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It's been a long time since I've posted, but I have a lot of news to make up for it!


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

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

For more information, you can visit the event website.

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

Lastly: I've accepted a position as Editor in Chief of Outland Entertainment, where I'll be editing a number of very cool comics! You can find out more about us at our latest newsletter or by checking out the comics lineup!

Annual Reading Report (plus news!)

There's big news here at Myth, the Universe, and Everything, the biggest of which is the release date for Regaining Home: January 26, 2016. You can see the page at Smashwords or check out the book trailer (designed by artist Lindsay Archer with music from Common Shiner).




But more on that as it happens. In the meantime, I have a reading report for you! I tracked a bunch of different factors this year just to see how diverse a group of authors I really read.

Including my review books (many of which are picture book length), but not including picture books I read with my kids, my total tally for last year was 179 books. Of those, 77 were review titles, 116 (the vast majority, including most of my review books) were for kids or YA.

  • SFF titles came in at 91

  • Romance came in at only 3 last year

  • Graphic novels hit 25

  • Nonfiction came in at 3 (greater than my goal of 1)

  • Rereads hit 13

  • Only 3 of my TBR books came out of the pile

  • I achieved 0 out of a goal of 2 non-SFF/romance/YA/kids novels

  • And while I picked up a title from an autobio author I hadn't read before (always one of my goals), the author I solicited didn't end up participating in the project, so I'm not entirely sure how to count that one.

My digital and print totals were closer this year: 80.5 for digital and 97.5 for print. (I read one book half on my phone and half in print.)

I didn't track author demographics for any of the review titles, and I only tracked demographics when I was pretty sure I could identify gender and ethnicity. My male/female split was pretty close: 53 male authored titles to 56 female authored titles. I did an Ilona Andrews reread during the year, so a number of books counted in both categories (as Ilona Andrews is actually a husband/wife team). Ethnicity was harder to determine, but for what I could figure out, I read 10 books by authors of color vs. 67 by white authors. Some of those also counted twice when there was an author/artist team for the graphic novels I read.

Now that I'm a little more aware of my reading habits, I'll be interested in seeing if I can intentionally better diversify the list this year--not just with authors, but also hitting those out-of-genre goals.

I hope everyone had a great reading year in 2015!

Great projects from friends of MtU&E

A few great projects happening right now:


  • Margaret McNellis (@mcnelliswrites) has launched a Kickstarter for her nautical, haunted historical novel, Out of the Sea. I'm super excited for her, and the project sounds fantastic.

  • Erik Scott de Bie (@erikscottdebie), who I met back at GenCon '06, is involved in another cool Kickstarter: an anthology of short fantasy titled Women in Practical Armor. What's not to like?

  • Margaret Dunlap (@spyscribe) and Max Gladstone (@maxgladstone) are working together on the serial-fiction-in-the-style-of-a-television-series innovative project Bookburners. Max's first episode is available to read for free, so go get it!

Bank Square Books with @Torbooks!

Bank Square Books in Mystic, Connecticut had a fantastic signing yesterday! This was the latest stop on the Big Summer Road Trip Tour with four of Tor's authors: Max Gladstone, Elizabeth Bear, Brian Staveley, and James Cambias.



It's always a delight to spend time with fellow Substrater Max Gladstone, and it was really fun to chat with Elizabeth Bear about some of the details of her "Eternal Sky" trilogy. Both Brian Staveley and James Cambias made me intrigued by their work. We all lamented how mass market paperbacks are becoming fewer and farther between (because otherwise I'd have picked up some backlist titles!). We got some excellent selections from the children's department at Bank Square Books (where we also found Waldo), and I'll be looking into sadly unsignable e-book copies of the Tor tour writers' backlist books.

A lovely time was had by all -- thanks to the four authors, a shout out to Tracey Maknis/Trinitytwo from The Qwillery, and cheers to Bank Square Books for having such a great event!
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!
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!
As I just posted over at the Substrate blog, congrats to Max on his Campbell nomination! As I mentioned in my last post, there's been some complaint about a lack of diversity among the Hugo nominees, but there's nowhere that that's less true than the Campbell slate. Here's the list:


  • Wesley Chu

  • Max Gladstone

  • Ramez Naam

  • Sofia Samatar

  • Benjanun Sriduangkaew


I'm actually reading (and enjoying) Samatar's Stranger in Olondria in my current pile (which is divided among review books, jury books, and picture books...), and Chu's Lives of Tao/Deaths of Tao look right up my alley. Naam is a computer scientist and futurist as well as an SF writer, and though I'm not usually a thriller reader, I'm definitely intrigued by his profile. Sriduangkaew got nominated on the strength of her short fiction; according to other blogs that I've read, that happens very rarely. Regardless of who wins, the future of SF is bright!

fullfathomfive

Speaking of the future being bright, in July, my so-far favorite of Max's Craft-verse books, Full Fathom Five, comes out! Better yet, you can read the first five chapters at Tor.com right now!

People Like What They Like

So, the 2014 Hugo finalists came out. And the usual furor ensued about which authors are pushing which agendas--which is always an interesting conversation. Over at Tor.com, Liz Bourke posted "Sleeps with Monsters: How about Those Hugos?," and I found the comments section to be an interesting cross-section of SFF fans. I found one of Liz's responses to a reader, who claimed one author promoted no agenda in his work, telling. She wrote: "You don't see the message, perhaps, because you agree with it. That doesn't mean it doesn't exist, nor that it doesn't alienate as many readers as it entertains."


Best novel nominee Ancillary Justice, by Ann Leckie, which has been recommended to me a ridiculous number of times, and which I'm looking forward to reading.


There are a lot of accusations about how nominees for the Hugos are selected because they promote certain PC agendas. These usually come from readers who enjoy traditional SFF elements, in novels which are frequently led by a white-cis-male protagonist. Disclosure: I like a lot of traditional SFF stuff myself, and I'm a fan of shared-world fantasy, which tends to revisit a lot of the old tropes over and over again. (Sometimes in new and interesting ways, but that's a conversation for another post.)

I also like books with female protagonists. I like books that show different cultures and different worldviews, and I like books in which the diversity of opinions and worldviews and ethnicities reflects the same sort of complex world we live in, rather than assuming one unified cultural identity. I have sometimes surprised myself by liking books that stray outside my normal relationship comfort zones. (Triptych by J. M. Frey was one of the novels that most impressed me in 2011. If it hadn't been recommended to me, I might not have read it, as I'd have thought it wasn't my sort of thing--and I'd really have missed out.)

I think that what people who talk about "diversity checklists" may not realize is that people don't nominate those books because they promote a certain agenda (though that might be part of it). People nominate those books because they like them. They enjoy reading that type of story. Those books provide the same level of entertainment and emotional arc for readers who like that sort of thing as traditional novels do for readers who like that sort of thing. And for people who are bored of the white-cis-male-led stories, there are still plenty of people who enjoy those books, and there's not anything wrong with that (so long as those books aren't the only thing being published).

People like what they like. As long as the world continues to be a diverse place, we're probably going to keep disagreeing about what we like and what's good. And as long as we can disagree respectfully, I think that's okay.

Grizzly Bear Dancer

Today on Powwows.com, I discovered one of the coolest Powwow dancers I think I've ever seen: Laura John, a St’át’imc dancer from British Columbia. I've never seen a Grizzly Bear dancer before, and she does an excellent job of really evoking the movement of the animal. (We talk about mimicking the movement of animals in kempo, but this is on a whole different level!)



I don't have much to add other than that you should read about her here, and definitely check out the linked videos to see how she dances. It's kind of amazing to watch her!

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Hugo Nominations, Part Deux



Only 11 days until Hugo Nominations are due, and I'm still sorting through my list of titles, deciding what I'm going to nominate, figuring out what authors I read compulsively had titles out in 2013, etc., etc. I'm used to nominating for the Mythopoeic Fantasy Awards, which require a single-book nomination to stand alone, so entries in the "Kate Daniels" series or the "Kitty the Werewolf" series aren't eligible. Not so with the Hugos! The stand-alone quality is not a judge of merit. (Notably, I'm behind on the Kitty books, which is why I haven't listed one below. I've no doubt that the two published in 2013 are awesome and worthy of consideration!)

Taking into account what a "typical WorldCon voter" is expected to be like (see Jim Hines on Larry Correia on Alex Dally MacFarlane; my comment is, of course, tongue in cheek), here are some of the pieces and people currently on my whittling-down list:

Campbell eligible:
Max Gladstone
Shawna Mlawski
Mark H. Williams
Brian McClellan

Short stories:
"Drona's Death" Max Gladstone, xoxo Orpheus
"The Best We Can" Carrie Vaughn, Tor.com
"Stranger vs. the Malevolent Malignancy" Jim Hines, Unidentified Funny Objects 2
“The Life Expectancy of Cockroaches” by Michelle Muenzler, Crossed Genres
"Galatea Odysseus" Madeline Miller, xoxo Orpheus
"The Squid Who Fell in Love with the Sun," Ben Loory, xoxo Orpheus

Novels:
Two Serpents Rise by Max Gladstone
Sleepless Knights by Mark H. Williams
Pen Pal by Francesca Forrest
Codex Born by Jim Hines
Promise of Blood by Brian McClellan
Cold Copper by Devon Monk
Magic Rises by Ilona Andrews
Hammer of Witches by Shawna Mlawski

Graphic novels:
RASL by Jeff Smith
Saga vol 2 by Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples
Hawkeye vol 1 by Matt Fraction and David Aja

Editors:
Moshe Feder
Marco Palmieri
Stacy Whitman
Erika Tsang

Dramatic Long Form:
Choice of the Deathless by Max Gladstone -- notably, this is an interactive novel game app, which may mean this isn't technically the category for it, but there's some buzz this year about nominating games for this category, and I'm all for that.

I'm still poking around the Internet to make sure I haven't miscategorized 2013 titles in my head as belonging to other years. What books and stories are appearing in your nominations lists (if you're voting), or which would you pick (if you're not)?

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