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


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

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

For more information, you can visit the event website.

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

Lastly: I've accepted a position as Editor in Chief of Outland Entertainment, where I'll be editing a number of very cool comics! You can find out more about us at our latest newsletter or by checking out the comics lineup!
alanajoli: (Star Cruisers)
If I used my blog like I use my history column on Branford Patch, I'd create a feature called the "E-book Minute," in which I'd post all the e-book news I've been collecting. Because there seems to be a lot of it these days!

But I'm far more free-form over here, so today's e-book minute will surely be something else the next time it comes around.

The exciting news: I get to shout "Yay Amazon!" Tentatively, of course. PW speculates that Amazon may be giving up its e-book format exclusivity in order to keep its publishing arm in bricks and mortar stores. This is a big hooray for me, if it happens, because that means writers who are releasing books only on Amazon, like writer friend Audrey Auden, are no longer inaccessible on my nook. If something is only available for e-book on Amazon, I would no longer be limited to computer reading or not reading it. I am hoping that Amazon will make the shift, and I suspect they might actually see their sales increase in e-books if they sell in a format that non-Kindle users can read. (Whether they'll see changes in sales of Kindles, however, I'm not sure.)

In other news, Random House has decided to charge 3x the normal going rate for e-books when selling them to libraries; the ALA has asked them to change the policy. PW's Peter Brantley wrote a pretty insightful blog entry on how this reflects the difference in perceived value between publishers and end-users, and what kind of impact that may have on publishing -- or on libraries -- or both.

Tangentially, Overdrive just purchased an Australian e-book company, which might get them access to more material, but definitely gives them access to some nifty new technology that may improve the library borrowing experience for patrons. So even if all Big Six publishers drop off the library scene (since Random House's pricing may make them impossible for libraries to work with), Overdrive is still working on ways to get books to readers.
alanajoli: (Default)
Just a couple of links today. PW blogger Peter Brantley wrote up what I think is an excellent entry about the problem with leaving libraries out of the e-book revolution. Brantley's assessment is that by making e-books unavailable through libraries, a whole class of Americans is denied access to those resources. If the market does shift so that more and more books are published exclusively in electronic format, I agree that this is going to become the problem that Brantley anticipates. In the mean time, thank goodness for paper books, Interlibrary Loan, and the host of other resources available at the public library.


(The rotunda at James Blackstone Memorial Library, my local source for research and reading.)

Who's getting e-books right? According to Kent Anderson, Amazon is getting everything about publishing right, and everyone else in the book world needs to seriously up their game. This is, at least in part, true: writer friend of mine Audrey Auden dumped all the other e-book retailers for her self-published Realms Unreel because Amazon's customer service and platform were by far more beneficial to her in convenience and sales. On the other hand, Jim Hines recently discussed how Amazon can change your prices without your permission, as recently happened with his Goblin Tales. I maintain my wariness around Amazon, despite finally jumping on board with Amazon Prime (as it keeps us comfortably in diapers here at Casa Abbott).
alanajoli: (Default)
Given the amount of library reading I do, I know that libraries in my area have a long way to go to keep up with the type of reading that I do digitally. It's no problem since I still like print, but there are plenty of books I'd rather carry around digitally. Recently, I actually ended up purchasing a book I had out on Interlibrary Loan (ILL) because I wasn't going to finish it by the due date, in part because the print edition was a little unwieldy (the hardcover did not fit in my purse for convenient reading-on-the-go, and I do try to carry around a hardcover-sized purse). A few years ago I was delighted that several of the books I needed to read for the Mythopoeic Fantasy Awards jury were available digitally through the library, but lately, I've not had as much luck. Partly I'm not looking as hard, but I'm sure it's also partly because the e-book/library connection is in a state of flux.

Publishers just aren't sure what to do about libraries and e-books, and Amazon seems to have exacerbated the problem. Random House, happily, has committed to continuing to make e-books available to libraries (according to Andrew Albanese of PW). But to do this, it's raising its prices. There was talk at one point of putting restrictions on the number of loans an e-book could go through in order to make the e-book comparable to a hardcover, which eventually does break down after too-many reads. They've moved away from that, which does make the decision a bit of a relief, even if it means higher pricing.

On the bad news front, Penguin has decided to completely sever its relationship with library e-book lending platform OverDrive. According to PW's Calvin Reed, a lot of Penguin's reaction seems to come from concerns about Amazon -- and it looks like they're generally uncomfortable with Penguin books being on the Cloud instead of downloaded. I understand concerns about Amazon, but severing ties with libraries seems to be the opposite of helping manage the e-book marketplace in a way that benefits readers, who are all potential consumers.

Making e-books too controlled, whether it's through too much DRM or by not making them available to certain populations, seems to me to be the wrong way to manage the shifting marketplace. But the flux will eventually settle, and hopefully the end result will be that frequent readers like me will be able to access plenty of e-books to read, whether for purchase or on loan.

Oh Amazon

Nov. 29th, 2011 08:45 pm
alanajoli: (Default)
When Amazon first said that the Kindle was going to work with Overdrive back in April, I was excited. As a former library staffer, I thought this could only be a win for library users and libraries in general. Good for libraries how, you say? Circulation statistics help libraries get funding, whether those circs are from print books or e-books. More circs = better library statistics = better chance for grants. So, hurrah Amazon for helping libraries out!

But wait. As of last week, Penguin just pulled all their new books from Overdrive. Why? Apparently the new Kindle/Overdrive platform has increased concerns about security for their digital files. Apparently if you want to borrow a book for your Kindle, your library directs you to Amazon's site, rather than to the Overdrive program (and Adobe Digital Editions), which is how I've always used Overdrive. (This is conjecture on my part, based on news coverage.) According to a recent article in PW, libraries may end up on the losing end of this disagreement, since now only one of the Big Six publishers (Random House) is fully on board with library lending. And they're taking a look at their policy, so who knows, what that will mean for the future?

I hate to sound like I'm always coming down on Amazon. As a resource, I love Amazon. I use them heavily for publication dates and information, and I shop there for all sorts of non-book items. I rent digital-streaming movies from Amazon. I buy music there. I really want Amazon to be the kind of company that I want to shop at. And I don't think that the traditional publishers are automatically in the right. But it seems like there are just too many hijinks where Amazon is concerned to automatically assume that Amazon is the good guy.

Especially, it seems, for independent publishers in international circles. I forget where this link came from (possibly also the PW newsletter), but Mark from The Writer's Guide to E-Publishing breaks down what your book actually costs on Amazon if you're selling it abroad. If you've priced it for free -- or at 99 cents -- that's not what folks in Europe are going to end up paying (and remember, they've got the exchange rate in their favor).

Some day I want to open up the PW newsletter and find some really awesome, feel-good, heart-warming Amazon related news. But I'm not holding my breath.
alanajoli: (Default)
I was talking to Miss Mary, the storytime librarian at our local library (where I formerly worked), about how my Mom-Baby Fitness class in Branford has started off very slowly. She reassured me that word of mouth is what it really takes to get a class going on the Shoreline in Connecticut, and then gestured around to her baby storytime, the birth to two crowd, which often has twenty to thirty babies/toddlers attending, along with parents. It's a great crowd, and Bug and I love going. I don't think the space we have for Mom-Baby Fitness could handle that size population, but it's nice to think that things do grow by word of mouth.

That said, word of mouth seems to be a really elusive form of marketing that there's no clear way on how to develop it. Now, I haven't taken any formal classes in business -- in another life, that would have been my college major, but alas, that other me can't magically send tips back from the alternate universe in which I was a huge corporate success. I have read about marketing and about the challenges of hitting the right population by the two consumer-driven forms of advertising: word of mouth and (Internet based) viral marketing. Man, when that sort of campaign works, does it ever work! But when it goes nowhere, there's really no telling why it didn't make it.

With Haunted just being released, I've of course been thinking about word of mouth and viral marketing again, in context of the writing world. We had a fantastic review posted -- a four out of five stars, but with such thoughtful comments that it's clear the reader really got what the collection was about. It's just posted up on the product itself, as far as I know, but now word of mouth about books can spread in a multitude of ways: Goodreads, book blogs, facebook, wherever.

How do you reach your target audience? And how do you utilize social networking tools to accomplish what you want (rather than spending so much time on them that you lose work hours instead of gaining consumers)? If anyone out there has already found a balance they like, I'd love to hear about it! Otherwise, I'll just continue wading in these waters and trying to figure out whether or not I'm ready to swim.
alanajoli: (Default)
I like obituaries. This is not out of any sense of the morbid (although people have accused me of that). What I think is neat is how a person's life can be summed up in two hundred, eight hundred, or two thousand words, and you get this snap shot image of who they were. I used to clip the obituaries from the old copies of the Branford Review as part of a library archive project when I worked at the Blackstone, and I learned some interesting things about Branford's history in the process. I'd not known previously that we'd had a watch tower in town during World War II, keeping an eye on the coast, that was manned mostly by civilians. This I picked up from the obituary of one of the women who volunteered her time to help protect the coast.

I write obituaries for Newsmakers, a project for Gale Cengage (the publisher I used to work for, and for whom I edit the autobiographies project). I've covered scientists and environmentalists, humanitarians and football coaches. Usually, reading the obituaries gives me this feeling of work well done. The people selected for the project tend to be people who accomplished good things with their lives, and lived to a ripe old age.

Occasionally, however, I'm assigned celebrities who have died of drug overdoses or similar before their prime. And I'm left feeling, "What a waste!" That's the only time that the job is irksome for me -- in part due to the added fact that celebrity obituaries are always more work (because they're covered in so many sources, and thus require sorting through many more articles before I can write my own). Which makes me think that with this last batch, I should have saved the conservationist who lived to be more than a hundred for the last essay I write, rather than the actor who died before he was forty. Alas.

In other news, it has been an exceptionally good mail week for me. I got paid (always a cause for happiness), I got a book (yay for DAW and [livejournal.com profile] jimhines!), and I got a mysterious envelope from an elementary school. The class I visited last month to talk about Branford history and writing sent me thank you letters for my appearance, which gives me all sorts of warm fuzzies. It's astonishing to see what the students picked up -- and what I should perhaps have phrased better when I was speaking, as some of the things they say they learned weren't things I quite intended to teach! I imagine that teachers get used to this sensation, but watching kids learn is still a real novelty to me. From watching Bug learn to blow kisses to seeing just what third and fourth graders find important -- it's this amazing window into the way that human minds work, distilled in a different way from what I see watching teens and adults. Kids are awesome.

The first question I'm answering for that class will be going up this coming week on "The Town with Five Main Streets" -- I hope I live up to their expectations!
alanajoli: (Default)
I probably don't actually have enough links for an extravaganza, but it sounded good in my head, so I'll let it stand.


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

I've also been reading some web comics lately -- I finally decided I should read Schlock Mercenary by Howard Tayler. I also discovered that Love and Capes is publishing old strips online, which is exciting -- I got an issue of Love and Capes as a trial, either on Free Comic Book Day or through a special at my Friendly Local Comic Shop, and I really liked it -- but then it wasn't ever in stock. So now, I can catch up on all the back story and enjoy updates on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.
alanajoli: (Default)
Did you all like my disappearing act? Next, I'll saw my assistant in half! But really, what have I been up to in the past month?


  • Copyediting. A lot.

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

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

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

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

  • Going to kempo with Twostripe.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Dreams

Nov. 22nd, 2009 10:06 pm
alanajoli: (Default)
Despite having now worked at a library for nearly four years, apparently my subconscious still thinks of me as a bookseller. (I worked at Barnes and Noble for just over four years.) Last night, I had a Barnes and Noble dream, one where I was working at a store that I've never worked at with a coworker of mine, not from a B&N, but from my college Tutoring and Writing Center. Instead of my normal B&N clothing, I was wearing my black gi top and bottom (which, because in my dream I had a shift in the cafe where we always had to wear black tops and bottoms, seemed perfectly reasonable).

Yeah. It's been almost five years, and still that's the job I have dreams about.

Quick thoughts:

My husband just got his second degree black-belt yesterday! In honor of that, any time I mention him on the blog from now on, I'll be calling him by the nickname Two Stripe. Mostly because it amuses me, but also because either [livejournal.com profile] listgirl or [livejournal.com profile] mechristy asked me to blog about the family more, and I haven't been doing it, because I didn't have an appropriate blog name for him. (Baby number one, who is thus far doing just fine flopping around inside the womb, is nicknamed Bug while she's in utero, will stay Bug until she's old enough to decide if she wants her real name to show up on the Internet.)

Don't forget to visit [livejournal.com profile] kickstart_tu! We've got some great items on the auction, including books, crafts, digital art, online advertising, and critiques from [livejournal.com profile] tiffanytrent and [livejournal.com profile] kimpauley. Stop on by and spread the word!
alanajoli: (lol deadlines)
I don't know how I do this. When I start out with a new calendar, it's blank and clean and pretty! (My 2009 calendar is a lovely print calendar by Lindsay Archer (the 2010 version is available here if you're interested.) And yet, somehow, those dates get filled with black ink to mark my day job hours, blue for appointments, purple for classes, and green for social engagements. (I switch colors on pretty much everything except the red deadlines and the black day job hours -- I'm not as organized as I'd like to think.)

Usually, I'm a few steps ahead on the autobio project -- though, granted, the first half of the year deadline is always much easier than the one late in the year (because I get the contract for both in the late summer/early fall, which means the first deadline is a crunch and the second deadline is languid and serene). This time around, I had to hand off more than usual to fellow copyeditor and Substrater Michelle while I organized the administrative details. (It's a good thing she's a copyeditor I really enjoy working with! I love working on the essays myself, so it's hard to hand over the work to someone else. It has to be someone I trust -- and Michelle certainly fits that bill.) I've got a great batch of writers this time around, and I'm very much excited to see them all in print.

But in the meantime, there's a 4e adventure that needs to be finished over the weekend, not to mention the rest of my first chapter installment in my joint Baeg Tobar project with [livejournal.com profile] lyster. (Have I mentioned Blood and Tumult by name yet? No? It's in progress! I'm 1500 words in on my first segment -- unfortunately not the full 3000 that would let me pass it back to Max. *sigh*) I have School Library Journal reviews that need to be written, not to mention the overdue reviews for Flames Rising.com and the overdue article edit for Journey to the Sea. (Alas, the free work always ends up falling behind those paid assignments.)

I was raised to keep myself busy as a kid, and I think I've taken that lesson to heart. My mother was the kind of teacher who always had several projects going outside of the classroom -- the biggest one was building a life-sized rainforest in an empty mall store. So I'm sure I get some of this impulse to take on so many projects from her.

One of these days, though, I think I'd like a vacation. It's a good thing I've forbidden myself from taking any work that's due in March! (I'll be busy with another little thing around then, but she's sure to be a handful.)
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: (sisters-sun)
I came down the stairs from the reference department into nonfiction today, and was stopped by a patron about half way.

"You have some wildlife," she said.

My first thought was that she was in the craft area, not in science, and then I noticed it. On the floor near her feet was a tiny little mouse.

I don't remember if I wrote here about my first mouse capture. A year or two ago, I had a mouse in my office, and not having the appropriate equipment to catch it, I let it skitter around most of the day. I heard a thump at one point, looked over my shoulder, and realized that the mouse had climbed my box fan and had tumbled into the half-empty, open box of office paper next to it. The result was an adorably trapped mouse, which I promptly took down the stairs from my apartment and released in the yard.

So thinking of that same trick, I went back to the staff office in the library, got a box top and returned to the nonfiction section, where the patron was still watching the poor thing.

"He's going to jump right out of that," she said.

I shrugged, because she was probably right. "It's the best I could come up with," I answered.

I lowered it to the little mouse, whose head was bigger than the rest of his body, and he panicked. Whiskers quivering and lungs jumping, he dashed down the aisle. I followed after, calmly, slowly, and watched as the mouse ran into the corner--dead end. The patron walked with me, and I held the box lid steady, talking in a very calm voice, until I could scoop him onto the cardboard. He was so terrified he still didn't move, but I walked very carefully, holding the box top as still as I could, as I transported him back through the staff offices and outside. We let him go in some of the bushes in our yard, and I hope very much that he'll find a new home. If he was an outdoor mouse that accidentally found his way into the library, I think his chances are probably pretty good. If he was born in the library, though... well, I tried my best.

I really, really think I need a pet.
alanajoli: (Default)
First, business. Tomorrow is the last guest entry I have stashed away. I've been able to secure quite a number in advance up until this point, but at last, I'll be running out. If you read this blog and are interested in writing a short piece about either the importance of mythology in your writing, how mythology impacts your writing, how you go about creating a mythology or cosmology in your fiction, or how you adapt myths and folklore to make them work in your story, please let me know. You can contact me via this post, or through alanajoli at virgilandbeatrice dot com. (And if any of you [livejournal.com profile] fangs_fur_fey members would be willing to post about this over there, I'd be mighty grateful!)

In other news, I officially created my first new d20 creature today, just months before d20 is no longer relevant. It's not even a true monster--just an adjusted creature based on stats and templates that already exist. Despite this, I'm excited about the new creatures, particularly since my editor has given me the go ahead on it in advance. We'll see how my playtesters react on Saturday!

Speaking of Saturday, I have officially been asked to pick up books by Jennifer Lynn Barnes ([livejournal.com profile] jenlyn_b) for the youth services department of our library at her local signing. She'll be at the Borders in Milford, CT (for those of you who are also local) from 2 to 4. I usually work until 3:30, so I thought I'd miss it, but my manager agreed to let me shift my schedule earlier in order to make the event. Hurrah! Perhaps if I am clever enough, I will take photographs and post them here, like [livejournal.com profile] blue_succubus and [livejournal.com profile] mdhenry are wont to do.

Last random thought for the day: Amazon.com (who is not the friend of small presses right now, so I'm a little torn about advertising for them) is holding a contest for a trip for two to London to "visit" The Tales of Beedle the Bard, J. K. Rowling's hand-written book. There are three essay-type questions that must be answered in 100 words or less. Finalists in the two age categories get $1000 in amazon gift cards. Not bad for 100 words or less.
alanajoli: (Default)
On my desk is The Greek Myths: Complete Edition by Robert Graves. On its way here from the library is The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell (as I, alas, don't have a copy of my own). In my purse are articles about heroes and modernity (or the heroic in modernity, as one of the authors believes that democracy cancels out the need for actual heroes and instead praises the heroic in ordinary people).

And away in my e-mail went my abstract to Dr. Jes Battis as an application for inclusion in A Dragon Wrecked My Prom. Wish me luck! (If I had anything to give away right now, I'd offer a prize for anyone who figured out what teen hero I've chosen for my essay given the resources mentioned above.)

--

Complete tangent: I love the people at School Library Journal. They send me such awesome books. Granted, some are less awesome after reading than others, but all of them are awesome in concept. I get books about mythology, martial arts, comics, and teen fantasy. Being a reviewer rocks! I love that the editors are totally in tune with the types of books I'd be likely to pick up for myself--it seems like such a good plan to send books to people who are actually likely to appreciate them, rather than sending them out to an already reluctant audience.

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Alana Joli Abbott

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