alanajoli: (Default)
I got a surprise package in the mail today from DAW. Last year, DAW sent me a copy of Red Hood's Revenge by [livejournal.com profile] jimhines that I reviewed for Flames Rising. Apparently, I am still on their reviewers list, because today, a good month before it'll hit store shelves, I got a copy of Snow Queen's Shadow! Woo! I do reviews for several places now, and I'm just starting to get used to how fun it is to see reviews I've written, often anonymously (as is required for some of the places I review), show up in blurbs and marketing material. Reviewing doesn't pay much, if it pays at all, but the perks -- showing up in blurbs, getting books from publishers, having an editor who sends me books by writers I'd go fan-girl on in person -- are really nifty.

--

A quick note about comments here, as I've had someone ask why I've chosen to delete some comments. Until this past year, I've never had a problem with commenters, so I never bothered to make an official policy. Basically, if I feel a comment is offensive, I won't approve it. If a commenter new to the blog, I may send a message saying why I removed it, but if I find subsequent comments also offensive -- whether or not they're offensive for the same reason -- I may ban them. And honestly, if a commenter is insulting me or other commenters, I'm not sure what they're doing here in the first place.

A lot of friends of the blog are much better known than I am -- and you all probably have to deal with this much more frequently than I do. I'd love to hear if people have developed official stances on how they judge comments, or on how they deal with people who seem intentionally antagonizing in comments. (Given the types of topics that [livejournal.com profile] jimhines covers, for example, I'm sure he sees his fill. People like [livejournal.com profile] jeff_duntemann and [livejournal.com profile] sartorias have had web presences for as long as I've known them, so by virtue of seniority, I'm sure it's come up one or twice. What do you all do?)
alanajoli: (cowboys and aliens)
I am apparently not terribly inspired with thoughty* words lately, but other people are saying interesting things, and you should read them.

  • I'm pretty sure I've raved about [livejournal.com profile] jeff_duntemann's work here before -- I've certainly done so other places -- which falls all over SFF land (mostly SF, but at least one in the F side of the equation). Some of his favorite stories of mine are set in his Drumlin world, and are fantastic examples of space westerns -- which he was doing before it was cool. He writes a bit about subgenre splicing here (and even gives a short mention to Cowboys and Aliens).

  • Starting with my blog post last week about Castle, a very fun conversation started happening among members of Substrate about meta-fiction and interactive-fiction, continuing at Max Gladstone's blog and then over to substrater Vlad's page. They both provide examples of the kind of fictional-into-reality writing I was looking for, including the classic Borges on Borges piece. (You can follow Max at on the [livejournal.com profile] maxgladstone feed, and can apparently follow Vlad's comments, but not his blog, at [livejournal.com profile] vlad43210 -- once I get some problems with my account worked out, I'll be fixing that one.)

  • Last, it's goblin release day! [livejournal.com profile] jimhines has just released his first goblin e-book, Goblin Tales, in which Jig the Goblin and his Fire Spider make their triumphant return. I bought my copy form my nook, but it's available at Amazon too, with Kobo, iBooks, and Lulu soon to follow. [livejournal.com profile] sartorias gave it an excellent review, which would have spurred me on to buy it if I hadn't already intended to.


Not much cooking on the homefront, aside from doing research to try to solve this mystery, writing reviews, copyediting, and playing peek-a-boo.

--

*thoughty: a word meaning "thoughtful," stolen, not from Firefly like many of my pseudo-colloquial words, but from the Disney version of Robin Hood.
alanajoli: (Default)
I wanted to post this on Monday, but, well, I had a deadline yesterday and had to finish reading a few series of review books at different grade levels before I could justify posting. So, just pretend this is my Valentine's Day post, ok?

You know that I read a lot of romance novels, and that I love the genre. You may also remember that we're reading the Safehold series as a family, and we're currently in the middle of By Schism Rent Asunder, the second book in the series. As I'm sure you've guessed, the Safehold books are not romance novels. However, like a lot of my favorite SF and F books, there's definitely romance inside the rest of the court intrigue and derring-do. But I think this is one of the first times I've seen compelling romance minus the angst that normally accompanies it.

I don't use angst as a pejorative here. As I posted on one of [livejournal.com profile] sartorias's recent Book View Cafe entries, I love me some romantic angst. My two top favorite novels of all time are both YA, and both involve the main character loving someone who she can't believe actually loves her back (which causes a heart-wrenching moment or two along the way!). In one case, the heroine doesn't actually know she's in love -- and that he might return her affections -- until she realizes she's put herself in a situation where it looks like she's betraying him utterly, and she might lose him after all. In the other, the girl knows very well that she's in love, but due to the hero's sudden absence, and his return in the company of her sister, she believes that, like in everything else in her life, her sister has proven better than she has. This opens her up to temptation by a faerie queen -- because how else will she win her heart's desire? And, of course, both have happy endings. (I'm not revealing the titles here, because these moments happen right at the end of both books, and they're complete spoilers as such. Some of you, of course, may recognize the moments. Or remember my listings of top books from earlier posts.)

Graceling by Kristin Cashore has some moments like this, also, with the exception that heroine Katsa thinks that, to have the life she wants, she has to reject all romance. Po, the hero who loves her, has to convince her that she can have romance without sacrificing herself. This may seem like a completely different moment, but the reconciling that Katsa goes through to decide what being in love would mean for her selfhood had that same kind of poignancy for me that the other stories did.

As much as I love those moments, there's no denying that they're angsty. They're full on teen torment, questioning of the self and one's relationship with the world. But that kind of angst isn't reserved for teens or YA novels. What would a good romance novel be without that same kind of questioning? If the hero and heroine knew from the very beginning that they were going to reach their happily ever after -- the way we readers do -- romance novels would be a lot shorter. The barriers that get thrown up between the hero and the heroine could be battled together, because hey, that's what teamwork is for! There are rare romance novels where this happens, but most of the fun in the romance novels I read is the will-they, won't-they push and pull, especially when it's driven by concerns that make a lot of sense -- or the world threatening to implode -- rather than miscommunication and stupid decisions.

Of course, in a SF or F epic, the romance isn't the center, and it doesn't need to take up the same amount of space. It can happen in small moments (there's a gorgeous moment in The Lord of the Rings when Aragorn notices that Eowyn is in love with him and he realizes that he has to reject her -- it's slipped in there, very quietly, and amounts to about one line of text; the love story between Eowyn and Faramir is equally quiet and lovely). It can be the hinge around which the final happy ending swings. Relationships can go through various possible incarnations or progress from fresh young love to passion to comfort (the Inda books follow a lot of relationships through various incarnations and succeed at showing love at many stages, for example).

Or romance can be a digression from the major plot that enhances the lives of the characters -- and makes readers like me squee just a little bit. This is the case with the romance currently transpiring in By Schism Rent Asunder. Two characters (unnamed for those who haven't read the series) have decided on a political marriage before meeting. There's already initial mutual respect, or the marriage would not have been the preferred form of alliance. When the characters do meet, there's instant attraction -- and, thus, relief. The marriage is the right thing to do: there's a new hope that they may actually enjoy it, as well. They each brooch the potential for romance a little tentatively -- the hesitation and uncertainty that the other may not feel the same spark -- but it's quickly acknowledged that, yes, the spark is there. And thus they can progress, without all of the will-they, won't-they push and pull, because the relationship has already been committed to. I don't think I've ever seen a romance done quite this way before, and while I'm sure that there may be quarrels and tempests in the future (they've only just begun on the relationship where I am in the story), I think the way their relationship has been presented thus far makes me as a reader fall in love with them just a little bit. And that, to me, is a great mark of success, whether or not the happily ever after is looming at the end.
alanajoli: (writing)
My day often goes like this:

Whew, Bug is asleep. Time to get something accomplished. Do I:

Shower? Or write?
Do my assignments that are due this week? Or write?*
Fold laundry? Or write?
Make dinner? Or write?
Blog? Or write?
Sleep? Or write?
Clean up the glass that the editorial assistants shattered all over the floor? Or write?**
Spend time with Twostripe? Or write?
Have a social life? Or write?***

It is hard to find time for writing.([livejournal.com profile] sartorias did a great blog entry over at Book View Cafe about writing with kids.) On the other hand, it is important to find time for writing.

After not writing fiction pretty much at all during my pregnancy, I've finished two short stories and am halfway through a third since Bug arrived. I wrote the first issue and treatment for the first arc of a comic.**** I've written several chapters of a co-written (with [livejournal.com profile] lyster) serial novel (which, to be fair, I think I did write chunks of while Bug was still cooking). I've plotted out a new novel. And I still don't feel like I'm finding time to write. I'm very, very lucky that Twostripe is supportive of my finding time to do fiction writing as well as the work that brings home the guaranteed check. I don't know how I'd manage otherwise!

--

* Sometimes the work is also the Work. It's lovely when that happens, but it is infrequent.
** Editorial assistant Jack missed a jump up onto our freestanding kitchen drawers yesterday and knocked down a jar of peanuts and the coffee maker, shattering both the jar and the coffee pot. I guess he wanted to provide better incentive for cleaning the kitchen floor -- or he was mad at us for always brewing decaf.
*** I admit, I still like to spend time with friends now that I'm a parent, and even prioritize it sometimes. Running role playing games certainly fits into this category, and I haven't given that up yet. Hopefully, I won't have to. :)
**** One of the instances in which the work was also the Work.
alanajoli: (Default)
It was a wacky week, with Bug's baptism this past Sunday. The ceremony involved the baptism gown that I wore when I was a baby, and my sister wore when she was a baby, and now my daughter has also worn. It also involved the christening bowl from Twostripe's side of the family, which has been used now over the course of three centuries, with the first baptism taking place in, I believe, the 1880s. Three adults were also baptized in the same service, and all of the candidates had water poured over their heads with sea shells. It was quite lovely.

The biggest joy for me was having my family out to visit from Michigan/Chicagoland. They visited for nearly a week, and it was great to have them. It did impact my ability to get writing done, of course, so there's not much to report for KSC this week.

I do have some sooper sekrit news, though, which I'm hoping to announce soon. I never get to be the writer with sooper sekrit news, so it's totally exciting to post that! One hint: it involves pictures. Vague enough?

But here's the reason for my post today: there's a fantasy cage match going on that features two awesome duos: Alanna of Tortall vs. Meliara of Tlanth/Remalna and Aerin from The Blue Sword vs. Astrid from Rampant. Man, talk about tough choices between heroines I admire! Go visit and see the other duels -- and vote!

Edit: Just found out that Aerin was withdrawn from the competition by the author. Congrats to Astrid (whose author is [livejournal.com profile] dpeterfreund) on the default progression. (I'm assuming y'all know that Alanna's author is [livejournal.com profile] tammypierce and Mel's author is [livejournal.com profile] sartorias.)

Odd Lots

Jul. 15th, 2010 10:10 pm
alanajoli: (Default)
Well, I've written a couple of book reviews and an essay, and I've done a lot of copyediting. Obviously, I've not done a lot of blogging. I'm brainstorming a new short story, which is exciting. And I'm thinking about the fiction I set aside for the past year, and I'm sort of wondering if, when you leave a story alone that long, is it yours any more? Is it the story you're meant to tell if you can set it down and walk away from it for a full year? I'm not sure, and I wonder if it means I need to start somewhere else in the story.

But mostly pondering and not a lot of action. I do have linky goodness, however, so here's what I've been reading online this week:


  • Friend of the blog Carrie Vaughn has a great post on the rise of urban fantasy at Tor.com.
  • From [livejournal.com profile] jeff_duntemann, DIRIGIBLES!
  • QuestionRiot by [livejournal.com profile] dcopulsky has an interview up with a graduate student in video game production.
  • Lastly, a PW article on how the format falling most as the ebook rises is actually the mass market. It shouldn't surprise me that this is the case, given the similarity in pricing between the two formats, and yet, it sort of did. I didn't expect to see mass markets take a hit.


That's it for today. Maybe I'll get back up to having a guest blog tomorrow -- I'm reading the Charlotte Guest Mabinogion on my nook (among other e-books, like a good chunk of the library of [livejournal.com profile] sartorias's titles, which I've acquired a number of), and her introduction had some words of interest on myth that, if I can track them down again, were worth sharing.
alanajoli: (writing)
Yesterday [livejournal.com profile] sartorias posted about her recent collaboration with [livejournal.com profile] rachelmanija, and I thought I'd talk a little bit about my own experiences with collaborating. In some ways, I feel like I'm almost always collaborating on my storytelling. As a kid, I played a lot of let's pretend with my surrogate big sister and my actual little sister, saving the world as a space hero (using a swingset as our space ship -- I remember one time we got medals from the president), traveling across the prairie as pioneers (a boulder in the back yard was our wagon), and running bad guys (I don't remember what kind) in the winter by sliding down a big neighborhood snow pile.

And when I started writing, I played in other people's worlds. The first fiction I remember writing was based on an old comic of my mom's from when she was a child. I wrote a play featuring Mickey and Minnie Mouse when I was in upper elementary school, using the style I saw on the shorts on the New Mickey Mouse Club. Shortly thereafter, I wrote a script for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon. In middle school, I worked on a long Star Wars novel that, naively, I expected to submit to Lucasfilm; I was devastated to learn you had to be invited to write for the franchise.

It was while writing the Star Wars piece that I started writing an original story. I'd read about a contest in Disney Adventures magazine for a new super hero; I designed one that I got so attached to, I redesigned her (rights to the entries were owned by Disney after submitting, so she had to be revamped) and wrote my first novel. I discovered as a high school freshman just how many publishers didn't want to look at stories with anthropomorphic animals, and since one of her main powers was talking to animals, well, that was a stumbling block. There's still some good material in the young writing, though I'd rewrite the entire story now in a different setting if I ever got back to it.

In high school, I started writing short stories about children with dragon powers; I shared them with a friend and he wrote some short stories back. It was my world -- I'd made the rules -- but he played in it. I shortly thereafter joined his D&D group (after being, at the time, the youngest invited), and I started group storytelling in D&D, which is a fabulously collaborative format.

I collaborated once on a short story in college, which I still think is quite a good piece, and wonder if I shouldn't contact my cowriter and see if we should send it around. We only ever submitted it to the L. Ron Hubbard "Writers of the Future" contest, and now I wonder if, as a co-written piece, it was even eligible. In that effort, we took turns writing sections, but since we were local (just across campus), I remember talking out quite a bit of it as well, and editing each other's sections. I don't know that it would have worked long term as a collaborative relationship, but for the duration of the assignment, it was fun.

Though I've done plenty of other non-collaborative writing, it didn't surprise me to end up first published with shared-world fiction. Into the Reach and Departure (and the still sitting in my drawer conclusion, Regaining Home) take place in someone else's world -- albeit one I helped flesh out quite a bit. My ownership rights are dubious (hence the drawer) because I didn't create the world. The writing experience, however, was great -- I liked the whole goal of the novels not only being a good story, but also being designed to make the world more appealing, to tie in aspects and characters from the setting as wink and a nod to the roleplaying audience.

And now I'm writing Blood and Tumult back and forth with [livejournal.com profile] lyster, both of us playing in a world we didn't create. I've really enjoyed writing in the world of Baeg Tobar; I feel like it's a strong setting with really great elements, and I hope that our serial novel both embraces and enhances the work that's gone before. It's a huge privilege to work with [livejournal.com profile] lyster, who I really believe is destined for stardom (his manuscript that's making the rounds right now was easily in the top five books I read last year, and probably in the top two -- and that without the benefit of an editor). He's not only a motivating factor (I keep his message that he's sent me a new chapter as an "unread" message in my inbox, so my e-mail reminds me that I need to send him a chapter back every time I open it). He's also keeping the story fresh for me -- we were required to work from an outline, which always takes some of the excitement out of the actual writing process for me, because I know what's going to happen next. So having his take on things every two chapters makes it a lot more fun to see the twists and turns. I think stylistically he has a better sense of prose than I do, and so I'm striving to make my prose live up to his. Of course, I'm sure my own style comes through as well, and I hope that by the time it's finished, we'll both have mimicked each other's styles so successfully that the whole thing will blend into a complete piece.

So, yes, collaboration. I enjoy it. :)
alanajoli: (Default)
[livejournal.com profile] lyster wrote in response to my last entry:
My sense, based on the books I've seen self-identified as UF, is that few UF readers would recognize any of these three as Urban Fantasy, or at least as "their" urban fantasy. Am I correct? If so, where's the line? If not, whence this perception?

There's a lot of marketing that going into defining genres. I was heartbroken when Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell came out and was shelved in the fiction section at Barnes and Noble, rather than in fantasy where it belonged. Michael Chabon supposedly commented to someone at a conference that he's delighted he's been getting away with writing genre fiction for years, and people think he's writing literary fiction. (While searching for an exact reference to that, rather than a memoried retelling, I came across an article from Salon explaining why Chabon is both literary and genre fiction, comparing him to Michael Connelly. In this case, it's a murder mystery being discussed.)

The truth about urban fantasy is that it's a handy replacement phrase for anything set in a contemporary world, which may be divergent from our own or may be twisted due to a magicopalypse of some kind. It encompasses everything from Charles de Lint, Neil Gaiman, and Emma Bull (who are sometimes considered progenitors of the current genre) to the current trend of sexy vampires and werewolves and covers featuring women with tattoos on their lower backs. Any genre that can include both Neverwhere and Twilight without people blinking is a genre so broad that its label is almost meaningless.

The same could, of course, be said of fantasy in general (or, worse, the fantasy/SF designation used by most bookstores and libraries). I think Josh Jasper's division between UF and horror is, perhaps, the best designator I've seen -- the major difference between the two is the purpose of the setting. Otherwise, how do you determine that vampires, which for years belonged in horror (or, thanks to Anne Rice, the general fiction section), are now a UF trope?

The term literature might be treated in the same way. There may or may not be a handy definition out there of what "literature" actually means (since, if it means "worthy of being discussed in a college classroom," Buffy and Patricia Briggs's "Mercy Thompson" series are among the titles I've seen on course syllabi). If there's an official definition inside the publishing industry, I'd love to hear it! My own associations with the term are somewhat troubled (in no small part due to the condescension with which the literary establishment, whoever that is, addresses genre fiction on the whole, which Genreville has covered in other entries -- that sort of attitude seems geared to make genre writers go on the defensive). In a conversation over on [livejournal.com profile] sartorias's blog, I commented:

[Literature] as a word tends to leave a bad taste in my mouth. It conjures up assigned reading, a list of white-male-dominated classics, and books that are read because then you can say that you've read them (rather than books that are read because the reading of them is worthwhile). "Literary fiction" seems to be synonymous with "depressingly hopeless" in some circles.

If by literature here, however, we mean "good stories that somehow reach toward a greater meaning and enrich the lives of the readers" -- well then, perhaps even those of us who are hoping to entertain may be striving for that in the end.


In the case of Michael Chabon, it tickles me that he feels he's getting genre fiction past the literary establishment on the sly -- that he's really "one of us," but is walking in "their" world without "them" realizing it. In the case of may really excellent fantasy novels that end up getting published as "general fiction" instead, it typically makes me irritated -- the idea seems to be that "normal" readers will only pick up books from the fiction section, so we can pass off this book, which is really fantasy, as "normal" and appeal to the general (or possibly literary) market, when really, the fantasy section is where it would find readership. (It seems to me that the greatest disservice I've seen in this scenario is to [livejournal.com profile] shanna_s's Enchanted Inc. and sequels. They were published to hit the chick lit audience, which dried up, but they remain helplessly shelved in fiction, where fantasy readers, who would really enjoy them, won't necessarily find them.)

What I tend to look for in fiction, in terms of depth, thinking about "big thoughts," or making me question my assumptions about how I understand the world (things one assumes that literature is supposed to do, while "hack fiction" is not), tends to revolve around my interest in how people/characters deal with concepts of the divine, or deal with their own mortality. I've found people writing about those topics across all sorts of genre lines, from the novels of Charles Williams; to the exceptionally wonderful collection of artificial intelligence stories by Jeff Duntemann ([livejournal.com profile] jeff_duntemann), Souls in Silicon; to, both surprisingly and delightfully, several of the novels published in the roleplaying world of Eberron. Stylistically, of course, there is a shift from one to the next. But stylistically, I see the novels of Catherynne M. Valente and Caitlin Kittredge's Street Magic in particular being written in a poetic, metaphoric style -- which I simply call beautiful language, but others might call literary. Is it the depth of meaning that brings the sense of literary, or is it a stylistic quality?

Really, rather than a death match, it makes more sense to me to acknowledge that the boundaries between the world of literature and the world of genre fiction -- like the barriers between this world and the next at places like Glastonbury -- are thin. If there's a herm that stands between literary and genre fiction, Hermes is guiding writers right past it all the time, and the folks who are leaving him libations are finding an audience on both sides of the "us vs. them," "pop culture vs. establishment" divide. To them, I offer my heartiest congratulations.
alanajoli: (Default)
Almost forgot! Happy book birthday to [livejournal.com profile] sartorias!



This is the fourth and final book in the Inda saga, and I'm very excited that it's out in the world. Congrats, Sherwood!
alanajoli: (Default)
Picking the novels to come along with me as international travelers this year was a challenge. I packed course books and extra resources and had to hem and haw over which novels I would take along for this project. I also have a tendency to buy books while I'm abroad, so along with the large number of books in my bag, I knew I'd come home with more. Such is the way of traveling readers!

Books on the road! )

So that's this year's tour. Now back to uploading more of my photos for the students!
alanajoli: (Default)
We're a week into the New Year, and I haven't really put together a list of resolutions. I'm not sure that I will. I do have a goal of forming an actual spiritual practice (rather than a haphazard spiritual observance). The same is true of my writing. I think I lost track of my apprenticeship somewhere along the way and need to get back on the right path.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, yes, 2009 is looking up. I know, I'm probably one of the few people in the world who is sad to see 2008 go, but it was a good year for me, as far as my short stories getting published, and I'm pretty pleased with it on retrospect. But, as they say, onward and upward!
alanajoli: (Default)
I realized today, as I talked with one of my early readers (one of my Mythic Greece players who was kind enough to actually read and think about some very drafty chapters of what I hope becomes the Blackstone Academy novel), that the people in the Blackstone Academy novels are people I can gossip about. Some of them, in particular the professors, appeared in early drafts of a story (called "the Janie story" because I didn't have a title for it) that I intended to write about a young woman leaving to go to college early and discovering that her college was actually a school to train magic users. Some of those same concepts came over into the Blackstone Academy, and some of the characters came along as well. But instead of doing a tale about the incarnation of the person who would be the villain of the Age as the World Age shifted (something I may still experiment with, but not in this book), I decided to do something that drew more on local history and less on cosmic forces at work.

But some of those back story elements are still there. One of the main professors has brought along all the baggage he originally had in the other plot, though I suspect none of it will ever come out in the Blackstone Academy novel. It's all in the back of my mind, though, and until I discover whether or not it's true in this incarnation, I can gossip about the past as though I'm certain. This is what happened. This is what formed this character.

I've always loved reading blog posts where authors gossip about their characters--or answer reader questions about what happened next/before/between. ([livejournal.com profile] sartorias is wonderful at this--she knows so much more about her characters than there is room for in her novels!) But before today, I hadn't ever had the experience where my characters could be gossiped about, and I'm excited to think that I have characters with that kind of back story, that kind of past living in my head.
alanajoli: (cowboys and aliens - daiyu)
There have been a couple of really interesting posts lately, both in livejournals I read ([livejournal.com profile] irysangel and [livejournal.com profile] sartorias) and in other blogs (Genreville) about what we carry with us as readers when we approach a work of fiction. Sometimes we as readers demand a happy ending, or "good writing" (whatever that means). Sometimes we have expectations that a work of fiction will stay true to its beginnings--in the case of John Leavitt's interesting Genreville post, that means urban fantasy that sticks close to the private investigator noir tradition, rather than fantasy roots. While a novel may not demand decisions from its readers like a role playing game does, there's a high degree of interactivity even in the printed page. Readers supply a whole lot of what goes on in a scene. My mother used to tell me she had trouble reading as a kid, because she'd imagine so many details of each scene, it would take her forever to get on with the reading instead of the imagining.

It makes me wonder a bit about the nature of sub-creation, which I've been reading and writing about a bit lately (thanks to the article [livejournal.com profile] randyhoyt had me ponder about earlier this month). Tolkien's description of sub-creation is quite clearly the act of an artist, or the person involved in the act of presenting a secondary creation to an audience. But I wonder, as that audience, how much sub-creation effort we expend ourselves. I've heard some writing teachers talk about students who see words simply as data. They take in the information, but don't do what my mother did as a child--they bring no imagination to it. I suspect that good writing--that a good work of sub-creation--requires not only investment from the artist, but from the audience as well. The give and take required there is a much more intricate balance than people who write off genre fiction on the whole (or really, any form of art--like the abstract visual works that I can't really claim to understand, or some forms of poetry that I don't "get") allow for.
alanajoli: (Default)
[livejournal.com profile] sartorias proclaimed it so, and [livejournal.com profile] tltrent put a snippet up on her lj as well, so I thought, hey, why not join the club?

Quick note about writing in general: after a long conversation with former guest blogger and my college mentor Mark Vecchio, I realized I need to make some changes in how I think about my writing work as opposed to my writing. They keep competing with each other, and the paid assignments win. So, they have to stop competing, and the fiction writing has to be its own priority or it won't get done.

This means I actually started following my own rules about sending first reader Arielle some fiction last Friday, and I've been spending more quality time doing fiction writing. I've actually started the WIP novel, and put a little more work into "Rodeo at Area 51," which is the snippet you're getting today.

Here's to the start of a new (and hopefully continually good) trend!

--

"If you're offering me work, Mr. Hughes, you sure got a strange way of doing it."

He coughed, just slightly, as the dust from her gloves blew into his face. "Let's just say I've had to learn the hard way about distinguishing fact from fiction," he said. "If you are as good as your reputation suggests, I'm sure this opportunity will intrigue you and benefit us both."

She gestured over her shoulder. "I've still got two days of shooting."

Eddie shook his head dramatically. All right, there was a lot of money in this.

"I'm sure something can be arranged," said Hughes.

And now her manager was practically begging, clasped hands under his chin. If she didn't agree to this, he'd be prostrate soon. "I don't suppose it'd be top secret," she said, trying to keep her voice lazy.

"It would, in fact," Hughes responded, his voice just as tempered as hers. "You'll certainly be able to list us on your extensive resume, but I'm afraid otherwise, the information you receive will be classified."

"All right," she said with a quick nod, and Eddie flashed her two thumbs up. "Talk over the details with Eddie--I assume you've met him--while I get cleaned up. Shouldn't be more than a tic."

Hughes adjusted his jacket and grinned. "Do you always talk like that, Miss Cloud?"

Jo tried to throw Hughes's earlier smirk back at him, though she suspected he was more practiced. "Only in Hollywood, Mr. Hughes. It's part of my image."
alanajoli: (tuam face - celtic mythology)
I forgot to mention, Coyote Wild's YA issue is live, complete with "Nomi's Wish" and stories by [livejournal.com profile] janni, [livejournal.com profile] faerie_writer, [livejournal.com profile] jimhines, [livejournal.com profile] asakiyume, [livejournal.com profile] drachin8, [livejournal.com profile] fairmer, and several other wonderful writers who I don't know from lj. (I have not yet read them, but I know they are wonderful because I trust [livejournal.com profile] sartorias's taste.)

I may take a chunk of tomorrow, once I organize my brain, to just read some of the stories. I did read the poem by Shweta Narayan and [livejournal.com profile] jimhines's "The Haunting of Jig's Ear" when they were first posted, and enjoyed both very much. (I particularly enjoyed "The Haunting of Jig's Ear," if only because Jig the Goblin getting the best of people who are bigger and more powerful has a way of making my day. Goblin or no, I identify with the guy.)

If you have the chance, definitely drop by and read some of the stories--and send a note to the featured writers who have ljs. I've been getting some very nice comments, both on lj and via web chat, and I'm enjoying having other people meet Lou and Will an incredible amount. I've never had such quick and direct feedback from readers, and it's thrilling! I'm hoping to be insightful enough to be able to do the same for the other featured writers.
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: (fan)
Thanks for all the well wishes for safe journeys! We did have a wonderful time abroad, and of the novels I brought with me, I finished almost all of them. If you knew the reading load for the course itself, you would realize that this is either an astonishing feat of speed reading or a realization that I wasn't, in fact, getting graded. (I did read quite a bit of the course material--but when on an airplane, boat, the beach, it's hard to read about sacred geography and Greek religion while also enjoying the journey or the sunshine. Balance is key.)

And so, without further ado, I present world traveling novels.

Read more... )

And with that, our tour is complete. Some pictures remain, of course--there are bookstores in Greece, and in the airport in London, and I followed [livejournal.com profile] blue_succubus's example and took some photos. But given the number of photos already here, that will have to wait for another day.
alanajoli: (Nara)
First off, there are just a ton of great author interviews out there this week. Tiffany Trent is all over the blogosphere this week (she'll be here on Friday), and has the listing of her events here, along with information about a contest that none of you are allowed to enter, as I want the prize. So there. (Just kidding. Definitely go visit her blog and read the interviews.)

Ilona Andrews ([livejournal.com profile] ilona_andrews) has an interview up on Nalini Singh's blogspot page. There, you will learn the secret of her duplicitous identity! (It is also readily available on her website, but I hadn't visited before today, so I didn't know!)

But now, for something completely different. Browncoat Jessica posted a fun meme over on her blog that I am going to completely change to suit my own purposes. (You are, of course, quite welcome to take my version and spread it around, or go use her original.)

If I were to invite ten fictional characters over to dinner, they would be*:

1) The unnamed bard from Jane Yolen's "Liavek" short stories, because rarely have I had the pleasure of hearing tales from such an endearing voice.
2) Schmendrick the Magician from The Last Unicorn, because I suspect he is as good a listener as he is a contributor, and I also would wager that he likes his food. (But he probably does not like *good* food as much as Vlad Taltos from Steven Brust's series, whom I would be afraid of offending by not offering appropriate courses.)
3) Ilona from the "Hallowmere" books (thus far by Tiffany Trent, though she'll be written by another writer shortly as well), because though I suspect she'd be a shy guest, anything she had to add to the conversation would be worth hearing.
4) Lissy James from Golden by Jennifer Lynn Barnes, because I wouldn't want Ilona to be the only teen at the table, and I imagine that Lissy's power could do wonders for making sure all the guests got along.
5) Warbeak from Redwall by Brian Jacques, although I'd get her her own bird feeder or berries a little to one side, as the Sparra are not known for eating politely.
6 & 7) Shevraeth and Meliara from Crown Duel (and other titles) by Sherwood Smith. Though I doubt my ability to serve up a meal fit for royals, I'm so very fond of both of them that I hope they'd excuse my rather humble provisions.
8) Princess Cimmorene from Dealing with Dragons (and others) by Patricia C. Wrede, because as long as I'm inviting my favorite royalty, why stop?
9) Alanna of Tortall (from a variety of Tamora Pierce's novels), because she has always been first among lady knights in my mind, and because Ilona from "Hallowmere" would, I suspect, enjoy her company.
10) Shepherd Book from Firefly, because someone really ought to say the grace.

I would consider inviting Bilbo Baggins, but everyone knows how hard it is to keep hobbits well fed....

Others who didn't get invited to dinner this time around but are worth mentioning:

I would love to see Eowyn (Lord of the Rings), Cat Crawfield (Halfway to the Grave), and Kate Daniels (Magic Bites) spar.

--

*Disclaimer: If I were given this exercise tomorrow, it might change as I thought of other characters I'd love to have over to dinner. In fact, at 3 a.m., I'll probably wake up, feeling bad that I didn't "invite" someone. But in this moment, that list is absolutely accurate. ;)
alanajoli: (headshot)
I had the most wonderful experience yesterday. I've been off of lj for about a week now, due to cramming to get work done on a deadline, and then (gasp!) taking a day or two off and not hanging out as much online. Yesterday, I got a message from one of my fellow bloggers and community members, who wanted to make sure I was okay, because I haven't been blogging lately.

Wow.

This is one of those wonderful moments when I realize how much the online world has become so much like the office environment I used to have when I worked at a publishing house that it's almost an intersection of the physical and the virtual. What a wonderful thing to have people out in the world who notice when you don't show up--and how much more wonderful that is when they've never met you in person, but still care enough to drop a note!

So, thanks, my friend. You really made my day yesterday.

--

In the meantime, I've been collecting topics to blog about. Amazon just managed to win a debate against a federal request to give away customer information. Apparently, one of their marketplace sellers is accused of something or other, and the federal investigators wanted to contact all of the marketplace seller's customers to see what the fellow had sold. The whole story in the AP version is here.

The results for the Space Westerns limerick contest were posted, complete with plenty of Firefly limerick entries. The judges had a lot of great things to say, and some of them are as humorous as you'd hope. Others were actually pretty poignant, which is impressive in a limerick. Well worth reading.

And lastly, [livejournal.com profile] sartorias linked to this entry by [livejournal.com profile] superversive yesterday, but I wanted to quote from it here as well. It left me just feeling good about the fantasy genre, so I'll leave it with you until tomorrow.

"If Magic is an art by which the will is made manifest in the external world, then Elfland must be ruled as much by metaphysics as by physics. When the Half World spills over into the material plane, it may bring along the Platonic Ideals, which will then become real, solid objects like the ones we know. That is why, to the ignorant literary critic, it seems that all the characters in fantasy are mere archetypes. This is the exact converse of the truth: it is the archetypes who have descended from their Primum Mobile to walk the earth as characters. They have as much right to do so as any figment of the writer's imagination."
alanajoli: (Default)
Earlier today I commented on [livejournal.com profile] sartorias's recent post about keeping old books. I'm not particularly sentimental about my books (though the ones that are signed--whether by my children's librarian growing up from books I won during summer reading or by the authors--are certainly special). When a book gets old, I replace it. Nearly five years of working at bookstores trained me to think that old books, beat-up shouldn't be read. (In some cases, this is for their own protection; we recently replaced an old copy of Edith Hamilton's Mythology that was falling apart at the spine. It's still on the shelf, but we have a shiny new copy to refer to without having to worry about losing pages.)

On the other hand, I love physical books. I love how they look on the shelf. I loved seeing my first novel in print, feeling its weight, having a friend heft it and then ask if there were pictures. (Thanks to the lovely and talented Lindsay Archer, I could say yes. He didn't believe me, and I had to flip through to show him the insets.) And, as Giles once said on Buffy, books smell. I recently got a new dictionary because it was required for a copyediting assignment I'm working on. Possibly the most fun I've had in this assignment is opening up the dictionary and flipping through the pages, having that new-book-smell of paper and book glue waft up as I found the answers to my questions (and got distracted by words like "emissary," which I didn't realize could mean not only messenger, but secret agent).

I love content posted online, but find that I read comics better online than prose. I've only ever made it through one e-book without printing it. (This was a novel by the aforementioned [livejournal.com profile] sartorias, who didn't say it was a novel when she posted it on Pixel-stained Technopeasant Wretch Day, so I was fooled into thinking it was a short story. By the time I realized, it was too late, and I'd been utterly sucked in. Given how much I enjoyed it, I'm not complaining.) At this point, however, I think I read maybe fifteen web comics, most of them cohorts on DrunkDuck whose authors or artists have found us over at Cowboys and Aliens. As much as I enjoy the serial nature of the stories... it'd be nice to sit down with them away from the screen. Which I suppose explains Rich Burlew's success with Order of the Stick in print: geeks like me like how books smell.

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Alana Joli Abbott

July 2017

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