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This guest blog is a first for Myth, the Universe, and Everything, as the following is an excerpt from an original short story by friend of the blog Andrew Schneider being hosted at my home page, Virgil and Beatrice -- the first piece of fiction written by someone other than me to be hosted there.

Andrew and I have worked together on a number of projects, from the old Empty Room Studios days to Living Kingdoms of Kalamar and Living Forgotten Realms. He's a heck of a writer, and, tomorrow, he's launching his career as a self-published novelist with not one but two titles: Undercaffienated and Overexposed: The Tale of a Coffee Shop Princess and Nothing Left to Wish For, with a cover designed by the exceptional Sarah Schanze. (That's the cover featured here.) The following short story excerpt takes place before Nothing Left to Wish For; I hope you'll click through to the full story and check out the full novel!

You can learn more about Andrew's books in an interview with John "Ross" Rossomangno, another fellow D&D writer. And now, without further ado, Andrew Schneider!


"Cool, With Plenty of Water"
by Andrew G. Schneider

It was a simple task.

Haul and cleat, steady the sail. "Six points to spinward, Mr. Harris." Steady my old bones on the rail and watch the arm of the galaxy stretch away into the sky. "We're to swing wide round that dune."

"Aye, aye, Mr. Briggs." Not captain, never captain, even if it's just the two of us.

I close my one good eye and listen to the sand playing over the hull, the cold wind cutting through my clothes. We're a small craft, nimble and smooth. Just me and the pilot, Jase Harris, though there's space enough for three.

"Ware starboard!" Mr. Harris sings out.

The bulk of the sky goes black behind the prow of a fat freighter, speeding through the deep valleys between the dunes. She's running dark and fast in the middle of the night, low and heavy on a dozen blistering thrusters. Contraband. Smugglers for sure.

"We have right of way, sir?"

A mammoth wedge of wood, steel, and sail bearing down without care or cause. She'll run us down and burn the evidence.

"Right o' way, Mr. Harris. That's the spirit." The kid's got talent. Got what it takes to be the best pilot in the Endless Desert. "Let's show these smugglers some proper piratical courtesy."

"Sir." Mr. Harris grins, his fingers dance across the wheel. Our little ship groans, her thrusters spin high and hot and we're rising, up and up. I throw my weight hard against the rail for counterbalance as we cant sideways, skate the side of the freighter and score a gash in her flank she won't soon forget. Skip off her tail and let a smattering of shots and shouts follow us into the sky.

Then the freighter's gone and we're left high and lonely. Naught but the wind for company. "You ever been to the Crescent Cities, Mr. Harris?"

"No, sir. Can't say I've had the pleasure."

"Then hand off the wheel and step lively, port side down." I call it one of the wonders of the world. A jewel, nestled in the broad bosom of the Endless Desert. Viridian. Tourmaline.

They call it a lake. A body of water as large as I've ever seen, sickle shaped and calm enough to flip the stars on their face. Trees and farms hug the outer edge and the inner rim, holding off against the ever-present sand. Here and there, like the bones of some buried giant, towers stretch up out of the green; wizards' playgrounds. Bah, wizards and their flying carpets, always reaching for the stars.

Seven cities, seven ports, and seven thousand ships in and out every day. Landing lights dot the sands, calling me home. "Drink it in, Mr. Harris. Topside's too pricey for the likes us. We'll be berthed down under."

Aye, my bones ache on nights like this.

Read the rest of the story at Virgil and Beatrice.
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A few weeks ago, Bill Bodden, one of my fellow contributors to Haunted: 11 Tales of Ghostly Horror, graciously hosted me as a guest post on his blog. Today, I'm delighted to return the favor! Bill is a fantastic writer and was a driving force behind getting Haunted attention online, and it's been a delight to work with him. So without further ado: here's Bill!


Myths and Mysteries

I've been thinking about mythology quite a bit lately. Much of my more recent writing work has involved the Cthulhu Mythos; I've been doing quite a bit of work for Modiphius Entertainment at their Achtung! Cthulhu tabletop role-playing game line. This mythology, created by H.P. Lovecraft, Clark Ashton SMith, August Derleth and many others, postulates that the universe is a vast place and that human beings are not the center of it, as we had supposed for centuries. This was a new concept in the 1930s, and as one can imagine, not a popular one with scholars, academics and the clergy. Regardless, it caught on with readers to some degree, and was rediscovered -- thanks in no small part to the tireless efforts of August Derleth to keep Lovecraft's writing alive -- in the late 1960s.

One of the more interesting aspects of this mythos is its inclusivity; anyone can add to it. There are no official high priests to declare what is and is not canon -- only self-appointed ones. That others could build on his work was Lovecraft's wish, stated explicitly in letters to friends who had also contributed stories and ideas. I believe it was the first shared-world concept in literature, and remains a successful one to this day. That inclusivity has brought new blood and new ideas to the fold -- not all of it good, of course, but the vast majority of the material is well worth reading, if you like reading that sort of thing to begin with.

I cut my teeth on classic mythology: the Greeks, the Norse, the Egyptians, the Aztecs, all had fascinating stories designed to explain why Things Are The Way They Are. In this day and age we have a greater understanding of science -- mostly -- and have a better grasp of which things are natural phenomena and which are not. Science itself has nearly become a religion, supplanting the hazy explanations of the past with facts and logic of today. As our knowledge increases, we will doubtless learn more about the supernatural and paranormal, and when we do we may find, like so many of the protagonists in Lovecraft's work, that the real story is both far more interesting and vastly more terrifying than we had imagined.


Bill Bodden has been writing in the tabletop gaming industry for more than a decade. His latest works include material in the Achtung! Cthulhu Keeper's Guide, and is currently working on a project for White Wolf Publishing/CCP. His most recent fiction is the story "In The Shadow Of His Glory" in Sidekicks! from Alliteration, Ink. Visit Bill's website at
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Back in May 2007, I wrote this:

Regaining Home's first draft is done an in to my editor! Of all of the novels, this is the one where I wish I had a little more time to think about the structure and decide what actually works and where things could be better. Usually I turn in the second draft to my editor, as well, so I'm feeling like this one is a bit more raw compared to the others I've turned in. But deadlines are deadlines, and I know Shawn will find those places where I can do the least number of changes to greatest effect.

Almost seven years later, that better draft I'd been wanting to write is finally turned in to Shawn. And again, I know he'll be finding places for improvement. But I'm proud of the effort that went into this revision, and I'm very grateful to the beta readers who weighed in on a couple of issues that I think improve the novel. For the rewrite, I added in a character from Departure, and I took out two characters and changed their role into a new one. The result is that I like the characters better, and I think that Nara's story in particular becomes stronger in this version. Ultimately, she's the main character of the whole series, and I'm glad to see her have come through with a stronger end story than she did before.

I'm also pleased with the Trickster work I did in this novel, which I'd largely forgotten about until I was in the middle of the edits. I'd originally written the myth of Hamatanis the Porcupine stealing fire for the people for a sourcebook that never came out; in Regaining Home, Taru retells the story to Nara. I have a fondness for Trickster stories, and hopefully that element does those tales justice.

And now--back to editing and making progress on Choice of Pirate!
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There it is, folks! Lindsay Archer finished the cover art, and I could not be happier with her work. If you're interested in getting prints of her other projects, I noticed she has a number of things on sale at her store right now -- it's worth browsing through just to see her other projects!

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

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

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

I got to write about Frozen over at Questia, and I've been having fun with webcomic and game reviews at Black Gate Magazine. Otherwise, back to revisions for me!
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What a year in books! As always, my book list is dominated by science fiction and fantasy (in part because of the long nominations list every year in the Mythopoeic Fantasy Awards, which I love being on the jury for) with a healthy smattering of romance and comics. I'm facing a couple of big changes in 2014, the biggest of which is that I'm no longer reviewing SFF or comics for Publishers Weekly. My editors and I were all sad about the circumstances that led to this change, and I'm glad for things like Facebook and Twitter that will enable me to keep in touch when I'm not getting regular book shipments from them! Instead, I'm reading more titles for Kirkus, all self-published and many of them picture and chapter books, which suits my reading time with Bug (who is an excellent second opinion when reviewing such titles).

A portion of my still-ridiculous TBR pile
A small portion of my still ridiculous TBR pile

I read twelve fewer books in 2013 than in 2012 (in part because I count the picture book reviews in batches rather than individually), but my total was still 129 books for the year, an average of almost 2 1/2 books per week. A friend asked about the best book I read in 2013, and I said I'd have to consult my spreadsheet -- I forget in what year I've read what books! But here are some of my favorite picks for 2013:

  • Wrecked by Shiloh Walker, a very fun contemporary romance

  • Merrie Haskell's The Princess Curse

  • The manuscript for Max Gladstone's Full Fathom Five, which will be out this coming July; even in manuscript form, this is -- so far -- my favorite of the Craft sequence

  • A Man Above Reproach, a delightfully silly regency romance by Evelyn Price, which was so fun that I didn't even care if there were anachronisms

  • Digger by Ursula Vernon, which won the MFA in the adult category this year, and which I reviewed at Black Gate back in October

  • RASL by Jeff Smith, which I didn't love as much as Bone, but was good in a very different way

  • Vessel (the MFA winner for the children's category) and Conjured, both by Sarah Beth Durst, and both very different books, but equally good

  • Graveminder by Melissa Marr, which I think appealed to me particularly because my father is a funeral director

  • Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword, by Barry Deutsch, which I'd been meaning to read for ages and finally picked up

  • Sidekicked by John David Anderson, which I already reviewed here

  • If I Fall by Kate Noble, which may be the best romance novel I've read

  • Sleepless Knights by Mark Williams, a comedic Arthurian novel that's my favorite Arthuriana in awhile

I also caught up on some series reading that I enjoyed:

  • Allison Pang's "Heart of the Dreaming" series

  • Devon Monk's first three "Age of Steam" books (and I can't wait for more of those!)

  • I always compulsively buy whatever novel in Nalini Singh's "Psy/Changeling" or Ilona Andrews's "Kate Daniels" series comes out, so I'm happily caught up there

  • After falling behind on Jennifer Estep's "Mythos Academy" books, I read three in a row, and I'm excited for the (soon to be out) final book in the series

  • I read the final books in Karen Mahoney's "Iron Witch" trilogy, Ally Carter's "Gallagher Girls" series, and Nicole Peeler's "Jane True" series, all of which were fitting conclusions

  • I'm still catching up on the Sartorias-Deles books by Sherwood Smith (because they're such a vast span), but I did read and enjoy her 2012 YA The Spy Princess.

  • I am finally almost caught up with "Safehold" by David Weber, but I find sometimes I need to take a break in the middle of them to get away from religious warfare; Weber writes it very well, but it can be so heart-wrenching in the middle that I put the book down and come back to it later.

There are several more titles I could mention -- I read a lot of good books this year, and several that earned a "great" or "great!" or "holy crap awesome!" ratings in my spreadsheet. As for my goals... I didn't quite make them. Let's check in:

  • 1 new to me nonfiction book Yeah, this one didn't happen. This goal is staying on my list for 2014, though; I think reading nonfiction, beyond articles at Cracked is important, and I should do more of it, even though I'm dreadfully slow.

  • 2 novels not SFF, romance, or YA Didn't even touch this one. Again, reading outside my genres is important, and I don't do enough of it. Keeping this goal the same for 2014.

  • 1 novel by an autobio author who I haven't read before Technically, this one's a no-go, too, but I did read some people this year and, because I enjoyed their work, subsequently invite them to the project. So I'll give this one a C for effort. Same goal next year.

  • 3 rereads I made 2 rereads, but I have this vague recollection of binging on the "Kate Daniels" books by Ilona Andrews right after reading the newest one. No record of it, so I can't count it. I'm pretty sure I can hit the 3 count next year.

  • 1 new graphic novel not a review book I aced this one -- I read 12. So, um, this goal is coming off the list. I don't need incentive to read comics apparently. I'm also buying some books in single issues (Saga!) from Comixology, which I count like webcomics (which is to day, I don't write them down).

  • 15 TBR books Another abject failure. I only read 3. I realized though that from March until June I didn't read a single book that wasn't for a review or for the MFA list, so it makes a little sense that I fell behind in pleasure reading. Especially as we move onto the next one...

  • 4 kids books not for the MFAs A bunch of pleasure reading apparently happened here instead. I read 16 kids books last year. Again, this goal is coming down -- no incentive needed here.

  • And though this one's not a goal, my reviews totalled out to 74 books. According to my January recap of reading last year, I read 80 review books in 2012. So that number looks to be holding just about steady.

What books did you read last year that you'd recommend? What reading goals have you set?
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(Crossposted at Substrate)

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


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

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

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

seanan tweet

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

We hope you enjoy playing Showdown at Willow Creek. We encourage you to tell your friends about it, and recommend the game on StumbleUpon, Facebook, Twitter, and other sites. Don’t forget: our initial download rate determines our ranking on the App Store. Basically, the more times you download in the first week, the better our games will rank.
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When I asked friend of the blog Brian LeTendre to write a guest blog about his latest novel, Lovecraft's Curse, I didn't expect myself to appear in his entry! Since Brian's been so vital in helping me find an audience for my writing -- Brian has been a huge supporter of the Redemption Trilogy since Into the Reach first came out, and was one of the first reviewers (and definitely the first interviewer!) to cover the book -- I'm excited to know that the support and inspiration travel in both directions.

Without further ado, Brian LeTendre!


Lovecraft's Curse Front Cover Drive Thru

My pal Alana Abbott graciously offered to let me guest blog over here on Myth, the Universe and Everything to celebrate the release of my new horror novel Lovecraft’s Curse. Before I tell you about my book though, I want to talk a bit about inspiration.

Alana Abbott has been inspiring me to write since I met her in 2006. We were first introduced to each other right around the time Into the Reach was released. After interviewing her for my podcast (Secret Identity) and doing some playtesting for the Chronicles of Ramlar RPG (which she was working on), we continued to stay in contact. Alana did some guest gaming segments on the podcast, and we even covered WoTC’s D&D Experience event with our pal Max Saltonstall in 2007, chronicling the release D&D 4th Edition. The rest, as they say, is history.

I fell in love with Alana’s writing when I read Into the Reach. I read to escape, and my favorite stories are the ones that feature worlds I can immerse myself in. Alana’s attention to every detail in the worlds she creates makes you want to live in them. She puts so much into the culture and history of the characters she creates that you can read her stories multiple times and always find something new to dig into.

In many ways, meeting Alana and reading Into the Reach inspired me to participate in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) in 2007. I completed the 50,000-word challenge and came out with the first draft of what would become Courting the King in Yellow, my first horror novel. From that point on, I was on the path to taking my own writing seriously. I began doing freelance writing for a major comic news site covering games, and working on my own projects on the side. In 2010, I launched a webcomic called Mo Stache, which is still going strong today. Last year, I finally published Courting the King in Yellow, as well as a hot-to book about podcasting called Making Ear Candy. Which brings us to the here and now, and Lovecraft’s Curse.

Lovecraft’s Curse is my homage to the man I consider to be the greatest horror writer of all time--H.P. Lovecraft. It’s sort of a “What if?” story about his legacy and the things he wrote about. Here’s a quick teaser trailer for the book:

Lovecraft’s Curse combines my two favorite genres, fantasy and horror. Parts of the story take place in the Dreamlands, one of Lovecraft’s more famous creations and a place where worlds intersect and can be accessed through dreams. My main character Fela Barton is a young woman who has a connection to the Dreamlands that she doesn’t understand, and it has put her and those around her in great danger.

If you think that sounds interesting, you can grab a digital copy of Lovecraft’s Curse on either Amazon or Drive Thru Fiction, where you can get the print version as well.

Thanks to Alana for her continued support and inspiration!
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Way back in 2006, one of the first places where Into the Reach was reviewed was over on Flames Rising, which was the start of a long relationship I've had with the site as an occasional contributor -- and the start of my relationship with DriveThruFiction and the other DriveThru incarnations. Matt McElroy who runs the site has been awesome to work with, and it's through Matt and the Flames Rising team that I got to work on the anthology Haunted: 11 Tales of Ghostly Horror.

So it's with great pleasure that I've now come full circle with Flames Rising: Matt posted the chapter one excerpt of the revised edition of Into the Reach at the site today. Thanks to all the people who posted the news on Twitter! I saw it from you first!

In other news, I am working on Choice of Pirate for Choice of Games, and the folks over at Facebook have been helping me come up with pirate shanties to listen to while I'm writing. Matt Ledder of Renaissance Festival Podcast had perfect timing with his Pirate Show Special, which he posted on the 24th. The stars must have aligned just right for that to come together just when I needed it. Thanks, Matt!

Several of my friends from the Michigan Renaissance Festival helped me remember the name of a group I'd always tried to catch back between sets when I was singing with the Arbor Consort -- the Corsairs, who sadly disbanded in 2008. Luckily, The Jolly Rogers are still performing and selling CDs, so there's pirate music to spare!

What pirate music and sea shanties do you recommend? If you'd like to recommend the pirate movies in your top ten, come join the discussion on Facebook.
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I should have known it wouldn't last when our D&D characters had no chemistry. I speak of my very first boyfriend, whose paladin once quipped "But all priests are good" to my suspicious, cynical elf bard. The character my elf did have chemistry with? An equally cynical elf fighter with a mysterious past, the player of which I married seven years after our characters flirted across the game table. Geek love, baby.

"La Belle Dam Sans Merci," by Frank Dicksee

Over the past week, I've been thinking about what I prefer in fiction and interactive fiction -- I'm a characterphile (rather than a plot hound), and I like stories that revolve around inner turmoil and decisions rather than events driving the characters forward. What's interesting to me is those inner stories, and sometimes those involve romance. Or avoidance of romance. Or both. And I express that in games as well -- I'll replay a BioWare game just to see if I can achieve all the relationship unlocks with the NPCs. I have trouble thinking of more than a handful of my D&D character who weren't romantically involved with an NPC/PC in the story. (Heck, even the NPCs in games I DM often have a love interest at the table, known to the PC or not.)

So you'd think that when I'm writing games, the romantic interests would come easily for me. My first attempt in Choice of Kung Fu had two actual romance stories, then some extra NPCs thrown in just to be spouses, without having much character of their own. For Showdown at Willow Creek, I made all the romantic interests recurring NPCs, and I think it's better done -- although one of my playtesters showed that the coding didn't allow for quite as much snogging as she attempted. (There's still time to fix those bugs before it launches next month, so hopefully, you'll all have a seamless play experience!) I'm starting work on my next Choice game, Choice of Pirate, and I'm thinking about how the romances might work even more smoothly.

But along with accommodating for a number of romance options, it's also important to me to have an option to not get involved with romance at all. Several of the players I've DMed for over the years have run away from romantic hooks like the plague. (And sometimes the hooks were actually plague-bearing monsters of some kind or another, so they weren't wrong in that play style...) So, without losing out on any fun, the option to skip romantic entanglements should be there, too.

I started thinking about this last night after my second Black Gate blog post, which actually had nothing to do with romance, but a lot to do with interactive fiction.

How do you like romance in your games? If you write games, how do you create compelling romance stories?
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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!
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The big news of the day: I've started blogging about webcomics (and, soon, interactive fiction) for Black Gate, where I've previously been an occasional book reviewer. My first post is about Ursula Vernon's Hugo Award and Mythopoeic Fantasy Award winner Digger, which I loved and had fun getting to write about. Why am I over at Black Gate instead of just blogging here? They've got a great readership over there, and hopefully some of them will find their way over here to Myth, the Universe, and Everything -- and maybe decide to pick up the Redemption Trilogy when they're all finally released. It's a bit of marketing, a bit of fun, and hopefully a great fit for everyone involved.

As for my social media updates, I realized I don't have my Facebook page and Twitter on my website. This clearly must be remedied as I'm -- hopefully -- driving new folks over to Virgil and Beatrice. I'm also updating my Facebook page a lot more frequently than my blog -- every time one of my blog entries for Questia or Cengage Brain goes up, I post a notice on Facebook -- so if you're interested in my to-the-minute news, that's where you should find me.

Last thought for the day: every time I write about social media, using that phrase, the Common Shiner tune "Social Mediasochist" starts running through my head. It's catchy.
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One of the Redemption Trilogy Kickstarter stretch goals that got funded was the re-editing and prettification of Into the Reach and Departure to be re-released as new editions. At long last, Into the Reach has been re-released! It's currently available through DriveThruFiction and Smashwords. I'll be releasing it at Barnes and Noble and Kobo as well -- and probably Amazon, though I'm hesitant about that for numerous reasons (but Bottom Line dictatese that it's a necessity) -- but I'm more concerned at the moment about getting Departure cleaned up and off to the backers than getting the widest distribution possible on Into the Reach. If all goes well, all three novels will be up everywhere by the end of the year.


So hurray! That's a big hurdle jumped, and I can move on to the next things. Or, rather, I can keep working on finishing up the details on Showdown at Willow Creek (renamed to give it more Western flair), which is in beta, and get prepared for that release, while also moving on to the next things. What's in store here for the next few months?

  • Edits and formatting on Departure

  • Work on Choice of Pirate, my next game for Choice of Games

  • Finishing up coding on the autobio project. The project is now in four batches per year instead of two, which means more authors and more fun. This batch features Shiloh Walker and Margaret Weis, who were both fantastic to work with!

  • Speaking of the autobio project, we've added some fun new structure, so along with the long essays, like Shiloh wrote for this batch, there are also interviews, like the one Margaret participated in. I tend to feature a lot of SFF writers, partly because I'm more familiar with their work, and partly because SFF writers respond really well to being invited. (Graphic novelists tend to be excited to be invited but too busy to contribute, though I keep following up!) I've been focusing on inviting romance novelists and have had a little success there, but I am looking for more mystery novelists, nonfiction writers, playwrights, and literary writers to invite. If you've got recommendations of approachable writers who interact with their readers online (that seems to be the recipe for successful responses to my invitations) who fit into those categories, I'd love to hear them!
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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!




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 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 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 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'd like to welcome Sarah Schanze, also known as depleti, back to Myth, the Universe, and Everything. Sarah was a huge help with pointing people to my Kickstarter, and now she's got a Kickstarter of her own that I'll let her tell you about in her own words. You can check out her original guest post, about mythology in her excellent webcomic (soon to be print, we hope!) Thistil Mistil Kistil here.

Please give her a warm welcome -- and then go contribute to her Kickstarter!


Hey everyone! My name is Sarah Schanze and I recently launched a Kickstarter to get my webcomic Thistil Mistil Kistil printed into a collected volume. Alana was nice enough to invite me to plug it and talk a bit about the comic, so here I am!

TMK is a fantasy adventure webcomic featuring Vikings, Norse gods, weird magics, and weirder creatures. The story focuses on Coal, a recently deceased warrior, who has to complete a quest for Odin in order to reach his promised afterlife. Things get tricky quickly since Coal needs Loki’s help to complete this quest, and it’s not clear how helpful Loki actually is.

One thing I’ve tried to do with TMK is show some of the more historical aspects of Vikings and the time period they lived in. While researching I was really surprised at how far Vikings actually traveled, not only to plunder and raid, but also to settle. Because of this, most of the main characters aren’t warriors, but characters originally from other lands. There’s Hedda, a Christian slave kidnapped from Ireland; Ibrahim, a young Muslim scholar from Al Andalus; and Arne, a found Native American child raised in Iceland. Of the main protagonists, Coal is really the only one that most might consider a “Viking”.


Chapters of TMK also occur in places other than Scandinavia, such as Scotland, Ireland, Spain, the city of Constantinople, and of course Iceland and the “New World”. Not to mention the more fantastic places like Asgard and wherever Loki actually lives.

While I try to remain fairly close to historical sources, I do take some liberties. Funnily enough, my greatest liberty is taken with the myths themselves. Since they were all written down by biased sources and heavily edited, I don’t feel all that bad taking some myths and changing them around. So if you think you know where TMK’s story is going, you might find yourself surprised. Maybe.

If TMK seems like something you might enjoy, please take a look at the comic, which is free to read! If you like that, maybe think about pledging to get your own printed book. To sweeten the pot, I created an original bonus story just for the book about how Loki met Thor and ingratiated himself with the Aesir.

Thank you so much for reading! And thanks, Alana, for letting me ramble.
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 short hair)
It's not Friday, but C. E. L. Welsh couldn't wait -- his Kickstarter, which features friends of the blog Jeremy Mohler, Emily Hall, and Scott Colby -- has left than a week left to fund! I asked him to talk a little bit about the world behind the project, Seven Stones, and I hope you'll be intrigued enough to go over to the Kickstarter an check it out!

Without further ado: C. E. L. Welsh!


The World of The Wrecked Earth

In the summer of 2010 I saw a world where civilization was all-but-gone, where hordes of mutated animals roamed the wilds, and where shooting stars filled the sky, day and night, in a never-ending display of deadly celestial majesty. This world was, of course, all in my head, and there it remained until I managed to move a small part of it to paper, where it became CLUTCH: Book One of The Wrecked Earth. Now it is the summer of 2013 and I am trying to bring more of that world into existence, but this time I’ve enlisted the help of thirteen others to lend me a hand.

The project is Seven Stones, a collaborative short story & graphic novel effort with fourteen talented writers and artists. The idea: each of seven writers create a short story that centers around a meteorite (thus the title) in The Wrecked Earth. Then those seven tales are converted to comic scripts and seven artists bring their post-apoc vision to the table and create comics based on the stories.

We are at the short end of a crowd-funding run to pay for all this amazing work, and the logistics of coordinating so many moving parts form a complex and sometimes maddening spiderweb of tasks and roles—many of which I’ve had to learn how to fulfill on the fly. At the heart of it all is the world of the Wrecked Earth, a deliberately open playground that I created to give myself as much freedom as possible and, luckily, that worked out just right when it came to inviting others to the game.

Back in 2010 I wrote a three page comic script called “No One Escapes The Wizard”, with the idea that Danny Cruz would draw it and then we would pitch it to Mark Millar’s CLiNT magazine, which was having an open call at the time. The comic didn’t get made, but during the course of writing the script I had to answer quite a few questions, the answers to which later became the foundation for my world. It was to be a post-apocalyptic comic, short and sweet in the manner of the old Judge Dredd comics. Something filled with big ideas and over-the-top action, a pulpy-feel that didn’t require a great deal of scientific explanation behind why things were the way they were. Just some short-hand, thinly veiled reasoning and then we could get on with the action. As I developed the world I deliberately made choices that would give me maximum freedom for future stories (at this point I knew, regardless if this comic got made, that I wanted to do a lot of work in the world I was creating).

I didn’t want to be too tied down to the facts. If I wanted to tell a story where the hero fought his way through a ravine filled with mutated cows, but there was no ravine in that location in the real world, I didn’t want that to stop me! So I set to work creating the world my way.

What was the apocalypse? Meteor strikes! LOTS of them, all over the planet, for thirty days straight. Add the impacts to triggered earthquakes and screwed up weather systems and I could re-shape the landscape however I wanted. Keep the meteors falling, but make them sporadic and unpredictable to keep everything on a constant edge.

Where did the monsters come from? Radiation! Strange radiation that SOME of the meteors leaked, creating unpredictable mutations. (There are other reasons for the monsters I can’t go into yet… )

With these two elements in play, I could really come up with a ‘logical’ explanation for whatever I wanted/needed to inject into the world. From there other aspects of The Wrecked Earth started to take shape on their own, and I found myself discovering as much as I was creating.

With the re-sculpted (and still changing!) landscape, those that survived Rockfall (the initial meteoric destruction) were cut off from one-another. This meant that two towns only a few miles apart might evolve very differently over the years, creating perhaps radically different societies. Yet another advantage when it comes to storytelling.

There is a meta-plot involved in the arc of The Wrecked Earth’s creation and history. I am taking things in a specific direction. But along the way there are so many stories to be told… and not just by me. I have my way of writing, my voice, as it were. Even when I choose to tell different kinds of stories in this setting, they are still my stories. The setting is bigger than I am, and I just knew there were things that could be done with it that I wouldn’t be able to do, because I’m just one writer.

So I invited a few others to come and play.

I did my best to give them the rules; I wrote a Writers Guide to The Wrecked Earth, and I laid out the parameters of this specific project. Inside that framework, however, I not only gave them the freedom to write whatever kind of story they wanted, I encouraged them to do so. I wanted to see The Wrecked Earth through their eyes, and I have been delighted with the results.

I get to become a reader in the world I created, and that is an amazing thing.
alanajoli: (mini me short hair)
Yesterday, Bug and I went to Schemitzun -- the Green Corn Festival Powwow at the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation (with busses transporting us from Foxwoods Casino). It's been about eight years since I went, and some of those years the powwow was cancelled due to the economy. It's much smaller now that I remember it being before, but Bug and I still had a great time. Much to my dismay, she does not like fry bread yet. This is disappointing, but I can hope she'll acquire a taste for it in the future.

Photo by Abigail Pheiffer of tiny tot dancer Chaske Hill, Schemitzun 2012

We made it in time for Grand Entry, much to my surprise, as we were there forty minutes after it was supposed to start. It's been a while since my world ran on "Indian Time," as they told me to call it when I worked at Ziibiwing Center, but it was comforting to be back at an event where punctuality wasn't the most important thing. I talked to Bug about jingle dresses and grass dancers and fancy shawls; we had fresh strawberry lemonade complete with real strawberries and I had an Indian Taco. We got up close to the drums so we could watch them play, and we saw the tiny tots (dancers under six) make their grabs for candy in the Candy Quest Dance. All kids, even the ones who aren't registered, are allowed in that dance, so next year we'll give it a try.

So we had a great time, and though I'm a little nostalgic for the huge event that Schemitzun used to be, with an indoor arena for the dancers and a rodeo on another part of the grounds, I'm mostly curious if anyone has written up a history of the powwow. And if they haven't, I wonder if there's a market for a piece like that if I decided to do the research on my own...
alanajoli: (mini me)
What a wacky month it's been! We had a great family vacation, a fantastic visit from my mother, and then a not-so-terrific summer-cold-gone-feral that the house is still fighting off. (Bug manages with a few coughs here and there, while Threestripe and I have been dealing with what my friend Jess calls the "Peruvian Death Cough." It's an evocative description to say the least.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Alana Joli Abbott

March 2019

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