alanajoli: (Default)
Discussion on yesterday's post has been fun -- I need to go reply -- and thus I wanted to follow up just a little bit with some thoughts on the currently-under-fire agency model. To begin: writer buddy Max Gladstone (you can preorder his book here) confirmed that ebook royalty percentage is higher, but that doesn't mean that the royalty payout is higher; there's much complicated math involved in that equation (as the series of emails in our thread has shown). That thread led me to cite a figure [livejournal.com profile] jeff_duntemann has offered before (once here in the comments on my blog) -- he estimates that ebooks cost half as much to produce as print books, and thus should cost consumers half as much. Based on the figures my writer friend was throwing out there, I wonder if this is truer for smaller publishers: big publishers have a lot more overhead, just by nature of having much larger staffing, needing a greater number of people supporting that staff, warehousing, etc., etc. Looking for Jeff's breakdown (which I did not find -- Jeff, if you're reading this and you've done a breakdown, we'd love to see it!), I stumbled on a few more recent entries of Jeff's defending the Agency Model.

You may have noticed that I've not had much to say in favor of the Agency Model, so that Jeff -- who has a better grasp of how the industry works than almost anyone I know -- was supporting it made me stop and take a look at his points. And here's what I discovered: I have been looking at the Agency Model issue first as a consumer, and second from the perspective of an e-book only retailer. As a consumer, it may not be super convenient for me to have to go poking around for different prices at different places, but if I bargain shop at several stores, I know I'm getting the best deal. I used to do that a lot pre-Agency Model. When the Agency Model came on the scene, I largely stopped shopping at Books on Board and Kobo Books, because most of the titles I'd been buying from them were now on the Agency Model, so I might as well buy them from Barnes and Noble and get them delivered wirelessly to my nook.



(I still shop at DriveThru Fiction, where my own books are sold, for a different niche of books. Fictionwise, Smashwords, and Bookview Cafe still had the kind of self-published stuff -- usually short stories or backlist titles from writers I knew had content there -- that they remained worth checking, but for different content than I'd purchase at B&N anyway.)

So, the Agency model drove me away from non-chain e-book retailers on the Web. It made it impossible for me to use coupons or to receive incentives from retailers -- something I've become accustomed to as a book buyer even at indie bricks and mortar stores over the years. Customer loyalty initiatives no longer worked for e-books for a large enough percentage of what I was buying that I quit shopping around.

Worse yet, the Agency Model didn't actually seem good for the publishers! My writer buddy reminded me of this post from Nathan Bransford from back in March 2011 about how Agency pricing works, which shows that publishers often make less money on Agency Model books. So it was looking to me like this: the consumer loses because the prices are higher and they get no incentives. The indie e-book retailers lose, because customers like me stop bothering to shop there. The publishers lose because they make less money per sale.

But hold the phone. Jeff (whose latest book, published by his publishing house, you can buy here) points out that the big publishers make less money per sale. Once you take out some of the risk factors (like print run size), publishers that publish e-books, either exclusively or as the majority of their business, have an incredible opportunity with the Agency Model. He writes: "An online ebook store’s capacity is essentially unlimited, and any number of publishers can play. If there are a million publishers and 999,900 of them sell products at lower prices than you do, your control of pricing is less than it was in the era when it was tough to get your books into stores and a relatively few large publishers dominated the market."

Scott Turow laments the potential loss of the Agency Model for its probable impact on bricks and mortar bookstores -- and it turns out that places like Barnes and Noble have done really well under the Agency Model, so even my preferred chain will be impacted if the DoJ does win the suit against Apple, Macmillan, and Penguin. So there are additional factors I'd not been considering in my previous assessment of the Agency Model.

As for now, however, I'm back to shopping around for good prices on ebooks. If you have a favorite indie ebook etailer I haven't mentioned already, I'm always up for a new place to price check!
alanajoli: (Default)
First, if you haven't picked up a copy of Haunted in print yet, it's available for a special discounted price by clicking this link until the end of the year. Get it while it's hot!



Second, friend of the blog John Andrews pointed out this article to me on Ars Technica, and the folks at PW talk about the same thing here. What it amounts to is this: Google has been engaged in a suit for some time about the issue of copyright. They believe they have the right to host scanned books -- often with library assistance -- and make information available for free to users. Copyright holders who make money by selling that information (fiction and nonfiction) feel otherwise, and don't particularly care for the opt-out policy that was offered. Jim Hines wrote about it back in March of this year, and back when I was writing for Literature Community News, a co-writer of mine did a piece about where she thought Google Books was headed (i.e. into controversy), which would have been back in 2005-06. In the past two weeks, Google has tried to convince the courts that the Authors Guild should not be allowed to represent the authors, and that only individuals should be able to press suit. This strikes me as kind of amusing, because my understanding of what the guild is supposed to do is represent individuals as a group rather than making them do all the work themselves. It looks, on the outside, like an attempt at union busting.

I like Google. I have friends who work for the company. They put out good products that I use. So I really wish there were a shiny happy side to this dispute. But there's not, and I find myself irked with Google for what looks to me like pulling an Amazon.

Last link of the day is also a lawsuit issue, as reported by PW: an anti-trust lawsuit against Apple and several major traditional publishers, accusing them of e-book price fixing, is moving forward. It sounds as though several similar cases are being consolidated, and the official complaint is to be lodged by January 20th. I am not a huge fan of the agency model -- it seems to me that retailers ought to be able to decide what they charge, and what they're willing to lose money on, so long as they pay an agreed upon price for a product. But I do think the agency model was a good attempt at trying to keep the value of writing up -- and keep us writers getting paid. So it's an interesting issue, and I'm eagerly awaiting further developments.

Someone (maybe [livejournal.com profile] jeff_duntemann?) said not too long ago that the world of e-books is publishing's Wild West. There's a lot going on with the digital world, and there's a lot of legislation trying to figure out how to manage this brave new world we're a part of. How it shakes out is going to affect us for a good long time!
alanajoli: (Default)
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!
alanajoli: (Default)
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?)
alanajoli: (Default)
Richard Castle just keeps making the news. In today's TV Guide, it was announced that Marvel Entertainment is going to be "adapting" Castle's "early novels" as graphic novels -- the first, Richard Castle's Deadly Storm, features Castle's "famous hero" Derrick Storm in one of his early adventures. The world just keeps getting more meta! (Castle isn't the only one who has a graphic novel coming soon. Real-life writer [livejournal.com profile] mdhenry -- supposedly the ghost writer for his character, glamazombie Amanda Feral -- announced a while ago that Amanda will be starring in a comic book adaptation of her memoirs from Dabel Brothers. Can't wait for more news on that front!)

In news from the Abbott Office, work has been pouring in. The life of a freelancer is full of this phenomenon: in January, I had almost no work and was trying like mad to find new clients. This month, I've had work come in from old clients and some new editors who I'd been recommended to by folks I've worked with in the past. Some of the new assignments are brilliantly fun, and I'm excited about having a full plate.

I was talking to Max Gladstone about how this has impacted my fiction writing schedule (which is, as you might guess, rather nonexistent lately). [livejournal.com profile] jeff_duntemann has given these words of wisdom more than once: "That's key, kiddies: If you want to be an SF writer, don't be a writer in your day job." To say that I'm beginning to see from his point of view would be an understatement -- I've felt the danger of being a freelance writer impacting my fiction writing for some time. It's come to a head recently as other aspects of my life have also demanded more of my time. Max suggested that writing copy and writing creatively can come from different parts of the brain, and if the computer burn out is keeping me from writing (which is sometimes the case), why not try long hand? I've not yet tried it, but it instantly struck me as a brilliant idea. If there were ever a way to get my brain in a different gear, longhand would be it. So, I may be giving that a try.

I'm also getting closer and closer to my start date as a teacher for Mommy-Baby Fitness, which means prep in that area and meetings with founder Ann Cowlin, who had an interview with new instructor Lauren Hefez posted today. My favorite quote is this one, which I think applies to more than just fitness: "At Dancing Thru Pregnancy® we are fond of the notion that if you know a certain behavior is the best for a situation, it is smart to chose that behavior. If you do not, you are sabotaging yourself."

If only I applied that better to all aspects of my life!
alanajoli: (cowboys and aliens)
I am apparently not terribly inspired with thoughty* words lately, but other people are saying interesting things, and you should read them.

  • I'm pretty sure I've raved about [livejournal.com profile] jeff_duntemann's work here before -- I've certainly done so other places -- which falls all over SFF land (mostly SF, but at least one in the F side of the equation). Some of his favorite stories of mine are set in his Drumlin world, and are fantastic examples of space westerns -- which he was doing before it was cool. He writes a bit about subgenre splicing here (and even gives a short mention to Cowboys and Aliens).

  • Starting with my blog post last week about Castle, a very fun conversation started happening among members of Substrate about meta-fiction and interactive-fiction, continuing at Max Gladstone's blog and then over to substrater Vlad's page. They both provide examples of the kind of fictional-into-reality writing I was looking for, including the classic Borges on Borges piece. (You can follow Max at on the [livejournal.com profile] maxgladstone feed, and can apparently follow Vlad's comments, but not his blog, at [livejournal.com profile] vlad43210 -- once I get some problems with my account worked out, I'll be fixing that one.)

  • Last, it's goblin release day! [livejournal.com profile] jimhines has just released his first goblin e-book, Goblin Tales, in which Jig the Goblin and his Fire Spider make their triumphant return. I bought my copy form my nook, but it's available at Amazon too, with Kobo, iBooks, and Lulu soon to follow. [livejournal.com profile] sartorias gave it an excellent review, which would have spurred me on to buy it if I hadn't already intended to.


Not much cooking on the homefront, aside from doing research to try to solve this mystery, writing reviews, copyediting, and playing peek-a-boo.

--

*thoughty: a word meaning "thoughtful," stolen, not from Firefly like many of my pseudo-colloquial words, but from the Disney version of Robin Hood.

Argh!

Dec. 2nd, 2010 08:41 am
alanajoli: (lol deadlines)
How did it get to be Thursday already?

Since Sunday, I've been meaning to post a quick moment-in-the-life, and the week seems to just be flying by. But perhaps the snippet will explain why:

It's Sunday. Bug is not particularly interested in napping, and is rejecting my attempts to get her to sleep. She's acting tired when she's not in her room, but as soon as I leave her for nap time, she's wide awake and would rather be playing. We try this process several times, and I believe she does get a short nap or two over the course of the day, but nothing like her regular schedule.

I offer her an option: she can do my copyediting, and I'll take her nap.

She seems keen on the idea, but Twostripe thinks my editors might not like Bug's idea of copyediting.

--

I did finish up the copyediting (despite Comcast's attempt to make me miss my deadline, but since they did it to everyone on the East Coast, I suppose I can't be too personally affronted). This week we've launched into the final edits on the autobiographical essay project for this batch -- which means xml coding and making sure all the italics get coded in the right places and such. This has been a great bunch of authors to work with (including [livejournal.com profile] jeff_duntemann, much to my delight!), and I think my editor will be really pleased with the essays.

And despite the user icon, I'm getting a ton of work done. But I do feel a bit Munch. :)
alanajoli: (Default)
I wrote the subject of this post, then thought, "Wait, didn't I write something with that title before?" Took me a minute to remember, but yes -- an adventure for Living Forgotten Realms (Cormyr 1-3, to be exact). It's kind of fun to have written enough stuff that's out there in the world (albeit most of it modular adventures) that it takes me a second to place the title.

But that's neither here nor there. The title is intended to reflect what I've been doing lately -- as in, "Keeping my." Things never seem to slow down at Casa Abbott any more, and a couple of unfortunate events -- currently a cold, previously an epic saga I'll explain below -- have made things even more of a kaffuffle than usual. But, hopefully, I'll get back on top of the pile and start feeling just regularly-whelmed instead of over-.


  • The saga: Editorial assistant Tollers decided on Sunday the 7th that he was going to go out for an afternoon walk and just forgot to come home. For three days. Monday morning it snowed here on the Shoreline, and we were worried something had happened to him. So, we put out posters and spread the word among local friends. Bug and I wandered out into the woods behind our house whistling for him (the Editorial Assistants are trained to respond to a whistle) and polled the neighbors to see if anyone had seen him. Then, three days later, he showed up at the door, meowing to be let in as though nothing had happened. Whew! We kept him in for a couple of days to remind him where home was, but since then, he's been back out on his regular afternoon walks and has checked in more frequently than usual, as if to say, "I know I worried you. I'm okay. Feed me?"


  • I wrote a short story! "Shotgun Wedding" is out on submission for an anthology that will be edited by Matt McElroy, my editor at Flames Rising. Two of my crit buddies (Twostripe and niliphim) said that the biggest problem they had with it was that it ought to be a novel. Considering that it's urban fantasy, and Twostripe doesn't even really like UF, that made me very excited. So, I'm hoping to start a bigger project featuring those characters -- I wrote the short story with the idea that it might be a prequel to an urban fantasy series. While doing research for the story, I came across the Chinese saying "All that is needed is an East Wind" -- I think All We Need Is an East Wind would be a nifty title, so I'm going to use it (or just East Wind) as a place holder for now for the soon-to-be WIP.

  • I had a wonderful and too-short visit with my mother, who flew out from Michigan. She reminded me again that the only reason she let me go off to college at sixteen was that I promised I'd develop a way to tesser (I'd planned on going into physics), and I still hadn't fulfilled my part of that bargain.

  • The current set of autobiographies is coming to a close, which means I need to get a lot of editing done this week! I've got a fun bunch of writers as usual: I already have edits back from playwright Jean-Claude van Itallie (who teaches about writing and theater, meditation, and healing in the Berkshires, not too far from where I went to college) and friend of the blog Jeff Duntemann (who you should be reading over at [livejournal.com profile] jeff_duntemann if you're not already). If all goes well with the editorial process, I'll have five essays in this batch (instead of the usual four), which should be a plus for my in house editor.

  • I'm also studying, through a correspondence course, fitness for pregnant and postpartum women, in hopes of a) passing a practicum in early December, and b) teaching for Dancing Thru Pregnancy, the group that I've been taking classes with to get back into shape after having Bug. The material is really fascinating, though I struggle with some of the information, since I never took anatomy in school -- it's a lot of new content to work through. I just need to get on top of the material before my test deadline!

  • Lastly: more copyediting. Bread and butter keeps a person from starving, no?



And, of course, I want to keep up with blogging again. I've got a great guest blog coming up from Dylan Birtolo ([livejournal.com profile] eyezofwolf), and hopefully there will be some fun news on the Cowboys and Aliens front to share, since word on the street is that there's a movie trailer coming out soon...
alanajoli: (Default)
I don't know what week it is. I'm beginning to think that will be a condition for the rest of my life as a mom. I do think a lot about how last year at this time, I was falling asleep for hours unintentionally and feeling sick to my stomach, and that my act of creativity was biological. Bug's "story," thus far, has been a delightful one, and I'm looking forward to her becoming a progressively bigger collaborator.

But on to my goals. I said last week: when you leave a story alone that long, is it yours any more? Is it the story you're meant to tell if you can set it down and walk away from it for a full year?

A lot of people had great things to say in the comments on that entry. [livejournal.com profile] jeff_duntemann's struck me as particularly poignant:

It may be less fair to ask "Is the story still mine?" in these cases than to ask, "Have I changed too much to remain its author?" Stories are not the only things that may be considered "works in progress."

This is sort of where my thought process has gone. In my questions, which are related but not intimately, I was seeing those two changing factors in two ways:

1) If I've left a story alone for a year, am I still the person who should write it? Does that story, as I would have told it, belong to the writer I am now? To echo Jeff, "Have I changed too much to write this story?"

2) If I've walked away from a story for a year, and wasn't compelled to write any more of it, it may be that the story I was trying to write isn't the one that needed me to write it. I think about that in terms of the Blackstone Academy project a lot. There are elements in that story that came from an earlier story that was also not the story I needed to write. So I think what will be best is leaving that draft, those three chapters I've already written, as scaffolding. I think I should scrap them and start over. And based on where I am in my writing goals these days (inspired largely by [livejournal.com profile] slwhitman and her Tu Books project and the entries about the importance of multicultural F/SF over at Genreville), I think that some of those elements will stick around, and others will go by the wayside.

Now, the quantifiables:

Reasonable goal:
* With my cowriter, finish the draft of our serial novel. (We're at chapter 10 of 20 -- halfway there!)
I finally went over [livejournal.com profile] lyster's chapter 11, and in response, it's now been made into chapters 11 and 12. My goal is to write chapters 13 and 14 to be ready for his review after his upcoming life event. I've already written 800 words (of the 1500 to 3000 word limit per chapter) of chapter 13, but there's a lot to accomplish in those two chapters, so I'm not sure what percentage I've actually finished. Still, progress is progress, and I revised the outline for the rest of the story, getting some good feedback from Max, so we're solidifying the awesome of here to the end.

* Write one short story.
This one is sneaking up on me fast. I want to have a solid short story ready for a submission deadline on August 1st; my short story writing tends to work in spurts, so there's still hope. I've settled on the idea that I'm going to work on, and if I can get a few hours with no other priorities, I should be able to slam something out in time to actually do revisions before the submission.

* Write multiple book reviews.
Since last week, I've written a PW review, two reviews for Mythprint, and one that will appear here at MtU&E in honor of [livejournal.com profile] m_stiefvater's awesome recent release, Linger. I still have more reviews on deck, but I'm actually making progress here.

* Additional contracted work that's come up has been going reasonably well, also. Lots of copyediting, but also some writing -- I finished a short essay on the Harry Potter books and will be writing four more essays this summer about various notable novels.

Extended goal:

* Write three chapters of the YA novel I'm working on.
Well, you already heard about this one above. Scrapping and starting over.

* Write three short stories (including the one above).
When I was looking at my percolating ideas, I came up with a couple that might be worth following up on, besides the one for the deadline. At least one involves giants.

* Restart the adult novel I haltingly began last year now that it's percolated and I have an idea of where it's going.
I think I'm going to reprioritize this -- meaning that I'm unprioritizing it. I'd rather see what the restart on the YA novel becomes.

* Blog at least three times a week
Ha! Well, that may actually happen this week, but I've not established any sort of pattern, have I? :)

Odd Lots

Jul. 15th, 2010 10:10 pm
alanajoli: (Default)
Well, I've written a couple of book reviews and an essay, and I've done a lot of copyediting. Obviously, I've not done a lot of blogging. I'm brainstorming a new short story, which is exciting. And I'm thinking about the fiction I set aside for the past year, and I'm sort of wondering if, when you leave a story alone that long, is it yours any more? Is it the story you're meant to tell if you can set it down and walk away from it for a full year? I'm not sure, and I wonder if it means I need to start somewhere else in the story.

But mostly pondering and not a lot of action. I do have linky goodness, however, so here's what I've been reading online this week:


  • Friend of the blog Carrie Vaughn has a great post on the rise of urban fantasy at Tor.com.
  • From [livejournal.com profile] jeff_duntemann, DIRIGIBLES!
  • QuestionRiot by [livejournal.com profile] dcopulsky has an interview up with a graduate student in video game production.
  • Lastly, a PW article on how the format falling most as the ebook rises is actually the mass market. It shouldn't surprise me that this is the case, given the similarity in pricing between the two formats, and yet, it sort of did. I didn't expect to see mass markets take a hit.


That's it for today. Maybe I'll get back up to having a guest blog tomorrow -- I'm reading the Charlotte Guest Mabinogion on my nook (among other e-books, like a good chunk of the library of [livejournal.com profile] sartorias's titles, which I've acquired a number of), and her introduction had some words of interest on myth that, if I can track them down again, were worth sharing.
alanajoli: (cowboys and aliens - daiyu)
I had an absolutely fabulous time at Anonycon this weekend! I got to play games with several gamer friends and substraters: I was a student at a special school reminiscent of PS 238 (the superhero kids comic by Aaron Williams), Emily Post (yes, Miss Manners edit: apparently Miss Manners was Judith Martin, who wrote in the 1970s, not, in fact, Emily Post, who wrote Etiquette [via [livejournal.com profile] holmes_iv]) in a horror game, and an epic level paladin in a 4e game. [livejournal.com profile] banana_pants puts on a heck of a party!

Now I'm getting back to my regular schedule, finishing up a review for PW today and working on obituary writing and coding the autobiographical essays this week. Just a few thoughts in the meantime.

Paul Green interviewed me and Jeremy Mohler about Cowboys and Aliens II on Encyclopedia of Weird Westerns. Pop by and see what we have to say (and what we're hoping for the future!)

As the Mystery Writers of America delisted Harlequin due to their new "self-publishing" (in actuality, vanity press) arm, the debate about whether Harlequin is in the right is still going on across the Web. (The RWA and SFWA have also spoken out about Harlequin's new "imprint.") I would hope that people who read this blog know I'm in favor of self-publishing, and that I think there are great scenarios where it's the best venue for the work. [livejournal.com profile] jeff_duntemann is, to me, one of the most sensible people on this topic, and I very much admire the work he's done through Lulu.com. [livejournal.com profile] eyezofwolf has done great work in both self-publishing and small press. Self-publishing makes it possible to market your own work when traditional publishing isn't working for you (for whatever reason).

Edit: Jeff commented below: "Your readers should understand that I've been as successful as I have as a self-publisher largely because I've worked in publishing since 1985 and did quite well at it, both on-staff for other companies and in command of my own. Now, in (slightly) early retirement, I have the time to pursue it with the energy that it requires. It's a lot tougher being a writer AND and a publisher AND a worker at a day job." He's right -- I probably should have mentioned that to provide the context. If I ever have questions about self-publishing, he's my first go-to person. :)

Vanity publishing is an entirely different creature. As Jackie Kessler wrote on her blog:

  • Self-publishing: author keeps all the money after paying expenses.

  • Vanity publishing: publisher keeps majority of the money and the writer pays all the expenses.


Given the information available online about what the new Harlequin imprint's process will be, I'm astonished by how many supporters it has. There are a lot of people reacting to the PW articles defending Harlequin as forward thinking and showing their willingness to try something different from traditional publishing. The thing is, vanity publishing is not new -- and a big, respectable house like Harlequin offering expensive packages to would-be and rejected authors while dangling the carrot that if their book sells well, they might bring it over into a regular Harlequin imprint seems unethical at best.

I do see that some of the publishing services that I respect, like Lulu.com and CreateSpace (with which I'm less familiar), also offer packages that would make me dubious, rather than the free option (which is the one I associate with the companies) where they just take the cost portion of the proceeds from each sale. I think I agree with Victoria at Writer Beware that one of the qualifiers of self-publishing is that you own your own ISBN. Short of owning your own POD press, however, Lulu.com and CreateSpace seem like the best options out there for DIY publishing. A company that's going to take your money for the same services a traditional publisher would front for you strikes me as taking the vanity press option, and it's a move that I'm sorry to see Harlequin making.
alanajoli: (Default)
[livejournal.com profile] lyster wrote in response to my last entry:
My sense, based on the books I've seen self-identified as UF, is that few UF readers would recognize any of these three as Urban Fantasy, or at least as "their" urban fantasy. Am I correct? If so, where's the line? If not, whence this perception?

There's a lot of marketing that going into defining genres. I was heartbroken when Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell came out and was shelved in the fiction section at Barnes and Noble, rather than in fantasy where it belonged. Michael Chabon supposedly commented to someone at a conference that he's delighted he's been getting away with writing genre fiction for years, and people think he's writing literary fiction. (While searching for an exact reference to that, rather than a memoried retelling, I came across an article from Salon explaining why Chabon is both literary and genre fiction, comparing him to Michael Connelly. In this case, it's a murder mystery being discussed.)

The truth about urban fantasy is that it's a handy replacement phrase for anything set in a contemporary world, which may be divergent from our own or may be twisted due to a magicopalypse of some kind. It encompasses everything from Charles de Lint, Neil Gaiman, and Emma Bull (who are sometimes considered progenitors of the current genre) to the current trend of sexy vampires and werewolves and covers featuring women with tattoos on their lower backs. Any genre that can include both Neverwhere and Twilight without people blinking is a genre so broad that its label is almost meaningless.

The same could, of course, be said of fantasy in general (or, worse, the fantasy/SF designation used by most bookstores and libraries). I think Josh Jasper's division between UF and horror is, perhaps, the best designator I've seen -- the major difference between the two is the purpose of the setting. Otherwise, how do you determine that vampires, which for years belonged in horror (or, thanks to Anne Rice, the general fiction section), are now a UF trope?

The term literature might be treated in the same way. There may or may not be a handy definition out there of what "literature" actually means (since, if it means "worthy of being discussed in a college classroom," Buffy and Patricia Briggs's "Mercy Thompson" series are among the titles I've seen on course syllabi). If there's an official definition inside the publishing industry, I'd love to hear it! My own associations with the term are somewhat troubled (in no small part due to the condescension with which the literary establishment, whoever that is, addresses genre fiction on the whole, which Genreville has covered in other entries -- that sort of attitude seems geared to make genre writers go on the defensive). In a conversation over on [livejournal.com profile] sartorias's blog, I commented:

[Literature] as a word tends to leave a bad taste in my mouth. It conjures up assigned reading, a list of white-male-dominated classics, and books that are read because then you can say that you've read them (rather than books that are read because the reading of them is worthwhile). "Literary fiction" seems to be synonymous with "depressingly hopeless" in some circles.

If by literature here, however, we mean "good stories that somehow reach toward a greater meaning and enrich the lives of the readers" -- well then, perhaps even those of us who are hoping to entertain may be striving for that in the end.


In the case of Michael Chabon, it tickles me that he feels he's getting genre fiction past the literary establishment on the sly -- that he's really "one of us," but is walking in "their" world without "them" realizing it. In the case of may really excellent fantasy novels that end up getting published as "general fiction" instead, it typically makes me irritated -- the idea seems to be that "normal" readers will only pick up books from the fiction section, so we can pass off this book, which is really fantasy, as "normal" and appeal to the general (or possibly literary) market, when really, the fantasy section is where it would find readership. (It seems to me that the greatest disservice I've seen in this scenario is to [livejournal.com profile] shanna_s's Enchanted Inc. and sequels. They were published to hit the chick lit audience, which dried up, but they remain helplessly shelved in fiction, where fantasy readers, who would really enjoy them, won't necessarily find them.)

What I tend to look for in fiction, in terms of depth, thinking about "big thoughts," or making me question my assumptions about how I understand the world (things one assumes that literature is supposed to do, while "hack fiction" is not), tends to revolve around my interest in how people/characters deal with concepts of the divine, or deal with their own mortality. I've found people writing about those topics across all sorts of genre lines, from the novels of Charles Williams; to the exceptionally wonderful collection of artificial intelligence stories by Jeff Duntemann ([livejournal.com profile] jeff_duntemann), Souls in Silicon; to, both surprisingly and delightfully, several of the novels published in the roleplaying world of Eberron. Stylistically, of course, there is a shift from one to the next. But stylistically, I see the novels of Catherynne M. Valente and Caitlin Kittredge's Street Magic in particular being written in a poetic, metaphoric style -- which I simply call beautiful language, but others might call literary. Is it the depth of meaning that brings the sense of literary, or is it a stylistic quality?

Really, rather than a death match, it makes more sense to me to acknowledge that the boundaries between the world of literature and the world of genre fiction -- like the barriers between this world and the next at places like Glastonbury -- are thin. If there's a herm that stands between literary and genre fiction, Hermes is guiding writers right past it all the time, and the folks who are leaving him libations are finding an audience on both sides of the "us vs. them," "pop culture vs. establishment" divide. To them, I offer my heartiest congratulations.
alanajoli: (british mythology)
You may notice that I've been missing all week. This is because I noticed something about having [livejournal.com profile] jimhines's tag at the end of my posts: if I didn't get enough work done, I was too embarrassed about my lack of progress to post a blog entry. This meant I tried to get busy writing, but it's very hard to quantify work on an adventure when you're working on several encounters at once but not actually finishing any of them.

Now it's Friday (for another 8 minutes), and I wanted to get a guest blog/excerpt up before I missed yet another week. I've been reading a lot of great metaphysical fiction lately (which I intended to blog about, but the aforementioned module progress got in the way), one of which is an excellent short fiction collection by Jeff Duntemann (here on lj as [livejournal.com profile] jeff_duntemann), who has been a friend and mentor of mine for eight years now. Jeff has a wonderfully wide scope of interests, and I was thrilled to first start reading his fiction in the April 2002 issue of Asimov's, which featured his novella "Drumlin Boiler." What struck me about that story was the remarkable the depth of subcreation (to steal a concept from Tolkien), not only in Jeff's writing, but through the characters as well. His short story "Roddie" (which may not have been published formally as yet, but he was kind enough to send to me) amplified this feeling: the characters themselves are creators, and as such, are echoes of a Creator. Since I'm a fan of metaphysics in my fiction, it should come as no surprise to you that I quickly became as big a fan of Jeff as a writer as I am of Jeff as a person.

So when he asked me to read his new collection Souls in Silicon: Tales of AI Confronting the Infinite, of course I said yes! (The link there is to the paperback; the collection is also available as an e-book in multiple formats--.doc, .pdf, .rtf, .lit, .lrf, .prc, and .html--with no DRM by clicking here.) I'm planning to do a full discussion of the pieces, either on the blog or in a review, so you'll certainly hear more about the collection. For today, however, I just two quick excerpts from the first story in the collection, "The Steel Sonnets," which I think don't spoil anything from the plot too much, and are particularly relevant to what I do here in the blog: they discuss language and myth, from the point of view of a robot designed to communicate on a mythic level.

--

Excerpt 1:
Speed had begun bubbling again. "I can't wait. I tell you, Launce, I can't wait! To have something--someone--to reach for, beyond the fetters of words and miserable, ever-changing conventions of language! To bend and mold the great universal life-myths in my hands and pound them into bridges of communication between two races linked only by the common bridge of life! I will be of use. Imagine, Launce, I will be of use!"

Excerpt 2:
"Use words, Speed," Launce said.

"Words! What good are words? Words are a fallacy, a sham set up by one intelligent being to bilk and confuse another. Words mean whatever the creature using them wishes to mean, true or false. Give me a mythic consciousness, and I will tell you what a creature really means."

"All I have are words."

Speed said nothing in reply.

Calendars

Sep. 4th, 2008 09:54 pm
alanajoli: (sisters-sun)
This is about the time of year when it occurs to me that I actually need to start marking time in 2009. In part, this is because our library has Sunday hours for the school year, so we volunteer to work shifts on Sundays, usually one a month or so, right around now. To do this well, it requires actually having some idea about how the next year is going to work--or at least making sure you mark down in advance what dates it is you've volunteered for.

When I was at MythCon, I just barely missed being able to purchase a Ted Nasmith calendar for 2009. (Nasmith is known for his Tolkien art, which is, in my opinion, fantastic.) They'd sold out on the first day, which is no real surprise, and it is not yet available in stores. Strike out on that one. Yesterday, however, I discovered that Lindsay Archer (whom I've raved about numerous times) has a calendar available at her DeviantArt site. Eureka! Now I can actually plan ahead for those deadlines I hope to have in 2009.

For those of you with writing deadlines: how do you keep track of them? I started with a planner and ended up finding that a wall calendar, where I can see a month at a shot, ended up working better for me. Any ingenious organizational strategies out there I haven't contemplated?




Reading
Souls in Silicon, by Jeff Duntemann
Lulu
  Writing
"Head above Water," and adventure for LFR, Cormyr (by portion)


 
alanajoli: (wistful - autumn)
One small piece of advice: after declaring Apollo as a patron, do not then state that you haven't worn sunscreen since July, and therefore have no need of it at the end of August. This is foolish. And also a recipe for sunburn and/or sunstroke. Because the gods are spiteful. That's sort of their thing.

At any rate, it was a fun three-day-weekend of gaming and beaching and aloe, during which some nifty things happened:

1) Amazon and BN.com both have Ransom: The Anthology listed and available for purchase! My comp copy should be in the mail shortly, and I'm so excited to read it. A google search reveals no reviews as yet, but I'll keep looking, as given that it includes stories by [livejournal.com profile] eyezofwolf/Dylan Birtolo and Lydia Laurenson, who I know write good stuff, I think there's probably a lot of good things to be said!

2) Amazon and BN.com have both also made available [livejournal.com profile] nalini_singh's newest book, Hostage to Pleasure. Happy book birthday! In honor of that publication, Nalini is hosting a contest asking for descriptions of fictional characters you'd like to take hostage or be taken hostage by. Given that I've just been featured in an anthology on ransom... it seemed like a good match!

So, what fictional character would I like to hold hostage? For grins and giggles, I think I'd kidnap Bea from The Dreamer, which should be coming out in print as well as online sometime this month. Why? Honestly, because that would give either heroes Alan or Nathan the mission of rescuing her, and while I hate to be the bad guy, watching another rescue in action by that pair would just be too much fun to pass up!

What fictional character could I imagine holding me hostage (and still having it be fun)? After a brief discussion with my husband about unrepentant rogues in fiction we both read, we came up with Vlad Taltos from [livejournal.com profile] skzbrust's series. It could really go either way with him--either something really interesting would happen (as it so often does around him) or the whole thing would go disastrously for me. But there might at least be a trip to Valabar's restaurant, which might even impress a non-foodie like me with its exquisite menu.

If I were going to be held hostage in a fictional setting, I think I'd imagine the fun there being had either by the X-men (because the shenanigans that would ensue would also be fun to watch, and they're the good guys, so it would all get sorted out eventually), or by one of the fairy courts from [livejournal.com profile] melissa_writing's Wicked Lovely and accompanying books. Probably the summer court, as that at least involves dancing and fun--the dark court would certainly not be a place I'd like to visit, let alone have to stay for any length of time.

But right now, I should be being held hostage by my own work. I've got several projects up in the air, so you'll be seeing a number of titles circulating through my end tag/signature/footer/thingy over the next while until I actually start finishing some of them.




Reading
Souls in Silicon, by Jeff Duntemann
Lulu
  Writing
"Steampunk Musha: Riddle in Red" (comic issue #1; page count)


 
alanajoli: (Default)
You should know that I'm not much of an adrenaline junky. I don't like going fast. I don't like scary movies. I like my adventures to be held around a table with dice, or contained on the printed page. But all that said--adrenaline is a darn useful thing. It seems to have kept me going right up through my deadlines over the weekend.

And then, of course, I crashed and burned. Deep coughing in the chest. General misery. I spent most of Tuesday watching rerun sitcoms, which is always an indication to me of just how much my brain is able to process.

So now that my brain seems to be back on my shoulders, here I am back in the blogosphere. On the writing front, Arielle and I changed the date for my deadline, so that *tomorrow* will be my first foray into ongoing fiction deadlines. I'm hoping to touch up some work today that I can send her for initial thoughts.

To test my ability to learn something new, I'm also borrowing a page (actually, some code) from [livejournal.com profile] jimhines. He had a great footer on his blog, and I'm going to see if I can adjust it to what I'm up to. We'll see how it comes out.

Edit: Three tries before success--not too bad!

Edit: *sheepish* Actually, that required a fourth try, as there are two places to change the title of the piece in the code--and I missed the obvious one that showed up. Thanks to [livejournal.com profile] jimhines and [livejournal.com profile] jpsorrow for the correction!




Reading
Souls in Silicon, by Jeff Duntemann
Lulu
  Writing
"Rodeo at Area 51"


 
alanajoli: (Default)
I got a very nice e-mail back from the editors at Abyss & Apex, saying that while "Nomi's Wish" was "well received" by the staff, they've decided to pass on it this time around. If I had to guess, I'd say it was still the difficult length; it's nice to hear that it was well received though! I'll definitely be keeping Abyss & Apex on my list of places to submit.

I have one last thought about what I might do with "Nomi's Wish" before I take it out of the submission cycle and follow Jeff Duntemann ([livejournal.com profile] jeff_duntemann)'s example and offer it up as an e-book. It's definitely a piece I believe in and would like people to read, so it'll get out there in the world one way or another.

Correction: I just reread their note, and they actually specified what they felt made it a less-than-good fit for the magazine. So it wasn't the length.
alanajoli: (Default)
Just a few new releases to note:

* The Fox, which I mentioned yesterday, by Sherwood Smith ([livejournal.com profile] sartorias), came out on August 7th. I only just recently got a hold of it (last week), hence my delay in mentioning it. It is thus far brilliant; I expect to have it finished over the weekend. If you haven't yet read Inda (the book to which The Fox is a sequel), and you're a serious fantasy reader, put it on your to-read list, and move it up to the top as quickly as possible.

* Common Shiner's new CD, Viennas, is now available on CD Baby for less than $10 including shipping. You can get it here.

* Tiffany L. Trent ([livejournal.com profile] tltrent)'s new novel, In the Serpent's Coils is out in the world. I just picked up my copy last night.

* Jeff Duntemann ([livejournal.com profile] jeff_duntemann) has released a new novelette as an e-book via Lulu. He's selling it for just a dollar, and you can buy it here. This is Jeff's only fantasy work, according to his recent lj post; he's written several science fiction stories, including the novella "Drumlin Boiler," which was nominated for an Asimov's Readers Choice award in 2002, and the novel The Cunning Blood.
alanajoli: (Default)
Hello faithful readers,

I've been out of the blogosphere for longer than intended after a little bit of soul searching about what I'm going to do with my writing business and the distraction of having Sherwood Smith ([livejournal.com profile] sartorias)'s newest novel, The Fox, here in the house. I should probably also blame Morrowind, even though I've had it for awhile now; it's a seemingly never-ending game, far more broad of scope than most of the CRPGs I've played, which means it's a complete time-suck. (It's a very *fun* time-suck, mind you, but I'm still spending hours on the X-box, which I haven't really done since I finished Jade Empire for the third time awhile back.)

Soul-searching, you ask? Indeed. Some of you know that I had a bit of writer burn-out back in December, which has made it difficult to get back into a regular writing habit since. (Yes, I did write Regaining Home after the burn-out; my writing schedule for that was anything but regular, and I fully admit to being a little tormented. Thank goodness for Shawn Merwin, turning my writerly suffering into a real novel! I hope that you all will be able to read it sooner rather than later, but I've still not heard from the publishers when that might happen.)

At any rate, now that I'm down to the Steampunk Musha d20 conversion (which we are still doing, despite the announcement of D&D 4th Edition, as we expect it will be easier to convert a 3.5 pdf to 4e than it will be to convert the Iron Gauntlets rules) and Cowboys and Aliens: Worlds at War, which is going swimmingly, I've had a little time to breathe and really consider what projects I want to be doing in the future. I submitted some old short stories to magazines; most of the stories had a really regional draw to them, so I actually came up with the idea of submitting them to lit mags in the areas where they're set. We'll see if this strategy works.

My favorite short story, of all the ones I've written, is called "Nomi's Wish." Unfortunately, it's really long--nearly 10,000 words. Most lit mags won't even touch something that long. I submitted it to Fantasy and Science Fiction, a magazine I very much admire, but it was a no-go. On the up side, they sent the rejection notice right away, which gave me time to get it to a zine with no word-count limit while they're still having an open reading period. We'll see how it goes. Hopefully, the new gang will love it, and the story will actually see the light of day. If not... well, perhaps I'll actually get that website set up and I'll post it there to be read.

"Nomi's Wish" is particularly special to me because it's the only short story I've written in full since I graduated from college. I got back from working at the bookstore one day and wrote the first draft all in an evening. It's changed quite a bit since then; a friend of mine (the fabulous editor Abigail Greshik) used it for an anthology she had to put together to finish her publishing degree, and it grew to about twice its original size. I think it's stronger for the expansion, a more complete piece. I hope there's a market out there that will agree!

One of the other bits of soul searching I did was about this blog, and how to better use it. I used to write articles for an online newsletter called Literature Community News. I got to choose the topics about which I was writing, do research, and get paid, all for writing about stuff I was actually interested in. A friend (Jeff Duntemann/[livejournal.com profile] jeff_duntemann) suggested a similar technique for my blog. Pick a topic I'm interested in. Write about it. Find a niche. There are a couple of directions I'm thinking about heading with that (one of which fellow Browncoat and writer Karen Hayes encouraged me in last week, but it may be awhile before my thoughts congeal into actual words), so stay tuned.

Anyway, that's where I've been. No good excuses particularly for being away. I'll try to avoid such lags in the foreseeable future.
alanajoli: (Default)
Today I followed up with the book and card shop down the street, missing the buyer as he was in a meeting with someone else. This also happened at R. J. Julia's, alas, but I left a flyer at both places, along with my business card, so I hope I'll hear from them. If not, I'll certainly stop back by (in which case I may order a copy of one of Shanna Swendson's novels, either Enchanted, Inc. or Once Upon Stilettos, to purchase while I'm there and subsequently donate to my local library).

The people at the book and card shop already know my face, as I'm constantly in there to buy Reeses Peanut Butter Cups, which are both a weakness and an addiction of mine. (They've also started carrying peanut butter M&Ms. I'm doomed.) The staff at R. J. Julia's were almost entirely new to me, however, so I bought some food in the cafe and a book, as a sales rep for a major publisher (perhaps Harper Collins; I forget which one) told me that one good way to make an impression on booksellers was to ask for a recommendation and buy a book that they recommended. I didn't go so far as to ask for a recommendation, but I did think that being not only a local author but also a customer might support my case. We'll see how that goes.

In other news, [livejournal.com profile] jeff_duntemann has invited me to be involved in his new shared world science fiction project, set in his Drumlin world. (He was nominated for an Asimov's Readers Choice award for his novella, "Drumlin Boiler," published in April 2002; the stories for his new project will take place in this world.) I came up with an interesting first line and concluding line last night, but have no idea what story will come in the middle, so I may scrap them entirely when I actually engross myself in the project.

I also finished Beast by Ally Kennen this morning, which I'll be reviewing for School Library Journal as soon as I finish this post. Preview of my review: it was quite good.

**

Currently Reading: Tales of the Last War, which I misplaced (and found again), so I started The Grieving Tree, another Eberron novel by Don Bassingthwaite, as well as Men In Kilts by Katie MacAlister, which I purchased at the bookstore this morning.

Currently Playing: Still KotOR II. I'll update when that changes instead of boring you all wit the same information.

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Alana Joli Abbott

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