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A few great projects happening right now:


  • Margaret McNellis (@mcnelliswrites) has launched a Kickstarter for her nautical, haunted historical novel, Out of the Sea. I'm super excited for her, and the project sounds fantastic.

  • Erik Scott de Bie (@erikscottdebie), who I met back at GenCon '06, is involved in another cool Kickstarter: an anthology of short fantasy titled Women in Practical Armor. What's not to like?

  • Margaret Dunlap (@spyscribe) and Max Gladstone (@maxgladstone) are working together on the serial-fiction-in-the-style-of-a-television-series innovative project Bookburners. Max's first episode is available to read for free, so go get it!

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Bank Square Books in Mystic, Connecticut had a fantastic signing yesterday! This was the latest stop on the Big Summer Road Trip Tour with four of Tor's authors: Max Gladstone, Elizabeth Bear, Brian Staveley, and James Cambias.



It's always a delight to spend time with fellow Substrater Max Gladstone, and it was really fun to chat with Elizabeth Bear about some of the details of her "Eternal Sky" trilogy. Both Brian Staveley and James Cambias made me intrigued by their work. We all lamented how mass market paperbacks are becoming fewer and farther between (because otherwise I'd have picked up some backlist titles!). We got some excellent selections from the children's department at Bank Square Books (where we also found Waldo), and I'll be looking into sadly unsignable e-book copies of the Tor tour writers' backlist books.

A lovely time was had by all -- thanks to the four authors, a shout out to Tracey Maknis/Trinitytwo from The Qwillery, and cheers to Bank Square Books for having such a great event!
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Happy New Year! It's been some time since I posted; it was a busy year at Casa Abbott for non-writing reasons. We've welcomed baby Fish into our family, joining his sister Bug, Three-stripe, cats Jack and Tollers, and I as members of our household. But while I'm behind on many things, I've continued to read a lot! Since I posted last year and the year before about my reading goals, I wanted to post last year's results and this year's goals before 2015 progressed too far!

This year, I did not count all the picture books I read, but I did count all my review picture books individually. For the year, I totalled 163 books, which is up from last year's 129 (probably in part due to counting all the review books individually). There was a method to my madness, however: I wanted to see what percentage of titles were review books as compared to non-review books. Here's some of the interesting breakdown:

  • 89 titles were review books

  • 106 were children's or YA books

  • Only 12 were graphic novels, which is rather low

  • I read 7 romance, 69 SFF, and 2 nonfiction


I did reasonably well on my goals. The 2 nonfiction titles beat my goal to read just 1. I read 13 out of the 15 novels from my TBR pile I'd hoped to read, 4 titles by autobio writers, 6 rereads (out of a goal of 3), and read one non-genre novel.

The most interesting statistic I kept last year was print vs. digital. I surprised myself by reading 91 books in paper and 72 digitally. I thought I skewed toward e-books, so it's interesting to me that I'm not even at 50% digital reading. Some of this is due to reading for the MFAs. I rely heavily on the library to provide me with MFA reading, and though some are available as e-books, most are more readily available in print.


Highlights of the year?
  • Rereading Max Gladstone's Three Parts Dead--and seeing it make the MFA finalists list--was great fun. It's been especially fun to read more of the Craft books, both post-publishing and in mss format, in combination with playing Max's Craftverse game Choice of the Deathless. Without the books being required for the game and vice versa, they work so well in conjunction!

  • Finishing Devon Monk's "Allie Beckstrom" series was bittersweet, but starting the "House Immortal" books makes me confident there's more excellent reading to come.

  • I had the fantastic opportunity to interview Gene Luen Yang for the autobio project, and I read The Shadow Hero and Boxers and Saints in preparation for that. They were both some of my favorite reading for the year, for very different reasons. I'd recommend The Shadow Hero to anyone, but especially readers who have a fondness for Golden Age superheroes. Boxers and Saints is a fabulous moral and ethical investigation of a historical period with a lot of magical realism thrown in, and I found it both enjoyable and tremendously moving.

  • The biggest surprise read was probably Eleven by Tom Rogers. It's a book about 9/11, mostly from the perspective of a boy who's just turned 11, and it's fantastic both as an exploration of the event through fiction for middle graders and as a coming of age story. It was also pretty wild to realize that 9/11 happened before the middle grade age group was born--so it qualifies, on some level, as historical fiction.

  • I'd also recommend without reservation the Super Lexi middle grade books by Emma Lesko. Lexi is neurologically and developmentally different from her peers, which makes her a fascinating POV character, and Lesko's commitment to neuro-diversity in children's books shows in how beautifully she captures Lexi and makes her so easy to empathize with.

  • I loved finally finishing Shanna Swendson's "Enchanted, Inc." series, which for ages looked like it wouldn't get to continue beyond book four. (I'd still read more books in that world!)

  • I'm also really eager to see where the "Kate Daniels" (Ilona Andrews) and "Safehold" (David Weber) books end up next!


There were, of course, a lot of other great books, but listing them all would be fodder for TLDR (if I haven't already hit that point).

I was pretty happy with this year's goals, so I'm planning to keep them the same. Here's to another year of good reading!
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As I just posted over at the Substrate blog, congrats to Max on his Campbell nomination! As I mentioned in my last post, there's been some complaint about a lack of diversity among the Hugo nominees, but there's nowhere that that's less true than the Campbell slate. Here's the list:


  • Wesley Chu

  • Max Gladstone

  • Ramez Naam

  • Sofia Samatar

  • Benjanun Sriduangkaew


I'm actually reading (and enjoying) Samatar's Stranger in Olondria in my current pile (which is divided among review books, jury books, and picture books...), and Chu's Lives of Tao/Deaths of Tao look right up my alley. Naam is a computer scientist and futurist as well as an SF writer, and though I'm not usually a thriller reader, I'm definitely intrigued by his profile. Sriduangkaew got nominated on the strength of her short fiction; according to other blogs that I've read, that happens very rarely. Regardless of who wins, the future of SF is bright!

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Speaking of the future being bright, in July, my so-far favorite of Max's Craft-verse books, Full Fathom Five, comes out! Better yet, you can read the first five chapters at Tor.com right now!
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Only 11 days until Hugo Nominations are due, and I'm still sorting through my list of titles, deciding what I'm going to nominate, figuring out what authors I read compulsively had titles out in 2013, etc., etc. I'm used to nominating for the Mythopoeic Fantasy Awards, which require a single-book nomination to stand alone, so entries in the "Kate Daniels" series or the "Kitty the Werewolf" series aren't eligible. Not so with the Hugos! The stand-alone quality is not a judge of merit. (Notably, I'm behind on the Kitty books, which is why I haven't listed one below. I've no doubt that the two published in 2013 are awesome and worthy of consideration!)

Taking into account what a "typical WorldCon voter" is expected to be like (see Jim Hines on Larry Correia on Alex Dally MacFarlane; my comment is, of course, tongue in cheek), here are some of the pieces and people currently on my whittling-down list:

Campbell eligible:
Max Gladstone
Shawna Mlawski
Mark H. Williams
Brian McClellan

Short stories:
"Drona's Death" Max Gladstone, xoxo Orpheus
"The Best We Can" Carrie Vaughn, Tor.com
"Stranger vs. the Malevolent Malignancy" Jim Hines, Unidentified Funny Objects 2
“The Life Expectancy of Cockroaches” by Michelle Muenzler, Crossed Genres
"Galatea Odysseus" Madeline Miller, xoxo Orpheus
"The Squid Who Fell in Love with the Sun," Ben Loory, xoxo Orpheus

Novels:
Two Serpents Rise by Max Gladstone
Sleepless Knights by Mark H. Williams
Pen Pal by Francesca Forrest
Codex Born by Jim Hines
Promise of Blood by Brian McClellan
Cold Copper by Devon Monk
Magic Rises by Ilona Andrews
Hammer of Witches by Shawna Mlawski

Graphic novels:
RASL by Jeff Smith
Saga vol 2 by Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples
Hawkeye vol 1 by Matt Fraction and David Aja

Editors:
Moshe Feder
Marco Palmieri
Stacy Whitman
Erika Tsang

Dramatic Long Form:
Choice of the Deathless by Max Gladstone -- notably, this is an interactive novel game app, which may mean this isn't technically the category for it, but there's some buzz this year about nominating games for this category, and I'm all for that.

I'm still poking around the Internet to make sure I haven't miscategorized 2013 titles in my head as belonging to other years. What books and stories are appearing in your nominations lists (if you're voting), or which would you pick (if you're not)?
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I've sent in my final nominations for the Mythopoeic Fantasy Awards jury that I've been serving on for the last few years, and I just got the e-mail that Hugo Award Nominations are open. Exciting stuff! I'm not shy about sharing books I love here, but I'm not always up on what's eligible and what's not. Here are a few highlights of folks and books I think deserve to be recognized (with the note that I have not fully researched their eligibility):

  • Fellow Substrater Max Gladstone is in his second (and last) year of eligibility for the Campbell award. His novel Two Serpents Rise is eligible for Best Novel. There is no question in my mind that he's getting nominations for both from me. Go Max!

  • I'm not sure if Shana Mlawski is eligible for the Campbell, since her first novel is a YA, but if she is, she's also on my list. I'm a little surprised there's no YA/children's category for the Hugos, but I guess that's what the Nortons are for. Shame I'm not an SFWA member (one day!) and thus can't weigh in on those.

  • Mark H. Williams's Sleepless Knights is both brilliant and, I believe, eligible. I'm pretty sure he could be nominated for the Campbell also; it's his debut novel, but he is also a playwright and television writer, and I don't know how that plays out with the Campbell award.

I have to go back through my list and figure out which books I read last year were actually published in 2013 so I can determine what's eligible. I read so much stuff for review before it comes out (and catch up with so many books in the couple of years after they're published) that I always have to go back and look.

Who are your nomination choices this year? Who should I be paying attention to who's eligible for stuff? (And please, don't be shy about recommending your own books!)
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There it is, folks! Lindsay Archer finished the cover art, and I could not be happier with her work. If you're interested in getting prints of her other projects, I noticed she has a number of things on sale at her store right now -- it's worth browsing through just to see her other projects!

And with that, I just have some random thoughts from an extra-tired weekend.
  • My characters really need to stay out of other people's worlds while I'm dreaming. First Lydia and Kennerly were on a train facing off with a changeling magician (reminiscent of Xen'drik) and the next night, Taru and Nara were in the middle of bad things happening in Skittersill, a bad neighborhood from Max Gladstone's Two Serpents Rise. They're really not equipped to handle such things...

  • As I was losing coherent thought, I wondered what it might be like if, in times of tiredness nearing dreamstate, you also lost your coherent physical structure. Would some people wander about with fuzzy edges all the time? Would the best rested among us have sharply defined exteriors?

  • Playing the voices of Elsa and Anna from Disney Frozen at the request of Bug has led me to wonder about the history and future of Arandell. According to my improvisational dialog, Anna's idea of national defense is to have Elsa craft an army of snow monsters, while Elsa prefers creating situations in which friction is reduced (as if gliding over ice), and conflict can be avoided. I also wonder what kind of adventure Rapunzel and Eugene had during the summer freeze that got them stuck with the rest of the courtiers attending the coronation. I suspect it was one of their first official state visits (what with neither of them having any sort of international relations training prior to marriage), and that they probably got up to some trouble preventing the Duke of Weaselton from getting away with something dire while Elsa and Anna were otherwise occupied...


I got to write about Frozen over at Questia, and I've been having fun with webcomic and game reviews at Black Gate Magazine. Otherwise, back to revisions for me!
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(Crossposted at Substrate)

As I mentioned in yesterday's post, I went to hear Max Gladstone read at Enigma Bookstore in November. I was playing around with my camera's video capture, and I successfully recorded Max's section of the reading. It's about twelve minutes, and if you've not had the chance to hear Max read in person (or if you've not heard an excerpt from Two Serpents Rise,) check it out!

--

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November Namesake meetup in New York
Meetup for Namesake in New York; L to R around the table: Michelle, Meg, James, Alyssa, Judy, Yamino, Sarah, Derek



I've been busy at work on Choice of Pirate, my next game for Choice of Games, and the rewrites on Regaining Home, so there hasn't been much time to keep up on blogging. (Except, of course, on Questia, where I just got to write about Wonder Woman and the Bechdel Test, and Cengage Brain, where I wrote about the Beatles new bootleg track releases and Amazon's future drone delivery service. You won't find anything about what's going on with me over there, but I do get to write about interesting stuff!)

I was, however, on Twitter fairly regularly at the beginning of the month, promoting the (now over and unfunded) Kickstarter for Noble Beast's classics line, which will reappear in a different form next year. Since I am not frequently on Twitter, it was completely random that I caught this post by friend of the blog Seanan McGuire:

seanan tweet

Seanan wrote about how, at Disneyland, you're going to see people of all shapes and sizes, but that while she craved being a part of fandom, much like Disney's Little Mermaid wanted to be with humans, "Then I got there, and people were nicer to me when I wore short shorts and tight shirts and pretended not to notice where their eyes went. Because yeah, maybe I sold my voice a little bit to be a part of that world, and maybe I thought it was worth it." Seanan is among SFF creators calling for fandom to be more accepting, particularly to women and People of Color. My social media circle is filled with people who are highly critical of the exclusionary feel of some areas of fandom, out of love for fandom and a desire to make us "better than we are," in Seanan's words.

I appreciate these crusaders, because I think they're improving fandom by making it more welcoming. Sometimes it seems easy to get bogged down in what's going wrong in fandom, though, so I thought I'd share some anecdotes of fandom experiences that got it right -- which are, possibly, due to the efforts of people like Seanan.Read more... )

We don't get everything right in fandom. We've got a lot of work to do to make everyone who loves what we love feel included. But there are these great moments when we get it right, and those are worth celebrating.
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Today's Friday, and it's supposed to be a guest blog day, so I was planning to write an entry about going to a fantastic reading/panel/signing at Enigma Bookstore last weekend to see Max Gladstone, Laure Anne Gilman, and Hal Johnson. But, you'll have to check back later this weekend for notes on that -- because it's the release day for Showdown at Willow Creek! The game hit the stands today, and I couldn't be more excited to have it out there in the world. To make things even more exciting, Noble Beast Classics launched its Kickstarter, and presuming it funds, I'll be writing a twisted version of The Jungle Book with shapeshifters for that project.

So, go check out the Kickstarter, and then read the fun official announcement for Showdown from Choice of Games (with the fantastic cover art, below, by Ron Chan) -- I hope you enjoy playing it as much as I enjoyed working on it!

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We’re proud to announce that Showdown at Willow Creek, the latest in our popular “Choice of Games” line of multiple-choice interactive-fiction games, is now available for iOS, Android, Kindle Fire, and, via the Chrome Web Store, Windows, OS X, and Linux.

Saddle up and defend the town of Willow Creek from nefarious outlaws and city slickers! It all starts when a rancher’s daughter goes missing, and it ends at the showdown at Willow Creek, where greed, lust, science and Mother Nature will face off at high noon.

“Showdown at Willow Creek” is the interactive western mystery novel by Alana Joli Abbott where your choices control the story. The game is entirely text-based–without graphics or sound effects–and driven by the vast, unstoppable power of your imagination.

Gamble, seduce, brawl, or shoot your way through Willow Creek, where gunslingers make the laws, and everybody has secrets. Will you romance the gambler or the soiled dove (or both)? Will you side with the scientists bringing electricity to the Old West, or with a tribe of Native American Utes? Will you unravel the conspiracy that threatens to tear the town apart, or will you light the fuse to blow it all sky high?

Note: With “Showdown,” we’re experimenting with “try before you buy” on iOS, where the first three chapters are available for free. Android and Chrome users can try the first three chapters for free on the web. You can buy the rest of the game for $1.99–the same price on iOS, Android, and Chrome.

We hope you enjoy playing Showdown at Willow Creek. We encourage you to tell your friends about it, and recommend the game on StumbleUpon, Facebook, Twitter, and other sites. Don’t forget: our initial download rate determines our ranking on the App Store. Basically, the more times you download in the first week, the better our games will rank.
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What a wacky month it's been! We had a great family vacation, a fantastic visit from my mother, and then a not-so-terrific summer-cold-gone-feral that the house is still fighting off. (Bug manages with a few coughs here and there, while Threestripe and I have been dealing with what my friend Jess calls the "Peruvian Death Cough." It's an evocative description to say the least.)

While I've been away from the blog, things have definitely been happening in the world of publishing:
  • Apple lost the e-book price fixing case (covered a bazillion places, and here by Forbes contributor Connie Guglielmo).

  • Amazon went into a price war with Overstock.com to see who could discount bestsellers the most (story broken in a Shelf Awareness article by John Mutter).

  • B&N's a mess, with its CEO resigning (he was the head of the digital initiative, which lost a ton of money, despite how much I and others love our nook devices). Again, coverage is everywhere, but here's Danielle Kurtzleben's coverage at US News and World Report.

  • Mythcon 44 happened, and the Mythopoeic Awards for 2013 were announced. I had a great time reading both the kids and adults fantasy lists this year, and can recommend every book that made the kids finalist list. I can also wholeheartedly endorse the adult list winner, which Max Gladstone had recommended to me as a web comic years ago. (I was conflicted about some of the adult finalists, but they were all solid books.

  • Speaking of Max, he's nominated for two awards this year -- the Campbell and the Legend awards. You should go vote for him. Details at his blog.




If that's not enough for one post, I also am delighted to share some thoughts on Jennifer Estep's two latest Mythos Academy installments, one of which, Midnight Frost releases today. Jennifer's been a guest blogger with this series for several installments, and I'm a fan of what she does working in world mythologies into a fun, YA mystery/adventure series. She very kindly gave me the NetGalley links for Midnight Frost and her e-novella Spartan Frost, and both were perfect additions to the developing world.

The series so far: Gwen Frost, a Gypsy who is Nike's Champion and uses psychometry, has accepted that it's her duty to fight Loki -- in this series, the big evil god -- and save the world. She has a fantastic growing sense of responsibility, despite being arrested by the supposed good guys in a previous book, and despite nearly dying by the hands of her then-possessed boyfriend in Crimson Frost (in a very Buffy vs. Angel-like encounter). It's that growth throughout the series -- accepting that this is her job, whether she likes it or not -- that makes Gwen such a great heroine to me. Not that she's getting better with a sword or that her magic's growing stronger. No, she's accepting that if she doesn't step up, the world will lose -- and if she doesn't accept her friends' help, she's going to lose. That gets intensified in Midnight Frost, where, when her boss and mentor (even if she doesn't think of him that way) Nickamedes accidentally takes poison meant for her. Despite knowing that saving him will put her into a trap set by Loki's minions, Gwen knows there's no question: she and her friends have to try to save him. And despite being burned by trusting the wrong people before, she's willing to accept new allies when the time comes. The villains in this series are still sadistic servants of an evil god -- there's no gray spectrum among them -- and most of Gwen's friends never get to experience the level of growth that Gwen's first person narration reveals about her. But that doesn't stop the series from being fun, and Jennifer does a great job of using the Chekovian guns that she sets up -- even if readers have to wait awhile for them to go off. All in all, this series keeps getting stronger, and I'm incredibly pleased that I keep getting the chance to read the books in advance. (Thanks, Jennifer!)

Success!

Jun. 17th, 2013 09:25 pm
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That's right, I'm under 30 messages in my inbox. That's a mark of success, and I'm sticking to it. I don't think it's been that way for months, and today, it happened by accident. How exciting!

In other, slightly less successful, news, I'm still in the middle of work on "Kidnapping at Willow Creek," the new Choice of Games adventure I'm writing, and I'm still at the beginning of edits on Into the Reach. We're already through June's halfway point, and I'd been hoping to finish both projects this month. Current outlook? Doubtful. I have gotten some other stuff done, though, like updating my website a little bit to reflect my new look. The old author photo's seven years old at this point, and I figured it'd be nice to actually have my headshot look like the modern me. (The photo was taken by the awesome Jason Neely, who was a coworker of mine in my days at JBML.)



In other news about moving forward, the Viking Saga group is gathering for the first time since, I think, February this weekend, so we can get back to clearing the automatons of an upwardly-mobile sorceress from Baba Yaga's hut. Because only good can come from helping Baba Yaga. Right?

Best news of the day isn't mine: it's that fellow Substrater Max Gladstone got a starred review of his upcoming novel, Two Serpents Rise, in Publishers Weekly. Go Max!

What's your good news?
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Substraters are all over the Web (and our blog). Vlad Barash has posted a new excerpt from his WIP LukOL. If you like MMOs or music or both, make sure you catch the tidbits we've got up!

Next, Madeline Miller's Song of Achilles is listed as a "great reads at a great price" for the nook!

Great Reads Great Price

If you haven't bought it yet, check it out!

Both Max Gladstone's Three Parts Dead and Madeline's Song of Achilles were chosen as must read books in the Massachusetts Book Awards, which makes them both finalists for the award. Congrats, Max & Madeline!

You can also follow some of the Substraters on twitter:
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A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away (or at least a life that was far, far different), Nat Rowe introduced me to a lot of writer types he'd gone to Yale with. Not to be outdone, I sought out some writer types from Simon's Rock, and [livejournal.com profile] notadoor/S. K. Gilman and I joined the throng of Yalies to create a very awesome and fun crit group that hasn't met in far too long.

Or, rather, that I haven't attended in person in far too long. Almost everyone in the group relocated to Boston area, leaving those of us in Connecticut and New York to our remote attendances when possible. (That's me and Thomas Scofield, for what it's worth.)

But I have been thinking about Substrate quite a lot lately, in part because I got a fantastic rejection letter (I say this without a trace of sarcasm -- it was a full on critique from the editors) from Tor.com. I'll be giving the piece I submitted another look with the help of the Substraters, and will see if I can't find a good home for it once I've applied some additional feedback to it.

The other thing that has me thinking about Substrate is, of course, Max Gladstone's release of his debut novel Three Parts Dead, which I cannot rave about enough. I loved it as a manuscript, and the physical book is a beautiful product that is even nice to hold (as you can see I'm enjoying doing in the photo below).

My first print run copy of Max's book!

So in honor of Max's publication, I cleaned up the old Substrate group blog, which had apparently been hacked by a Polish blogger. I'll be posting news about Max and other Substraters (as we have news to share) over at that blog, which does have a livejournal feed. You can follow us here at livejournal or over at Virgil & Beatrice.

And if you're in Bethesda, MD on Monday, you can catch Max at the Barnes & Noble doing a signing. More detail's on Max's page.
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Apologies for the long blog absence without warning! I was off on a family vacation that involved not one but two family weddings in beautiful Michigan. We had a lovely time, and when I returned home I jumped right into finishing up the last round of autobiographical essays, which included an original piece by Tananarive Due. Due and her husband, Steven Barnes, who has also written an autobiography for the autobio project, ought to be considered one of the power couples of the SFF world (if they're not already). They're both amazing. If you've not read either of them, you're missing out. (Luckily, their books are pretty widely available, so it's a loss that can be rectified pretty easily at your local library.)

So the last round of autobio has wrapped up, I got to do a cool secret project for Wizards of the Coast, and a computer crash didn't stop me from completing an assignment of obituaries. All in all, things are good on the work front, and I'm looking ahead to the assignments that come next! The Steampunk Musha Kickstarter's success means I'll be doing some adventure writing with Rick Hershey and maybe a short story or two coming up!

I'm also catching up on Eureka. Since my writer-buddy Margaret Dunlap worked on that show, I ponied up and bought a season pass on Amazon so I can watch it on the television. I just finished watching episode 4, which involves a scene where two characters start a D&D game, basically functioning as a step toward helping one of them cope with grief. I thought it was an incredibly touching moment and a wonderful way to celebrate the power of shared storytelling.

Speaking of writer friends, several writer friends of mine are already on to the next project, and here's their news:

  • Since in writer-time, Eureka wrapped ages ago, Margaret's been keeping busy working on a new project, the web show The Lizzie Bennet Diaries. It's a modernized Pride and Prejudice, and it sounds right up my alley. More when I've had a chance to catch up on the already-existing episodes!

  • Fellow Substrater Max Gladstone just announced his fantastic news that he's sold an additional two books to Tor. This comes on top of his first two book contract -- his debut novel releases this October and is available for preorder now.

  • I can't remember if I linked back to Francesca Forrest's "Tilia Songbird," which was published in Gigantosaurus at the beginning of May. If not, here it is! If I did, and you didn't read it the first time, I hope this inspires you to go check it out.

  • And for a celebration of meta-text, John "jaQ" Andrews just had his e-book guide to Castle come out! (It's a book about a show about a guy who writes books -- it gets awesomely circular, and I can't think of a better person to write about it than John.) Check out Quicklet on Castle Season 3, in which John has promised to explain the conspiracy behind the death of Beckett's mother.


I love good news like this!
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Okay, not really. But for the Browncoats out there, remember that convention panel where someone suggested that Joss do a Firefly musical and Summer Glau totally lit up before someone else on the panel shot it down? When Max Gladstone pitched Avengers as an opera, that was the very first thing I thought of.

Max's entry compares the use of music in a Mozart opera to the use of combat in a superhero movie with hysterical results. As you can see here:

The battles throughout the movie never pit the same group of characters against one another twice, and are careful to pit all the characters against one another at least once, even when (as in the Iron Man-Thor fight scene) the fight makes little sense in context. We don’t care, watching, because we want to see these characters, with these specific styles, fight–in the same way that even if there’s no real reason for the bass and soprano to be singing together, we won’t frown at an excellently-composed duet. In fact, it’s these duets that show us the true quality of our characters, and illuminate the tensions between them–tensions which simmer under the surface when they’re in the same room and can’t use violence and action to communicate.


If you've not seen Avengers yet (unlike some ungodly proportion of us who saw it opening weekend and sent Joss Whedon skyrocketing into household namedom), you should. It's not a perfect movie, but it is awesomely good fun, and it may be the best superhero movie since The Incredibles (which still tops my chart, followed by Iron Man -- the Dark Knight movies have actually been a little too deep for my full enjoyment and endorsement, though I fully acknowledge that they're quality films). I'll have to see it again to be sure; this time I'll be ready for that quintessential Joss Whedon moment where someone gets impaled (yes, I knew it was going to happen, and I should very well known who it would be who got impaled, because it so perfectly fit Joss's pattern, but I didn't, and I cursed the name of Whedon right there in the theater) and won't be pulled out of the story by its occurrence. But if it's anything like The Muppets, I'll like it more each time I see it.



One quick announcement -- tune in tomorrow for an excerpt from Jennifer Estep! Her new Mythos Academy book is out at the end of the month, and you can read the first in a series of blog tour excerpts right here!

Links

May. 5th, 2012 02:00 pm
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These links have been keeping tabs open in my browser until I wrote about them, so here's me clearing off my desktop:

  • My review of Grave Dance by Kalayna Price is up over at Black Gate. Spoiler: I loved it.

  • Target has decided that selling Amazon's kindle is a conflict of interest, Bryan Bishop reported over at The Verge. So, what's going on between Amazon and Target? I suppose we'll known in a few weeks – or it'll fade from the news and we won't figure it out.

  • Penelope Trunk wrote a really interesting post on Venture Beat on "Why Smart Authors Are Cutting Amazon Out." She's advocating what ends up being even more self-publishing than I usually see: effectively, be your own publisher and bookstore. I'm not sure I'm 100% behind her sentiment, but I do think it's a well-written and well-reasoned argument.

  • Tor/Forge e-books are getting rid of DRM, as announced on Tor.com and at PW. Thank you, Tor! I'd not actually noticed your DRM before, so at least you made it the kind that wasn't annoying previously. But I appreciate that you're getting rid of it entirely! (Especially as it's in time for me to buy Safehold 5 when it drops to mm price this fall, and, of course, Three Parts Dead, which is not yet listed as a nook book, but I'm assured will be.)

  • The success of Fifty Shades of Grey (the slightly-edited-to-not-be-Twilight-fanfic bestseller) is somewhat baffling to me -- PW reports that it was the top fiction seller in the country the last week of April. Smart Bitch Sarah Wendell posted with other recommendations over at Kirkus, and one of her comments made me suspect something: Fifty Shades of Grey may well be appealing to people who don't usually read or didn't previously read romance. I was reminded how I was relatively unimpressed with The Da Vinci Code when it came out, but it had huge, widespread appeal, perhaps also among people who were not typical readers or book buyers. I've nothing to back that up other than its just being a random thought. I've not read, nor do I intend to read, Fifty Shades of Grey.

  • PW also reported that B&N has just gotten into bed with Microsoft for their digital initiatives. If this means I will eventually be able to play Jade Empire on my nook (rather than my X-box), I am completely doomed.




  • Speaking of B&N, the nook's new advertising campaign (reported on by Lauren Indvik on mashable) is amusing.

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

As for now, however, I'm back to shopping around for good prices on ebooks. If you have a favorite indie ebook etailer I haven't mentioned already, I'm always up for a new place to price check!
alanajoli: (Default)
I know I've mentioned here before that fellow Substrater and fantastic writer Max Gladstone (here at lj as [livejournal.com profile] lyster has a novel coming out this fall. A few days ago (missed because I hadn't checked his blog or my Google+ feed until today), he shared his release date announcement: October 2nd of this year. (That's practically a happy birthday to me!)

He also posted the full, for-public-consumption version of his cover, which I got a sneak peek at during our last Substrate meeting and have been dying to share.



My reaction to Three Parts Dead, which I read in a couple of early drafts at Substrate, was that, even in manuscript form, it was one of the best books I read in 2009. (That year included some amazing titles by folks like Caitlin Kittredge, Mark Henry, Anton Strout, Nicole Peeler, and Neil Gaiman, putting Max in excellent company.) The world of the book is fantastic: it's a hybrid of magic and modernity in which wizards once challenged the gods for supremacy -- and largely won -- and where necromancers are organized into corporations and law firms. Main character Tara is on assignment to bring back a god from the dead (and uncover the conspiracy that killed him), accompanied by Abelard, a chain smoking priest to the dead deity. Max's agent Weronica Janczuk has the official summary here, and you can preorder the novel here. You'll certainly be hearing more about it here as the release date approaches (and once it comes out, after I've read the book in its final form!).
alanajoli: (Default)
Here is something I've learned about myself. When I am doing marketing (viral or otherwise) for someone other than myself, I have no problem bringing the topic into conversation and gushing about it. The example of the day: I am less comfortable promoting a class that I teach than a class I enjoyed taking. In the latter case, I'm recommending something to people because I think it will enhance their life experience. In the former case, I'm promoting myself, even if I am teaching the same class I'd recommend when taught by another teacher. I do the same thing with books: I, of course, love it when people read my stuff. I'm happy to tell people about what I write and what my books (now hard to find) are about. Other writers, especially folks that I know (like a certain friend whose debut novel is coming out from Tor this fall), I will plug rampantly with no shame.

Given how much my professions (teaching and writing) require me bringing the audience to my work, this realization is somewhat troubling. It is probably a good thing that I didn't go into sales.

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Alana Joli Abbott

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