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ReaderCon logo

I had a fantastic time at ReaderCon this weekend! I've known about it since my days of writing for Rose Fox at Publishers Weekly, as Rose has long been one of the convention organizers, but I had never been before. So when the Ragnarok Team was asked if we'd be sending an editor to the convention, my hand went up. It was a really excellent time, and I was impressed with the attention to details as small as the production quality of my name badge. Check out my photos on Facebook (as I'm still figuring out how to convince DreamWidth to embed them in my post).

I attended two panels. "It's Complicated: Improving Intersectionality and Representation in Speculative Fiction," featured David Bowles, Phenderson Clark, Hilary Monahan, Catt Kingsgrave, Miriam Newman, and Teri Clarke. It was tremendous fun—despite the seriousness of the subject matter, the panelists knew how to have a good time with engaging the audience while still getting their points across. I hadn't been very aware of the term intersectionality. Phenderson Clark described it as having "all these identities wrapped up in one person," which I think is a really wonderful concept that ought to appear in all characters—David Bowles pointed out "The term intersectionality had to be invented... to actually reflect the real world." Teri Clarke really stole the show, and Miriam Newman, an editor, touched on some topics that are professionally important to me.

The second panel "Sidereal Symphonies: Writing Extraterrestrial Art and Performance" was as much fun as you'd imagine, but got surprisingly (or, perhaps not) mythological at times. The panel included John Clute, Catherynne M. Valente, Caroline M. Yoachim, Henry Wessells, and friend-of-the-blog Max Gladstone. Catherynne Valente had the subject very fresh in her imagination and had most of the best quotes of the panel ("These aliens come and blow shit up. Well, what did they sing about that?" And then, "I refuse to believe that any interstellar culture is incapable of producing a pop song.") I loved Caroline M. Yoachim's overall belief that aliens just aren't weird enough, and I delighted in John Clute referencing Mircea Eliade, whose The Sacred and the Profane was required reading for the mythology tours I TAed.

But probably the most fun I had was just chatting with industry people: I met up with editor Becky Slitt from Choice of Games and we talked about what I'd be writing next. And I had a delightful chat with literary agent Alex Adsett, who represent Alan Baxter, who we publish at Ragnarok. My day ended with a great time chatting with Becky, Max, and Max's wife Stephanie in the restaurant discussing the necessity of chocolate, which is a great way to end any day.

All in all, it was really fantastic, and I hope that we at Ragnarok can have a bigger presence there next year!
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 short hair)
Happy New Year! It's been some time since I posted; it was a busy year at Casa Abbott for non-writing reasons. We've welcomed baby Fish into our family, joining his sister Bug, Three-stripe, cats Jack and Tollers, and I as members of our household. But while I'm behind on many things, I've continued to read a lot! Since I posted last year and the year before about my reading goals, I wanted to post last year's results and this year's goals before 2015 progressed too far!

This year, I did not count all the picture books I read, but I did count all my review picture books individually. For the year, I totalled 163 books, which is up from last year's 129 (probably in part due to counting all the review books individually). There was a method to my madness, however: I wanted to see what percentage of titles were review books as compared to non-review books. Here's some of the interesting breakdown:

  • 89 titles were review books

  • 106 were children's or YA books

  • Only 12 were graphic novels, which is rather low

  • I read 7 romance, 69 SFF, and 2 nonfiction

I did reasonably well on my goals. The 2 nonfiction titles beat my goal to read just 1. I read 13 out of the 15 novels from my TBR pile I'd hoped to read, 4 titles by autobio writers, 6 rereads (out of a goal of 3), and read one non-genre novel.

The most interesting statistic I kept last year was print vs. digital. I surprised myself by reading 91 books in paper and 72 digitally. I thought I skewed toward e-books, so it's interesting to me that I'm not even at 50% digital reading. Some of this is due to reading for the MFAs. I rely heavily on the library to provide me with MFA reading, and though some are available as e-books, most are more readily available in print.

Highlights of the year?
  • Rereading Max Gladstone's Three Parts Dead--and seeing it make the MFA finalists list--was great fun. It's been especially fun to read more of the Craft books, both post-publishing and in mss format, in combination with playing Max's Craftverse game Choice of the Deathless. Without the books being required for the game and vice versa, they work so well in conjunction!

  • Finishing Devon Monk's "Allie Beckstrom" series was bittersweet, but starting the "House Immortal" books makes me confident there's more excellent reading to come.

  • I had the fantastic opportunity to interview Gene Luen Yang for the autobio project, and I read The Shadow Hero and Boxers and Saints in preparation for that. They were both some of my favorite reading for the year, for very different reasons. I'd recommend The Shadow Hero to anyone, but especially readers who have a fondness for Golden Age superheroes. Boxers and Saints is a fabulous moral and ethical investigation of a historical period with a lot of magical realism thrown in, and I found it both enjoyable and tremendously moving.

  • The biggest surprise read was probably Eleven by Tom Rogers. It's a book about 9/11, mostly from the perspective of a boy who's just turned 11, and it's fantastic both as an exploration of the event through fiction for middle graders and as a coming of age story. It was also pretty wild to realize that 9/11 happened before the middle grade age group was born--so it qualifies, on some level, as historical fiction.

  • I'd also recommend without reservation the Super Lexi middle grade books by Emma Lesko. Lexi is neurologically and developmentally different from her peers, which makes her a fascinating POV character, and Lesko's commitment to neuro-diversity in children's books shows in how beautifully she captures Lexi and makes her so easy to empathize with.

  • I loved finally finishing Shanna Swendson's "Enchanted, Inc." series, which for ages looked like it wouldn't get to continue beyond book four. (I'd still read more books in that world!)

  • I'm also really eager to see where the "Kate Daniels" (Ilona Andrews) and "Safehold" (David Weber) books end up next!

There were, of course, a lot of other great books, but listing them all would be fodder for TLDR (if I haven't already hit that point).

I was pretty happy with this year's goals, so I'm planning to keep them the same. Here's to another year of good reading!
alanajoli: (mini me short hair)
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.
alanajoli: (mini me short hair)
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.
alanajoli: (mini me short hair)
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?
alanajoli: (mini me short hair)
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!


Jun. 17th, 2013 09:25 pm
alanajoli: (mini me)
That's right, I'm under 30 messages in my inbox. That's a mark of success, and I'm sticking to it. I don't think it's been that way for months, and today, it happened by accident. How exciting!

In other, slightly less successful, news, I'm still in the middle of work on "Kidnapping at Willow Creek," the new Choice of Games adventure I'm writing, and I'm still at the beginning of edits on Into the Reach. We're already through June's halfway point, and I'd been hoping to finish both projects this month. Current outlook? Doubtful. I have gotten some other stuff done, though, like updating my website a little bit to reflect my new look. The old author photo's seven years old at this point, and I figured it'd be nice to actually have my headshot look like the modern me. (The photo was taken by the awesome Jason Neely, who was a coworker of mine in my days at JBML.)

In other news about moving forward, the Viking Saga group is gathering for the first time since, I think, February this weekend, so we can get back to clearing the automatons of an upwardly-mobile sorceress from Baba Yaga's hut. Because only good can come from helping Baba Yaga. Right?

Best news of the day isn't mine: it's that fellow Substrater Max Gladstone got a starred review of his upcoming novel, Two Serpents Rise, in Publishers Weekly. Go Max!

What's your good news?
alanajoli: (mini me)
I (and the art-reward backers) have gotten two images of Lindsay Archer's progress on the novel cover, and I'm getting very excited about where she's headed. It's going to be a fantastic conclusion to the trilogy!

But speaking of the trilogy, I now have in hand the re-edits from Shawn Merwin for book 1. Within the next month, I will be able to take those edits and turn the newly revised manuscript into an e-book. I told Shawn that the red showing on the first two pages was a little intimidating, but he promised me it cleans up after that.

In the meantime, I've been keeping busy on the autobio project, writing obituaries, and working on my next Choice of Games project, a Western with a little bit of mystery to it. The autobios this batch are tremendously exciting. I've gotten to work with Jim Hines on an original essay that had the same balance of laugh-out-loud and heart-wrenching I've come to expect from his novels. Joseph Bruchac did a fantastic update about his years in Africa, Pat Cummings provided amazing graphics from her illustration process for her update, and Eloise Greenfield wrote about, among other things in her update, filming her "Grandma Rap." I always enjoy working on the autobio project, but this batch has been especially fun, and I'm really looking forward to seeing the final results once they hit the online databases.


Between review books, I'm also reading the finalists for the Mythopoeic Society's Mythopoeic Fantasy Awards. I've really enjoyed being on the jury for both the children's and adult lists over the past few years, and there are a bunch of really good ones up this year.

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


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

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

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

Since I can't talk about most the books I'm reading -- what are you reading now, and what would you recommend to other readers?
alanajoli: (mini me)
It's true what they say about Kickstarters being crazymaking. I am vacillating between:

almost there

And this:

There are still three days to go and just over $500 left to raise (and another $350 would get the original books reedited and up in multiple formats). If you've been thinking about contributing, or want to send word around to others who will make it a reality, please drop by the Kickstarter and spread the word!

Luckily, I have plenty of other projects to keep me busy! I'm just finishing up a batch of obituaries from famous individuals who died in 2012. One was Roger Sherman, who wrote the songs from Mary Poppins and other Disney films -- including a movie I'd not thought of for years: The Gnome-Mobile. I don't remember anything about the plot, but I do remember the very catchy jingle, "The Gnome-Mobile, the Gnome-Mobile, we're riding along in the Gnome-Mobile. Sooner or later we feel that we'll find what we want in the Gnome-Mobile." (Lyrics are from memory; I've not Google checked to make sure that they're correct.)

I also get to write an obituary for Maurice Sendak, who I'm saving for last.

I'm also delighted to say that I'm signing a contract for my second Choice of Games project, just as soon as the printer cooperates. I'm extremely pleased to be working with those folks again, and I'm delighted to continue to increase the amount of my living that I'm making from writing games. As a high school friend once told me about my career: I'm living the dream!
alanajoli: (mini me)
So, the world didn't end in December. That's just the start of the good things on my list as we're entering 2013.

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

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

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

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

This year, I'm setting that TBR goal higher, and repeating most of the other goals. Interestingly, out of 141 books I read (sometimes grouping together kids books and graphic novels), around 80 of those were for review for the various publications I write for. Which explains to me why maybe I missed a few of those goals I'd set for myself. To good reading in 2013!
alanajoli: (mini me)
Well, it's not technically a "book," but "game" birthday sounded weird. Quibble aside, Choice of Kung Fu is now available! If you haven't done a game or interactive novel like this before, you can play through the demo at the main Choice of Kung Fu page. Or you can look at your purchase options at the Choice of Games main site.

Kindle users, Choice of Kung Fu will be out for you in the future. I'll post when it happens!

Art work below is by the excellent Sandy Jacobs-Tolle. (Check out her portfolio at that link!)

alanajoli: (mini me)
It's almost here! I've heard from editor Adam Strong-Morse that the release for Choice of Kung Fu is set for tomorrow. You can check at Choice of Games for purchase options for your device; if you want to play the browser version, I get my CoG games straight from the Chrome Store.

And now, a cute demonstration of feline martial arts.
alanajoli: (mini me)
It's holiday sale time over at DriveThruRPG, and the Drunken Goblin has a whole stocking full of great stuff to offer -- including the first two books of the Redemption Trilogy. Right now, you can get the books for 99 cents each! You can go straight to my books here, or see what else is on sale on the Drunken Goblin page.

Part of this sale is prepping for a Kickstarter. I've talked with editor Shawn Merwin and artist Lindsay Archer, and they're both on board for getting Regaining Home back out of the ether and into complete digital form. Keep an eye out here for further news about how you can help make book 3 a reality! (If you have any words of wisdom or advice about Kickstarter, I'd love to hear them!)

In other good news, Choice of Kung Fu has been submitted to online app sellers, and it should be appearing on the market just in time for Christmas. Despite the awesome Adam Morse sending me e-mails to keep me up to date on the launch date, I find myself semi-compulsively visiting the Choice of Games home page, so I can be among the first to see the public announcement when it hits. In the meantime, there are a few new games I haven't finished playing through, and I want to try them out before I start on my next game pitch!
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Two projects have been keeping me busy enough to take up blog time, but both are coming to a head. The first is my Choice of Games kung fu project, which is coming to the concluding chapters and is planned for a before-Christmas release. Which means you all will be able to see what it is I've been working on! I'm very grateful to my playtesters, who have been helpful not only in finding errors and typos and parts of the game that freeze up, but also because their enthusiasm makes me want to keep going.

The last chapter I wrote necessitated rewatching some kung fu favorites -- mostly just scenes of battles where the hero is fighting a rival. Three-stripe and I chose some battles from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Hero, and Ip Man 2 as starters, but it was really Jet Li's Fearless that helped the most. Early in that film, Jet Li's character meets a challenger atop a tall tower where the two battle it out, and I used that setting as the basis for a fight between the player character of the game and a challenger character.

I had wanted to do a bamboo forest fight, like in Crouching Tiger or House of Flying Daggers, but it didn't work out for this chapter. There's always the next one!

Meanwhile, I'm preparing for my own black belt test, which is happening this Sunday, and I've been spending a lot more time at the gym in preparation for it. I've never been a heavy gym user, but our local Y has been great for me, not only in keeping up with physical therapy for injuries I've had to my knee and shoulder that I've finally been dealing with, but also for providing a great place to take Bug swimming. At any rate, I am repeating my "Noodles, don't noodles" mantra and trying to be serene about the coming challenge on Sunday. It is working in some moments better than others, but I suppose that is why we take things one moment at a time!
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While I'm not keeping up with blogs, I do keep up with the articles on from time to time. Today I read a great one by Liz Bourke about why saying "it's the past, it was just like that" isn't a good excuse to make all of your female characters simpering, or all of your characters heteronormative. It's well worth reading, and some contributors in the comments section had other interesting historical tidbits that defy the "it's history, it was like that" argument on non-gender issue topics.

In completely different news, I've been having a little anxiety about my black belt test coming up in less that two months. I've also been meaning to rewatch Kung Fu Panda as inspiration for my Choice of Games kung fu project (among other live action films -- although a kung fu practitioner friend of mine claims Kung Fu Panda is the best kung fu film ever made as far as films that reflect actual kung fu philosophy -- take that as you will). The result: not only am I even more excited to get in the zone on Choice of Kung Fu (tentative title), but I encountered a quote that drained my anxiety:


Quit, don't quit? Noodles, don't noodles? You are too concerned about what was and what will be.

So: stop worrying. Live in the moment. "Noodles, don't noodles," will now be my mantra.
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Seems to me that there was a time, not so long ago, that I used to keep up with dozens of bloggers, who I liked and felt a kinship with. That also used to be the time when I updated my own blog with some regularity. Clearly, that time has passed.

It was a very busy, and fantastic, summer here in Connecticut (and surroundings -- this summer marked my first ever trip to the Bronx Zoo!).

Tiger, Tiger

There has not been a whole lot to report writing-wise. I am currently at work on a project for Choice of Games, featuring a kung fu theme. Considering I am also preparing for my black belt test in kempo (to take place in November), I have a lot of martial arts on the brain. I've been meaning to write about the process of creating a text-based interactive novel game, but I have been spending more time writing than writing-about-writing. (And also learning how to balance my work-from-home time as Bug is deciding that naps are no longer a guaranteed part of the day.)

Here is the news in a nutshell:
My newest article for Dragon magazine, "Songs of Sorcery," is out in the current issue. As usual, it's myth based, but it's also got a lot of silly lyrics that I wrote to common tunes. Quite a lot of it ended up being cut from my original draft, and some additional fun lyrics got added by the designers (I suspect developer Tanis O'Connor should be credited with some of the new work!), which makes it feel (to me) like a fun collaborative effort. I'm quite pleased with the final result (though I am a little sad that the hero theme song to the tune of "Funiculì, Funiculà" didn't make the cut).

This summer has included several book birthdays of those blogging writers I used to keep up with. I'm pleased to be entirely caught up on three current urban-fantasy series (instead of the most recent installments sitting on my TBR pile): Ilona Andrews's Kate Daniels series, which had Gunmetal Magic come out in July; Devon Monk's "Age of Steam" series (July's release was second installment Tin Swift; and Kalayna Price's Alex Craft series, which also had a July release (Grave Memory).

I'm also really excited about the launch of three new series:

Since I am at the moment one step ahead of my paid-review pile (I do have several books for unpaid lounging around the office), I'm trying to catch up on both review books and books I just really want to read. I'm currently at 116 books read in 2012 -- three short of last year's total -- but in order to make my specific reading goals I posted on January 1, I've got sixteen non-review titles to choose and read before the end of the year. Four moths to do it in? No problem.

If anyone has a recommendation for a non-SFFH, non-romance, adult fiction book they read this year and would endorse without hesitation, I'm all ears. I made it a goal to read two books outside my genres this year, and while I've picked one, I'm still undecided about the other.


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Alana Joli Abbott

March 2019

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