alanajoli: (mini me short hair)
Happy International Women's Day!

DSC_0008

Back in 2006, Lindsay Archer and I sat (and sang, and entertained passers by) together at GenCon, selling copies of Into the Reach and other Chronicles of Ramlar RPG books. Now, with the final book of the Redemption Trilogy on the horizon, we've almost come to the end of the journey that started there.

To celebrate International Women's Day, DriveThruRPG is featuring games and novels by female game designers, writers, and artists. There's a lot of great stuff there, including quite a lot of Firefly RPG content from Margaret Weis Productions. Into the Reach and Departure, by virtue of being written by me and illustrated by Lindsay, are also included in the feature. I think this is a fantastic way to point out just how many women are creating works in the role playing game industry (thanks in part to leaders like Margaret Weis, who have been there since nigh on the beginning). It's nice to be a part of this community!
alanajoli: (Default)
According to Random.org, last week's winner (with a twitter feed from HeldenSiegfried) is [livejournal.com profile] holmes_iv. Congratulations! Let me know the best way to get you the book. :)

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

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

--

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

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

But on to the contest. Tell me about a children's book that you either a) read as an adult and thought you'd have experienced it differently as a child, or b) rewrote the ending in your head. This week's prize is a double whammy: two "Death Gate" novels by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, Fire Sea and Into the Labyrinth. Good luck!
alanajoli: (serenity adventures)
Many of you have probably already seen this, but DriveThruRPG is doing a special promotion: donate $20 and receive a huge bundle of gaming products worth over $1000. A lot of publishers have donated, including Margaret Weis Productions. Both the CORTEX system and Serenity RPG are part of the deal. (Either of those by themselves cost more than $20 digitally through DriveThruRPG on a normal day.)

The money is being donated to Doctors without Borders. If you've been thinking of donating to the Haiti earthquake victims (or have been thinking about getting some new game supplements and sourcebooks), this is a great enlightened-self-interest promotion. It's been so popular that their servers are having trouble keeping up with all the donations and downloads!
alanajoli: (Default)
I love traveling. I enjoy being in new places and seeing new people (or going to old places and seeing familiar people). Changes of scenery are largely good. But even I have limits, it seems, and I apparently hit them over the weekend. Allow me to paint you a map:

Thursday: Branford to Great Barrington to Branford.
Friday: Branford to Long Island (via ferry) to Brooklyn.
Saturday: Brooklyn to Branford.
Sunday: Branford to Cambridge to Somerville to Branford.

This, my friends, is a lot of time in a car, and not a lot of time being stationery.

As I mentioned in my last post, I had a really excellent time with the students at Simon's Rock on Thursday. The myth conversations that started Thursday managed to continue on through the weekend (largely with [livejournal.com profile] banana_pants and [livejournal.com profile] lyster, who were kind enough to both listen to my myth geekery and contribute their own right back). [livejournal.com profile] banana_pants and I traveled down to Long Island together on Friday to go to I-Con, the science fiction convention that's usually at Stony Brook, but moved this year to be at three locations. The trip down was fine (although rainy), and the mist covering the island when we got there totally gelled with the stories I'd been telling about Manannan and the Isle of Man. (Having to wait an hour and a half in the mist before I could pick up my pre-registered badge was not the height of fun for my weekend, but [livejournal.com profile] banana_pants kept me company, and we met up with [livejournal.com profile] lyster in line, so the company was excellent. We also had a great time enjoying the parade of costumes and watching Yoshi give Yoshi-back rides to anime characters and other video game stars, including Wario, without prejudice.)

The point of going down to I-Con for me was in part to meet up with the Browncoats of NYC, with whom I've corresponded but not met in person, and largely to see editor Jamie Chambers, who I worked with on Serenity Adventures. Jamie, Cam Banks (also from Margaret Weis Productions), [livejournal.com profile] lyster, [livejournal.com profile] banana_pants, and I all went out to dinner and talked shop, then headed back over to one of the convention hotels and chatted with a bunch of industry folks before [livejournal.com profile] lyster and I headed off to Brooklyn to stay with friends (including a fellow Substrater). Jamie not only filled us in on a lot of cool projects that are upcoming, but introduced us to some folks who have also worked with MWP and White Wolf. (He also got a bit into the myth geek chatter with us; who knew he'd actually written his thesis in college about mythology? There are an awful lot of us myth geeks in gaming...)

Saturday was a short recovery day -- I had work at the library -- before we headed out on Sunday for Mythic Greece, in which our heroes finished their first major quest, delivering little Odysseus to Chiron for study. Now they've been cut loose from their first mission, given to them by the Oracle at Delphi -- only the Fates know what they'll be up to next.

At any rate, I'm mostly recovered now from all the travel and I even turned in some work early for one of my deadlines, so things are pretty well right with the world. How were your weekends?
alanajoli: (Lydia)
So, I really have to stop agonizing over my work and just *do* it. A lot of good advice has been given by a lot of writers who say that writers write. They don't think about writing, they don't talk about writing. They write. That's what makes them writers.

This could definitely apply to module writing as well. I was so nervous about doing my first adventure in 4e that I agonized over it. I spent more time worrying over the module than I actually spent writing it. This, my friends, is not intelligent behavior.

So now that I have a draft in to my editor, I have some thoughts about writing for 4e:

1) Building encounters is easy. Seriously. I used some pre-built encounter groups that seemed appropriate, but substituting one creature for another is not hard. There are nifty charts in the back to help you out, and the DMG has pretty easy recommendations for putting things together.

2) Putting together an encounter requires three books. Or, at least, it did for me. I wanted to add conditions to some things, or talk about surprise rounds--the rules for which are in the PHB. Monsters are, of course, in the Monsters Manual. The DMG puts it all together. Add having a tab open in my browser for the updates, and that's four resources to keep track of, along with my outline. Once I have more of this stuff memorized, I'm sure that won't be an issue. I knew a lot of stuff for 3.5 that I didn't have to look up, and I'm still learning how to do the same in 4e.

3) Less is more. That seems to be the 4e philosophy, which in some ways I really like. In other ways, it meant that I had to change my entire way of thinking about module writing. I'm used to providing tons of details, trying to anticipate every player reaction. This, of course, is impossible. So 4e really frees you up to *not* do that kind of thing. On the other hand, it means being verbose no longer works. Strunk and White might be pleased, but I found it a challenge. When it comes back from my editor, we'll see if I still over-wrote.

4) Skill challenges are harder to write than they are to design, or to run. If the point is player creativity, there isn't much that I, as a writer, feel like I can bring to the DM except for talking points to get them through guiding their players. My editor may have some brilliant suggestions on how to improve that--and there are a couple of ways to handle skill challenges that I didn't explore. So we'll see.

5) Making new stuff is easy, assuming I did it right. Since templates are consistent throughout, if you want a new poison or trap or item (not saying what I made, since that would be a spoiler), you can just do it. It's not labor intensive.

6) Leveling up creatures is also not labor intensive. Nor is downgrading them. I was nervous about doing this and put it off. It took me all of two minutes to change the stats on one creature. Gone are the days of that 3.5 nightmare level of work!

So, all in all, I think it went pretty well. (I mean, I can say that now that I've wrapped it up, and since I turned it in to my editor technically on the day of the deadline. I've got to send a shout out to the folks at Margaret Weis Productions on this one--because they're in Central Time Zone, which gave me a whole extra *hour* on my deadline day to get my Serenity adventure turned in. This is not a particularly good habit of mine, either.)

I'm looking forward to running a playtest, and I'm very much looking forward to getting my editor's comments back. In the meantime, though, I should have an assignment rolling in, and I've got [livejournal.com profile] jonowrimo starting today, so there will be more fiction to do. I also, to my delight, had a proposal accepted by Hog River Journal, (thanks to Mish for her help on the abstract!) so I'll be working on an article for them as well. It's my first nonfiction history article, and I'm really excited to get started on it.

But now it's late, and while writers need to write... sleeping also comes highly recommended.




Reading
My Swordhand Is Singing, by Marcus Sedgewick
Barnes and Noble
  Writing "Head above Water," and adventure for LFR, Cormyr (by page count, roughly)
 
alanajoli: (Alana Lionheart's lion)
What a year for me to be missing GenCon! Not only is the anthology, edited by [livejournal.com profile] eyezofwolf, where "Don't Let Go" will be published coming out. That would have been enough for me to pine over not going. Today, however, I found out that Serenity Adventures will be released at GenCon this year as well! Woe is me for missing the con circuit.

Folks who are going: if you see my stuff on display (even though neither is likely to have my name on the cover), could you take pictures? I'll be there vicariously through your digital images!
alanajoli: (Default)
Lessons about the Bridgeport/Port Jefferson Ferry:

1) The departure time listed is actually the time when the ferry departs. This means you have to get there early.
2) You do not have to back your car onto or off of the ferry, which was a great relief to me, having had to do that once in Greece.
3) There seems to be no discernible advantage to buying tickets in advance, but that could be just the day I was traveling, so no guarantees there.
4) Just because the ride is smooth one way does not mean that the boat will not rock on the way back.
5) Looking at the horizon is a good way to deal with a rocking boat. Coke is better.
6) If traveling from Connecticut to Long Island via ferry, go early and come back late. Otherwise you spend your whole day at the ferry ports, on the ferry, or trying to get back to the ferry on time.
7) Conveniently, if you don't schedule yourself well enough to catch your preferred ferry, there is a Barnes and Noble within fifteen minutes (where I stopped first when I realized I was cutting it way too close to catch the early ferry I'd intended).

Lessons about scheduling dinner with people who are coming in from out of town:

1) Work out the geography in advance, so as to maximize the amount of time spent with friends and minimizing the amount of time traveled.
2) Tell others what time you need to leave, and they will actually help you watch the clock. (Thanks Trenton!)
3) Order an appetizer in place of a meal and carry cash. (This worked excellently well, since I usually don't carry cash, but had thought of it in advance--although people were kind enough to offer to cover me, I succeeded at independence!)
4) When hanging out with folks from Margaret Weis Productions, feel free to talk about anything over dinner (including bizarre delicacies from other parts of the world that might normally spoil dinner), because everyone enjoys the conversation. The "create your own porn star name" game also goes over well.

In short, aside from spending quite a long part of my day chasing ferries and not getting to hang out nearly long enough with the folks from MWP, I had a fabulous time having dinner with them last night. Jamie Chambers (editor extraordinaire) took photos, so I'll hopefully be able to put those up in the near future. It was also great to see Lindsay Archer and her husband Trenton, who I've only ever had the chance to hang out with once before in person, but who are the type of people who, every time I hang out with them, I wish I could hang out with them more. :)

Links!

Mar. 17th, 2008 09:58 pm
alanajoli: (scc-writers-strike)
Several fun/interesting links today.

First, Jennifer Estep, who is the author of Karma Girl (which I blogged about) and Hot Mama (a semi-sequel), is having a contest on her blog to give away copies of the books and t-shirts. She's also now on [livejournal.com profile] fangs_fur_fey, and will shortly be taking over the world. Just in case you wanted to prep for that.

PW blogger Rose Fox wrote an interesting post today about the weakening divide between YA and adult fiction, particularly in SF/F. She also quotes [livejournal.com profile] janni's recent rant about adult authors who are shocked by YA topics. If you've been following that conversation (or [livejournal.com profile] sartorias's recent blog on the same, which was also quite good), it's definitely worth the read.

I don't know that the boundaries are shrinking so much as that they were a little artificial to begin with. Many of the books that were shelved in the YA section I grew up with (which I loved and was very lucky to have) were probably originally marketed to adults, and many books about teens are shelved in adult fiction. I don't know that the distinction between the two needs to be bolder--but I think adults should make the realization that a lot of YA fiction might also appeal to them, which might make them less shocked at the content (or might help them understand modern teens a little better)...

Courtesy of Neil Gaiman's blog, we have a report from The Onion about the Novelists Guild of America strike, which has apparently affected no one. (It's a bit scathing in its satire, but funny none the less.)

Lastly, Stacia Kane posted a wonderful conversation with her six year old daughter that is just about the epitome of geek parenting on League of Reluctant Adults.

As for me, I got done with this round of editing my Serenity adventure for Margaret Weis (whose changes were all dead on--I only disagreed about one, she countered with reasons why it wouldn't work, one of which was roughly "Joss is boss," and I was convinced). Tomorrow, on to some Steampunk Musha work I've been putting aside for months (I'm still working on it Rick!) and some overdue reviews that I've been meaning to turn in. But for now, I'm going to go finish By Venom's Sweet Sting.
alanajoli: (Default)
Even though I've been busy, the reading doesn't stop. Along with what I've read and reviewed for [livejournal.com profile] flamesrising, I've picked up a number of od books lately, and tonight finally got around to watching Waitress with Kerri Russell and Nathan Fillion. It may not appeal to everyone, but it's funny and dramatic and accomplishes exactly what it set out to do. I really enjoyed it, and have even more respect now for Andy Griffith than I had previously. (Really, I think he must be a pretty cool man. And even if he's not, I'm going to think that about him.)

As far as books go, I recommend picking up Alcatraz and the Evil Librarians, not because there's actually a conspiracy mind you (not that the librarians with MLAs at my library have informed me of, anyway, though now I'm a little more suspicious of that degree program than I was before). It's just a really fun book, and I think Brandon Sanderson ([livejournal.com profile] mistborn) found a great voice for telling the story. Or Alcatraz found a really good agent for dictation in Sanderson. Whichever.

I also recommend picking up Skullduggery Pleasant, which is a fabulous book about alternate societies of wizards and magical creatures told in a very Irish voice, and features absolutely quotable banter. It's really, really entertaining, a little bit scary, and a whole lot of adventure. Oh, and the title character is a talking skeleton. To quote the cover, "And he's the good guy." Definitely excellent stuff.

I'm also back reading Eberron novels (most recently Rise of the Seventh Moon) and am continuously surprised and pleased at the depth of the themes the novels cover. They're not just sword-and-sorcery novels, they're novels with deep moral quandaries, questions of faith, and ethical dilemmas. I don't know if the line was planned that way or if they just had several authors all interested in those themes, but I love how often the deep topics crop up.

On my book stand currently are: Confessions of a Part Time Sorceress by Shelly Mazzanoble, whose articles for Dragon have been excellent; In the Serpent's Coils, which I should have read when it first came out and am just now getting the chance; Persepolis 2 by Marjane Satrapi; Art and Experience in Classical Greece, which may or may not be useful for the upcoming Greece and Turkey trip; and also for the trip, Do Kamo, Saving the Appearances by Barfield, and a children's book of Greek gods that I used to read when I was little. I'll soon be adding the newest Percy Jackson book to that stack as well.

As a quick note, I will be attending I-Con in New York as a patron, in order to see the folks from Margaret Weis Productions (including Lindsay Archer!) while they're in town. If you are also going and have recommendations about things to do/see at the convention, please do send them my way. :)
alanajoli: (Default)
Margaret Weis is editing my Serenity adventure. Tee hee!

And now, back to being a consumate professional.

Follow up

Feb. 8th, 2008 11:12 pm
alanajoli: (Default)
I just wanted to thank everyone for the congratulations in the notes to my entry about getting selected for the MWP project. Your encouragement was really a buoy in the current crashing waves of deadlines, and I appreciate it!

And as a second quick entry, [livejournal.com profile] melissa_writing and [livejournal.com profile] frost_light both had brilliant February 5th entries on subjectivity in publishing. It's always heartening to see that people who are enjoying success had to struggle for it, just like the rest of us who are flailing away, hoping to place our work. The entries are definitely worth reading, so pop over.
alanajoli: (Default)
My deadlines have reared their ugly heads. They pace back and forth, watching as I scramble, my fingers raging against the keyboard, brow dampened with sweat, stomach twisted with anxiety. Also, we had two super cloudy days, which sapped all my motivation--this only adds to the anxiety when I manage to come back to myself out of the gloom. Add to this that before I got the contract from MWP I'd planned my social life for the month (yes, lots of D&D, as that's pretty dominantly how I socialize), and you can imagine that I'm going a little nuts trying to fit it all in. So, my poor journal has gotten left behind!

To give you the quick update (if you're not already listening to Secret Identity Podcast, where I guest host the gaming segment Action Point Counter Point with evil mastermind Max Saltonstall of Anonycon and Secret Identity super star Brian LeTendre, and which just had its 100th episode--congrats, guys!), I have one week to get a draft done of my Serenity adventure. The working community over at MWP is just awesome: they have community boards that aren't quite the same as forums, where you can upload all of your progress and edit joint documents. Thus far, I've suggested art-work to be featured in the adventure and have posted my original pitch. Tomorrow I'll start inputting my actual work into the template and hope that my progress goes quickly!

The reason I haven't gotten further on that is that I've also got three assignments for reference projects due this month. One is technically due in March, but since I'll be at DDXP over the deadline, it needs to be finished before I go. Which means you're probably not going to hear much from me the rest of the month, except in short spurts.

Since I do have guest blogs ready to go, however, you may start seeing those this month as planned. Writers in the line-up include Melanie Nilles ([livejournal.com profile] amsaph), the founder of [livejournal.com profile] fantastic_realm; Mark Vecchio, faculty at Simon's Rock College and mythology expert; Lora Innes of The Dreamer, who is one of my comic buddies from over at DrunkDuck.com; and Carrie Vaughn, author of the "Kitty the Werewolf" series. So stay tuned! Good things are happening, even though I'm vaguely in absentia.

And don't forget to keep up with Cowboys and Aliens II, as exciting things are happening over there, as well. I can promise you some real action coming up--hand to hand, even! We also appreciate all the folks who vote for us on Buzz Comix and Top Web Comics, as the more attention we get, the happier we (and our publisher) are. :)
alanajoli: (Default)
That'd be me! I just heard back from the illustrious Jamie Chambers this afternoon, and my adventure pitch was selected as one of the ones that will be featured in the upcoming Serenity Adventures. It's exciting for me because not only do I get to do work for some great people (Jamie and Renae and the rest of the Margaret Weis Productions clan are wonderful and open people who have always been very encouraging when I've seen them at conventions), but I get to work on a great property. It's like fan fiction, only different!

At any rate, the deadline is pretty tight, which means that my relatively low-key February has suddenly become jam-packed. (Funny how the addition of just one extra deadline can do that to a person.)

I may need more peanut butter and chocolate to make it through. Hmmm...

(Yes, I'm feeling much better than yesterday. Yesterday peanut butter and chocolate didn't even sound good, which is an easy way to tell that I'm sick--as any other time, it's my favorite ever food combination.)
alanajoli: (Default)
I just found out that Lindsay Archer, who did all of the art for Into the Reach and Departure (as well as my lovely icon), has been featured at Margaret Weis Productions. Hurrah! You can see a lot of Lindsay's work over at DeviantArt.com.

In other news, non-scripted TV got rated very highly last week, and the article I read seemed to say that was a bad thing for the Writer's Strike. Thing is... since all of the scripted shows were reruns (except Desperate Housewives, which was number five in the most watched category), is it any surprise that the new reality shows that were just premiering got high ratings?

*sigh*
alanajoli: (Default)
Now that Departure: The Final Edit (subtitle is a joke, just to be clear) is in the hands of the fabulous Shawn Merwin, I'm trying to catch up on assorted other projects, including reading what everyone has been doing lately on their livejournals. This is a particularly good one that I had previously missed from [livejournal.com profile] amieroserotruck: A haiku review of Dragons of Autumn Twilight. It's just awesome.

In other news, [livejournal.com profile] shanna_s has proposed January as an alternate NaNoWriMo month, as it has no holidays in it and you could even use novel writing as a resolution! She's still calling for folks who are interested to drop her a comment, and she may actually organize a whole support-group style community. Since I'm looking to start a novel after book three is done and my other current projects are wrapped up, this may indeed be a good way to stay inspired. Or get inspired. Either way.

--

So, now that novel two is handed off, what are my plans? Well, novel three should be in progress more than it is (I do have ten pages, but then took a break to go back to editing, which was perhaps Not My Best Plan). I also have contributions to get done for a pantheon book for White Silver, a reference assignment, and my last issue of Literature Community News. They've discontinued the newsletter next year, so Arielle Kesweder (co-owner of Virgil & Beatrice with me) and I are considering doing something similar on our currently sort of abandoned Web site. The idea is to post news, reviews, and stuff librarians and booksellers can use. We'll see what it eventually becomes (or if it, like our last efforts to post regular reviews, falls by the wayside).

I'll definitely keep things posted here when that eventually comes about!
alanajoli: (Default)
Sorry for the delay in getting all of this posted. I've been struggling against the flu, which I believe I caught somewhere among all the hand shaking. This is comforting, as it means that some of the illness that I thought I was giving myself for being nervous was actually a physical ailment. I'm going to take comfort in that!

Full GenCon Report )
alanajoli: (Default)
I just wrote a wonderful entry on shared world fiction and the importance of balancing the flavor of the game with telling a good story. You will have to take my word for it that it was brilliant, because I cliked on the button next to the "tags" line, thinking it would let me insert tags, and instead took me to the FAQ section. Thus, was my entry lost to the ether, and I will some other day have to write about that balancing act.

I also said wonderful things about Edward Bolme, Matt Forbeck, and Margaret Weis. For the moment, I will just sing their praises and give no background, as I really must get back to doing other writing and can't quickly recap otherwise.

In other news, the interview with Secret Identity went extremely well, and Brian was a great host. I'll post here as soon as it's available to download.

**

Patrick Sweeney passed along an idea from Matt Forbeck, who got it from Shane Hensley, and I'm going to use it at GenCon. When you come to the booth to have me sign a copy of the novel, I'll have one of my copies of the novel sitting out for you to sign. This seems like a wonderful way to commemorate my first book signing! So please, come by. I'll have pens in eight colors.

**

Currently reading: The Tales of the Last War. I finished The Grieving Tree and thought it was a good entry as book two of a trilogy. Reading these has gotten me back in the shared world fiction mode and I think will help me keep from getting too "girly" in Departure.

I'm also currently reading the following Web comics: The Adventures of Darth Mad, which is based on Knights of the Old Republic II: Sith Lords, which I beat last week. It contains spoilers, and also only makes sense if you've played the game. But if you've finished the game, it's quite funny.

I'm also reading Rob and Elliot, which was recommended by Brian of Secret Identity.

And now I will post this before it gets eaten, like it's predecessor.

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Alana Joli Abbott

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