Life Hack: My “Life-Changing” Trick to Using a Toilet Seat Cover

And now for something completely different.

A pain article is going around complaining about “hoverers” – that is, women who don’t sit directly on the toilet seat. Three years ago, I developed a life hack to far more easily use those flimsy, slippery toilet seat covers. I posted it to my Tumblr. Since then, both people who read my Tumblr have told me the technique has changed their lives. It has certainly improved my own public bathroom experience in a major way. Here it is, step-by-step.

Step 1

Place the toilet seat cover like this on the toilet, matching the seat shape. You’ll find that the paper stays pretty well if you haven’t tried to tear it open yet.

Step 2

Sit down and spread your knees just a bit. Now gently tug on the “tongue” just enough to break it. Keep a bit attached.

(This is what you should see between your legs as you’re sitting. Hey, now.)

Step 3

Pee. Poop. Make horrific straining noises. Open Satan’s sausage shop. Text on your phone. Talk loudly to your grandmother in Svalbard to entertain and unnerve your fellow employees. And then flush. You never have to touch the cover again. It disappears into the water.

DONE.

YOU’RE WELCOME.

Freaking Awesome Major Agent Announcement

I’m elated to announce that I have just accepted an offer of representation from Alex Slater at Trident Media Group! He’ll be representing my new Young Adult (YA) horror novel series and other YA projects.

According to Publishers Marketplace, Trident has for the last six years ranked #1 in North American sales. They represent a star-studded list of clients like Deepak Chopra, Chris Claremont and the Frank Herbert Dune estate, as well as some of my friends and favorite writers, including Dave Schow, Kate Maruyama and Dr. Agustin Fuentes. (Not to mention this little organization that just nominated Mr. Wicker for an award.)

Before I sent him a query, I started “cyberstalking” Alex and read all the interviews with him that I could find. I learned he was looking for the dark stuff, which was exactly what I had. I dug that he was a newer agent who not only understood crossover markets but also had a considerable background representing Trident’s foreign rights. As stated in his bio, “His experience in representing fiction in these areas showed him…how to maximize the value of what an author has created.” The year I lived in France opened my eyes to how important this is. The world is huge. While we don’t always think about this while we’re writing, we need someone in our court who does.

Also, it turns out Alex already had a special connection to one of the book’s big surprises. Therefore, when my query hit his inbox, it stood out in a major way. I knew from our first conversation he was the right agent for this series. He got it, loved it, and had intelligent insights. Plus, he was with Trident, one of my dream agencies.

So. Freaking. AWESOME.

Here’s to a beautiful new relationship!

Are the Latest New 52 Wonder Woman Comics Sexist?

(Warning: Contains Swears and Spoilers)

Back in November, The Mary Sue published an article entitled, “The New Creative Team On New 52 Wonder Woman Turns The Comic Into An Utter (Sexist) Disappointment.”  As a lifelong fan of Wonder Woman, although admittedly not a big comics reader, I was appalled to read that Wonder Woman now carries around a teddy bear for comfort and that the new creative team had generally infantilized her. I posted a link to the review on my Facebook feed, which soon filled up with comments that echoed my outrage.

The Challenge

One reader told me that the review was overblown, that the reviewer, Molly Jane Kremer, had taken images out of context and was reacting as if she had “an axe to grind.” He urged me to read the issue myself and decide.

At the time, I was at the third convention in a month promoting my debut novel, Mr. Wicker, and I was exhausted, but I promised that reader I would eventually review the comic myself. In fact, since that time, DC has released two more issues. So, I bought all three — #36, #37 and #38 — so I can see if the problems ever existed at all.

Unlike Kremer, I’m not a Wonder Woman comics reader. I was unaware of the great comics that have come out in the last 10 years. So, I’m not influenced by expectations from previous writers. I even put aside the Mary Sue review and came at these fresh.

Holy Mother of Hell, It’s So Much Worse Than That

I don’t know how much of what follows was the result of editorial direction, artifacts inherited from previous writers, or too many hours watching Nora Ephron movies, but, sweet Jesus, Wonder Woman is a mess. And not just her, but the Amazons, Superman, the plot – everything.

Kremer’s review starts with the sexism of the shower scene. Wonder Woman definitely seems sexualized in that scene, but that’s just the beginning. In the New 52, she’s no longer just a demigod, daughter of Zeus, but a true god. The God of War, specifically. Why does the God of War need to take a shower? Did she get sand in her crotch as she was slaughtering ISIS in Syria? Get a bit of pit sweat battling Putin in the Ukraine? Seriously, a god doesn’t need a fucking shower. By definition, she isn’t human. (Or, if she is, please refer to the sweet Jesus comment.) This isn’t merely sexism. It’s…dumb.

And then the story goes totally cuckoo banana pants.

“Why is everybody so mean to me, Teddy?”

See? There is a fucking teddy bear.

After Aquaman extracts her from a “punch-first, ask-questions-later” fight with Swamp Thing, they take a little flight in his (?) jet that’s leaving mile-long carbon turds in the sky. As Aquaman questions her, she clutches a teddy bear. Is it Aquaman’s teddy bear? Or her teddy bear? Where did it come from? I have no fucking clue. It is inexplicably in his jet. She buries her forehead into it like a pouty teenager — in fact, she looks about 16 years old throughout the comics — as she explains that she’s stressed out because she has so many responsibilities. She has to be Queen of the Amazons. And in the Justice League. And the God of War. It’s not fair!

Wonder Woman is having a crisis because she can’t have it all. Can I tell you how incredibly tiring that is to read? I don’t want to read this. She’s a god, for pete’s sake. This “you can’t have it all” business is just a throwback to the shit we’ve been told as a gender forever to hold us back. It doesn’t make me empathize with Wonder Woman. It pisses me off. I want to see a woman with all this power and position actually using it, rather than whining about it every other panel. I want to see her problems ensue from embracing her strength rather than denying it.

Anyway, she decides to go home to Themyscira, which is when she discovers that her mother, who had already been turned into a clay statue, has crumbled to the ground like a crusty cow pie. And thus ends Issue 36.

“Did Your Jewish Mother Write This?”

The next issue starts with the Amazons bitching that the Queen isn’t there as they are being attacked by giant eagles. I thought they were badass Amazons. Silly me. They can’t fight giant eagles. Oh, and everybody hates men, but Wonder Woman is unpopular because she’s fighting for men’s rights. Okay, then!

One of the most incomprehensible sequences in all the three issues happens next as Superman spars with Wonder Woman using bo staves.

Take THAT, Clark!

Yes, the Man of Steel. Is sparring. With a bamboo stick.

I stared at these panels, wondering who the hell these people were. No, this was definitely Superman and Wonder Woman. Sparring. With sticks. At the gym. Now, I personally train with bo staves. There is no way the strongest people in the world have not shattered those sticks on first impact. And why at the gym? Why aren’t they in the Himalayas throwing boulders at one another? Is that not romantic enough? Would we not see enough of her ass? Have no fear, because there’s plenty of that in this book. (And only one panel of Aquaman’s fine bummage. Am I perhaps not the intended audience is for this comic? Hmmm.)

Wonder Woman then goes home and gets bitched out by the Amazons for not being around when the giant eagles attack again. Wonder Woman learns that the giant eagles used to belong to Ares, but surprise! They’re your birdies now, baby!

“Another responsibility you have neglected,” a crone lady lectures her. “Your excuses are as thin as your commitment to the Amazons.”

At this point I turned to my Jewish boyfriend and asked, “Did your mom write this?” The guilt is being layered on this character so heavily, it’s laughable.

I’m purposely neglecting some subplot where the crone lady is growing her own replacement Amazon queen in a cauldron like a sea monkey but with elephant tits. This will come up later.

“Our areola armor has failed! What shall we do?”

Issue 38 opens with hundreds of Amazons getting slaughtered by a hydra because no one is wearing anything except nipple armor. Or giant clit armor. But it’s okay! It’s just a dream so that Ares — or her subconscious — can bitch her out for being a shitty God of War.

Look, I’ve got my clit armor and my shitty, cracked sword. I don’t need to protect vital organs. I’m GOOD.

Meanwhile the Sea Monkey is now fully grown and armored, not with titty armor but the real thing. Strangely enough, she actually looks like a warrior, unlike pretty much everybody else in these comics.

Although, just like everybody else in these comics, she carries a really, really shitty sword. I mean, these things are totally cracked everywhere. They look like they’re about to fall apart. I guess the way to depict a really cool sword is to make it look really shitty? I have no idea.

Drowning in guilt, Wonder Woman decides to go have a cuppa cawfee in some café with her bestie. Yes, the God of War, Queen of the Amazons, and Justice League member is getting some advice with her caffeine fix. Her friend warns her that she’ll “become Ares — violent and dangerous.”

The only thing Wonder Woman is in danger of at this point is estrogen poisoning because I swear that’s what’s steaming in her cappuccino.

“So, you’re the God of War now.”

Near the end of Issue 38, Batman says this to her when they’re hanging out in the Justice League jet as Superman is investigating some wacky shit happening in a volcano. (Oh, yeah. I forgot to mention that whole villages have been disappearing into the ground.) I don’t know what happened to Aquaman. Maybe he’s back in his jet cuddling his teddy bear, or rubbing it against his crotch to get off because it’s soaked with Amazon sweat. At any rate, Batman thinks she’s about to become a liability because she’s the God of War.

I didn’t realize that the Justice League was a knitting club. I thought they fought for justice, dealing with extraordinary conflicts as they arose. Otherwise, why would you need superheroes? Couldn’t a God of War on your side be an asset? And why wouldn’t Wonder Woman, of all people, be able to handle it? Is it because she’s a woman? I don’t think Batman is implying the latter, but the former question certainly hangs in the air.

At the end, the crone introduces the well-armored, hot-ass Sea Monkey to everyone, proposing that she take over as Queen.

I would totally vote for her because she looks like she could actually survive a fight.

Yeah, It’s Dumb, But Is It Sexist?

Holy hell, yes. But like I said, as someone who honestly doesn’t know much about the series or what this team was dealing with, I don’t want to point fingers at anyone for these problems. All I know is that, if this were my first exposure to Wonder Woman, I would think that she was a hot mess of a young girl wallowing in Woody Allen self-pity. I would also think the Amazons were the most incompetent, poorly equipped warriors in existence. They look like a bunch of Victoria’s Secret models with crap swords. And we all know how I feel about that.

Dear reader, I agree with Kremer. Wonder Woman is infantilized, and not just from the teddy bear and the painfully vacant look in her eyes. Her entire race is demeaned.

I know Wonder Woman is much better than this. Maybe I will seek out the stories that Kremer recommended. Maybe I should write some of my own.

Lord knows, I know my way around rope. And blades.

 

Mr. Wicker: Nominated for the Bram Stoker Award!

stokerawardnom-lg

I didn’t get the news immediately. I was at the surgeon’s office for a follow-up to last Friday’s hand surgery, totally absorbed in Michael Marshall Smith’s latest short story collection, Everything You Need. When I got home, I found an email from my publisher, Jennifer Barnes at Raw Dog Screaming Press. My Facebook and Twitter feeds were already exploding.

I’m absolutely thrilled that Mr. Wicker was nominated for Superior Achievement in a First Novel. I give my great thanks to the members of the Horror Writers Association for their confidence in my unique book. I’m astonished to be in the same company as David Cronenberg, one of my favorite film directors. It’s a tough ballot. I wish the best of luck to everyone nominated!

Where Are the Women?

Oddly enough, I’m the only woman on the ballot for the adult novel categories. It feels strange, especially given this is Women in Horror Month. I confess that the other day I was feeling a bit weary of the topic. Last year, the very talented Rena Mason won the very category in which I’ve been nominated. In fact, I know several incredibly talented female horror writers who have taken home the little brown house. I just hope that women continue to feel encouraged to write horror and dark fiction in general. The genre was invented by a woman, after all.

See you all in Atlanta for the World Horror Convention’s 25 year anniversary!

February Readings in Echo Park and Pasadena

I’m excited to announce I’ll be making two more appearances for Mr. Wicker in February, which is also Women in Horror Month!

Sunday, February 8
4:00pm – 5:30pm
Roar Shack Reading Series
Ghost on the Shore
826LA Echo Park
1714 W Sunset Blvd.
Los Angeles, California 90026

I’ll be joining great local authors of horror such as Lisa Morton, Kate Jonez, Kate Maruyama and Nicole Sconiers, along with live music from the punk band, The Raveens. Our host is Dave Rocklin.

Next stop:

Saturday, February 21
Presentation Time 10:40am, Auditorium
2nd Annual Author Fair
Pasadena Central Library
285 E Walnut St.
Pasadena, CA 91101

I’ll be selling and signing books at both events. “But, Maria, aren’t you having right-hand surgery on February 6th?” No worries! I’ll have help, plus I’ve rigged an ingenious method of signing without gripping a pen. I’ve tested it and it works. Aren’t you curious now? ;-)

Looking forward to seeing you there!

MR. WICKER Moves to the Bram Stoker Award Preliminary Ballot

Awoke this morning to the excellent news that Mr. Wicker has joined some wonderful company on the Bram Stoker Award Preliminary Ballot for Superior Achievement in a First Novel:

Superior Achievement in a First Novel
Maria Alexander – Mr. Wicker (Raw Dog Screaming Press)
J.D. Barker – Forsaken (Hampton Creek Press)
Janice Gable Bashman – Predator (Month9Books)
David Cronenberg – Consumed (Scribner)
Michael Knost – Return of the Mothman (Woodland Press)
Daniel Levine – Hyde (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
Josh Malerman – Bird Box (Harper Collins)
Whitney Miller – The Violet Hour (Flux)
Chantal Noordeloos – Angel Manor (Horrific Tales Publishing)
C.J. Waller – Predator X (Severed Press)

Two more rounds of voting must complete before official award nominees are announced on February 23rd. Congratulations to all the balloteers!

 

 

 

Meeting Dr. Moscovich

I didn’t know what to expect. Perhaps someone tweedy? Rotund? With a pony tail? I had no idea, really.

Soon I would discover that Dr. Jim Moscovich, Professor Emeritus of Classical Studies at Western University of Ontario, was none of these.

Bret walking in Union Station.

Bret walking through the cathedral-like station.

About 15 minutes to noon on December 29th, Bret and I arrived at the Union Station downtown. Although a familiar sight to Bret, I’d never seen the station before. In fact, we’d never seen the people we were meeting before. I’d been corresponding via email with Dr. Jim Moscovich since I’d started adapting Mr. Wicker to novel back in 2004. He specialized in an area of ancient Rome crucial to the development of Mr. Wicker’s background story. He’d always been generous and supportive, ever the professor answering this student’s questions. I imagined he and his wife lived a quiet life somewhere wintery and pastoral.

Surprise Introductions

My imagination wasn’t too far from the truth. Jim and his wife Barbara were “wintering” in San Diego right now, and soon they’d return home to Vancouver Island. When they’d offered to come up to Los Angeles for lunch, we offered to meet them at the station and walk to lunch. Barbara told me we’d recognize them because she’d be wearing a particular type of jacket and that Jim would be “waving around your book.” I attached a picture of Trog sitting on Baudelaire’s grave, explaining that I’d be the redhead wearing Trog, and that Bret looked like a cross between Mikhail Baryshnikov and a young Robin Williams.

IMG_2390

Union Station still wears its holiday finery.

We checked the Arrivals board every few minutes, looking for an update. Then, about 20 minutes after the arrival time, a new torrent of people flooded the great hall. In the distance, I saw a man holding a copy of Mr. Wicker with its unmistakable cover.

A white-bearded man wearing an Iron Maiden t-shirt, that is. One of my favorite metal bands.

The first words out of my mouth were, “Could you BE any cooler?” To which his wife Barbara replied, indicating Mr. Wicker, “He got about six people on the train to buy it!”

Yes. Yes, he could.

Po Boy Revelations

Jim Moscovich playing Alice Cooper on electric guitar.

Rockin’ in Alice Cooper makeup.

After hugs and full introductions, we headed to The Little Jewel of New Orleans, where we ate delicious sandwiches longer than our arms. (I had the shrimp and oyster po boy. SO GOOD.) Jim gave me a newspaper clipping of him playing Alice Cooper in a rock band. In our emails, he’d always talked about golf and puzzles. I interpreted that to mean he was a bit retiring. I didn’t realize he was Jimmy Jazzing it up on an electric guitar!

He then asked me questions about Mr. Wicker, such as why I picked the Gauls for Mr. Wicker’s backstory. I gave him the short version of the tale that’s hidden in the puzzle trail at the end of my book trailer. However, I added something that I’ve told only a tiny handful of people — a revelation I had during the spooky experience that inspired the book. A lot of readers have wondered why I chose that time period. I could have chosen a totally different era, making things more seamless perhaps with the modern day, but I had to be true to that single revelation. It felt so key to who Mr. Wicker is that I couldn’t betray it for storytelling convenience.

Jim and Barbara Moskovich with author Maria Alexander

Jim, myself and Barbara on Olvera Street.

Bret quickly discovered he shared a passion with Jim and Barbara for cryptic crosswords. This I knew about, which is why I’d been keen to get them together. Jim and Barbara teach a six-week course every year about this puzzle type that’s quite popular. Jim whipped out a puzzle torn from a magazine that he was in the midst of solving, placing it on the table between himself and Bret.

They worked on it over chocolate bread pudding soaked in whiskey as Barbara and I continued to chat. I learned that she used to teach French, which thrilled me to no end. We didn’t parle en français, but we did share our thoughts on language and why French doesn’t lend itself to cryptic crosswords. As for that picture of Trog? It turns out Baudelaire is her favorite poet. “I somehow like you even more, if that’s possible,” I told her. Indeed, they already felt like old friends.

The Case of a Pretty Girl in Crimson Rose

Bret Shefter and Jim Moscovich work out a cryptic crossword clue while strolling Olvera Street.

Seriously. They were working on puzzles. Like this.

After lunch, as we strolled Olvera Street. Bret and Jim worked on cryptic crossword clues as they walked. I don’t know if they even noticed where they were. Bret was thoroughly tied up trying to solve “A pretty girl in crimson rose,” and he continued to obsess about the puzzle as we toured the adobe house. I had never seen Olvera Street during the day, which meant I was enthralled by the bright colors and fabulous Dia de Los Muertos dolls. I thoroughly enjoyed Barbara’s company as we continued to talk about language immersion. Once we’d exhausted the market, we listened to live flute music in the plaza.

Vale

We said vale in the train station, the traditional Roman parting. Bret took a photo of the crossword to solve the rest later.

Just as we pulled out of the parking lot, Bret exclaimed the answer* to the “crimson” puzzle.

I’m so happy to have finally met the man who guided me so well in the research of my first novel, and even happier to have two new friends. As time passes, I’m more deeply convinced that writing is as much about relationships as it is about solitude. We may spend lo those many years alone with ourselves toiling away at a manuscript, but those words invariably touch other people long before they’re published. Writing is about communication, the thing that brings together hearts and minds both online and in person.

Vale!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*Rebelled

How to Stalk Me and Mr. Wicker at Loscon 41 this Weekend

I love this little convention we have in Los Angeles every year right after Thanksgiving. It’s called Loscon, and it’s where some of the biggest names in fantasy and science fiction come to hang out and pontificate on panels. The first time I met Larry Niven was when I danced with him at the Regency dance class. This is also where I met my beloved friend, the comic book legend Len Wein. I even befriended my literary idol, Tim Powers, on a panel. (And then there was the time 16-year-old Maria had a fangasm all over Wendy Pini in the ladies room. I suspect Wendy recovered.) This year, the Writer Guest of Honor is J. Michael Straczynski. Seriously! How freaking amazing is that? That’s normal here. Still not impressed? How about Jerry Pournelle, Todd McCaffrey, Steven Barnes, Barbara Hambly, not to mention all the TV and animation writers who attend?

My Loscon Schedule

And then there’s itty bitty me. Here’s my schedule for this year:

Friday

1:00:00 PM
Scottsdale
“Military Fantasy, Different Themes than Military SF?”
Co-Panelists:
J.L. Doty
Laurie Tom
Martin Young
Jerry Pournelle

2:30:00 PM
Saint Louis
“Vixens and Heroines”
Co-Panelists:
Dr. J. Anthony del Marmol
Barbara Hambly
Julie Sczesny
Neo Edmund

10:00:00 PM
Boston
“Sexy or Sexualized”
Co-Panelists:
Daryl Frazetti
Martin Young
Mallory Reaves

Saturday

4:00 PM
Dealer’s Room
Signing (and selling!) Mr. Wicker
If you don’t have a copy, you can get one here. I’ll be taking credit cards, cash, etc. Or just tackle me in the hallways. I’ll sell you a copy on the spot. 

Sunday

11:30:00 AM
Marquis 1
“Death (‘be not proud’)”
Co-Panelists:
Larry Niven
Phil Osborn
Gregg Castro
Martin Young
Tim Powers

World Fantasy Schedule: Panel, Mr. Wicker Party and More Press!

World Fantasy Convention Schedule

I’ll be attending the World Fantasy Convention from November 6-9. Here’s my (brief) schedule:

November 7
11:00 a.m. – Noon panel, Regency F, “Poetry in Fantasy: Yesterday and Today
8:00 p.m. Mass Autograph Session

November 8
11:00 p.m. Mr. Wicker Party hosted by Raw Dog Screaming Press
Room to be announced
If you’re at the convention, come on by! We’re celebrating the wicked Librarian,
Mr. Wicker, and all the good things associated with libraries.

(I’m of course hoping that the guests on the panel “Libraries and Librarians in Fantasy” talk about Mr. Wicker, but I suspect they won’t. A girl can dream, can’t she?)

Attendees who get the USB drive with the “Unconventional Fantasy” collection will get a special edition of my story, “When Gods Die.” I think you’ll seriously dig it.

See you there!

Fangoria Review

In case you missed it, Fangoria Magazine gave Mr. Wicker a terrific review. Here’s just a taste:

MR. WICKER is rich in mood and detail, dialogue and event. For those who are fans of THE WICKER MAN, and the things that lurk in the shadows and in the human memory and heart, this is a powerful read.

Thank you, Abbie Bernstein and Fangoria!

Strong Female Characters, a New Halloween Story, and More About Swords!

Gods, I’ve been busy!

Baby Got Backbone

Recently, a number of genre magazines decided to dedicate an issue to all female authors with the title “Women Destroy <Genre>!”  Nightmare Magazine hosted a Women Destroy Horror! issue for October 2014, Issue 25. Ellen Datlow edited the fiction section, which includes stories by Tanith Lee, Joyce Carol Oates and Pat Cadigan.

When the nonfiction editor, Lisa Morton, asked me to write something as a sort of follow up to my women with swords BabyGotBackbonearticle, I jumped at the chance. I’ve been thinking a lot about the trend to create “strong” female characters by giving them fighting abilities. “Baby Got Backbone: What Makes Strong Women ‘Kick’ in Horror Films and TV Shows” is the result. I’m pleased to say it’s available in the exclusive paid content section of this issue. You’ll have to buy the issue (ebook or trade paperback) to read the article, but given all the great authors who’ve contributed, it’s worth it!

We’ve already had a request from a professor at a major university on the East Coast to possibly use my article in a class next semester, 2015. I’ll post if we get confirmation.

“Harvest of Flames”

Wow! It’s been a while since I wrote a new short story, especially horror. “Harvest of Flames” is a Halloween story for dog lovers, but pet owners in general will relate powerfully to the protagonist who has lost her dog. When she discovers dogs are disappearing all over Los Angeles two weeks before Halloween, even more horrors befall her as she is hellbent on finding out why.

The story appears in the new anthology Halloween Tales published by Omnium Gatherum and edited by the wonderful Kate Jonez. Amazon carries both Kindle and paperback versions of the anthology. Proceeds go to the HWA Hardship Fund.

I’m also working on putting out the story as an Amazon Single in the next couple of days so that anyone can pick it up. Stay tuned!

ETA: HERE IT IS! A Samhain treat for you at $0.99.

“Four of the Dumbest Things Done with Swords in Film and Fiction”

It’s on! My SF Signal guest blog post is generating some terrific responses all over the Twittersphere. I’m thrilled that people are learning about swords and that they’ll be applying it in their own writing. Huzzah! Thanks to everyone for their shares and comments. You guys are awesome.