News and updates about Alis’ books, Alis’ site, and Alis herself.
So I did a clean-up of my bookshelves yesterday, mostly chucking out the books I’d DNF’d but needed to put somewhere, plus a few ancient outliers that no longer, as they say, “sparked joy.” Also, by “chucking out” I mean “sent to the local book charity”; it’s a crisis hotline that runs a book fair every year to raise money.
Point being, I have space on my shelves again, which means… time to buy more books!
- One Thousand and One Ghosts, Alexandre Dumas. I’ve historically had an aversion to “The Classics,” probably because I got burned at a young age trying to read The Lord of the Rings, which I found turgid and tedious.1 After that, I just kind of… assumed all works written prior to like the 1980s were in the same style and avoided them en masse2 which… now that I’m thinking about it as an adult, is kinda a laughable assumption. Also, I’ve already gotten through both Frankenstein and Capital vol. 1, so… this thin little tome is not intimidating in comparison.
- Brave New World, Aldous Huxley. Well… I enjoyed 1984 way more than I thought I would,3 so we’ll try this one on as well.
- Metro 2033, Dmitry Glukhovsky. I watched a Let’s Play of one of the games, and it’s way easier to find in stores than Roadside Picnic and The Master and Margarita, which are the Russian-spec-fic-in-translation books I’m actually looking for, and will probably have to special order.
- Injection, vol. 3, Warren Ellis. Why did I buy this but not volume two? Er… oops.
- After years of on-again-off-again reading, I got halfway through the second book, and was up to… some bit where Gollum is crawling across a mountain range? Or something? Anyway, I realized that, a) I didn’t care about anything that was going on, and b) there was nothing actually forcing me to keep reading and I could stop at any time. So I did, and never went back, and never regretted it. [↩]
- With the exception of my Poe and Lovecraft phases. [↩]
- Which is to say: I thought I would tolerate it as A Classic and kinda skim the boring/sexist bits, but… actually ended up legitimately loving it and devoured the whole thing. [↩]
“You said you’d killed one before.”
“You don’t look so good. Are you . . . are you okay?”
Thursday morning, and Eli feels like his head is ready to burst and his eyelids have rusted shut. He is one-hundred percent not ready, in other words, to deal with Morgan Lacroix.
“Yeah,” he says. “Just . . . rough night, y’know?”
Morgan nods. She’s still in all-black but it’s not quite the lace-and-lamentation of yesterday. “I’m sorry,” she says and, near as Eli can tell, sounds sincere. “If you need anything . . .” She trails off, biting her lip and looking away, almost as if she knows how futile the offer is.
“‘m okay,” Eli lies. “Just . . . need time, y’know?”
Morgan has cornered him just outside the school, and there’s an awkward moment where neither of them seem to know what to say. Eli’s trying to figure out an excuse to leave when Morgan’s eyes suddenly dart between him and their surroundings, and she leans forward to hiss:
“I got it.”
“Huh?” says Eli, eloquent as always.
“The . . . the files,” Morgan clarifies, or tries to. “About the murders.”
“Oh,” says Eli. Then, when the memory clicks in place: “Oh!”
“From Mom’s laptop. I took photos. I don’t— I need your number. I’ll text them. Then I have to delete them”—said with great urgency—“Mom can never know I took these. You understand, right?”
“Yeah,” says Eli, who does. “Of course.”
He exchanges numbers with Morgan and, a moment later, a series of photos ping into his messaging app. They’re grainy and low-res, obviously taken of the screen of another computer, but they’re readable enough.
“Is that . . . is that what you needed?” Morgan asks.
“Ugh! I don’t believe you, Drake!”
“I want you to call,” she says, hands on his shoulders, eyes staring earnestly into his. “Every hour, okay? If you don’t call, I’m going to, to—” Her voice chokes.
“It’s okay, Aunt Addi,” Eli says. “I’ll call.”
“No texting,” Addi adds. “I want to hear your voice.” Eli nods, so she adds: “And I’ve got an appointment for you with Doctor Mallory, tomorrow at 3pm. It’s . . . it’s the earliest I could get. I’m sorry. Do you need me to come home and take you?”
“No, it’s okay. I’ll be fine, Aunt Addi. I promise.”
Addi stares at him a moment longer, searching for some sign of . . . something. Eli isn’t sure. He doesn’t even know if she’s found it or not when, a moment later, she pulls him tight against her. “Oh, sweetheart,” she says. “I’m sorry. This wasn’t supposed to happen. Not here. Not in Rosemont.”
“It’s okay,” Eli says, because he isn’t sure how else to respond. “I’ll be okay.”
Eli thinks about whether that’s a lie or not as he listens to Aunt Addi leave for work. His fingers dance idly across his Launchpad, beats and samples of something not-yet-formed falling against each other in a jagged, unharmonious throb.
Mo “Sir Percival” Dhillon is dead. Eli didn’t even know the guy’s full name until he heard it yesterday at the station, yet the guy died because of Eli. Maybe not directly, but . . .
“I could’ve saved him,” Eli tells his laptop. If he hadn’t been so afraid of transforming in front of Arthur.
It doesn’t last long. Zoe is good at many things, but running isn’t one of them. Eli pulls her along but eventually she topples to her knees in the dirt, leant forward and gasping. “I— I can’t—” she keeps starting, but she’s breathing too hard to finish. Eli just helps her to sit down on a nearby rock and strains his ears to listen for pursuit. Either there isn’t any, or Brooklyn and Fargo are much stealthier than they look. Eli’s betting it’s the former.
“It’s okay,” he says. “We’re okay. We can stop here.”
It takes Zoe a really long time to start breathing normally again. Eli thinks she might actually be having some sort of attack, her breath is coming so hard and raspy, her skin like dragonfire beneath his hands. He has nothing to help her through it, so instead he just sits, and tries to say soothing things. If anyone comes across them, Eli will just yell at them until they go get medical help. He figures no ones going to be too suspicious of a girl who’s struggling for air.
It takes a long time, but eventually Zoe’s breath returns to something like normal. Which is about when she starts sobbing in huge, big, noisy gulps. Eli lets her cry it out against his chest, his arms around her shoulders while her little feather earring tickles his throat. He feels strangely numb, considering everything that’s just happened. Like he’s accidentally poured all his panic and fear into Zoe, maybe, and now she’s experiencing it for the both of them.
“Its not 1692 anymore. Witchcraft isn’t illegal.”
When he finally finds Zoe at lunchtime—dressed in an Attack on Titan Survey Corps uniform—she double takes.
“What happened to your face?” she asks, incredulous.
“Huh?” He didn’t think the Goon Squad roughed him up that badly.
Zoe makes a gesture in her own general facial area. “I seem to recall a lot more light wounds last night.”
Eli puts his own hand on his cheek before he realizes she means the injuries from his fight with the peryton, not Arthur Lacroix. “Oh. Yeah, they were gone this morning. Guess your magic potion worked, huh?”
Zoe gives him a very strange look. “Ee, you realize it’s just, like, herbs and honey, right? It’s not . . . I mean, it’s never”—another vague gesture—”before.”
“So you’re more powerful than you thought. That’s good, right?” Because if Zoe’s a witch, maybe it won’t matter Eli’s a monster.
“I guess . . .” Though Zoe looks like she can’t decide between being proud and being scared. She finally settles on resigned, sitting down on the retaining wall behind the science block. “I heard you got the third degree from Lady Lacroix this morning,” she says.
It’s as good a segue as any, so Eli takes it. He tells Zoe about Lacroix, senior, and Lacroix, junior. The latter in particular elicits a great deal of consternation and warm hands, running across his cheeks and his limbs, checking him for injuries.
So… I got some shitty news yesterday; the final reader for my YA dragon shapeshifter novel passed. Which, for those of you not in “the industry”, means that the book has now been formally rejected by every major Big 5 publisher.1
Great. Just… great.
This is the third completed novel in a row for me that’s bounced off commercial sale, and 2019 makes four years2 since I actually had a publishing contract.
The consistent feedback from editors on Dragon, incidentally, was that they loved the writing/”voice”, but couldn’t identify with the characters. This is the feedback I get on pretty much everything (“We love the way you write, we just hate what you’re writing about.”) which is either like the generic industry “thanks but no thanks”, or something I’m personally especially cursed with. Either way… frustrating. And depressing.
Point being, Dragon is basically DoA as a commercial book. I have some other options for it but, honestly, the though of pursuing them just makes me tired. So fucking tired. So… whatever. In the spirit of the season, i.e. Marie Kondo Discourse Month, I’ve decided trying to sell Dragon no longer, as they say, “sparks joy”. And in the spirit of “what the hell, at least someone else may get something out of this”,3 I’ve decided that, over the next few weeks, I’ll be throwing the novel up online.4 On Wattpad because… it seemed easiest? So sure, let’s go with that.
Anyway, the first chapter is up, so… go check that out? Sweet.
And, uh. In the meantime… here’s a pic of the main character, Elias, I did like three years ago5 and will totally one day finish I swear.
- Not, uh. That the editor died. “Passed” is the Official Publishing Industry term for “rejected” and, quite honestly, I hate the euphemism for a variety of reasons I will happily rant about to you at a convention bar sometime. [↩]
- … Jesus. [↩]
- If nothing else, it’s a look at the sort of thing Big 5 editors are rejecting. [↩]
- Vomit metaphor intentional. [↩]
- Again: Jesus. [↩]
Oh no. It’s That Time of the Year again, the time when… (looks around nervously) … things happen.
I formatted a book! Wyrdverse: Tales of the Wyrd is an anthology of short stories from the, well. Wyrdverse. These aren’t new—you may have previously read them on my website—they’re just now… collated better.
Wyrdverse is currently available super-cheap from Amazon, although if you’d like to snag yourself a free copy you can do so from the princely sum of your email address, by signing up to my book news mailing list.
Oh, and because the whole purpose of this exercise was to practice using Indesign, a print version of the book (in all its extensive, 80-page glory) should be available sometime in the next few weeks. So… keep an eye out for that.
Speaking of awesome books you should buy (or, rather, back) right now, Crossed Genres’ Resist Fascism speculative fiction anthology is in the final days of its Kickstarter. From the official description:
RESIST. ANY WAY YOU CAN.
The world is in turmoil. The world is always in turmoil, but in recent years, people have seen violence and hatred become proud instead of ashamed. What meager rights we’ve fought for are being deliberately eroded. And the vulnerable have any help stripped away. All of this is happening openly and without fear of reprisal. And the worst perpetrators are some of the largest governments of the world.
Resisting the spread of fascism is as important now as it was 75 years ago. And there are many effective ways to resist.
For full disclosure, friend-and-all-round-awesome-person Rivqa has a story in this anthology, and I have read it and it is boss. So if you, too, would like to read a boss story about found family and Jewish jujitsu IN SPACE, then you should go smash that pledge button, as the kids on teh YouTubes say.
Knit robots, build spaceships, and shape the future.
Extraordinary short stories about gender, artificial intelligence and the art of building something new. Mother of Invention features the work of Seanan McGuire, Ambelin Kwaymullina, Nisi Shawl, John Chu, Justina Robson and more.
Awesome? Yes. So what are you waiting for? Buy like a hundred copies and you’re set for presents to give out to all your friends, enemies, and loved ones at every birthday, anniversary, and culturally appropriate religious celebration for the indefinite future. Let’s all knit a softer, warmer robotic future together.
Finally… Thing #5.
Conflux! It’s coming, and I will be there. You can even come hear me blather on about narrative in the panel Play to write: what tabletop and video games can teach writers of fiction. And by “me” I mean “Rivqa and Elizabeth“, and by “blather” I mean “make interesting and intelligent points while trying to ignore their drooling co-panellist (i.e. me).”
Sound great? Of course it does! See you there.
- … I know, I know. [↩]
So it’s been almost exactly two years (with a break in the middle to write the DEMONS… IN SPACE!!!! book) but… it is done! At least, the draft is!
This turned out shorter than I was aiming for, i.e. 80k, but that seems to be a trend in my writing at the moment, particularly since both this and DEMONS have been single-POV.1 That kind of sucks in the adult market—a bunch of Big Name SFF publishers won’t even look at something if it’s under 100k—but DRAGON is YA, so… hopefully the ~70k mark is okay?
Guess we’ll find out soon!
Now the hard part: revising. Ugh.
- Well… mostly. DEMONS has four “cheat” chapters. [↩]
I’ve been a member of the CSFG for a few years now, and they’re all lovely people and an excellent resource for Canberra-based speculative fiction writers. Membership is $30 a year (or $20 for concession holders), but if you’re not sure if the group is for you, you’re more than welcome to come along to an initial meeting to check it out.