Three Things I Write & Three Thing I Don’t

A few eons ago, my wonderful friend–a very talented writer/editor–Rhonda Parrish tagged me in a bloghop going around dealing with, you guessed it, three things I write and three things I don’t write.  It sounded like a lot of fun, I’ve just had a very busy summer and am only just now getting around to participating.

On a random note: I normally try to put some images in my blog posts to break up the text monotony.  Since I recently bought a really cool camera, these images will be a smattering of random photos I’ve taken over the past week or so.  As such, they probably won’t be at all related to the content matter of this post.  But who cares, right? Sit back and enjoy the hop!


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Three Things I Write

I write Speculative Fiction

Science Fiction, Fantasy, the occasional Horror piece.  These are the genres I return to time and again.  While I dabble in ‘literary’ or ‘mainstream’ genres, I just love speculative fiction with my whole heart and soul.  There’s something thrilling about pushing the limits of your imagination and trying to imagine what no one else has yet imagined.  And yes, they say there’s nothing new under the sun.  But how many people have thought about cellos that have baby cellos inside them?  Someone, somewhere probably–but it’s finding those strange little ideas that I love.

I write Robots.

Yes.  Robots.  They demand their own section, despite falling under the header of ‘speculative fiction’.  Why?  Because robots are just so dang awesome.  Artificial Intelligence, robots, cyborgs, you name it and I love it.  I’ve written numerous robot stories, especially ones that deal with romantic attachments between humanity and machines.  Two of my favorites were published last year at Scigentasy and Goldfish Grimm’s Spicy Fiction Sushi.  There’s something intensely fascinating about robots, about Artificial Intelligence and possibilities of sentience.

For me, the attraction of robots is twofold.  First, there’s the aesthetics of it.  Gleaming metal and sleek forms, the astounding power of a machine, the versatility of arm attachments, the immortality of an identity which can be easily backed up or sent to multiple locations.  There are of course the rust-bucket robots which are charming in their own right.  Games like Deus Ex: Human Revolution really fed my love of flesh-and-metal-amalgamations.  Shows like Battlestar Galactica (the reboot of course) only further amped up my fascination.  And reading stories like “The Shrike” by Zachary Woodard or “How to Become a Robot in 12 Easy Steps” by A. Merc Rustad provides me further incentive to return to robots in my stories time and again, reaching for deeper meanings and themes and exploration of emotion and philosophy and society.

I write Poetic Prose (Sometimes).

This final “I write” is somewhat of an evolution for me.  When I first set out to write short stories in earnest four years ago, I was very much a minimalist.  In some ways I still am–I’m not overly fond of obsessing over my character’s appearance and dress and body, or detailing to the most minute level the way the tile is laid out on the floor.  But my writing itself used to be quite sparse and functional.  This is something I’ve been thinking about for awhile–this evolution of preferred style that I’ve undergone.

I think I first fell in love with beautiful, sweeping prose when I read E. Catherine Tobler’s “Half a Woman, Half a Shadow” in Insatiable Magazine.  The story and the lush prose were utterly captivating.  I was swept off my feet.  After that, I still continued to write much as i always had.  Eventually I took up a job slushreading for Niteblade (where I got to know Rhonda much better) and more poetic stories spilled beneath my eyes and soaked into my mind.  As time continued and I stumbled into such excellent magazines as Electric Velocipede (Rest in Peace, sweet magazine!) and Shimmer, my writing style slowly evolved.  I still sometimes write rather sparsely, but I love playing around with lush writing styles.


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Three Things I Don’t Write

I don’t write Rape.

Might seem like a weird one to start with, but I’m really touchy about how rape is used in fiction.  The whole ‘rape as backstory’ is something I don’t ever want to do. And in the event that I someday write a story that involves rape (in the character’s past or present), I will be very, very nervous and very careful about how I do so.  In fact, I recently had a really gross, weird idea for a horror/crime/erotica novella and had almost started plotting it when I realized it had a character who not only had been raped, but was going to rape other people.  Why am I telling you that?  Because sometimes we just get bad ideas or ideas with implications and effects we may not have considered at first.  So yeah.  No rape.

I don’t write Racist/Sexist Characters.

As far as I know, I’ve never written a purposefully racist/sexist character.  I say ‘purposefully’ because some racism and sexism is ingrained and nearly invisible until someone points it out to you.  I’ve seen stories where characters were real assholes–and those can be fun–and then I’ve seen stories where those assholes are misogynists or racist or homophobic or transphobic, and I can’t stand them.  Especially in Science Fiction.  The future I imagine is bright and full of people accepting other people for who and what they are.  And yeah, I do sometimes write futures that aren’t so bright–I write post-apocalypse and other gritty, painful genres.  But I don’t feel the need to call these sorts of negative attitudes and viewpoints to attention, especially in a main character.

That being said, I can think of a few stories I’ve written where secondary characters or antagonists give my characters some grief over their sexuality–but not often, and when I do so, I try to make it clear that they’re in the wrong.  That being said, I’m not perfect.  I’m afraid there may be some of these things in my stories that I just can’t see yet.

I don’t write Sex (Yet?).

My characters usually don’t have very much sex–poor folks!  It just doesn’t usually come up.  They are sexual beings, sure, and I’ve written romance with the kisses and heat and all that fun, feverish stuff.  But I don’t really write sex scenes.  I definitely don’t write erotica.  I did try to this year during Story-a-Day May, but the results were less than sexy.  I won’t write sex scenes off completely, I’m just not really interested in writing them.  To me, the act itself can usually be skimmed over, the sort of fade-to-black or closed-door stuff that I see in a lot of stories works just fine for me!

(I do want to note that I know these subjects (all of my “don’ts” really) can be handled correctly in fiction–I’ve seen it done before.  In Who Fears Death — possibly one of my very favorite novels — Nnedi Okorafor deals with racist/sexist characters, rape, and consensual sex scenes and does so extremely well.  I guess I just don’t trust myself yet to write such stories well.)


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So, there you have it, folks!  My do’s and don’t’s of writing.  And I’d like to tag Jared W. Cooper, Gary Emmette Chandler, and Paul Magnan to play the Three Things I Write game as well!

Thanks for reading!

~Alexis

Apocalyptic Vs. Post-Apocalyptic

Hello and welcome to Stop Seven on the A is for Apocalypse blog train!  Hopefully most of you have been following the blog train from the beginning, but if not, make sure to stop by the most recent stop over at Sara Cleto’s blog.  Without further ado, let’s jump into my end-of-the-world ramblings…

 

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I love stories of the apocalypse.  I love movies and TV shows and novels set in the ‘end of days’ — no matter how that end comes about.  As a fan of all things dark and bleak, it probably makes sense for me to be drawn to these sorts of tales.  However, as I began to contemplate what I would write for my entry in the blog train, I began to think more and more about ‘apocalyptic vs. post-apocalyptic’.

These two categories are so often thrown together that we sometimes use the first term, when we mean the second.

The apocalypse is the end.  The end of humanity, society, the world, what have you.  And now that I think about it, I haven’t read a lot of stories that I could say were truly apocalyptic, at least not in the truest sense of the word.

I never thought about it before, but we don’t tend to write stories about everything ending.  That’s it.  The end.  Kthxbai.  Right?  We lean toward post-apocalyptic–the not quite end of the world.  The end of society, but not of humanity.   When I think about my favorite apocalyptic tales, they all revolve around the remnants of humanity and how they hang on, how they persevere.  In Cormac MacCarthy’s The Road, one of my all-time favorites, we watch a man and his son struggle to get by, to live just another day or another hour or another minute.  It’s one of the bleakest stories I’ve ever read, and probably comes closest to being truly apocalyptic.  Whether or not they survive in the end is–to a certain degree–left to the reader’s imagination.

So what draws us to to Post-Apocalyptic rather than Apocalyptic (I realize I’m making the assumption that other people are as drawn to the former as I am)?  I think stories of the final end of humanity aren’t as appealing because they tend to feel pointless.  Abysmal, bleak, desperately dark–all of the things I love in Post-A, and yet somehow it gains that pointlessness.  Am I wrong?  I honestly can’t think of very many truly apocalyptic tales.  If you guys know of any–book, tv, movie, etc–please let me know!

As for Post-A, maybe we’re drawn to the idea of society being reborn.  I personally love these stories.  The strengths and weaknesses of characters cast more violent shadows in bleak worlds, in the end of days.  Your weakness will get you killed; are you strong enough to survive?  What do you leave by the wayside in order to get by?  What happens to your morality when doing ‘the right thing’ will get you or your loved ones killed?  There are so many fascinating scenarios and questions in the post-apocalypse…

…Which is why I’ll now stop rambling and direct you toward A is for Apocalypse.  There are 26 tales in this story.  26 different apocalypses.  Get your grit on and dive in.  Revel in the desperation — or hope — of the end (or not quite end).  Here’s a bit more about the anthology and some links.  Don’t forget to stop by Alexandra Seidel’s site tomorrow for the next stop in the blog train!


“In A is for Apocalypse, the world ends in both fire and ice–and by asteroid, flood, virus, symphony, immortality, the hands of our vampire overlords, and crowdfunding. A stellar group of authors explores over two dozen of the bangs and whispers that might someday take us all out. Often bleak, sometimes hopeful, always thoughtful, if A is for Apocalypse is as prescient as it is entertaining, we’re in for quite a ride.” – Amanda C. Davis, author of The Lair of the Twelve Princesses


Excerpt of “Y is for…”

I am struck by the silence.

No fans, no humming processors, no dilating lenses.

My people are slumped where they stand. Crumpled metal heaps on the pavement like…like crushed soda cans, abandoned on the street.

I call out. “Is anyone there?” My voice is a symphony of plaintive, metallic cords; my words echo back to me, unanswered.

 

Available on Amazon, Createspace (coupon code TY6D2CWD for 10% off),

and Smashwords.(coupon code PJ67Q for 10% off).


Now I’ll leave you with a bit of lovely music from Apocalyptica – because what could be more apt?

 

 

 

Choose Your Last Words (The End of the World)…

I hold words dear.  I hold them dearer now that the world is ending.  Now that it all comes tumbling down.  I can hear the sirens.  That scares me, but I’m more afraid of when the sirens stop.  When the sky falls silent, helicopter blades no longer slicing through its vast expanse.  When the last bastions of human order and structure give way to the flood of the fearful, of the dying.

I write my last words now, but these aren’t the ones I hold dear.  These aren’t the words I hoard and covet.

I’m staring at my bookcase, blinking against the smoke in the air.  The crackle of fire tells me my choice must be made quickly.  Whose words will I take with me?  Whose stories will I clutch against my chest as we escape this apocalypse?  As we try to escape this apocalypse.

Bronte and Tolkien, I think.  Though Tolkien’s tomes are heavy, I know if I carry them with me I will never tire of the expansive world contained within.  I imagine myself huddled somewhere, in some ashy corner of our dying world, and finding hope in the pages of The Lord of the Rings.  There will be no Mount Doom for humanity, no ring to destroy to prevent our catastrophe.  But I can dream, to dull the hunger as we scavenge.

And Bronte?  I will let Jane Eyre whisk me away as well.  Her story may have no apocalyptic themes, but I love it so.  And maybe, in the time after the end of times, I will want a place to escape to that is not broken and dead and dying still.

I wonder whose words you will covet, whoever you are reading this?  What books will you foolishly pack, filling up room that should have been saved for bottled water and ammo and food?  What words are more important than fuel for your body?  What stories will you rescue from the end of the world?

I’m signing off now.  Writing my last.  It occurs to me that I will take one last book with me–one last collection of stories as we leave the burning remains of our home in seek of some quickly fading hope.  I do not think we will survive, but I dearly hope so.  I will keep my books to the last.  And that final book?…


A is for Apocalypse

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“In A is for Apocalypse, the world ends in both fire and ice–and by asteroid, flood, virus, symphony, immortality, the hands of our vampire overlords, and crowdfunding. A stellar group of authors explores over two dozen of the bangs and whispers that might someday take us all out. Often bleak, sometimes hopeful, always thoughtful, if A is for Apocalypse is as prescient as it is entertaining, we’re in for quite a ride.” – Amanda C. Davis, author of The Lair of the Twelve Princesses

I hope you enjoyed that bit of silliness above.  In case you’re still trying to figure out what the heck is wrong with me, let me explain!  A is for Apocalypse is an exciting project, put together by Rhonda Parrish.  It collects twenty-six apocalyptic/post-apocalyptic tales, each one starting with a different letter.  I can’t tell you the title of my story in this collection (it gives the story away a bit), but I will tell you that my letter is Y (Y is for…)A is for Apocalypse officially launches today, so Rhonda marshaled a handful of us contributing authors up to blog as if the world were ending.  You can find more such posts from contributors Cory Cone, Beth Cato, C. S. MacCath, Pete Aldin, Sara Cleto, Alexandra Seidel, and editor Rhonda Parrish.

I hope you’ll give A is for Apocalypse a read, especially if you’re a fan of apocalyptic/post-apocalyptic stories.  I’ve read a few of them already and can tell you I’m in excellent company.  I’m eager to read the rest of these tales.  You can also stop by the Facebook Launch Party, which will be running most of the day today.  I plan to drop by sometime this evening.

And I meant my questions above, by the way!  What books or stories would you take with you as you flee the end of the world?  Let me know, I’d love to hear people’s answers!  (For what it’s worth, there are quite a few more books–and possibly different choices–I’d have picked, I just didn’t want to jabber on too long).

~Alexis

A is for Apocalypse is available to purchase from…

Amazon

Createspace (10% off through August, promo code – TY6D2CWD)

Smashwords (10% off through August, promo code – PJ67Q).

The Price–A FAE Interview with Kari Castor

A couple of weeks ago, FAE launched.  You probably remember, right?  FAE coverAs part of the launch processes, a few of us authors are doing one-on-one interviews with other contributors to the anthology.

Last week, Laura VanArendonk Baugh interviewed contributor Shannon Phillips about her Fae story, “The Fairy Midwife”. (Check it out here if you missed it).

This week, I’m pleased to have author Kari Castor here on the blog as we discuss her story, “The Price”, also published in Fae.  I really enjoyed reading her story and feel it’s a great note to end the anthology on.  Without further ado, here we go!


 

Alexis:  At the very start of the story, the tension feels so carefully crafted by the sudden stillness. When the berries plunked into the bucket, I could almost hear them. Thus, I expected a visitor or a surprise. That the expected visitor – the fairy – was unexpectedly male was quite pleasing.

Most often, I’ve seen fairies portrayed as female. Thus, seeing him cast as a man was surprising. What went into your decision for him to be male? Was it a conscious choice or did it come about naturally as you were writing the story?

Kari: Well, I’ve always loved the old fairy folklore that comes most particularly out of the British Isles, where the fairies always seem to be abducting humans and carrying them off to fairyland. Male fairies are pretty common in those stories, since they’re generally the ones laying claim to human women (while the female fairies are snatching human men). Anyway, I knew I wanted to play with that folkloric version of fairies, so it wasn’t a stretch to have my fairy be male.

I did very briefly, before I ever put anything down on paper, conceive of the story as having a male protagonist and a female fairy, but I swapped it, I think in part because the trope of the female fairy felt too familiar. And the instant I made the change mentally, I knew it was the right choice.

However, now that I think about it, I really want to write a story that throws the traditionally heteronormative opposite-gender fairy abduction out the window…

Alexis: I would love to read such a story!  When you think of fairies, do you automatically associate them with one gender or another?

Kari: I suppose that I do tend to think of fairies as female, because that seems to be primarily how they are presented in modern culture. I wonder if that is because so many of the traditional fairy characteristics fall in line with stereotypes about women. Capricious, selfish, beautiful, flirtatious, graceful, slender, dangerous… Fairy or femme fatale?

Alexis: I had noticed that fairies are often presented as female, but never thought about how that plays into stereotypes about women. Quite fascinating.

You mentioned that fairies—especially female ones—are often portrayed as ‘slender’. Do you think there’s a reason for this? Does it just feed male fantasy? Have you ever come across any old fairy tales where the fairy was heavier built?

Kari: Hmm, interesting. I didn’t really mean to suggest that fairies were “feeding a male fantasy,” but just that I think the reason we tend to conceptualize them as female is because the traits that seem to get applied to fairies are very stereotypically “feminine” traits.

I think we tend to associate slenderness with a specific type of ethereal, otherworldly beauty. Look at the elves in the Lord of the Rings films, or Tilda Swinton as Gabriel in the Constantine film, or Claire Danes as Yvaine in Stardust, or David Bowie as Jareth (straddling an interesting androgynous line) in Labyrinth. They’re all characters we’re supposed to read as beautiful but a little bit alien, unearthly. Contrast that with characters who are very earthy and tend to be much thicker & stouter, like the hobbits and dwarves of LotR, the goblins from Labyrinth (they’re certainly magical in a way, but they’re absolutely not ethereally beautiful), or typical depictions of Mother Earth.

Note that, even in my above examples, I really can’t draw strict gender lines between the two. Jareth certainly has, um, strong elements of the masculine in his appearance. Mother Earth is often depicted as soft and voluptuous (which is in itself a different, but also very common, depiction of femininity). But in general we tend to view slenderness as feminine and bulkiness as masculine.

The only example I can think of that falls outside that “slender fairy” norm is actually Tinker Bell from J. M. Barrie’s novelized Peter and Wendy: “It was a girl called Tinker Bell exquisitely gowned in a skeleton leaf, cut low and square, through which her figure could be seen to the best advantage. She was slightly inclined to embonpoint.” For those of you who don’t speak French (which includes me), embonpoint is plumpness, particularly in the bosom.

If any of your readers have any other examples of fairies who are plump or even fat, I’d love to hear about them! Why should skinny fairies get to have all the fun?

Alexis: Very educational, thanks for that. I’ll be interested to see if anyone else can point us towards plump/fat fairies!

Back to the story–as we read along, the interaction between Addie and the fairy is excellent. I love that Addie didn’t seem terribly shocked by his presence, nor terribly alarmed. It made it feel like this sort of thing—happening upon a fairy in the woods—was quite natural in her world, and thus, it made the world feel more fantastic and more magical.

Is the world in which this story takes place, meant to be our world (or a variation of it) or some fantastical world (such as we see in Lord of the Rings, etc)?

Kari: “The Price” is actually a (loose) adaptation of a very short tale collected by the Brothers Grimm. (It’s called “The Rose” — you can read the original here.) While I changed and expanded a lot, I wanted to keep that sense of normalcy that fairy tales always seem to have. No one in fairy tales is ever particularly surprised when a talking wolf asks where they are going or when they find the moon tethered to an oak tree.

So I didn’t do much world-building in this story because I wanted it to feel very much like a traditional fairy tale. Fairy tales always seem to take it for granted that they just take place in the normal world and that strange and magical things just happen.

Alexis: I tend to write very in the character’s head, allowing their interpretations to color the reader’s views. In your story, I felt it was quite the opposite. I felt we were pulled back a little, allowing me to interpret things for myself. I didn’t need Addie to tell me that the addition of ‘tonight’ offered some sort of threat. I didn’t need you to tell me of any worry she might be feeling as the raven, and the bear, and the storm lead us on an increasingly tense journey towards the end. I could feel that all by myself, without being hammered over the head with it.

On that note, was this sort of pulled back narration a choice you made consciously or subconsciously? Does your writing always tend to work that way, or do you sometimes sink deeper into the character’s mind and thoughts and emotions?

Kari: I don’t think it was a particularly conscious choice, but I think it probably flowed naturally from the traditional fairy tale style I was borrowing. We don’t, it seems to me, usually get a lot of interior monologue in fairy tales — they tend to have that, as you say, “pulled back” style of narration where they’re just reporting the events and letting you the reader (or listener, traditionally) come to your own understanding about what it might mean for these characters.

Considering that these stories would commonly have been shared orally, this style of telling makes sense. The storyteller’s gestures and inflections would imbue plenty of emotional depth into the tale, and so it wasn’t necessary to embed that into the words or the story. Later, of course, those traditional oral stories were collected by people like Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, who wrote them down and passed them on to us in written form. So folklore and fairy tales tend to have this interesting stylistic quality that results from their origins as oral tales rather than written ones.

This was something of a departure for me; I definitely lean towards writing much more from the perspective of my lead character, whether I’m in 3rd person or 1st person. I would say that most of my stories are much more in a character’s head than this one is, which was part of what was fun about it. Using the fairy tale as a stylistic framework gave me an opportunity to explore a type of storytelling I might not have used otherwise.

Alexis: Stepping outside of our normal comfort zone as writers can really be fascinating! Are there any stories you’ve written or had published that you felt particularly pushed you into new territories, genres, or styles as well? (If so, where can we find them?)

Kari: I’ve been writing prose fiction since I was a kid (in fact, I got my first publishing credit in junior high — although it was about a decade and a half after that when I got my next one!), but this past year I’ve actually been writing an ongoing comic book series, which has definitely been a step outside my comfort zone in a lot of ways. For one, it’s an ongoing series, rather than a single, self-contained story. But, at the same time, each issue has to have a relatively self-contained story within it! In addition, writing a comic script is a very different kind of writing than a piece of prose fiction. Instead of describing something for the reader, I have to describe for an artist, and trust them to draw the scene in a way that makes sense. I’ve been lucky to have some really amazing artists to work with, but geez, it’s definitely scary to hand off so much of the story-telling responsibility to someone else! And, just to make things extra complicated, I have a co-writer. And again, she’s awesome and we do some really great work together, but it’s definitely a challenge to share a story with someone else and sit in a room together for hours trying to hammer it out. There’s a lot of push and pull, and a fair amount of wine, that goes into each issue, but ultimately, we’re really proud of the thing we’ve created. I can tell you it would be a different book, and I think not nearly as good, if we weren’t both writing it. We’re very different people, but each bring our separate strengths to the table on it, and we wind up having a kind of system of checks and balances on each other that keep things from veering too far into left or right field field (hurray for mixed metaphors!).

The series is called Shahrazad, and it’s published by Big Dog Ink. It’s written by myself and Kim Hutchison. Vol. 1 is available now, which collects the first six issues of the series. You can buy it on Amazon or order it through any local comic book store.

Alexis: Oh, how exciting! That does sound like a challenging, but rewarding endeavor. I’ve only recently begun to explore the world of comics/graphic novels with Caitlin R. Kiernan’s “Alabaster: Wolves” graphic novel. I’ll definitely have to check Shahrazad out.

So, throughout “The Price”, Addie seemed to handle interactions with the fairy without showing us any clear surprise or fear. She even tells him she’s not afraid of him.

What in Addie’s past made her so brave in the face of this very dangerous creature? I get the sense, as we continue, that her strength may have something to do with the strength of her mother. Still, it takes some guts to face something which she seemed to sense was otherworldly without a trace of fear. Do you think she’s had interactions with the fae before? Or heard tales of them?

Kari: I wanted Addie (and her mother) to be very no-nonsense sort of people. I keep going back to this fairy tale thing, I know, but I was thinking very strongly of the sort of people who live in little cottages in the woods in fairy tales, and they always seem fairly matter-of-fact about whatever challenges they face. And I was thinking too of the sort of people who live in little cottages in the woods in real life — I imagine it must require a certain amount of practicality and perseverance to make your life in a remote wilderness location.

I don’t think that Addie herself has had a run-in with the fae before, but I think she’s heard tales (or warnings) about such things. I imagine that Addie is the kind of girl who knows what to do if she’s caught outside in a blizzard and how to play dead in the case of a bear attack. Her strange visitor in the woods is just another hazard of life in the wilderness.

Alexis: Well put, and that makes me love Addie as a character even more. It’s not just strength, but knowledge of what to do in dangerous circumstances. She’s definitely a very self-reliant character and I love it.

Strength was, to me, a particularly strong undercurrent in both Addie and her mother. Her mother showed great perseverance, unwavering as they faced the destruction created by the bear.

“We rebuild.” – the mantra that has perpetuated humanity through many a disaster, I think.

If there’s a theme (or more than one theme) to this story, do you think it has to do with strength? With doing the best with what you have been given or with what challenges you face? Is there any particular theme or message or meaning you intended for readers to get out of this story? If so, did you set out to write the tale with this theme in mind or did it just come about naturally? (I know, that’s a question I ask a lot of you so far, I’m just very curious about how much of other people’s writing is conscious vs. subconscious).

Kari: I don’t know that I ever set out to write to a specific theme or message. I’d much rather just tell a compelling story and, hopefully, allow my readers to make their own meaning from it.

Alexis: That’s kind of the beauty of most stories—seeing what messages or themes different readers take away from it.

There’s some really great symbolism throughout the story–I’m not sure how much was intentionally written in by you, Kari, and how much I just found on my own.  I did notice a shift in the imagery toward the end of the story.  The fairy was typically symbolized by a pervasive darkness, threaded with silver.  However, towards the end, the imagery changes to silvery threaded with black. 

It didn’t occur to me until I reread the section again, but is this symbolism of a sort I didn’t note before? Before, he was always the looming threat with a thread of hope—a hope I felt for Addie, whether she herself felt it or not. I felt he would do some good for her (and in one way, he did—yet only by fixing a harm I think he created himself).

Yet with the flower, it is reversed and I wondered if it showed that the flower was full of hope for her sister, yet threaded with black veins, the threat of the price that would fall upon Addie’s shoulders.

Kari: It’s so wonderful and interesting to experience how you, as a reader, thought through the symbolism of the dark/light repetitions! I don’t know about you, but I often wonder how my readers will interpret some element of my story, and whether it will be in the way that I intended, or whether they will find meanings I never even thought of. In the end, I’m not sure it really matters what I intended, as long as the reader (in this case, you) pulled something meaningful from it.

Alexis: And I certainly did pull something meaningful out of it, which was a great experience for me personally.

What drew me on throughout the story was the fairy’s cunning, his planning, the way he waits and manipulates—all thrilling! And the why of it was irresistible. I had to know the answer. What does he want? Why is he doing this?

In the end, it seems that he wanted her. I’m still left with so many questions! Feel free to answer (or not) any of these. Sometimes it’s better that we don’t know, so I won’t push for answers.

I wanted to know why her? What made her appeal to him? Why did he take her and where?

Kari: To go back to the fairy folklore I referenced earlier, these are the same questions that I often ask about those old tales of fairy abductions. Why that particular person? What does the fairy want with him or her? I think I’m probably more interested in the questions than the answers, honestly!

I will say, though, that I don’t think my fairy would have been quite as interested in Addie if she’d been a little less indifferent towards him. I think that fairies in general are rather used to getting their way and of evoking fear or fascination (or a mixture of both) in mortals. Addie defies his expectations right off the bat and thus intrigues him.

Alexis: Now that’s an insight I hadn’t considered! Thanks for that.

So I’ll come to my final question…

Did you write this story specifically for the Fae submission call or had you written it previously and found it a perfect match?

Kari: I had written the story previously and was sort of letting it languish when I saw the call for submissions for Fae. It seemed like it might be a good fit, so that gave me a nice push to go back to “The Price” and make some revisions and finishing touches. I’m honored that Rhonda selected it as the end-piece for this really great anthology!

Alexis: Well, I definitely glad you didn’t let the story languish any longer.  I really enjoyed the read and this interview process.  Thank you!


And that’s the end of our interview, folks!  Thanks for stopping by to read.  If you haven’t already picked up a copy of Fae, I highly recommend it (Amazon, Barnes & Noble).  I’m only a few stories in myself and already thrilled to be sharing the pages with so many talented authors.  Tune in next week to Kari’s site, as she’ll be interviewing me about my story next!

Thanks,

Alexis

Magazine Review: Bastion, Issue 5

I interact with a lot of people on Twitter–authors, editors, publishers and so on.  It’s one of my very favorite ways to connect with other people in the writing business.  Recently, I’ve had the good fortune of getting to chat a bit with R. Leigh Hennig, Editor-in-Chief of Bastion, a new science fiction magazine which launched earlier this year.  When Leigh asked if I would be interested in reading and reviewing their newest issue–Issue 5 which launches tomorrow!–I was really excited for the opportunity.

So without further ado, I shall launch into my review!


 

 

BSFM_August


 

Bastion

Issue 5 TOC

Cover Art by Milan Jaram

“The Skip” by Clint Spivey

“Zip” by Emma Osborne

“Going Solo on a Goldilocks” by Mary Alexandra Agner

“The Cure” by William Delman

“That Place Between Deja Vu and a Memory” by J. Daniel Batt

“Mirror of Stars” by Frank Smith

“Nestmaker” by Jared W. Cooper

“Sanctuary Farm” by Garrick Fincham


Cover Art by Milan Jaram

I’m a sucker for good cover art.  Needless to say, as soon as I saw Issue 5’s cover, I knew I was in for a treat.  The artwork is absolutely gorgeous.  If I saw this in print, I’d instantly pick it up.  If I saw it in a long line of magazine covers online, I’d click on it.  I love how smokey it is, how the giant forms whisper a threat and their eyes are the only thing that cuts through the smog clearly.  There’s so many great little details in this piece–like the man and his hoverbike in the lower right hand corner–that play with my imagination and make me wonder what story this piece of art tells.  Definitely an eye-catching cover and a great way to set my expectations for the stories that lie beneath it.


The Skip by Clint Spivey

This story was probably one of the best examples I’ve seen for starting off with a bang.  It has a heck of an opening paragraph, really a heck of an opening scene.  It was an instant hook for me–I wanted to know more about what had happened and what was going to happen.  The start set me up for a grand sci-fi adventure, but the very next scene slowed the pace down and showed me this wasn’t a boisterous romp amongst the stars, but rather a quieter story, one that dealt with the aftermath of great tragedy.  It began to feel more literary, more character-focused.  I’ll admit, I wasn’t sure at first if this was a strength or a flaw.

Turns out it was a strength.

There’s so much I want to say about this story, but I dare not, for I don’t want to spoil it for those who haven’t had the chance yet to pick it up.  Let’s just say, I really enjoyed how two of the characters’ lives intertwined, how they mirrored and sometimes echoed each other.

“The Skip” was full of delightful lines.  The prose of the story moved along at a good pace, yet still managed to slip in those really meaningful lines, those really fantastic descriptions.

If I were forced to find fault with this story, it might be that the slower sections dealing with the story’s present felt a bit too modern-day rather than futuristic.  Somewhat regular apartments and doors and quiche and whatnot which sometimes felt a bit jarring compared to the tech-heavy skip-ships.

All in all, a really good read and a great way to start the issue off.


Zip by Emma Osborne

He remembered the taste of that first kiss and the scrape of Albright’s stubble as the both gave into something that had been brewing for months.

This story had to be my very favorite of the issue.  It’s hard to find a single thing to dislike about this one.  It hit all my favorite buttons: military sci-fi, a gay protagonist, so much glorious tech perfectly woven in, and true heart, true meaning.  I absolutely adored this story, but let me explain a bit more as to why I loved it so much.

Right at the very beginning, we’re introduced to two signals about the rest of the story–that it’s tech-heavy (in a good way!) and that it has a lot of heart.  The main character, Lieutenant James Kent, has already lost so much.  He’s a man bereaved, in a sense, and his struggle is gripping.  I ached for him.

I felt this piece had some of the most beautiful, lush writing of the issue, and yet it was balanced by the clean, precise descriptions and information that accompanied its myriad sci-fi tech elements–augmented bodies, droids, the connected minds of soldiers, all of it was quickly and beautifully worked in, in such a way that I was never confused about how things worked or what was happening.  It felt like a real world, a real future, vibrant and so well planned.

Again, if I had to stretch for anything negative to say, I’d say that the way Kent’s thoughts were strewn amongst the prose–without italicization–was sometimes disorienting or momentarily confusing.  However, this could be just an issue with the reader I was using.

All in all, this story is everything I wanted it to be and more.  I can’t sing its praises enough!  I’ve never read any of Emma Osborne’s stories before, but you can bet I’ll be on the lookout for her work from now on.


Going Solo on a Goldilocks by Mary Alexandra Agner

This story, sitting at third in the issue’s lineup, was probably the most confusing and hard for me to unlock.  Understand, I’m not saying that’s a bad thing.  I think this may have been a case where the author and her writing were just too smart for me.  Some of my very favorite authors make me feel this way–and I think, in some ways, it’s a good thing, because it challenges me to think harder and search more intently for meaning within a story.  If every story were a floaty, easy joyride, well, I think that would be rather dull.

So in comes “Going Solo on a Goldilocks” to shake me up a bit and make me think.  This is the only story I read more than once.  I read it at least twice, but probably more as I sought the story’s meaning.

The story had some absolutely gorgeous language–something I honestly prize in fiction–and a lot of great insights woven in.  I feel like there was a deeper meaning here, too, but I missed it.  I feel like this is the puzzle piece of the issue–the one I desperately want to unlock and I haven’t given up yet.

The world felt very alien, very well described, and the general feel of the story sometimes a bit desperate.  One of my favorite lines offers the sort of insight into humanity that I long to be able to offer in my own writing:

I listened and listened for fly-overs, found myself crying to know that even so many light years from Earth our culture keeps us all incurious about what battles beneath each other’s bravado.

On a random note, I enjoyed the brief description of our main character in this tale–“She looked me up and down: denim skirt to buzz cut to the name on my badge…”  I was never quite certain if the main character was male or female, but I’m glad it wasn’t made explicit.  Either way, this little detail of the skirt and the buzz cut thrilled me.

Definitely a story which I will be mulling over for some time to come!


The Cure by William Delman

“The Cure” was another great story that started off with a lot of mystery and carefully threaded tension.  There are little signs all along the start that something is out of the ordinary–either about the world or the character’s current predicament.  I really loved the vibes I got off this story–a sort of ache, an almost desperate feeling, and the pain of coming home to face your family again.

I could definitely relate to Simon, the main character of this story.  His love for his siblings is clear, his responsibility for them equally apparent.

As the story continues, there’s a very good balance of past and present, action and backstory.  There weren’t any vast boring info dumps, rather I felt I was given all the right information at all the right time.  A balance which, I think, can be hard to find in a story.

I noted, as I read, that the story had a well rendered atmosphere and that the tale felt almost literary with its painful past and family ties.  This hits home the thing I most love in sci-fi tales–character motivation, character development.  The prettiest plot in the world means little to me if I don’t have someone to care about, and the author definitely gave me people to care about.

The Martian vs. Terran conflict which crops up a bit in this tale felt a bit familiar–it’s something I’ve seen a lot in TV shows, movies and read in books.  However, I thought it was handled quite well in that this conflict between world and colony wasn’t the center of the story, rather the backdrop.


That Place Between Deja vu and a Memory by J. Daniel Batt

This story was a nice break between slightly longer stories.  The premise in this one was rather fantastic–I’d like to see it explored at greater length another time, but the length of this piece was perfect for the story it contained.  It’s a short and sweet tale with lovely lines, a break from heavier emotions and darker ends.

It felt like this story meant something.  Something about love and a sort of fate that people can choose for themselves when given enough knowledge of the likely future.


Mirror of Stars by Frank Smith

The universe in “Mirror of Stars” felt very bleak, very worn down–in a way I found most pleasing.  (What can I say, I love bleak!).  It was shown in multiple ways–in the rundown nature of the space-faring vessels depicted, in the hearts and dialogue of the characters, and in lovely, lovely lines like the following:

Mek heard something in the signal that existed nowhere else in the life that he knew.  Music.  Laughter.  Things foreign to his culture.  Things they’d left behind.

The prose in this piece was pretty sci-fi oriented, at times utilitarian (not in a bad way), with the meaningful, lovely lines woven in.  The world, as I said, felt very broken and desolate, which made the connection in the story feel all the more pleasing.  Mek did have some sense of motivation/goal at the start of the story, though I wouldn’t have minded feeling that a bit more strongly.

This story reminded me a bit of the universe in Joss Whedon’s Firefly.  A compliment of the highest order, considering the glory of that show!


Nestmaker by Jared W. Cooper

There is such a fascinating world in “Nestmaker.”  I definitely felt as if a whole novel could easily have sprawled out in this place.

I loved the mother-daughter link in this story.  It’s a connection that sometimes gets overlooked in science fiction and I love it every time I see it.  I felt the connection between mother and daughter–though strained at some points–was beautifully rendered and poignant.  Once again the prose jumped out at me as being meaningfully beautiful, something I find myself saying again and again about the stories in Bastion. 


Sanctuary Farm by Garrick Fincham

The message in this story spoke to me, perhaps the most loudly of all the stories.  What I took away from it was the simple joy of being what you want to be, whether or not that’s enough for anyone else.  There was a lot of talk of freedom and I feel the story accurately showed that freedom can mean different things to different people.

I really enjoyed the rural setting in this story.  I was raised on a farm myself, so it felt a bit like coming home for me–until I discovered the curious tweak author Garrick Fincham put on farming in the new world!  I won’t spoil it for anyone, but I will say it was quite amusing and dreadfully entertaining.  I also loved how people adapted themselves for their new lives–a trait we all sort of need at one time or another.


…Summary

You probably already know how much I enjoyed this issue.  I think that’s pretty clear in my review.  I tried to be as objective as possible, tried to find things to balance my enthusiasm for these stories.  Overall, they’re an extremely well written bunch of stories, and well edited too.  There wasn’t one story I didn’t like, a surprise, as most magazines tend to be hit or miss at times.

I really enjoyed the great representation with characters–gay, straight, female, male, and a few slightly older protagonists as well.  It’s delightfully refreshing to see the world through eyes that are not quite so similar to my own.

On that note, by my tally, the contributing authors were six men and two women.  Those aren’t horrible numbers and, having been involved in Plasma Frequency’s submission process, I realize that sometimes it’s just the roll of the dice.  Sometimes you just happen to get more amazing stories from one gender or another.  I would have liked more female voices, but I can’t say I would have liked to cut any of these stories out!

So that’s it, there’s my review.  I hope you all will take a look at this fresh, beautiful new magazine.  Issue 5 launches on August 1st and I highly recommend picking up a copy.

(Available on Amazon and Weightless Books).

Thanks for reading!

Alexis


“A Fairfolk Promise” Published in FAE

FAE cover

The day has finally arrived.  You’ve probably heard me chattering about this anthology on Facebook or Twitter recently.  The weeks leading up to the launch of Fae have been very exciting.  Rhonda Parrish and World Weaver Press have been very in touch with us authors, getting us involved in lots of interesting ways.  So I’m happy to finally announce the publication of my short story–“A Fairfolk Promise”–in Fae.  

I’ve already received my contributor copy and I can tell you two things:

1.) It’s gorgeous. I mean, really gorgeous. You can tell that from the image above, but there’s something thrilling about holding this anthology in your own hands.  It’s magic.  Almost as magic as the stories inside…

2.) The insides match the outside–this anthology is packed full of gorgeous tales.  I’ve only read three of them, but I can tell you I’m already blown away.

But enough with my jabbering on.  Here’s what some bias-free people have had to say about FAE…


 

Praise for FAE:

“A delightfully refreshing collection that offers a totally different take on your usual fairy stories! I found it difficult to stop reading as one story ended and another began – all fantastic work by gifted writers. Not for the faint of heart, by any means.” — Marge Simon, multiple Bram Stoker® Winner

“Anyone with an abiding love of Faerie and the Folk who dwell there will find stories to enjoy in FAE.” — Tangent (C.D. Lewis)

“The Cartography of Shattered Trees’ by Beth Cato and ‘And Only The Eyes of Children’ by Laura VanArendonk Baugh are shining examples of what could be done with the subject of faeries that surpass tricks on the reader, that build worlds and characters worth knowing and exploring, that have something important to say about the real world.” — Tangent (John Sulyok)

“Nibble on this deliciously wondrous collection of stories of fae one at a time or binge on its delights on one night, you’ll love the faerie feast this collection provides. I devoured it.” — Kate Wolford, editor of Beyond the Glass Slipper; editor and publisher of Enchanted Conversation: A Fairytale Magazine


 

What’s more, we’re having a Fae Launch Party over on Facebook and I hope you all will join us!  Many of us authors will be popping in, editor Rhonda Parrish will be there, and it’s just going to be an all-around fun time.  There will also be some giveaways going on–I plan to giveaway a copy of Plasma Frequency Magazine, Issue 11.  The launch party runs from 7-10PM EST.

Sometime in the coming weeks, I’ll be back here on the blog again to interview one of my fellow contributors about her story in the book.  More details about that later on!

So I’m done chattering.  Away with you–fly to the dark, lovely branches of Fae and, please, let me know what you think!

~Alexis

“On Uppermost Winds” (Part 2) Published in Cricket Magazine

I’m a bit belated in announcing that the July/August issue of Cricket Magazine is now out, featuring the second half of my children’s fantasy tale–“On Uppermost Winds”. As with the May/June issue, this month’s artwork is utterly fantastic. I won’t spoil the interior art/illustrations for my story, but I can tell you they’re everything I wanted and more to illustrate Asyra, her world and her story.

Cricket July-August

 

You can pick up a copy of this wonderful publication at your local bookstore.  Thanks, as always, for reading! :)