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Maria Alexander

(s)Word Slinger

Category: writing (page 1 of 2)

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.

 

 

 

Perfume Drinkers and Pig Tails: Márquez the Marvelous is Dead

 

“…memories materialized through the strength of implacable evocation and walked like human beings through the cloistered rooms.”

Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude

Mr. Wicker starts with this quote from one of Márquez’s classics. It was the first of his books I’d ever read and it continues to haunt me with its scorpions and butterflies. In fact, my new YA novel is rife with references to this amazing story as the 16-year-old protagonist is reading it in her AP English class when she meets the boy of both her fondest dreams and coldest nightmares.

I fell in love with Márquez when I read that book, with his passionate imagination and permeable reality. I had read many fantasy authors but nothing captured my own imagination and inspired it as deeply as this tale. I probably loved it in part because of Márquez’s highly visual writing style. The page, canvas. The pen, paint. Motion, color, metaphor: Márquez is king.

By the time I’d read Love in the Time of Cholera, I was drunk on the magical realism of other South American authors such as Isabella Allende, Laura Esquivel and Julio Cortázar, but Marquez still reigned supreme. I loved that Marc Klein and Peter Chesolm used Cholera in Serendpity, a John Cusack film that is very close to my heart for many reasons. The image of Florentino eating flowers and drinking cologne so that he can taste Fermina was so wildly romantic that it infects my every creative impulse. Of course, not every character is like Florentino, but part of me wants to recreate him in every romantic gesture because we can sympathize with his desires for intense connection. The experience of connection that transcends physical boundaries is one of my favorite themes in magical realism and certainly the most profound for me in Márquez’s works.

I struggled with his last book, Memories of My Melancholy Whores, and I have yet to read Living to Tell the Tale, but it promises our greatest and most personal insights into one of the most brilliant literary minds of our age.

And now Márquez has passed. The world mourns. I, too, feel the weight of this loss.

But the world should also celebrate — with perfume and pig tails. Full moons and diamonds. Love letters and oranges. With trembling and anger. Truth raw, naked and sweating on a sleepless night.

For Márquez has at last merged with the infinite. Let his memory materialize in our words and dreams.

 

Forgetting “A Fish Called Wanda”

Last night, I re-watched A Fish Called Wanda with my boyfriend, who’d seen it dozens of times and had even memorized the script. I’d seen it when it came out with my then-boyfriend (who would later become my ex-husband).

The thing is, I didn’t remember a single thing about it. In fact, whenever someone would mention the film, I’d feel an aching, nauseated hole in my memory. Not just a dislike, but a visceral unpleasantness. And I had no idea why.

Netflix said I’d give A Fish Called Wanda almost 5 stars. I mean, like, all the stars except the tiny corner of the last star. Holy sure thing, Batman! I’ve rated enough Netflix movies over the years that it’s pretty accurate. All those red stars combined with my beloved’s enthusiasm for the film made me decide to re-watch it.

And I thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s brilliant — the twisting plot, the fantastic acting, the characters, all with Kevin Kline huffing a patent leather boot. But as I watched the movie, I realized exactly how I’d not only forgotten the film, but why I shoved it off into Vague Hateville.

I was an Evangelical Christian when I saw it.

It wasn’t that I didn’t think Jesus approved of crime comedy. He seemed pretty okay with my infatuation with Inspector Clouseau and the Pink Panther movies, as well as my love for Get Smart and The Naked Gun. (If I had known about my future friend Alan Spencer’s Sledge Hammer, I’d have been totally smitten with that, too.)

No. It was because I was terrified of Jamie Lee Curtis’s incredible sexual power. Wielded by her sharp intelligence, her body was deadlier than any gun — or steamroller — brandished in the film. Between the extramarital affair and the multiple backstabbing affairs, I was terrified of her seductive powers. Not only were her actions “sinful,” she was unstoppable. And appealing…

Was Michael Palin fantastic as the stuttering, animal-loving bank robber? Yes. Was John Cleese completely endearing as the domestically challenged barrister? Yes. Was Kevin Kline hilarious every time he tried to “apologize”? Fuck yes. But all I had remembered was the vaguely sick, horrified feeling I’d had when I’d realized how powerful sex was: the “bad” thing I’d been fighting my whole life, whether it was the painful fallout of my father’s affairs or my own, more innocent quirks.

And Jamie Lee Curtis just proved it was all true. Sex outside of a proper Christian marriage was, without a doubt, bad bad bad.

I’ve changed my mind about a lot of films since I was “unsaved” in 1996. Like The Piano. Oh, god. When I’d first seen the film, I’d watched with satisfaction as Flora tattled on her ho mama, which led to the axe scene with George. I’d been so uncomfortable with the infidelity, I could barely stand watching the film. But as soon as I was “unsaved,” I watched the film again on a whim and OH MY GOD! I LOVED IT! I loved every moment, every detail, every gorgeous shot, Michael Nyman’s haunting music…just everything. And I cried during the axe scene. Oh, god! No! Ada! Poor Ada! I felt sorry for George, too, but not when he turned into the axe-wielding asshole.

Afterward, I thought, “Christ. Do I have to re-watch every goddamned movie I’ve ever disliked before now?”

I stuck to comedies mostly, like The Life of Brian. I could barely tolerate it before, but now I LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVED IT with blasphemy sauce on top! I probably appreciated it more than most people.

Cinema opened up to me. Books. Music. I stood awash in the glorious downpour of human experience with new-found compassion for human frailty. It wasn’t that I suddenly had no moral guidelines. Far from it! I had strong feelings of right and wrong, but for once no one was dictating them to me and I could appreciate nuances of circumstance. I no longer obsessively checked everything I took in against some soupy salvation list that’s ingredients changed depending on the perspective of the pastor I consulted. And the maddening, deafening inner din of “Is this of the world? Or of Christ? Is this godly? Would Jesus approve?” had finally fucking stopped. That peace that Christians talk about? The one that “surpasses understanding”? Once Jesus had cleared the room, it arrived at last. I met art quietly by myself — just me with my intellect, my tastes, my sense of humor. I could still reject a story because of its violence against women, racism, or what have you, but my inner compass interfered far less with my ability to enjoy a story for what it was.

Best of all, I could tell my own stories without worrying about what Jesus or anyone else thought. I started writing and never stopped…

To be honest, I still don’t like Wanda. (I’m not sure we’re supposed to, anyway.) And I am certainly not thrilled with the message that the right man with enough money can tame a woman and make her behave, either. Still, I really enjoyed A Fish Called Wanda.

I give it four stars.

My First Book Deal: Mr. Wicker

wickertitle

I am beyond delighted to announce that Raw Dog Screaming Press will be publishing my first book, Mr. Wicker, in 2014.

Based on a screenplay that placed highly in the prestigious Nicholl competition, Mr. Wicker is an urban fantasy about a woman who is missing a deadly childhood memory. She must find that memory before it takes her life — again.

Located beyond life, The Library of Lost Childhood Memories holds the answer. But the Librarian is Mr. Wicker — a seductive yet sinister creature with an unthinkable past and an agenda just as deadly. Once you meet him, he will change your dreams forever…

Raw Dog Screaming Press has published many award-winning authors, including Jeff VanderMeer, Mike Resnick and Elizabeth Massie. I’m so proud to be amongst such distinguished writers.

Just remember: What you can’t remember can kill you.

“Saturnalia”: When Your Nightmares Write Stories

Something chittered and cackled as it danced in the shadows of the naked trees. Maria skirted her dead jeep, putting it between her and the noise, afraid that the creature would burst through the foliage. She tried to make out what it was, but the trees flanking the road confounded her eyes with their twisted limbs. Thick smoky rivulets streamed from beneath the battered metal hood, further obscuring her vision. Yet something rustled beyond the sharp, frosty branches of the forest walls. Something feral and utterly frightening. 

From “Saturnalia”

In 1999, I had a really effed up dream.

The dream was not only scary as hell, but extremely detailed and well plotted. It included an entire ensemble of strangers, a brother named Joshua who had died, and a town with a secret so dark it could only hide in a Louisiana swamp.

I wrote it down immediately and called it “Saturnalia.” The details of the dream were so deeply carved into my memory and psyche that I even named the main character after myself. I didn’t act like myself in the dream, though. I was naive, trusting, religious, forgiving…a person sure to find trouble.

(Okay, arguably I’m the kind of person sure to find trouble, but this is another kind of trouble.)

First Person, Worst Person

Anyway. I originally wrote it in first person. Although I love first person — my two most popular stories are in first person, present tense — it just didn’t work for some reason. It felt too much like telling someone my dream and not a story. (Then again, when I read it out loud to my old writing group comprised of women in the film industry, I got bitched out for scaring one of the members. It clearly worked on some level.) When I moved it out to third person past tense, it helped considerably, but for many reasons the story remained a mess. I’m still kicking myself for handing in the gooey lump of crap that I did to the Dark Faith anthology editors. “Saturnalia” definitely belonged in either of the anthologies they eventually published.

Washing Up After Heartbreak

As if hitting bottom, she just didn’t want to wash up until after that heartbreaking rejection. I gave her to a friend who lives in New Orleans for a locality check and to a Hispanic friend for a cultural check. They picked the gummy, gross bits off of her and I set to scrubbing her head to toe. I then had my writing group read it and they came back with a resounding YES.

Where You Can Read “Saturnalia”

While it didn’t appear in Dark Faith, you now have it for your enjoyment in both of these great anthologies:

Left Hanging: 10 Tales of Suspense and Thrills

Blood Rites: An Invitation to Horror

But Seriously — WTF?

Where did this dream story come from? This total heart-fuck, mind-fuck, spirit-fuck of a story — it wasn’t inspired by the news or anything I read. Maybe my brain stored some kind of aborted nightmare baby one of the many times I was watching The Wicker Man as I ate Morning Star Strips.

Mmmmm. Morning Star Strips.

Whatever the reason, I’m glad it happened.

Poor Maria. I wonder if she made it out of Ville D’Or alive?

Shriekfest Film Festival This Weekend!

I’ll be at the film festival this weekend enjoying tons of dark features and short films.

I’ll also be biting my nails, since MRS. WINCHESTER is a Finalist in the Feature Screenplay competition. Winners will be announced  at the awards show Sunday night.

If you see me and Trog, say hi, whydoncha!

Meanwhile, my potentially incendiary topic for the WyrdCon Companion Book — Eulogies During an Accouchement: Transition, evolution and growth in LARP — has been accepted for the non-academic portion and I’m madly writing the paper. Fortunately, the book’s topic extends to interactive storytelling and transmedia, which is where my topic lives. As I’ve been writing, the subject feels like a TEDTalk, which is a good thing, I think.

The paper is due November 30th. I’ll post the title and abstract as soon as I’m able.

Rue Morgue Hearts SINS

We just got word last night that Rue Morgue published a completely kick-ass review of Sins of the Sirens. The review was written by Justine Warwick. John scanned the magazine page and sent it to us. There are so many beautiful quotes in here, I can’t pick just one. It was certainly a great pick-me-up after a very tiring day of meetings at the corporate bat cave.

Thanks Justine and RM!

Book Expo Signing

I’ll be signing at the BEA this weekend!

May 31, 11am-12pm
HWA Booth
#5753
Writer’s Row Area

We’re right on the corner.

I should have checked with editor John Everson, as I believe he’s sending copies of Sins of the Sirens. Since Christa Faust is signing just a couple hours later at a different booth, maybe you can get two Sirens to sign, eh?

An Unspeakable Announcement

Editor Vince Liaguno just announced on his website that yours truly is one of the authors whose work is to appear in the anthology, Unspeakable Horror: From the Shadows of the Closet from Dark Scribe Press. My story “In Her Mirrors, Dimly” makes its debut therein.

I am in absolutely excellent company, as you can see so far. But it gets much, much better. You’ll see as they reveal a new author in the Table of Contents each day. Stay tuned!

Strikin’ Up a Conversation

My pal Eric Wallace is the WGA Strike Captain over at Universal. Since I can’t go join him or any of my many other friends* on the strike lines, I want to do my part to spread awareness about why they’re striking.

The average Guild writer isn’t rich by any means, and at any given time only half of the writers are employed. In fact, I make about an average of $20-30K more per year than they do, plus I have health insurance. The WGA writers took a pay cut back in the late 80s in order to help encourage the fledgling video market. It worked in spades. But now we’ve got DVDs and digital downloads, and they’re not getting compensated for those sales — especially not Internet downloads because the execs are claiming those are “promotional” and they’re reluctant to state whether or not they’re “profitable.” These residuals they’re asking for are critical to making a living.

If you don’t believe me, listen to Joss Whedon.

So please watch the videos I’ve linked here and spread the news. Don’t be an ignint jackass. Educate yourself and others!

Thanks!

*Please don’t let a lack of credits fool you into thinking these people are not working screenwriters. They are. They just don’t get an IMDB credit until the piece is either in post-production or is finished. And they don’t always get a credit for what they write. Abbie, for example, wrote the first draft of The Mummy, as well as the initial drafts of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy movie.

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