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Quick reminder: still a few hours left to enter this contest to win a copy of Angels' Blood by Nalini Singh!


It's been awhile since we've done a guest blog here. (It's been awhile since we've had a regularly updated blog here. But be patient with me, dear readers, I'm still learning to be a writer-mother or a mother-writer; it will take some time.) This is actually courtesy of [ profile] holmes_iv, since he's the one who gave me the sheet music a few weeks ago. He attended a Congregational church service at which they sand the hymn "We Limit Not the Truth of God," which was written by George Rawson in around 1835, but is based off of an address by spiritual leader John Robinson to the pilgrims who founded Plymouth Colony. Robinson died in England, before the pilgrims set sail, but his words were recalled by governor Edward Winslow as the Mayflower set sail in 1646. He said: "...if God should reveal anything to us by any other instrument of his, to be as ready to receive it, as ever we were to receive any truth by his Ministry. For he was very confident the Lord had more truth and light yet to break forth out of his holy Word."

The idea here, of course, is that faith is emerging, that the understanding of God, religion, and spirituality can change as more is learned -- or revealed. New information should not be rejected because it is new, it should be considered, probably prayerfully. It seems like a wonderfully modern sentiment, but dates back all the way to the 1600s.

The following is Rawson's hymn adaptation of the teaching.


We limit not the truth of God to our poor reach of mind,
by notions of our day and sect, crude, partial and confined.
No let a new and better hope within our hearts be stirred:
The Lord hat yet more light and truth to break forth from The Word.

Darkling those faithful pilgrims went the first steps of the way;
'twas but the dawning yet to grow into the perfect day.
And grow it shall, our glorious sun more fervid rays afford:
The Lord hat yet more light and truth to break forth from The Word.

The valleys passed ascending still, our souls would higher climb,
and look down from supernal heights on all the bygone time.
Upward we press, the air is clear, and the sphere music heard:
The Lord hat yet more light and truth to break forth from The Word.

O God, we pray that thou wild send us increase from above,
enlarge, expand all Christian souls to comprehend thy love,
and make us to go on, to know with nobler powers conferred:
The Lord hat yet more light and truth to break forth from The Word.
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I started last week so well! Alas, life is busy busy busy.

I had stuff to write about, but it'll have to wait, as today is another busy day, with our Crossover Mythic Greece / Viking Saga game this afternoon, as well as a multitude of errands, and more copyediting than you can bat an eye at.

First, from last week's contest, congrats to Beverly Gordon! She's our Happy Hour of the Damned winner. Thanks to everyone who entered.

Now, for this week's contest: post your answer by Friday -- it's short by a day, but I'll try to announce on Saturday next week. This week's winner gets a copy of Angels' Blood by Nalini Singh.

So, while pondering Loki for the Viking Saga game, I thought, wow, he'd have a great twitter account. Imagine if you will:

@AesirLoki: OMG, they're throwing stuff at Baldur again. Get over it.
@AesirLoki: Srsly, I'm going to kill that kid.
@AesirLoki: So, just talked to mistletoe...

I read Blue Milk Special, a Star Wars parody web comic, and they have a gimmick for Leia that she's a twitter fiend. Most of the characters from Questionable Content actually do have twitter feeds. It's a great concept.

If you could pick a mythological figure or a fictional character to follow on twitter, who would it be? Bonus: I'll count you as two entries if you post three sample twitter entries for your choice!
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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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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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I'm paging through all the e-mail in my inbox that can't just be archived and realizing that I've been keeping some of it around to post here in a link soup edition. Things are looking up, as far as finally getting caught up is concerned, but I'm taking it easy, because I think everyone needs a day or two, now and again, to just breathe.

On to the links!

  • I did an interview with Cynthia Leitich Smith ([ profile] cynleitichsmith) about the autobiographies project. It's at her lj and associated other places (like her main blog) that she syndicates to. I hope you enjoy reading about the project as much as I enjoy talking about it!

  • Egyptian author Marwa Rakha, whom I met over at SheWrites, has uploaded a new English edition of her novel, which she's released independently due to troubles with Egyptian publishers. She's giving it away for free, so if you're interested in Egyptian fiction, check it out!

  • The big Baeg Tobar relaunch is scheduled for October 2nd. I'm really excited to see the stories that I've been working on come into existence in a public sphere -- along with tales by Max Gladstone ([ profile] lyster) and Daniel Tyler Gooden, among others. The art work previews are, as I expect from the BT artists, stunning, and I'm excited to see the project up and alive again.

  • [ profile] cinda_cite did a great entry about how books you're reading influence each other by proximity, mentioning her contest win from here at Myth, the Universe, and Everything. I've not had the time to actually comment on it over there, but I hope you'll pop over to read it.

  • C. E. Murphy also had a great blog post up recently about how she never noticed a lack of women in fantasy, which I think is a nice counterpoint to all the discussions about how strong women aren't present in the genre. Like Murphy, I've always been able to find strong female heroes in my fantasy novels, but I acknowledge that this is because I grew up in the era of Alanna the Lioness, Lady Aerin, and Harry Crew. In younger books, there was almost always a mix of girls and boys as heroes (Narnia, Edward Eager's novels, etc.), and by the time I was reading YA fantasy (still a new genre), there were scores of girls taking on traditional boy roles to be their own heroes. This isn't to say that there isn't a lack of women heroes, written by men, in epic fantasy (which seems to be part of the argument), but that I find Murphy's perspective on the thing refreshing, and pretty reflective of my own experience. (She doesn't mention Robert Jordan's women, who are politically the power of the world [and include some admirable heroines, despite the weird love trinity that forms around the central hero], nor Brandon Sanderson's ([ profile] mistborn's) women, who show up as capable, independent heroines with as much meat as his men [at least in what I've read so far -- he has books out I haven't had the chance to read yet]. I think the gender work of those two epic fantasy writers are at least worth noting.)

Now, off to convince the day that I've begun, and to prepare for my pre-natal exercise class in New Haven. I've been itching for some new Nalini Singh, and she's among the authors featured in Must Love Hellhounds (as is Ilona Andrews/[ profile] ilona_andrews, who I'm always glad to have more fiction from), so I may stop at the B&N downtown and pick up a copy, to further encourage relaxing alongside catching up. :)
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The news is out (via Publishers Weekly): Bloomsbury is changing the cover of Justine Larbalestier's Liar to stop misrepresenting the main character of the book. They're rejacketing the hardcover for the October release. The new jacket has not been decided on yet -- it may be a text version like the Australian jacket, or it may feature an African American girl's face.

As much as I know Larbalestier liked the text idea, at this point, I'm rooting for the second.

Congrats to Bloomsbury for actually listening to their audience on this one, and for (hopefully) learning from this episode. *keeping my fingers crossed that the publishing world has taken note*


In other news, I've got a new blog post up at Flames Rising about not-quite paranormal romances, talking about books that push the boundaries of the genre (like Nalini Singh's ([ profile] nalini_singh) Psy/Changeling series and Meljean Brook's "The Guardians") and those that go beyond what I say are the borders all together, like Richelle Mead's ([ profile] blue_succubus) succubus series and Jeaniene Frost's ([ profile] frost_light) "Night Huntress" books. Feel free to pop by and comment (and if you think I'm wrong, feel free to share -- I'm forming my ideas about genre as I go, and more fodder is *always* a good thing).
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[ profile] nalini_singh guest blogged today over at Silk and Shadows, listing ten things that were always true about her books. I thought it would be a fun experiment to try this on my own, so I did in the comments over there. It's hard! It's particularly hard since the space western story, "Rodeo in Area 51" took out a lot of the short-cut kind of things I could use if all of my stories were fantasy. But most of these even apply to the contemporary fiction pieces I wrote in my thesis.

Of course, when I look at this list, I imagine I see things that only I see when the writing's done.

1. There’s always an element of faith or belief, even if it’s the person fighting against their faith.
2. Borrowed mythology shows up, sometimes recognizably, sometimes disguised. I couldn’t use real-world myths for the Redemption trilogy, so I had to clothe them differently. (I'm not sure that "Rodeo in Area 51" fulfills this qualification.)
3. There’s often an unstated reference to a philosopher’s ideas (I’ve drawn on Owen Barfield and Jon Kabat Zinn for various tales).
4. There are strong women.
5. Often times, the people playing the role of nurturer or poet/romantic are male.
6. Relationships are a core focus, but often, the relationships between people who aren’t romantically involved are as important (or more important) than the ones that are. Sisters, friends, strangers who accidentally become important to each other, and even the relationship between my rodeo rider and an experimental motor-bike in the space western — they’re all over the place.
7. The cast is almost always multi-cultural, even if that just means elves or split generations. ("Nomi's Wish" is the hardest to fit into this category, but the age difference between the modern girls and Nomi, and the difference in her culture as a child from their own, is about as close to qualifying as I can bring it. I'm actually working harder on this, particularly given that rantsplosion that happened last year on various SF blogs, and I think it's important to have characters of different cultural backgrounds. In Blackstone Academy, the main characters are still predominantly white--one is learning about her Quinnipiac heritage over the course of the story, and one grew up with eccentric, mixed-religion parents, but I'm not kidding myself into thinking that they're not closest to my own culture and world-view than--but I want the school to feel diverse. Right now, I've just made a point of diversifying the names of the secondary characters, but I'm trying to be incredibly conscious of multi-cultural awareness as I'm writing, so I don't get to the end and feel like the setting is white-washed.)
8. Often the characters start out having failed at something, and part of the story is their having to overcome the emotions of having failed.
9. The emotional core of the story is almost always a moment that happens in a character’s head, rather than in a direct action climax.
10. Um… they all have my name in the byline?

As you can see, I ran out of steam for number ten -- but try this with your own writing and see if it's as challenging for you as it was for me!


Quick link: YA writer Albert Borris had a stroke in December, so he's been unable to promote his novel, Crash into Me, which releases this month, as he's still trying to get his words back. I wish him healing and recovery, and hope that a positive book release will help spur both forward!
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Two things have been keeping me away from livejournal: 1) a copious amount of copyediting, and 2) figuring out what to read. I've noticed that some really good books make you just want to read more and more of the same, and some really good books make it hard to pick up the next good thing. For example, when I finished Magic Strikes (by [ profile] ilona_andrews), I wanted more Kate Daniels, as soon as possible. When I finished Street Magic (by [ profile] blackaire), I picked up three or four different books (including one of [ profile] blackaire's earlier ones) and just found I wasn't in the mood for them. Not because they weren't good (to be fair, one of them really wasn't, but luckily it was a library book and not something I'd already bought), but because they just weren't quite what I wanted. Thankfully [ profile] nalini_singh's Angel's Blood got me through. I can't say I loved it as much as her Psy/Changeling series (to which I'm addicted), but it's clear she's doing something different in the Guild Hunter series, if only because from the preview of the next book, it looks like the protagonists are the same -- not the usual for a series that appears to have the framework of a traditional romance. The world she's building is intriguing, I'm eager to see what she's planning for the rest (though I'm looking forward to Branded by Fire more).

The copyediting has been going, though not as smoothly as I'd like. I have four different copyediting projects bouncing around right now, all of them demanding attention. Today I moved the autobiographies project back to the top of the pile, since I'd really been wanting to get work done on that while I was in England. Herbie Brennan's essay is just wonderful; I'd known him predominantly from the "Faerie Wars" books before, and was tickled to see he also writes nonfiction books about paranormal experiences. Learning about how he came to write both his nonfiction and the "Faerie Wars" books (not to mention his foray into D&D!) was great fun, and the essay is going to be a really excellent addition to the Something about the Author series.

So now, back to one of the other projects. I have a gig copyediting some literature essays and I get to read about Ivanhoe and Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, which are pretty fun titles to read criticism of (or so I hope!). The other copyediting projects are very short essays, there are just a bunch of them, so I'm wading through, getting as many done as I can between the larger projects.

In the meantime, I've come into some very fun duplicate books that I'd like to use as prizes for a contest. (Not telling what they are yet -- it's a surprise!). I'm just not sure what type of contest to have here, at the moment. [ profile] tltrent has just started a monthly contest over at Eudaimonium, asking readers to post the answer to a question or topic of discussion (this month: name your favorite strong female character). Given the content of this blog, I feel like I ought to either go with something having to do with mythology or having to do with taking photos of novels at different outdoor locations (since that's been so much fun for me). If you were going to enter a contest here, what type of contest would you be most likely to respond to?
alanajoli: (mini me)
All right, one week to get myself back on my feet, and here I am, returning to ye olde blog. (I was delayed in turning in my short story to my editor, and one of the things I forbade myself from doing was blogging before it was finished and ready to turn in.) But a couple of cool things happened today, and I wanted to make sure to blog about them, and update you guys on my goals from the trip, before Saturday turned into Sunday. (Hopefully, the novel tourism post will go up tomorrow!)

So, first cool thing: my review of Caitlin Kittridge's ([ profile] blackaire's) novel, Street Magic, went up on Flames Rising. Matt was kind enough to post it for me on a Saturday, because the book has just hit the shelves, and I didn't want to have gotten an advanced reader copy for nothing! It's a really, really excellent novel, which I expound upon in my review. Check out what I had to say, and look for the novel at your local bookstore!

Second cool thing: I finally got to meet Anton Strout ([ profile] antonstrout) (who is, for the record, the most beloved low-to-midlist urban fantasy writer in America, or so I hear) live and in person. He did a book signing up in Pittsfield, his home stomping grounds and not distant from my college stomping grounds. So finally, I have my books signed. Hooray! I decided that bringing him a PEZ dispenser would border on creepy fangirl, so I decided to eschew it and just bring books and questions and a big smile. He did a reading from the first chapter of Deader Still, which was brilliantly creepy and got wonderful reactions from the audience (including me -- I'd forgotten how vivid, and, frankly, gross, that scene was!). The best part, however, was his commentary -- as he was reading, he'd interrupt himself and tell us little bits about the characters or his word choice or things that he liked about the scene, which was a huge enhancement to the story for me. Also (and I hope I'm not blowing his cover), he is super nice in person. Based on his blog and his books, I was expecting more snark, but he was totally gracious and sweet. (And I'm not just saying this because he might find this entry later. These are honest impressions here!)

The Barnes and Noble in Pittsfield is pretty darn great. They didn't have Pandora's Closet in stock, sadly, but I did pick up Red Headed Stepchild by Jaye Wells and Angel's Blood by Nalini Singh. The staff was really great, too, but my favorite part was walking in and seeing a young woman reading manga with this huge grin on her face, totally oblivious to anyone walking by. Seeing the power of reading in person like that gives me a little thrill.

So, those are my good things. Now to catch up on my goals... )
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What is it about writers that makes them want to give stuff away to us, their devoted readers?

You all know I'm a sucker for contests, but it's been a good year for me that way. I've won a number of books this year, have received plenty of books and advance reader copies to review, and have shared book costs with friends who have similar reading tastes. I still buy a lot of books, because I still hold to my bookstore mentality of book buying (buying books is a good thing!), but I've cut way back on my spendy tendencies. I even used a gift card to buy movies instead of books at one point this year, which is a real rarity. (The Great Muppet Caper was just calling me... I hadn't seen it in ages...)

Lately I've noticed that writers have really upped the stakes of their contests. Over at Bitten by Books, the prize isn't always an ARC, sometimes it's an amazon gift card (one of which I was lucky enough to win, from the lovely [ profile] stacia_kane). Individual authors have also increased their winnings: [ profile] mdhenry offered the Zombie Stimulus Package with a proof of pre-order of Road Trip of the Living Dead (which theoretically, you could still enter--the release date is tomorrow, and that's when the contest winners will be announced). Mark offered gift certificates for dinner and a movie (worth $75), coffee and gas (worth $25), and a third prize of urban fantasy novels he's accumulated. To celebrate her upcoming release of Angel's Blood on March 3rd, [ profile] nalini_singh is giving away a $100 gift card to any bookseller she can easily buy a gift card from. It's a new series for her, and she's definitely launching it with a bang!

So, what's the verdict? Are authors just incredibly generous folks? Are they desperate to get their books into your hands? Did it work yet? We know I'm a sucker for this sort of thing--and I really hope that it works in favor of the generous writers who are putting themselves out there to reach their readers!
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We're a week into the New Year, and I haven't really put together a list of resolutions. I'm not sure that I will. I do have a goal of forming an actual spiritual practice (rather than a haphazard spiritual observance). The same is true of my writing. I think I lost track of my apprenticeship somewhere along the way and need to get back on the right path.

But 2009 is looking pretty exciting for a number of reasons. Here's some of what's coming up:

1) Substrate. This is my new, semi-local writing group! Since we're based out of New Haven, it's very local to me, but some of the writers will be coming from Boston and D.C., so it'll be a trek. Luckily, New Haven is an old stomping ground for everyone but me (as the person who has spent the least amount of time living here on Connecticut's shoreline, or so I believe), so the writing group meetings can be combined with other events as well. Like, say, D&D games.

2) Baeg Tobar. I've gotten involved with BT again, and am very excited to be working with Scott and Jeremy and Daniel and the BT crew. There are some amazing things in store for the site this year, including serial fiction, short stories, and a regularly updating web comic.

3) England. I've been invited to be the TA/driver/chaperon for the Simon's Rock England Trip in May of this year. The last time I was in England was 2003, when my sister and I went on our (now infamous, I'm sure) Isle of Man trip, where we were attacked by gulls and almost fell into the Chasms. (I exaggerate only slightly.) We'd begun the trip in England, and we stayed in Glastonbury for a good chunk of it. I am very excited to return, and hope to become reacquainted with Geoffrey and Pat Ashe. I've fallen out of touch with the Arthurian scholar and his wife in recent years, and am looking forward to seeing them again.

4) Getting past 1st level. My Mythic Greece players, with the exception of the one who is currently nannying in England (and so hasn't made the past few sessions) are all second level. Also, I got a GM medal at Worlds Apart for running sessions there. (They were shocked with how excited I was with a little virtual medal, but I am constantly in awe of how well we're treated there. They are good people, and if you're near Pioneer Valley and in need of a game store, they should be your go-to point.)

5) Since it's up on the site, I think it's fair to announce that my LFR module, "Head above Water," is premiering at DDXP this year. I won't be going to Fort Wayne to usher it into the world, but I'm really excited to have it given such an excellent spot to begin play!

6) Dogs in the Vineyard. The old Dogs game is coming to a close, and the new Dogs game is ramping up. There are fun times waiting to happen.

7) Another Shoreline summer. There will be sailing, there will be beach cook outs, there will probably be grill outs in our new back yard. (We moved in December.) I may be dreaming in advance about sunshine, but man am I looking forward to beach weather!

8) A million things to read. Moving made me consolidate my TBR pile--the ones I've actually *purchased* and not just added to the list in my head. I'd take a picture, but it's a bit embarrassing. Add to that the number of awesome authors with books coming out this year (or just released): [ profile] frost_light, [ profile] melissa_writing, [ profile] ilona_andrews, [ profile] sartorias, [ profile] jimhines, Carrie Vaughn, [ profile] rkvincent, [ profile] blue_succubus, [ profile] antonstrout, [ profile] amanda_marrone, [ profile] jenlyn_b, [ profile] m_stiefvater, [ profile] mdhenry, [ profile] nalini_singh... all of them on my Must Be Read list. (And that's just with what I know from livejournals or can back up with Amazon research. Heck, that's mostly for the first six months of this year.)

So, yes, 2009 is looking up. I know, I'm probably one of the few people in the world who is sad to see 2008 go, but it was a good year for me, as far as my short stories getting published, and I'm pretty pleased with it on retrospect. But, as they say, onward and upward!
alanajoli: (wistful - autumn)
One small piece of advice: after declaring Apollo as a patron, do not then state that you haven't worn sunscreen since July, and therefore have no need of it at the end of August. This is foolish. And also a recipe for sunburn and/or sunstroke. Because the gods are spiteful. That's sort of their thing.

At any rate, it was a fun three-day-weekend of gaming and beaching and aloe, during which some nifty things happened:

1) Amazon and both have Ransom: The Anthology listed and available for purchase! My comp copy should be in the mail shortly, and I'm so excited to read it. A google search reveals no reviews as yet, but I'll keep looking, as given that it includes stories by [ profile] eyezofwolf/Dylan Birtolo and Lydia Laurenson, who I know write good stuff, I think there's probably a lot of good things to be said!

2) Amazon and have both also made available [ profile] nalini_singh's newest book, Hostage to Pleasure. Happy book birthday! In honor of that publication, Nalini is hosting a contest asking for descriptions of fictional characters you'd like to take hostage or be taken hostage by. Given that I've just been featured in an anthology on ransom... it seemed like a good match!

So, what fictional character would I like to hold hostage? For grins and giggles, I think I'd kidnap Bea from The Dreamer, which should be coming out in print as well as online sometime this month. Why? Honestly, because that would give either heroes Alan or Nathan the mission of rescuing her, and while I hate to be the bad guy, watching another rescue in action by that pair would just be too much fun to pass up!

What fictional character could I imagine holding me hostage (and still having it be fun)? After a brief discussion with my husband about unrepentant rogues in fiction we both read, we came up with Vlad Taltos from [ profile] skzbrust's series. It could really go either way with him--either something really interesting would happen (as it so often does around him) or the whole thing would go disastrously for me. But there might at least be a trip to Valabar's restaurant, which might even impress a non-foodie like me with its exquisite menu.

If I were going to be held hostage in a fictional setting, I think I'd imagine the fun there being had either by the X-men (because the shenanigans that would ensue would also be fun to watch, and they're the good guys, so it would all get sorted out eventually), or by one of the fairy courts from [ profile] melissa_writing's Wicked Lovely and accompanying books. Probably the summer court, as that at least involves dancing and fun--the dark court would certainly not be a place I'd like to visit, let alone have to stay for any length of time.

But right now, I should be being held hostage by my own work. I've got several projects up in the air, so you'll be seeing a number of titles circulating through my end tag/signature/footer/thingy over the next while until I actually start finishing some of them.

Souls in Silicon, by Jeff Duntemann
"Steampunk Musha: Riddle in Red" (comic issue #1; page count)

alanajoli: (Default)
Awhile ago, I talked about the learning curve I was experiencing with Meljean Brooks's paranormal romance series, because there was too much ongoing plot for a straight romance, but too much romance for a straight paranormal. Between then and now, I've been reading (somewhat voraciously) Nalini Singh's Psy/Changeling series, which has many of those same qualities, and, encouraged by how much I was enjoying those, I went back and got the first book in Brooks's series. This time, the series clicked for me. Whether it's because I started at the beginning or just hit my learning curve, I'm not sure. Whichever the case, however, I wanted to be sure to report that I have, in fact, gotten a better hang on how to read this side of the paranormal romance spectrum. (Many paranormals read more like urban fantasy or straight romance--but Singh's and Brooks's are smack in the middle.)

It occurs to me, having just read some really insightful entries from Erik Scott de Bie and Jim Hines on reading shared-world fantasy that paranormal romance isn't the only genre that requires learning how to read it. I suspect that if you don't start reading shared-world fiction before you realize it's a whole sub-genre all to itself, you bring to it some kinds of assumptions about what it means. The author hasn't created their own setting--so obviously they *couldn't* do so, and their writing is sub-par because the world isn't unique to them. This, of course, is not my opinion--but it's one that I've heard many times. Shared-world fantasy, particularly game fiction, has long been the looked-down-upon step-child of the fantasy genre.

But here's what I've observed, both as a reader and a writer in shared-world fiction. There are people who do it well and people who do it really badly. Some of those people who botch shared-world fiction are writers who do perfectly well in their own worlds, and even win awards and critical acclaim. But when it comes to writing in a shared-world setting, particularly one that requires use of the same characters, they miss the boat. Why? Because they're writing too much like themselves--and not enough like the characters. They change the world rather than enhancing it. Their work doesn't feel *genuine* the way a good shared-world writer's work does. The real challenge in shared-world fiction is writing something that makes that shared-world *more real* to an audience that carries a lot of expectations to every book it picks up.

If you're not keen on a setting, of course, you might be turned off by all the fiction, no matter how good it is. Despite my interest in the Living Forgotten Realms game, I've never been a huge fan of the Realms. There is way too much content to know--and as the best shared-world books have the setting deeply ingrained, from slang to deities to insults that only matter to people familiar with what's being insulted--so it's easy for me to get lost. I have enjoyed some Realms fiction, but the setting itself isn't enough to draw me. Some of the particular writers, like Erik, are the draw instead. I feel roughly the same way about the X-Men; I like them all right, but I bought the series written by Joss Whedon.

In settings that have a lot of appeal for me, I eagerly read the books due to the same things that frustrate me in settings I'm not keen on: they use slang, enhance my understanding of the world's deities, banter in ways that only make sense if you're in on the details of the setting. And then, there's more. Not only are these books marketing tools (and make no mistake, the companies that publish them are trying to sell their games and, in the case of Star Wars and other TV tie-ins, DVDs or other content, as much as they want to sell the novels). The books have the chance to also be great fantasy novels on their own. They can explore concepts like mortality, theology, ethics, and philosophy. They explore very human relationships between people who aren't always human. And they do all of this while maintaining a particular tone that reflects everything that has come before them.

Learning to read shared-world fiction and appreciate them for what they do may be the same kind of learning curve that I experienced with paranormal romances. Once you see what they're doing, not only in terms of story but in terms of enhancing a setting created by other authors, it's hard not to admire what these writers are doing. In my own work, I tried to think of the setting as a character in its own right, and I hope that when people read my novels, they see that as much as they see the characters and plot I created on my own.
alanajoli: (Default)
Highlights roughly in order:

  • Spent quality time with my parents

  • Helped set marks for a sail boat race

  • Took a cruise of the Thimble Islands

  • Helped pick monster zucchini on one of the Thimbles

  • Ate blueberry coffee cake and Dad's Blueberry Pie (TM) with real Michigan blueberries

  • Went sailing on a gusty day without capsizing

  • Went to a restaurant with the same name as my father.

  • Judged the senryu contest entries--winners are now available online! (Some of my favorites did not make the cut.)

  • Celebrated a wedding anniversary

  • Visited with old friends

  • Had dinner and watched movies with new(ish) friends

  • Stayed out 'til almost 1 a.m. with said friends, which is remarkable for its infrequency

  • Went to see the superhero exhibit at the Met in New York

  • Debated the virtues of Stark Tech vs. Wayne Tech.

  • Had hot chocolate with [ profile] dragonladyflame

  • Wrote several "e-mails" and "interludes" from the perspective of my vampire alter-ego for the Dogs in the Vineyard game I mentioned awhile ago

  • Started learning about grant writing

  • Ordered and received [ profile] skzbrust's new Vlad Taltos novel (which my husband promptly devoured), [ profile] nalini_singh's most recent Psy-Changeling novel (because waiting for it to become available through the library was driving me nuts), and [ profile] blue_succubus's Storm Born, the first in her new series.

  • Typed portions of a new short story I wrote mostly on scrap paper.

  • Neglected to turn anything in to Arielle for my first "hold me accountable for fiction" deadline.

  • Got paid for freelance work.

  • Went to the dentist.

  • Spent all day at the beach with a large group of fifth to eighth graders and had an absolute ball.

  • Went to B&N to replace Storm Born, as my copy arrived with water damage from the copious amount of rain we've been having.

  • Went back to the beach to have a grill out with my Dogs in the Vineyard group.

  • Discovered that spending time from 10 a.m. through, effectively, 7 p.m. at the beach leads to sunburn on the face.

  • Had my poor vampire almost die. Again. She made it. Also again.

  • Found the aloe in the med kit still packed from Greece and Turkey.

I think there's actually more (not that this isn't enough), but I'm a bit exhausted right now (probably due to the sun as much as the time), so I'm going to turn in. Tomorrow is another day with family (I hope!), Friday is a D&D game after work, and Saturday and Sunday I'll be at Mythcon in New Britain, CT (just up the road). If you're also going to be there, send a holler!

I'll try to be back on a somewhat regular blogging schedule next week.
alanajoli: (cowboys and aliens - daiyu)
Sorry to vanish the last two days--I've been hard at work, mostly learning the new 4e rules in prep for running this weekend (which, in turn, is in prep for writing). I've also been hard at working-out, if such a thing can be said. We've gotten back on the boat, quite literally, starting sailing whenever the weather permits, and I'm relearning knots, parts of the boat, and other sailing terminology that I'd forgotten since last summer. I'm also back doing tae bo, trying to get into shape to go back to karate. (I know, the point of going to karate is to get in shape, right? Given my knee injury from last February which still isn't entirely better, I'm taking the cautious route.)

So working on work, working out, and devouring the [ profile] nalini_singh novel that came in for me at the library. (I've read the first three of her Psy-Changelings series in backwards order now, and have the fourth on hold.) This, of course, completely distracted me from the productive things I should have been doing... like using my new cool magazine holders to sort through all of the "Secret Invasion" comics we've been picking up. Which is what I'm off to do now.
alanajoli: (Default)
Nearly all of my B&N preorders have shipped and should be arriving on my porch in the next few days. So I'd like to take this moment to wish a happy Book Birthday (in some cases, belated from earlier this week) to:

Welcome to the world, books!


Quick notes on why I've gone missing lately (and a further demonstration that I am actually learning html coding--the more that I use it, I figure the less I'll have to look it up every time I want to bullet a list). Since last Friday I:

  • Read the first chapter of The Lightning Thief aloud at a storyreading night.

  • Ran three Xen'drik Expeditions D&D games.

  • Committed my very first TPK as a DM.

  • Finished going over the edits for the d20 Steampunk Musha Player's Guide.

  • Signed a copy of Into the Reach for a facebook friend who managed to find one used and mailed it to me.

  • Wrote a review for Flames Rising.

  • Wrote a biographical essay about Marc Aronson (which was incredibly fun--he's a great representative for nonfiction for younger readers, and when John Scieszka's term as National Ambassador for Children's Literature ends, Aronson should be a serious candidate).

  • Read Nalini Singh's award winning paranormal romance Caressed by Ice, which I ended up very much enjoying, despite its having two themes that normally make me put a book down (a serial killer/stalker as a major threat and one of the characters having been raped--the former which really doesn't ever sit well with me, but worked out, and the latter of which Singh handled in such a way that the healing process was compelling rather than distressing).

  • Watched The Sting with my husband.

Huh, it felt like so much more before I wrote the list. At any rate, it's been very busy around here, and I'm trying to catch up on my blog reading while not falling behind on my schedule of assignments. We'll see how that goes.


alanajoli: (Default)
Alana Joli Abbott

March 2019

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