All posts by Alyx Dellamonica

After twenty-two years in Vancouver, B.C., I've recently moved to Toronto Ontario, where I make my living writing science fiction and fantasy; I also review books and teach writing online at UCLA. I'm a legally married lesbian, a coffee snob, and I wake up at an appallingly early hour.

Speculating Canada on the queer in Stormwrack

Derek Newman-Stile of Speculating Canada says this about the book:

Dellamonica explores the isolating power of homophobia and its ability to displace LGBTQ populations in her general narrative of displacement.Child of a Hidden Sea is powerful as a narrative because it embodies both curiosity and the desire to find a sense of home and place to belong as well as its ability to point out that displacement is still a persistant feature in our world, one that is further sharpened by economic inequalities, sexism, homophobia, and general power structures that serve to elevate certain groups of people over others.

Here, for a change of pace, is the trailer for the hands-down best of the films we saw at the festival: Behavior, from Cuba:

Wheezing into Monday…

photoKitten updates have been few and far between lately, I know, because Kelly and I were scampering around to a variety of movies at TiFF, with my always delightful and thoroughly brilliant cousins, Alicia and Joe. What’s up with the kids is, basically, that they are cute. Supercute, even!

We experimented a little with leaving the bedroom open to them at night while we were en vacance, but they are still too rambunctious. No big surprise there. CinCin’s headed back to the vet in about ten days for spayage and shots. I’ve also rearranged the top of the cat tree known as Beetlejuice Station. This might, eventually, occasion a new video.

This past staycation has been the best vacation, for me, in quite a long stretch of time. It offered the perfect mix of tourism, intellectual stimulation, good company, downtime, and amazing foodie experiences. Among other things, we tried a huge number of new restaurants: Khao San Road, The Harbord Room, The Senator, Fusaro’s Kitchen, and Byblos. Each of these is as deserving of a review as all the incredible films we saw.

It was illuminating, and has made me consider what K and I require in a break where our entertainment isn’t curated by a savvy, film-loving family member. Next time we have a stretch of time off at home, this shall be the model, I think: buy lots of tickets to lots of things, make a list of restaurants, and lure out various lovely people to partake with us.

Strange Horizons reviews CHS, plus Cumberbatch at #tiff14

imageSarah Frost of the ever-marvellous Strange Horizons says nice things about Child of a Hidden Sea in a lovely, thoughtful, even-handed review.

Dellamonica has imagined a world in which a class of warrior-lawyers spend their whole lives training to duel one another. It would be ridiculous for Sophie, whose primary weapon up until this point has been the waterproof camera case, to pick up a sword and be able to compete with them. No matter how long a twenty-first century heroine has spent pounding the rattan in the SCA, no training montage will make her a match for people whose combat skills have been a matter of life or death since they were old enough to hold a weapon.

I have been quiet this week because I have family in town and we’re going to movies, movies and more movies at the Toronto International Film Festival. Yesterday’s entry was The Imitation Game. It was the most conventional and least challenging of the bunch of things we’ve seen so far, and the script was exceedingly heavy-handed, but the cast was excellent. We’ve got Oscar material, folks.

Kitten television star gets big boy pants

imageLorenzo spent the night at the veterinarian’s. We were not going to get his nuts cut for another two weeks, after our vacation, but he was starting to act in an awfully adult fashion, if you know what I mean. I was having visions of Chinchilla spawning polydactyl brother kittens on our beleaguered couch, and me having to find them homes via all you good people on the Internet.

Anyway, his blood work has just come back. He is fine, and they will do the procedure this afternoon. Mere words cannot capture the scale of my relief on this score.

In the meantime, CinCin is sooooo lonely. I was off writing with some friends at a cafe this morning, and she has been all by herself for a couple of hours. Now she is planted in my lap and will probably stay there until I have to go out again in pursuit of our Film Festival Tickets.

Book Smugglers Review of Child, plus vacation…

imageThea of Book Smugglers says this about Child of a Hidden Sea:

Sophie is sympathetic and genuine, and her motivation to learn more about her origins and her family comes across as wholly believable. Her insecurities when compared to her siblings – her fierce half-sister Verena, and her genius adopted brother Bram – only enhance Sophie’s sympathetic nature, as she struggles with her own feelings of inadequacy and confidence.

I’ll be taking next week off to see a bunch of films at the Toronto International Film Festival (Kahil Gibran’s The Prophet, This is My Land, Luna, A Pigeon Sat on a Branch, Charlie’s Country, the Imitation Game, and Behavior, in case you’re wondering) and hang out with my lovely and wonderful cousins. So, you know–I’ll be online less. Write me if you  need me.

Which isn’t to say I won’t tweet a little about the movies, or any especially good food that comes my way. Because in the world of Instagram, my vacation is your vacation. Or something.

Guest Post: Kelly Robson on the Writer’s Process Tour @kellyoyo

IMG_2509Kelly Robson attended the utterly awesome Taos Toolbox master class in 2007, and has two stories coming out next year, in Start a Revolution and The Exile Book of New Canadian Noir. She was tagged by Caitlin Sweet to do the Writer’s Process blog meme (as was I) and, as she’s not maintaining a blog of her own these days, it was suggested that she might post her answers here. What a brilliant idea! 

Kelly can be found online at Facebook, Instagram, and PinterestHere’s what she has to say:

I started the first draft of this Process Blog Tour post by waffling over whether I have enough real writer points to legitimately respond. But screw that. Cut cut cut. Then I delayed posting this because I felt superstitious — like if I posted it I’d never write fiction again. Dumb, hmm? But Caitlin Sweet tagged me because she’s interested in what I have to say, so let’s just do this. Protesting too much is boring. Delay is boring.

What am I working on?

Final revisions on a historical horror story set in 19th century Bavaria. Horror isn’t my thing at all, but I wanted to submit something to a particular anthology so I waded in. When I first started drafting, I got myself quite freaked out while conjuring the horrific elements (I have an overactive imagination). It’s okay now, though.

I was surprised to discover that horror seems to require huge amounts of sensory information, and I loved writing that. It was an excuse to get a little lyrical, where otherwise my writing tends to be quite straightforward.

On the novel side of things, two potential projects are battling for supremacy. One is an alternate-present fantasy and the other is near-future non-genre. Both have their pros and cons. I just need to decide which project will make me happiest — which pinata contains the most candy.

How does my work differ from others in its genre?

God, what a loaded question. First of all, I reject genres as anything other than marketing categories. Some people only read within certain marketing categories and that’s great if it works for them. I read the best (as I define it) across all categories. That goes for all media.

So I’ll redefine the question to: What characteristics does my work have that I think might be somewhat unusual?

I’m not interested in writing about characters like myself. To date I’ve mostly pursued male characters. Out of the three stories finished this earlier this year, one MC is a mentally disabled Viennese janitor, one is a potty-mouthed Australian winemaker, and one is an Enlightenment-era French slut. All men.

Maybe that’s because I’m mostly interested in characters who are absolutely convinced by the actions they’re taking and it’s easier to imagine men moving through the world with that kind of conviction. Women tend to be more ambivalent unless they’re pretty extreme outliers. But I’m not interested in extreme outliers.

However, the new historical horror has a lesbian MC. She’s backed into a corner physically, financially, and emotionally, so I hope she’s moving with conviction. I had trouble getting her there, and I’m afraid she might not be sympathetic enough.

Why do I write what I do?

Better to ask why I write at all. Because it would be better if I didn’t. All writers know that the opportunity cost for what they do is huge and the chance of it ever paying off financially is little to none.

I write because I’ve always wanted to — always — and getting the psychological permission to do it was one fuck of a battle that only started turning when I approached 40.

I write because it’s taken over 300,000 words to figure out how to write something I’m proud of. I’ve got great taste, and I can tell when something’s shit even if I’ve shat it out myself. So after learning how to please myself it would be a damn stupid waste to stop now.

I write because it’s mentally beneficial and controls my anxiety. Which is a way of saying that I really NEED to.

I write because finishing something and having people you respect like it, understand it, maybe even love it, is the best feeling in the world.

I write because many of the people I love and respect are writers, and I always felt like an outsider when I visited their playground. That wasn’t a good feeling. It also wasn’t a good way to achieve the recommended levels of mental health and self-love.

I write because I love fiction and can’t live without it, but I don’t love it unconditionally. I have high and exact expectations that are rarely met. So if I want to read something that pushes all my buttons, I have to try to write it myself.

How does my writing process work?

Output

I’ve tried the “quantity not quality” thing and it doesn’t work for me (it was a great way to learn though). It just makes a mess too awful to face cleaning up. Not very many people can write quickly and produce something worth reading. I think the quantity not quality orthodoxy is responsible for a lot of crap.

Some people can write a story in a weekend. That’s not me. For the previous two stories, seems like I’ve gotten a 5000 word draft in a month by working at least eight hours a week. Then finishing it takes huge amounts of revision — 30-40 hours. Maybe 100 hours per story total. I haven’t actually calculated it.

Process

I start a drafting session by grooming the last 1000 words or so to make sure I’m not headed off on a tangent. That means by the time I have a complete first draft it’s already been revised at least three times, except for the end. Which means the ending sucks. Then I rewrite several times before asking Alyx to weigh in on it. She’s wonderful at critique not only because she’s a terrific writer and experienced critiquer, but she also teaches writing so is very smooth at communicating her opinions and fixes. Rewrite again and get another crit from a friend. Then rewrite again and again. Maybe 5-10 revisions?

Revise, revise, revise. There is no other way.

Tools

My most unusual tool is an 11 x 14 inch sketchpad, which I use to doodle scene mechanics, story, and plot. If I’m spinning my wheels, the sketchpad will usually put me on track again. Scribbling has always helped me think.

Location

Our condo is too small for me to have a desk. My laptop lives in a drawer. But our condo building has a library with wifi, which is nice. Our kitchen table works too. Often Alyx and I will write in a coffee shop. The current spot is Jimmy’s on Gerrard, which has two upper floors with big tables.

I can draft on an iPad with a regular Mac bluetooth keyboard, which is great to haul around to the coffee shop. This setup is no good for revision because cutting and pasting and flying around a document with efficiency is impossible on an iPad.

Research and inspiration

I read a lot of non-fiction. Good, clear non-fiction primes my brain for the kind of writing I want to achieve. I actually think that Alan Bennett’s essay collections Writing Home and Untold Stories are magical in this way. I can’t recommend them highly enough.

Kirkus Review Blog and other commenters on CHS

keep readingMost of you probably saw me twittering about this elsewhere, but the Kirkus Reviews Blog (in the person of Book Smuggler Thea James) says some  very nice and gratifying things about my execution of portal fantasy in Child of a Hidden Sea.

Fewer of you may know that I keep a separate Facebook author page, for people who want to know about book and story releases, and who are perhaps less interested (if this is actually possible) in seeing pictures of my kittens, wife, regular coffee stops and new hometown.  If you don’t know this, it’s because I have never ONCE spamgested that You Like This Page!

Anyway, over on said author page, a fan who enjoyed the book–but wasn’t so sure about Sophie–wrote:

If you are planning a subsequent book and make this a series, DON’T get her (Sophie, that is) together with Parrish.

I mentioned this to author Charlene Challenger, via text, and she is pro… Sophish? Parrie? Sophland? She’s into the whole Sophie/Parrish thing. So, finally, here are her thoughts:

Child of a hidden sea comments

(If you are at all curious about Challenger’s new YA novel, The Voices in Between, here’s her Tumblr feed.

Watts it all about? Echopraxia and a look back at Starfish

photoI’ve been reading and revisiting the fiction of Peter Watts this month. I knew I’d be doing a review of Echopraxia, see, so I decided to take a look back at Starfish via the Tor.com “That Was Awesome” series. Peter and I are friends now, and we’ve even been published in the same Polish magazine. But I didn’t know him back in 2000 or so, when his first book came out and I reviewed it for Locus. The look back tells about how my not-entirely-positive review sparked our friendship. I won’t cover the same ground here. Instead, I give you the Cliff’s Notes: both books are excellent, but the newer one is better. Both will reward every second you spend on them. And if you want a taste first, try this Tor.com free short, which is a tie-in to Echopraxia. It’s called The Colonel.