alisa alering

Writer of fantasy and other fictions


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Writers of the Future Vol.29 is #1 on Amazon today

WOF29 Cover.indd

Today, Writers of the Future Vol. 29 is #1 on the Amazon list of Best Sellers in Science Fiction Short Stories.

My Q2 winning story, “Everything You Have Seen,” is in this volume, but I’m going to recommend reading it because of all the other great stories. In particular:

  • “Dreameater,” by Andrea Stewart
    A great voice that grabs you from the first line. A complicated mother-daughter relationship. And brains, the eating of. 
  • “Holy Days,” by Kodiak Julian
    Gorgeous writing. Holidays can mean more than barbecue on the beach. What if there were a day that revealed everyone’s secrets? Or one that lets the dead come home?
  • “Gonna Reach Out and Grab Ya,” by Eric Cline
    CSI meets Close Encounters of the Third Kind. A lonely pathologist examines a very unusual corpse.
  • “Twelve Seconds,” by Tina Gower
    In the future, a police clerk archives the final twelve seconds in the lives of homicide victims.
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What’s In a Name?

Mike Moist? Randy Sexworm? Nah....Keith Crust!

Mike Moist? Randy Sexworm? Nah….Keith Crust!

My story, “Keith Crust’s Lucky Number“* is up in the March issue of Flash Fiction Online.

Keith is a special kind of guy, and he needed a special name. I wanted something punk, but gross, but a little bit silly. For inspiration, I looked up lists of words that people think are the grossest in the English language. I also looked up lists of real, actual last names that nobody in their right mind would want to have. Names like:

Cocks, Willies, Bottoms. Nutters, Dafts, Jellys, Piggs, Baggot, Goggin, Gaggin, Gag, Grave, Stranger, Slow, Crankshaw, Onion, Willy, Poor, Hustler, Glasscock, Shufflebottom, Dungworth, Clutterbuck, Hardmeat, Bonefat, Turtle, Cornfoot, Hole, Drain.

I mean, come on. Clutterbuck? Say that three times fast. I dare you not to snigger like a seventh-grader drawing penises in his algebra book.

I had a great time coming up with Keith’s name. For once, I didn’t have to rein myself in: I could go all Dickens with my godlike powers** of writerly naming.

What do you think: are character names important to the story you want to tell? Sometimes? All of the time?
Is it fun coming up with character names? Or a pain in the neck?***

*See also: my earlier post about pawn shops.
**Writers don’t get a lot of power, which is probably for the best, since when we do, it goes to our heads.
***For me, always fun. Changing my imaginary name was practically my childhood hobby. I have been (in my head) variously: Tina, Angelique, Maureen, Constanza, & Trixie. And about one zillion others.


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Clockwork Phoenix IV

I’m thrilled to announce that my story, “The Wanderer King,” will be published in Clockwork Phoenix IV, edited by Mike Allen and due out from Mythic Delirium Press in June 2013. I loved the original Clockwork Phoenix, and I am in fantastic company in this volume. I can’t wait to get my own copy and read everybody else’s stories. See the full TOC here.

CP4_mini


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Catherine Krahe Wants Your Sisters (Stories)

C_Krahe

Catherine Krahe lives in Iowa.  She plans to save the world by telling stories and planting trees. She went to Clarion West (2011). Her stories have been published in Realms of Fantasy, Nature, and Ideomancer. She works with the Alpha Young Writer’s Workshop and is a first reader for Strange Horizons.

At least, that’s what she says. I say she is my Clarion West classmate, devastating editor & critiquer, maker of deadly Oreo truffles, and possessor of the bionic nun-field.

Her short story “Walking Home” is featured today in Daily Science Fiction.

She stopped by ye olde blogular to answer important questions about where she writes, how she writes, and the chocolate powdered flavoring mix that makes her world go round.

1. Special pen? Lucky socks? Breakfast of champions? Describe your writing process. (Include necessary rituals, superstitions, or talismans.)

My writing process is stalled these days, but my writerbrain is growing back. I grew up constantly thinking about stories–walking to and from school, going to sleep at night, in the bathroom, all the time. I’ve gotten out of that habit, or at least out of the habit of having my own active stories in my head.  Still, while I’m driving or while I’m walking from one place to another, there’s something going on. Mostly fanfic-ish things or fanfic-ish things of my own. That’s where “Walking Home” came from: it’s a side bit from the novelworld I had in late high school.

At some point, the story things up, and I do a draft. I don’t have a fixed process at this point, but do whatever the story seems to need. I usually write straight into the computer, but some stories happen on paper first. After that, I edit.  That’s the fun part–I like cutting and tightening especially.

Sometimes this happens on a writing date with friends, but not often. I’m more likely to get distracted by socializing than work steadily. I sometimes ping friends to bounce ideas off them or throw a draft at them. I almost always show my roommate Angela, who understands stories from a different direction and has pretty similar taste to mine–she’s wonderful. Of course, this is all subject to change.  I haven’t been writing a lot lately, and who knows what my process will be next?

Good tools: I love my CW notebook.  I require a good fountain pen with Noodler’s ink.  I need my computer, a three-year-old Thinkpad set up so I can use it but no one else can, trackpad turned off, and Dvorak keyboard. I do some tightening on paper, so I like to have a printer.  But what I need is discipline.

Bedroom Workspace. Go to Flickr  to view annotations.

Bedroom Workspace. Go to Flickr to view annotations.

2. Biggest thing that keeps you from writing when you should be writing?

Oh dear. I haven’t written anything really new in a while. I had the stereotypical post-workshop slump and haven’t unpacked my box of stories and critiques yet. Shameful, I know! I’m not sure exactly what’s holding me back besides anxiety and exhaustion. I don’t run my own stories in my head because it’s so much easier and more satisfying to return to someone else’s, like comfort food. I always have a story going, but I’m not someone who is driven relentlessly to put words on the page.

3. What do you wish you were reading but aren’t? (Because it doesn’t exist.)

I want sisters. More sisters. There are so many brothers in fantasy, especially urban fantasy, and what I want is a relationship like that between brothers but between sisters. The typical brother relationship is two brothers against the world, usually with one of them magical or otherwise vulnerable and the other one a vigilant guard. The typical sister relationship is that two sisters against the world are separated because one of them meets a man and leaves the partnership. I hate that. I want more relationships between women that don’t dissolve as part of the plot. –Why yes, I do adore Kate Elliott, why do you ask?

4. What can’t you live without?

Other than the obvious?  Chocolate milk.  Those who knew me at Clarion West know that among my first purchases in Seattle were cups and Quik.  It’s my breakfast on a normal day, and what I drink before going to bed.  I don’t need it on vacations, but it’s one of the things I do to establish ‘normal’.

5. What should a reader do after reading this interview?

Go read some Kate Elliott.  Write me a sister story.  Knit something.

Living Room Workspace. Flickr again for annotations.

Living Room Workspace. Flickr again for annotations.


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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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Zombies vs. Unicorns (Review)

"Unicorn Drops," ca. 1853. Courtesy Library of Congress.

Let me state for the record, that I am solidly Team Unicorn. From the ages five to, oh, eighteen, I had unicorn stuffed animals, unicorn T-shirts, unicorn notebooks, unicorn puffy glitter stickers and unicorn daydreams. Possibly also a unicorn Trapper Keeper and a purple rainbow unicorn pencil with a scented eraser. Since I was still in the throes of this fascination well into the 1990’s, albeit somewhat ironically by then, I should probably count myself lucky that I didn’t end up with a unicorn tattoo. (It was this close. Truly.)

I am such a unicorn girl that when I moved to a new school in the 2nd grade and the music teacher (a lopsided troll of a man with a penchant for green suits paired with coordinating green ties) bade us cease tooting our plastic recorders and join him for a rousing sing-along of “The Unicorn Song” — I actually cried. Have you heard this song? It’s so appalling, and so Christianity trumps magic-pagans-and-all-things-fun that it should give the Potter-is-AntiChrist sect divine ecstasies. I’ll leave you to look up the full lyrics for yourself, but try this verse on for size:

The ark started moving, it drifted with the tide
The unicorns looked up from the rocks and they cried
And the waters came down and sort of floated them away
That’s why you never see unicorns to this very day

THE UNICORNS CRIED! Because they’re GOING TO DIE. Not only that, they’re going to DIE FOREVER, all of them, GO EXTINCT. Yeah, great song for 2nd graders. Especially sensitive horse-lovers who live a little too strongly in their imaginary world. And my new classmates? They LOVED this song. It was, like, their favorite song ever, right up there with “Little Rabbit Foo-Foo,”(which, oddly enough, didn’t bother me at all. Look, I never said I was consistent.) We sang this song at least once a week for the next 6 years. I managed to get the snivel response under control, but the zeal with which my fellow students happily belted out the celebration of the extinction of an entire species may well have been the seeding of my continuing DISTRUST OF THE ENTIRE HUMAN RACE.

Later on in high school, I had a summer job at a Miniature Horse Farm – which is sort of like a circus crossed with a riding stable  – where I was paid minimum wage to braid colorful ribbons into pony hair, lift sniveling kids on and off the mechanical pony ride, be abused by illiterate shift supervisors, scoop (miniature) poop, and walk in the performance show three times a day, leading the unicorn (whose foam horn I attached with an elasticized shoelace backstage, right after I painted her hooves with silver glitter glue). Fascinating Gender Note: Though there were male and female employees, only girls were allowed to lead the unicorn. No such bias applied to leading the bad-tempered quick-spitting llama, thankfully.

So you can see, my unicorn credentials are SOLID.

That said, the stories I enjoyed most were the (cringe) zombie stories:

  • “Bougainvillea,” by Carrie Ryan
  • “Cold Hands,” by Cassandra Clare

Best unicorn story?

  • “A Thousand Flowers” by Margo Lanagan

Honorable Mentions go to:

  • “Prom Night,” by Libba Bray for use of Zoroastrian funeral rituals
  • “Princess Prettypants,” by Meg Cabot for the cameo by my most-favorite-ever summertime ice cream shack of social equalization, “The Chocolate Moose.”
  • The cover and endpaper art!

So, I did it. I read an entire 415-page anthology of short stories and it didn’t kill me. I even liked some of the stories. But if it had been 415 pages of novel, I would have had a much better time.

Maybe next time, I can try reading by the light of a unicorn’s horn. If all else fails, I can still get that tattoo.


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Supernatural Noir, edited by Ellen Datlow

Can’t wait to get my hands on this new anthology, edited by Ellen Datlow. A great line-up, with new stories by Jeffrey Ford, Elizabeth Bear, Lucius Shepherd, etc and etc.

The TOC and a chance to win a copy are posted on Underwords. Who wouldn’t want to read a story titled, “The Maltese Unicorn” (by Caitlín R. Kiernan)?