Wonder Woman: Escape from the Sword Girl Ghetto

I was worried about Wonder Woman. Not about Gal Gadot being fit for the part, nor even if the story would continue the dismal DC parade of failed narratives. (Okay, maybe the latter a little.) No, mostly I was worried I’d have to watch reams of stupid sword stuff like this.

I covered why this sword-on-the-back thing is terrible in my essay, “Four of the Dumbest Things Done with Swords in Fiction and Film.” It applies to both katanas and beefy, quasi-gladii like “The God Killer.” This photo appears all over the Internet whenever anyone talks about Wonder Woman. It makes the movie look dumb as dirt. (To me, anyway.)

Fortunately, this image didn’t appear in the movie at all. I remember one scene where the sword had been fastened to her back with leather thongs, only to magically appear in her hand a few moments later after a scene cut, but that was about it. In an earlier scene, she wears the sword at her side, where it’s actually accessible. As for the dance scene, I’m going to pretend that didn’t happen…

…because, for the most part, this movie was glorious.

Robin Wright: From Buttercup to Butt-kicker

I don’t want to add any more photos or details in case of spoilers. Suffice it to say that, as I watched the Amazons fight, it was so beautiful I cried. The Amazons were chiefly comprised of professional female athletes. They absolutely killed it with the battle choreography, making every moment breathtaking. And they looked frightening in battle. In fact, I didn’t even recognize Robin Wright as Antiope, not until long after the movie was over when someone online pointed out who she was. Gotta say, to see thick scars snaking over Antiope’s body made me swoon.

(Also made me swoon: Chris Pine tied up with the Lasso of Truth, kneeling before the Amazons as he winced with pain. Ahem.)

(Hee!)

As for Diana Prince, Gal Gadot fit the part perfectly, bringing a believable naïveté to her courageous personality. God, I loved her. The No Man’s Land scene is already a classic.

My congratulations to the stunt and fight choreographers and coordinators: Damon Caro, Wayne Dalglish, Allen Jo, Tim Rigby, Marcus Shakesheff, Lee Sheward,  and Rudolph Vrba. Amazing work.

But most of all, thanks to Patty Jenkins. You made the heart of this swordwoman sing.

 

On SNOWED’s Anthony Award Nomination and a Giveaway

I won’t lie. When I was notified that Snowed had received an Anthony Award nomination for Best Children’s/YA Novel, I got a bit emotional. I was just coming off the high of the book winning the 2016 Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in a Young Adult Novel, which was awesome enough. But the Anthony’s speak to a whole different part of me as an author.

Mysteries: My First Literary Love

When I was a child, we didn’t have much money, and only very few books at home. My elementary school here in Los Angeles didn’t have a library, but it did have a Book Mobile that restricted me to books in my age group. That was extremely frustrating because I was easily reading six grades above that. My friends in first grade teased me for reading “grownup” books because they didn’t have pictures in them.

The Gift of Books that Changed My Life

Those “grownup” books I was reading? My mother worked as a clerk at Thrifty Drugs. I was in first grade when a coworker, who’d heard that I liked to read, gave my mother the first 50 Hardy Boys books. I was in heaven! I quickly moved onto Agatha Christie and Edgar Allan Poe, buying Christie paperbacks with birthday money. I also loved the more “age appropriate” mysteries of Zilpha Keatley Snyder. Although I saw The Fly at three years of age (thanks, big brother!), I didn’t discover monster movies, vampires, and ghost stories until a few years later. But meanwhile, I devoured Encyclopedia Brown and The Great Brain books. I loved puzzles, and mysteries scratched that itch.

How it Started

My childhood and I didn’t know it.

Part of my love of crime stories in particular came out of my troubled childhood. My father was an investigator for the Franchise Tax Board. While my mother worked weekends, he used to make my baby sister and I scrunch down in the back seat of his Dodge while he went dumpster diving in the Hollywood Hills. I thought it was terribly exciting. When I told my mom, she thought it was entirely TOO exciting. Those trips ended there. We wound up leaving Los Angeles just after my dad helped bring down a major narco in L.A. by getting him on tax evasion. I never understood half the things my parents talked about until many years later as I was watching Narcos on Netflix. Boy, was that a surprise.

Anthony Awards and Bouchercon

But I only started writing mysteries and crime fiction myself in the last few years. Being involved in the mystery writing community has been a pure joy. At my first Bouchercon, I found vintage Sherlock Holmes novels in the dealer’s room and quickly discovered the rapture of reading Arthur Conan Doyle, something I’d somehow missed growing up. I quickly became a fan of many modern mystery and noir authors such as Megan Abbott, Laura Lippman, J.C. Lane (nom de plume of Judy Smucker Clemens), Kelli Stanley, Thomas Harris, Donna Moore, and others.

Anthony Awards

As you might guess, it boggles my mind to be on an awards nomination slate with Megan Abbott, Laura Lippman, and JC Lane. To say it’s an honor just to be nominated is an understatement. Here are my fellow nominees in the Best Children’s/YA Novel category:

  • Snowed – Maria Alexander [Raw Dog Screaming]
  • The Girl I Used to Be – April Henry [Henry Holt]
  • Tag, You’re Dead – J.C. Lane [Poisoned Pen]
  • My Sister Rosa – Justine Larbalestier [Soho Teen]
  • The Fixes – Owen Matthews [HarperTeen]

I wish everyone the best of luck! And I thank the Bouchercon attendees for this enormous honor with all my heart.

Goodreads Giveaway and Kindle Sale

In celebration, I’m offering a Goodreads giveaway of a hardcover copy of Snowed. Please enter and share with your friends!

And the publisher Raw Dog Screaming Press is offering the Kindle for only $2.99.

Click for Kindle Sale

Thank you!

 

SNOWED Wins the 2016 Bram Stoker Award for YA Novel

It was a totally surreal weekend.

First, StokerCon 2017 was held on The Queen Mary. If you’ve read my short story “Some Divine,” you’ll have some idea of the spooky-crazy stuff that I’ve experienced on that ship. The experiences were so powerful that I had to fictionalize them. Otherwise, who’d believe it?

I’m not asking that question anymore.

Anyway, I’d agreed in advance to play Werewolf: The Apocalypse onstage that Friday with George R.R. Martin, Stephen Graham Jones, Chuck Wendig and Nancy Holder. I couldn’t have asked for a more prestigious, hilarious, creative group of people. Our Storyteller Bill Bridges brought us on a fun adventure battling Black Spiral Dancers (mais bien sûr) and The Wyrm they serve. Someone in the audience was sweet enough to lend me and Stephen fuzzy wolf ears to wear as we played. I just about DIED when I saw the photos.

(Speaking of dying, I was suffering the worst allergies of my life. I’m surprised my eyes don’t look even puffier in this photo, although the right one looks swollen for sure.) Anyway, Patrick Freivald took this group tabletop photo as proof of the madness. That’s me next to GRRM on the far left.

After the game, I was so sick from allergies that I crawled back to my room, totally forgetting I had a YA panel to be on at that time. Ugh! It was the first time I’d ever missed a panel in my life. I began self-flagellating between power sneezes. I eventually got some “severe” cold medication from the gift shop, which seemed to dam the tide for slightly longer intervals than double-Sudafed doses. (Which is bad, I know.)

Saturday was looking better now that I had some almost workable meds. I was on Lee Murray’s terrific panel about Collaborations in Horror, and then the equally awesome Libraries and Authors panel moderated by the wonderful JG Faherty. There, I at last met the librarian Becky Siegel Spratford, whose blog I’d read without even realizing it!

After the afternoon signing, I had to get ready for the Bram Stoker Awards banquet. This year, I wrote a speech, which some folk might think would jinx the whole thing. But for all my woo-woo beliefs, I actually don’t believe you can “jinx” something that was decided by other people five weeks ago. I’m really glad, too, because I freaking won!

This award meant a lot to me. As far as my stories go, Snowed is the love of my life. It’s the best thing I’ve published to date, and I’m really proud of it. That said, I’m truly humbled and honored by the award. The ballot was fierce, you guys. I’m grateful that my peers found my work worthy. To everyone who read and voted, you have my heartfelt thanks.

snowed_web

SNOWED Nominated for the 2016 Bram Stoker Award!

What an exciting day!

snowed_webI learned this morning that my debut YA novel, Snowed, was nominated for the 2016 Bram Stoker Award® for Superior Achievement in a Young Adult Novel:

Superior Achievement in a Young Adult Novel

Alexander, Maria – Snowed (Raw Dog Screaming Press)
Brozek, Jennifer – Last Days of Salton Academy (Ragnarok Publishing)
Cosimano, Elle – Holding Smoke (Hyperion-Disney)
Roberts, Jeyn – When They Fade (Knopf Books for Young Readers)
Sirowy, Alexandra – The Telling (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers)

I’m deeply humbled and honored to be on such a strong list of nominees in my category, as well as the list as a whole. It’s amazing company to be in!

Great thanks and much love to John Lawson and Jennifer Barnes at Raw Dog Screaming Press, my wonderful agent Alex Slater, all of my teen beta readers and their parents, as well as my adorable husband who’s the best first reader anyone could ever ask for. Most of all, merci mille fois to the readers and voters who made this possible.

Other Nominations

And to sweeten things even more, both of the anthologies that published my short stories last year were nominated, as well!

Superior Achievement in an Anthology

Bailey, Michael – Chiral Mad 3 (Written Backwards)
Manzetti, Alessandro – The Beauty of Death (Independent Legions Publishing)
Monteleone, Thomas F. and Monteleone, Oliva F. – Borderlands 6 (Samhain Publishing, Ltd.)
Mosiman, Billie Sue – Fright Mare-Women Write Horror (DM Publishing)
Murano, Doug and Ward, D. Alexander – Gutted: Beautiful Horror Stories (Crystal Lake Publishing)

My story “Hey, Little Sister” appeared in Gutted, and a reprint of “The Dark River of His Flesh” appeared in The Beauty of Death. So, major thanks and grazie mille to Doug Murano, David Ward, and Alessandro Manzetti for the opportunity to have my work in such exceptional publications.

Finding Danielle

Image result for finding dory

We watched Finding Dory night before last on Netflix. It was harder for me to watch than I thought it would be. Dory’s “re-mem-bory” problems have been a reality for my sister, Danielle, since her tragic car accident at the age of 17 thanks to a traumatic brain injury (TBI) that changed her life forever.

Finding Dory is about the Pacific regal blue tang in Finding Nemo trying to find her family. As I watched, I kept flashing back to times when Danielle had said something for the 500th time, or had misremembered something, even made up entire histories to compensate for missing memories. While I found Dory’s sweet disposition and guilt about her shortcomings endearing, it also stung knowing that in real life people with TBI’s or dementia do not necessarily take being corrected about things very well. In fact, some people with TBI’s can get agitated and even violent if you tell them they have a memory problem.

But I did love how the story teaches children to have compassion for people with disabilities, to incorporate them into their community, and ultimately to see the value that disabled people bring to every situation because of their unique perspective. It even showed how “abled” people can have a restricted view of the world that limits their coping strategies. That’s because people with disabilities live outside the box. Therefore, they think outside the box on a regular basis.

This was beautifully illustrated when Nemo asks his father, Marlin, “What would Dory do?” and his father lists his own narrow-minded problem-solving strategies. Nemo gets frustrated with him. “That’s what you would do. What would Dory do?” he replies, recognizing that Dory’s approach to the world, however unorthodox, is often innovative.

Image result for finding dory disabilityThis sharp Verge review describes many of the film’s best points, especially around Dory learning to cope with her disability and the depression that accompanies it. But even if Finding Dory isn’t a vital addition to the Pixar canon, it’s an incredibly important addition to children’s films. While the story might lack the emotional gravitas of Finding Nemo for most folk, it packed a much harder emotional punch for those of us who have loved ones with profound disabilities. We need more movies like this that tackle disability in such a compassionate and healthy way, showing families and communities loving disabled people as much as the abled.

This subject matter is critical not just for children but for our continued growth as adults. The fact that the U.S. has elected a man to the presidency who mocks disabled people is proof enough that many grownups in America are in dire need of a soul. Since they won’t listen to fellow adults, a children’s film might be the only way of convincing them to grow one.

So, thanks, Pixar. You don’t know it, but this might be your most important film yet.

SNOWED Makes the Bram Stoker Award® Preliminary Ballot

I’m pleased to announce that my YA novel Snowed has advanced to the Preliminary Ballot in the Young-Adult Novel category for the Bram Stoker Awards®. This isn’t an official nomination. Those will be announced February 23, 2017. Wish me luck! 

This is my eighth appearance on the Bram Stoker Awards® Preliminary Ballots since 2001: six times for short and long fiction, and twice now for novels. In fact, in 2001 I had two short stories on the same ballot.

Awards Eligibility for Bram Stoker, Anthony & Hugo

Just a short post listing what I’ve published this year that’s eligible for awards:

snowed_webSnowed — My YA novel released November 2, 2016 by Raw Dog Screaming Press is eligible for:

  • Bram Stoker Award in the “Young Adult Novel” category
  • Anthony Awards in the “Young Adult Novel” category
  • Agatha Awards in the “Children’s/Young Adult” category
  • Hugos in the “Best Novel” category
  • Thriller Awards in the “Young Adult Novel” category (2018)

Read some of the rave reviews it’s gotten to see why it’s worthy. If you’re a Bouchercon or Worldcon attendee, let me know and I’ll see if I can get review copies for your consideration. The publisher has already submitted it to the jury for the Andre Norton Award, which is a YA award given by the SFWA.

The Witches of Winter — Posted December 15, 2016 on Tor.com. This essay is eligible in the “Best Related Work” category for the Hugos.

“Hey, Little Sister” — a short story that appeared in Gutted: Beautiful Horror Stories, June 2016 from Crystal Lake Publishing, edited by Doug Murano and D. Alexander Ward. I love this story, but I haven’t been promoting it because I want voters to focus on Snowed. However, reviewers have mentioned it frequently when reviewing the anthology. It’s a nice reminder that I haven’t lost touch with my love for writing short fiction.

That’s all I can recall offhand. Thanks for your kind consideration!

The Music of Snowed: A Playlist

Happy New Year, everyone!

cage-the-elephant-press-2015-billboard-650I’m currently working on Inversion, the sequel to Snowed, and people are asking about the music I listen to. I’m a voracious music addict and a recovering Goth. So, I listen to pretty much anything electronic, dark, and dramatic. But I also listen to plenty of popular music, like Cage the Elephant and Fall Out Boy. My varied tastes also lead me to really cool, lesser-known musicians like Chase Holfelder and Rico.

“Remember Me, For Centuries”

raidI grew up a classical musician. While I no longer play a symphonic instrument, music is still a big part of my life, and it’s a cornerstone of my writing, too, whether I’m listening to movie soundtracks or a song inspires a moment in the story. As I was writing Snowed, I listened to numerous pop songs, plus a couple of movie soundtracks like The Raid: Redemption. Each song in the playlist represents a section of the book. In some cases they’re songs that Charity hears. Don’t worry you won’t be able to guess the twists and turns of the plot from the list (or even the line I picked above).

The Playlist

No Maker Made Me IAMX
Wrong Depeche Mode
Crazier Gary Numan and Rico
Came Back Haunted Nine Inch Nails
Tell No One Fixer
2 Heads Coleman Hell
Love Hurt Bleed Gary Numan
No Rest for the Wicked Cage the Elephant
Monster Lady Gaga
Feeling Good Michael Bublé
Hello Kitty Avril Lavigne
Centuries Fall Out Boy
Vodevil Marilyn Manson
Razors.Out Chino Moreno
All I Want for Christmas Is You (MINOR KEY VERSION) Chase Holfelder

I’ve included links to the official music videos where possible. I do have a Spotify list for Snowed, but it couldn’t include all of these songs. If there’s one song on this list, though, that sums up Snowed, it’s Chase Holfelder’s cover of “All I Want for Christmas Is You.” That’s exactly what would be running over the end credits.

I hope you enjoy the tunes and have a beautiful new year!

“The Witches of Winter” over at Tor.com

Happy Holidays, everyone!

Because things get lost quickly in the social media scroll, I thought I’d tell you here about my cool Yule blog post over at Tor.com, “The Witches of Winter.” Here’s the intro:

“These last few years, Krampus has broken into the American zeitgeist in movies such as Rare Exports, Krampus and, heaven help us, last year’s William Shatner vehicle, A Christmas Horror Story. Those films and viral videos of the misidentified “Krampus parades” in Austria have conspired with our desire for a new, nastier way of celebrating Christmas, putting the red right hand of Santa in a leading role with the jolly old elf as kings of the season here in the U.S. and abroad.

Truly, though, it’s women—or rather female deities—who have long ruled Yule. Hailing from the older, colder countries of Austria and Iceland with their own fascinating companions, characters such as Perchta and Gryla both punished and rewarded adults and children during Christmas time for centuries before Santa Claus came to town. Read on about these winter witches and decide for yourself if these ladies should be our leads across the annual finish line.”

Check it out! If you like any part of my brain — or just winter folklore like Krampus — I think you’re really going to dig it.

More Snowed Raves

Meanwhile, Snowed is racking up the 5-star reviews over at Goodreads and LibraryThing. “Alexander’s holiday cheer is smashing…” “I could not put this book down.” “…Snowed is one heck of a page-turner with some great YA characters you will definitely want to root for…” “I can’t wait for the sequel!”

OMGSOAWESOME

Thank you, everyone, for making my Yule so wonderful!

Goodbye to My Beloved Ageha

And so it is.

ageha

Ageha is the bokuto on top. Although retired, she gets the position of honor.

I’d developed carpal tunnel syndrome in both hands by late 2012, and had become totally disabled. I had my first hand surgery in late 2013 on the left hand, which was the worst of the two. My surgeon had subsequently requested the right hand surgery, but it was immediately denied, which meant we weren’t allowed to ask again for another year.

Meanwhile, the surgery had dramatically improved my left hand. By early 2014, I was jonsing to return to Shinkendo. My surgeon, who was a black belt in Hapkido, understood my frustration, but he wouldn’t approve it.

My sensei came up with a plan. He made me an extra light bokuto that I named “Ageha,” which means “butterfly” in Japanese. It was strong enough that I could use it in tachi uchi (partner drill) practice, yet it was light enough not to tax my hands.

I told my surgeon about Ageha, explaining my sensei would testify that, while he’s taught students who have had past hand injuries, never in his many years of practice has he ever seen anyone hurt their hands practicing Shinkendo. In fact, the proper way to hold a either a bokuto or katana is very ergonomic.

As I described the special bokuto my sensei had made for me, the expression of my badass, black-belt, Beverly Hills hand surgeon melted. “Well,” he said, adjusting his glasses, “it’s certainly not going to make your hand any worse. You can go back, but with restrictions, okay?”

And so Ageha helped me return to the martial art I love.

The insurance company finally approved my second hand surgery in early 2015, which I scheduled as soon as I could. I kept using Ageha long after I’d been approved to return to work and train normally. Sensei even coated her with epoxy when her surface got rough so that she’d last longer.

But finally last night the epoxy itself splintered and cut my hand. It was a small wound and only bled a little, but I knew it was time. She’d served her purpose and I now had to let her go.

Domo arigatou gozaimashita to both my beloved bokuto and my sensei. You’ve been the best friends a girl could ever have.