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)
The Mythopoeic Fantasy Awards were announced last weekend at Mythcon 45, at which I had a fantastic time. (I made my first food sculpture, below, at the Mythcon Banquet, an annual tradition that I find wonderful. I love that the con in Mythcon could equally represent conference and convention; both words accurately describe the atmosphere, which is a mix of scholarly and fannish all at once.)


Shadowchild from Guest of Honor Ursula Vernon's Digger

I've served on the Mythopoeic Fantasy Awards (both adults and children's lists for fiction, but not the scholarly juries) for several years now, and this was the first time I was able to attend the awards ceremony, which I was allowed to livetweet. (I'm @alanajoli.) This year's awards went to:

  • Mythopoeic Fantasy Award in Adult Literature: Helene Wecker, The Golem and the Jinni

  • Mythopoeic Fantasy Fantasy Award in Children's Literature: Holly Black, Doll Bones

  • Mythopoeic Scholarship Award in Inklings Studies: Jason Fisher, ed., Tolkien and the Study of His Sources: Critical Essays

  • Mythopoeic Scholarship Award in Myth & Fantasy Studies: G. Ronald Murphy, Tree of Salvation: Yggdrasil and the Cross in the North

The full announcement with book jackets and links to purchase is available on the Mythopoeic Society website.

This was my first year voting on the Hugo Awards, which was a very different experience. The MFAs are very much a juried award; the mailing list discusses the merits and flaws in the longlist and finalists throughout the process, and anyone participating in the jury is expected to read each as many on the longlist as they can and each of the finalists at least once. The Hugos, on the other hand, don't have any of that conversation, in part because there are so many voters that such an official mailing list might be ridiculous. There's also no real expectation that voters read anything other than what they want to, and they're free to vote for only their favorites if they like. Given my MFA training, I didn't feel comfortable voting in the novel category (where I'd not read, in full, any of the nominated works), but I did read all the short stories and novelettes and read selections of the writings by all the Campbell nominees. So I was eager to see the results this evening, which--as of this post--I've not been able to find listed anywhere. With the thought of saving others from going through the chat transcript of the live awards coverage (which does have some excellent commentary), I thought I'd list the winners here.

  • Campbell Award: Sofia Samatar

  • Best Fan Artist: Sarah Webb

  • Best Fan Writer: Kameron Hurley

  • Best Fancast: SF Signal Podcast

  • Best Fanzine: A Dribble of Ink

  • Best Semiprozine: Lightspeed

  • Best Professional Artist: Julie Dillon

  • Best Editor, Long Form: Ginjer Buchanan

  • Best Editor, Short Form: Ellen Datlow

  • Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form: Game of Thrones, “The Rains of Castamere”

  • Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form: Gravity

  • Best Graphic Story: “Time,” Randall Munroe (XKCD)

  • Best Related Work: “We Have Always Fought: Challenging the Women, Cattle and Slaves Narrative,” Kameron Hurley

  • Best Short Story: “The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere” by John Chu

  • Best Novelette: “The Lady Astronaut of Mars” by Mary Robinette Kowal

  • Best Novella: “Equoid” by Charles Stross

  • Best Novel: Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie

I'm surprised (and occasionally disappointed) by some of these wins, but some of them please me tremendously. I'm especially pleased to see my taste reflected in the Best Short Story and Best Novelette categories; Kowal's novelette had me sobbing as I read it, and Chu's short story, the first of his that I've read, has turned me into a fan seeking out more of his work. I think it's great to see Kameron Hurley win not one but two Hugos; I loved her essay when it first came out, and I've been meaning to seek out her fiction as well. Now seems the time!

I also think the gender balance here is really interesting; for an award that has a reputation for having so many men as nominees and winners, this list has an awful lot of women on it! I didn't even realize the break-down until I was typing it up. I don't have any commentary on that other than just the observation.

Congratulations to all the Hugo, Campbell, and Mythopoeic Winners!
alanajoli: (mini me short hair)


I've sent in my final nominations for the Mythopoeic Fantasy Awards jury that I've been serving on for the last few years, and I just got the e-mail that Hugo Award Nominations are open. Exciting stuff! I'm not shy about sharing books I love here, but I'm not always up on what's eligible and what's not. Here are a few highlights of folks and books I think deserve to be recognized (with the note that I have not fully researched their eligibility):

  • Fellow Substrater Max Gladstone is in his second (and last) year of eligibility for the Campbell award. His novel Two Serpents Rise is eligible for Best Novel. There is no question in my mind that he's getting nominations for both from me. Go Max!

  • I'm not sure if Shana Mlawski is eligible for the Campbell, since her first novel is a YA, but if she is, she's also on my list. I'm a little surprised there's no YA/children's category for the Hugos, but I guess that's what the Nortons are for. Shame I'm not an SFWA member (one day!) and thus can't weigh in on those.

  • Mark H. Williams's Sleepless Knights is both brilliant and, I believe, eligible. I'm pretty sure he could be nominated for the Campbell also; it's his debut novel, but he is also a playwright and television writer, and I don't know how that plays out with the Campbell award.

I have to go back through my list and figure out which books I read last year were actually published in 2013 so I can determine what's eligible. I read so much stuff for review before it comes out (and catch up with so many books in the couple of years after they're published) that I always have to go back and look.

Who are your nomination choices this year? Who should I be paying attention to who's eligible for stuff? (And please, don't be shy about recommending your own books!)
alanajoli: (mini me short hair)
The big news of the day: I've started blogging about webcomics (and, soon, interactive fiction) for Black Gate, where I've previously been an occasional book reviewer. My first post is about Ursula Vernon's Hugo Award and Mythopoeic Fantasy Award winner Digger, which I loved and had fun getting to write about. Why am I over at Black Gate instead of just blogging here? They've got a great readership over there, and hopefully some of them will find their way over here to Myth, the Universe, and Everything -- and maybe decide to pick up the Redemption Trilogy when they're all finally released. It's a bit of marketing, a bit of fun, and hopefully a great fit for everyone involved.

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

Last thought for the day: every time I write about social media, using that phrase, the Common Shiner tune "Social Mediasochist" starts running through my head. It's catchy.
alanajoli: (mini me)
I've been saving up links to post here and just realized I'm getting overwhelmed, so I'd better post em here!

Big news: Tales of Rosuto Shima, the short story collection from the Steampunk Musha kickstarter, was just released in its first edition to the Kickstarter backers -- and it's also up on DriveThruRPG. My story, "The Gamelan Device," will be added to it soon, Update: is already included!, and excerpts from the comic Riddle in Red that we worked on in the setting are included. If you buy it now, you'll get a message when the newest version is uploaded in place of the current, original version. So, go forth and buy!



Other links of interest:
    • The Oglala Sioux and the federal government are teaming up to open the first tribal national park. Katie Gustafson wrote about it earlier this month for the World Wildlife Federation. I think it's a really cool initiative, and I'm excited to see it happening!

      Donald T. Williams, who I know from the Mythopoeic Society, blogged recently on that same topic that's been coming up in my life lately: how the stories we read/watch impact our own life story. His entry has a Christian bent, but includes quest narratives like Odysseus and Dante as recommendations.

      My new friend and writing buddy Elisabeth Adams had her story Subversion published on Escape Pod. Congrats Elisabeth!

      And this news is long-belated: Shanna Swendson ([livejournal.com profile] shanna_s) has had the last three books in her Enchanted Inc. series picked up and published! The fifth book was published last August, but I just found out the good news today. Go Shanna! Yay for more Katie Chandler adventures!


  • And the final bit for today: I got a direct message on twitter from an aspiring author I conversed with about publishing back in 2010. He's soon to have a novella released on amazon, and he gave me credit for helping inspire him. I'm going to carry this feel-good moment with me for awhile!

    What's the good news do you have to share?
    alanajoli: (Default)
    I happened upon some fun history this week (though some was published awhile ago). According to the Guardian, a collection of fairy tales by Franz Xaver von Schönwerth was just discovered in Germany after being archived for some 150 years. The fairy tales are not the polished versions of the Brothers Grimm (as evidenced by this excerpt):

    A young prince lost his way in the forest and came to a cave. He passed the night there, and when he awoke there stood next to him an old woman with a bear and a dog. The old witch seemed very beautiful and wished that the prince would stay with her and marry her. He could not endure her, yet could not leave that place.


    You can reread the story in full here. It's worth taking a look, and then trying to reconstruct it as a narrative that would stand alone, instead of relying on interpretation based on other previously read and studied fairy stories.



    On a different note, rogueclassicist over at rogueclassicism posted (back in February) about just how much the book shopping experience in Ancient Rome is mirrored by book shopping today. He quotes an article, written a few years ago, by Mary Beard, which reported:

    For those who did go in, there was usually a place to sit and read. With slaves on hand to summon up refreshments, it would have been not unlike the coffee shop in a modern Borders.


    Of course, a good copy of a 500 line work cost about the same as what it would cost to feed a family of four for a year. So some things are not quite the same.

    On a more personal note, I was checking in with my reading goals today and realized that I'd made one! I've already reread three books this year -- one of them by surprise, because it was on my TBR pile, and I hadn't realized until I'd started it that I'd already read it. And then, of course, since I'd started it, I might as well finish!

    I'm into the Mythsoc long lists now, as well, so I'm reading a lot of good quality fantasy. And the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards are coming up, so I'll have a small pile of YA titles to read for that. There will be no shortage of reading material for me in the next month!
    alanajoli: (Default)
    Last May, Alma Alexander visited us here at Myth, the Universe, and Everything to discuss myth and fairytales. Since then, I had the tremendous delight of reviewing her most recent novel, Midnight at Spanish Gardens, over at Flames Rising and for Mythprint. The premise of the book is that a group of friends, on the night of a reunion, individually have the opportunities to live a completely different life. For the duration of that experience, they will not remember their original paths; at one moment, however, they will remember both lives and have to choose between the one they had first and the one they've just experienced. The book is utterly captivating, and it's available as an ebook at both amazon and Smashwords. Alma agreed to come back here to MtU&E to chat about the novel -- so without further ado, the interview!




    MtU&E: The Spanish Gardens cafe is an incredibly vivid setting; you write about how it and other familiar places have some sort of magic about them. Do you have your own Spanish Gardens?

    Alma: Well, yes [grin] it's called Spanish Gardens... This place, the place in the book, it is real. Was real, at least, since I am told that it doesn't exist anymore and hasn't for some time. But it really was magic, it held true magic, and it's always tragic how often you don't actually realise the truth of that until it's too late and the magic (and the place which held it) are gone. But this is one place that
    will always be as real to me as though it were surrounding me right now -- it's that strong in my memory. I hope those who read Midnight at Spanish Gardens get a sense of that when they dive into the book -- and, more, that they might be moved to remember their own version of what this place means to me.

    MtU&E: In the novel, your characters have to choose between two different lives. Thankfully, you never make them choose between two sets of children, which would have been almost unbearable for me to imagine! When you decided on the different lives, how did the alternate version of the characters come about? Were there specific life contrasts you wanted to wrestle with?

    Alma: Tough one. No, I had no real idea what the alternate lives were going to be until I basically started writing them. Some of the issues surprised me -- for instance, John's true parentage was a bit of a
    shock, to be honest, and that goes for both of his lifestream choices (only his responses, reactions, to this truth were different). But what I ended up with, in this book, is a story steeped in magic which is somehow the most real thing I have ever written -- and whether in this life or the other, all of my characters are wrestling with a huge monster known as The Truth. Sometimes they win. Sometimes the monster eats them alive. Partly I wanted to convey that every so often you will make the right decision by accident or serendipity, or you will spend a long time agonising over something that is in the end fairly
    simple (and can still manage, no matter how much time you spend on the decision, to make the wrong one...) I think... it's like looking in the mirror... and the person you see is still recognisably YOU. It's just that you might find that on the inside something important shifts, and a decision cog goes this way or that way according to the way your mind is working. I guess one of my themes here was simply, know thyself -- and if you don't yet (which isn't necessarily a sin) then at least make an effort to start to. Because the way to be happy is to understand what makes you so. This is not always easy -- and yet, sometimes, it's bewilderingly simple once you strip away all the things that do not.


    MtU&E: One of the characters changes gender in her alternate life, and sees a very different career path. Why did you choose to showcase two different careers instead of having the male version of the character in a similar profession?

    Alma: As I said -- I had no real idea where they were going to go until they went there. I'm one of the most organic writers out there -- the way I've explained it to people before is that I get a story seed in my hand and I stick it into the soil in a flower pot -- and I have no more idea what is going to grow there, if it is going to be a cabbage or a redwood tree, until it sprouts and I see the shape of its leaves
    opening up to the sun. Showcasing two different careers was not deliberate, or a stunt, or a message. That was the set of choices that the character happened to take, and that was the road that they led
    him or her down. I hear some people tell that their characters do what they told and go where the author wants them to go when said author cracks the whip of authority. Sometimes I envy that -- my characters go where they please and do what they will, and my role in it all is to see the bigger story in which they are involved and tell it. But I don't control it, I never have. This is why people in the industry cringe when they ask me (as they have to sometimes) what my next book will be about, wanting and needing a more or less detailed outline thereof. The short answer is, I don't know, I never know, I won't know until I write it. And it might surprise me by featuring an entirely different career than the one I had planned [grin]. The basic bedrock of everything I write is that I write the story that needs or wants to be told, and comes up to me and takes me by the throat and doesn't let go until I tell it. Other than being a good listener and a competent amanuensis, I have learned not to interfere with that process. My story knows, and I will respect that.

    MtU&E: The premise of the story is that the characters are meeting for a reunion at the end of the world in 2012 (all of them assuming that life will, indeed, go on the next day). What about the 2012 end-date appealed to you?

    Alma: There's just something about a good Apocalypse, isn't there? Perhaps that's why that poor pastor keeps on predicting the Rapture, over and over and over again, and when it clearly hasn't happened (well, clearly, else he wouldn't still be here, right...?) he just "recalculates" the date and tries again. Seriously, though – the concept of ending is a very potent one in the human psyche, and in some ways we are willing to go to the wall to ensure that some things end, or others do not. The idea of having a deadline to do these things by (as in, the world ends at midnight on December 20 2012) gives you... a certain kind of impetus, a certain urgency. You only have this much time to do everything you have left to do and after that... after that you don't know what happens so you can't plan for it. It's the very idea of looking down into that abyss that intrigues me -- because of the varying reactions of the people who do so. Some will not look at all because they are paralysed with fear; some will look, and see a bottomless pit; others will see great spires of rock waiting to tear them apart or deep water ready to drown them, or the very flames shooting out from the Gates of Hell themselves. And then there are people like me, who see... everything, and nothing. A whole new world, maybe. Why not? Things are often circular. Ends may be simply beginnings of something new. It's that trembling uncertainty, the curiosity, the vivid joy of discovery of things I've never known before, that appeals to me. And the idea that all of this lies just over a year away at the end of 2012... it's practically irresistible.

    MtU&E: One of your characters is woven into all of the alternate lives in the book, yet this character chooses a different life. How do those two things -- the character being so important to the others and yet being able to completely absent herself from their lives when the choice is hers --
    correlate?

    Alma: Olivia is the pivot point. I am not sure how that works, exactly, but in all the flux that goes on around us certain times, certain places, certain people are the fixed points, the things around which everything revolves. In this story, it's Olivia, Spanish Gardens, a certain midnight in December of 2012. These are the fixed things in a changing universe. You might say that Olivia forces a change, in that she does not remain in her "fixed" position -- but everything else still orbits around her. Her "fixed" quality is now that she is so comprehensively absent from the lives of those friends in whose timelines -- particularly their alternate timelines -- she was so fundamentally important. But in some ways this entire book is Olivia's story, she is the sun, and everybody else simply revolves around her and reflecting back her fire like planets of a solar system. She is a Schroedinger's Cat -- a creature who is at once so ordinary that she finds a place in every single life she touches because she is to ubiquitous and necessary and a part of the weave of the world and at the same time something different, something greater, something transcendental, something that Ariel (the Messenger) recognises immediately as being not so much woven into the world's fabric as... being a weaver of that fabric. It all sounds rather metaphysical and confusing when you ask that question and I try to answer it within the space of a paragraph. I think a better answer would be, read the book, and find out...
    alanajoli: (Default)
    This is my last day to post about my experience reading the MFA nominees this year before the winners are announced, so I figured I'd better do a write up quickly!

    I have to say that this year's finalist lists were a real joy for me. Usually, there's at least one book in the finalists that I detest, or appreciate but slog through. Sometimes there's one that I just don't get. This year, I'm happy to say that, whether or not I feel they're the best choice for the award, I enjoyed all of the books on the finalist lists for both the adult MFA and children's MFA.

    Children's List

    The awards finally got me to finish Megan Whelan Turner's "The Queen's Thief" series. I'd started The Thief some time ago and hadn't really enjoyed the style; when I got to the end of that book, however, I realized what all the fuss was about, and why it was an award winner. The rest of the series really won me over, and I'm very glad to have read them. Polly Schulman's The Grimm Legacy was a great discovery, and I thought Toads and Diamonds by Heather Tomlinson was a great recasting of a Grimm fairy tale in a non-Western setting.

    Adult List

    The best discovery on this list for me was, without a doubt, Redemption in Indigo by Karen Lord. Based on a Senagalese folk story, this short novel grabbed me and didn't let go, and I was very pleased to see it make it from the long list to the finalists. I was also tremendously excited that Devon Monk's collection A Cup of Normal made the finalists; Devon's been a great inspiration for me a number of times, from both her blog and her fiction, and I'm tickled to see her recognized. Guy Gavriel Kay's Under Heaven is another excellent contender, and definitely shows how the definition of mythopoeic can expand to include epics outside of a Western comfort zone. There's always a lot of conversation on the jury lists about what it means for a book to be mythopoeic; Kay's novel uses a different cultural language, by being set in China, than the usual candidates, and it's not directly tied to a folktale the way Lord's novel is. And yet, magic and the supernatural are always just on the other side of a boundary from Kay's characters -- sometimes crossing over it directly but other times only hinting at the presence of Other nearby. It worked for me not only on the fantasy fiction level, but also on a mythopoeic level, and I'd highly recommend it ([livejournal.com profile] lyster, this means you, although I'll be surprised if you hadn't discovered it already *g*).

    That said, I'd recommend all of the finalists this year, even the ones I didn't directly point out here. I enjoyed all of them, some of them to my own surprise, and some of them just as I expected. (I can't think of the last time I didn't enjoy one of Terry Pratchett's novels, for example, and it's never a surprise to see him on the finalists list. Speaking of Pratchett, Genreville linked to a cool discussion about gender in Discworld this week, which is worth checking out.) So, if you're looking for something good to read, pop by the MythSoc Awards list and you'll have ten good things to put on your to-be-read pile. The winner will be announced at the Mythcon 42 banquet tonight!
    alanajoli: (Default)
    I am very, very lucky to have my mother, code-named Maesi for purposes of the blog, visiting this week, because keeping track of my freelance assignments, teaching the Mommy-Baby fitness class, and being the guest editor at Branford Patch means wearing a lot of hats. If I thought that being a freelance writer meant a lot of multitasking, I had no idea how much more multitasking was required for a web editor. The job has been fantastically fun so far: I've gotten to do an interview about an upcoming animal summer camp hosted by our local animal shelter, and Bug, Maesi, and I did a photo shoot for an upcoming fundraiser in some gorgeous gardens. (Bug will not appear in any of the photos for the site, but she did make her way into a few that we'll keep for posterity.)

    The thing that requires getting used to as an editor on this scale is that I'm even more attached to the computer than normal. There's no time to keep up with my web comics (I'll check them next week -- I can't even think about reading them right now), and games are an absolute no-no. I only have a few chapters left in Mythsoc Award finalist Megan Whelan Turner's A Conspiracy of Kings, and I've made very little progress in the last few days. The freelance assignment I expected to have completely wrapped up yesterday is still almost done -- I keep getting alerts that an article has been posted and needs to be edited, or remembering that I need to tweet a new article link or post recent news on the Branford Patch facebook page.

    In short, I have a new appreciation for my editor (Nicole Ball), who made sure I'd have a light content week as her sub. She makes staying on top of the news look so easy -- and I'm glad she's getting her well-deserved vacation!
    alanajoli: (Default)
    So, ages ago, Danielle Poiesz, whom I met over at Pocket After Dark, invited me into a sooper sekrit project. Never one to turn down something sooper sekrit, I was eager for more information -- and what I discovered was Book Country. The idea behind the site is creating a community of writers -- from aspiring to published to bestselling -- and other publishing professionals, where these folks could interact, particularly by reviewing each other's work. The launch for the closed beta hit shortly before I got extremely busy with doing work for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards and reading the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award nominees, and I've not devoted as much time to reading other people's work there as I've wanted to. I'm hoping that this week will be the week I get back to the site and give my own critiques back, as I've received a *number* of critiques on the excerpts I've posted. (The rough versions of the first three chapters of Blackstone Academy are posted there, as is the first chapter of East Wind.)

    The critiques have largely been helpful, though some have been more based on particular taste of the reader than a general sense of help, all of which is valid. Danielle actually gave me one of my most important critiques on East Wind, which was that it's not an urban fantasy -- it's more of a paranormal mystery. Splitting hairs? Well, not really -- Book Country has a brilliant genre map that shows where subgenres fall on the spectrum. Getting feedback on where your book actually fits best helps when, eventually, you want to write a pitch letter. I may not be gritty and/or snarky enough in my style to write UF, but paranormal mystery? It's got a different tone, and readers go in knowing to expect something a little different.

    At any rate, the beta is now open, and Book Country is on twitter as @Book_Country as well as on facebook. Thus far, it's been a great experience, and I highly recommend writers checking it out, especially if you're a writer in search of a critique group. There are lots of great folks there willing to share their advice!
    alanajoli: (Default)
    ...when you drop it off the top of a very tall building.

    Oh, look, it's Thursday already!

    I've been in a reading glut lately, which is great because it means I'm finally getting through some of my TBR pile -- and also because I had to quick get through some galleys from Simon and Schuster's Galley Grab before they expire. (Pre-review: A Brush of Darkness by Allison Pang? Awesome! I've got to get her over here for a guest blog, too -- she does a whole Thomas the Rhymer thing, and I think I've mentioned before how I feel about Thomas the Rhymer.... Anyway.) I've also got a whole stack-o'-series to read for an upcoming SLJ article; luckily, those are all at a lower reading level than my usual UF novels!

    It's been hard to get motivated to do much other than read when Miss Bug is napping, however, which means that other projects are languishing a bit. I've got a good start on East Wind, and I had a nice stretch of days where I got a couple hundred to a thousand words down on paper. I broke that stretch yesterday by getting ahead on "Five Main Streets" articles -- and that's super fun, too. Learning more about Branford's history is awesome, and I've gotten in touch with some community members who will make themselves available for interviews about specific landmarks and such. Very exciting!

    But while I'm making progress, my reading brain is the one in charge lately. I'm hoping I'll plateau soon, write a bunch of reviews for Flames Rising and Mythprint (as well as the reviews I'm assigned), and hit that all-I-want-to-do-is-write phase. I figure it's just about time for that part of the cycle to hit the top.

    --

    New articles of mine online that you may not have noticed:



  • Thanks for checking them out!

    Interview!

    Jun. 26th, 2010 09:08 pm
    alanajoli: (Default)
    A little while ago, [livejournal.com profile] dcopulsky, who was a student on the trips in both Ireland and Greece and Turkey, asked if I'd do an interview for his site Question Riot, where he posts new interviews on Thursdays. The interview is now up, and it gets into all of the different kinds of writing that I do, from my bread and butter freelance work to my fiction, RPG, and comics work. Dan asked questions covering the whole gamut, and I had fun answering.

    Work has been pouring in lately, which is great in that it means pay checks, but does complicate those goals I submitted to Kaz's Summer Camp. I may have to revise my plans this Tuesday! I have gotten through all of the children's finalists for the Mythopoeic Fantasy Awards, and I turned in my votes this morning. I've got one more adult novel to finish before votes are due on Wednesday, and hopefully I'll finish it tomorrow so I can get back to my review books!
    alanajoli: (Default)
    Here's the press release from the Mythopoeic Society. I'm reading in two categories -- the MFA for adults and children. I think the lists are pretty good. There's only one major oversight from the adult category that I wish had made it, but I'll keep hoping that the author's next work will be a top choice. (And, in theory, eligibility runs for two additional years, so it can always be nominated again.)

    Without further ado, the news! )
    alanajoli: (Default)
    Most of what I've been reading in the past two months are books on the Mythopoeic Society Fantasy Awards longlists. We can't talk about the selections, and from the conversations via e-mail with the other judges, I think I may place more value on fun novels (or, novels that are both worthwhile and enjoyable, rather than worthwhile but wearing to read, or enjoyable but fluffy) than some of the rest of the committee. But, as Twostripe says, diversity in judges is important, and if I shift us slightly away from valuing style above many other qualities, I'm all right with that. I've remembered that I really enjoy reading what I think Shanna Swendson ([livejournal.com profile] shanna_s) calls a transparent writing style -- writing that you don't notice for itself, because you're so into the story being told.

    At any rate, I've just turned in my votes for the final five in the children's category. I turned in my adult votes on Friday. I am very eager to see what comes out on the finalist list! I'll probably talk a bit about them here when the list is announced.

    In the meantime, I need to get some writing done. Twostripe has promised me an hour or three tomorrow to focus on writing while he watches Bug; this should allow me to get caught up with Blood and Tumult and possibly get some work done on the autobio project, making the final corrections before I start the typesetting process. But outside of that time, we're planning to spend most of the day at the beach! We had a cookout with the Mythic Greece gamers, [livejournal.com profile] niliphim, and the [livejournal.com profile] bananapants/[livejournal.com profile] bananaplants family. Gaming and a cookout at the beach? Can't be beat!
    alanajoli: (Default)
    It has been far too long since I posted here. Unsurprisingly, I also owe [livejournal.com profile] lyster a chapter of Blood and Tumult. When it comes down to it, writing is hard. :(

    I write in a very immersive way -- I like to set time aside and completely delve into what I'm writing. If I have a block of a few hours, I can bang out a chapter and be on my way. But finding a block of time is difficult, and it's hard to prioritize that over holding my sleeping baby some days. It's all about finding balance, I know (it's my libra motto), but right now the scales are definitely tilted over into my daughter's court.

    That said, I don't mind reading while holding a sleeping baby, so I've gotten a lot of books read recently. I've been plowing through the long lists for the Mythopoeic Society Fantasy Awards, both the children's list and the adult list. (I'll happily talk about the short list when it's revealed; the long list is secret.) I've also been reading review books. And I've noticed a trend in the past two years -- there are a lot of Arthur retellings out there. There are some coming out right now that were originally published in the 1980s, but are being released in new editions. There are new versions based on a historical Arthur, retellings based on Welsh myths, and modern stories with Arthur tie-ins. There's obviously been a market for Arthur stories since, well, Arthur became a legend, really, but there seems to be a glut of them lately, many of them quite good. (The ones I like best are, of course, the ones with good portrayals of Glastonbury.)

    So here's my question: Is this new? Or am I just noticing it because I went on a rant to one of my editors about a particularly bad use of Arthurian legend, during which she realized I was an Arthur nerd, so she now sends me scads of Arthur related novels?

    On a complete tangent, I'm getting ready to send my 4e Viking Saga team to the Continent from the Isles. Early on, we decided we'd just make Europe awash with tiny kingdoms, most of them feuding with each other, which our historian player said wasn't actually too far wrong around 800 AD. So the idea is that the Continent is going to feel like a fairy tale sort of place until the players get to the Scandinavian nations. I have yet to figure out good fairy tale rulers to make use of, however. Anyone have a favorite fairy tale king, queen, or other ruler I should use with Vikings and Celts?

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    Alana Joli Abbott

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