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: (Default)
One of the cool things I get to do sometimes for the various periodicals I write for is interviewing authors. Back when I was writing for Literature Community News, I had the opportunity to chat with Shanna Swendson, Rick Riordan, and Keith Baker. I'm looking at doing some interviews here at MtU&E in the not too distant future. And quite happily, Editor Matt at Flames Rising has pointed me in the right direction as far as matching me with some great folks to interview. Most recently, I chatted with Dave Gross about his new Pathfinder novel, Master of Devils, which comes out this month.

I hadn't actually read a Pathfinder novel before interviewing Dave, but after chatting with him, I definitely want to -- especially his new release. Dave is a huge fan of kung fu movies, and he worked to integrate high fantasy, kung fu/wuxia storytelling, and roleplaying ties into one novel. I think it'll definitely be worth checking out!
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Today's guest blog comes from fellow substrater, Thomas Scofield, who is launching an exciting new interactive fiction project this month. I corresponded with Thomas originally when friends introduced us for purposes of forming a writing group, but didn't meet him the first time until I showed up on his doorstep with [ profile] lyster, driving home from ICon on Long Island (after the last ferry left me with a very long drive ahead of me, instead of the short jaunt back across the Sound), and said, "Um, hi. We sorta know each other. Can I crash with you?" (Thomas had been expecting [ profile] lyster -- I, however, was a surprise.) Then, despite the late hour, we spent a few hours talking about literature, gaming, and all manner of interesting and engaging stuff. In short, I discovered something I'd suspected from his e-mails -- Thomas is an intelligent and generous man who as engaging a conversationalist as he is a writer.

This month, Thomas is launching, which he talks about in the post below. Check out both Adrylle and Thomas's home page, where he has several ongoing serials and shorts posted.


a’drylle, v. – To slide or slip away. Source: The Oxford English Dictionary

I have a weakness for words, and have had for as long as I can remember. I’m particularly fond of odd, old, unusual or otherwise unused words. There’s something appealing to me about a word that’s been all but forgotten, like it’s a little secret that I and only a few others are party to. I like that. I like half-forgotten things. Mythic things. Because you can’t really be mythic if you’re remembered perfectly, can you? There’s always that element of mystery, or legend, of the unknown.

Or at least there is to me.

Adrylle is bound up in all of that. It’s a half-forgotten word that I’m using to describe a place made up of lost and forgotten things, people, places, ideas. At least, that is what it is on one level.

Adrylle.Com is, at the core, a hypertext adventure game, where you play the part of yourself, or a version of yourself, fallen through the cracks and forgotten. You find yourself in this new world of old and forgotten things, with its old secrets and new adventures. The world itself is made of words, right there on the computer screen, and a lot of those words describe (what will be) 120 in-game “locations,” like “The Darchives” (Dark-Archives) or “The Fairy Ring.”

Hidden throughout these locations (often in plain sight) are all sorts of standalone adventures, set in all sorts of worlds--be that the world of Adrylle or a world that exists only in that story. In the Darchives, for example, you can play out such stories as Rotmeo and Jujuliet (or, Romeo and Juliet and Zombies) or Titus Androidicus (a Bloody tale of Android vengeance). Or at least you will be able to play them out, when they are written and posted to the site.

There are secrets, too, hidden pages that you have to be clever enough or lucky enough to find. These hidden pages might have cyber-graffiti on them, from the winners of contests past, or secret little things, lost snapshots or fragments of text, maybe even pictures or other, stranger things in the future. We’re even working on a lay, the verses of which will be scattered across the site.

Right now it’s a labyrinthine and twisted labor of love. Of course, we’re all for sharing the geeky love, and there will be plenty of contests and prizes and giveaways linked to the site, its secrets and the stories embedded therein.

Right now, in fact, we’re running our first contest. The prize is a $500 gift card, which one lucky winner will be able to use to purchase a new eReader and a whole passle o’ eBooks to go with it. You can check that out here.

The whole labyrinthine mess can be found at

Slip on over and visit us, sometime.
alanajoli: (Default)
A couple of links today. The first is to the new Slate online serial novel, My Darkling, which, along with its weekly posted prose, features characters with facebook and twitter accounts, where they will give readers extra clues to solving the mystery. The novel is apparently a send-up of the YA vampire craze, though whether it's kind to that genre's fans or not, I'm hesitant to guess. But here's the best sentence in the article: we have long been amazed at how young-adult novels make up one of the most popular and dynamic segments of the publishing industry. Hurrah for YA being acknowledged in this way!

Speaking of popular, dynamic, and vampiric, the New York Times ran an article today about Justin Cronin's new novel, Passage. This is apparently going to be the hot book of the summer, and it's news because Cronin, previously, was a literary novelist making no money, and now he's expected to be a hit marketplace seller. It sounds like he's always been a vampire and horror guy -- in other words, one of the "us" that includes UF writers and fans -- and he notes in the article that he feels the difference between the literary and commercial markets is overblown. It'll be interesting to see the kind of critical reception the novel, the first of the trilogy, receives, given the too-often-hostile relationship between established critics (in, for example, the New York Times) and the SFF genre. [ profile] rosefox and her Genreville partner Josh Jasper have written about several times on that blog (most recently here), and I hope they'll follow (or comment on) this story as it develops, as well.
alanajoli: (Default)
I had a lot of ideas about what to post on today, but I keep coming back to the one that's on my mind at the moment: interactive storytelling. There is just nothing more satisfying to me than making a story with other people. (I'll use the term interactive storytelling for CRPGs and VRPGs, but they're really a substitute for good old fashioned gathering with friends and, roughly, playing let's pretend.) When I was a kid, these stories didn't often have a lot of plot, and since I was the middle kid in the neighborhood, I usually followed the lead of my surrogate big sis, and my own younger sister followed along. We were pioneers or astronauts or pirates, usually making the swing set in her back yard or the rock garden in ours the home base. At school, for kindergarten and some of first grade, I was the lead storyteller in my class, because I had a lot of good let's pretend ideas. But right about five or six, real life starts getting more interesting to most kids than full-on games of let's pretend--or the pretending at least takes a real life turn rather than the fantastic--so it really wasn't until discovering D&D in high school that I had an outlet for shared fantasy.

To say it was life-changing may be a slight exaggeration, but not much. Here were people I not just traded stories with (I had done that on and off in middle school), but created stories with me. There's something magical about that, about sharing imagination space. Mythically speaking, the collective representations of that group of people shift to something new and different, and while that can be shared with people who aren't there, being in the moment and creating those new representations--that sub-reality or sub-creation--is profound.

A friend once asked me how I could become so close to my gaming friends. It wasn't like we had any real experiences together. We just sat around a table playing make-believe. But to me, well, I've always made the best friends of the people who have shared imaginary realms with me. Sometimes that's in the world of theater (because I think theater touches on that same bordering realm), and my fellow mythographers in our thought experiments certainly touch that same profound experience, but most often, it's been my gaming group. I suspect it's not always quite as powerful for them as it is for me, but sometimes, I suspect it is.

And those are the games I can't help but think about between sessions, desperately craving what comes next, no matter what that happens to be.


In other news, "The Chalice Girl" is not coming together the way I'd like, and I think I'm going to put that on hold until the next time a Lace and Blade open call comes around. In actuality, I mean that I'm going to continue working on it, though with less focus, since "Saving Tara" is still waiting for attention, and I'm considering a piece on a vampire in the Revolutionary War mostly to entertain my friend Michelle, but partly because I think there's an actual story there to be told. (This last actually ties into the current shared imagination experience I'm having, and because of that, it may well not translate to actual fiction, but I think I'll give it a go.) The biggest thing I'm regretting right now is that I wrote down the final deadline for the Lace and Blade open call rather than the opening of acceptance of pieces. I really need to give myself a deadline at least in the *middle* of the call in order to not be rushing at the last minute--and then putting together something that isn't my very best. So I'm giving myself permission to miss this one in hopes of having something better the next time an open call that I care about comes around.


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Alana Joli Abbott

March 2019

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