alisa alering

Writer of fantasy and other fictions


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Waylines Magazine – An Inside Look

Nishinomiya-shi, Hyogo, Japan

Nishinomiya-shi, Hyogo, Japan 

When I go for a walk in the evening, I look in the windows of houses that forgot to draw the blinds. I sneak peeks at what you have in your shopping cart when I’m standing in line behind you. And if you’re a writer, I wish I could see where you write.

Writing is something of a secret vocation. Sure, authors today are expected to blog & tweet & Facebook their every thought, but the writing itself takes place behind closed doors. Behind the page, as it were.

There’s something magical about the site of creation. Granted, we writers tend to have slightly less fabulous workspaces than visual artists, but in some ways, that makes it all the more mystical (or do I mean mystifying?). To satisfy this unnatural curiosity of mine, I’ve decided to start a series about the workspaces of literary folk. Look into their spare bedrooms, their basement lairs, their frozen garrets, their comfy couches, and read the secrets of their souls.

The first victim who has volunteered to bare his tender interior spaces for your salaciously inquiring eyes is David Rees-Thomas, Fiction Editor of the brand-new Waylines Magazine. He’s also a writer of science fiction, fantasy, and mystery. He used to be the managing editor at Ideomancer magazine. He lives in Japan, and likes to build and collect old synthesizers in his spare time, which is not as much as it used to be. His musical endeavors can be found under the moniker, Phenotypo.

"Bashing the elderly and infirm with my laptop bag usually secures me a seat," says David.

“Bashing the elderly and infirm with my laptop bag usually secures me a seat,” says David.

So, a new spec fic magazine, huh? Why?

Waylines Magazine came about as the logical result of me and Darryl Knickrehm getting together and talking SF/fantasy and all that jazz every week. There are a ton of great writers out there, and there’s always room for another magazine to highlight their wonderful stories.

I worked as the Managing Editor at Ideomancer previously, and I learned so much about how to keep things from getting out of control (slush keeps rolling in even as you sleep) and also about the absolute importance of respect–for our authors and for the process. We aim to turn stories around quickly and make our editorial process as transparent as we can. We’re now on the verge of launching as a pro-rates paying market, which is our ideal. (For more about this, see the Kickstarter info below)

Darryl has a background in film and art, and we are editing the magazine as a team. We trust each other’s opinions, and each of us brings a different take on an individual story. We are both big fans of mags like Clarkesworld, Asimov’s, Lightspeed, Shimmer, F&SF, Apex, Analog, Strange Horizons, and on and on. Oh yeah, and, of course, Ideomancer!! We’ve been inspired by all these guys, and we also want to do something just a little different by including film as well as fiction.

Who is the ideal reader of Waylines?

Well, I want to say everyone! A more fun answer is that we thought we knew what we liked, and part of the enjoyment of this journey has been discovering new stories that made us stop, nod our heads, and go, Yes! Yes!!

Darryl has a soft spot for cyberpunk, the Twilight Zone, and Heavy Metal magazine. I have a soft spot for Ursula Le Guin, Samuel Delany, and Jack Womack. Go figure!

What do you wish you were reading, but aren’t (because it doesn’t exist)?

Ooohh, that’s a tricky question.

Alright, here goes: More science fiction by authors from Wales.

I grew up in Caerphilly, near Cardiff, a proper valleys boy. I also lived in Aberystwyth on the coast. We have a rich tradition of storytelling in Wales, so it would be great to see more from my homeland. Of course, this is not to suggest it doesn’t exist, or that we don’t already have great science fiction and fantasy writers–Alastair Reynolds, David Langford, the rather fascinating Rhys Hughes, and not to forget Islwyn Ffowc Elis, who wrote science fiction in the Welsh language.

There must be so much more out there!!

Tell us about your editing process. Or your writing process. Or both. Divulge.

On a typical day, I get up, make coffee, check Waylines’ submissions. Deal with any correspondence, reply to a few submissions, wonder what the strange humming noise is, realize I’ve left the bass amp on again when the cat brushes her tail against the G string.

Take a shower, write my morning 200 words, more coffee, make notes on all the Waylines madness to do during breaks from the day job. Get on the train. Write until I get to work. I am worried that in the future, I will not be able to write unless I’m on a train!! I typically work in the day job from about 11am-7:30pm. I get some writing done and read second round submissions when I have a lunch break.

Then on to the train again. Careful strategic positioning usually bags me a seat one stop after I get on the train. Then, it’s out with the trusted, dying, little netbook, and down to more writing. Once I’m home, dinner, some admin, editing, correspondence, and other bits and pieces until about 10:30. Then I relax. Whew!

Both Darryl and I edit the magazine, so if we think a story has something we like, we bump it to the second round of submissions, and inform the author. Things slow down a bit at this point. We read the story, make notes, and make a decision when we have our weekly meeting. If we like it enough, we move on to the next stage, acceptance and editing.

Darryl and I are in text message contact over our phones all day. We have a weekly meeting every Wednesday evening, in a cheap Italian restaurant in Umeda, Osaka. Note, we do no editing when drinking the wine.

Darryl (l.) and David (r.) get wine stains on your precious manuscripts

Darryl (l.) and David (r.) get wine stains on your precious manuscripts

What’s it like living in Japan? How does that affect your writing/editing?

We’ve both lived here for quite some time now, so the boring answer is that it’s probably much like living anywhere else. I’m originally from Wales in the UK. Darryl is from Orange County, California. Beyond the temples, shrines, and the cyberpunk pachinko assault on the senses, it’s a country where people have the same everyday troubles and celebrations as your own place in the world.

The truth is that we’ve probably been shaped by the experience more than we realize. We’ve probably learned to be a lot more open regarding different cultures, different people, and different ways of doing things. (Some things about Japan will forever mystify me, but the same could easily be said about Wales.)

We live in the Osaka area, which is more down-to-earth and rugged than Tokyo. Good food, straightforward people, and possibly the ugliest, most fabulous skyline in Japan.

Your prediction for the Mayan Apocalypse?

Well, it appears to be a Thursday, so assuming this doesn’t happen, then it will be a day like I outlined above. There shall also be miso soup and red wine consumed, as well as a good chance of some 1956 B movies on the TV at home, and a few parts going missing from the synthesizer I’m building as I attempt to do some soldering at 11:30 at night.

Perhaps that’s enough to herald an apocalypse by itself.

What should a reader do after reading this interview?

Bookmark our page. We really want to make Waylines something that will be enduring, something magnificent, something to make the gods themselves tremble!! Uh, seriously though, please do pop along, it would be lovely to see you.

We have plans for the first year, into year 2, and even a few years on from there.

We’re also running a Kickstarter until Dec 6th. If you cannot suppress the urge to really help us out, please take a look. It’s worth it just for the video.

Our bare bones goals will enable us to pay our authors semi-pro rates, but more will allow us to increase our rates to pro paying level, which would be wonderful.

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This is Your Brain On Novel Writing

The brain on NaNoWriMo.
Courtesy National Library of Medicine

As I mentioned in some previous posts, I’ve been doing NaNoWriMo this year. As of today, I’ve written 49,119 words of my apocalyptic pony novel (yay!). It also means that I have used up all of the words in my brain (boo!). To that end, I’ve decided to let somebody else do the talking. Special guest post/interview with David Rees-Thomas, fiction editor of Waylines Magazine, coming tomorrow.


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Friday Rant

The Dog: She’s tired of this stuff, too.

This was too long for Facebook, so I guess it’s time for a bonus post.

Be warned: ranting ahead. Ranty rant rant.

I like to listen to audiobooks when I go for a walk in the afternoon. It’s been a busy month, what with all 26,000 of those NaNoWriMo words I’ve been pounding out. So yesterday when it was time to choose a new book, I decided I’d have a mystery/thriller. An intellectual Scandinavian one. Not too vapid, but with atmosphere and plenty of plot.

I chose Jo Nesbo’s, ‘The Leopard.’ I got the audiobook a while ago, but I didn’t remember the description in any detail. I just remembered it was supposed to be good.

I got out on the street with the dog and it started out with some nameless woman being victimized by some nameless ‘he’. And, you know, maybe she gets all empowered by the end. And maybe it passes the Bechdel test and a kick-ass female heroine appears and saves the day and she and the erstwhile victim go on to be smart and funny and talk about things that aren’t men. But you know what?

I don’t care. Because, I just don’t want to listen to this. I don’t want to go along with some poor woman’s mutilation and humiliation one more time. I don’t want to be horrified, or titillated through horror, or whatever you want to call it. I’m tired of that whole trope. Weary, really. So I crossed the road, I turned it off, and listened to music for the rest of my walk.

Today I’m going to listen to “Broken Kingdoms” by Nora Jemisin instead.


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How I Became a Romance Reader

I spent last weekend at a retreat with members of the Indiana chapter of the Romance Writers of America. Being around so many different romance writers, with different backgrounds, preferences, and aspirations got me to thinking about how I ended up among them.

I concluded that I became a reader of romance novels entirely by accident.

As some readers may know, I grew up on a small farm in the Appalachian foothills of southern Pennsylvania. Once a week, my mom and I would drive into town for groceries, and to Agway for horse feed. If it was a long trip, we’d stop at the Lincoln Diner for the gyros platter and the biggest, wettest baklava I have ever encountered. But we also went to the county library.

Adams Country Prison, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, 1851
Courtesy Library of Congress

At that time, the library was in the county’s old prison. And it had freaking turrets!! Can you imagine a better psychic place to start a relationship with books?

As soon as we passed through the front doors, I headed for the children’s room, and my mom for the adult fiction – probably to get herself some Westerns. I was starting to outgrow children’s books, but YA wasn’t the category it is now. In my library, the ‘Teen Reads’ section, was a single 8 x 10′ area against the wall of the lobby, stocked with some sad paperback copies of things I wasn’t interested in, like Sweet Valley High.

I scrounged around in the children’s room for what I could find –after all, I had been coming there weekly for more than 10 years, and had basically read everything I wanted to, some several times. Then I’d go to the adult section to see if my mom was ready to leave. The adult section was pretty boring, since all of the books were hardback and had the shiny paper covers removed. They were just plain dark covers with plain block letters stamped up the spine. Like I said, Bor-ing.

So I’d wander back out to the front, where the romance was shelved in the first few rows. They were shiny, colorful, gloriously tawdry mass-market paperbacks. And I started picking through them. There were plenty of contemporaries, but these didn’t interest me in the least–nurses, doctors, yachts, and businessmen — bleagh. But Pirates? Runaways? Castles? Mysterious portraits? Horses? Countesses? Murder? Ghosts? — God bless the historical gothic, and the cross-dressing Regency.

These books were at the reading level for eleven-year-old me. I started with the Regencies, which were short and which had a mercifully offstage approach to sex. Later I moved on to sweeping historicals, traveling the world with Vikings, Spanish conquistadors, British privateers and French revolutionaries. I had adventures, and I learned something, usually history. I know a lot more about the succession of the British monarchy than any U.S-ian should, but I learned a few other things as well!.

I read everything ever written by Victoria Holt, and moved on to Kathleen Woodiwiss, Valerie Sherwood, and eventually, Jane Austen. Somewhere in my mid-teens, I lost my fear of those plain dark covers with the plain-lettered spines, discovered the classics, and left romances behind. But now I’m ready to acknowledge that early love that surely shaped the reader and writer I am today: I’ll be writing my own historical romance novel in 2013.

Anybody out there have a serendipitous reading experience? An accidental, but life-changing read? I’d love to hear about it.


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NaNoWriMo Week 2, Day 8: 12,742 words

By Heather Ingram, via Flickr

Just a quick post this week. Somehow, all of my time–and all of my words–seem to have been taken up with this novel I’m writing.

My daily word goals are pretty high, 2300-2500 words most days, because I missed 3 days right at the beginning and I know I’m going to miss more. On the days I do write, I have to write a lot. It feels great when I finish it up around 11:30am most days, and that feeling propels me a long way. But sometime after the sun sets, I start to realize that the amazing feat I pulled off this morning? I have to do it again. And then again.

So, I thought I’d share the things that are getting me through the week.

  • It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon. Well, okay, NaNoWriMo is kind of both. But, for me, my writing career is a marathon. I may be sprinting through this first draft, but it’s okay that it’s not perfect because there’s going to be another draft. And then another one after that. And then another book. And another. And so on. I can’t get too bent out of shape over something going wrong at 500 words or 5000 or even 45,ooo, because there’s a bigger picture here.
  • Embrace failure. This came in a NaNoWriMo pep talk from author Kevin Wilson. I really had to use this advice on Tuesday. I found a lot of comfort in the idea that it’s okay to fail in writing a novel. It doesn’t have to be a good novel. But there is a difference between having written a novel and not having written a novel. As Wilson summarizes Padgett Powell, “At least you’ll  have the evidence.”
  • Use boredom to your advantage. On Tuesday (maybe you can see that Tuesday wasn’t a great writing day for me), I just kind of wanted to look at election results. But I wasn’t allowed to until I met my word count for the day. So, feeling sulky, I spaced out and couldn’t pay attention. I wasn’t interested in what I was doing. The words were piling up very slowly. Until the point that I got so bored with what I was doing that my brain rebelled and came up with something new.
  • Give yourself a pep talk. Or a pep write. Because I’m only allowed to count ‘manuscript pages’ toward my total, I have a notebook for other notes and thoughts. Sometimes I just need to switch away from the screen and give myself a chance to think more freely. Sometimes that means jotting down notes about how I want to revise Chapter 1 (yes, already I have plans for a HUGE revamping of what I wrote only 8 days ago.) But sometimes it also means giving myself the freedom to whine. Or to remind myself of the Big Picture (See #1). On Wednesday morning, I tapped out a desultory 250 words or so and stalled out. That could have been discouraging, but I went to the pen and paper and wrote longhand about 350 words of encouragement, reminding myself of all of the above, and finding my way back into why I was doing this in the first place. Then I was ready to write on.
  • New characters. Today, I moved onto Chapter 6 and got to hang out with a new character. He’s the love interest, but he’s also kind of quirky. (He’s Jared, and he’s REALLY into pigs.) I got a boost from getting to know him – how he talks, what he looks like, what he’s interested in, how he sees the world – and finding out he interacts with my protagonist. He’s new himself, but because he’s going to be important to her, he also helps me discover new facets of my protagonist’s character. He also brought the Nutter Butters.


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NaNoWriMo Week 1, Day 1

Where it all went wrong?
[Dirty dishes by Zac Zupancic via Flickr]

Today is the 1st day of National Novel Writing Month. I sat down at my keyboard as soon as I got up, because I’ve been bashing away at this writing thing long enough to know that I work best in the mornings. Waiting to work in the afternoon ruins my whole day–and I don’t get anything done. Because I know that I’m going to be away from my computer and unable to write for a number of days during November, I had a pretty big word goal for today: 2274. That number was auto-calculated by my dear friend Scrivener.

Truth be told, word output is not a problem for me–story coherence is. Most of my “writing” time is spent at my desk trying to hack a 9000-word tangle down into a 4000-word capsule that can be swallowed with joy. I have not yet learned to enjoy this part of the process. I call it dying and sobbing, some of you may know it as “revising.” For this reason, I normally track my writing progress by 15-minute timed sessions, a trick I learned from Ashley Pérez. 15 minutes is short enough that I can make myself do it, no matter how argumentative I’m feeling, and long enough that when the timer goes off, I’m involved enough that I’m ready to set it for another 15.

But having that little ‘Project Target’ box open today while I wrote was superb. Every keystroke mattered. Just as quick as I typed, the box tallied. Almost immediately, I had made an impact and the bar was being shaded in before my very eyes. As it grew, it changed color! It went from red to orange to yellow, heading for green as I closed in on the word count goal. So magic! That little tangible proof kept me pretty cheerful.

I met my word goal shortly after 11 am, and I felt pretty good. Before I closed out of Scrivener and backed it up, I had already realized that I wanted to make changes to the first scene. But I told myself that if I hadn’t written what was already there, I wouldn’t have known what needed to be changed. As Scott Westerfeld and Lynda Barry say, making marks on paper changes your brain. So I made a few quick notes about my new notions and promised myself that I wouldn’t come back to them until December.* I crowed my triumph to my writing buddies on NaNo, Facebook, & Twitter. Then I was free to futz around reading email, looking at catalogs of clothes I’d never wear, and wasting time until lunch.

But after lunch, something sinister happened. Maybe it was because I had to face a sink full of dishes from last night, or maybe its because–well, I was going to tell you it was something to do with the alignment of the planets, but when I checked my horoscope it was all about baseball and I couldn’t understand it. But I’m sure I can blame Jupiter if I try hard enough. Hands in the soapy water, I started to feel like what I had written was so terrible that it negated any superficial word accumulation. Sure, I could whack out 2000 words in a morning, and sure they followed the outline. Sure I learned new things about my character and walked her through her first big decision. But, gosh, was it lifeless. Rote. Plodding. Not the sort of thing anybody would ever want to READ.

But who was it that said a writer is the last person to know whether their work is any good? Tomorrow morning, I’m going to sit down at my computer, whip out that life-saving Dialog Spine, and write another 2274 words. I expect that part of the time I will feel like a rock star, and the other half like a worm.

by Leonard John Matthews, via Flickr

How about you? Did you meet your word goal for Day 1? Do you feel good about it? Is your novel rocking along and you’re really excited? Or are you, too, beset by black doubts?

*Rule #1: Never, ever go back and revise the first pages until you’re done. Ever. That way lies the rabid marmot bite of madness.