Mr. Wicker: One Year Later

On September 14, 2014, Mr. Wicker was released by Raw Dog Screaming Press. A year has passed, and what a wild journey it’s been…

Suicide Prevention Month

When we chose to publish the book in September, I had no clue it was Suicide Prevention Month. Mr. Wicker opens with Alicia committing suicide and succeeding, however briefly. As a result, some who have struggled with suicidal thoughts have had a hard time reading the book. It vividly portrays someone acting out that intention.

Alicia’s frame of mind had been validated for me in the worst possible way when a friend committed suicide in 2009. Her suicide note bitterly echoed Alicia’s pre-death rants in the first chapter, as well as her post-death lashings out. They say depression is frozen rage, but I’d say it’s more like rage turned inward. I knew Alicia and her obliterating rage wouldn’t be immediately likable, although anyone who’d experienced this kind of pain would instantly recognize it.

And then just days before the book trailer was released, Robin Williams took his life. Suicide was burning up the news headlines, which was awful because I didn’t want to profit from the Zeitgeist of despair.

Besides, Mr. Wicker isn’t a “suicide story.” It’s a reclaiming story. How do we make ourselves whole? That was the question I was facing when the inspiration for the tale came to me in all its gothic glory.

Critical Acclaim

The critical acclaim for the book was strong from the start, with a Starred Review from Library Journal, which also named it Debut of the Month, and a really lovely review from Publishers Weekly, not to mention the many glowing reviews from genre magazines and individuals. I had almost no time to celebrate my success as I was in the publicity crush of countless guest blog posts, interviews and signings thanks to my wonderful publicist, Beverly Bambury. (And thank the gods I had both plenty of spare time and my voice technology to write everything because I suffered a hand disability at the time.)

I even attended three conventions in November 2014 to promote Mr. Wicker: BoucherCon, the World Fantasy Convention (official launch) and LosCon. Crazy, right? I don’t recommend that, by the way. But I do recommend the International Thriller Writers Debut Author Program. They supported me in a major way as I struggled to figure out the publishing terrain. I made some lasting friendships in that program, as they were all like midwives to my child.


Me and Gil Roth in my home recording the Virtual Memories Podcast.

Some of the interviews were especially perceptive, like the one with G.G. Silverman, who’d picked up on the subtle yet powerful feminist themes in the book. Gil Roth’s interview for the Virtual Memories Podcast was a real highlight for me, too, as he asked a lot of intriguing questions, weaving in my knowledge of swords. The Storyforward Podcast with Steve Peters cut to the chase and asked me to tell everyone how I really felt about that dumbass lightsaber. And in my interview with old friend Adam Campbell for Anywhere But Hollywood, the story came full circle as Adam had read the original Nicholl Fellowship screenplay and as well as the novel. (It felt like the best interview I’d ever given, although that might be nostalgia talking.)

Almost everywhere I went, the book sold out of copies. I loved interacting with readers, particularly book clubs. I discovered that people have rich imaginations and that your story is never your own once it’s out in the hands of the reading public. Reading is a deeply collaborative process; new ideas grow when your words mingle with other people’s thoughts. I had been publishing short stories for years, many to acclaim, and I’d never experienced this as I did with readers of Mr. Wicker. It was kind of magical.

The Award

When Mr. Wicker was nominated for the 2014 Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in a First Novel, I was thrilled. That was about the time I signed with Alex Slater at Trident Media Group for a Young Adult horror novel I’d written. I’d long had my eye on Trident, and Alex had come on board as a regular agent after handling foreign rights for many years just as I was finishing up Snowed. As I wrote in an earlier blog post, actually winning the award in Atlanta at the World Horror Convention was cathartic. For a story that survived so many incarnations to achieve so much was a “reclaiming” all its own.

The Aftermath

After the award, a number of negative reviews hit the novel on Goodreads. Before, there were certainly readers who didn’t like the book for whatever reason. That happens. I honestly wondered if some folk had bought the book without reading the synopsis, because they clearly had expected something more like Stephen King rather than the Gaiman-esque story they got, which annoyed them. Regardless, I appreciated those reviews as much as the positive ones because people gave a damn, one way or the other. That’s awesome!

However, some of these subsequent reviews were not only negative but they featured a whole new “unfiltered” flavor of nasty. One reviewer in particular sounded like she’d stayed up all night grinding glass to mix into my breakfast yogurt. I started calling the site GoodBleeds because it was like getting paper cuts every time I went there.


At that point, I decided to stop reading reviews. It just wasn’t productive. Instead, I bathed my Stoker award with my tears.

Prophetic Advice

Before I’d even won the award, the renowned science fiction writer David Gerrold had quite prophetically advised me at dinner one night, “Maria, remember that fame is like being the tallest tree in the forest. You’ll be hit by the strongest winds, but you’ll also get the most sunlight.”

I’ll always cherish this advice, David. You have no idea how much it’s helped.

So, Thank You


A massive, tremendous, stupendous THANK YOU to everyone who bought the book, reviewed it (yes, even you, glass-at-the-bottom yogurt lady), spent time interviewing me, published my guest posts, helped me with the book trailer, voted for the book, and everything else. Special thanks to Steven Barnes, Lisa Morton and Jonathan Maberry for their pre-publication blurbs. Domo arigato!

The biggest thanks of all go to John and Jennifer at Raw Dog Screaming Press. I’m so proud to be part of the Raw Dog family. You guys are the best!

What’s Next?

cranberry-clipart-SnowFlakes39_1_2Scarlet_RedAs I mentioned, my agent is shopping my YA horror novel, Snowed, the first in a trilogy. At this moment, I’m almost done with the first draft of the sequel. No matter what happens, Snowed and its sequels are getting out there. I’m extremely proud of this story and its characters, especially my main character, Charity Jones, the teenage skeptic and engineering prodigy. Between the teen beta readers and their moms, as well as my film industry friends who’ve read it, the response has been spectacular. (And we all know that teenagers don’t like anything, right? Except maybe Harry Potter.)

Plus, it’s clear from multiple sources that Snowed is hitting a new Zeitgeist, one that’s just coming to America from lands foreign and invading our storytelling. Fingers crossed that one of the houses that currently has it falls truly-madly-deeply in love with it tout de suite.

I think you will, too.

Now THAT’S Pretty Scary!

Heidi (aka Super Heidi) Martinuzzi over that the fabulous Pretty-Scary webzine just last night posted a very nice review of Sins of the Sirens. Heidi is a major figure in the Shriekfest Film Festival. The entries I saw when I went a few years ago were quite impressive.

I encourage women who love horror and men who love women in horror to run, don’t walk, to Pretty-Scary. It’s estrogen with a chainsaw. Raaaawwwrrrrrr!

Survived the Weekend. Sort Of.


Barraged by all kinds of health stuff — not the flu, thank goodness, but enough other stuff that I considered staying home today. Somehow I was able to write a little through it all, although I can’t figure out how I managed.

Will post pictures and videos from the Victorian Ball, which was lovely. I actually had dress envy, which is rare for me. I’m usually eying what the men are wearing in any given time period before 1900. But with the Victorians, I have one word: BUSTLES! And sometimes three words: BUSTLES WITH BOWS! The outfit I wore looked positively dowdy compared to the adorable bustle dresses I saw. For the first time ever, I actually looked around and thought that a black dress just wasn’t right.

I must really be ill.

And here’s another review for Sins of the Sirens. Although not the most favorable review of my work, it’s a very positive review for the book as a whole. I’m fascinated with what anyone takes away from my contribution because the three stories are so incredibly different — “Pinned” is straight erotic horror, “The Dark River of His Flesh” is historical dark fantasy and “The Last Word” is a Borges-like tale — that whatever story they “choose” says a lot about the reader’s general tastes. And, for the record, “The Dark River of His Flesh” is about what happens when a good person encounters his Shadow, and the transformation that occurs as a result. Self-imposed isolation is just a prelude to the necessary transformation. It also mirrors the process of recovery from addiction. (A therapist friend read this early on and very loudly went “Yippee, this is exactly right!” Good to know, eh?)

Carry on.

Bonjour, Mes Reves!

I awoke to find a very cool review and SF reading plug from the one of my favorite roguish writers, Thomas Roche, for Sins in my mailbox, sent by . He writes:

Sins of the Sirens is the third release from John Everson’s Dark Arts Books, a small press specializing in horror. Featuring the talents of Morbid Curiosity publisher Loren Rhoads, Mehitobel Wilson, and Money Shot author Christa Faust as well as Eros Zine contributor Maria Alexander, it’s an unhealthy dose of fourteen dangerous tales of dark desire. Featuring both reprints and originals, it collects three to four of the best horror stories from each of these members of the horror-noir-goth underground,each one laced with liberal doses of eroticism and a sucker-punch of wicked imagination.”

Just what I needed after a night of vivid, especially wild dreams that left me ragged.


And in the car on the way to work, I called Waxman, Boxer and Feinstein to urge them all to use their Superdelegate votes to support the will of the people — that is, the popular vote. Waxman’s office was sweet as usual. Boxer’s voicemail was on. They’re both uncommitted in the Superdelegate race. And Feinstein’s office, while open, was immediately defensive. As soon as I said, “I know the Senator is using her Superdelegate vote to support Clinton, but…” the guy cut me off and said, “We can’t discuss campaign issues on the phone.”

“But this isn’t exactly a campaign issue. This is a broader comment.”


“Yes,” I continued. “I’d simply like to encourage Senator Feinstein, when it comes down to the wire, to use her Superdelegate vote in support of whoever has the popular vote, be it Clinton or Obama.”

“Oh, okay,” he said. He sounded vastly relieved. “It’s just that we get a lot of calls from people wanting to debate her position.”

I’m thinking we totally have the right to challenge her, but I don’t say it. “Well, thank you for taking my comment. That’s really all I’m asking for.”

“Okay. Thank you for calling.”

When did we not have the right to call and challenge our Senator’s position on campaign issues? This is disturbing. I understand not wanting to sit on the phone and argue with someone, but I have the right to call and say, “Please support someone else.” Maybe they think it’s separate from her position as my Senator. However, she wouldn’t even be a Superdelegate if she wasn’t my Senator, if I hadn’t voted her in. Geesh.

Review and Interview

Okay, although I’m still reeling from the discovery that co-Siren Mehitobel Wilson and I share the same birthday, I’m now urging you to check out David Niall Wilson’s thorough and thoughtful review of Sins of the Sirens. It’s quite awesome. Thanks for the valentine, Dave!

He’s also just posted an interview with the most blasphemous Siren: me, of course. There will be interviews with all four Sirens, so stay tuned.

There have been two other reviews so far. I’m ambivalent about posting links to them. One is largely positive, but it’s clear the writer didn’t know the meaning of the word “theme.” He hadn’t read all the stories in the book, either, as he accused my story “The Last Word” (and others) of being about “fetishes, sexual dominance, sadomasochism and drugs.” While there’s certainly a common thread of dark desire in the stories, I can name three stories off the top of my head that don’t have even a hint of these elements in them. If you don’t count alcohol as a “drug,” then it’s much higher. (“The Last Word” has alcohol and clove cigarettes, so maybe he thought that was too druggy?) That’s at least 20-25% of the book. It also didn’t go through fact check and mixed up two of Bel’s stories. So you can’t really take what he says very seriously.

As for the other review, it was so juvenile, it’s barely worth mentioning. Despite the few good words in it about my work (he and David both liked “The Last Word”), it seethed misogyny. I was really hoping the more professional reviews would get out there first. Oh well!

But if you’re just dying of curiousity, Lisa Morton ripped Dude #2 several new ones with her knitting needle, and Bel discusses them all with her usual flair. Enjoy!