Friday I’m in Love

Posted on August 28, 2015 by


alyx babyThree good things about this week:

Duacon! Jessica came, she saw, and she conquered, by which I mean we walked the streets of Toronto… far more than she probably expected. It is a trait of mine that the concept of “Not far” conflates all too easily with the cold hard fact of “Five miles later, I promised we were nearly there…” Do not trust me to have a grip on distance, my dear friends. Note my walking speed and ask me for an ETA. Or stand your ground, and demand to use transit.

Okay, tangent over! We dined out, we paid homage to the cats and the hot tub, and J and I spent an afternoon on that nice beach on Toronto Island. We did not actively workshop fiction, but we did go out for multiple writing dates, and talked shop constantly.

Kelly came home! Five nanoseconds after Jessica left, Kelly had a work retreat out of town, or too far to walk, whichever distance is longer. About the night apart, the less said the better. But it was a joy to watch the purple dot of my darling’s GPS coordinates inching home along the major commuter routes yesterday evening. I did this using an app that the iStore calls Find My Friends. It was even more of a joy to have her back home again.

Oh, what was the third best thing this week? Was it watermelons? Seeing horse cops yesterday? Having someone contact me to ask for a secret spy name of their very own, thereby indicating that my sense of humor is not, in fact, a trial to all who know me? (I wasn’t actually worried about that last bit.) Getting a reprint request this morning? Or was it… turning The Nature of a Pirate in to my editor at Tor? Oh yeah, that last thing. Let’s definitely go with that.

Today’s victory dance shall be… the Charleston!

In unrelated news, my WordPress page has about 24,000 users, most of whom have the sort of names and e-mail addresses that lead one to believe they are spammy hacky bastards, as opposed to real humans interested in my blog. Is this problematic?

Heroine question vs. Marie Brennan


Posted on August 26, 2015 by

Marie Brennan is an anthropologist and folklorist who shamelessly pillages her academic fields for material.  She is currently misapplying her professors’ hard work to the Victorian adventure series The Memoirs of Lady Trent; the first book of that series, A Natural History of Dragons: A Memoir by Lady Trent, was nominated for a World Fantasy Award.

I asked her:

Is there a literary heroine on whom you imprinted as a child? A first love, a person you wanted to become as an adult, a heroic girl or woman you pretended to be on the playground at recess? Who was she?
I didn’t realize it until I was in college, but apparently I imprinted on Cimorene, the heroine of Patricia C. Wrede’s Dealing with Dragons. I studied Latin, I learned to fence — though I can’t make cherries jubilee, so I didn’t copy her in all respects. (I also had a deep and abiding fondness for Mary Lennox from The Secret Garden . . . though fortunately for all involved, I never tried to imitate her!)
Can you remember what it was she did or what qualities she had that captured your affections and your imagination so strongly?
I think I’m very attracted to pragmatic heroines. I’ve never been the sort to get swept away by my passions or my dreams; I like the characters who feel quite strongly, but don’t let it overwhelm them. Those kinds of characters tend to be proactive problem-solvers, which is my kind of daydream; I want to imagine myself as a person who can get out of a sticky spot by virtue of skill and wits. I can’t say for certain that I would volunteer to be a dragon’s “captive” princess just to solve my marital difficulties — but as solutions go, that one seemed pretty clever to me!
How does she compare to the female characters in your work? Is she their literary ancestor? Do they rebel against all she stands for? What might your creations owe her?
Oh, I definitely write heroines in the vein of Cimorene. Heroes and heroines both, really; my characters all skew toward the pragmatic, so that I have to push myself to write more impulsive types from time to time. Lady Trent would get along great with Cimorene; they could swap stories of their experiences with dragons, and then vanish forever into the library, never to be seen again. <lol>
How do you feel about the word heroine? In these posts, I am specifically looking for female authors’ female influences, whether those women they looked up to were other writers or Anne of Green Gables. Does the word heroine have a purpose that isn’t served by equally well by hero? 
It does have a different connotation than “hero,” doesn’t it? I admit I usually talk about a book’s “protagonist” or “main character,” rather than using a gendered term. The word “heroine” evokes two particular connotations for me. One is a character who acts in a heroic fashion: Wonder Woman, Katniss Everdeen, women and girls who fight on a grand scale for the greater good. I would never call Mary Lennox a heroine in that sense, because her story operates on a more personal level, and Mary herself isn’t intended to be admirable. The other is the female half of a romantic leading pair, the counterpart of the story’s hero — I often see it used in that sense in romance genre circles. If romance isn’t central to the story, I don’t tend to think of the main characters as a hero and a heroine, even if they pair up like that. Outside of the story proper, I’ll use the word “heroine” if I’m talking about a role model (as you are here) . . . but on the whole, it isn’t a word I deploy very often.



Marie  is also the author of the doppelanger duology of Warrior and Witch, the urban fantasy Lies and Prophecy, the Onyx Court historical fantasy series, and more than forty short stories. More information can be found


About this post: The Heroine Question is my name for a series of short interviews with female writers about their favorite characters and literary influences. Clicking the link will take you to all the other interviews, or there’s an index of them here. If you’re wondering about my use of the word heroine, I’ve written an essay on the subject here.

Two Thousand and Two Haiku


Posted on August 21, 2015 by

imageTotal dental freeze,
tempura and sashimi
not a good mixture

I have been browsing through my old blog periodically, examining the sort of things I was posting when I started out,  and offering up any of the worthwhile bits. My landscape, physical and social is very different now… in this particular period I’m revisiting, it’s about fourteen months away from a major upheaval. But 2002 Alyx has no idea whatsoever of any of that. She’s burbling along, figuring out Livejournal, writing her way through the early days of Rumble’s kittenhood, our first months in the condo on Woodland Drive, and things like the tail end of Buffy’s original run on network TV.

Today’s time-travel gold comes from May 23rd and consists of a couple of haiku I wrote after having my mouth frozen for dental work and then embarking on sushi for supper. The first is above; here’s the second.

Lively half of tongue,
balances roe between teeth
lip gets chomped instead


ChiSeries Powers Activate!


Posted on August 20, 2015 by

imageIf you follow either of us on social media, you could hardly have failed to notice that Kelly and I were guest hosts at the ChiSeries Toronto reading yesterday evening. We got to introduce three readers: E.L. Chen, Tony Pi, and Carsten Stroud. And three musical guests: Kari Maaren, Peter Chiykowsky and the Handsome Devils. It all went swimmingly in both important senses of the phrase–the readings and performances were great, and there were no logistical hiccups.

Tony Pi’s reading, by the way, was from his story “No Sweeter Art.” It’s a Parsec Award finalist for BEST SPECULATIVE FICTION STORY: SMALL CAST (SHORT FORM) and you can hear it here.

Two other things that rocked this week: Primo, Kelly’s cousin Emilly came to town with her boyfriend Darcy and we deliberately set about showing her Toronto in a way that made Calgary look, well, maybe just a bit ho hum. A spin past the Monets, Van Gogh, and Bernini at the AGO to start, a quick trip to the all hats all the time ballcap store for souvenirs, and a run to Tatyana to see if Emilly could discover her inner pin-up girl were all part of the agenda. They spent a little time browsing the food and drink choices on Queen Street, and then we all hit YukYuks for a comedy show hosted by Michelle Shaughnessy.
Secondo: And Jessica, who’s coming to visit, characterized the weekend as DuaCon. And I like that very much. I like the idea of Kelly and I being a free-roaming science fiction convention ready to break out with programming, reading or whatever just when you least expect it.
Here’s a shot of E.L. Chen’s gorgeous ChiTeen cover.

Alma Alexander on the Heroine Question


Posted on August 19, 2015 by

Alma Alexander's Wolf, out August 21, 2015

Alma Alexander’s Wolf, out August 21, 2015

Alma Alexander is an internationally published novelist, short story writer and anthologist whose work appears in more than 14 languages worldwide. She has written many different kinds of fantasy – high/epic, historical, contemporary, urban, YA – and occasionally detoured into science fiction when the muse strayed out amongst the stars.

When asked if she imprinted on any particular literary heroine as a child, she said:

I’m almost certain that for a lot of us the kneejerk  response to this is the same: Jo March from Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. She was so iconic, so seminal (not to mention the only one of the sisters with whom I had a remote connection – Meg was the goody two shoes, Amy was a spoiled brat, and Beth was the ghost of a pretty kitten)… and she was a writer, and she pushed on her dream until she got published and many of us who did the same thing eventually ended up identifying with that because that was our dream also. That was something that we – that I – grew up looking up to, waiting to accomplish. But I didn’t want to be Jo. I just wanted to be a writer.

I don’t think that I ever “pretended” to be someone else. My best recollections point to my wishes being more aligned with being the best me I could be. Using the convenient metaphor of Narnia, I never wanted to be or pretended to be Lucy or Susan. What I wanted was to be found worthy of being a true friend of Aslan, who was Not A Tame Lion, when judged for myself, in my own right.

Can you remember what it was Jo did or what qualities she had, besides being a writer, that captured your affections and your imagination so strongly?

It wasn’t the pretty. It wasn’t the nobility. What always drew me in were strength and wits and smarts and the occasional spark of true wisdom.  That was what the best protagonists carried within them and  that was what I sought within myself if I ever thought about wanting to emulate them. I wept with them when hard choices had to be made, and they made them; I laughed with them in delirious joy when risks were rewarded; I held my breath as they did during the moments when outcomes were hanging by the thinnest of threads. Strength, wits, smarts, and wisdom. If they could shoot a straight arrow, all the better – for them – but it didn’t make me want to go out and buy a bow and start practicing archery (well, I shot a bow and arrow and I wasn’t bad at it when I did, but eh, you know what I mean). What I was looking for was… was resilience, an ability to bend in the wind like
a reed by the river if that was needed but to spring back up straight and true after the storm was over. I never thought vulnerability was a weakness, nor tears, nor taking a moment to draw a deeper breath – but they could not be allowed to be the last thing that was there. There had to be Strength. Wits. Smarts. And Wisdom.

How does she compare to the female characters in your work? Is she their literary ancestor? Do they rebel against all she stands for? What might your creations owe her?

In terms of debts, in that context, everything – my characters owe everything to that philosophy. I have never been afraid to put them through the wringer in any story I ever wrote because any heroine who stepped forward had those qualities. I think of Xaforn of the Guard, from The Secrets of Jin-shei, who lived and died for honor and for love – and of her jin-shei sister, also; I think of Amais who returned to Syai four hundred years after the events of The Secrets of Jin-shei, and of her friend Xuelian, who carry the weight of the world on their shoulders in Embers of Heaven; I think of Olivia from Midnight at Spanish Gardens, and Anghara of Changer of Days, and Thea of the Worldweavers series and Jazz, my ‘youngest’, the protagonist of Random.  They were all shaped by those tenets, they all had to live according to those  criteria. They had to know the odds, and be willing to go against them if that was necessary; they had to know fear, and fly in the face of it anyway; they had to recognize the stinging nettle and reach out to grasp it anyway if the need arose.

Everything I have ever read has built up to these heroines and all that they are. My heroines may not be part of a better world, as such, but the things that they do and that they are help make their worlds better. That is all I can ever ask of them. So far, none have let me down.

How do you feel about the word heroine? In these posts, I am specifically looking for female authors’ female influences, whether those women they looked up to were other writers or Anne of Green Gables. Does the word heroine have a purpose that isn’t served by equally well by hero?

I have no problem with the concept of a heroine, as such – but I think of the characters who carry my stories as my protagonists, as my people. I don’t know that I hold with “hero” as a solitary shining  figure standing off by him or herself anyway. We are all a part of the fabric. Some of us are just given a moment in which we shine harder than those standing next to us – and if we step into that light, we
are heroes.


Alma lives in the Pacific Northwest, in the cedar woods, with her husband and two obligatory cats. Her website is here and she Tweets, is on Facebook, and has been even known to pin stuff.


About this post: The Heroine Question is my name for a series of short interviews with female writers about their favorite characters and literary influences. Clicking the link will take you to all the other interviews, or there’s an index of them here.

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