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.

Buffalo and Rochester, I heart you!

Are you in Buffalo? This is your chance to hit the Barnes & Noble for a signed copy of Child of a Hidden Sea!

My weekend tour of upstate New York went very well: the folks at both bookstores were lovely and welcoming, and I was delighted with Buffalo and Rochester. The high point was, as always, getting to talk to readers and fans in both cities. One fellow brought in the book he’d bought the week before. He knew I was coming, but he couldn’t wait to start reading Child of a Hidden Sea. This is, of course, the kind of thing an author hopes to hear hear everywhere we go.

There was some great food and good exploring to be hand, and the next best thing was the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo. This gallery has a mind-bogglingly wonderful collection, and Kelly and I spent two hours boggling at one thing after another after another.

As we usually do, especially if there’s a border crossing involved, we left ridiculously early on Saturday morning. It’s one of those “just in case” things that you feel a little sheepish about. And indeed, we were super-early for my B&N appearance in Amherst. But then on Sunday it took six hours to get home, which completely vindicated the ludicrous overachieving.

It was wonderful to get away and see new things, and the cats were extremely well cared for by a neighbor (the one who told us about their existence and need for a home in the first place.) So much goodness and good fortune! I am feeling very blessed.

Touring touring, it’s never boring

imageI am embarking on a whistle-stop tour of upstate New York this weekend, reading and signing at the Barnes and Noble in Amherst Saturday at 2:00 p.m. and at the B&N in Rochester, at Pittsford, on Sunday, also at 2:00 p.m. If there’s a single soul whom I know anywhere within range of these stores, I would love to see you. If you want to know me and you’re in the area, here’s your chance! We were in Vancouver so long that popping down to Seattle and even Portland had become, in some sense, routine. We had been through the Peace Arch border crossing dozens of times, and there are points on the road past Bellingham where I believe I could sketch every shrub in the ditch from memory. This trip is all new, all the time. Where will we gas up? Where will we buy fruit? (Actually, we’ve figured that part out already). What will we see? Is the flagship B&N in Pittsford as big and Disneylandlike as it’s made out to be?  Soon I and followers of our Instagram feed will know.

That Escalated Quickly…

imageMe: Maybe this is a hoaxy thing, but Orlando Jones just sent me a friend request on Facebook.

K: Really?

Me: His page looks pretty legit.
Both: Random murmuring about Sleepy Hollow and how would we know if it was a real page or not. Then…

K: Maybe he read your book!

Me: Maybe he wants to play Parrish!

Both: Faint, coo, imagine the advance money, giggle, realize this is ridiculous, climb back up off the kitchen floor and sit back down to breakfast.

K: Orlando Jones is too old to play Parrish.

A: Sadly, yes. Pretty enough, but a little too old.

K: He could play Cly though.

Both: OMG OMG Eeee! Die.

Kittens: ?

Yes, we are deranged.

Oh, Tish! No new business!

gomez

The phrase “Project Gomez” has solidified within my mind as a catchphrase or mantra for not embarking on any new non-fiction or blogging projects until I’ve cleared away at least some of the things I’ve already agreed to.  Since I like to say yes to everything, this means I need to kick it into gear. Two things must be done for every new thing I agree to!

Luckily, Kelly and I have tasked ourselves to a whole lot of chilling out and self-care this weekend: writing, yoga, perhaps the occasional nap. This should mesh well with clearing away a little of the mental clutter.

It has, at times, been a challenging week. I’ve already told you all about the clusterfrack of petty annoyances that was my Monday. Tuesday the floor got fixed (win!) but in the process the floor dudes solved the mystery of why our front door jams… by jamming it so hard that, in the end, we had to break into the apartment. The door got broken in the process, so there will be unexpected expense. (Fail.)

Wednesday we found out that the audit of our 2013 moving expenses had gone reasonably well (win!) and I got soaked to the skin in a thoroughly exhilarating rainstorm (tie! Because I was cold, but it rained so hard I couldn’t see. Which was amazing! But, boy, I was wet all the way to the back of my belly-button!)

Wednesday was also a three-event circus of day–I went to see Caitlin Sweet answer questions about her writing process at the U of T (she has blogged about the experience here), and then bolted home because the cats had a play date with their fairy godmother, a.k.a. the woman in whose grandma’s yard our babies were born. To cap the day we got to go to Charlene Challenger’s book launch for The Voices In Between. ChaCha is a terrific writer, and a delightful person. The event was fun and her reading was super-fantastic.

Here’s a super-brief snippet of her awesome reading.

CHS Review @Quillandquire

imageYesterday was one of those days. The kind where the computer attempts to die and the kittens take a leak on your dirty clothes, and when you go downstairs to pitch the reeking laundry hamper, the dumpster full of compost belches unspeakable fluids all over you. Plus the building’s hot water is down for the day for necessary annual maintenance.

You remember this last bit after you’ve peeled your clothes and begun attempting to decontaminate.

Then, in the evening, you hit yourself in the front tooth with a salad bowl without any idea of how you actually achieved that.

I spent much of the day alternating between grading student exercises and deconstructing my office, so the floor repair could get done today. Having to fix the floor so soon after having put it in has been a bit of a morale dampener.  (Then again, so was having those boards crackle underfoot.) Having to put the house back in a state where it looks as though we’re only half moved in has also been less than joy-inducing.

But! Kelly fixed the computer, I kinda hated that hamper, there was  (after a disheartening interval) just enough hot water even though the “Hey, we’ve turned on the fire again!” announcement didn’t come until two hours after I got in the shower, we’ll feel better when our floor no longer crackles, I might rearrange my office, the tooth didn’t chip and yoga, as always, heals much.

My dear friend Fearless wrote to say she loved my book, and the Quill and Quire did too. Which means, on balance, the day was definitely a win.

 

Tag, I’m It: Writer’s Process Blog Tour

write memeIn our last exciting episode, the kittens continued to be incredibly adorable, while Caitlin Sweet tagged me and Kelly in the Writer Process Blog Tour. She’s posted her answers to the questions in that meme here.

What Am I Working On?

I’m currently waiting for other people to get back to me on a few things, so in the meantime I’ve been writing short stories, putting together grant proposals, and looking over old projects. I wrote the first chapter of a mystery novel to see if I liked the voice and the direction I was considering. This week I reread a horror novel I drafted in about 2011, but haven’t yet rewritten. There are a couple anthologies I’d like to submit stories to, but I’m not happy with any of the ideas I’ve had for them.

(Yet, she said hopefully.)

In other words, I’m sort of snuffling around to see what grabs my imagination hardest. This is less fun than it probably sounds.

How Does My Work Differ From Others In Its Genre?

Early in my career a writer friend praised me for, essentially, having a wild imagination. Now, whenever I’m stuck, that’s where I try to push things. I’m not saying my work is more imaginative than anyone else’s–that would be insanely egotistical and untrue–but lately I’ve been getting praise from reviewers about the worldbuilding in Child of a Hidden Sea. I see the two things as being related: the positive reinforcement for some crazy-ass thing I wrote fifteen years ago and the invention of a world with over two hundred island nations, each with its own microclimate, magical resources and system of government.

By that token it could mean that imagining stuff means, for me, going out of my way to make it horrifically over-complicated.

Why Do I Write What I Do?

The only thing I don’t write much of is straight-up literary fiction, so the answer to this is: because I’m greedy! I want my mysteries, my horror SF, my seafaring adventure crime procedurals, my magical toxic spill sexfests, my thinly veiled Vietnam War stories. I write because I feel driven to write, unable to stop.

And I write all sorts of things because that’s part of what makes it fun.

How Does My Writing Process Work?

I write drafts longhand, except when I type them directly into the computer or dictate them into a note on my phone. From there they go straight into a properly formatted manuscript document on a simple word processor–no Scrivener for me!–and I rewrite them from beginning to end. Then I rewrite them again. And again. And, OMG, again. And then I get someone to read it and I rewrite it again. And again. And again…

I often do over twenty passes on a single project. Sometimes I reach a point where I’m convinced it’s irrevocably broken, but I’ve invested too much time to quit. (Sometimes it’s irrevocably broken.) Other times, there’s a moment where the clouds part, and I see a fine thing shimmering just beyond my grasp, and I run after it like a fiend. Only, you know, from a seated position, in a coffee shop.

Eventually I find myself desperate to write something else, or making it worse rather than better, or the deadline comes, and so I send it off to market.

Tag tag tag! I tag Jessica Wynne Reisman and Gemma Files.

Writers on Writing

Caitlin Sweet has tagged me and Kelly in the Writer Process Blog Tour, and posted her answers to the questions in that meme here. (She was tagged by Peter Watts, incidentally).

I will provide answers, but being tagged reminded me that 1) I’m trying to channel my inner Gomez Addams by finishing old business before jumping into new;

and 2) I’ve been working up a post about the things we writers post to the Internet about writing.

These essays tend to fall into a number of categories.

Write, Sell, Lather, Rinse, Repeat
– How to write more.
– How to write better.
– How to get your more better writing published.
– What traditional publishing is like.
– What self-publishing is like.
– Whether to go traditional, Indy, or hybrid.
– Stuff happening in publishing and how it benefits or harms writers.
– How to promote your work: how to sell it to people.

Writing lifestyle stuff
– To have a day job or not.
– To write in a cafe or not.
– Just plain finding the time.
– Also in this category is all the material about the emotional journey. That means things like coping with rejection, coping with success or failure, supportive versus unsupportive spouses (children, parents, gerbils, etc.), your first fan letter, good bad and ugly reviews, writers’ block. Anything you have feelings about.

Literary analysis
– My genre is like this, your genre is like that.
– This particular story is categorized as one thing, but is actually another.
– These genres are basically the same but are marketed to different people.
– Actual academic analysis of the work.

Our passions
– Books, shows, games, gadgets and other media that we think is cool. Sometimes we even talk about how well-written the stuff is.

History of writing
– How Leon de Tocqueville got it done and the Marquis de Sade’s editorial relationship with his… never mind.

Politics of writing
– Censorship.
– Sexism, Racism, ablism, and other issues: on the page, in the community, and within fandom.
– Writing that promotes a political agenda in some way.
– Writers who are politically active and whether/how/when/why that’s appropriate.

Health safety and wellness
– Writing desks short and tall.
– Food or exercise issues.
– Writing through illness.
– Technological assists.
– Why we should all have kittens.

What do you mean, the race of cats is cursed on Stormwrack?? We're unimpressed!

The reason I’m thinking about all of the above is that it makes me wonder I am wondering what we don’t talk about. Are there uncomfortable and difficult topics we should be addressing online? Would our readers and/or new writers be interested?

If so, what are those topics?

I’m a Functional Nerd! (for a Day)

imageMiss the sound of my voice? You can hear me on the Functional Nerds podcast today, talking about Penny Dreadful, a Twitter tiff Kelly and I had about whether (film) Tony Stark is a better man than (film) Steve Rogers, and, of course, Child of a Hidden Sea.

There are also new reviews on Eloquent Codex and BookNerd. And Julia, at All Things Urban Fantasy, says:

And it was just this mix of personal ability and magic that made this book irresistible. While exploring a new world is nothing new for contemporary fantasy, Sophie and her brother Bram do so with zest and personal abilities, not through the emergence of heretofore unknown magical legacies. Their very human approach, albeit aided by considerable intellect and prior knowledge in natural sciences, opens up this new world in a very believable fashion.