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.

Blog Hop: Meet My Character, Alicia Baum

For this “Meet My Character” blog hop, I was kindly tagged by the delightful Connie Archer, national bestselling author of the soup lover’s mystery series from Berkley Prime Crime.  A Spoonful of Murder, A Broth of Betrayal and A Roux of Revenge are set in the imaginary village of Snowflake, Vermont.  The fourth book in the series, Ladle to the Grave, will be released in April 2015.  Visit her website and blog and Facebook page. You can find her on Twitter as @snowflakeVT.

Alicia Baum

He sunk his quill in the well. “The once-beloved horror writer, no less. At last you’ve come to see…Mr. Wicker.”

Intelligent. Independent. Passionate. Depressed. Angry.

Suicidal.

Authors rarely kill off the main character in the first paragraph, but that’s exactly what I’ve done in Mr. Wicker, which comes out from Raw Dog Screaming Press on September 16.  A Caucasian from Los Angeles in her mid-30s, Alicia Baum lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. She was once a “wunderkind” writer (or was she just lucky?) whose works peaked in popularity when she was quite young. But now she’s lost everything: relationships, family, career, health.

Not to mention her mind.

Alicia’s career lay in pieces, shredded by the fits of fortune. As her wrists bled, the books she’d written, old and new, burned in the fireplace. Her husband had run off some time ago, leaving her the house with a double mortgage. Relationships, family—they, too, had run out, some sooner than later. She’d waited for the good things to come, nature abhorring a vacuum, but things continued to leave…and after the doctor’s call that morning, that’s when she’d decided she would take the last thing that could be taken. She’d prove God was an asshole for expecting her to hope while He took everything else.

But there’s a reason for her losses; she just doesn’t know it. They were set in motion by a childhood event so terrible that, when she was still a little girl, she brought the memory of it to the Library of Lost Childhood Memories in her dreams. The Librarian, Mr. Wicker, recorded it in a book that she would retrieve upon death. When she woke up, she could not remember the event at all. It wouldn’t be until after death that she would have to collect the book so that she could move on — to other realms, to the next life, to whatever comes next.

Brave, Salty, Badass

When she returns to the Library after the suicide, her experience there is brief. Even then, we see she’s strong-willed and skeptical. She doesn’t believe Mr. Wicker is real and refuses to take her book when it’s time to enter the light. Incidentally, leaving the Library after death without one’s book is A Very Bad Thing. So, without her knowing it was him, Mr. Wicker has her rescued by an emergency crew. She isn’t exactly grateful to her attending physician when she wakes up in ER:

“So, if we let you go, will you try to kill yourself again?”
More tears. She rubbed her cheek on the pillow to dry them.
“Do you plan to do this again?” Dr. Farron asked.
Her eyes drove a look deep into his that revealed not just keen intelligence but bottomless heartache. “You think I’d tell a fuckwit like you? Fuck—OFF!”

Her impulsiveness and anxiety catapult the reader on more than one roller coaster ride; but her openness to mystery, big heart and tremendous courage ultimately help her face horrors that would drive you and I to madness.

Pre-Order Mr. Wicker Now and Save $2.00

Don’t delay! Choose from trade paperback, hard cover or e-book before September 16 from Raw Dog Screaming Press to receive the discount. You can also pre-order the Kindle copy on Amazon. After September 16, prices return to normal but the book will be available at your favorite online store and many traditional bookstores.

Authors I’ve Tagged

Look for entries from these writers around September 4, 2014!

Susan Peterson Wisnewski is the author of Secrets in San Remo and Chasing the Rainbow, both romantic suspense novels. She will be releasing a new series of paranormal thrillers this fall, tentatively titled Adams Thriller I, II, & III.

Sèphera Girón‘s recent Samhain Horror novella, Flesh Failure, was released in July 2014, hot on the heels of Captured Souls (March 2014). Sèphera’s work has also been published by Leisure Books, Neon books, Orion, Raincoast, Conari, Necon ebooks and others. Sèphera is also a professional tarot reader and paranormal investigator.

Jay Faulkner is a writer, martial artist, sketcher, and dreamer but mostly just a husband and father. His work has been published widely, both online and in print anthologies, and was short-listed in the Penguin Ireland Short Story Competition. He’s currently working on his debut novel, Djinn, book one of the Blood Ties trilogy.

 

 

 

Mourning Jewelry: Poems Every Dark Heart Will Treasure

 

Not long ago, Stephanie Wytovich gave me a review copy of her new poetry collection, Mourning Jewelry. My dear friend Jill Tracy had written a blurb for it, so I knew it must be special. I was first struck by Steven Archer’s cover, which sets the tone perfectly for this excursion into the depths of our heart’s horrors.

Wytovich’s style is free form. While that’s not everyone’s cuppa when it comes to poetry, I’m partial to it, as it’s my preferred style, as well, although I can see why some people find it to be lazy writing. Wytovich’s is anything but. Startling imagery and disturbing desires burrow into the flesh of her verse to lovely effect. Whether it’s a woman who pins a patch of her dead lover’s skin to the inside of her bra or another who “sweetens” her morning coffee with the dust of her dead husbands’ gravestones, each poem lifts the coffin lid on a delightfully grim tale of Tiffany-twisted love. I especially enjoyed the clever turn at the end of each piece, a coda that delivers a surprising, even darker revelation about the narrator.

While some might be tempted to liken Wytovich’s tainted romances to Baudelaire, her work reminds me far more of Les Chants de Maldoror by the Comte de Lautréamont, aka Isidore Ducasse. In Les Chants, the narrator, Maldoror, uses generous doses of black humor in his “poison-filled pages” to explore and even glorify the nature of evil. Mourning Jewelry is similarly rife with black humor, such as in the poem “They Keep Dying” about a woman whose husbands die as soon as they say “I do.” Or in “Urns Make Me Drunk,” where a woman uses her dead husband’s urn and ashes to make a martini.

I keep picking examples about dead spouses, but many of the poems are simply about the deranged relationships. “Xerox His Death Certificate” is probably one of my favorites, where a girl photocopies the man’s death certificate and uses it to wallpaper her place. “It would feel good to stab him again,” she says in the last line, lacing murder with sexual innuendo. Death and sex are the meat of many poems, but Wytovich manages to avoid invoking that cliché of the “little death.” Actually, orgasm in this collection is more like a big, fucking nasty death, thank you very much.

And yet there’s a wrenching vulnerability in these poems. The ache of barrenness, the grief and rage of heartbreak, bitterness that shoots first and hopes later — if ever. Horror is the only genre that can give full expression to this kind of emotional pain. And, man, I’ve been there.

Here’s hoping Stephanie gets the recognition she deserves for this collection of poems. Gruesome yet alluring like the title suggests, these poetic gems are cut with coffin nails and polished to a gleam with a fatalism every dark heart will treasure.