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.

A close shave with the mechanics of dudeness

imageIt is often hard for me to guess which of my various social media posts will end up garnering much in the way of response. Friday, I decided to to check a minor detail about beard shaving while I was writing. I status updated a query to the webs: Do you shower first or shave? Does that change in a crisis?

On Twitter, I got some pretty quick, straightforward answers. It was clear that this is a matter of preference and sometimes of technology (whether you use an electric razor affects the before/after equation. I assume that at least half of you know this from experience, but some of it was news to me, so I share anyway.

Over on Facebook, on the other hand, there was some whimsical imagining among my female relatives, fantasies involving a big shower full of shaving dudes. Then people showed up–most of them guys–to debate the fine points. What kind of crisis? They wanted to know. Would you even bother shaving if things were going pear-shaped? Someone even asked if it might be the kind of crisis where you wanted to be especially manly, by which he meant unwashed and a bit smelly and unkempt.

Now there’s something I hadn’t considered at all.

The thread ran to a hundred or so comments, all for a slightly odd and very short project that I am working on while I wait on some notes on the second Hidden Sea book. It was a fun thread, and it drove home a general principle about writing and research: a lot of the tiny details you include in your work might only pass if they go by fast, if readers don’t have a chance to examine them.

Case in point: I probably could’ve dropped the reference to shaving into the piece without another thought, and had a 99% chance nobody would say boo. But when you put the detail under the microscope, questions emerge. Tom, the guy in the scene, is fifteen, not necessarily an age where a man will have to shave every day unless he’s especially hirsute. There’s a girl in the mix, and a small part of Tom’s mind is attuned to the possibility of impressing her. The idea that a girl might like him is a far more appealing thing to contemplate than the family member he’s been visiting in hospital.

If we thought about every tiny detail in our work to this degree, it’s a fair bet that most novels would take ten years to write. But it’s also important, especially if you are at a remove or two from your characters, to occasionally poke into our assumptions about how it all works. These are the small things we can sometimes get wrong. When we do, we can render our work unconvincing to a significant chunk of our readership.

I’m not saying launch a 100-post thread on Facebook every time your characters make a minor decision.

Launch today! And a Bibliotropic Review!

imageThe Bibliotropic review of CHS says:

To say that Child of a Hidden Sea is indulgent fantasy is doing it a disservice, and yet I can’t think of a better way to describe it. It takes so many tropes that herald a bad story, and turns them into something that’s golden and great and nothing but pure enjoyment to read. An alternate world, a modern-day person being teleported to one, finding out she’s of that world all along (and with political clout, no less), these are all things that tend to have a person’s eyes rolling, and yet Dellamonica pulls them all off and makes a great story from them, set in an interesting fantasy world. Combine that with intelligent and diverse characters both on terms of ethnicity and sexuality, and you pretty much trip all my instinctive happy triggers for my reading.

Does anyone not know the book launch is today, at 3:30, at Bakka-Phoenix Books? If you need more info, let me know.

Dreamcasting Child of a Hidden Sea = Gross!

Campaign for the American Reader asked who I’d cast in a dream version of Child of a Hidden Sea. I’ll let you go there to see my answer, but if you’d rather play guessing games first, who’s this charmer gonna play?

image

I have chosen a reading for this Saturday’s launch at Bakka-Phoenix Books in Toronto. I’m going to read the beginning of “The Boy Who Would Not Be Enchanted,” which is another of Gale Feliachild’s early adventures with Captain Parrish. This one is told from Tonio’s POV, and begins thusly:

The first time I stowed away on Nightjar, I was twelve.
She sailed into my beautiful city of Cindria, a swift cutter with pearly sails, dwarfed by the great ships of the trading fleet and the pleasure craft of our courtiers. Smaller, neater in aspect, without ornamentation, she slipped into port by night, like a doctor calling on a rich man who’d caught something embarrassing.
Aboard her were the woman they called The Hag, accompanied as always by Nightjar’s captain, Garland Parrish. The two of them visited our island’s Conto, bringing with them a whiff of faraway lands and espionage, government plots and excitement.
Irresistible, no? I’d had it in mind since childhood–sail away with them, just once, and catch a glimpse of adventure. So I offered to help my cousin Franceso take a delivery of sausage out to the crew, then lost myself in the hold when he was haggling with the cook.
I hadn’t counted on being a bad sailor.

If you’re local and you haven’t got an invite to the launch yet, consider yourself very welcome indeed! It’ll be at 3:30 p.m.; the store is at 84 Harbord Street. There will be a prize draw, snacks–including the delicious cookies you may have encountered at other Bakka events–and more of the above story.

Links and posts and a giveaway, oh my!

A. M. Dellamonica, 2014, photo by Kelly Robson
A. M. Dellamonica, 2014, photo by Kelly Robson

It’s been a fun couple of days. A pipe in our sink broke, necessitating emergency plumbing, and humidity made our front door swell just enough that we were trapped in the apartment yesterday morning. The security guy for our building had to come up and kick the door in so we could get to work.

I must say, if you’re going to be in a situation where your door’s getting kicked in, that’s probably the way to go.

Anyway, these bits and pieces of drama have delayed my telling you about Oh Magic Hour’s four-star review of Child of a Hidden Sea. Emily at OMH has also interviewed me, and the site is giving away a copy of the book in their Pirate Pack Giveaway, which is part of their Swashbuckling Summer event.

Go! Enter! Swash ye some buckles!

I’m also up at SF Signal with a bunch of other Mindmeld authors, talking about how to avoid Jo Walton’s Suck Fairy.

Last but certainly not least: Book Launch! If you happen to be in Toronto this Saturday afternoon, Bakka Books is holding the official Child of a Hidden Sea launch at 3:30 p.m. There will be cookies, a giveaway, and… me! I will probably read from one of “The Gales,”–I’m thinking about a Tonio story none of you has had a chance to read or hear.

Sunshine, cheese, and a bit of whine on Sunday

It is a warm, rainy and potentially thundery Monday morning as I write this, rain-drenched and delicious. We spent Saturday bumbling around Prince Edward County, exploring wine country with our friend Linda. Relaxation was had, a good thing because a big chunk of Sunday went to itemizing receipts from our 2013 move from Vancouver. The government would like to verify that lunging across the nation required a bit of expense.

Exploring wine country was a delight and, naturally, I took many pictures. It’s really exciting to realize that you can go either east or west and be in a vineyard in around 90 minutes, traffic permitting. I didn’t taste much, but I did have a few sips at the County Cider Company in Picton. Mostly it was nice to have a short road trip and a chance to explore.

Here’s a little structure that made me think: DIY Ancient Ruin…

Exploring Wine Country

Five movies I love, with actors I Meh

imageI have watched many a bad Western because, well, Western! None of them has beat out Silverado‘s place in my heart. It’s so much a favorite that it’s one of the movies we took to Italy with us. Because: Danny Glover! Linda Hunt! Scott Glenn! Kevin Kline and a soupcon of John Cleese!

But, also… Kevin Costner. Wooden, dull, square-jawed Kev. He’s inexplicably good in this, and not just when he’s showing off how well he rides the horseflesh. He is even, at points, funny. Good direction and the fact that he’s still working hard to make his name, I think, are the explanation.

There’s something in me that resists Renee Zellweger. She’s a terrific performer, and I heart both Chicago and Down with Love with a mindless fannish passion. I wouldn’t want to see anyone else in either of those roles. And yet… some hardwired thing within makes me want to dislike her. (Chicago also gets bonus points for being my favorite Richard Gere movie.)

He makes my gorge rise, but I thought Woody Harrelson was very well-cast in The Hunger Games. I find him convincing as a hard-boozing asshole. (I know he does a similar thing in True Detective, but hours on end of that was too much Wood for me. Plus it’s not a movie.)

I actually pulled up Tom Cruise’s filmography to see if I could find something other than Minority Report that I loved, and found zippo, nada, nothin’. Phillip K. Dick and Neal McDonagh FTW!

(Tried the same with Julia Roberts and didn’t find a single thing I’d rewatch unless the plane was going down and I really needed distraction.) So instead I’m going with Angelina Jolie and Sky Captain & The World of Tomorrow. I’m not strongly against Jolie, and I enjoyed the Tomb Raider films, but she’s not someone I seek out, or get excited about.

What are your love the film, hate the actor faves?

Novel Gazing Redux reviews Child of a Hidden Sea

imageOver at Novel Gazing Redux, Marissa Lingen says:

Sophie loves her adoptive family like crazy, but she’s still curious about her birth family. When she goes looking, things get wild very very quickly. There’s an angry birth mother who wants nothing to do with her, there’s an aunt who’s slightly more reasonable, there are people attacking the aunt, there’s transit to a watery world of ships and weird magic tech and different species of bug and bird and sea critter, with variable languages and national customs…and the variable languages and national customs matter. A lot. If you’ve ever complained about books where it was raining on such-and-such an entire planet, Dellamonica has your back.

Gardner Dozois may have had a hand in that. One of the things I remember most from Clarion West was his throwaway mention that too many writers imperfectly imagine their SF-nal settings, and that in particular they simply assume that each planet (sometimes each solar system, or galaxy!) will have one culture, one language, and one government. A lightbulb went off.

Anyway, now I have a planet with two hundred and fifty nations. Plus assorted languages, religions, official state sciences and other cultural ephemera.

My Terrible Mind Gets Subconscious…

write memeI am at Chuck Wendig’s Terrible Minds today, talking about the process of writing Child of a Hidden Sea, and what it taught me. (Hint: I write talky books.)

This was especially exciting because I love Chuck’s blog, and often find myself sending students and other new writers to read his frequently-profane essays about writing and publishing.

I’m also very pleased to be over at Corey Redekop’s blog for his Subconscious Interview feature, blithering about apples and coffee.