alisa alering

Writer of fantasy and other fictions


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Traveling the Galaxy with Absolute Pony

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Pleased to announce that my story “Absolute Pony” has just been published in Time Travel Tales, an anthology of short fiction edited by Zach Chapman and including tales by Sean Williams, Tony Pi, Robert Silverberg, and my fellow Writers of the Future winner, Brian Trent.

The volume features dinosaurs, temporal clones, intergalactic celebrity chefs, and of course ponies. Well, sort of ponies. You’ll have to read and see for yourself.

 


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Writing Scary: An Interview with Kim Graff

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Photo by raichovak via Flickr. CC BY-ND 2.0

When Kaiden’s mom was on the second floor, a sudden silence fell upon the first floor that seemed unnatural to him. Yamiyo was fully booked—overbooked, even—for the first time since they took ownership. Every room had at least two people, if not four or five, jammed in to accommodate everyone in the film crew. There was no other ryokan, inn, or hotel in Kuroshi for them to stay.

And yet here, in the middle of the day, the whole place seemed lifeless.

Like those months and months it stood empty while they renovated it. The main floor was built almost 150 years ago, back in the Meiji period. Three years ago, Ojisan started adding on in an attempt to compete with hotels. Yamiyo’s booking rate had been declining for almost a decade and spending money on it was maybe not Ojisan’s best idea.

His parents made the mistake of finishing the renovations instead of selling the place and cutting their losses.

Blackness moved out of the edge of his eyes.

Kaiden straightened and turned down the hallway that led to the indoor hot springs and the only two guest rooms on the first floor. A creak from one of the doors drew him closer. The lights in the hallway shut off, plunging the whole floor in the faint hues of the fading evening sun. He froze as a dark blur shot out from the Gallery and into Yuu’s room.

What was going on? Why was someone running around?

How were they running so fast?

His eyes lingered on Yuu’s doorway—barely opened. He’d have to slide in on his side if he wanted to enter, so how did someone get in so quickly?

A stupid thought surfaced. The rumors that surrounded the ryokan’s past, the legend that gave the room its name. How Yuu died.

How his ghost might never have left.

No matter what anyone said, Kaiden was sure the place was not haunted. He’d lived there for almost a year and never saw a ghost. Sure, he’d heard the stories—they were the bait his family used to lure an international ghost hunting show there. If not for that episode, Kaiden doubted Baku Studios would’ve come, but that didn’t mean he believed in ghosts.

Some guests never experienced anything out of the norm, others heard murmurs from inside the walls, heartbeats below the floorboards, moans at midnight. Felt cold spots all around the ryokan. If you were unlucky, out of the corner of your eyes you might see Yuu’s ghost hanging from the ceiling, neck snapped from the noose around it.

At least, that was what people said.

from When Darkness Comes

Kim Graff is a talented young writer who I suspect we are going to be hearing a lot more about in the future–especially if you enjoy horror. The manuscript of hers that I read at the Books with Bite workshop (It’s happening again this year. I can’t recommend it enough!) was a post-apocalyptic tale, so we concentrated on that for the interview, but as you can see from the excerpt above, she’s a versatile writer who will do whatever it takes to give you a chill.

What’s the appeal of the apocalypse? 

A few of my favorite video games and books as a child had to do with the apocalypse in different ways. The Mist by Stephen King, Silent Hill, and Resident Evil were all favorites. I think that’s where my fascination began.

Other favorite movies or stories about life after the end of the world?

The Road by Cormac McCarty and The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan. And This Is Not a Test by Courtney Summers—this is an absolute must read. I’m a big zombie fan which I think leads into a lot of my End of World fascination too.

What else scares you?

I grew up on horror. I’ve been watching it since I was five, so my scare-scale is pretty warped and not much gets to me. I deeply dislike the notion of something crawling under a person’s skin though, like what happens in Alien or those evil beetles in The Mummy franchise.

Also jellyfish. Jellyfish creep me out. After living in Australia for a bit, you either develop a healthy admiration and fear of jellyfish or you get stung. Plus, they are brainless lifeforms and that’s just weird.

Tips for writing scary for teens vs middle-grade vs adult?

This is actually a very timely question for me. I’m currently working on a YA horror and an MG horror. For adult and YA, in my opinion, anything goes. I don’t believe in censorship for YA in the least, and with horror in general I believe there needs to be a reason for any gore or fright. You can’t just have jump-scares or bloodshed for the shock value.

Overall, character development is vital. If readers don’t care about the characters, no one will care if something bad happens to them. I see this flaw in horror movies in particular.

But with MG, it’s different. There are more gatekeepers, and though  grew up on horror, I recognize MG-level readers might not all have the same tolerance for fright as I did at that age. It’s important to be engaging for MG-readers, since they need a quick read that has a pace that will keep them turning the pages. It’s still important to have worthwhile characters, but the fright factors and the villain (or whatever the Big Bad Thing is in the story) needs to be tailored to MG. There needs to be a valid justification for why you need to murder a character or have something spooky happen.

I’m still struggling with this concept of YA vs MG vs Adult. I think it might come down to this: YA and Adult can be scary. MG should be more on the spooky side.

The apocalypse has happened. You get to keep one piece of current technology to survive the bleak and brutal years to come. What do you choose?

Can my answer be an armor-covered, solar-powered RV?

If I have to go with something I already own, I would say my laptop with the magical ability to never die. So that I can still play around with my stories as I hide in a cabin somewhere away from all the hellishness of the apocalypse.

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Kim Graff writes sinister and creepy children’s books in NYC. She works full-time in publishing, but also does occasional freelance editorial work at Wild Things Editing. Before settling in the big city, Kim called France, Australia, Montreal, and Kansas City home at one point or another. A life-long horror fan, Kim one day hopes to live in a haunted castle in Scotland with friendly ghosts and a whole lot of dogs.


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The Island of White Houses at Drabblecast

Cover image of Drabblecast Episode #349 by artist Susan Reagel

The audio version of my story, “The Island of White Houses” is now available from Drabblecast. I’m really pleased with the recording. Narrator Norm Sherman makes the story feel darker and spookier than I usually think of it. His version is definitely ominous. Which is what’s great about podcasts: each telling of a story creates something new. I also love the artwork by artist Susan Reagel.


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The Strangest Person In the World

Frida Kahlo, 1937. Courtesy Library of Congress.

Frida Kahlo, 1937. Courtesy Library of Congress.

I spent a lot of time as a black-wearing mopey-shouldered teenager thinking how very strange I was. And then, you know, I grew up and got over myself. For the most part. Because it turns out everyone’s really weird. It’s part of being human.

Which is why when I came across this quote attributed to Frida Kahlo–while looking for cookie recipes, no less!–it went right to my heart. It made me remember, and I felt sad and comforted all at once.

“I used to think I was the strangest person in the world, but then I thought: There are so many people in the world, there must be someone just like me who feels bizarre and flawed in the same ways I do. I would imagine her, and imagine that she must be out there thinking of me too. Well, I hope that if you are out there and read this and know that, yes, it’s true I’m here, and I’m just as strange as you.”

And if that’s not enough, you can make the cookies, all chocolate and cinnamon.


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Calvino Prize

Very pleased to announce that my story, “The Night Farmers’ Museum” was chosen by judge Robert Coover as the runner-up for this year’s Italo Calvino prize, sponsored by the University of Louisville Creative Writing Program.

In keeping with the fabulist nature of the prize, I confess that I dreamed the title of this story earlier this year and then had to write the story to find out what it was about.

Thanks to all the judges and readers, and congratulations to 1st prize winner Micah Dean Hicks for his story, “Flight of the Crow Boys,” which I am very much looking forward to reading.


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Clarion West Class of 2011: Publications, Sales, and Shiny Things 2013

It’s been more than two years since the Clarion West class of 2011 crawled despondently out of that last-night puppy pile and scattered to the four winds, pens clutched in eager hands. We have not been idle! Read on for new publications, a new magazine, grants, prizes, and new formats!

(To see what we were up to in 2012, check out Jenni Moody’s post from last year.)

Waylines

Waylines Magazine, co-founded by David Rees-Thomas (CW ’11) and Darryl Knickrehm after a successful Kickstarter in late 2012, had an auspicious first year, publishing 6 issues, 14 pieces of short fiction, 18 short films, plus reviews and author interviews.

Waylines Issue #4

Hullabaloo

In March, “Recognizing Gabe: un cuento de hadas” by Alberto Yañez was nominated for Best PodCastle Story of 2012.  Missing Links and Secret Histories: A Selection of Wikipedia Entries from Across the Known Multiverseedited by Week 5 instructor L. Timmel Duchamp and published by Aqueduct Press was recommended by Analee Newitz on NPR.com: “Secrets of the Universe: 5 Great SF and Fantasy Summer Reads.”

Continuing Education

There’s no doubt that Clarion West provides a great foundation for writing. But sometimes, you just want more! More institutional living, more devastating critiques, more sleepless nights, and more sagacious advice from wizened wise pros. Jenny Moody and I attended the CSSF Novel Writers Workshop in Lawrence, KS this summer. Instructors Kij Johnson and Barbara J. Webb were amazing, and I definitely recommend this workshop for anyone thinking of tackling their first novel. Jeremy Sim attended Revenge of Clarion West Odyssey Writing Workshop, another six-week residential course.

Jeremy Sim @ Odyssey

Jeremy Sim @ Odyssey

Alisa Alering

Corinne Duyvis

  • “The Applause of Others.” FISH. Dagan Books. Edited by Carrie Cuinn & KV Taylor. January 2013 (ebook)/May 2013 (print).
  • “Lilo Is.” Clockwork Phoenix 4. Edited by Mike Allen. Mythic Delirium Books. July 2013.

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Erik David Even

S.L. Gilbow

  • Pirates.” Rose Red Review. Issue No. 4. Spring 2013. (as Steven L. Wilson)
  • Red Card.” Escape Pod. Episode 393. April 26, 2013.
  • Those Tests.” Swamp Biscuits and Tea. Issue Five. August 2013.

Eliza Hirsch

Cassie Krahe

Jenni Moody

Maria Romasco-Moore

  • “Fisheye.” FISH. Dagan Books. Edited by Carrie Cuinn & KV Taylor. January 2013 (ebook)/May 2013 (print).
  • Peel.” Interfictions Online. Issue 2. October 2013.

Peel

Jeremy Sim

Anne Toole

Nick Tramdack

Alberto Yañez

  • The Coffinmaker’s Love.” Beneath Ceaseless Skies. Issue 131. October 3, 2013.
  • “This ain’t my first rodeo.” Performed at Portland Poetry Slam. April 21, 2013.

Congratulations to all of you (all of us?) and here’s to bigger, brighter, and stranger horizons in 2014!
*Toasts CW chums with a hot mocha and a slice of sugar-dusted stollen*


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Wiscon Schedule

Two days to Wiscon!

Mini-preview of Lynda Barry drawings for the Tiptree auction

Mini-preview of Lynda Barry drawings I’m donating for the Tiptree auction

Things I’m looking forward to:

My schedule:

Novel Writers’ Workshop

Mike Underwood (mod), Marianne Kirby, Aaron Micheau, Alisa Alering

Friday 9am — ?

Everyone in my workshop is working on a YA novel. I’ve been reading the chapters, and we’ve got shape-shifters and parallel worlds, and strange and dangerous beasties. I met Mike Underwood at Wiscon last year (He’s a fellow CW alum & for a while we lived in the same town.) I heard him read from his debut novel, Geekomancy, and I think his sense of humor is right on target for the project I’m working on. Should be good fun.

How To Create When Life Isn’t Slowing Down For You

Cliff Winnig, Alex Bledsoe, Rory Metcalf, Kiini Ibura Salaam, Alisa Alering

Friday, 4:00pm — 5:15pm, Room 629

Writing the perfect novel or story is difficult while juggling a job, long-term relationships (spouses, children), and the constant interruptions that happen. However, as projects like NaNoWriMo show, it is possible to manage time effectively to create while still maintaining some semblance of life. Let’s talk about time and project management, organizing ideas, and using the dead time (waiting in lines, driving) to plan out projects.

Class in Science Fiction and Fantasy

Ian K. Hagemann, Eileen Gunn, Madeleine E. Robins, Alisa Alering

Saturday, 2:30pm — 3:45pm, Wisconsin

In speculative fiction, we create entire worlds and societies. How does SF handle social and economic class? Is there room for improvement? If so, what?

Broad Universe Rapid-Fire Reading

Sandra Ulbrich Almazan, F.J. Bergmann, Ada Milenkovic Brown, D.L. Burnett, Kater Cheek, Anna LaForge, Julia Dvorin, Heather McDougal, Katherine Mankiller, Alisa Alering

Saturday, 9:00pm — 10:15pm, Conference 2

Come hear the members of Broad Universe read from their current projects. Not sure what I’m going to read yet…

I’m also going to be volunteering for the:

Tiptree Bake Sale

Saturday, 11:30am — 5:15pm, Room 627 

“World Domination through Bake Sales!” That’s one of the slogans at Tiptree Juggernaut Headquarters. The Tiptree Award supports gender-bending SF/F, publishes, auctions, and loves chocolate chip cookies! A wide variety of cookies, breads, cakes, pies and delectables are baked and donated by Tiptree supporters.

I’ll be dishing out goodies from 11:30 – 1pm. I’m also bringing these:

SFS_GoodyGoodyBars_276613