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.

More News About MR. WICKER, SoCal Appearances and Interviews

I’ve been pretty chuffed about all the good things people are saying about Mr. Wicker. There’s been so much new stuff, I can hardly keep up. Here we go!

The Big News: Library Journal

Screen Shot 2014-10-16 at 11.03.37 PMThis important publication not only gave the novel a Starred Review, but it  named the book Debut of the Month. (You can read the whole article online.) For those not familiar with Library Journal, this is one of the publications that librarians use to decide which books to purchase. I’m just thrilled that any librarian would love The Librarian.

October 21 and 22: More SoCal Appearances

Lit Up! Reading & Signing

October 21, 2014
7:00 pm
Kean’s Coffee13681 Newport Ave
Tustin, California 92780
(714) 838-5326

NoHo Lit Crawl Reading & Signing

October 22, 2014
7:00pm – 7:45pm
Blastoff Comics
5118 Lankershim Blvd
North Hollywood, CA 91601
(818) 980-BOOK

Day of the Dead Party Reading & Signing

Mysterious Galaxy
November 1, 2014
3:00 p.m.
7051 Clairemont Mesa Blvd., Suite #302
San Diego, CA 92111

New Interviews & Miscellaneous

I did a really fun mini-interview with the brilliant dark poet Wendy Rathbone on her blog, “From the Left Dimension.”

My old pal Adam Campbell interviewed me on his podcast, “Anywhere but Hollywood,” about the art of adaptation. This is one of my favorite interviews of all time.

This isn’t an interview, but you can hear me read my poem, “I Cannot Love You,” as part of the 2014 Halloween Poetry Reading for the Science Fiction Poetry Association. It should drive a nice chill deep into your heart.

I’ll leave you with my sexy Horror Selfie for the Horror Writers Association drive to promote horror literature:

Mwah!

The Problems with Kira and Her Katana on Teen Wolf

I love MTV’s Teen Wolf.

I know what you’re thinking. Shut up and read.

I’m not sure what it is about this show, but even when it’s bad (like parts of Season 4, alas), there’s always something wonderful about it — namely, the characters. For those not familiar with the series, it’s a relentlessly dark-sexy-bloody take on the “high school boy becomes a werewolf” story. The main character is Scott McCall, played by the utterly charming Tyler Posey. Scott’s an adorable kid who gets bitten by a big, bad alpha werewolf. But it turns out Scott’s a “natural alpha,” which we gather is because of his moral courage and loyalty to his loved ones. This grants him a special position in the supernatural realm. It’s totally Buffy the Vampire Slayer for this generation, complete with MTV hand-feeding each episode terrific new musical tidbits.

While Scott’s first romance with Crystal Reed’s character, Allison Argent, was delightfully squishy and heartbreaking, it’s his second romantic interest that I really adore: Kira Yukimura.

Played by the talented Arden Cho, Kira is brave, intelligent and achingly sweet all at once. Seriously, as much as I love Stiles, Scott, Lydia, Coach and the lot, Kira is my favorite.

She’s a supernatural creature by birth known as a thunder kitsune. This means she has the ability to control electricity — also known as “foxfire.” We see her do this repeatedly on the show. With her bare hands, she reforges a shattered katana given to her by her mother, who is a 900-year-old kitsune. That very katana becomes Kira’s personal weapon. She displays some flashy moves to Scott in one episode of Season 3b, explaining that she is “picking it up quickly.”

Unfortunately, no matter how much she swings at the bad guys, she isn’t effective with her weapon. And when she does hit them, she does no lasting damage except in the episode “The Divine Move.” Even then, she doesn’t deliver a fatal blow without Scott’s help subduing the bad guy. (Can you see me rolling my eyes?) Eventually, she’s able to use it to deflect arrows, which is okay, but that’s not hitting people or monsters.

This move here? You do this with a bo stick, not a sword. Bringing back the arms and turning away from your opponent? That’s actually a very weak position. There’s your katana lesson for the day.

If you’ve been reading this blog, you know I have a lot to say about women with swords and how they’re depicted in the media. In the  episode “Silverfinger,” which was beautifully researched and written by Moira McMahon Leeper, the characters learn that the pinky finger is the strongest in holding a sword…which is awesomely fucking true. The outer fingers anchor the tsuka. You don’t choke up on it like a bat, squeezing it with your thumb, index and middle fingers. I was really happy to hear this detail and enjoyed how it was used metaphorically in the plot.

What I’m not happy about is the flashy-splashy swordplay that they choreograph for Cho. Opposed to the bad guys with swords, she looks like a ballerina with a swizzle stick rather than a badass samurai. The katana is a two-handed sword. It “works” because it leverages the cross pressure of your opposing hands. But Kira is flinging that thing around with one hand like it’s made of paper. (And it might be, although it’s more likely aluminum.) The choreography of her fights doesn’t reflect any actual Japanese swordsmanship like Shinkendo, which would really make her look super freaking badass. While one can tell just by the way they let her choke up on the handle like a bat, it’s especially evident in that very scene with the arrow deflection. They have her chopping downward repeatedly rather than down and up in a natural kiriagi pattern, which would have been much faster and more elegant. (And, again, more badass.)

I suppose it’s possible that the MTV execs just don’t want her to look too scary. But that would be weird because the other women in the show — especially the werewolves — are incredibly tough fighters. You see them take down one opponent after the next without breaking a sweat. In fact, I otherwise totally dig the fight choreography. It’s always exciting, brutal and engaging, no matter who’s slashing whom. It’s another reason I love the show.

As mentioned in my admission about the character Michonne, I’m willing to let a lot slide if the audience perceives the character as strong. I’m sure fans see Kira that way. In my opinion, the things that make her strong have little to do with her fighting ability. But here’s the thing that super fucking annoys me:

WHY DOESN’T SHE RUN FUCKING FOXFIRE INTO HER KATANA?

Because here’s the thing: let’s say she’s even somewhat effective with her katana. If she channeled foxfire into the nakago (tang) and therefore into the blade (a ready and perfect conduit), she would be arguably the most dangerous character on the show. Are they keeping her from doing this on purpose? Or have they not thought of it? We all know about the foxfire. It’s not a secret. In the episode “Weaponized,” she even loses control of it temporarily. If it were an ability she needed to work on harnessing, wouldn’t she totally be focused on trying to turn that katana into a megawatt-shitting electrical weapon? She knows how electricity affects the werewolves. She would have figured this out. (And if she didn’t think of it, Lydia sure as hell would’ve.) She could have definitely dealt with those Berserkers that she and Liam were messing with so feebly. She could have also got the whuppin’ on Kate. (Come to think of it, in the fight scene where she was wielding a chain, the same thing applies.)

But no.

I have been a major pain in the ass to a friend who is a co-producer on the show. I feel terrible for bugging him about this. But by all rights, Kira should be a far more powerful character at this point. I know that Cho has studied swords of some kind as part of her extensive martial arts training, but that only makes her easier to work with. It doesn’t let her enact the full power of the character if it’s not written for her. It’s possible Jeff Davis and his writers are still trying to figure out foxfire, but I kind of doubt that.

Of course, I’m also assuming they’ve thought of this possibility. Maybe they haven’t.

So, here’s my appeal to Sensei Davis. Man, I love your show. You’re great. Everybody’s great. (Season 4 was not, in my opinion, great, but I have faith in you and Season 5.) Please let the genie out of the bottle and have Kira don her true badassery.

Domo arigato gozaimashita.

Mr. Wicker Launch Success, Interviews & Next Signing

Thanks to everyone for such a successful launch this weekend!

Shades & Shadows Reading

It started with a terrific standing-room-only reading at the Shades & Shadows reading series Saturday night, where I read with some great female horror talent. I especially loved meeting Caitlin Dougherty and Edith Cohn. And I always love seeing Nancy Holder, who is dear to me. The response to my reading was overwhelmingly positive. Gatsby Books happened to have several copies of Mr. Wicker, which they sold.

Dark Delicacies Book Launch Success

Yeehaw! The turnout for the signing at Dark Delicacies on Sunday was terrific! Thanks to everyone who came and bought books. You are all rock stars. In the age of the Kindle, I was surprised that the hardcover books sold out first. Lovely!

First reviews are coming in on the book, and they’re great! So pleased that Alicia and the Librarian are making a good impression on people.

Save the Cat!® Blog Post

Check out my guest blog post, “What You See Is Who You Get: POV in Script-To-Book Adaptations.” Screenwriters are already telling me it’s incredibly helpful in both their adaptation work and simply learning to write novels.

The Qwillery Interview

I really enjoyed this particular interview, wherein I talk about my personal writing background, inspirations and what’s incredibly unique about the book trailer. In fact, I don’t believe there is a book trailer in existence with this feature. What am I talking about? Well, read and see!

Next Stop: Borderlands Books on 9/27

My next reading and signing will be at Borderlands Books in San Francisco on September 27, 2014 at 3:00 pm. I’m a Bay Area native, so I’m especially excited about this stop. Don’t miss it!

 

Get Ready for the Wild Rumpus!

We’re getting close to the release of Mr. Wicker!

Hardcover copies of Mr. WickerThe Wild Rumpus starts September 16, 2014. You can still preorder your copy at a discount on Amazon. If you have Amazon Prime, you get free shipping!

Guest Blog Post at Save the Cat! on 9/19

Look for a guest blog post by me on the Save the Cat!® website next Friday, September 19th. I’ll be talking about how to approach common POV writing problems that screenwriters have when they try to adapt one of their scripts to novel. Since Mr. Wicker began as a script, I’ll be speaking from personal experience and sharing my expertise as both a produced screenwriter and published fiction writer.

Shades and Shadows Reading on 9/20

As a pre-celebration, I’ll be reading from the novel at the Shades and Shadows Reading Series. Here are the details:

September 20, 2014
8:00 pm
California Institute of Abnormal Arts
11334 Burbank Blvd
North Hollywood, CA 91601
$10 admission fee

Official Book Launch at Dark Delicacies on 9/21

The official celebration will be a signing at my favorite bookstore, Dark Delicacies!

September 21, 2014
2:00 pm
Dark Delicacies
3512 W. Magnolia
Burbank, CA 91505

See my Appearances page for more information about upcoming events in San Francisco, Orange County and San Diego.

Stay Tuned for More Sword Controversy

I’m currently writing a guest blog post for SF Signal about swords in film and fiction that might heat up the interwebs, as well as completing interviews for The Qwillery, The Big Thrill, and many more.

Catch you all on the flip side of the rumpus.

Publishers Weekly Praise for MR. WICKER

The first time anything of mine has been reviewed in Publishers Weekly, and it’s a good one. Thanks so much to the reviewer for the kind words. I’m glad you enjoyed it!

Screen Shot 2014-08-30 at 12.03.57 PM

 

Mr. Wicker
Maria Alexander. Raw Dog Screaming, $14.95
trade paper (236p) ISBN 978-1-935738-66-4

Convincing in its haunting whimsy,
Alexander’s emotionally complex faerie
tale comments on grim reality with chilling
metaphors. A suicide attempt leads
failed horror novelist Alicia Baum to the
Library of Lost Childhood Memories and
Mr. Wicker, a sinister man who arouses
both her passion and her disgust, before
she returns to life. She ends up in the care
of Dr. Farron, a gentle psychologist researching
the concept of bogeymen. Alicia
strives to recover missing childhood
memories as increasingly violent accidents
befall her friends and family, and
she grows more and more convinced that
Mr. Wicker is not only real but intimately
connected to her past. Alexander (By
the Pricking) makes the impossible feel
probable, anchoring fantasy in everyday
struggles. Alicia’s spitfire defiance and
charming vulnerability, and the eventual
romance between her and Dr. Farron, inject
warmth into chilling encounters between
a world that shouldn’t exist and
undependable reality. Illness, loss, and
heartache color this splendid, bittersweet
ode to the ghosts of childhood.