealogy. It was he who brought me to life, to myself, and so made me able to remember my life and myself, which I do, vividly, with all kinds of emotions, emotions I feel as strongly as I write, perhaps because the events I remember only come to exist as I write them, or as he wrote them.

but he did not write them. He slighted my life, in his poem. He scanted me, because he only came to know who I was when he was dying. He's not to blame. It was too late for him to make amends, rethink, complete the half lines, perfect the poem he thought imperfect. He grieved for that, I know; he grieved for me. Perhaps where he is now, down there across the dark rivers, somebody will tell him that Lavinia grieves for him.
alanajoli: (british mythology)
[livejournal.com profile] devonmonk inspired me with her goals system awhile ago, and while I haven't been keeping up with setting them (my to-do list keeps getting longer than my accomplishment list), I wanted to do that whole public accountability thing and set some goals here for the creative work I hope to get done on the England trip.

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

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

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

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

I don't know if I'll have book tourists for all 10 of those highlights -- it's hard to decide what I want to take with me!
alanajoli: (nap)
Ever feel the need to take an extra weekend to recover from having been off for the weekend?

Lest you think my life is all work and no play (which it must seem sometimes, based on what I write about here), this weekend was all about parties and company and time with friends. It was wonderful and so much fun, and entirely exhausting. I ate way too much chocolate cake and ice cream. We made two new flavors of ice cream from the Ice Cream Ireland blog, and enjoyed some excellent strawberry sage and a modified cranberry sorbet (we used frozen raspberries instead of frozen cranberries, and cran-raspberry juice instead of just cranberry juice). They both turned out deliciously.

I'm also getting ready to go to England; I pulled several of my books on Glastonbury and am deciding which of those I'm going to take (based on which I'm likely to read while I'm there -- there's only so much time!). Getting everything in order before I go will be a challenge, but hopefully I'll get a guest blog up this week, as well as getting my deadlines in order. Wish me luck!
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!
alanajoli: (serenity adventures)
Still embroiled in assignments, and I'm just hoping to stay ahead before I go to England in two weeks. In the mean time, I've had some great news! Serenity Adventures is up for an Origins Award this year! I'm delighted that the book is up for the award and am so proud to be one of the writers who contributed to the collection of adventures!
alanajoli: (british mythology)
This may seem a complete tangent from my last post (and it sort of is), but it's come up several times in conversation recently, and I suspect it has to do a bit with training your thinking, so it's vaguely relevant. One of the things I have trouble with as a writer and as a freelancer is self-motivation. People who work for themselves have to be very self-motivated in order to accomplish anything, and figuring out how to find that motivation and drive can be a struggle. I suspect that anyone who works alone has to deal with the same thing, as humans need interaction (we're social creatures) to keep our spirits (and thus our motivation) at high levels. We have to train ourselves to find motivation in unexpected places, since the usual community routes aren't open to us.

One of the ways I'm finding compelling recently is having the benefit of mutual admiration. I've spread out my writing projects among a bunch of different people and groups, so I'm not hitting up the same folks for motivation all the time. In addition, I'm surrounding myself with people who are, in short, brilliant. An old saying (or at least a repeated one here) is that "excellence recognizes brilliance." I've long known that while I'm pretty good at a pretty wide variety of things, I'm rarely the best at any of it. (Some of this comes from being related to extremely talented people and surrounding myself with incredibly smart friends --and vice versa.) I strive for excellence, but really appreciate it when the brilliant folks show up in my life -- and better yet, are interested in the stuff that I'm doing. There are few things so satisfying as having someone who you admire creatively asking for more of what you're up to.

Today was a great day for remembering this. Not only do I have an e-mail from one of the Substraters in my inbox, asking when he'll get to see some more of the new super-secret (super-drafty) new novel that may or may not become anything more than a first chapter, but I was up visiting students at Simon's Rock. The purpose of the trip was to become acquainted with the students who will be going to England in May, but it also served as a brain refresher. The myth students are usually a clever bunch, and this group is no exception. The ideas they were throwing around -- and catching, and tossing back -- were just delightful to witness. (The discussion was of Barfield's Saving the Appearances, and the refresher on those ideas was also a motivator for me to get back to Breakfast with Barfield -- and then move onto the Mabinogion, so I can keep up when we're abroad.) After class, I spent some time with the students I've traveled with before, just chatting and catching up, and then went out to dinner with Mark Vecchio. All in all, it was a wonderful day of feeling appreciated by people who amaze and challenge me, and that's just the sort of day that can fuel my motivation for a long time to come.

Perhaps tomorrow, I'll even get back on track with guest blogs and posting here more regularly. But I'm off to ICon on Long Island tomorrow, and up to Boston for Mythic Greece on Sunday, so my best intentions may have to wait 'til next week.

On goals

Jan. 22nd, 2009 10:16 pm
alanajoli: (Taru)
Two days in a row! It's been awhile since I blogged that frequently.

Since yesterday's commitment on Devon's Deadline Dames post, I've been thinking a lot about the nature of goals, and about the ones I set up for myself at the beginning of the year. It's easy to lose sight of goals when you're not doing anything about them, and I think I was headed down that path. But while studies show that people have a certain amount of willpower, and they have to spend it wisely, I find that sometimes, when I get going down the right track with things, it gets easier to stay focused on my goals.

Or maybe that's just bursts of inspiration. :)

So, I gained some weight over the holidays, and I'm working on bringing that back down to where it should be. (It's a matter of maybe twelve pounds, so it's not a huge issue--it's just something I need to be aware of to stay healthy.) I'm eliminating caffeine from my diet, also, which makes some of my standard techniques for putting off my sweet tooth a little difficult (no Cherry Coke Zero for me!). But otherwise, all of that seems to be going well.

I also started going back to karate this week, after adding playing outside and a little bit longer walking to my daily life. So I'm exercising a good bit more than I had been. And this is a good improvement, too.

Starting on those made me really think about the goal I set for developing a spiritual practice. I'm really bad about saying "I'll spend one hour doing X" or "From 5:00 to 6:00 is going to be my time to do Y." It's too restrictive for me, and I feel like I'm forcing myself to do things, rather than doing them because I want to. (Maybe that's where my willpower runs out!) But I realized last night, well, a girl's got to eat. And she might as well read philosophy and apologetics and books about the nature of faith, religion, and reality while she's eating. So my new idea is to use breakfast, and lunch if I eat at home, reading/studying some book from my spiritual bookshelf. I have quite a number of them. I figure this will also prep me for the England trip this May, where I'll be the TA/chaperon/driver for a myth course. I've been doing a reasonably good job keeping up with the students on the study tours, even though a lot of the material is a bit dated in my head (since I haven't studied it thoroughly since college). This year, I'd like to be a bit fresher on all the material they'll be studying this spring, so I can better delve into (and/or facilitate) conversations while we're at the sites we'll be studying.

Right now, it's breakfast with Barfield. (Better than Breakfast at Tiffany's! Try some in your own home!) I may try to bring in something from Saving the Appearances for my guest blog tomorrow (since I want to get back to doing those). There are some other excerpts waiting for me to get my act together and post them, however, so we'll see who rises to the surface!
alanajoli: (Default)
We're a week into the New Year, and I haven't really put together a list of resolutions. I'm not sure that I will. I do have a goal of forming an actual spiritual practice (rather than a haphazard spiritual observance). The same is true of my writing. I think I lost track of my apprenticeship somewhere along the way and need to get back on the right path.

But 2009 is looking pretty exciting for a number of reasons. Here's some of what's coming up:

1) Substrate. This is my new, semi-local writing group! Since we're based out of New Haven, it's very local to me, but some of the writers will be coming from Boston and D.C., so it'll be a trek. Luckily, New Haven is an old stomping ground for everyone but me (as the person who has spent the least amount of time living here on Connecticut's shoreline, or so I believe), so the writing group meetings can be combined with other events as well. Like, say, D&D games.

2) Baeg Tobar. I've gotten involved with BT again, and am very excited to be working with Scott and Jeremy and Daniel and the BT crew. There are some amazing things in store for the site this year, including serial fiction, short stories, and a regularly updating web comic.

3) England. I've been invited to be the TA/driver/chaperon for the Simon's Rock England Trip in May of this year. The last time I was in England was 2003, when my sister and I went on our (now infamous, I'm sure) Isle of Man trip, where we were attacked by gulls and almost fell into the Chasms. (I exaggerate only slightly.) We'd begun the trip in England, and we stayed in Glastonbury for a good chunk of it. I am very excited to return, and hope to become reacquainted with Geoffrey and Pat Ashe. I've fallen out of touch with the Arthurian scholar and his wife in recent years, and am looking forward to seeing them again.

4) Getting past 1st level. My Mythic Greece players, with the exception of the one who is currently nannying in England (and so hasn't made the past few sessions) are all second level. Also, I got a GM medal at Worlds Apart for running sessions there. (They were shocked with how excited I was with a little virtual medal, but I am constantly in awe of how well we're treated there. They are good people, and if you're near Pioneer Valley and in need of a game store, they should be your go-to point.)

5) Since it's up on the site, I think it's fair to announce that my LFR module, "Head above Water," is premiering at DDXP this year. I won't be going to Fort Wayne to usher it into the world, but I'm really excited to have it given such an excellent spot to begin play!

6) Dogs in the Vineyard. The old Dogs game is coming to a close, and the new Dogs game is ramping up. There are fun times waiting to happen.

7) Another Shoreline summer. There will be sailing, there will be beach cook outs, there will probably be grill outs in our new back yard. (We moved in December.) I may be dreaming in advance about sunshine, but man am I looking forward to beach weather!

8) A million things to read. Moving made me consolidate my TBR pile--the ones I've actually *purchased* and not just added to the list in my head. I'd take a picture, but it's a bit embarrassing. Add to that the number of awesome authors with books coming out this year (or just released): [livejournal.com profile] frost_light, [livejournal.com profile] melissa_writing, [livejournal.com profile] ilona_andrews, [livejournal.com profile] sartorias, [livejournal.com profile] jimhines, Carrie Vaughn, [livejournal.com profile] rkvincent, [livejournal.com profile] blue_succubus, [livejournal.com profile] antonstrout, [livejournal.com profile] amanda_marrone, [livejournal.com profile] jenlyn_b, [livejournal.com profile] m_stiefvater, [livejournal.com profile] mdhenry, [livejournal.com profile] nalini_singh... all of them on my Must Be Read list. (And that's just with what I know from livejournals or can back up with Amazon research. Heck, that's mostly for the first six months of this year.)

So, yes, 2009 is looking up. I know, I'm probably one of the few people in the world who is sad to see 2008 go, but it was a good year for me, as far as my short stories getting published, and I'm pretty pleased with it on retrospect. But, as they say, onward and upward!

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Alana Joli Abbott

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