alisa alering

Writer of fantasy and other fictions

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This explains everything

Many researchers now believe, to varying degrees, that each of us is a community of competing selves, with the happiness of one often causing the misery of another.” [read the rest here]

Or read Matt Ruff’s awesome Set This House in Order. Sometimes I really wish I had a Maledicta.

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Free goose bumps

As a Halloween treat, Juno Books is offering a free download of five ghost stories by women.

  • Let Loose, by Mary Cholmondeley (1890)
  • The Striding-Place, by Gertrude Atherton (1896)
  • The Lost Ghost, by Mary E. Wilkins Freeman (1903)
  • Kerfol, by Edith Wharton (1916)
  • Spunk, by Zora Neale Hurston (1925)

I admit that I haven’t heard of the first three authors, but am completely convinced that Edith Wharton would write a killer ghost story, and I’m very interested to see Hurston’s. Happy reading!

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I HAVE to read this book

“One morning Ricky Rice, a former heroin addict, receives a mysterious letter at his job. Inside are a one-way bus ticket and an invitation to travel north, to a remote location in Vermont. When he arrives he finds a secret society of black folks, calling themselves the Washburn Library, tucked deep in the backwoods…”

Read the rest from the NY Times Papercuts interview here. (Thanks, Tayari)


Also, one of the characters gets impregnated by a monster.

Seriously, why have I never heard of this guy before?

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Audiobooks, part 2 (narrators)

I’ve heard it said on librarian discussion groups (yes, it’s true, your librarian does talk about you, but only in the nicest way) that many patrons make their audiobook choices based solely on the narrator.

Before I listened to a lot of audiobooks, I thought this was dumb. Sure, a wretched reader could screw up a great story, but I didn’t realize that reading styles would cause me to avoid whole genres of fiction.

I like a good fast-paced, plot-dependent, snappy-banter, escapist/mystery/thriller-type thing as much as the next person. I thought this would be ideal for whiling away the meters on my imaginary river. So wrong.

Mysteries set in the U.S. and anything “manly” are always read (by a variety of narrator-persons) in this really weird style, where the words are clipped off short and there’s nospacebetweenthem. (Firestorm, Tortilla Curtain, Elmore Leonard)

U.S. Southern women narrators also drive me up the wall. So slow, so honey, and so teeth-grindingly fake.  (Secret Life of Bees, Light in August)

It turns out that what I really like is a British narrator. No, it’s not that I’m prejudiced in favor of a beguiling accent — I get enough of that at home, and it’s pretty much the sound of normal for me. I think there’s just an overall higher quality of voice talent in the UK, whether it’s because over there audiobooks get more respect, because of their awesome tradition of radio plays, or because they have so many top-notch actors. Whatever it is, I’ve listened to a lot of titles because I knew I could count on the narration. (Lord Jim, Moon & Sixpence, Ian McEwan).

Not that actor = fantastic narrator. Just check out Slate’s article, “Read Me a Story, Brad Pitt. When audiobook casting goes terribly¬† wrong.”

Sometimes the best narrators are authors. I really liked:

  • Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight, read by Alexandra Fuller
  • Black Swan Green, read by David Mitchell

Oh, right. They’re not American. Well, there you have it.

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Audiobooks, part 1 (criteria)

I use audiobooks to help me get through the hateful hour that is exercise, and I have specific criteria for what kinds of books I’m allowed to listen to:

  • Must not be boring
  • Must not be too good
  • Must not be funny
  • Must not be action thing with male narrator

Boring is self-explanatory–Audiobooks are supposed to take my mind off the suffering of my muscular & circulatory systems and boring is not much help.

But too good? Well, yes. I like stories and all that, but what I like best is reading. I read much faster than I can listen. I can see the arrangement of the words on the page-and I can see more than one at a time. Listening is more linear than reading, and it is uni-directional: this word followed by that word followed by that one. If I want to have a personal experience with a word or a phrase or an image while I’m listening, sure I can go off and think about that for a while, but then I’ve missed the next two paragraphs. If a book is really good, I don’t want to waste it on listening.

Too funny? If I laugh, I get weak, and fall off the rowing machine.

Narrators? That’s the next post.

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One more for funny women

I just started reading Miriam Toews’ ‘The Flying Troutmans.’

Marc…was heading off to an ashram in India anyway and said we could communicate telepathically. I tried it a couple of days before he left. I love you, don’t go, I said silently, without moving my lips. He was standing next to me, trying to photograph a gargoyle. You’re a little in my way, he said. Can you move?

How is that not funny?

A Complicated Kindness is also good.




My short story “Parvati and the Snake” has been published in the September issue of the excellent online magazine Les Bonnes Fees.

I got the idea for “Parvati” when I was working on a longer story. I was trying to explain the roots of a modern family’s repetitive disfunctionality through the story a grandmother tells her granddaughter while combing her hair.

I eventually decided Parvati’s story wasn’t awful enough for that family, and made up something much more evil.

I used to have recurring nightmares about being bitten by a snake, a fox, and an alligator. But in real life, I was used to being around snakes and wasn’t afraid of them until I went to India. There I learned that I am only not afraid of black snakes, copperheads and timber rattlesnakes. I am scared silly by cobras. Having to walk past a snake charmer, knowing that he would chase me with that crazy snake because I was a tourist and therefore a good earning opportunity, absolutely petrified me.

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Adrian and I are in love! It is official!

Re: September 17th’s post on unfunny women–How could I possibly have forgotten?

The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 3/4, by Sue Townsend.

I found this in the adult fiction section of the Adams County Public Library when I was about 13 3/4 myself. I read it and then I read it again. I must have checked it out 25 times. I also read all of the books Adrian mentions that he reads. I was at that age when it took me a while to realize that Adrian wasn’t supposed to be a picture of coolness. Not only is Adrian the prototype for a current crop of YA confessional novels (Angus, Thongs & Full-Frontal Snogging, anyone?) it is also one of the funniest books I’ve ever read. And not in the gentle social commentary way. In the snorging your milk out your nose kind of way.