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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!
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I don't know if I've mentioned it here, but I love Castle. I think it's a fun, usually lighthearted mystery show, and (particularly early on), it said a lot about the writing process. There's often this moment where Nathan Fillion's character, the eponymous Richard Castle, is looking at the mystery they're solving and thinking that the details aren't consistent -- or, at least, that they don't make a very good story.

It reminds me a little bit of the Yann Martel quotes (he apparently uses the idea frequently) that he chooses to look at the world (at least in his novels) as though there is a God, because that makes the better story. But I digress.

One of the really fun things about Castle is the novels written by the fictional Castle that appear in our real world: Heat Wave and Naked Heat both hit the bestseller lists when they came out (around #16, I think), which means that the fictional Richard Castle is, in reality, a bestselling author. It boggles the mind. I really think there's a college paper here about postmodernism and the metatextuality of rewriting reality to reflect fiction or some such. In the mean time, I think it's just fun. (Jessica Fletcher of Murder She Wrote also has a number of books published under her name, though I think her success was always more modest, both in the real world and in her own TV show, than Castle's.)

It also makes me think about other fictional writers I've enjoyed in books I've read and consider how much meta-text real-world writers create with fictional writers who then ended up writing, say, short stories or something. For example, celebutante and glamazombie Amanda Feral, who used a "ghost writer" ([livejournal.com profile] mdhenry) for her memoirs but writes smut on her own. There have to be other authors doing this -- I'd love to be reminded of any you can think of. :)

I started thinking about this today because someone brought Richard Castle, the character, to Barbara Vey's blog party today (it's mystery/thriller day!), and rather than assuming the character had been brought along in the prose, my initial thought was that whoever is responsible for the Castle twitter account had, in fact, donated something to the party! Alas, no "official" Castle presence, but the prizes and party are stellar nonetheless.
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I keep having to turn the pages of my calendar. Time stops for no writer, it seems. Unless you have one of those really nacky time-stopping devices, but those are, admittedly, tough to come by, especially in this economy.

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

--

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

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

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

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

--

Speaking of books that are out...

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

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

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

It's quite a line up! Whatever you're doing with your February, get out there and read something fun!
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Ever since the Glamazombies (Mark Henry's yahoo group) started me tracking my books for the 52 book challenge, I've been keeping a spreadsheet of the books I read throughout the year. In 2009, I read 100 even. Last year, I read 138. I do count children's novels and graphic novels in my total, but not necessarily children's nonfiction titles. I often skim chunks of nonfiction books, and I'd feel bad counting a book when I didn't read all of it. (I also haven't counted my Branford history research, despite having read two full books, because the Branford history books are more like pamphlets -- hardly reaching 60 pages. Maybe I'll count them in a batch.)

At any rate, instead of using a rating scale of 1 to 10, which is what I used my first year with the Glamazombies, I decided that a more arbitrary system would work better for me. So I've done ratings like "good," "great!" "meh," or "my eyes! my eyes!" (Not really on the last one, but I think I did have a WTF? abbreviation for one title.) One of the distinctions I've had to make for myself -- and it's one I've just had to use in my 2011 chart -- is good vs. worthy. A good, or great, or favorite book is a book I enjoy. But I recognize that not all stories are enjoyable, or intended to be so, for every person. A book can be worthwhile -- a skilled story, a make-you-think experience -- but not be any fun. Ideally, I prefer books that are both worthwhile and fun, but there has to be some acknowledgement for these worthy books that I'm glad I read, even if I'm not sure how I feel about them at the end.
alanajoli: (serenity adventures)
This is not a post about James Frey's new publishing scheme. Plenty of writers have already covered that topic (Genreville collects three excellent responses). But a conversation about said scheme with [livejournal.com profile] lyster got me thinking about my mercenary philosophy of freelancing.

It's a very Fireflyesque rule, in general. If I take an assignment where my publisher or editor dictates what the work is, then I typically anticipate it's a Work for Hire gig. This means, effectively, "I do the job, and then I get paid." I don't own the rights to the material. My publisher can take the material and run with it, edit it in a different direction, or do whatever suits their purposes. For reference articles, this is a no brainer -- I don't need a byline for short entries about authors (though sometimes I actually do get bylines). For reviews, the same is true -- though I acknowledge that while I'm a professional reviewer (I do get paid for a chunk of the reviews I write) I also take unpaid review work. I enjoy writing about books (as you may have noticed), so I do some that's pro-bono -- or pays me in kind (even if that's just a free copy of a book I'd have otherwise spent money on). Some of my free work has led to paying gigs; some of my low-paying work has led to better paying gigs. In some Work for Hire contracts, there's a possibility of earning royalties.

If I'm writing my own stuff in a world I create, however, the situation is different. I'm happy to sell publication rights, and I've had very good luck placing some of my short stories in fair-paying markets. If I'm playing in your world (whether it's writing an adventure or writing a shared-world short story), I don't anticipate additional rights. I'll take them if they're offered, but I don't anticipate them. If I'm playing in my world, I'm a lot more proprietary.

There are writers who are in this profession just to share their vision, their story, and their characters. I think art for art's sake is a noble endeavor, and maybe the purist form of our profession. But I also think it's fair to expect to receive compensation for work. To support that as a reader, I'll buy short stories on fictionwise (for example); I try to purchase books by authors I want to write more books. I've been known to purchase print copies of books I've reviewed as ARCs or e-ARCs if they really impressed me. ([livejournal.com profile] blackaire and [livejournal.com profile] mdhenry, I'm looking at you.) I donate to web comics I appreciate -- a model I love, actually, since it's a very immediate response to my appreciation for the artist's work -- and I'll buy print books of web comics (because you never know when my internet will crash and I'll be deprived of my comics). I try to put my money where my mouth is -- because someday, when I've got the possibility of royalties accruing, I hope that my readers will do the same for me.
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I started last week so well! Alas, life is busy busy busy.

I had stuff to write about, but it'll have to wait, as today is another busy day, with our Crossover Mythic Greece / Viking Saga game this afternoon, as well as a multitude of errands, and more copyediting than you can bat an eye at.

First, from last week's contest, congrats to Beverly Gordon! She's our Happy Hour of the Damned winner. Thanks to everyone who entered.

Now, for this week's contest: post your answer by Friday -- it's short by a day, but I'll try to announce on Saturday next week. This week's winner gets a copy of Angels' Blood by Nalini Singh.

So, while pondering Loki for the Viking Saga game, I thought, wow, he'd have a great twitter account. Imagine if you will:

@AesirLoki: OMG, they're throwing stuff at Baldur again. Get over it.
@AesirLoki: Srsly, I'm going to kill that kid.
@AesirLoki: So, just talked to mistletoe...

I read Blue Milk Special, a Star Wars parody web comic, and they have a gimmick for Leia that she's a twitter fiend. Most of the characters from Questionable Content actually do have twitter feeds. It's a great concept.

If you could pick a mythological figure or a fictional character to follow on twitter, who would it be? Bonus: I'll count you as two entries if you post three sample twitter entries for your choice!
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Did you all like my disappearing act? Next, I'll saw my assistant in half! But really, what have I been up to in the past month?


  • Copyediting. A lot.

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

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

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

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

  • Going to kempo with Twostripe.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

If you were stranded on a deserted island (with comfortable amenities and the knowledge that you'd be rescued within a week), what five books would you want to have in your luggage?
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I forgot to mention that my joint interview with a crew of urban fantasy writers went live on Thursday! You can find it at FlamesRising -- stop by and read the answers or leave your own!

The featured writers include Dakota Cassidy, Angie Fox, Max Gladstone ([livejournal.com profile] lyster), Mark Henry ([livejournal.com profile] mdhenry), Nancy Holzner,, [livejournal.com profile] amanda_marrone, Kelly Meding, Nicole Peeler, and Jeri Smith-Ready.

I'm delaying on my goals update for the week in hopes of being productive today. :)
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After the weekend, Amazon said to the world, "Well, we can't help but do what Macmillan says, because they have a monopoly on their own titles." (Well, that's one way to put it.) The wonderful Barbara Vey of Beyond Her Book posted about it as it was happening, with both Amazon's letter to the public and Macmillan's letter to the public side by side. Another great article on Paid Content gives a breakdown of why this is actually a much better deal for Amazon, as far as making money goes. So why the fuss? (And why hasn't Amazon put the Buy buttons back on Macmillan books yet?) Suspicion says that this was all done so Amazon can say, "Hey, it's not our fault that the mean, horrible publishers are charging too much for e-books, consumers. We tried to protect you."

Honestly, Amazon, I can protect my own wallet, thanks. I spend a pretty minimal amount on e-books, have found plenty legal e-books for free (and know there are way more available on Project Gutenberg), and I still like my print books. Consumers will ultimately be the force behind how e-books are priced, without so many shenanigans, I hope. (Correspondent [livejournal.com profile] jeff_duntemann pointed out in the last entry that he thinks 50% off of the print price is about right -- of all of the industry pros I know, he's the guy I'd expect to have a handle on this, so I have a feeling he's in the right ballpark.)

One of the things that Barbara points out that once again scares me about the power of Amazon & Kindle is that any of the free previews available on Kindle for Macmillan titles vanished from the Kindles of the folks who had downloaded them already. They're overusing that Big Brother potential, and I hope they realize folks find it annoying (and worse).

--

But on to happier things. Do you know how many book birthdays there have been lately? First, [livejournal.com profile] mdhenry had Happy Hour of the Damned come out in mass market. (There are contests all over the interwebz to support this release: see Bitten by Books as well as the Home Pages of Michele Bardsley, Stacia Kane, and fellow book birthdayer Dakota Cassidy, who just birthed Accidentally Demonic.) Nalini Singh's Archangel's Kiss, the second in her new series, is now on shelves. And in a few days, [livejournal.com profile] frost_light's first Cat & Bones spin off, First Drop of Crimson, is being released. Whew, what a lot of birthdays!

Jeaniene's publisher is actually offering a sneak peak of First Drop of Crimson over at the HarperCollins site. It's almost a full fifth of the book, so if you can't wait, check it out now. Jeaniene also does super nifty book trailers, so I'm posting one below. She's also got a contest at Bitten by Books that's worth checking out.



So, tons of new books, contests, and prizes. Is it time to go shopping or what?
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So, I've made the decision to keep the Nook. After reading an e-ARC on it with tremendous success and using it for Substrate (with bookmarks, since I hadn't figured out the notation function yet--I'll get to that), I was pretty well determined to keep it. In the last week, I discovered that the secret to making notations on side-loaded content (content not purchased/gotten from B&N) is to have them as ePub files instead of PDFs. Ah ha! What can you convert to an ePub? Word docs, PDFs, etc., etc. What program do you use to do so? The much raved-about Calibre e-book manager.

Ladies and gentlemen, we have a solution to my complaints.

Now, would I have liked to have an e-book reader that just magically had all the functionality I'd desired? Well, sure -- who wouldn't? But since it sounds like a lot of folks are using Calibre to make their e-readers work the way they want them to (including Sony Readers, though I'm not sure about Kindle, since Kindle doesn't use ePubs), apparently Calibre was designed to make machines that didn't have that magical functionality suddenly work better. I'm pretty excited.

Now, that said, a quick comparison: I got copies of Rachel Vincent's ([livejournal.com profile] rkvincent) My Soul to Lose novella from two different places when it was being offered for free as a teaser into her YA series, "Soul Screamers." One came from B&N itself in the B&N format. One came in PDF. I thought I'd look at both on my nook and compare. In short, the B&N version is much prettier, though it has a much smaller cover image when you open it. The PDF version has the same page break issues I described earlier -- they're easy enough to read around, but the B&N format fills the whole screen, so each "page turn" is a new full-screen image. I can change the font in the B&N version (two font options, five size options). The B&N version then shows me how many "pages" (as in, full screens) I have until the end of the document. In my experimenting, this could vary between 114 and 130 pages. None of the pages were numbered uniquely, the way they are in a print book or a pdf. The pdf edition might take me two clicks to get through a page, but it does have both the Nook page count at the bottom (87 pages, with two turns keeping me on the same page) and the pdf/print page count at the top of each unique print page. This doesn't matter so much to me for reading-for-fun type books, but if I were using a book for a class? I'd probably make sure I downloaded, then side-loaded, a pdf version through an alternate e-book source so I'd be citing the same pages as everyone else. For the pretty factor, though, the B&N edition wins -- it's easier to adapt, and each page turn works as a unique page in the reading experience, even if it doesn't correspond to print.

At any rate, there's my long review. If I end up having more to say later, I'll mention it!

On a tangent, did anyone else see the iPad reviews today? Was anyone else shocked that they're not using e-ink for their e-book reader function? Maybe that's impossible if you also want to use the display for other things... but to me, the e-ink display is what makes e-readers superior to reading on a computer. I was pretty darn surprised that Apple hadn't embraced it.

And now, for some author pimpage. You guys know [livejournal.com profile] mdhenry, right? The guy who writes the Amanda Feral (aka Sex in the City + Zombies) novels? His third book is coming out in February, and in part due to the recession (and possibly in part due to the success of similar campaigns for network TV shows), he's sponsoring a "Save Amanda Feral" campaign. Click the banner below to find out more!

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Some of you may have caught the two columns I wrote for Flames Rising (with the intention of writing several more) about the differences in the types of paranormal romances and urban fantasies that make up the scale of books inside the boundaries of the genre (or expanding them). After a conversation with my library boss, I decided to start putting together a big ol' list and synopsis of sub groupings for her, since it's what I read, and I recommend a lot of titles to our patrons. Just because someone digs vampires in Sookie and Anita Blake doesn't necessarily mean it's the vampires they're after -- in fact, the last person I was giving recommendations to started out from those two series and ended with, "Actually I'd like to have something a little more light hearted and funny," and so I sent her in the direction of [livejournal.com profile] shanna_s's Enchanted Inc. So in my list, I'm trying to suss out the qualities that might attract someone to a novel -- maybe they are vampire crazy, but maybe they're looking for something snarky with a Sex and the City vibe (in which case they need Happy Hour of the Damned by [livejournal.com profile] mdhenry). Maybe what they loved about Jim Butcher's Dresden Files was actually the private investigator angle, in which case you could go with [livejournal.com profile] devonmonk's Allie Beckstrom books, the Connor Grey series by Marc del Franco, of [livejournal.com profile] blackaire's Nocturne City series. (There are actually scads of PIs in urban fantasy -- I've just named a few.) Do they want an urban fantasy series with a con artist? Try the WVMP novels by Jeri Smith-Ready. And from there, if they love the radio angle, try Carrie Vaughn's Kitty the Werewolf books or [livejournal.com profile] stacia_kane's Megan Chase series. Maybe they totally dug the government agency aspect of Hellboy and B.P.R.D. in the comics, in which case, they should be reading [livejournal.com profile] antonstrout's Simon Canderous series. I could keep on this thread for some time -- the point is, while some people are vampire nuts, a lot of UF and Paranormal Romance readers might get a kick out of different aspects of the novels than just vampires vs. werewolves -- which is sort of a non-UF reader way to boil it down.

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

(Of course, I disagree with his looking down on Paranormal Romance, but that could be a whole other entry.)
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A few thoughts and gift ideas for the holidays and beyond:

  • Remember, today is the last day to bid on anything over at the [livejournal.com profile] kickstart_tu Auction. I put up a pair of Christopher Paolini books yesterday (one of which is a signed copy of Eragon), if you or anyone you know is interested.



  • Already read Jane Austen modified by zombies and sea monsters? Try mummies! Vera Nazarian of [livejournal.com profile] norilana has co-written and published Mansfield Park and Mummies. Perfect for the Austen reader with a sense of humor. If even a portion of the PP&Z or S&S&SM crowd purchases the title, it'll be a smash success for the Norilana Books.


  • I just discovered through Mark Henry's Save Amanda Feral contest that his Road Trip of the Living Dead is now on bargain sale at amazon.com (which means you can buy both of his books for the low low price of $16.20 together!). If you haven't yet read the Amanda Feral novels and you love snarky zombies with a Sex and the City vibe, these are definitely worth picking up. (Happy Hour of the Damned, the first book in the series, comes out in mass market in early February, and the third book, Battle of the Network Zobmies, will be available a few days later. The amazon preorder pages are linked here.)


Happy book shopping!
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I keep a release list on Google docs of all the upcoming books that I want to purchase. Sometimes, "upcoming" turns into "missed that pub date last month," sadly. I also keep an excel spreadsheet of all the books I've been reading (which I started because the Glamazombies, Mark Henry's mailing list community, put up spreadsheets for everyone to track their reading on the 50 Book Challenge during the first six months of the year; most of us had hit 50 by the time we quit tracking). It helps when I have to come up with a book to nominate for an award or recommend to a friend.

While I manage to be behind on other things over the past few weeks, I've been keeping up with reading. Sometimes sitting on the couch with a book seems like the only thing I can manage to accomplish. (Well, that, or watch The Guild, Felicia Day's web show that I've finally gotten around to watching; I'm somewhere in season 2.) So, two lists: first, a short recap of some of the books I've read in the last few weeks, and second, a list of the books I just bought today.


  • Dead Girl Walking and Dead Girl Dancing by Linda Joy Singleton. This is a great YA series about soul swapping, starring likable narrator Amber who just happens into other people's bodies. While she does get sage wisdom from her grandmother, a kind of celestial bureaucrat, she also has to face off against Dark Lifers who want to drain her soul.
  • The Mermaid's Madness by Jim Hines. Second in the Princess series, the novel features our trio of heroines facing off against another princess -- the little mermaid. In order to save Queen Bea, the three princesses have to confront the mermaid and convince her to release Bea's soul -- or take it from her. The book is just as much fun as the first volume, and some of the story lines that started in book one are gaining new developments.
  • On the Edge by Ilona Andrews. Ilona and Gordon are doing it again -- raising the bar on what I expect in their genre. On the Edge is closer to paranormal romance than the Kate Daniels series, but like the Kate novels, there's a lot of great world building and mythology-mixing going on here. Also: it's smexy.
  • Soulless by Gail Carriger. This definitely lived up to my expectations -- except perhaps that there weren't quite enough dirigibles. (The sequel promises more!) There was actually quite a bit more romance than I'd anticipated, as well, but I think Carriger mixed all her subgenres (and there are several) successfully. Definitely fun.


As for today, I brought home:


  • My Soul to Take by Rachel Vincent
  • Demon Inside by Stacia Kane
  • Thorn Queen by Richelle Mead
  • Unbound (anthology, including Jeaniene Frost and Melissa Marr)
  • Rosemary and Rue by Seanan McGuire


In the mail, two preorders also arrived:


  • Unseen Academicals by Terry Pratchett
  • Heat Wave by Richard Castle


Which means, with the exception of a few anthologies, the most recent Succubus book by Richelle Mead (which came out back in June!) and Rampant by Diana Peterfreund (which wasn't on the shelf today), I'm nearly caught up with everything that's come out that I had on the list. There are, of course, others I'd like to own... and my TBR pile is still stacked ridiculously high... and I have review titles that are still not reviewed... but these are really small obstacles to overcome!
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Nope, not a contest from me today (though I should probably do another one soon). This is a contest from Ilona Andrews to promote her new On the Edge, a series starter paranormal romance. Not only is she doing a media blitz contest (linked above), it's a pre-contest to promote the Bitten by Books contest coming up next week. Double the contest, double the fun?

One of the things I found most interesting about Ilona's contest is the top prize: getting to be a beta reader (without the pressure of offering critiques) for six months. The idea of being a beta for a published author is getting to be a more popular idea, I think, and it's a trend that interests me. Brandon Sanderson posts chapter excerpts over at [livejournal.com profile] mistborn; Dylan Birtolo does the same at [livejournal.com profile] eyezofwolf. Lora Innes just introduced a Fan Flow group for The Dreamer on a subscription basis. I believe that Michele Bardsley gives her "minions" free content as well. The Glamazombies used to get a paragraph a week of spoliery goodness from Mark Henry, which I imagine will start up again in the future.

So, what is going on here? This seems different from the usual technopeasant wretch business. This is *pre* published writing being shared, letting readers in on the whole writing process. Any of you writers out there doing this sort of thing -- how does this impact your writing? Readers who are in on the pre-pub end -- how does this impact your reading? I think this is a trend to watch, and I'm curious who else has noticed it and what they think is happening.

In the meantime, check out Ilona's contest on the 28th at Bitten by Books.

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Between a blog entry of [livejournal.com profile] amsaph yesterday and a contest and interview of [livejournal.com profile] mdhenry, I've come to a realization. If urban fantasy authors weren't so prolific online and so incredibly friendly to fellow bloggers, I don't think I'd even be reading the genre.

No, seriously.

YA paranormal is sort of a different beast--I've been reading contemporary fantasy in the jfic and the YA sections since I was itty, either with children getting sucked into a fantasy world or having strange things happen to them because they picked up a magic coin. It's not a far stretch from those to books about kids with paranormal abilities, and from there, books with teens whose lives are intersecting with a supernatural world all around them. YA paranormal as a whole has always had a shape--real world kids interacting with crazy paranormal stuff.

Urban fantasy, however, seems to be the heir of a couple of different venues, but a lot of the tropes are born out of the horror genre. As a kid, I never liked horror. I don't like to be scared, and I've never liked scary movies. The word "thriller" tells me I need to avoid the product. But the majority of my reading these days includes zombies and vampires and werewolves--all traditional folk creatures that have run wild in the *horror* genre, and none of which, as creatures, would have encouraged me to pull a book off the shelf as little as three years ago. But when I started following [livejournal.com profile] fangs_fur_fey back at the beginning of 2007 (maybe the end of 2006), not only were all of these great writers posting exciting things about using folklore, their writing processes, and just general fun stuff about their lives, they all seemed to be really cool people. And that personal connection is apparently what I needed to really start actively seeking out UF. (And of course now there are the Deadline Dames and the League of Reluctant Adults, which I'm following a little more regularly than FFF these days.)

[livejournal.com profile] lyster and I were talking not too long ago about internet presence driving book sales, and I'm coming to acknowledge that I'm the market share--I'm a person who definitively buys books based on my web familiarity with the writers, and I'll even wholeheartedly embrace a genre that wasn't really my thing if as a community, they're really awesome. It's an interesting way to think about what I read.
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What is it about writers that makes them want to give stuff away to us, their devoted readers?

You all know I'm a sucker for contests, but it's been a good year for me that way. I've won a number of books this year, have received plenty of books and advance reader copies to review, and have shared book costs with friends who have similar reading tastes. I still buy a lot of books, because I still hold to my bookstore mentality of book buying (buying books is a good thing!), but I've cut way back on my spendy tendencies. I even used a gift card to buy movies instead of books at one point this year, which is a real rarity. (The Great Muppet Caper was just calling me... I hadn't seen it in ages...)

Lately I've noticed that writers have really upped the stakes of their contests. Over at Bitten by Books, the prize isn't always an ARC, sometimes it's an amazon gift card (one of which I was lucky enough to win, from the lovely [livejournal.com profile] stacia_kane). Individual authors have also increased their winnings: [livejournal.com profile] mdhenry offered the Zombie Stimulus Package with a proof of pre-order of Road Trip of the Living Dead (which theoretically, you could still enter--the release date is tomorrow, and that's when the contest winners will be announced). Mark offered gift certificates for dinner and a movie (worth $75), coffee and gas (worth $25), and a third prize of urban fantasy novels he's accumulated. To celebrate her upcoming release of Angel's Blood on March 3rd, [livejournal.com profile] nalini_singh is giving away a $100 gift card to any bookseller she can easily buy a gift card from. It's a new series for her, and she's definitely launching it with a bang!

So, what's the verdict? Are authors just incredibly generous folks? Are they desperate to get their books into your hands? Did it work yet? We know I'm a sucker for this sort of thing--and I really hope that it works in favor of the generous writers who are putting themselves out there to reach their readers!

http://nalinisingh.blogspot.com/2009/02/countdown-to-angels-blood.html
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Monday is a big day for two friends of the blog: Anton Strout ([livejournal.com profile] antonstrout) and Mark Henry ([livejournal.com profile] mdhenry) are both having book birthdays! In honor of their forthcoming sequels, I debated long and hard about whose previous book I'd take a quick excerpt from. Both of them write tremendous urban fantasy, drawing on different aspects of real world folklore, legend, scholarship, and mythology. In the end, Anton won this one, in large part because my copy of Mark's first book, Happy Hour of the Damned, is still in the possession of one of my gentle blog readers.* So rather than getting an excerpt about leprechauns, chupacabras, and wendigo all at the same Seattle bar opening,** and a short discussion on use of footnotes in fiction in my header***, today you're going to get a quick recollection of my own experience reading Dead to Me and a short excerpt from Anton.

I read Dead to Me while I was on the Turkey and Greece trip. The mix of comedy, action, and real-world references to scholarly movements in art and literature fit remarkably well with my own mindset on the trip. We were, after all, on a fairly action packed trip that was a bit more on the scholarly side and a bit less on the action than the novel, but the mix reflected well. On several of the ferry trips over the course of the tour, we played games like Password. At one point, the word given to the clue givers was "surrealism" (which, for the record, is practically an impossible Password clue; I generally don't recommend it). Thankfully, Dead to Me features a crash course on the Surrealist movement, and my partner and I handily won the round, much to the astonishment of the rest of the group. Frankly, basking in the astonishment was worth more than the points we earned! It probably earned me extra real-world points in the "our TA knows her stuff" category, and I owe it all to Anton!

My hope is that one of these days, I'll convince both of these excellent writers to do a quick original guest blog piece, but until then, here's a short excerpt from Dead to Me (below the double dash). And remember, Deader Still and Road Trip of the Living Dead go on sale on Monday. Pick them up!

* You know who you are.
** You'd have gone, too. What a crowd!
*** Because I really can't seem to talk about Mark's novels without using footnotes. It's contagious or something.

--

"You know I have a somewhat shady background in art history so bear with me for a moment if I get all lecturey. When you have my ability, you take an interest in the art world. But Surrealism wasn't just an art movement; it was a serious way of life for people. To that point, there was a huge blowup, in the thirties I believe, between two of the leading fathers of the movement, Salvador Dali and Andre Breton."

"I've heard of Dali," Jane said. "He did all those creepy stilt-legged animals and melting watches, right? I think I've seen them at MOMA, but I don't think I've ever heard of this Andre Breton character."

"Not surprising," I said, feeling quite juiced now that I was in my element. "Outside of the Surrealists, few people knew him, but he's a poet who was regarded as the 'pope,' as it were, of the movement. Eventually he kicked Dali out of the elite inner circle of Surrealists because he was considered too far right-wing, and if you can believe it, even too extreme for them."

"That is saying something," Connor said.

"I know," I said, nodding. "There was a huge falling-out in their circle, and it upset Dali greatly. His pissy response to it all was, 'The only difference between me and the Surrealists is that I am a Surrealist.' The whole movement started as a very literary thing, but eventually their philosophy snowballed until it became more like a religion."
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I just have to say: you livejournal people are far too interesting and difficult to keep up with. I had far more concrete writing plans for today, but spent a good chunk of the day reading other people's ljs instead.

Note: I am still not entirely caught up. But I think I'm as close as I'm going to get.

Today is a link day, in part because there's contests that require linking (and I'm a sucker for that) and in part because there were some fun Joss Whedon articles that got tossed around on my mailing lists, and dutiful Browncoat that I am, I must share them.

So, first, the Whedon:

WGA magazine has an article about Joss as a writer (and mammoth-drawer, were he a Cro-magnon) and about the Dr. Horrible phenomenon.

[livejournal.com profile] caitrin posted news about Joss's movie, Cabin in the Woods, which will apparently star Bradley Whitford. I didn't know anything about this project, so it's a nice head's up. (It's not Goners, though, which is somewhat disappointing.)

For contest number one, the Urban Fantasy Land Readers Choice Awards need your votes! There are so many good books up for awards that it's tough to narrow it down: [livejournal.com profile] devonmonk, [livejournal.com profile] blue_succubus, [livejournal.com profile] antonstrout, [livejournal.com profile] mdhenry, [livejournal.com profile] rkvincent, [livejournal.com profile] frost_light, [livejournal.com profile] blackaire, [livejournal.com profile] melissa_writing, [livejournal.com profile] stacia_kane, [livejournal.com profile] katatomic, [livejournal.com profile] ilona_andrews, Jes Battis, and Carrie Vaughn are among the nominees. The polls close on the 30th, and if you also link to the blog, you're entered for a $25 amazon gift card. Who doesn't need one of those?

And finally, the Deadline Dames (including [livejournal.com profile] devonmonk and [livejournal.com profile] rkvincent) are hosting a number of contests on the new blog, which launched on the 19th. Devon's involves setting goals--and one of mine is to post on livejournal at least twice a week. (The unreasonable expectation? Every day.) So, we'll see how I do!
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We're a week into the New Year, and I haven't really put together a list of resolutions. I'm not sure that I will. I do have a goal of forming an actual spiritual practice (rather than a haphazard spiritual observance). The same is true of my writing. I think I lost track of my apprenticeship somewhere along the way and need to get back on the right path.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Alana Joli Abbott

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