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Goodbye to My Beloved Ageha

And so it is.


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.

Anyone Can Nominate Snowed for the Michael L. Printz Award

Before the Deadline of December 1, I wanted to let everyone know that Snowed is eligible for the Michael L. Printz Award and YOU the reader can nominate it!

This award is from the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA), a very important organization I love for librarians serving teens in junior high and high schools. Snowed is unique and delivers strongly on the biggest things they’re looking for: particularly voice, story, theme and a controversial edge. Ironically, the literary merit of these qualities are what made it ideal for small press publishing rather than one of The Big 5. This means I need your help giving it the visibility it deserves.

Here’s the criteria. In addition to a brief description, they’ll ask you to write a sentence or two about which of these you felt had the most merit in Snowed:

If you felt it was controversial or unique in any way.

Publisher: Raw Dog Screaming Press
ISBN 13: 978-1935738893

As always, I’m grateful for your support. Merci mille fois!

Tori Stori

Twenty years ago, Tori Amos released Boys for Pele, a powerful album named after the Hawaiian goddess of volcanoes. I’d only become aware of Tori earlier in the year, around the same time I’d started corresponding with Neil Gaiman. It was 1996, back when you’d go to the record store to buy music. All they had in stock at the store I went to was this new album. Since I’d never heard her music before, Pele was my first exposure to her work.

As I listened to Pele in my tiny in-law apartment in San Francisco, I was blown away by both the music and her passionate, dreamlike lyrics. Not only had I never heard anything like it before, I was in the middle of a divorce and some huge life changes (to put it mildly) that had cost me many friends. So, Pele spoke to me like nothing else.

On July 12, 1996, I went to see her perform at the Paramount Theater in Oakland. “Tori Stori” is what I wrote to Neil that night after I saw her. It mimics the style of the piece he’d written for Tori in the show’s program.

In honor of the 20th anniversary release of Boys for Pele, here’s the piece I sent him.


“Tori Stori”

There was a girl.

She was dressed in black and leather, for that was all she knew how to wear well, and she came to see the red-headed woman play. And sing.

The girl arrived quietly. Alone. For she didn’t know anyone who liked the red-headed woman, except a man who lived half-way across the country.

She entered the old art deco theater – the “moderne” architecture – and sat, nicely setting aside the memories of yesterday that the building pulled from her. Not yesterday as the day before, but yesterday a hundred years ago. She thought, “I’m going to enjoy today, for it’s what I’ve got now.” And she did.

Others arrived. Younger ones. They sat behind her and talked.

“Aren’t Neil and Tori dating?” asked a young girl.

“Who’s Neil?” asked a boy.

“You know, Neil Gaiman?” another young girl responded authoritatively, yet she sounded as if every statement were a question. “He’s, like, this writer? He, like, writes comic books? BUT,” she hastily added, “he’s very, very talented.”

The girl in black laughed. Quietly.

Then after other, less intelligible discussions, one of the young girls began reading out loud from the programme. After only a few words, the girl in black knew the man who lived half-way across the country wrote that. (“I can name that author in three words, Bob.”)

She got up and bought a programme. And read it.

The lights went down. People cheered, screamed, clapped. “Billy Ray was a preacher’s son. When his daddy would visit, he’d come along…”

Out came the red-headed woman onto the stage. She was small. She sat at the piano and started to play. And play. And sing. My, could she sing. And she moved. Up. Down. Stomping her foot. She reminded the girl in black of a billy goat, bucking and stomping, moving her head up and down. But playfully. Passionately. A Leo. Definitely a Leo.

The red-headed woman keened. Not just about horses, and leather, and Charlie Brown, but about lost loves, a mirror-cracked childhood, and God…

The girl in black cried. And she did not stop crying.

The incredibly lovely, melancholy swells from the Bosendorfer washed away the numbness of pain and stress in the girl’s heart and opened a river in her flesh. For the first time, she didn’t care if anyone saw her cry, like she did sometimes watching movies with boys. She rested her head back. And wept.

Much, much too soon, it ended. The red-headed woman finally left the stage (it was the fourth time she’d left the stage). The lights went up. Everyone was standing, clapping. Including the girl. Especially the girl.

Then the girl left. As quietly as she came. She went home.

And she wrote this to the man who lived half-way across the country.


Snowed: The Raves are Snowballing!

Book bloggers, librarians, moms, and teens. They all love Snowed. Check it out!

“Maria Alexander has written a top-notch YA novel.” 5 stars, Goodreads

Snowed is…well on its way to becoming a cult favorite.” BOLO Books

“…one of the best books I have read in 2016.” Bookworm Society

“Once I started reading Maria Alexander’s Snowed, (I) couldn’t put it down. What an awesome and unique story…an action packed story that won’t let you go until the end.” 5 Stars, My Two Blessings book blog

“There are few words for how bone-chillingly cool I found this story. Charity is awesome! Bonus points for Doc Martin and Cage the Elephant nods.” 5 stars, LibraryThing review

Romance and speculative fiction combine in a fun, twisty, and seriously page-turning read. I’m slapping a hand across my mouth (symbolically) to prevent giving away this engagingly alternative interpretation of a classic story. All I can say is: ‘Tis the season to read SNOWED.” 5 stars, Amazon review from Golden Kite Award-winning author, Pamela Turner

“Very inventive, clever and fun!” Nicole Jones-Dion, director of Death Date and They Found Hell

“Oh wow.  I read it this weekend and didn’t see that coming. Great twist…” Margaret Marquis, School Librarian, Virginia

My first book from this author but will definitely not be the last. A good read, Christmas or not.” 5 Stars, Amazon, Terror Tree

“This book is amazing…” 5 stars, Elsie’s Audio Digest.

“…hilariously wonderful…” Frumious Reads

“Imaginative and delightfully unexpected.” 5 stars, Amazon, Goodreads and J.L. Gribble’s Blog

“Charity Jones is a fantastically brilliant character and her wit and charm proved both intoxicating and inspiring.” 5 stars, Bram Stoker Award-winning poet and professor, Stephanie Wytovich

“Seriously, you need to read this book.” Anna Karras, Author & Librarian, Florida.

“Fun read for both youth and adult. Looking forward to the sequel.” 5 stars, Amazon, Mom of 3 Great Kids

Fantastic YA novel from award-winning author: unputdownable!” 5 stars, Amazon

“I am not a huge fantasy fan, but I could not put this book down.” 5 stars, Rachelle on LibraryThing

“This is a great YA novel, which I, being well past my YA years, thoroughly enjoyed.” LibraryThing review

Charity Jones is a fantastically brilliant character and her wit and charm proved both intoxicating and inspiring.” 5 stars, Goodreads, from Bram Stoker Award-nominated poet and adjunct professor, Stephanie Wytovich

“OMFGds! Just finished it. AWESOME! When can we get the next book??? Love, love, loved it” Facebook post from reader

(Read advanced praise from teens and top writers.)

What are you waiting for? Christmas? It might be too late!



Get your copy today!

13 Days ’til Snowed Drops

I just got my contributor copies from Raw Dog Screaming Press. Aren’t they gorgeous?!?! And the initial reviews on Goodreads are awesome.


This book has been one of my proudest achievements. I’ve never felt as much joy writing anything as I have this book and its sequel, Inversion. I suspect writing the last book in the trilogy will kill me because I won’t want to leave these characters, but that’s what we do, right? Stories start and end. But Snowed is the beginning, and has been the beginning of so much more in my life.

Nothing about this book went the way I thought it would. The first draft took a hard left turn at the end of Chapter 5, and I had to rewrite the entire outline. Most of the book was written with voice recognition technology while I was disabled. Strangely enough, I found my voice both figuratively and literally in writing for teens. I had no idea how amazing it would be. And now it’s the genre in which I thrive.

cranberry-clipart-SnowFlakes39_1_2Scarlet_RedThe whole submission process was terrifying, devastating, encouraging, and enlightening all at once. I also had no idea I’d come back to Raw Dog Screaming Press. I bet it was equally surprising for them. This is not only their first YA publication, but they put out the book the same year that the contract was signed. For those new to the publishing industry, that never happens. Jennifer and John are incredible people for making it a reality.

One thing I’m sure of is that these characters are going to crash into people’s hearts the way they did mine. Especially Charity. She taught me so much about writing the other, being a teen today, and believing in myself. Maybe that’s why I love this book so much. Don’t get me wrong. Writing Mr. Wicker was exhilarating, a poetic exorcism of my darkest days. I’m no longer haunted by Alicia’s feelings of invisibility, the overwhelming desire to retreat into the darkness, despair at the thought of finding solace in the world. As Mr. Wicker says, In time the ink shall sing. And so it did, freeing me from the past and bringing me so many blessings.

img_5891I’m so grateful that Snowed found me after Mr. Wicker. I’ve made new friends, found my fantastic agent Alex Slater, and my existing friendships have deepened in beautiful ways. I can’t wait to connect with my readers, both teens and adults. I feel like something incredibly special is about to happen — for me, that is, but I hope for you all, as well.

I’m about to ruin Christmas. And I can’t wait.

Winners of the Snowed #YASH Giveaway

Thanks to everyone who entered my Rafflecopter giveaway for Snowed. Out of almost 100 entries, Rafflecopter chose three random winners:

Artemis Giote, Greece

Heather Li, USA

Christine Alves, USA

Congratulations, ladies! Check your email for more information.

Thanks again so much to you all. This was my first #YASH, and it was so much fun! See you next year.


Welcome to the Fall 2016 YA Scavenger Hunt!


About Your Host

Maria Alexander

I’m Maria Alexander, your host for what’s possibly your spookiest scavenger hunt stop. I’m an award-winning author of suspenseful supernatural short stories, books, and poetry.

My breakout YA novel is called Snowed. It’s about Charity Jones, a teen skeptic and engineering prodigy who learns that, not only should she believe in certain Christmas myths, she should be afraid of them…



When I’m not writing, I’m a real-life samurai-in-training. I study Shinkendo, which is Samurai swordsmanship. Yes, I know how use a real katana!


How to Play

The YA Scavenger Hunt is a great way to win a copy of my book Snowed and many other great YA books. Here’s how:

  1. Pick a team and follow them. There are eight teams, which means there are eight contests going on simultaneously. You can enter one, some, or all! I’m on the PURPLE TEAM, but there are also RED, ORANGE, GOLD, GREEN, TEAL, BLUE, and PINK teams. Hunt all the numbers for each team for a chance to win that team’s set of books. To see the full list of prizes up for grabs, visit the YA Scavenger Hunt Prize page. 
  2. Somewhere on this page I’ve hidden my favorite number in purple. Collect the favorite numbers of all the authors on the PURPLE TEAM, and then add them up.
  3. Once you’ve added up all the numbers, fill out the entry form to officially qualify for the grand prize for PURPLE TEAM. Repeat for each team color as you wish. Only entries that have the correct number will qualify. To be eligible for the grand prize, you must submit the completed entry form by October 9 at noon Pacific Time.
Rules: The hunt is open to anyone, anywhere. If you’re below the age of 18, you must have a parent or guardian’s permission to enter. Entries sent without the correct number or without contact information will not be considered.
Here are all the amazing books you might win if you add up and submit the numbers for PURPLE TEAM.

I have the distinct pleasure of hosting:

Emily Skrutskie

Emily Skrutskie
Emily is six feet tall. She was born in Massachusetts, raised in Virginia, and forged in the mountains above Boulder, Colorado. She holds a B.A. in Performing and Media Arts from Cornell University, where she studied an outrageous and demanding combination of film, computer science, and game design. Her short fiction has been published by HarperTeen, and her debut novel, The Abyss Surrounds Us, is now available.

About Her Book

For Cassandra Leung, bossing around sea monsters is just the family business. She’s been a Reckoner trainer-in-training ever since she could walk, raising the genetically-engineered beasts to defend ships as they cross the pirate-infested NeoPacific. But when the pirate queen Santa Elena swoops in on Cas’s first solo mission and snatches her from the bloodstained decks, Cas’s dream of being a full-time trainer seems dead in the water.

Waiting for her on the pirate ship is an unhatched Reckoner pup. Santa Elena wants to take back the seas with a monster of her own, and she needs a proper trainer to do it. She orders Cas to raise the pup and teach him to fight for the pirates. If Cas fails, her blood will be the next to paint the sea.

But Cas has fought pirates her entire life. Santa Elena has no idea what she’s in for.

Title: The Abyss Surrounds Us
Release Date
: 2/8/2016
Genre: YA Science Fiction
ISBN: 0738746916

(Maria here. I am very much a piratical type. Like most pirates, my philosophy is simple. I believe the answer to The Question of Life, the Universe and Everything is 42.)

Emily’s Bonus Material

In Emily’s own words, read more about her book, The Abyss Surrounds Us, which was just released in February 2016.


If you’re a fan of The Abyss Surrounds Us, you’re probably mad at me. And I totally understand. I’ve spent an entire year making uncertain, nonspecific promises that a sequel was coming. But here’s the thing — the sequel is coming. And soon (as soon as soon can be in the world of publishing). I can’t specify more than soon, but I’m just saying — it doesn’t hurt to be prepared.

So to prepare you, here’s a little list of things to expect:

  1. More pirates. In The Abyss Surrounds Us, we never met another crew beyond the Minnow. But thousands of pirates sail the NeoPacific, and in the sequel, we meet plenty more of them.
  2. More sea monsters. Just as many more pirates sail the seas, many more sea monsters swim them. The Reckoners we met in the first book were pretty cool, but in the sequel we’ll see some of my favorite creatures in the series.
  3. Some new friends. One of them might be a prince. Named after an obscure Brooklyn Nine-Nine character.
  4. Some old ones. It is a sequel, after all.
  5. More salty pirate language. Honestly I think there’s around four times more profanity in this book. Ah, the perils of spending too much time around sailors.
  6. Swift’s last name. A hint: she shares it with a popular superhero.
  7. A certain captain’s backstory.
  8. An embarrassing eating contest.
  9. Some new tattoos.
  10. Equal footing. In the first book, Cas and Swift didn’t stand on the same ground. Now they do. Though it causes no shortage of problems, it also removes a certain set of obstacles, and the benefits are… reaped.

I know, I know. It’s the cruelest of teasers. But before you know it, it’ll be 2017 and the sequel to The Abyss Surrounds Us will be in your precious hands!

Emily’s book and its sequel sound amazing, don’t they? Here’s how to stay in touch with Emily and her news.
Visit her website.
Follow her on Twitter.
View her Instagram photos and Pinterest boards.
Check out her groovy Tumblr.
“Like” her author page on Facebook.
Follow her on Goodreads.

Did you find my number? GREAT! Now proceed to the next scavenger hunt stop, which is at Jennifer Jenkins’ blog.

Want to enter a separate drawing for another chance to win a copy of Snowed? JUST GO HERE.

Join the YA Scavenger Hunt October 4th to 9th!


Hey everybody! I’m on Team Purple in the YA Scavenger Hunt, an amazing opportunity for you to win a whack-ton of free books!

Want to hunt? GREAT! I’ve copied and pasted the info below from the YA Scavenger Hunt website.

But here’s extra incentive: In addition to the scavenger hunt, I’ll be giving away 3 free copies of my YA novel Snowed in my own drawing. DON’T MISS THIS.

How To Hunt

Welcome! If you have never participated in a YA Scavenger Hunt before, then this is for you.

We are so glad that you have joined us! Hunting is so much fun and I always discover new authors and their books. It’s also fun to get to know each author and have access to exclusive content that each author offers, not to mention all the amazing chances at prizes.


The YA Scavenger Hunt is run twice a year: once in April and once in October. It runs from Thursday to Sunday. So you have just three full days to participate.

On Tuesday at noon (Pacific Time) all authors posts go live and the hunt begins.

  1. Pick a team or a specific author. Start there. Go to their site (we link to each author’s sites here at YA Scavenger Hunt).
  2. Find their YA Scavenger Hunt post. It should be super easy to tell which one it is because it will have our graphic on it.
  3. Read their post which will include an author bio, book info, exclusive content, (not always but in most cases) a giveaway, and a link to another author’s webpage.
  4. Look for a number on the post. This could be big and colored. It could be “you need to know…” It should be pretty easy to figure out which number you need to know. Write this number down.
  5. Click the link at the bottom of the post so you can continue the hunt within that same team.
  6. Repeat steps 2-5 until you have visited all the authors for one team.
  7. Add up the numbers that you collected from all the authors of one team. Visit our ENTER HERE page, find the appropriate Rafflecopter, and submit your entry.
  8. Repeat for every team that you want.
  9. Optionally, watch your TO BE READ list grow and grow.

Need more help? Here’s a sample scenario. Do not use these numbers for the actual hunt as they are just a sample.

Let’s say Colleen Houck, Tera Lynn Childs, and Beth Revis are all on Team Yellow. I choose to start with Colleen Houck and go to her page. Colleen Houck is hosting Tera Lynn Childs so on Colleen’s page I will find information about Tera Lynn Childs, her book, and her exclusive content. The number I find is 7. The giveaway I will find is hosted by Colleen Houck though so if I enter the giveaway here, I’m entering to win a book from Colleen Houck.

Colleen Houck links to Tera Lynn Childs so I head there next. Tera Lynn Childs is hosting Beth Revis so I get to read about Beth Revis, her book, and her exclusive content. The number I see is 23. If I see a giveaway, this is for something from Tera Lynn Childs.

Tera Lynn Childs links to Beth Revis who is hosting Colleen Houck. I’ll read about Colleen Houck, her book, and her exclusive content with a giveaway by Beth Revis. The number here is 3. The link at the end of the post will go back to Colleen Houck at which point I know I am done with Team Yellow.

I take the three numbers I have collected (7, 23, and 3) and add them together (33). I head to the ENTER HERE page on YA Scavenger Hunt, find the rafflecopter for Team Yellow and enter the number 33 to be entered to win a book from all three authors on that team.

Last tips and hints!
Not all authors are hosting personal giveaways.
If you can’t find where you should be going, you can always visit our STUCK page for help.
If you need help, you can leave a comment on this site, post on the YA Scavenger Hunt Facebook page, or tweet @YAScavengerHunt on twitter.

The Strange Yet True Story Behind the Book, Mr. Wicker

It’s National Suicide Prevention Week and almost exactly two years since my award-winning novel, Mr. Wicker, was published. As many of you know, Mr. Wicker opens with the main character, Alicia Baum, taking her own life. What many don’t know is the extraordinary backstory of how the book came to be in the midst of my own head-on collision with suicidal thoughts.

However, the backstory is more than that. So much more, in fact, that rather than telling the story in interviews, I chose instead to tell it in a series of videos that could be unlocked by solving a chain of puzzles. The prize had to be worth the effort, yes? And this is quite a tale. The puzzles were so challenging, though, that not many people solved them. Almost all who tried got stuck on the third puzzle, never finding the fourth and final video.

And that’s a shame because anyone who is struggling or who has struggled with suicidal thoughts would benefit from hearing this story. It’s about devastation, depression, and the surprising magic that saved my life. So, I’m including the videos here for the world to watch. If it helps even one person, it was worth the pain and hazards of soul baring.

In a time and out of time, in time the ink shall sing…

Video #1


Video #2


Video #3


Video #4

If you are in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

SNOWED Cover Reveal and Pre-Order!

IT’S HERE! And it’s gorgeous!

Art by Daniele Serra, who is amazing.

Best of all…YOU CAN PRE-ORDER THE BOOK NOW. Need convincing? Read what teens are already saying, as well as NYT Bestselling Author Nancy Holder and Agents of Shield and Fringe TV writer, Lilla Zuckerman!

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