alanajoli: (mini me short hair)
Way back in 2006, one of the first places where Into the Reach was reviewed was over on Flames Rising, which was the start of a long relationship I've had with the site as an occasional contributor -- and the start of my relationship with DriveThruFiction and the other DriveThru incarnations. Matt McElroy who runs the site has been awesome to work with, and it's through Matt and the Flames Rising team that I got to work on the anthology Haunted: 11 Tales of Ghostly Horror.

So it's with great pleasure that I've now come full circle with Flames Rising: Matt posted the chapter one excerpt of the revised edition of Into the Reach at the site today. Thanks to all the people who posted the news on Twitter! I saw it from you first!



In other news, I am working on Choice of Pirate for Choice of Games, and the folks over at Facebook have been helping me come up with pirate shanties to listen to while I'm writing. Matt Ledder of Renaissance Festival Podcast had perfect timing with his Pirate Show Special, which he posted on the 24th. The stars must have aligned just right for that to come together just when I needed it. Thanks, Matt!

Several of my friends from the Michigan Renaissance Festival helped me remember the name of a group I'd always tried to catch back between sets when I was singing with the Arbor Consort -- the Corsairs, who sadly disbanded in 2008. Luckily, The Jolly Rogers are still performing and selling CDs, so there's pirate music to spare!

What pirate music and sea shanties do you recommend? If you'd like to recommend the pirate movies in your top ten, come join the discussion on Facebook.
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Remember how I mentioned doing author interviews for PW and Kirkus? Well, both of my most recent author interviews are up online. The first, for Kirkus, was with Arthur Mokin, a documentary writer who has published a tale of the Exodus in Meribah. The book uses a main character who is an Egyptian, and whose outsider view allows him to give commentary on the Hebrews in exile. I think it's a pretty insightful book, and Mokin was a lot of fun to interview.

For PW, I interviewed Kij Johnson, whose short story "Ponies," which blew me away when I read it on Tor.com, is featured in her new collection, At the Mouth of the River of Bees. The print portion of the interview is here, but it's probably behind the paywall until next week. The rest, and longer, portion of the interview is over on Genreville. Kij is one of those writers who, when I read her, I thought, How have I not read her work before? Her back list isn't terribly long, but it's one I look forward to fitting into my schedule.

Speaking of PW and Kirkus, both of which I review for, I am still inundated with review books at the moment, with three graphic novels due on Friday, another two due next week, and two more novels for July, as well as a pile of books I've been meaning to review for Flames Rising and an ARC for Black Gate. Whew! It's a good thing I read quickly!
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In good news for folks who prefer reading paper, Haunted is now available in print through DriveThru. If you live in Madison, WI area, there's also going to be a reading, featuring Alex Bledsoe, Bill Bodden, Georgia Beaverson, and Jason Blair at A Room of One's Own on November 15.

We also got a nice review on Goodreads, so if you're a goodreader, check it out.

Meaningful posts will resume once marketing efforts have ceased... :)
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Happy Halloween!

The news I know that some of you are eagerly awaiting is about the print release of Haunted. It looks like the anthology will be out in paper copy next week -- but sadly not in time for a Halloween impulse purchase. For e-book readers who may have hesitated in making the purchase, however, some news! Haunted is now available at Barnes and Noble for your nook; it's also on super sale (50% off) at DriveThru.

This is my first year in ages to not have a costume for Halloween. Bug is the real star anyway, so I'm not complaining! It does feel weird to be wearing my teaching clothes (for Mom Baby Fitness) and a "Serenity Valley: Historic Battlefield, Hera" sweatshirt on costume day, though. I am thinking of acquiring some hats over the next year, as with a bowler hat or a fedora, I can come up with costumes in my wardrobe without real effort. The hat makes the difference though!

Flash to the past: my Flames Rising article about costumes for 2010 and my creature feature from 2008.

Wishing you all a deliciously fun and spooky day (and, for those of you in New England like me, a warm reprieve from our sudden snow!).
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Last May, Alma Alexander visited us here at Myth, the Universe, and Everything to discuss myth and fairytales. Since then, I had the tremendous delight of reviewing her most recent novel, Midnight at Spanish Gardens, over at Flames Rising and for Mythprint. The premise of the book is that a group of friends, on the night of a reunion, individually have the opportunities to live a completely different life. For the duration of that experience, they will not remember their original paths; at one moment, however, they will remember both lives and have to choose between the one they had first and the one they've just experienced. The book is utterly captivating, and it's available as an ebook at both amazon and Smashwords. Alma agreed to come back here to MtU&E to chat about the novel -- so without further ado, the interview!




MtU&E: The Spanish Gardens cafe is an incredibly vivid setting; you write about how it and other familiar places have some sort of magic about them. Do you have your own Spanish Gardens?

Alma: Well, yes [grin] it's called Spanish Gardens... This place, the place in the book, it is real. Was real, at least, since I am told that it doesn't exist anymore and hasn't for some time. But it really was magic, it held true magic, and it's always tragic how often you don't actually realise the truth of that until it's too late and the magic (and the place which held it) are gone. But this is one place that
will always be as real to me as though it were surrounding me right now -- it's that strong in my memory. I hope those who read Midnight at Spanish Gardens get a sense of that when they dive into the book -- and, more, that they might be moved to remember their own version of what this place means to me.

MtU&E: In the novel, your characters have to choose between two different lives. Thankfully, you never make them choose between two sets of children, which would have been almost unbearable for me to imagine! When you decided on the different lives, how did the alternate version of the characters come about? Were there specific life contrasts you wanted to wrestle with?

Alma: Tough one. No, I had no real idea what the alternate lives were going to be until I basically started writing them. Some of the issues surprised me -- for instance, John's true parentage was a bit of a
shock, to be honest, and that goes for both of his lifestream choices (only his responses, reactions, to this truth were different). But what I ended up with, in this book, is a story steeped in magic which is somehow the most real thing I have ever written -- and whether in this life or the other, all of my characters are wrestling with a huge monster known as The Truth. Sometimes they win. Sometimes the monster eats them alive. Partly I wanted to convey that every so often you will make the right decision by accident or serendipity, or you will spend a long time agonising over something that is in the end fairly
simple (and can still manage, no matter how much time you spend on the decision, to make the wrong one...) I think... it's like looking in the mirror... and the person you see is still recognisably YOU. It's just that you might find that on the inside something important shifts, and a decision cog goes this way or that way according to the way your mind is working. I guess one of my themes here was simply, know thyself -- and if you don't yet (which isn't necessarily a sin) then at least make an effort to start to. Because the way to be happy is to understand what makes you so. This is not always easy -- and yet, sometimes, it's bewilderingly simple once you strip away all the things that do not.


MtU&E: One of the characters changes gender in her alternate life, and sees a very different career path. Why did you choose to showcase two different careers instead of having the male version of the character in a similar profession?

Alma: As I said -- I had no real idea where they were going to go until they went there. I'm one of the most organic writers out there -- the way I've explained it to people before is that I get a story seed in my hand and I stick it into the soil in a flower pot -- and I have no more idea what is going to grow there, if it is going to be a cabbage or a redwood tree, until it sprouts and I see the shape of its leaves
opening up to the sun. Showcasing two different careers was not deliberate, or a stunt, or a message. That was the set of choices that the character happened to take, and that was the road that they led
him or her down. I hear some people tell that their characters do what they told and go where the author wants them to go when said author cracks the whip of authority. Sometimes I envy that -- my characters go where they please and do what they will, and my role in it all is to see the bigger story in which they are involved and tell it. But I don't control it, I never have. This is why people in the industry cringe when they ask me (as they have to sometimes) what my next book will be about, wanting and needing a more or less detailed outline thereof. The short answer is, I don't know, I never know, I won't know until I write it. And it might surprise me by featuring an entirely different career than the one I had planned [grin]. The basic bedrock of everything I write is that I write the story that needs or wants to be told, and comes up to me and takes me by the throat and doesn't let go until I tell it. Other than being a good listener and a competent amanuensis, I have learned not to interfere with that process. My story knows, and I will respect that.

MtU&E: The premise of the story is that the characters are meeting for a reunion at the end of the world in 2012 (all of them assuming that life will, indeed, go on the next day). What about the 2012 end-date appealed to you?

Alma: There's just something about a good Apocalypse, isn't there? Perhaps that's why that poor pastor keeps on predicting the Rapture, over and over and over again, and when it clearly hasn't happened (well, clearly, else he wouldn't still be here, right...?) he just "recalculates" the date and tries again. Seriously, though – the concept of ending is a very potent one in the human psyche, and in some ways we are willing to go to the wall to ensure that some things end, or others do not. The idea of having a deadline to do these things by (as in, the world ends at midnight on December 20 2012) gives you... a certain kind of impetus, a certain urgency. You only have this much time to do everything you have left to do and after that... after that you don't know what happens so you can't plan for it. It's the very idea of looking down into that abyss that intrigues me -- because of the varying reactions of the people who do so. Some will not look at all because they are paralysed with fear; some will look, and see a bottomless pit; others will see great spires of rock waiting to tear them apart or deep water ready to drown them, or the very flames shooting out from the Gates of Hell themselves. And then there are people like me, who see... everything, and nothing. A whole new world, maybe. Why not? Things are often circular. Ends may be simply beginnings of something new. It's that trembling uncertainty, the curiosity, the vivid joy of discovery of things I've never known before, that appeals to me. And the idea that all of this lies just over a year away at the end of 2012... it's practically irresistible.

MtU&E: One of your characters is woven into all of the alternate lives in the book, yet this character chooses a different life. How do those two things -- the character being so important to the others and yet being able to completely absent herself from their lives when the choice is hers --
correlate?

Alma: Olivia is the pivot point. I am not sure how that works, exactly, but in all the flux that goes on around us certain times, certain places, certain people are the fixed points, the things around which everything revolves. In this story, it's Olivia, Spanish Gardens, a certain midnight in December of 2012. These are the fixed things in a changing universe. You might say that Olivia forces a change, in that she does not remain in her "fixed" position -- but everything else still orbits around her. Her "fixed" quality is now that she is so comprehensively absent from the lives of those friends in whose timelines -- particularly their alternate timelines -- she was so fundamentally important. But in some ways this entire book is Olivia's story, she is the sun, and everybody else simply revolves around her and reflecting back her fire like planets of a solar system. She is a Schroedinger's Cat -- a creature who is at once so ordinary that she finds a place in every single life she touches because she is to ubiquitous and necessary and a part of the weave of the world and at the same time something different, something greater, something transcendental, something that Ariel (the Messenger) recognises immediately as being not so much woven into the world's fabric as... being a weaver of that fabric. It all sounds rather metaphysical and confusing when you ask that question and I try to answer it within the space of a paragraph. I think a better answer would be, read the book, and find out...
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One of the cool things I get to do sometimes for the various periodicals I write for is interviewing authors. Back when I was writing for Literature Community News, I had the opportunity to chat with Shanna Swendson, Rick Riordan, and Keith Baker. I'm looking at doing some interviews here at MtU&E in the not too distant future. And quite happily, Editor Matt at Flames Rising has pointed me in the right direction as far as matching me with some great folks to interview. Most recently, I chatted with Dave Gross about his new Pathfinder novel, Master of Devils, which comes out this month.

I hadn't actually read a Pathfinder novel before interviewing Dave, but after chatting with him, I definitely want to -- especially his new release. Dave is a huge fan of kung fu movies, and he worked to integrate high fantasy, kung fu/wuxia storytelling, and roleplaying ties into one novel. I think it'll definitely be worth checking out!
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Monica Valentinelli, a fellow contributor to Flames Rising, posted a contest on her blog asking people to post about their passions, and I immediately thought of the first time I'd really tried to pin mine down. When I attended the Denver Publishing Institute back in 2000, [livejournal.com profile] jeff_duntemann was one of our guest faculty members. He talked about a number of issues in publishing (things he's still discussing over at ContraPositive), but the thing I remember the most wasn't really about publishing at all. Jeff talked to us about finding your passion and living it. As a young college grad, I remember writing to him afterwards about not being able to narrow down my passion any further than stories -- I wasn't completely enamored of any one type of publishing, necessarily, and not being passionate about a very narrow field made me nervous. But the idea of being passionate about stories made sense, and it's something that remains true for me.

Fast forward eleven years later and the same thing is, roughly, true. I have my fingers dipped in various types of publishing -- and while they're not all story related, most of them are. Writing obituaries ends up being about telling the story of someone's life, capturing all the bits that will be important to readers. Writing about history for "The Town with Five Main Streets" has a whole range of types of stories -- all of them that somehow impact the current landscape of the town where I live. Writing for Dragon ties in with helping other people tell stories. Heck, even teaching Mom-Baby Fitness has an element of sharing stories and experiences with other moms.

Monica's contest runs through midnight tonight, so write about your own passions and go over to her blog and leave a comment!
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I got a surprise package in the mail today from DAW. Last year, DAW sent me a copy of Red Hood's Revenge by [livejournal.com profile] jimhines that I reviewed for Flames Rising. Apparently, I am still on their reviewers list, because today, a good month before it'll hit store shelves, I got a copy of Snow Queen's Shadow! Woo! I do reviews for several places now, and I'm just starting to get used to how fun it is to see reviews I've written, often anonymously (as is required for some of the places I review), show up in blurbs and marketing material. Reviewing doesn't pay much, if it pays at all, but the perks -- showing up in blurbs, getting books from publishers, having an editor who sends me books by writers I'd go fan-girl on in person -- are really nifty.

--

A quick note about comments here, as I've had someone ask why I've chosen to delete some comments. Until this past year, I've never had a problem with commenters, so I never bothered to make an official policy. Basically, if I feel a comment is offensive, I won't approve it. If a commenter new to the blog, I may send a message saying why I removed it, but if I find subsequent comments also offensive -- whether or not they're offensive for the same reason -- I may ban them. And honestly, if a commenter is insulting me or other commenters, I'm not sure what they're doing here in the first place.

A lot of friends of the blog are much better known than I am -- and you all probably have to deal with this much more frequently than I do. I'd love to hear if people have developed official stances on how they judge comments, or on how they deal with people who seem intentionally antagonizing in comments. (Given the types of topics that [livejournal.com profile] jimhines covers, for example, I'm sure he sees his fill. People like [livejournal.com profile] jeff_duntemann and [livejournal.com profile] sartorias have had web presences for as long as I've known them, so by virtue of seniority, I'm sure it's come up one or twice. What do you all do?)
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I keep having to turn the pages of my calendar. Time stops for no writer, it seems. Unless you have one of those really nacky time-stopping devices, but those are, admittedly, tough to come by, especially in this economy.

As a short update, I thought I'd share the message I sent out to my mailing list (and a couple of plugs for other writers at the end--give it a look!)

--

It's been a long time between updates, largely because I've been busy with review assignments and reference book work, which aren't so exciting to tell you about. I did recently begin writing a column for Branford Patch, called "The Town with Five Main Streets." It's a weekly column about the history of Branford, Connecticut, and starting next week, it's taking on a question and answer format. So, if you have a question about Branford's history, or just want to give me some new material to research, I hope you'll go check out the column and post either in the comments or in the Q&A area of Branford Patch.

If you're more interested in my fiction, and maybe you haven't gotten the chance to read Into the Reach and Departure, as they became hard to track down in print, I'm pleased to announce that they're available as e-books through DriveThruRPG! The rights have been released from the publisher back to me, and I'm delighted to be working with Matt McElroy, who is my review editor at Flames Rising, to make them available again as e-books. The really good news is that I'll have the chance to release Regaining Home, the third book in the trilogy, in the same format! The manuscript has been completed for a long time, but the editorial process stalled out before we could release it. I don't have a date yet for when I'm likely to make it available, but you can rest assured that instead of "maybe it will be released eventually," it will definitely be coming into e-print. The speed with which I'm able to get the edits done and the files ready for e-book may depend on how sales of the first two books progress -- meaning, I can take time away from other paying work more easily if I know I have an audience waiting.

I made a quick link to my DriveThru store here: http://tinyurl.com/aja-ebooks, but you can also go to DriveThruRPG.com and search for Alana Abbott (which brings up several other books I've contributed to) or Virgil and Beatrice, which is the store name for everything I list on DriveThru.

Thanks to everyone here for your continued interest in my writing, and your support of my career!

--

Speaking of books that are out...

Mark Henry/[livejournal.com profile] mdhenry's Road Trip of the Living Dead is out in mass market! If you didn't buy it as a trade, it's now nicely pocket sized. (It's also available as an e-book at a reduced price.)

Anton Strout/[livejournal.com profile] antonstrout has the fourth book of his Simon Canderous series, Dead Waters, releasing at the end of the month. Join the facebook party!

Looking to the beginning of March, watch out for Accidentally Catty, the latest Accidental book by Dakota Cassidy.

It's quite a line up! Whatever you're doing with your February, get out there and read something fun!
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...when you drop it off the top of a very tall building.

Oh, look, it's Thursday already!

I've been in a reading glut lately, which is great because it means I'm finally getting through some of my TBR pile -- and also because I had to quick get through some galleys from Simon and Schuster's Galley Grab before they expire. (Pre-review: A Brush of Darkness by Allison Pang? Awesome! I've got to get her over here for a guest blog, too -- she does a whole Thomas the Rhymer thing, and I think I've mentioned before how I feel about Thomas the Rhymer.... Anyway.) I've also got a whole stack-o'-series to read for an upcoming SLJ article; luckily, those are all at a lower reading level than my usual UF novels!

It's been hard to get motivated to do much other than read when Miss Bug is napping, however, which means that other projects are languishing a bit. I've got a good start on East Wind, and I had a nice stretch of days where I got a couple hundred to a thousand words down on paper. I broke that stretch yesterday by getting ahead on "Five Main Streets" articles -- and that's super fun, too. Learning more about Branford's history is awesome, and I've gotten in touch with some community members who will make themselves available for interviews about specific landmarks and such. Very exciting!

But while I'm making progress, my reading brain is the one in charge lately. I'm hoping I'll plateau soon, write a bunch of reviews for Flames Rising and Mythprint (as well as the reviews I'm assigned), and hit that all-I-want-to-do-is-write phase. I figure it's just about time for that part of the cycle to hit the top.

--

New articles of mine online that you may not have noticed:



  • Thanks for checking them out!

    Fly-by Post

    Nov. 2nd, 2010 10:10 pm
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    Two quick thoughts of the day.

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

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



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

    Edit: Also, [livejournal.com profile] devonmonk is posting over at Bitten by Books today. You guys know I am a huge fan of Devon, not only for her fiction writing, but for her blogging and general good advice in the writing life. So, buzz on over and say hi, and tell her Happy Book Birthday for Magic at the Gate.

    Link Soup

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



    I love Halloween.

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

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

    But for now, bed. And tomorrow, maybe more work will get done.

    Link Soup

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

    But here are your links for digestion:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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    Egads, June is just flying by! I can't believe we're almost at the end of the month.

    My mother and cousins were visiting last week, which was wonderful; we had a wonderful time at Chez Abbott, and also doing local things like taking a Thimble Island Cruise (always one of my favorite things to take guests on). Of course, having company is always problematic for keeping your regular schedule -- my family is so much more *interesting* than my to do list. So I'm catching up on e-mail and the new assignments that just came in (yay work!).

    I did turn in an article for Flames Rising's Vampire Week celebration. More on that when it's been accepted, but in the mean time, you can check out vampire related interviews and reviews. This counts toward my Kaz Summer Camp reviews, which is a good thing, since I didn't make progress anywhere else this past week!

    Of course, while we're celebrating vampires, The Onion says they're on the way out. Check out the article on what's going to be the "new" vampire.
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    Yesterday was the two week check in for Kaz's Summer Camp, but it's been busy at the Abbott household, with family visiting and writing actually getting done! Here's where I stand so far:

    Reasonable goal:
    * With my cowriter, finish the draft of our serial novel. (We're at chapter 10 of 20 -- halfway there!)
    [livejournal.com profile] lyster has submitted chapter 11, so we're moving right along. It's my turn, and I hope to have that back to him before the next goal check in.

    * Complete typesetting on four essays written by other authors (this is contracted, so it's kinda cheating to count it).
    Done! All of the typeset essays got turned in to my editor last Friday. There are a couple of paperwork issues to finish up, but otherwise, it's all taken care of.

    * Write one short story.
    No progress yet on this one.

    * Write multiple book reviews (not contracted, but already arranged with the venues in which they'll appear).
    One SLJ review got turned in, and I'm working on the mythsoc reading list before diving back into some other reviews.

    The only extended goal worth mentioning is:
    * Blog at least three times a week.
    I obviously haven't gotten on track with this! I'm counting each week as a new week, though, so this will be a weekly goal rather than a summer-long goal.

    I'm also adding a new goal:
    * Write a joint interview article for Flames Rising.
    My questions have already been sent out to various awesome writers, and I'm getting some great responses back (many of them hilarious). Once the article goes over to Flames Rising, I'll talk a little bit more about it here.
    alanajoli: (mini me)
    I meant to mention this earlier, but I am finally, finally starting to catch up with my reviews for Flames Rising, largely thanks to my Nook.* Matt posted my review of the Grants Pass post-apocalyptic anthology, edited by Jennifer Brozek, which you can read here. (Amanda Pillar, the in house editor, mentioned it in her livejournal.) There were quite a number of authors I've been meaning to read featured in the anthology, so it was a great way to be introduced to the fiction of Cherie Priest ([livejournal.com profile] cmpriest) and friend-of-the-blog Seanan McGuire ([livejournal.com profile] seanan_mcguire), both of whom I've been reading on LJ for ages but haven't actually read in the sphere of fiction. (Seanan's novel Rosemary and Rue is sitting prominently on my TBR pile; her piece in Grants Pass was probably my favorite in the whole collection.)

    I've got some crit group pieces and three novels to review between PW and SLJ before the end of the month, then back to the FR pile!

    *For this reason, I am probably going to keep it, by the way -- the reading experience is so much more pleasant for e-books and critique group manuscripts than the computer that I think I'm going to come out ahead by using it, even if I can't yet annotate the pieces I'd really like to annotate. I'm using the bookmark feature to get by for now, which hopefully will be enough to remind me about what it was I wanted to say on those pages. I'm crossing my fingers that they'll improve it in the future. In the mean time, since the majority of my e-books are in pdf or ePub format, it seems worth keeping rather than purchasing a Kindle, which can do the annotations now, since the conversion process there sounds, from the reviews, like a big ol' hassle (plus the hassle of exchanging items, waiting for a new device to arrive, etc., etc.).
    alanajoli: (Default)
    Some of you may have caught the two columns I wrote for Flames Rising (with the intention of writing several more) about the differences in the types of paranormal romances and urban fantasies that make up the scale of books inside the boundaries of the genre (or expanding them). After a conversation with my library boss, I decided to start putting together a big ol' list and synopsis of sub groupings for her, since it's what I read, and I recommend a lot of titles to our patrons. Just because someone digs vampires in Sookie and Anita Blake doesn't necessarily mean it's the vampires they're after -- in fact, the last person I was giving recommendations to started out from those two series and ended with, "Actually I'd like to have something a little more light hearted and funny," and so I sent her in the direction of [livejournal.com profile] shanna_s's Enchanted Inc. So in my list, I'm trying to suss out the qualities that might attract someone to a novel -- maybe they are vampire crazy, but maybe they're looking for something snarky with a Sex and the City vibe (in which case they need Happy Hour of the Damned by [livejournal.com profile] mdhenry). Maybe what they loved about Jim Butcher's Dresden Files was actually the private investigator angle, in which case you could go with [livejournal.com profile] devonmonk's Allie Beckstrom books, the Connor Grey series by Marc del Franco, of [livejournal.com profile] blackaire's Nocturne City series. (There are actually scads of PIs in urban fantasy -- I've just named a few.) Do they want an urban fantasy series with a con artist? Try the WVMP novels by Jeri Smith-Ready. And from there, if they love the radio angle, try Carrie Vaughn's Kitty the Werewolf books or [livejournal.com profile] stacia_kane's Megan Chase series. Maybe they totally dug the government agency aspect of Hellboy and B.P.R.D. in the comics, in which case, they should be reading [livejournal.com profile] antonstrout's Simon Canderous series. I could keep on this thread for some time -- the point is, while some people are vampire nuts, a lot of UF and Paranormal Romance readers might get a kick out of different aspects of the novels than just vampires vs. werewolves -- which is sort of a non-UF reader way to boil it down.

    So, I thought it was hilarious today when Jackie Kessler posted a parody song about urban fantasy (using the tune for "Popular" from the musical Wicked). Did I make sure to include everyone on that list in my list? Who of those famed urban fantasists have I yet to read?

    (Of course, I disagree with his looking down on Paranormal Romance, but that could be a whole other entry.)
    alanajoli: (Default)
    Wow, has it been that long?

    Why yes, yes it has.

    The holidays were fabulous around here -- lots of great time spent with family before the actual dates themselves and then lots of extra hours at work to cover the time I took off! We had some fun gaming in New York on the first with our characters from the 3.5 continuing Xen'drik Expeditions campaign (we couldn't just let it go when it stopped being an organized play game). Twostripe has ramped the karate schedule back up, and Bug is big enough in my belly now that I can feel her from the outside of my belly even when she's not moving. That, by the way, is wild. There's a little person in there! The editorial assistants are now eating grown up food ("We're not kittens any more, boss!"). And I've been copyediting, book reviewing, finishing up my Living Forgotten Realms Adventure (slot zeroes starting soon!), and doing reference writing -- my usual ridiculous pace of work. My big fun project for the weekend (besides crib shopping!) is creating a map of the kingdoms in Great Britain for the Viking Saga game. Since we're somewhere between 700 and 900-ish A.D., ambiguously, I have some great fun maps to play around with to help me decide. (New favorite resource: Anglo-Saxons.net.)

    The other big news for the beginning of the year is that I've just gotten a Nook, and am in the testing phase to decide if I want to keep it. Much to my embarrassment (since I posted the assurances of a bookseller on several forums), the Nook does not, in fact, read .doc or .docx or .txt files, which was one of the primary convincing factors for getting it. (I had intended to use it primarily as a tool for 1) reading digital review books, and 2) keeping up with Substrate submissions.) The Nook does read pdfs natively, however, and there are plenty of free programs to convert files from Word to pdf. Next hurdle? It doesn't annotate pdfs yet (actually, it might -- there are differing reports from users on this, and I need to play around with it more; B&N just says it doesn't support the feature as yet). That's a hurdle for me, since I want to be able to annotate Substrate pieces to remember what my thoughts were while reading -- and want to be able to have other people do the same for me. (Twostripe has not yet given much response to my thought that he could, perhaps, read drafts of my manuscripts more easily on an e-book reader this way; he is a print guy.)

    The reading function, however, works beautifully. I've had an overdue review for Flames Rising since, what, August? The book came to me as an e-book, and despite reading the first twenty-odd pages on my computer screen, and then printing it out to three-ring-binder in hopes that I'd actually read it in print, I hadn't managed to actually read the thing. With an e-reader, though the formatting is still a little wonky (the pages are about a screen-and-a-half, so every other "page-turn" is only a small portion of the screen), it's been a much easier read to digest. It's a short story anthology, and in the last two days, I've read the various introductions (there are three -- two nonfiction and one fictional) and three short stories (including the first actual fiction I've ready by Cherie Priest of Team Seattle, who I've been meaning to read for ages), which amounts to nearly a third of the book.

    The Nook is easy to use, loads fast enough that I don't feel like I'm waiting, has decent wallpaper installed for when you put it to sleep (they recommend never turning it off), and seems like a pretty straightforward device. I'm enjoying the e-book reading experience far more here than either on computer screen or printed from a three ring binder, so it's a major coup in that regard (though whether it's better than any other e-book reader, I couldn't say). Since reading e-books for review was half of the point of buying it, I'm satisfied on that score. I'm still playing with the annotation function to see if I can make it work for the rest of what I need it for -- which will impact my final decision on whether I remain an e-book reader owner, wait for a model that does everything I want it to (the Kindle has a lot of the functionality I'm looking for, but doesn't natively read ePubs, and the conversion process for that sounds like a bigger hassle than .doc to pdf), or decide to purchase another of the devices on the market (despite what their flaws might be). In the mean time, I'm having a fun reading experience and generally enjoying using it, so I have no doubt I'll be an e-book reader owner in the future, if I don't end up keeping my Nook this time around.

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    Alana Joli Abbott

    July 2017

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