alisa alering

Writer of fantasy and other fictions


Leave a comment

Writers of the Future 2013, Day 4

Illustration for my story, "Everything You Have Seen," by the talented Karsen Slater

Illustration for my story, “Everything You Have Seen,” by the talented Karsen Slater

Thursday, April 11

This is the first sentence of my 24-hour story: The memory we were looking for had once belonged to a 13th-century nun, Maria Teresa de Geres.

After collecting coffee from downstairs, I spend the bulk of the day in the hotel room writing. Unlike with a one-week Clarion West story, I figure I have zero chance of pulling off anything coherent in the given time, and therefore I may as well entertain myself. Which is perhaps why I lose control of the narrative by the end of the first paragraph and end up with some sort of Victorian adventure pastiche amid caverns beneath the earth. And did I mention the poisonous unicorns?

3b41372r_LOC

I continue the hopeless cause until 3:30, tack on a hasty end, and head for Author Services just in time to turn in my…..collection of numerically-sequenced pages. Suddenly, I feel much brighter. From here on, there will only be fun times. Starting right now, because we Writers are going downstairs to get our first look at the pictures the Illustrator winners have done for our stories.

The illustrations are displayed on easels in a semi-circle, and we fan out like kids at an Easter egg hunt, trying to find “our” picture. I see one that might be mine, but I’m not sure. I circle the rest and come back. Yes, those stark trees are clearly the winter landscape of my story. I tell the illustrator, Karsen Slater, that I’m so impressed that she even included the sailboat pattern on the boy’s pajamas and we have a little geek out when she tells me that she looked up 1950s pajama fabrics to get the right idea—because I did the same thing, when I was writing the story.

Writers & Illustrator united!

Writers & Illustrator united!

After dinner, it’s a long night back at ASI with lots to take in: informal talks and advice from recent winners Laurie Tom, Eric James Stone, Brad Torgersen, & Jordan Ellinger. Judges Rebecca Moesta, Kevin J.Anderson & Nina Kiriki Hoffman also weigh in. Three of the 24-hour stories are distributed to the workshop and we are sent off to read & critique for the next day. I end up staying up past midnight, chatting in the hotel lobby. But I must go to bed: tomorrow it’s up early and off to the book plant.

Tomorrow–field trip to the book plant!

Catch up with what happened on: Day 1, Day 2, Day 3


13 Comments

6 Things You Might Not Know About Me

Photo: Rob Boudon, via Flickr, CC-BY 2.0

Photo: Rob Boudon, via Flickr, CC-BY 2.0

1. I can read and understand Hindi (speak, not so much) Not as well now as I did five years ago. But I can still write my name! This isn’t much of an accomplishment for someone from India, I realize, but in the US it qualifies as a “less commonly taught language.” When I sing along to my favorite filmi songs, I mostly know what I’m saying. (I regret that this knowledge does nothing for the quality of my singing).

2. Twenty years ago, an old woman in Spain thought I was a beggar and gave me money. She insisted I take it. I meant to save that coin for the rest of my life, because I felt guilty and because I didn’t really need it. I spent it a few days later.

3. One of my front teeth is completely turned around. The inside surface faces out, and what should be the front points back towards the inside of my mouth.

4. When I was in high school, I was a cheerleader. If you don’t know me, this isn’t an exciting revelation. But if you know me now, you never saw that one coming.

5. If I scratch a particular spot on my right rib, I feel a sharp twinge in my right elbow. Without fail.

6. When I was in high school, I used to work at a circus/amusement park/farm/petting zoo. I washed horses, braided manes, fed the pigs, got spat on by the llama, put the harness on the Clydesdale, and painted glitter on the unicorn’s hooves.

Daily Prompt: Far From Normal


Leave a comment

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.


Leave a comment

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)?


Leave a comment

One-horned wonder

Here I am, trying to decide which novel (and I’m not letting on what my choices are) and I wake up in the middle of the night with a sentence in my head. I think, okay, that’s a sentence, and I try to let it go. But the sentence knows where it’s going. 

I get through several plot twists, character revisions, and perfect sentences which I am lying there in bed repeating over and over to myself so I won’t forget the exact word order. Until I realize I have basically a complete story. I wish I could now go to sleep and it would be there in the morning, but I know from experience it won’t. So I get my glasses, get out of bed and tiptoe upstairs, and, kept company by my chillblains, write it all down.

Did I mention the unicorn? Because that’s what the whole durn story is about. 

It’s 5:30 am, and out the windows the sky to the north is a burning dull pink. Truly ominous. And I think, that’s why the unicorn has come for me. The zombie wars have already begun.


Leave a comment

Count Me In On the Side of the Unicorns

Justine Larbalestier, who seems like a lovely person, who writes delightful novels about magic, and who no doubt sparkles with fairy dust even under harsh fluorescent lighting, has a sad, sad, handicap: a predilection for useless zombies

Yet, as all right thinking people know…Unicorns Are Tops!

I mean, let’s think about this rationally. What, after all, can you do with a zombie? The best even Simon Pegg, zombie-supporter eloquenaire, could come up with, if I remember the end of Shaun of the Dead correctly, is to sit in a garden shed in his backyard with his pet zombie/best friend on a leash and play video games with him. Well…knock me over with a fun stick. 

Now, unicorns on the other hand…Unicorns are magic! If you’re very very nice to them and not at all condescending, you might get to go for a ride…and even on a real horse that’s pretty awesome – but this is a horse that is faster and stronger than any animal alive – faster even than Edward Cullen. You can also talk to your unicorn (zombie = poor conversationalist) and he will be very smart. Depending on who’s mythology you’re stumbling around in, you might get to fly. Unicorns purify poison water, make liars tell the truth, and bring you back from the dead. Also they are warm and quite good for snuggling up with in the cold forest.

So let’s sum up:

Unicorns = swift, airborne, uncatchable. / Zombies = slow, disjointed shamble.

Unicorns = poison-free eternal life. / Zombies = guts eating, eternal un-life.

Unicorns = better than an electric blanket. / Zombies = cold as the grave, and smelly.