News and updates about Alis’ books, Alis’ site, and Alis herself.

PROBLEM DAUGHTERS intersectional feminist SFF anthology? Yes pls!

So for the last month or so, Publishing and its co-editors Nicolette Barischoff, Rivqa Rafael, and Djibril al-Ayad have been fundraising for a new pro-paying speculative fiction anthology.

Problem Daughters is a collection that seeks to amplify the voices of women who are sometimes excluded from mainstream feminism. It will be an anthology of beautiful, thoughtful, unconventional speculative fiction and poetry around the theme of intersectional feminism, focusing on the lives and experiences of marginalized women, such as those who are of color, QUILTBAG, disabled, sex workers, and all intersections of these.

If that sounds like your bag, fundraising for the anthology–plus a whole bunch of other awesome perks–is still available at IndieGoGo for the next three-ish weeks. You can grab yourself a copy for the low-low price of $5. Five bucks! To support marginalised voices and kickass feminist literature. I mean, why wouldn’t you?

Well, fine. If you still need convincing (or even if not), then Djibril al-Ayad is here with smart words to explain a little more1


  1. And also, psst, go check out the rest of the articles in the series while you’re at it. ^
2018-05-01T11:24:32+00:0028th January, 2017|Tags: books, culture, sff, xp|

The Wyrdverse glossary.

Confused about the Naglfar? Never quite sure what a goði was?

Then never fear, dear reader! The Wyrdverse Glossary is (finally) here!

The glossary is a list of terms used in the Books of the Wyrd, Liesmith and Stormbringer. It previously appeared at the end of Stormbringer, but now it’s here, for all your delicious internet goodness!

For bonus points, it also features some super-badass illustrations from the mega-talented Neogeen. I will not lie: Neogeen was my number one monster design influence when writing the Books, so it was an amazing experience to work with her to bring characters like Lain and Hrímgrímnir (pictured above, and as seen in Stormbringer) to life.

What are the Books of the Wyrd, you ask? Why, they’re a post-Ragnarøkkr, Norse Mythology-inspired, queer urban fantasy, set in modern-day Australia and featuring more geeky pop-culture references than you can poke a stick at.

Queer? Geeky? Sound like your cup-of-tea-with-Tim-Tam-slams? Then you are in luck, my friend, because the first Book of the Wyrd, Liesmith, is on sale for 99c for a limited time only.

Not sure? Then no worries! Because an opening excerpt is available, as well as an extended outtake of one of the book’s chapters. Still not convinced? Well, here’s the beginning of the second bookStormbringer, while you’re at it.

Seriously, though: Queer. Geeky. Australian. Urban fantasy. Oh, and there are anthropomorphic feathered dinosaurs. I mean, really. What more could you ask for?

So. Liesmith. 99c. Get it. Boom!

Anime ending Lain by Neogeen.

2018-11-26T08:09:24+00:008th December, 2016|Tags: liesmith, neogeen, stormbringer, wyrdverse|

Conflux 12: The sketch post.

So because I didn’t get to many panels at Conflux 12, I didn’t get much art done. Nonetheless, I dutifully lugged my iPad around for the entire weekend anyway, and this is the result.

Still unfinished… and also super, super dark. I swear it didn’t look that dark on the iPad. What the hell, Procreate?

2017-09-02T08:37:27+00:005th October, 2016|Tags: conflux12, my art|

I survived #Conflux12 and all I got was…

(…this badly photographed pile of awesome stuff!)

So yeah. I survived my second year of Conflux; go me!

Special big shout-outs this year to:

  • Elizabeth, for babysitting me and letting me crash her Dungeon World game1
  • Alex, for listening to me rant about Marxism, Evil Ernie, and pro wrestling
  • Rivqa, for WoW squeeing and letting me hijack her Ancillary Justice panel with my this-book-is-really-about-the-American-War-of-Independence/-Civil-War conspiracy theory
  • and Elanor, for sharing my love of Paul McGann’s Doctor and rage over Children of Earth.

I didn’t end up going to very many panels this year, mostly because I kept getting sidetracked by ranting at people in the bar (lots of ranting… lots and lots of ranting). On the other hand, I did get to do a workshop on the Friday where I had to create a YA character and book plot on the fly while being live critiqued by a panel of teenagers, and that was kind of traumatising, not gonna lie, so I pretty much needed the rest of the three days to recover.

Since it wouldn’t be a Conflux without a book haul, you can find the full list at GoodReads. I’m super-jazzed about Tansy Rayner Roberts‘ Mocklore books and Kaaron Warren‘s The Grief Hole in particular (and also super-jazzed that I got them signed). Tansy’s one of those people I secretly stalk online and absolutely fail at talking to in real life because I’m too busy dying of squee, while I fell in love with Kaaron’s writing after the last Conflux because ohmigod Australian female horror writer gimmie gimmie gimmie.

My other discovery this year was Meri Amber, who’s both adorable and writes adorable geek-pop you should totally go and listen to. She’s also the one who sold me my single most expensive purchase of the con: a set of metal rainbow Level Up Dice. Because seriously nothing says “beware the DM” like when she destroys your dining table by rolling her razor-sharp, heavy-as-shit, candy-coloured metal dice across it.

Zoltan says, "Showing up is METAL!"

Zoltan the Dungeon World Bard says, “Showing up is METAL!”

Metal was actually a bit of a theme of the con, I guess. Poor Zoltan, the Elf Bard with the power of METAL!. We hardly knew ye. (Also, I’m kinda glad you got killed off halfway through because holy shit was my voice wrecked from death growling the next day. Good thing I had no panels on the Saturday!)

Oh, and next year? Next year, we’re getting ribbons.

  1. Even if she did kill me. Twice. ^
2018-11-26T08:05:27+00:004th October, 2016|Tags: books, conflux, cons, fandom, my art, xp|

Publishing “diversity” (with an aside on The Wyrd #3).

Crane Hana on the state of diversity in publishing.

I haven’t really spoken about it much, because I’ve essentially been putting off making an “official announcement” for the last six months, but this is effectively what happened to BAD MEME, the third Wyrdverse book. It exists and is written, but didn’t push the Lain/Sigmund m/m hard enough for the publisher. BAD MEME is more of a supernatural thriller (I guess?) set in Melbourne, and while Lain is the lens through which the story is told, it’s mostly about a group of three friends–Roxx, Bich (a.k.a. Brianna), and Taylor–who make a creeypasta YouTube series called vicwalks. The antagonist of vicwalks is a monster called the Tooth Girl who, because this is the Wyrdverse, is summoned into reality by the show (hence Lain’s involvement).

Sketch of Bich from BAD MEME.

The problem with the BAD MEME is that the entire conflict revolves around the different things Roxx, Bich, and Taylor want to get out of vicwalks. Roxx, an abuse survivor, uses the story as a way to deal with her past pain. Bich wants to be “internet famous” and get movie deals in Hollywood. Taylor is a young tans boy at an all-girls school, who’s looking for a hobby away from the suffocating femininity of his home life. Meanwhile, Lain spends most of the book as “Elle” after Bich reads his gender as female when they first meet.

So on the scale of “queer urban fantasy”, BAD MEME still fits into that box. The box it doesn’t fit into is “m/m romance”: Sigmund only appears as a cameo character in a few scenes, and the few hints of romance that do exist mostly come from Bich crushing on “Elle”.

Unfortunately for yours truly, the publishing contract for the Wyrd series was more on the “m/m paranormal” side of the scale than the “urban fantasy with queer protagonists” side. The publisher didn’t want BAD MEME as-is, and requested I rewrite large sections of the book to include Lain/Sig. I ultimately decided I didn’t want to do this; BAD MEME deals with some heavy themes (i.e. abuse survival, gender dysphoria) that I felt it would be inappropriate to sideline in favour of writing relationship melodrama between two dudes. My other option was to write another book entirely; essentially selling the fourth Wyrd book in place of the third. I outlined something (codename: TRUTHTELLER) that ended up being like 95% love triangle. The problem was it didn’t really have a villain. Because, yeah. The other thing BAD MEME did was establish the long-term antagonist for the Wyrd series.

So TRUTHTELLER got trunked alongside BAD MEME, and that was the end of that: for the foreseeable future, the Books of the Wyrd will number two.

… That turned out into much more of an update than I intended. Oh well.

Finally, for anyone who’s interested: have an excerpt from BAD MEME, in which Bich and Elle encounter the Tooth Girl. Enjoy!

2018-11-26T08:16:53+00:0012th September, 2016|Tags: my art, publishing, wyrdverse|

CSFG panel recap: Authors vs. blogging.

So last night I was invited by our local specific author’s guild, the CSFG, to be on a panel about Blogging For Writers. My fellow panellists were the wonderful and talented Ian McHugh, Elizabeth Fitzgerald, and Nalini Haynes, with the ever-prepared Leife Shallcross directing the discussion and keeping us all in line.

It was a pretty awesome fun night. I was there as the tech geek and “longest running longitudinal study on blogging ever” (I’ve been blogging, more or less consistently, since 1999), though I ended up digressing into a bit of neepery on publishing in general in the middle, mostly because it’s a topic my dead black heart finds endlessly interesting.

Anyway, I’m not going to recap the entire discussion, but have some summary thoughts nonetheless:

  1. Despite “conventional wisdom”, you do not need an established social media presence to get a publishing contract. This was one of those memes that was going around the industry a few years back, and has now (mostly) run its course. Having a big pre-existing following used to be attractive to publishers under the assumption it would allow already tight marketing budgets to stretch further (you don’t need to do much marketing on behalf of someone who already has a platform… right?). However, this has proved to be not as much the case as publishers originally hoped. Basically, the link between “follow someone on Twitter” and “buy someone’s books” isn’t as tightly coupled as publishers hoped. (It’s not nothing, but it’s not everything either.)
  2. That being said, yes, your publishers expect you to be an active participant in your own marketing, and that will include being able to write blog posts. Better start practicing now.
  3. Everyone on the panel used blogging differently. Elizabeth started her blog to promote her freelance editing services1 and then fell into the wonderful world of book blogging. Ian uses his blog as a portfolio and a platform to answer craft questions.2 Nalini runs Dark Matter Zine. I  blog because I always have and I like to fiddle with the tech. The point is, find your own use for your online presence, even if it’s just a single static page saying “here I am and here’s what I do”.
  4. Blogging (in the conventional sense) is kinda dead… but a lot of the industry still hangs around on places like Twitter and LiveJournal. There’s probably a broader discussion to be had in here about “social media for fan outreach” versus “social media for professional networking” that we didn’t get into last night, but… hmm.
  5. We didn’t really get too much into the different platforms, but continuing on the theme above: different blogging platforms reach different audiences. Know which one you’re going for and target accordingly.
  6. Never forget that, as an author, your online presence is your professional presence, and to act accordingly. What that means, in a nutshell, is don’t publicly trash-talk other people in the industry: editors, agents, fellow authors, publishers, reviewers, whatever. (Panel-agreed exception: Vox Day. No-one likes that guy.)
  7. Speaking of: controversial opinions, having them. Being outspoken on a particular social and/or political topic can be part of your online “brand”. If you can work it for you, then work it for you, but be aware that’s what you’re doing.3
  8. On the same topic, online harassment and blacklash sucks. The panel swapped some war stories and discussed their strategies for dealing with it. Mine, for better or for worse, is that I tone down my public persona quite a lot.
  9. Finally, it’s never too early to start any of this. In fact, start yesterday. Start ten years ago.

… And by the time we’d covered all of that, it was 9:30 and we got kicked out of the room.

All-in-all, it was a fun night and a good discussion, and I hope people got something out of it. Particularly all the new people (there were a lot of new people, which is rad). I’d especially like to thank Leife and the CSFG committee for inviting me to speak, and to everyone who showed up to listen.

See everyone next month!

  1. Which she’s awesome at, plug plug. ^
  2. Ian teaches writing short courses at CIT, which are also awesome, plug plug. ^
  3. This, incidentally, is one of the reasons I’m always… conflicted about writing publicly about diversity in books/publishing. It’s something I believe in promoting, quite strongly, but because it’s something I believe in it’s something I struggle with writing about authentically rather than as a marketing gimmick. ^
2018-11-26T08:26:37+00:0018th February, 2016|Tags: blogging, csfg, fandom, sff, writing, xp|

Alis’ Rules of Writing: Worldbuilding is Overrated Edition.

Okay, so, you remember our last post on Alis’ Rules of Writing? In it, I said Rule #8, which was “No one actually gives a shit about your worldbuilding”, and then some more explanation to that effect.

Well, on Tumblr yesterday, yellingintothevoid saw said post, and added:

I’d be very interested in your worldbuilding essay. I’ve always thought worldbuilding is my weakest point, which has been borne out by agent/publisher reactions. You know, if you were going to write it anyway.

And because Tumblr is so terrible for conversations, I figured I’d answer the question here.


2018-07-27T14:20:40+00:006th November, 2015|Tags: nanowrimo, writing, xp|

Alis’ Rules of Writing: NaNo Edition.

  1. Just goddamn do it. Sometimes writing will be easy, sometimes it’ll be difficult. The trick is just to get it done.
  2. The first draft is for you. Which is to say, write it how you want to write it and don’t worry too much about what other people are going to think. You’ll have plenty of time to polish later. But if you don’t like what you’re writing when you’re writing it, you’ll never even get it to the polishing stage.
  3. You can’t second-guess your readers, so don’t try. Every reader’s experience of your work will be different, and that’s okay. You can show readers a path, but you can’t make them walk it. Try, and you’re just going to hurt yourself.
  4. It’s okay to call your characters by their actual names. Really, it is. Even if that means you’re using their names multiple times over and over in the same sentence. Like “said” dialogue tags, character names are invisible. They’re especially invisible in the way things like “the dark-haired man” and “the other” aren’t.
  5. When readers read your work, they’re trusting you with their emotions. Hitting readers in the feels is fine, but people can only take so much pain before they start to wonder why they’re bothering. Also, remember genre conventions; if readers are expecting a fluffy romcom, and you punch them with a Rocks Fall Everyone Dies Ending, they’re very unlikely to thank you for it…
  6. Speaking of which, you aren’t cleverer than your audience. Meaning the point of storytelling isn’t to beat everyone into submission with how smart you are. It’s to tell an enjoyable story. You aren’t Stanley Kubrick. When in doubt, err on the side of “enjoyable”, not “clever”.1
  7. Don’t kill that female character. Particularly because you’re killing her off so some male protagonist can feel and/or be motivated to do something. I know you are, don’t bother denying it! Just cut that shit out. It’s lazy and bullshit. You’re not fooling anyone.
  8. No one actually gives a shit about your worldbuilding. Which is to say, they might… but only if you can bring them into it with your story and characters. Specfic is particularly guilty of this, because a lot of specfic craft focuses on things like How To Science Alien Planets and Fantasy Herbs And Their Uses. Which is why a lot of specfic is tedious infodumping populated by cardboard cutout characters and paper-thin plots. This sort of writing was more prevalent forty or fifty years ago, which is why a lot of the “genre greats” do it (coughAsimovcough), but I think modern audiences are much, much less tolerant of the style, because moves/videogames/etc. But that’s a whole other essay in and of itself. Moving on…
  9. Develop skills outside your core genre. Specfic writers, go take some craft classes on constructing romance novels. Romance writers, go study some spy thrillers. Origfic writers, write some fanfic. Everyone go learn effective non-fiction writing. Different genres tend to focus on different parts of craft–romance on emotional engagement, thrillers on tension, fanfic on character arcs, technical writing on clarity, and so on–and the sharper all your tools are in your toolkit, the better your stuff will end up being. No matter what it is.
  10. Any writing is good writing. Blogging, flash fiction, original self-insert power fantasies, iddy fanfic AUs… It doesn’t matter what you’re writing, so long as you’re writing.
  11. That being said, a lot of what you write will be rubbish. And that’s okay. You need to write the rubbish to learn why it’s rubbish so you can write less rubbish next time.
  12. Read your work aloud, particularly dialogue. If you feel stupid saying it, then so do you characters.
  13. The power of the character arc conquers all. Each of your (main) characters, including the antagonists, should to be someone (emotionally and mentally, more so than physically) different at the end of your story than they were at the start. Static characters are boring characters.
  14. Everything you need to know about character arcs you can learn from listening to the Rolling Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”. In particular, the person your character is at the end of your story should be surprising to the person your character was at the start of the story. It can be good surprising or bad surprising, but there should definitely be some kind of surprise involved. When in doubt, try some time travel drawerfic of young!character-meets-old!character.
  15. You really don’t need that adverb. Seriously. You absolutely don’t. It’ll totally read incredibly better without it.2
  16. To get people to care, show your characters caring. Too-cool-for-school self-involved unflappable loner badasses are boring. In particular, show characters caring about other characters in a way that involves a sacrifice for them personally. When I look at what makes not-very-great stories not-very-great, this is almost always the missing piece.
  17. Finally, to break the rules you need to know why the rule exists in the first place. I can guarantee there’s something in the list above that annoys you, or that you can think of a counter-example of. I know, trust me. The point with this list–with any How Write 101 list–is to give a lowest-common-denominator of advice based on the cumulated wisdom of generations of authors writing generations of stories. You will absolutely break all of these “rules” at some point. The key thing is knowing what the effect of breaking them is. Want to use an epithet for your character rather than his name? Sure. Just know why you’re doing it before you do.3 Ditto for adverbs, character arcs, badass loners… whatever.
  18. Finally, make your own rules. You will anyway, so you might as well write them down. If only so you can laugh at how misguided they were in five years’ time when you’re a better writer…
  1. This one’s been the hardest one for me to learn, incidentally. Also, Kubrick’s films are shit. Yeah, I said it. Fight me. ^
  2. I’m bad at this one, too. This tool helps. ^
  3. Hint: It’s usually to emphasis one particular aspect of that character. Calling Lain “Lain” has a neutral effect on the reader; I’m just referring to Lain, in all his Lain-y glory. On the other hand, if I’m calling him “the god”, “the jotun”, “Sigmund’s boyfriend”, “Loki’s puppet”, “the CEO”, “the flame-haired boy” or whatever, I’m emphasising one particular part of him. When that’s relevant to the point the narrative is trying to make, awesome. If it’s not… just call a Lain a Lain. It’s okay, really. ^
2015-11-05T09:37:00+00:005th November, 2015|Tags: nanowrimo, writing, xp|