alanajoli: (cowboys and aliens)
So, along with the new C&A trailer, Twostripe spotted the trailer for The Warriors Way, which is, of all things, a ninja western. For all you twitter writers who can't seem to get your head around cowboys in space, is Old West + ninjas any easier? (Also, Spacewesterns.com has a list of all the space westerns that have gone before. Nevermind the fact that you missed Firefly or Serenity or even Cowboy Beebop. Cowboys + space = awesome.)

I think this just goes to show that the western is now the cross-genre component of choice for Hollywood.

--

For folks who are interested in reading the original Cowboys and Aliens before the movie comes out, you can still read the original C&A comic for free at Drunk Duck. Cowboys and Aliens II is also still up, in all its half-finished glory, for your reading pleasure.
alanajoli: (serenity adventures)
Many of you have probably already seen this, but DriveThruRPG is doing a special promotion: donate $20 and receive a huge bundle of gaming products worth over $1000. A lot of publishers have donated, including Margaret Weis Productions. Both the CORTEX system and Serenity RPG are part of the deal. (Either of those by themselves cost more than $20 digitally through DriveThruRPG on a normal day.)

The money is being donated to Doctors without Borders. If you've been thinking of donating to the Haiti earthquake victims (or have been thinking about getting some new game supplements and sourcebooks), this is a great enlightened-self-interest promotion. It's been so popular that their servers are having trouble keeping up with all the donations and downloads!

Interviews

Nov. 25th, 2009 02:53 pm
alanajoli: (Default)
I got interviewed! I'm over at Weird Westerns talking about Serenity Adventures. Something will go up there about Cowboys and Aliens II soon, also.

Is it because the holidays are coming up that my brain is fried? If others are experiencing the same fried-brain symptoms, then I'll be happy to blame the season rather than myself. To everyone celebrating Thanksgiving in the U.S. tomorrow, I hope you have wonderful time with friends and family (and food)!
alanajoli: (Default)
As I mentioned earlier, I got my Serenity Adventures earned Origins Award, known as a "Callie" (because it's in the shape of the muse Calliope) in the mail in the last few weeks.



In honor of Calliope's arrival, I came up with my very first contest question: Who is your muse? This could refer back to which of the classical muses you prefer (I admit to having a soft spot for Terpischore, the dancer, who appeared in a couple of mosaics and paintings I've seen as a red-head, so she reminds me of my sister, but I know I work for Calliope). If you'd like to take a less literal interpretation, feel free. On August 8th (one week from today!) I'll choose the answer I like best -- or, more likely, I'll think they're all good and won't be able to choose, so I'll use a random number generator like all the cool kids.



Your fabulous prize is an advanced reader copy of Troy High by Shana Norris, which just released today. I had the opportunity to review this one for School Library Journal, and I have to say that The Iliad works brilliantly well as a high school football rivalry. (I can't say more than that here -- you'll have to do a search for my SLJ review.)



So, who's your muse?
alanajoli: (british mythology)
It's been a week and a half since I posted? This whole summer thing is wreaking havoc on my blog schedule. (The beach is such a homey place, though... I just can't stay away! Thank goodness for review books that are portable "work" that isn't on my laptop.) The big news is that Serenity Adventures won an Origins Award this weekend! I'm really thrilled -- the competition was very stiff, I thought -- and I wish a huge congrats to editor Jamie Chambers and the other contributors. Good work team!

I've been pondering a number of posts since I was last here, and the one that's been sticking with me is similar to a post I wrote after coming home from Greece and Turkey last year, about alignment. I suspect I recalibrate my spiritual life a little bit every time I come back from a study tour, because I always learn something about myself while I'm away. Sometimes I learn even more when I come back.

When I first went to England as a student on the Myth in Stone tour in 2000, Mark Vecchio advised me that if I wanted to buy a cross necklace for myself, I should look in Glastonbury. Read more... )
alanajoli: (serenity adventures)
Still embroiled in assignments, and I'm just hoping to stay ahead before I go to England in two weeks. In the mean time, I've had some great news! Serenity Adventures is up for an Origins Award this year! I'm delighted that the book is up for the award and am so proud to be one of the writers who contributed to the collection of adventures!
alanajoli: (Default)
I love traveling. I enjoy being in new places and seeing new people (or going to old places and seeing familiar people). Changes of scenery are largely good. But even I have limits, it seems, and I apparently hit them over the weekend. Allow me to paint you a map:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




Reading
My Swordhand Is Singing, by Marcus Sedgewick
Barnes and Noble
  Writing "Head above Water," and adventure for LFR, Cormyr (by page count, roughly)
 
alanajoli: (Default)
A couple of quick notes before we get to the guest blog today (the first in awhile, I know!). First is that the e-book of Serenity Adventures is now available at Drive Thru RPG as an e-book. I have word that the book is off to print as well, getting words actually embedded on paper, and it will soon exist in tangible format. In the meantime, the Drive Thru RPG version has a sample available, so go check it out!

Second note: you may have heard that several Americans were detained this week in China for documenting a pro-Tibetan protest. Among these journalists was my good friend Brian Conley, the founder of Alive in Baghdad. The news is that these independent journalists are going to be held for 10 days before being deported (so we're only a week away from them coming home). While I know that Brian would prefer for people to focus on the people who are suffering from constant oppression rather than his plight, I wanted to take this moment to mention them here on the blog, and encourage people to follow this story in the news--and if you feel so moved, see what you can do to help.

Third note: I've noticed that deadlines manage to become more and more brutal the longer I try to pretend they're not there. I've beaten one, have another on Monday, and then have until mid-September until my next firm (LFR) deadline. We'll see if this gives me a chance to catch up on my soft deadlines!

And now, for the introduction. Karen Armstrong is a freelance scholar well known for her writings about religion, as well as two memoirs about her experiences finding faith and losing it. <lj user=randyhoyt>, who I was delighted to meet at MythCon last weekend (and whose online magazine Journey to the Sea you'll be hearing about quite a bit on this blog in the future), expanded my knowledge of Armstrong over the course of a very informative conversation: in short, she is not only a bestselling writer and engaging scholar of monotheism, but a woman with a deep story of her own, which look forward to reading. The most pertinent of her works to this blog is her A Short History of Myth, from which this (also short) excerpt is taken. I have taken the liberty of replacing her "imagination" with "Imagination" in my mind (referring to Barfield's work, and I suspect Coleridge's), but it can be read well either way.

I hope you enjoy it!

--

Another peculiar characteristic of the human mind is its ability to have ideas and experiences that we cannot explain rationally. We have imagination, a faculty that enables us to think of something that is not immediately present, and that, when we first conceive it, has no objective existence. The imagination is the faculty that produces religion and mythology. Today mythical thinking has fallen into disrepute; we often dismiss it as irrational and self-indulgent. But the imagination is also the faculty that has enabled scientists to bring new knowledge to light and to invent technology that has made us immeasurably more effective. The imagination of scientists has enabled us to travel through outer space and walk on the moon, feats that were once only possible in the realm of myth. Mythology and science both extend the scope of human beings. Like science and technology, mythology, as we shall see, is not about opting out of this world, but about enabling us to live more intensely within it.

Glee!

Jul. 30th, 2008 12:09 pm
alanajoli: (Default)
Just a quick note to share the product description for Serenity Adventures, up over at Paizo's web store. The previous versions I've seen haven't listed any of the writers, but here, I'm listed as a contributor! Whee!
alanajoli: (tuam face - celtic mythology)
The last two days have been fuller than I'd anticipated, leaving me little time to post here. (Tonight, my poor vampire character in a Dogs in the Vineyard game was almost slaughtered by zombies. This took time.)

But I do need to post my lovely news! "Nomi's Wish" has found a home! In August, the story will be appearing in Coyote Wild, an online magazine of speculative fiction, poetry, and nonfiction that publishes monthly. "Nomi's Wish" is appearing in the teen issue, guest edited by Sherwood Smith and a number of teen readers. I am absolutely honored that they selected my story; "Nomi's Wish" is the story I've written that I still think is my best, and is certainly the one closest to my heart.

This also ties into Monday's conversation (and I'm thrilled how many people posted there with insightful comments!), because I didn't know that "Nomi's Wish" was a YA story. I didn't necessarily think it wasn't YA, but I was just thinking of it as a story about two sisters, most of which happens when one has graduated from college and the other has graduated from high school. They're both, in theory, adults. But the story of their relationship, and the parts of the story that delve into their histories growing up together, are the core of the story--and they must have hit a chord with the teen readers selecting the stories! I've sent "Nomi's Wish" to adult magazines before with no luck and I suspect that this is because, all along, I didn't realize it was a YA piece.

So I'm incredibly tickled with my August. "Nomi's Wish" will be on Coyote Wild, "The Best Things Get Better with Age" will be in Serenity Adventures, and "Don't Let Go" will be in the ransom anthology (which has a title I don't yet know) edited by Dylan Birtolo ([livejournal.com profile] eyezofwolf). What a fun time!
alanajoli: (Alana Lionheart's lion)
What a year for me to be missing GenCon! Not only is the anthology, edited by [livejournal.com profile] eyezofwolf, where "Don't Let Go" will be published coming out. That would have been enough for me to pine over not going. Today, however, I found out that Serenity Adventures will be released at GenCon this year as well! Woe is me for missing the con circuit.

Folks who are going: if you see my stuff on display (even though neither is likely to have my name on the cover), could you take pictures? I'll be there vicariously through your digital images!
alanajoli: (orb)
My main character is now twelfth level. Huzzah! We had a great fun weekend, with an official RPGA mod, a tailor-made DM's Mark, and outdoor cooking on the grill. We even started one of our games out in the back yard. How can that not be fun? (We didn't even lose any dice outside, which is the real challenge to backyard D&D.)

In other news, I got the trip itinerary for Greece and Turkey today, so the countdown can officially start. Here's what I have outstanding before I leave:

1) I have the rough of "Don't Let Go" out with Dylan ([livejournal.com profile] eyezofwolf). I don't know if edits will actually happen on that before I go or not.
2) I have an edited version of "The Best Things Get Better with Age," my contribution to Serenity Adventures, out with Jamie Chambers. I don't know if I'll be getting any more edits back on *that* or not, either.
3) I have three essays and eight obituaries to write.
4) I have a scanning project that I had fully intended to get done before I left.
5) I was hoping to actually do some comic writing before I left, in case C&AII possibly comes off hiatus while I'm gone.
6) I've been asked to finish two more reviews for [livejournal.com profile] flamesrising and two for School Library Journal.

There are some other incidentals (like following up on contracts, etc.). But really? That's a lot to get done by the 20th. Along with plans to get together with friends (including lunch/coffee with [livejournal.com profile] jenlyn_b and [livejournal.com profile] amanda_marrone tomorrow--so excited!) and attending graduation at Simon's Rock on Saturday to see some friends get their shiny new pieces of paper that kick them out of being undergrads, I'll be cutting it close. Eight days left. Wish me luck!

Links!

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

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

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

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

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

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

As for me, I got done with this round of editing my Serenity adventure for Margaret Weis (whose changes were all dead on--I only disagreed about one, she countered with reasons why it wouldn't work, one of which was roughly "Joss is boss," and I was convinced). Tomorrow, on to some Steampunk Musha work I've been putting aside for months (I'm still working on it Rick!) and some overdue reviews that I've been meaning to turn in. But for now, I'm going to go finish By Venom's Sweet Sting.
alanajoli: (Default)
Perhaps not so grand, but here I am, none the less!

It has been a busy four months or so, and though I'm not at a break between projects (I have plenty left to do on the adventure for Serenity Adventures, as well as some work for Rick Hershey on the Steampunk Musha RPG he has in the works), I am at a break between have-it-in-by-now-or-it's-late deadlines. The next "official" deadline (in red pen on my calendar) I have is in late May (when I will be away in Greece and Turkey, so I will certainly have it done early). It is such a nice feeling to be able to give myself permission to *not* work for one day. Then it's back with my nose to the grindstone the next!

I realize I didn't blog about DDXP and my experiences with 4th Edition, and this is in part because I am a bad blogger. It is more, however, due to my participation in the conversational reviews we're doing in an ongoing fashion on the current issue of Secret Identity Podcast. Max Saltonstall, Brian LeTendre, and I are better together as reviewers than we are apart (well, in my case, anyway), and if you don't mind listening to the audio version in 15 minute increments (that's the length of our segment, "Action Point Counter Point"), that's far better as far as gaming goes than what you'll see here on my blog.

In short: Read more... )

But there's more news here than just convention catch up. I should have posted this at the beginning of the month, since we're almost at the midway point: for the month of March, my story "The Valley" is being published/hosted on The Edge of Propinquity Web zine. (You may know them as [livejournal.com profile] t_e_o_p.) Mine is the guest story for the month: the rest of the zine is serial fiction from four dedicated authors who grow their worlds with each installment. It's a site well worth checking out--and of course, I'll be delighted to hear responses to the story.

Those seem like the major updates since I last posted. I expect to get back on track now that I'm back (and that the deadlines aren't hovering so closely around my neck as usual). I may even finally get to work on the novel I was supposed to have finished by... when did I commit to on this blog? The end of March? Heh, self-imposed deadlines don't have nearly the motivation factor they need....
alanajoli: (Default)
Margaret Weis is editing my Serenity adventure. Tee hee!

And now, back to being a consumate professional.
alanajoli: (scc-writers-strike)
My feet are kicking and I'm trying to get my head back above water. I just turned in an assignment, so I thought I'd surface for a moment and check in.


  • Update on the Writers Strike? What Writers Strike? Strike is ovah, baby. The vote on the contract happens on the 25th.

  • Reeses is trying to kill me. As some of you may have noticed, I've got quite the thing for chocolate and peanut butter. So what does Reeses do? They take those yummy chocolate bunnies that people put in Easter baskets--the ones that are usually hollow--and they fill them with peanut butter! The temptation is too great. I am going to suffer a painful, agonizing death due to overdose of peanut butter and chocolate.

  • The wonderful Jamie Chambers has my script for the Serenity RPG adventure that I wrote, and the remarkable Lindsay Archer will be doing illustrations for the Serenity Adventures book in which my adventure will appear. Whether or not we shall be reunited on the page has yet to be seen...

  • And did I mention the oversized Reeses Eggs? Doomed I tell you!

  • I'm sending out C. S. Lewis devotionals to friends over Lent, which has been a great way to reengage in theological conversation via e-mail. If anyone knows of a Tolkien devotional book (I suspect one doesn't exist, but you never know), I'd love to have another Inklings kind of Lent next year.

  • In ice cream news: Save the honey bees or your favorite flavors could be forfeit! Possibly even peanut butter and chocolate! (Are you getting the theme here? 'Cause I might stop now.)

  • I'm putting the guest essays on hold until I can reliably update. I'm having trouble keeping the *comic* reliably updated (Jeremy is being good about nagging me when I'm behind, thankfully), and I get paid for that. I expect blogging to resume its regular schedule after DDXP, where I will be next week, at ur con, checkin' out ur 4e. Yup, that's me.



And now, after hours of writing essays about Brad Paisley, Ben Bernanke, and the Spice Girls, as well as obituary for Jerry Falwell, I am so getting off the computer.

P.S. "Water of Life" did not get accepted into the Fantasist Enterprises anthology, though I did get a very nice letter inviting me to their critique forums. I'm thinking about heading over. Any of the rest of you doing the same?
alanajoli: (Default)
That'd be me! I just heard back from the illustrious Jamie Chambers this afternoon, and my adventure pitch was selected as one of the ones that will be featured in the upcoming Serenity Adventures. It's exciting for me because not only do I get to do work for some great people (Jamie and Renae and the rest of the Margaret Weis Productions clan are wonderful and open people who have always been very encouraging when I've seen them at conventions), but I get to work on a great property. It's like fan fiction, only different!

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

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

(Yes, I'm feeling much better than yesterday. Yesterday peanut butter and chocolate didn't even sound good, which is an easy way to tell that I'm sick--as any other time, it's my favorite ever food combination.)

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Alana Joli Abbott

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