New Project: The Folklore Historian, Volume 29

My most recently completed editorial project isn’t technically a Looseleaf project—I’m the temporary managing editor for this one, not a freelancer, exactly—but I wanted to share it anyway. The last project was a novel, but this one was a scholarly journal focusing historical approaches to folklore (or folklore in a historical perspective). I present volume 29 of The Folklore Historian, a member of the American Folklore Society’s family of publications.

Cover of The Folklore Historian, volume 29

I didn’t do all the work on this issue. I took over at the beginning of the semester, so I proofread the final text, managed final revisions with the authors, laid the journal out in InDesign, designed the cover, and took the files to and checked the proofs from the press.

The Familius Christmas Anthology: Just for Kids

Ever wondered how to create some fun family time with your kids around Christmas? Never fear! Last year I worked on the annual Christmas anthology from Familius, and I did it again this year. Packed with Christmas stories, holiday songs and poems, wintery recipes and child-appropriate activities, the anthology this year was a bundle of fun to put together.Familius Christmas Anthology: Just for Kids

The recipes and activities were my realm of creation: Rick Walton gathers the stories and poems and helps me rank the best of them, and I put it all together. This year, instead of grouping all the stories together, all the poems together, and so on, we grouped one item from each category together according to a theme. In theory, you could use these groups to center an entire night around a single theme. Themes range from silly to thoughtful, so you can vary them according to what your little ones can handle on any given day in December.

Right now it looks like the book is only available in its paperback form (which, given the recipe-and-activity nature of the book, I think is a huge step up from the ebook-only run we had last year). You can get it from …

Enjoy the book and tell your friends. I will be posting a giveaway page soon so I can share some of these awesome author copies I have!

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Leaflet Review: Alice in Tumblr-land: And Other Fairy Tales for a New Generation by Tim Manley

Cover of Alice in Tumblr-land by Tim ManleyPeter Pan finally has to grow up and get a job, or at least start paying rent. Cinderella swaps her glass slippers for Crocs. The Tortoise and the Hare Facebook stalk each other. Goldilocks goes gluten free. And Rapunzel gets a buzz cut.

Here are more than one hundred fairy tales, illustrated and reimagined for today. Instead of fairy godmothers, there’s Siri. And rather than big bad wolves, there are creepy dudes on OkCupid. In our brave new world of social networking, YouTube, and texting, fairy tales can once again lead us to “happily every after”—and have us laughing all the way.

In case my earlier discussion of using fairy tale motifs in creative writing didn’t tip you off (or the mention of my folklore-emphasizing master’s degree, etc.), I’m a bit of a fairy- and folktale nut. My most recent read in the realm of fairy-tale retelling is Tim Manley’s Alice in Tumblr-land: And Other Fairy Tales for a New Generation.

First, I should point out that the book is an outgrowth of Manley’s Tumblr blog Fairy Tales for 20-somethings. (As such you can probably guess that this isn’t for your kids—insert language and content warnings here. My warnings for the book are stronger than for the blog: the book is more explicit, includes more sex-involved storylines, etc. Take a glance around the blog, and if that pushes your boundaries, don’t pick up the book.) But the book does some things that are ill-suited to a blog-style project, and I’m going to focus on those things.

The book, like the blog, has a mix of stories with different characters from different fairy tales (with little to no carryover between fairy tales). Each “fairy tale” story ranges from a couple sentences to a few paragraphs long. (Side note: His definition of fairy tale is very broad and inclusive. If it’s a Disney movie, it probably qualifies for Manley as a fairy tale. Aesop is fair game too.) Although there are overarching narratives for several characters (Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Rapunzel, etc.), no character has two consecutive fairy tales if you’re reading the book cover to cover. Technically most of the tales could be read independently, but the most “bookish” parts of the book, the ones toward the end of the volume, normally require the background knowledge of Manley’s interpretation of the characters.

It’s these sorts of tales that I’m going to focus on for this review. While the blog constantly puts out standalone tales—whether they be humorous or poignant—that sort of telling is ill-suited to a coherent book that is supposed to be read and remembered as something other than a gag book. (Gag books have their place, make no mistake. But that’s not what Manley is doing here.) In the book Manley has selected posts from the blog, rewritten some of them, and added many, many more tales to give characters overarching narratives with problems, failings, successes, and ultimately, an inner calmness and peace. While the book describes many stereotypes and tropes of the lost, confused, bewildered, or befuddling generation of today’s American twenty-somethings, it is not a book that ends on the note of being lost, confused, bewildered, or befuddled. Every recurring character finds a way to reconcile his or her questions and instability into some form of calm willingness to press on, innovate, and engage with life.

All in all, I think the book does a good job. As with the blog, there are some tales (and some arcs) I consider more successful, humorous, or emotionally impactful than others, and there are some I don’t particularly care for. In that way it is like many anthology-style books that include multiple discrete storylines: some are bound to please more than others. I would even argue that until the book fully engages with being a book—until we start getting the closure that doesn’t sit well in an ongoing blog-style context—it feels a bit weaker than the blog. But in the end, Manley pulls it off. Since each tale is so sort, it really doesn’t take that long to get to the end either, so overall it’s worth a read.

New Project: Unraveled by Michelle C. Eging

I’m pleased to present Looseleaf’s most recently completed book-length project: Unraveled by Michelle C. Eging. It’s an adult fantasy novel, the first in a trilogy.

Threads of Sole: Unraveled by Michelle C. Eging

Michelle was a joy to work with. I completed the interior layout for the print version, the ebook layout, and the cover designs for both the print and electronic versions. (Remember, cover design does not mean the same thing as cover illustration. The lovely illustration is the work of Michelle Wilber.) I also did the final proofreading. Here is the back-cover copy for the novel:

In the aftermath of the War of Awakening, the King and his Council condoned the Purge, methodically executing members of the magically gifted Blessed so no person’s power will threaten Sole again. After years of political negotiation, the Purge has ended, requiring the Blessed to brand their faces and creating a rift that has Sole on the brink of civil war. Enwyck, the daamon half-blood Prince of Sole, Joslynn, a woman whose mask hides her deformed and poisonous spider-silk skin, Windle, a former Godmother now hiding as an old man, and Kasimir, a blind cripple no longer able to transform into a raven, find themselves struggling to preserve the kingdom while confronting the trauma of their pasts and the broken pieces of their present. One false move and everything they fought for will unravel, if it hasn’t already.

If that tickles your fancy, go forth and buy the book here. It’s available in both paperback and electronic forms from Amazon. (If you’re an ebook-reading Amazon Prime member, you’ll also be interested to know that the book is a part of the lending library.) If you have a non-Kindle ereader, touch bases with Michelle here at let her know you’re interested. Sometimes the other distribution channels can take a while to get things up.

2013 Editorial Availability, September–December

As I mentioned in my last post, I’m hard at work on my master’s degree. Once I have it, I will be an even more awesome choice for all your editorial needs. In the meantime, I have a very limited schedule for new projects. Currently I’ve got a pair of large, long-term projects, and between them and a few minor projects, I am booked through the end of the year.

However, if you have projects in the works for which you’ll want an editor, but do not need an editor until next year, feel free to contact me and preschedule. I’ll be in my degree program until June of next year, so until then the schedule will be tight. The earlier we touch bases, the better the chances that I’ll be able to work with you to help you reach your audience with clarity, credibility, and style.

A Brief Update

Brigham Young University Logo

I apologize for the lack of free editorial advice, delightful book reviews, and other bookish content available here in recent months. Obviously the past eight-ish months have not been prime time for my blogging. Book reviews are sparse, because at the moment I’m pursuing my master’s degree at Brigham Young University, so I spend a lot of time reading books that have been published for a while (although the oldest I’ve read for this degree only dates back to the very end of the 1600s), so there are a few hundred years’ worth of people to tell you if it’s any good or not. All my analytical brain cells that could write other sorts of posts are directed toward my seminar papers, my thesis, and the paying projects I’m still plugging away at.

If you miss my blogging, take it up with this face.

I also spend a lot of time tending to the newest member of my family, my now ten-month-old son. I’m quite proud of him: he runs around the apartment, voluntarily submerges his face in swimming pools, and spends a good chunk of every day bringing me books from his bookshelf. (Maybe I should start writing reviews of his books, since they tend to be the most recently published books I read these days.)

Anyway, updates shall be sparse. I’m going to be documenting some parts of my thought process and research as I go about writing my master’s thesis, which is about internet narratives on the broad scale, fairy tales on the internet more specifically, and a few examples of internet fairy tales in the most particular. Most of the updates on what my Thesis Neurons are up to will be on my new Tumblr blog: Internet Narrative. If I have spare time to construct blog posts that are particularly useful to writers or readers (I have a few outlines for posts that have been sitting around for eight months), I’ll be putting them here. I’ll also be posting Looseleaf news, like notable newly published projects, my availability, and such. However, these will be few and far between (especially since I’m taking on fewer projects while getting my degree).

So stay tuned to the things that most interest you. Maybe when this whole “master’s degree” thing blows over I’ll be able to get back to regular blogging. I miss it.

Leaflet Review: The Half-Made World by Felix Gilman

The Half-Made World coverThe world is still only half-made. Between the wild shores of uncreation, and the ancient lands of the East lies the vast expanse of the West—young, chaotic, magnificent, war-torn.

Thirty years ago, the Red Republic fought to remake the West—fought gloriously, and failed. The world that now exists has been carved out amid a war between two rival factions: the Line, enslaving the world with industry, and the Gun, a cult of terror and violence. The Republic is now history, and the last of its generals sits forgotten and nameless in a madhouse on the edge of creation. But locked in his memories is a secret that could change the West forever, and the world’s warring powers would do anything to take it from him.

Now Liv Alverhuysen, a doctor of the new science of psychology, travels west, hoping to heal the general’s shattered mind. John Creedmoor, reluctant Agent of the Gun and would-be gentleman of leisure, travels west, too, looking to steal the secret or die trying. And the servants of the Line are on the march.

I can’t remember exactly how I became interested in The Half-Made World, but it’s been a while. I wasn’t quite ready to drop enough money to buy a new hardcover from an author I’d never read though, and that’s why when it came time to find books to populate my Nook, I was ridiculously pleased to see that for some reason, it was on sale for $3.99 (I later discovered that this was a promotional price because the sequel came out last week). It would have been worth paying more than that.

Characters in Conflict

The most interesting aspect of the book, for me, was how every viewpoint character had a strong internal conflict between who they were, what they were doing, and what they wanted to do.

The world of this book feels very magical-wild-West: there are cowboy-like outlaws (the Agents of the Gun), industry-driven railroad men (the men of the Line), the innocents caught in the middle, and the magical Hillfolk that no one fully comprehends. There’s a viewpoint character from every group except the Hillfolk.

John Creedmoor, Agent of the Gun, is ridden by a demon who lives in his revolver. The demon, Marmion, is used to more or less dictating the actions of his host. But Creedmoor delights in defying his master as much as he can, even when it results in demonic torture. Don’t get me wrong: Creedmoor is not a good man, and that point is frequently reiterated through his thoughts and actions. But there is a part of him that knows what good is and that wants someone to do the right thing, even if it isn’t him. John’s internal conflict was, for me, the most compelling conflict of the story.

Lowry is a man of the Line. Men of the Line are supposed to be more or less the same across the board: more or less equally capable, efficient, and unquestioningly loyal to the Engines they worship. His little rebellions are nowhere as brazen as Creedmoor’s, but they wouldn’t fit his character if they were. He is ever so slightly proud of his accomplishments (pride is anathema for Linesmen). He struggles with his desire for glory and his place in a system that doesn’t allow for glory. Especially when he’s put in contrast with Creedmoor, who is a complete glory hog, Lowry is actually an interesting character considering he comes from a group of people who are supposed to be the bland product of assembly lines and cookie-cutter lives. Where he ends up at the end of the book is perfectly fitting (though it felt unfulfilling for a moment and it took me a bit to realize how brilliant it was).

Liv was, for me, the least interesting of the characters. She too is in conflict with herself for most of the book—she struggles with her revulsion and pragmatic acceptance of Creedmoor—but I think she surprised me the least and had the simplest character arc. That said, she is very different, in a good an interesting way, from your typical fantasy heroine. She’s just not, in my opinion, the most interesting person in the book.

Drive to the Sequel

This book’s ending feeds heavily into the sequel. The biggest secret of the book still hasn’t been revealed, new difficulties are introduced, and in general it does a good job of letting you know that if you enjoyed this book, you must pick up the next one as soon as possible. But while I thoroughly enjoyed the setting and I’m emotionally invested in Creedmoor’s character, especially after the events at the end of the book, I’m going to hold off for a bit. Why? Because Liv suddenly became more central (and I already mentioned that she’s not the most interesting for me), and given the back-cover copy of the sequel, I’m not sure that the sequel will end up being what I’d expect. So I’m going to hold off until the price drops to something closer to the price of a mass market paperback. Gilman’s voice and setting are intriguing, and I want to try more; I’m just not quite prepared to pay a premium for it yet.

content warnings: Language (several F-bombs) and allusions to Creedmoor’s liaisons with various women.

The Familius Christmas Anthology 2012

Familius Christmas Anthology coverRemember not too long ago when I mentioned I had a book coming out? Well, now it’s out! Actually, it’s been out for a few weeks now, but it took awhile for it to post to all the major stores. I give you The Familius Christmas Anthology 2012, compiled by yours truly and Rick Walton:

Christmas is a time for family and there’s no better way of helping your family enjoy the Christmas spirit than by taking time each night to explore the annual Familius Christmas Anthology. Filled with stories, poems, recipes, and activities to make Christmas time enjoyable, this collection is literally stuffed with feel-good content and activities that will bring your family together. The stories include such favorites as the “The Gift of Magi” by O’Henry to the moving “The Child Who Had Everything But—” by John Kendrick Bangs. The anthology also includes favorite poems like “Long Ago” by Christina Rossetti and, of course, “God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen,” among many others. And delicious family favorite recipes provide an invitation to spend time at the family table, whether you’re enjoying Spiced Sugar Cookie Truffles or a simple pot of White Hot Chocolate. And don’t forget to round out your Christmas holiday with family activities like building Graham Cracker Cottages or playing Jack Frost Tag. The Familius Christmas Anthology is a fantastic way of enjoying this wonderful holiday and making sure your family enjoys it, together.

I love Christmas, and I’m happy to have been a part of putting this anthology together. The whole point of the anthology is the help families enhance the holiday time they spend together. I’ve always loved spending time reading stories and baking with my family around the holidays. (When I lived at home we used to light candles and read a Christmas story every night in December.) This year, I’m looking forward to starting some family traditions of my own with my husband and my son (even if the little guy will only be a couple months old by the time Christmas day rolls around). Maybe this little book can help you with some traditions of your own.

The book is currently available as an ebook from all major ebook sellers.

(These are not affiliate links.)

Familius Christmas Anthology cover

New Webcomic: Children of Eldair by Rachel Oaks & Jemma Young

Koe LeKai was content to live his centuries-long life isolated in his cavernous home, but a strange sign in his stargazing lures him away from his solitude. Upon encountering a horde of monstrous flesh eaters, he eradicates them and saves a young woman, Embera, from being torn into scraps. While Embera is grateful for his help, she harbors a secret that Koe will only come to understand through time, magic, and the ever-guiding wisdom of the stars.

It’s time to announce a new webcomic from Rachel Oaks and Jemma Young. These two talented women are close friends of mine, and I’ve had the privilege of seeing this storyline (and the art that goes with it) go through various incarnations.

The comic goes live today, December 1, and I know for a fact that they have quite a buffer built up, so you’ll get regular updates of fantasy-comic goodness even if you start reading right now. To get started, just visit Eldair.com. The comic will update every weekday for the first chapter. After that updates will come every Monday and Thursday.

If you need more convincing, watch this video below. Rachel will compliment you into submission.

Leaflet Review: The Emperor’s Soul by Brandon Sanderson

The Emperor's Soul by Brandon Sanderson coverThe Emperor’s Soul showcases a fascinating magic system as the clock ticks down for a condemned criminal. When Shai is caught replacing the Moon Scepter with her nearly flawless forgery, she must bargain for her life. An assassin has left the Emperor Ashravan without consciousness, a circumstance concealed only by the death of his wife. If the emperor does not emerge after his hundred-day mourning period, the rule of the Heritage Faction will be forfeit and the empire will fall into chaos. Shai is given an impossible task: to create—to Forge—a new soul for the emperor in less than one hundred days. But her soul-Forgery is considered an abomination by her captors. She is confined to a tiny, dirty chamber, guarded by a man who hates her, spied upon by politicians, and trapped behind a door sealed in her own blood. Shai’s only possible ally is the emperor’s most loyal councillor, Gaotona, who struggles to understand her true talent. Time is running out for Shai. Forging, while deducing the motivations of her captors, she needs a perfect plan to escape …

This novella from Brandon Sanderson was the first full piece I read on the Nook SimpleTouch my husband got me for my birthday. (Side note: I know I’ve never been an outspoken fan of ebooks, but I have to say, with a newborn, I love my Nook. I can hold it and turn pages with one hand, and if the little one is up in the middle of the night, it has a little light to illuminate the screen so I can read while I rock him. Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant.) It was well worth the money I paid for it, even though there are full ebook novels you can get for the same price. As is typical of Brandon, the magic system is innovative and interesting. The two most important characters, Shai and Gaotona, have very different perspectives on theology, the place of magic in the world, and politics, but Brandon does an amazing job of showing how similar they can be when they’re genuine with one another. There is a great deal of discussion about the nature of beauty and art, and it’s actually quite poetic. As far as intellectual elements go (rather than the fun of character and worldbuilding, which were delightful), my favorite part was when Shai begins to understand how the emperor went from an idealistic crusader to an idle ruler. It rings very true, not just for the characters in the story, but for everyday people in the real world. I have to admit that I skimmed the fight scene. Fight scenes are another thing Brandon is known for, but I didn’t fully appreciate this one. However, you can hear Brandon explain why he kept it in a recent episode of Writing Excuses. (The episode is spoilerific, so don’t listen unless you’re okay with that.) Note: If you’re a big print fan and you decide you’d like a hard-copy version of this novella, go for it. If you buy the print version from Tachyon Publications, just email your receipt or a photo of yourself holding the book to ebooks@brandonsanderson.com and you’ll get a free electronic copy as well.