alanajoli: (mini me short hair)
It's been a long time since I've posted, but I have a lot of news to make up for it!

First: Today is the release of my newest interactive novel game for Choice of Games: Choice of the Pirate. Right now it's priced at $2.99, which is a 25% discount on the full price of the game. It's probably the most ambitious game I've written yet; set in the fictional Lucayan Sea, it borrows all the old pirate tropes from cursed treasure to ghost ships and adds a little extra magic to the mix. I'm very pleased with how it turned out, and I hope that many people enjoy the adventures!
You can read all about the game here at the Choice of Games blog.

Second: I'll be at the James Blackstone Memorial Library's local author expo tomorrow (5/21) afternoon. If you're in the area and would like to stop by and chat about my novels or games (or just shoot the breeze), please come on down! There are about thirty local authors attending, including reporters and children's book authors, so it should be an interesting mix. I'm not on any of the panels, but I may see about leaving my table for a bit to hear them.

For more information, you can visit the event website.

Thirdly: In honor of the game releasing and the author expo, I've finally uploaded the Redemption Trilogy to the major booksellers! You can nnow find them at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and Kobo.
They're also still available at DriveThruFiction, Smashwords, and iTunes as well.

Lastly: I've accepted a position as Editor in Chief of Outland Entertainment, where I'll be editing a number of very cool comics! You can find out more about us at our latest newsletter or by checking out the comics lineup!
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!)
alanajoli: (mini me)
This has been a big week for e-book news, most of it coming from the old price-fixing suit (discussed here and here) about the agency model is now down to Apple. According to Andrew Albanese at PW, "Penguin Finally Settles Price-Fixing Charges, Will Avoid Trial." Apparently, since Penguin was the largest publisher involved in the suit, their settlement means that consumers who bought e-books under the agency model (like me!) will be receiving a bigger class settlement than anticipated: "With the Penguin deal, the settlement fund that will reimburse consumers has now more than doubled since the initial state settlement was announced in 2012."

Meanwhile, Apple is still holding to the position that they didn't do anything illegal, despite Judge Cote (the judge on the case) saying her initial reaction was that the government would be able to prove them guilty. (Albanese also covered this news in PW.) It does not look like it's going to be an easy battle for Apple, especially now that they'll be standing alone on the defendant's stand.

In other news, Apple is doing something I think is remarkably cool: they have started a publishing program for fan fiction in which both the fan fiction writers and the creators of the work on which the fan fiction is based will receive royalties for purchases. Fan authors can only work in certain licensed properties, which should remove legal issues, since it means that the original creators have to agree to let fans play in their worlds. Now, why would people buy fan fiction instead of just getting it for free on the web? I'm not sure. I don't read much fan fiction anyway. But I like the idea of creating shared worlds that can profit everyone playing there, which, given my background in role playing games and role playing fiction, shouldn't be a surprise. You can read more in the PW article.

And last, given the rumors about Microsoft buying B&N out of the nook section of the company, as well as the rise in popularity of tablets as reading devices, I've been having some concerns that e-ink is going to vanish, which will make me very, very sad. But lo, Sony and E Ink Holdings have just come out with a new device with a flexible screen that looks pretty darn cool! I don't see myself buying one any time soon -- I like my nook Simple Touch -- but I'm really glad that E Ink Holdings is still in the game, and I hope that's a trend that continues. (Full article, once again, via PW.)


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • And last, PW's coverage of the upcoming ruling on Authors Guild v. Google.
alanajoli: (Star Cruisers)
If I used my blog like I use my history column on Branford Patch, I'd create a feature called the "E-book Minute," in which I'd post all the e-book news I've been collecting. Because there seems to be a lot of it these days!

But I'm far more free-form over here, so today's e-book minute will surely be something else the next time it comes around.

The exciting news: I get to shout "Yay Amazon!" Tentatively, of course. PW speculates that Amazon may be giving up its e-book format exclusivity in order to keep its publishing arm in bricks and mortar stores. This is a big hooray for me, if it happens, because that means writers who are releasing books only on Amazon, like writer friend Audrey Auden, are no longer inaccessible on my nook. If something is only available for e-book on Amazon, I would no longer be limited to computer reading or not reading it. I am hoping that Amazon will make the shift, and I suspect they might actually see their sales increase in e-books if they sell in a format that non-Kindle users can read. (Whether they'll see changes in sales of Kindles, however, I'm not sure.)

In other news, Random House has decided to charge 3x the normal going rate for e-books when selling them to libraries; the ALA has asked them to change the policy. PW's Peter Brantley wrote a pretty insightful blog entry on how this reflects the difference in perceived value between publishers and end-users, and what kind of impact that may have on publishing -- or on libraries -- or both.

Tangentially, Overdrive just purchased an Australian e-book company, which might get them access to more material, but definitely gives them access to some nifty new technology that may improve the library borrowing experience for patrons. So even if all Big Six publishers drop off the library scene (since Random House's pricing may make them impossible for libraries to work with), Overdrive is still working on ways to get books to readers.
alanajoli: (writing)
I was going to write up something about the SFWA's removal of Amazon links from their Web site due to the current IPG/Amazon throwdown, but then I realized that a lot of people have had a lot more intelligent things to say about the whole situation, including the SFWA itself. UK publishers are also getting into the mix, and my favorite article, by Los Angeles Times contributor Carolyn Kellogg, compares IPG's move to the Boston tea party.

So, let's get rid of those Wild West metaphors for the e-book scene and instead make comparisons to the American Revolution from now on, okay?

In other news:

  • Teen say they're just not that into e-books, but YA books sold five times as much in digital as in print last year, according to Karen Springen in PW. (Must be all us grown ups buying YA novels...)

  • J. K. Rowling is lined up for a new adult novel.

  • Maria Bustillos wrote a very long look into romance novels and why they're awesome over on The Awl.

  • Greg Sandoval of CNet shares snippets from the nonfiction work Gotham to explain how American publishing was founded by literary pirates -- publishers of the past hired merchants to buy British books and transport them back to New York, where they then made American editions and sold them without paying the British publishers a dime. At the time, U.S. law only protected American copyright.

  • And lastly, a huge congratulations to Rich Burlew for his phenomenal Kickstarter success, which PW talks about here. If you haven't been able to get a hold of Rich's out of print Order of the Stick books, it won't be long 'til they'll be back on the shelves.

Hope everyone has a delightful March 1st!
alanajoli: (Default)
Just a couple of links today. PW blogger Peter Brantley wrote up what I think is an excellent entry about the problem with leaving libraries out of the e-book revolution. Brantley's assessment is that by making e-books unavailable through libraries, a whole class of Americans is denied access to those resources. If the market does shift so that more and more books are published exclusively in electronic format, I agree that this is going to become the problem that Brantley anticipates. In the mean time, thank goodness for paper books, Interlibrary Loan, and the host of other resources available at the public library.

(The rotunda at James Blackstone Memorial Library, my local source for research and reading.)

Who's getting e-books right? According to Kent Anderson, Amazon is getting everything about publishing right, and everyone else in the book world needs to seriously up their game. This is, at least in part, true: writer friend of mine Audrey Auden dumped all the other e-book retailers for her self-published Realms Unreel because Amazon's customer service and platform were by far more beneficial to her in convenience and sales. On the other hand, Jim Hines recently discussed how Amazon can change your prices without your permission, as recently happened with his Goblin Tales. I maintain my wariness around Amazon, despite finally jumping on board with Amazon Prime (as it keeps us comfortably in diapers here at Casa Abbott).
alanajoli: (Default)
A few interesting topics in the last week and change that are relevant to previous posts on this blog:

  • The price fixing suit against Apple and the "Agency 5" has been amended so that it doesn't include Amazon (it surprised me that Amazon had initially been included, since they've never been pro Agency Model) and Random House. PW covers it here.

  • Verso Digital conducted a survey (also covered in PW) that shows book buyer preferences for a mixed digital and print market -- so print is likely to remain around for awhile.

  • Of course, according to Andre Tartar of Vulture, that will only be true so long as Barnes and Noble stays in business He views them as the last hope for print books reaching the public. The comments on the article are at least as interesting as the article itself.

  • And last but not least, Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy address the complaint by Fox News that their movie promotes a dangerous liberal agenda in an interview with UK based Leicester Square TV. There are several other amusing clips from the interview on Leicester Square's YouTube channel as well.
alanajoli: (Default)
I've been working with Scott Colby for some years now -- he's been my editor for several of the Baeg Tobar pieces I've written, all of which have been better for his input. Now, he's just released his first self-published novel as an e-book! (It also features cover art by the awesome Jeremy Mohler, who was my editor on Cowboys and Aliens II.)

Shotgun is now available at Amazon, and if it's anything like the quality of Scott's short stories for Baeg Tobar, it will be well worth checking out. You can also keep up with news on Scott's novel on facebook.

In honor of the recent release, Scott wrote up a guest blog about his writing process. Without further ado: Scott Colby!


When I self-published my debut novel, Shotgun, a few weeks ago, it was the culmination of years of hard work, several dozen gallons of coffee, and lots of time spent staring off into space debating whether my latest idea was a brainstorm or just a brain fart. I wrote the first version of the story ten years ago, in the back of my high school classrooms, when I should've been taking notes. Following several rewrites later and a decision to finally get serious about it this summer, I've got a story I'm very proud of and a world I plan to play with for a while.

One of the most fun parts of this process has been looking back at how my work has changed. I'm not sure what happened to my original spiral notebooks, but thanks to the magic of technology, I can look back at what I wrote in college and directly after. I didn't do much thinking ahead back then, but for some reason I had the presence of mind to save multiple versions of Shotgun rather than just overwriting my previous attempt at literary stardom. I can find the point where, after reading Frank Herbert's Dune, I introduced a reluctant traitor and commoditized an item that had previously just been a plot device. There's a few discarded documents where the comedy went way over the top, and there's a version where I brought it back down to Earth–well, as close to Earth as contemporary fantasy with a dash of very silly magic can get. There's the point where I ditched my terrible original first chapter which featured my main character singing along to “Sweet Home Alabama” as his pickup truck bounced along a dirt road on his way to meet his soon-to-be-murdered friends in a hunting cabin. And there's the time I decided to stop taking my elves too seriously and just let them fall off the rails. I've got fifteen chapters of an unfinished sequel that doesn't work at all anymore and another twelve of a prequel that might be salvagable with a bit of finagling and a strong pot of coffee.

What I've got is a complete record of my favorite hobby. It's proof that even though I don't know all there is to know about writing, at least I'm improving. It's an in depth look into a corner of my psyche throughout the years, flavored with elves and magic and terrible, horrible ideas I'm glad I got rid of but which I know seemed awesome at the time. Nullet the talking donkey? Pike's live-in groupie? Good riddance! None of you were as good as the pound cake summoning scene that's survived three iterations.

Anyway, to the point: keep copies of what you write, even if you think it's absolute garbage. Maintain files for different versions, too, rather than just overwriting what you've all ready done. I've been lucky with my computers, but I'm not foolish enough to keep anything in just one place anymore. I'm a big fan of Dropbox and I suggest you find something that works for you. Losing work is one thing; losing memories is another.

Oh, and check out Shotgun. I guarantee it's worth at least the $2.99 I'm charging. And if you read it and you think it isn't, well, just be glad this easy self-publishing technology wasn't around when I was an even crappier writer.
alanajoli: (Star Cruisers)
A couple of interesting bits of knowledge about digital publishing came to my attention recently, both first via PW, but their link to the B&N/nook divide didn't work, so you get a TechCrunch column (via John Andrews) instead.

Here's the deal with B&N/nook: according to John Biggs at TechCrunch, the company has announced that they're considering spinning off nook as a separate company. What strikes me about this is that it's really not a new strategy for B&N to split off branches of the company into their own separate companies. B&N, B&, and B&N College were all, at one point, separate companies. I want to say that the college stores are now back under B&N proper, but I'm not sure if B& is operating as a separate company or not. Functionally, as far as the user is concerned, they're all the same, and they certainly share customer information among the companies. So it wouldn't surprise me if nook splits off for now, and as B&N figures out where it's going in the marketplace, it may recombine again in the future. That seems to be how B&N typically works over the long haul.

Now, granted, whether they can compete long term with Amazon and Apple, who knows? I hope so, because, well, you all know my customer loyalty bias. I do think it's too bad that the nook Simple Touch isn't doing better, since it's a pretty great little device -- there are some things that my nook First Edition did better, but the Simple Touch has some excellent features, and the hyperlinking works very well (for books that are formatted properly for the device; as always, some formats work better than others).

The industry is changing, and according to Hyperion CEO Ellen Archer, in a Digital Book World interview with Jeremy Greenfield, it's not just digital that's making the impact, but media arms. Archer is the publisher behind the Richard Castle novels (with Tom Straw writing as the fictional Castle); the most recent Nikki Heat mystery came in at #1 on a bestseller list (she doesn't mention which one), and she notes that another media tie-in also hit the #1 spot. Since Disney is the parent company to Hyperion, and ABC is the parent company to Disney, Hyperion has a lot of connections in that world, and Archer is projecting that as the future.

All that said, I think we've still got a long ways to go before the market for paper books burns out. (Pun intended.) There really is still an experiential quality there -- and there are still plenty of people who aren't willing to have a devoted digital reading device and hate staring at the computer screen when they're relaxing. Granted, that number grows smaller... but the market is still there.

Although, if it's true that the market for consumer goods is driven by fourteen year olds, the industry shift may come a lot sooner than I anticipate.

*Yes, the quote is from Leverage. Because that show is awesome.

Oh Amazon

Nov. 29th, 2011 08:45 pm
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When Amazon first said that the Kindle was going to work with Overdrive back in April, I was excited. As a former library staffer, I thought this could only be a win for library users and libraries in general. Good for libraries how, you say? Circulation statistics help libraries get funding, whether those circs are from print books or e-books. More circs = better library statistics = better chance for grants. So, hurrah Amazon for helping libraries out!

But wait. As of last week, Penguin just pulled all their new books from Overdrive. Why? Apparently the new Kindle/Overdrive platform has increased concerns about security for their digital files. Apparently if you want to borrow a book for your Kindle, your library directs you to Amazon's site, rather than to the Overdrive program (and Adobe Digital Editions), which is how I've always used Overdrive. (This is conjecture on my part, based on news coverage.) According to a recent article in PW, libraries may end up on the losing end of this disagreement, since now only one of the Big Six publishers (Random House) is fully on board with library lending. And they're taking a look at their policy, so who knows, what that will mean for the future?

I hate to sound like I'm always coming down on Amazon. As a resource, I love Amazon. I use them heavily for publication dates and information, and I shop there for all sorts of non-book items. I rent digital-streaming movies from Amazon. I buy music there. I really want Amazon to be the kind of company that I want to shop at. And I don't think that the traditional publishers are automatically in the right. But it seems like there are just too many hijinks where Amazon is concerned to automatically assume that Amazon is the good guy.

Especially, it seems, for independent publishers in international circles. I forget where this link came from (possibly also the PW newsletter), but Mark from The Writer's Guide to E-Publishing breaks down what your book actually costs on Amazon if you're selling it abroad. If you've priced it for free -- or at 99 cents -- that's not what folks in Europe are going to end up paying (and remember, they've got the exchange rate in their favor).

Some day I want to open up the PW newsletter and find some really awesome, feel-good, heart-warming Amazon related news. But I'm not holding my breath.
alanajoli: (Default)
I am down to 33 messages in my inbox. This is the closest I've been to "success" since the end of September. I'm getting there! This means that work is getting done on this end, for which I'm glad -- but more on that topic later. Now, to the important business of interesting links, so I can close some browser tabs...

  • So, after I celebrated Amazon's cooperation with Overdrive as a success for library patrons (and library e-book circulation statistics), Amazon launched their own lending service for Prime members. The initial Publishers Weekly article gives some details, including how Amazon intended to launch without the Big Six publishers. PW blogger Peter Brantley followed up with his observations on the program, as well as the impact on libraries. Then yesterday, PW's Rachel Deahl reported that Amazon might be headed toward litigation, since they had apparently planned to lend books they didn't really have permission to lend. Additionally, agents are in an uproar because, although Amazon will pay publishers for books as a sale, the borrowed books will register differently from traditionally sold titles, meaning that the royalties could get very messy. I am never surprised at kerfuffles surrounding Amazon's business practices, and though I think the Kindle is a fantastic device (and I do rent, and occasionally purchase, streaming media from Amazon, at least so long as my free trial Prime membership lasts), every time a situation like this comes up, I'm glad I'm not further in bed with Amazon. Of course, if I eventually make the Redemption Trilogy available to Amazon customers, that relationship will inevitably change once again.

  • Speaking of e-readers, friend of the blog and former college classmate of mine John Andrews of the Hippo posted a concise and helpful overview of the different options on the market right now, including the new updates about the B&N line and price cuts (which, of course, come within months of my purchasing a Nook SimpleTouch, now known as the regular Nook). You're all familiar with my B&N company loyalty, of course, and thus can take all my commentary on e-readers with a grain of salt; John has no such biases that I'm aware of, and is, you know, a journalist and stuff, so his commentary is much more trustworthy.

  • The Muppets are coming soon! very nicely linked to the last of the parody trailers for the film, which lampoons the first parody trailer and takes hits at the Twilight Saga. It makes me giggle. I'm so looking forward to it!

  • DriveThruRPG is hosting Teach Your Kids to Game Week from November 14 through November 21. Bug's already got her first set of dice, and she loves our huge-sized minis, so I figure we're already well on the way to a future gamer.

  • Jeffrey Taylor, another classmate of mine from Simon's Rock, is launching a new comic starting tomorrow. Clockworks Comics has its online launch party tomorrow -- you can check out more info on the facebook page.

And with that, I think my links are expended!
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I don't watch a lot of TV. We don't actually have television service, and I watch my current TV shows from my computer screen. We do have a Roku for our Netflix service and find it incredibly useful, and we've rented movies from Amazon that way as well. Recently, I gave HuluPlus a look, but since it carries only one of the three television shows I'm currently committed to (yes, TV is a relationship: I have an ongoing friendship with Castle and Leverage, and sadly a limited remaining time of my dedication to Eureka), we won't be continuing to use that service. While I have it, though, I thought I'd try out two new television programs on the big screen to see if they'll be worth following on the computer later on. I speak, of course, of Grimm and Once Upon a Time, two fairy tale spin offs of very different flavors. The fairy tale hook clearly appealed to me, but whether or not I'll be staying to see how they go depends very much on the shows themselves.

Of course, I'm not the only one to pay attention to their very close release schedules. Teresa Jusino over at posted her response to the pair, which I intentionally didn't read before writing this. (However, most everything over at is worth reading, so I'll blindly recommend going and comparing her notes to mine.)

Here's my assessment: Grimm is actually an urban fantasy in the UF Noir style (ala the Dresden Files and others) that uses fairy tale elements for its paranormal component. As it's made by some of the writers who were on the teams of Angel and Buffy, the similarities don't entirely surprise me: in some ways, the series strikes me as Buffy if the core audience being targeted were mid-career adults rather than teens and twenties. It's also a cop show, and I suspect it may end up feeling like a cop show with paranormal elements rather than a fantasy with cop show elements. I think that may work in its favor.

Once Upon a Time, on the other hand, is a fairy tale writ long. In the tradition of fairy tale retellings like Bill Willingham's Fables comics, Sondheim's Broadway musical Into the Woods, and (most recently) [ profile] jimhines's Princess Quartet, Once Upon a Time takes the familiar stories and twists them, just a bit, recasting real fairy tale characters as unknowing modern-day humans, for whom time has stopped. The only one to know about the Curse that has brought them out of their fairy tale reality and into the real world is Henry, a little boy, who is the biological son of the destined hero (the daughter of Snow White and Prince Charming), and the adoptive son of the Evil Queen. The hero herself, Emma Swan, is a tough girl loner who doesn't really believe in Henry's story, but finds herself drawn to the child. The cuts between the fairy tale backstory and the modern break-the-curse plot honor the romantic atmosphere of fairy tales -- and, thus far, aside from some off-stage cutting out of hearts, are doing it in a pretty tame way. Sure there's swordfighting and sorcerous battles, but it's not the sort of gritty and dark flavor that Fables and Into the Woods brought us. The fairy tale versions of the characters don't have anywhere near the depth they do in Jim Hines's books.

But that may be part of the point: while Grimm is, from the get go, down in the brutal side of those beloved and scary German folk tales, Once Upon a Time is Disneyfied, right through the use of the name Melificent for the wicked fairy who cursed Sleeping Beauty. Because the team of Once Upon a Time, was also part of the team on Lost, there is some worry that the fairy tale elements may end up being a lie after all -- but from some quick research on what the creators wanted to bring to the show, it doesn't sound like that's their intention. But while I think Grimm starts by knowing what it is, as a show, right from the very beginning (and, by virtue of the Monster/Villain-of-the-Week potential, could go on for seasons), Once Upon a Time launches its major plot in episode one, and that full plot arc needs to be resolved in the first season to feel like the story is going anywhere. The quest structure could work in its favor if they can raise the stakes for Season 2 -- or it could mean that the show has a one season maximum until we all get back to happily ever after.

It may sound like I'm being hard on Once Upon a Time here; I am being pretty critical, because it's a subgenre I'm invested in. But I'll definitely say that after watching two episodes (I've only seen the pilot of Grimm), I'm drawn in enough to keep watching, at least until the end of the season -- or however long it survives this season! I have a feeling that in the current TV climate, Grimm with its gritty appeal and its ambiguous morality will find its audience with no trouble at all -- and unless things get too scary for my fluffy-bunny-horror self, I'll be sticking with it.


Aug. 20th, 2011 11:03 am
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Attempt number two at posting: I don't know if it's having so many tabs open (with links I've been collecting to share here) that's making Chrome slow down. I'm also not sure how my last livejournal tab got closed before posting (though that could have just been my slippery fingers). But I figure I'd better share some of this stuff and see if that speeds up my work process on this end.

  • In Reads takes a look at the Amazon royalty structure for Kindle books, and questions whether the cut off point for high royalties at $2.99 is fair. (Books priced between $2.99 and $9.99 receive 70% royalties; below $2.99 they receive 35%.) With Amazon pitching a new tablet to compete with the iPad, I bet we see this type of conversation keep cropping up.

  • When the agency model first came out, I, and others, questioned who was benefiting. From what I knew from working with physical books at a bookstore, the publisher sets a cover price, charges retailers a percentage of that price, and the retailer decides how to price it to best sell the books to their customers. The agency model takes away the retailer's options to price the book for their customers -- which looks to me like it's shorting the consumers. I couldn't figure out the benefit to the publishers for this, but apparently, it's that they could sell their books to Apple. And now, according to Business Week, Apple and the publishers who have embraced the agency model are facing a suit for e-book price fixing. So my feeling that there was something fishy about the model is not a unique thought!

  • A writer for the Guardian asks, again, if e-books are ushering print out. According to the commenters, the answer is still no.

  • Via Rob Schmidt from Newspaper Rock, National Geographic tested the representation of the Apache in the Cowboys and Aliens movie. Some of the things I mentioned in my review came up; other things they caught I did short pieces on in the history bits of C&AII. For example, War Hawk (who doesn't have a traditional Apache name) talks a little about naming conventions here. Apache names reflected something about their personal nature, and during the time in which C&AII is set, a lot of those names began with "Angry." I can't track down my original sources on that information, but photographer Rico Leffana wrote about some of that same history in a short essay on Fort Apache.

In the meantime -- plenty of writing and editing work keeping this Abbott busy! On the fun side, Bug and I both went on our first ride on the electric trolley, which I've written about briefly on Branford Patch, and had a great time.
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A couple of articles caught my attention lately, one courtesy of Hippo tech columnist (and old writer buddy of mine) John (Jack) Andrews (who's over on twitter as @citizenjaq). Jack tackles the whole LCD vs. e-ink phenomenon that's happening as tablets get more and more popular. I've expressed my preferences here before: I don't like to read on an LCD screen if I can avoid it. It takes something that really captivates me to get me to sit and read it in full on my computer screen. Before I got my nook, I'd print out a manuscript or e-galley to read. (Having read physical manuscripts for this year's Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards, I can safely say it's something I hadn't missed!) Before my nice little, one real function e-ink device, e-books were a pain. Now? Love them! I'm actually buying them preferentially these days, in part to save on shelf space and in part because they're easier.

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

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

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

  • I've been waiting until it was public to announce this, and since this interview at Operation Awesome is up, I'm going to say that makes the news officially out there: [ profile] lyster , aka Max Gladstone, is being represented by Weronika Janczuk of D4EO Literary Agency! He talks about it on his blog here. So many congratulations, Max! The world is one step closer to seeing your awesomeness in print!

  • New bits of my writing on the Web: a series review I did for School Library Journal is up here. The history column is progressing with some fun questions and answers. I got to write about the mysterious Great Oak at Double Beach, which no one remembers coming down; a wacky local legend about early governor of Connecticut Gurdon Saltonstall and the lake that bears his name; and weird road names in Branford and how they came to be. I've also started doing some articles for Branford Patch beyond the column, the first of which is about our local toy store, Kid Wishes, closing the bricks and mortar store and moving online..

  • Other new fun stuff related to my writing: the director's commentary style interview that I did with Brian LeTendre (of Mo Stache and Secret Identity Podcast) is up streaming here, and is available for download at my home e-tailer, DriveThru. (The interview is downloadable for free.)
  • Speaking of e-tailers and e-book sales (with just a slight segue jump), Chuck Wendig wrote a great piece on how the low ball prices on e-books can impact your favorite authors. Don't get me wrong -- I love getting books at the $3 price point. [ profile] sartorias 's books are available at around that price over at Book View Cafe. I priced Into the Reach and Departure at under the $5 mark. [ profile] jeff_duntemann 's new novella and an accompanying novella by James R. Strickland are priced together at $2.99 at Barnes and Noble, and will soon be on Kindle for the same price. Clearly, authors I know and respect are offering their fiction at rates that are incredibly affordable -- less, as Cat Valente says, than folks pay for a cup of designer coffee. I don't know how the business model will shape out, but it is interesting to watch. And I agree with (and am a follower of) Chuck's final point: if you like a writer, buy their stuff, and recommend that your friends do the same. I don't always have room in my budget to do so, and I may hold off until after the release date when cash is flowing more freely (and my review pile has fewer books in it!), but I try to support the authors I really want to keep writing more books.

  • Of course, that crazy e-book market is doing things that the e-prophets have been anticipating since, oh, 2000 when I went to the Denver Publishing Institute and first heard the voice crying out in the wilderness. According to PW, e-book sales were up 202% in February. But while those percentages don't always mean much to me, the big number in this article is that publishers reported over $90 million in e-book sales. Despite this, and despite the uptick in college students reading e-books, most college students aren't using e-readers for their text books. I'm actually kind of astonished by this, since I first got hooked on e-readers as a great idea when thinking about how much I'd have preferred to carry around something the size of a nook on campus, rather than all my text books -- assuming that it took notes more like a Kindle. ;) (I'm still not a fan of the nook's note taking capability in comparison, but luckily, I don't need to take notes much anymore, unless it's in a review book, and those are almost always ARCs.)

  • And last in e-book news, Kindle owners are in luck: they'll be able to start borrowing books from their libraries just like nook and Sony users! PW's link is down, weirdly, but here's the news from Venture Beat. No word yet on a time frame, but I'm super psyched that Amazon decided to make library lending possible for the Kindle. It's a big win for libraries!

Actually, that ended up being more links than I thought I had. Ta da, extravaganza complete!
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So, there's been news lately about Wiley Agency starting an Amazon only imprint for their writers. It's sort of a weird deal -- a literary agency acting as a publisher and giving exclusivity to a single seller -- and it's much debated (which I won't get into here). It has got me thinking, though: in theory, writer royalties are supposed to be larger in e-books. (That's another thing being batted around the news lately.) If that's true, it would make sense for me to exclusively buy e-books instead of mass markets, as they're priced very similarly, and on e-books, my money would go more directly to the writer.

So, writer friends:

1) Are your royalties better on e-book?
2) Does my math make sense?

Twostripe has looked at my to be read pile, which I've now divided into three as part of the baby-proofing efforts at the house (it's far less likely to topple now). When I talk about buying a new book from my release list, he makes a funny gurgling noise that isn't at all a sound of approval. He suggested, however, that I look into saving us shelf space by buying digital, so I'm headed that direction. (I picked up Nalini Singh's newest, Bonds of Justice, when Kobo Books was having a sale the other day.)

This messes up my "I like all of my books to look the same on the shelf" strategy -- I'm compelled to buy matching book sets, which is why I have all the Percy Jackson books in hardcover, and why I at one point had three different incomplete sets of the Harry Potter series, since I picked up paperbacks of several of the books in England over two or three trips. On the up side for the blog, slimming down my print collection could mean a lot of fun prizes and contests coming up here.
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This is more of a general question to the folks who read this journal at large than an actual blog entry (though it does have to do with today's New York Times article about Amazon acquiring a company that looks like it'll pave the way to Amazon developing something similar to an iPad -- color display, WiFi, etc.). As you all know, I'm really fond of the e-ink display. I think it makes for a superior electronic reading experience. When I was chatting with my coworkers about it, one of them who is also a photographer said that such a display would make photo editing much easier, because you wouldn't be dealing with the back-lit glare of a monitor.

According to that NYT article, it sounds like no one is using e-ink in color -- that the choice is either an e-ink display or a color display. But back in 2005, E*Ink, presumably the company that designed the technology, put out a press release (featuring the Book of Kells, unless I'm mis-identifying the image) that showed that the e-ink display could feature color. An Engaget article from April 09 shows a competition among developers to release color e-ink displays to the masses.

My question is this: why settle for a back-lit screen as the color technology (when what makes e-readers really exciting is their non-back-lit screens) when e-ink and competitors have color in progress? Is this a personal preference issue and I'm just being a dolt about it? Or are folks just tired of waiting? (While working on this, I found a Wired article that addressed my first question -- which was why, if the technology has been around since 2005, hasn't it come to the market yet. Apparently it's harder than I thought.) If you read e-books, what are your feelings about displays?
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After the weekend, Amazon said to the world, "Well, we can't help but do what Macmillan says, because they have a monopoly on their own titles." (Well, that's one way to put it.) The wonderful Barbara Vey of Beyond Her Book posted about it as it was happening, with both Amazon's letter to the public and Macmillan's letter to the public side by side. Another great article on Paid Content gives a breakdown of why this is actually a much better deal for Amazon, as far as making money goes. So why the fuss? (And why hasn't Amazon put the Buy buttons back on Macmillan books yet?) Suspicion says that this was all done so Amazon can say, "Hey, it's not our fault that the mean, horrible publishers are charging too much for e-books, consumers. We tried to protect you."

Honestly, Amazon, I can protect my own wallet, thanks. I spend a pretty minimal amount on e-books, have found plenty legal e-books for free (and know there are way more available on Project Gutenberg), and I still like my print books. Consumers will ultimately be the force behind how e-books are priced, without so many shenanigans, I hope. (Correspondent [ profile] jeff_duntemann pointed out in the last entry that he thinks 50% off of the print price is about right -- of all of the industry pros I know, he's the guy I'd expect to have a handle on this, so I have a feeling he's in the right ballpark.)

One of the things that Barbara points out that once again scares me about the power of Amazon & Kindle is that any of the free previews available on Kindle for Macmillan titles vanished from the Kindles of the folks who had downloaded them already. They're overusing that Big Brother potential, and I hope they realize folks find it annoying (and worse).


But on to happier things. Do you know how many book birthdays there have been lately? First, [ profile] mdhenry had Happy Hour of the Damned come out in mass market. (There are contests all over the interwebz to support this release: see Bitten by Books as well as the Home Pages of Michele Bardsley, Stacia Kane, and fellow book birthdayer Dakota Cassidy, who just birthed Accidentally Demonic.) Nalini Singh's Archangel's Kiss, the second in her new series, is now on shelves. And in a few days, [ profile] frost_light's first Cat & Bones spin off, First Drop of Crimson, is being released. Whew, what a lot of birthdays!

Jeaniene's publisher is actually offering a sneak peak of First Drop of Crimson over at the HarperCollins site. It's almost a full fifth of the book, so if you can't wait, check it out now. Jeaniene also does super nifty book trailers, so I'm posting one below. She's also got a contest at Bitten by Books that's worth checking out.

So, tons of new books, contests, and prizes. Is it time to go shopping or what?
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Publishing hijinks are ensuing as Macmillan and Amazon duke it out. Macmillan wants Amazon to charge more for its e-books, and in the disagreement, Amazon responded by saying, effectively, "then take your ball and go home." The e-tailer is no longer selling Macmillan books in any format.


Jay Lake, John Scalzi, and Jackie Kessler all do pretty good commentary. I understand from reading enough publishing and author blogs that e-books aren't actually substantially cheaper to produce than, say, mass markets. But I also know that I, as a book buyer, would much rather buy the print version of a book if I'm paying roughly the same cost for either edition. (The exceptions here include Foucault's Pendulum by Umberto Eco, which I'd rather not own in print, as it appears ginormous, but which has been recommended to me recently by two independent sources. Sadly, I can't find an edition for my Nook. I'd also happily buy the compiled "Dark is Rising Sequence" for my Nook to make good on my New Year's Resolution to finally finish books four and five this year, but it looks like only books 2 and 4 are available in e-book format. I would also love to get legal ebook editions of my D&D books so I didn't have to lug the things around, but WotC seems to have abandoned that plan in favor of D&D Insider, which requires an Internet connection and a subscription fee.)

I predominantly buy e-books that are novellas or short stories by authors and artists I like (which aren't available in print) or get e-books for free, which shows about where my price point runs. I tend to agree that most buyers just won't pay the $15 price point on an e-book, but if Macmillan wants to try, I think Amazon would be smarter to let the consumer show that they won't pay that margin than demand that Macmillan offer their books at a lower rate. And there's certainly no reason for Amazon to drop the print editions! That just seems foolhardy.


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Alana Joli Abbott

March 2019

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