alanajoli: (mini me short hair)
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!
alanajoli: (mini me short hair)
For awhile, I was burned out on vampires. I'm still not 100% back in the fold; as I told editor Rose Fox back when I was reviewing for PW, I'm running out of things to appreciate about vampire novels in paranormal romance and urban fantasy. (Which is not to say that the appearance of a vampire is enough to irk me; I don't mind vampires, but I've stopped picking up vampire novels, if that makes sense.)

Vampires are problematic. Even at their most civilized, they're either predators or parasites on humanity, and a good vampire novel should give me some cool insight into that, or insight into what it means to be a predator or parasite (if told from the vampire's point of view). That's what I'm looking for, anyway. I know the whole smexy vamp scene works for some, but there's nothing inherently cool about fangs or blood that draws me.



Unless the story is going back to vampires older than Stoker's popular Dracula icon. What prompted this post today is that I was reading a kids' folklore book about vampires for SLJ and I remembered a YA vampire novel I'd really loved--because it was based on older-than-Vlad-III Eastern European folklore. But I couldn't, for the life of me, remember the title, and since I read it before I started my book log spreadsheet, I didn't have a record to check. After some searching, I found this excellent review by Christina Chavez over at CSUF YA Book Reviews of Marcus Sedgwick's My Swordhand Is Singing. This, my friends, is the book whose title I keep forgetting, and it is an excellent and scary modern novel based on some of the spookiest vampires I've read. These walking corpses are out to kill the family members they left behind. Tricks like crossing water to prevent being chased, or throwing millet seeds because vampires can't help but stop and pick them up, feel fresh, not because they're new ideas, but because they're not as frequently used as so many other elements in vampire lore. The story is ultimately about the relationship between teen hero Peter and his father, rather than about the relationship between Peter and vampires, and I think that's part of the strength behind this book in a genre that so often identifies with the monsters instead of fighting them.

A friend posted on facebook recently about how much horror (mostly talking about film) has changed since the pre-90s creature features fell out of style. I noted that because a lot of horror and urban fantasy novels use the point of view of the monsters, the stories tend to focus on different themes:

  • identity politics (esp. for vamps and weres--what does it mean to have a secret identity as something despised by humanity?)

  • coming to terms with the drudgery of modern life (because how many of us have had jobs where we're "office zombies"?)

  • embracing/taming the violent sides of ourselves (mostly weres)

  • humans can be more monstrous to each other than any horror monsters

I love exploring those themes (and I'm sure there are others), but sometimes it's nice to sit back and watch humans be the heroes, and legitimately scary monsters be the villains. Sedgwick's My Swordhand Is Singing is satisfying for that reason, for its really excellent use of folkloric elements, and for creating a sense of historical period that feels concrete. I highly recommend it--and I hope I won't forget the title again!
alanajoli: (mini me short hair)
Back in 2008, I gave a very short but glowing review to a debut novel, Standard Hero Behavior, by John David Anderson. When I discovered earlier this year that his second novel, superhero book Sidekicked was coming out, I rejoiced, not only because it meant more by Anderson, but also because Anderson was now an online presence: he's got a blog and is on Facebook. His blog used to allow comments, so I did get to gush on how much I was looking forward to the new novel before comments were disabled. (He was very humble in response, as I recall, though I can't find proof of that now.)



Sidekicked did not disappoint. The book stars Drew Bean, the Sensationalist, a sidekick who doesn't have much in the way of combat ability; instead, he's got heightened senses, which is as much a pain on meatloaf day at school as it is when Drew is hanging over a swimming pool full of acid, waiting to be rescued. (Hey, at least he can tell you what kind of acid it is, just by smell.) When a major villain, thought to be dead, returns and frees his henchmen from the prison for supervillains, everyone is looking for Drew's hero, who defeated the villain the last time, but who has since vanished from the public eye. Drew's looking for him, too -- the man who was once his idol has left him on his own, making him less of a sidekick and more of an aside thought. It's tough to be Drew, but this young teen never gives up, and when he believes his friends are in danger, or just that someone has to do the right thing, he's willing to throw himself in the thick of things. Even when the results are disastrous.

While Standard Hero Behavior was a quest novel that ends up being as much about the relationship between father and son as it is about going on a heroic journey in a high fantasy setting, Sidekicked is about learning who -- and how -- to trust if you're a superhero in training whose Super has left the hero scene. But while I expected that mentor/mentee relationship to be the most important, it turns out that it's an entirely different relationship on which the plot hinges. I figured out the big reveal a little ahead of the characters in the book, but Anderson kept me guessing much longer than I expected.

From what I've been able to gather, Anderson is extremely under-read and under-known for the quality of his work. I think this should be remedied, so I hope you'll go check out his books, and then tell someone else about them, too. Anderson is off to a really strong start with his first two novels, and I hope that the book market will support him in publishing many more!
alanajoli: (mini me short hair)
I just heard from my editor at Kirkus Reviews about a great contest they've announced for the 80th anniversary of the periodical. I'm posting the press release here verbatim -- you should all check it out!

--



FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

MEDIA ALERT

What: Kirkus is giving away a trip for two to New York City.

Why: In celebration of its 80th birthday, Kirkus Reviews is hosting a contest to give away a literary tour of New York City. The winner will receive two round-trip tickets to Manhattan, two nights’ stay at the Library Hotel, two passes to the Greenwich Village Literary Pub Crawl, gift certificates to several of the city’s finest independent bookstores, breakfast at a round table at the Algonquin Hotel, and dinner at Public in SoHo.

How: Visit www.kirkusreviews.com/literarytour and enter one’s email address and name.

When: Entries will be accepted from Monday, September 16, 2013, until midnight on October 22, 2013. The winner will be selected on October 23, 2013.

Where: Visit www.kirkusreviews.com/literarytour to enter or learn more.

Who: Founded in 1933, Kirkus has been an authoritative voice in book discovery for 80 years. Kirkus Reviews magazine gives industry professionals a sneak peek at the most notable books being published weeks before they’re released. When the books become available for purchase, Kirkus offers the book reviews to consumers on Kirkus.com and in a weekly email newsletter, giving readers unbiased, critical recommendations they can trust.

Kirkus also has a full suite of author services, including Kirkus Indie, a book review service for self-publishers; Kirkus Editorial, book editing services for unpublished and self-published authors; and Kirkus Marketing, services that help authors get discovered by consumers as well as industry influencers, such as publishers, agents and film executives.

# # #
alanajoli: (mini me short hair)
I've been very lucky to get put on the press list for Jim Hines's Magic Ex Libris series, and it's been great that Black Gate has run the reviews. Last August, I reviewed Libriomancer, and a couple of weeks ago I submitted a review for the newest book in the set, Codex Born. Here's the beginning -- and you can click through the link to read to the end over at Black Gate.


--

There aren’t many writers who can start with the concept of a literal fantasy woman, pulled from the pages of her book to fulfill her lover’s dreams, and turn her from a slave into a complex hero, struggling to understand her own identity and to create herself as a real person. Jim Hines is one of them.

Codex Born, the sequel to Libriomancer, is narrated by fantasy book lover and magician Isaac Vaino, but in many ways the book belongs to Lena Greenwood, a dryad drawn from a pulp SF novel and Isaac’s girlfriend. Libriomancer concluded with Isaac and Lena and Lena’s girlfriend (Isaac’s former therapist) Nidhi Shah agreeing that they’d embark on a shared relationship — both Isaac and Nidhi would be Lena’s lovers, which would allow Lena, product of her book, and thus destined to conform to her lovers’ desires, a chance to become her own person by existing in the conflicting space between Isaac and Nidhi. In Codex Born, that relationship starts to play out — both Nidhi and Isaac struggle with the dynamic, but keep on trying for Lena’s sake — and Lena continues to hope that she can find a way to preserve who she is, even if something happened to Isaac or Nidhi.

Read the rest of the review.
alanajoli: (mini me)
There are few things that sap my motivation as much as having a cold, and my house got hit last week with a whopper. Threestripe and I are both on the mend, but it's been a quiet, sleepy time around the house as we've made our best efforts toward recovery. Thankfully, the Kickstarter was in its two-week quiet period after the funding was raised but during which any kinks got worked out. Luckily, we had very few kinks, and all should be progressing forward very soon. Shawn Merwin already has Into the Reach in his hands to edit, so I expect the momentum to start gaining on that project very soon.

JohnnyIcon

In the meantime, I've been following a couple of other Kickstarters, including Fireside Magazine, which got funded and now has its submissions guidelines posted for flash fiction. I'm thinking of taking a look at my 3000 word short story draft of "Retirement" and seeing if I can cut it down. It needed work anyway, and maybe reducing its size would work out some of the problems that substrater Max Gladstone helped me identify when I first wrote it. (Speaking of Max, he has a guest post on Romance of the Three Kingdoms up over at A Dribble of Ink. Check it out!)

I've also begun work on my next Choice of Game, a Western currently titled Kidnapping at Willow Creek. As that's just starting, it's fun to see Choice of Kung Fu still getting some Internet love. Club Floyd, a group that plays interactive fiction together, played through Choice of Kung Fu awhile ago, and the full link to their experience of the game is available up at All Things JACQ. If you haven't played it, this is full of spoilers -- it takes you through all of Club Floyd's decisions on how to play the game through. There are multiple endings, of course, and multiple ways to get there, so if you're interested in seeing how other people played it, this might be a fun read. (Their commentary was certainly fun for me to see!)

In addition to writing, I'm reading longlist books for the Mythopoeic Society Fantasy Awards, review books for PW and Kirkus, and I'm one of the readers for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards this year. It's the first time I'm reading for ABNA in the romance category -- I've done the YA section before -- and I'm having a great time. The two titles I've read so far were really enjoyable, and I have high hopes for at least one of those titles to make it into the final rounds. It'd be nice if the rest of my titles were as fun as the first two!

Since I can't talk about most the books I'm reading -- what are you reading now, and what would you recommend to other readers?
alanajoli: (mini me)
So, the world didn't end in December. That's just the start of the good things on my list as we're entering 2013.

Yesterday, first day of the year, I got a (small) royalty check from the sales of Into the Reach and Departure, which is a great way to start a new year off right! I checked my sales report today, and the 99 cent sale definitely encouraged people to buy the books. So hurrah for that! I'm leaving the sale open through this weekend, and after that will be putting the books up at $2.99, which is the price point that I, as a reader, will impulse buy. At any rate, I'm thrilled with the uptick in sales and am glad that people are out there reading the novels!

In addition, people have been saying nice things about Choice of Kung Fu. I don't know why it didn't occur to me that it would get covered in reviews, but I was surprised a few days after its release to see a lot of app reviews up on Google and iTunes -- by people I don't know. And most of them were nice! There were two really insightful reviews by bloggers that I thought I'd link to here: Dora at Casual Gameplay called the game "a rich, compelling narrative set against the backdrop of mystical ancient China" in her review. Tof Eklund of TouchArcade really got some of what the game was trying to do beyond just martial arts adventure; he wrote "what amazed me was seeing the Buddhist, Taoist and Confucian strains of thought, complete with their conflicts (but never categorical oppositions) that play out in the game, and seeing the opportunity to play according to those philosophies, or reject them all." I can't say how excited I am to see someone not only recognize my efforts in that direction, but to think I pulled it off.

Beyond reviews, my buddy Brian LeTendre wrote up a really nice piece about me and my work at his blog See Brian Write. I've really been enjoying Brian's web comic MoStache, and I've just (belatedly) purchased his novel Courting the King in Yellow, which promises to be full of Lovecraftian goodness. Knowing Brian as a gamer as well as a reviewer and podcaster, I know he tells a great story in person, so I'm looking forward to reading his prose!



In other news, 2012 was not an entire success: I did not make my reading goals for last year. Although I did read one non-work related nonfiction book (John "jaQ" Andrews's Quicklet on Castle Season 3, a novel by an autobio writer (The Silver Bowl by Diane Stanley, plus several David Weber novels), three rereads, several new graphic novels that weren't review books, and four kids books that weren't for MythSoc, I only read one novel outside my genres (The Orchid House by Lucinda Riley), and only drew down my physical TBR pile by two books instead of twelve.

This year, I'm setting that TBR goal higher, and repeating most of the other goals. Interestingly, out of 141 books I read (sometimes grouping together kids books and graphic novels), around 80 of those were for review for the various publications I write for. Which explains to me why maybe I missed a few of those goals I'd set for myself. To good reading in 2013!
alanajoli: (Default)
I admit, I have largely stopped doing volunteer writing. When I first started doing game-writing, I worked for free, or worked for product credit. To me, this was doing time: eventually, by doing enough volunteer work, I'd get some writing gigs. And largely, that process worked. Which meant that I stopped volunteering.

Ah, but Alana, you say. You blog. You write reviews you don't get paid for. You guest blog. You post free fiction from time to time. How does that gel with your aforementioned mercenary disposition?

In truth, it doesn't always gel, and that's why a lot of those free projects get pushed aside for contract work. But while I don't have a great answer to that question, I thought that Ilona Andrews did a fine job describing the free vs. paid conundrum here. She (or, really, they -- Ilona Andrews is a husband/wife team) are currently publishing a free serial (link on the cover image), which eventually they'll turn into an e-book for pay, but in the meantime are doing it for-the-love.



Here's where I think this works in their favor. When I get free stuff from a writer, and I like their stuff, I'm far more likely to shell out for their books, e-books, heck even t-shirts based on their work. I think a lot of free writing (blogs included) creates a sense of community, ownership, and loyalty. This is absolutely true of Web comics -- just look at the Kickstarter success of Rich Burlew's Order of the Stick -- and I think it works for fiction writers, and even publishers (look at Tor.com), as well.

At any rate, the Andrews's thoughts are quite insightful. Clearly the topic has been discussed whenever Pixel-Stained Technopeasant Day comes around (link is to James Patrick Kelly's Asimov's article on the debate), but with all the interesting ways of getting content to readers that are growing and changing (crowdfunding, donation-driven, free, traditionally paid), I think it's a conversation that continues to be worth having.
alanajoli: (Default)
Remember how I mentioned doing author interviews for PW and Kirkus? Well, both of my most recent author interviews are up online. The first, for Kirkus, was with Arthur Mokin, a documentary writer who has published a tale of the Exodus in Meribah. The book uses a main character who is an Egyptian, and whose outsider view allows him to give commentary on the Hebrews in exile. I think it's a pretty insightful book, and Mokin was a lot of fun to interview.

For PW, I interviewed Kij Johnson, whose short story "Ponies," which blew me away when I read it on Tor.com, is featured in her new collection, At the Mouth of the River of Bees. The print portion of the interview is here, but it's probably behind the paywall until next week. The rest, and longer, portion of the interview is over on Genreville. Kij is one of those writers who, when I read her, I thought, How have I not read her work before? Her back list isn't terribly long, but it's one I look forward to fitting into my schedule.

Speaking of PW and Kirkus, both of which I review for, I am still inundated with review books at the moment, with three graphic novels due on Friday, another two due next week, and two more novels for July, as well as a pile of books I've been meaning to review for Flames Rising and an ARC for Black Gate. Whew! It's a good thing I read quickly!

Links

May. 5th, 2012 02:00 pm
alanajoli: (Default)
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)
It's been busy here at Casa Abbott as a long-term project management project I've been working on is quickly coming to its conclusion. Hopefully that will mean more regular posting from me in the future, and certainly more interesting things to talk about!

Not long ago, friends and I were talking about the Bechdel Test (named after fellow Simon's Rock alumna Alison Bechdel, who just won a Guggehneim Fellowship this week) and movies that we love. If you've not encountered it before, it involves a movie in which:
  • 1) there are at least two named female characters, who

  • 2) talk to each other about

  • 3) something other than a man.


We had discussed that passing the Bechdel Test marked a work as feminist, but I think that's not entirely true to the original purpose (which was actually a joke in Bechdel's web comic). Movies that pass the test aren't feminist. They just have women who are characters that are essential to the plot, rather than being accessories to the male heroes.



This came up in my online reading today via Tor.com's latest explosive post (following the post about Mordicai Knode's diversity in D&D art), "Hey, Everyone--Stop Taking This Picture!" by Emily Asher-Perrin. Thanks to [livejournal.com profile] jimhines and Rose Fox at Genreville, I've already seen this pose covered a number of times in the book jacket community. Hearing a female in the comments confirm what Jim said after his experiment posing as urban fantasy heroines -- notably that he needed a chiropractic visit afterwards -- removes the last vestiges of "but" comments that I made over at Jim's blog. (I'd mostly been won over to that argument thanks to [livejournal.com profile] genrereviews post on the same.) That's an uncomfortable pose from which you could not spring into action, unless you were a superhero.

From the comments I discovered these posts from the Hathor Legacy about how screenwriting effectively teaches screenwriters to not pass the Bechdel test. These posts are a little old -- 2008 and 2010 -- but they're kind of astonishing. It's not a conspiracy, folks, it's policy -- and I can only hope it's changed since the writer behind the Hathor Legacy went to film school.

In other news, my first book review for Black Gate, for which I reviewed How to Train Your Dragon, is up on the site. I did a few for them, and am hoping one will land in the print magazine. We'll see!
alanajoli: (Default)
Haunted just got a great review from Charisma Bonus, a site I'm so glad I discovered! It's a blog that talks about being a female gamer -- mostly table top, from what it looks like. So, not only was the review good, but the site is cool, too!



In other news 'round the internet, Stacia Kane is having a super cool contest for readers to win a pill box necklace like the one worn by Chess Putnam from her Downside series. Her newest title, Sacrificial Magic, releases at the end of this month, and I'm hoping she'll be stopping by Myth the Universe and Everything to talk a little bit about it!

In the meantime, I am up to my eyeballs in review books. What are you all reading lately?
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Over the weekend, two (and a half?) articles I worked on have gone live around the web.

First, I had the fantastic experience of interviewing Sharon Shinn about her new book, The Shape of Desire, for Publishers Weekly. The first half of the interview is in the print magazine (republished for subscribers online here). This constitutes my very first PW byline, and I'm absolutely tickled!



The second half of the interview is up over at Genreville, the blog of one of my PW editors, Rose Fox. Sharon had a lot of great stuff to say, and while my favorite questions and answers are in the print section, there are good answers in the free half as well.

I've also just done my first guest blog entry for Dancing Thru Pregnancy about Mom-Baby Fitness and how much toddlers learn from watching their moms exercise.

I hope you enjoy them!
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Last weekend, Substrate got together -- mostly in Boston area, but a few of us stragglers couldn't get to the physical location. We logged onto Skype, our usual long-distance communication technique, and realized that with two of us off site, we couldn't all have video.

Enter Google.

The new Hangout feature on Google+ allows for unlimited (as far as I know) video connections on the same feed. And so, Substrate gathered, to me all on one screen, and we discussed a role playing setting and two short stories (one of which was mine), much to the benefit of those of us who had pieces critiqued. It was great to get the gang back together (as Kermit says), and I'm excited to get to work revising "Good Company."

--

Super exciting good news since I last wrote: Haunted came in first in the Critters Writers Workshop Preditors and Editors Readers Poll!



We also got a very nice review from Dave over at Hellnotes.

I couldn't be more pleased with how well Haunted, is doing, and I hope those of you who have picked it up have enjoyed it!
alanajoli: (Default)
Look at what I got in the mail!



Remember back to two years ago when [livejournal.com profile] slwhitman was running a Kickstarter campaign (which I wrote about frequently) to start Tu Books? A refresher on what happened next: the campaign was successful enough to grab the attention of Lee & Low, who brought Tu Books on as am imprint with Stacy at the head. The above book is from the first publishing season of the house, and was a gift for my contribution to the Kickstarter campaign. Inside, Stacy did a little doodle for me.



I am clearly thrilled for Stacy, and wish her the best in continued successes. All three of this season's books look fantastic!

I also got my contributor copy of Haunted in the mail this week, and it is super exciting to see my name right there on the cover. It's nifty that my married name has made me alphabetically first so frequently. We also got a very thoughtful and largely positive review from Hunter C. Eden over at Ravenous Monster, and I especially appreciated his comments about the characterization in "Missing Molly." He writes: "Abbott's sensitive portrayal of the soldier's state of mind admirably avoids both 'psychotic veteran' and 'American hero' clichés in favor of genuine character development well-served by the author's command of dialogue." (That's a review to pin to my bulletin board to cheer me up on frustrating days!)

In more personal news, I am sick of having a cold (pun intended), but despite being under the weather, I did pass my kempo test on Friday, so I am now a second degree brown belt. Twostripe had his third degree black belt test on Sunday, and from now on shall be known as Threestripe here on MtU&E. Huzzah!
alanajoli: (Default)
Oh me, oh my, how quickly I abandoned my (earnest at the time) resolution to blog more frequently. I've noticed several writers who have dropped off the blog radar in favor of having more active twitter accounts. Not so here -- I just tend to drop off the Internet circuit and have trouble catching back up.

Don't ask me how many messages are in my inbox. If 30 messages or less is success, well, I've got a long way to go until I'm successful again.

But in the meantime, there's a very complimentary review of Haunted up over at Drive Thru, which makes me quite happy. (If you are a book blogger -- or are willing to post reviews on your Good Reads account or elsewhere on the internet -- and are interested in getting a review copy, comment here and I'll let you know how to do it!)

I also found some things in my writing drawer that I thought it would be fun to share, since I've not done much of that lately. This is from an art book project I did for Empty Room Studios awhile back; a few writers (mainly me and Andrew Schneider, who had a recent adventure appear in Dungeon here) wrote scene snippets for artists in various subgenres of fantasy and science fiction. This one was from a private eye meets interstellar politics mash up. The scenes were a great exercise -- and also a ton of fun to write!

--

Don't get me wrong. There are good things to be said about working for space tyrants. The job may be difficult, but it's always lucrative. They pay in cash (or wire it into your account from an anonymous bank in New Switzerland), and they pay on time. They are nothing if not predictable.

Right away Myrah Deen, Tyrant of Saitoga, some inter-corporation built on the side of a half dead moon, defied my expectations. Where most Tyrants had a paunch straining their well-stretched belts, she had a petite waist surrounded by curves that might have been old-fashioned, but I'd always liked a curvy woman better than the waif that had cycled back into style. She wore her red hair sitting on top of her head, held by two silver pins that I highly suspected doubled as darts, as opposed to the traditional comb over. She also came into my office herself instead of sending some underpaid aide who would be disposed of after the fact if they heard anything too important.

I'd gone through her records. If she'd ever had anyone so much as detained on the edge of legality, her tech-clouds had better cover than even I could break through. When she entered, I stood, watching how the stars outside my window framed the wisps of auburn that fell around her chin.

"Ms. Deen," I said, and she nodded. "Pleasant surprise."

"I'm full of surprises," she said, straight like it was business, without a hint of coyness. Then she smiled and undid the whole effect.

"Gin?" I offered.

She watched me pour. "I don't drink," she said, took the tumbler, and downed it all in one throw.
alanajoli: (Default)
I was talking to Miss Mary, the storytime librarian at our local library (where I formerly worked), about how my Mom-Baby Fitness class in Branford has started off very slowly. She reassured me that word of mouth is what it really takes to get a class going on the Shoreline in Connecticut, and then gestured around to her baby storytime, the birth to two crowd, which often has twenty to thirty babies/toddlers attending, along with parents. It's a great crowd, and Bug and I love going. I don't think the space we have for Mom-Baby Fitness could handle that size population, but it's nice to think that things do grow by word of mouth.

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

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

How do you reach your target audience? And how do you utilize social networking tools to accomplish what you want (rather than spending so much time on them that you lose work hours instead of gaining consumers)? If anyone out there has already found a balance they like, I'd love to hear about it! Otherwise, I'll just continue wading in these waters and trying to figure out whether or not I'm ready to swim.
alanajoli: (Default)


For those of you at GenCon right now (who still have time to read blogs while you're in Indy), I'd like to recommend that you pop by the Ookoodook booth (#1649) and take a look at Rich Burlew's new Order of the Stick compilation, Snips, Snails, and Dragon Tales. I preordered it back when it was initially announced, and due to printer delays, I just received my copy last week. I think this is the most fun collection that Rich has put out -- and it was all content that was new to me, which is a plus in my book. It includes the full OotS run from Dragon magazine (and though I love the new Dragon online, I think the sadness about the print version's demise is handled with the love it deserves in the final Dragon strips). There's also a whole 3.5e vs. 4e section that made me giggle; mocking the rules was one of the things that hooked me on OotS in the first place, so I'm glad to get some new jokes about the edition I'm currently playing. A final section, presumably meant to occur after the current web arc, give us fairy tales as told by Elan and Haley, a James Bond parody by Belkar, and Hamlet as told by Roy. (The last is clearly my favorite, if only because Hamlet is required reading for every student at Simon's Rock, and thus, seeing it get the gamer treatment was awesome.)

Several of my gamer buddies have taken a break from reading OotS as it posts, due to the delays in posting in recent months (years?) and because it's become very plot-centric as opposed to joke-centric. Snips, Snails, and Dragon Tales brings back the funny that made me love OotS in the first place without sacrificing any of the character interactions that I've stayed on for. So, if you're at GenCon and have a chance to get by the booth to check it out -- or if you're wavering on buying the new book from the site -- you should. It gets my thumbs up.
alanajoli: (cowboys and aliens)
I've been meaning to write up my thoughts of the Cowboys and Aliens movie since we saw it on Friday night. Twostripe and I actually caught three movies last week, which is a record since Bug's birth. In Howard Tayler-like ranking (by how much I enjoyed it as I saw it, rather than by any more sophisticated ranking system), Cowboys and Aliens was my number two movie of the week: I had more fun at Captain America and not as much fun at Harry Potter part 7 part 2. However, I will say that of the three, Cowboys and Aliens was the only movie that exceeded my expectations. I wanted it to be amazing; I was worried that it wouldn't be. It succeeded in surpassing my worry while still falling short of amazing -- but it was a lot of fun, and that goes pretty far with me. It also had more elements of the original plot than the trailers had made it look like would be involved.

Doing an LJ cut here for those who don't want spoilers, because I'm cracking this wide open.

The Good, the Bad, and the Aliens )
alanajoli: (Default)
A couple of articles caught my attention lately, one courtesy of Hippo tech columnist (and old writer buddy of mine) John (Jack) Andrews (who's over on twitter as @citizenjaq). Jack tackles the whole LCD vs. e-ink phenomenon that's happening as tablets get more and more popular. I've expressed my preferences here before: I don't like to read on an LCD screen if I can avoid it. It takes something that really captivates me to get me to sit and read it in full on my computer screen. Before I got my nook, I'd print out a manuscript or e-galley to read. (Having read physical manuscripts for this year's Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards, I can safely say it's something I hadn't missed!) Before my nice little, one real function e-ink device, e-books were a pain. Now? Love them! I'm actually buying them preferentially these days, in part to save on shelf space and in part because they're easier.

But I get that the multi-function tablets are the wave of the future. I suspect that a tablet, or a tablet's successor, will eventually replace my net book, since they give the appearance of being better at the things the I had understood net book was designed to be good at (eg. streaming media). Jack's article gives me some hope for the e-ink resurgence, though -- and, as I've posited before, it may depend on getting that color e-ink working.

Given the way my e-book reading pattern followed my purchase of a device, the other article that caught my eye didn't surprise me, but it did make me stop to think for a moment. Gideon Spainer at the online London Evening Standard shows how the release of new devices creates a huge uptick in e-book sales. He seems to be cautioning that e-book sales depend on these new devices being released -- and, given the attitudes about technology that consumers tend to have (i.e. new gadgets are shiny!), I think he's partly right.

But I also think the chart in the article that shows these sales figures has a general shape of going upward. Even if no new devices were released (not likely to happen, given that B&N is shipping their new touchscreen e-ink nook today, according to their press release as covered by SlashGear), e-books are still selling more copies than they were in 2007. Maybe the upswing in sales isn't as much between nifty new products, but the general trend is still an increase -- and I don't think that's likely to change any time soon.

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Alana Joli Abbott

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