process revisited

In my recent author Q&A, I was asked about my writing process by more than one person. I got every bit as weird while answering it as I always do when asked this question. Despite rambling awkwardly for a good long while, I don’t know that I actually said anything useful or interesting about it in the end.

I remembered that I had blogged agonizingly on this very topic what is now six-and-a-half years ago, so I moseyed over to my archives to have a look at what past-Alyssa had to say. It turns out that even though like EVERYTHING has changed about my life since then, and even though I’ve churned out a whole novel and several short stories in the interim, so much about that post remains accurate today. Especially the parts about creative blockage. (And the tea obsession.) Plus ça change, right?

So I figure it’s worth nudging that old entry back into the spotlight, because I think it does a better and more organized job of talking about whatever the hell my process is than my rambling answer in the Q&A did.

Process Shmocess, or How I Art Like a Lunatic

What is always true across all times and formats in which I talk about this subject is that it has a way of kicking up my Imposter Syndrome with an intensity that little else can match. I’m not sure why this one thing is the Big Red Button of activating my sense of being a fraud, but I feel like it’s probably lodged somewhere near my ridiculous but unshakable feeling that I can’t be called an “artist” if I can’t draw, specifically.

You’ll just have to try to bear with my anguished flailing until I go back to remembering that I can’t be a fake writer if I’m literally holding, in my hands, a real copy of a real book that I wrote.

new short stories for the lineup

Hard to believe that we’re already a third of the way into June, but here we are. Summer! It’s certainly an artifact from my long-ago schooldays, but I tend to think of summer as a time to read all the fiction. Just me?

I don’t have any new books ready for you guys to dig into yet, but I’m pleased to announce that two more of the Asrellion short stories previously available only to my Kickstarter backers are now open to all readers: “Green” and “Witness.”

Have you wondered what happened just after Naoise Raynesley left at the end of Mornnovin? Wished you’d seen Lyn and Cole’s wedding? “Witness” is the story for you. Ever wanted to know what Tomanasíl Maiantar was like before he became Regent and Loríen’s guardian? Wondered just how he got involved with someone as different from him as Gallanas Raia? Read “Green” to find out. And while you’re at it, check out the rest of the short stories currently up for grabs to really get into the world of Asrellion.

The stories are password locked and a whatever-you-think-is-fair payment to my PayPal.me account gets you access.

Go forth and read!

Q&A Bonus Round!

It has been brought to my wandering attention that I missed a question in my author Q&A. It’s a good one too and it seems a real shame to let it slide, so I’m going to take a crack at it here.

Q: “Who is your favorite and least favorite characters and why excluding the main hero/heroines/villians?”

Wow!

I have this feeling that writers probably aren’t supposed to admit that they have favorite characters, sort of like the way parents aren’t supposed to have favorites among their own children (even though we all know they totally do.) But I’m nothing if not a rebel.

So, obviously my main characters are my favorites, or else someone else would be the main characters. You want to know who else, though? Unapologetically, I am a big fan of one Neldorí Chalaqar, my favorite shitlord. He’s a terrible, terrible person who is so much fun to write. For real, I often find myself grinning as I write Neldorí scenes because he’s just so in love with himself, so brazen, so smooth, so amoral, and so pleased to be exactly who and what he is. He has, like, whatever the exact opposite of Imposter Syndrome is. If he were a real person, he would be insufferable and I would hate every second of having to deal with him. As a fictional character, he’s a damn delight.

My least favorite character? Would it surprise you to hear that if you’d asked this question a couple decades ago, I might have considered Lyn in this category? I used to have a fiercely difficult time understanding and writing her. Just in general, I don’t understand optimism and I sometimes find myself annoyed by it. As I’ve gotten older, though, and as I’ve made deliberate choices to lean into my own softness and my wonder at the world, Lyn and I have started to see things more like each other. I realize that I wasn’t being fair to her (or optimists) back in the day and I like her a lot better now.

Today I’d probably say my least favorite character is Qroíllenas Qaí. It’s not his fault that he really has no redeeming qualities — he’s just doing what he was written to do. But yeah. He really has no redeeming qualities. In the same way that writing Neldorí gives me joy, writing Qroíllen always sucks it out of me.

So there you go, question-asker! Sorry this answer didn’t make it into the Q&A video, but you got your very own blog post, so that’s something.

book for sale, slightly damaged

For a surprise on my Saturday, a vendor returned an unsold copy of TRAJELON to me with slight exterior damage along the bottom edge. This is mainly surprising because I had no idea that any vendors actually had/have physical copies of my books in stock. Huh.

I’m offering to turn that poor rejected copy around at cost ($8.26 + tax) plus $3.55 shipping for a total of $12.31 to the first person who speaks up for it.

Normal retail $17.99.

Email me at DogwoodHouseBooks@gmail.com if you would like to give this lonely book a forever home!

UPDATE:

The book has been claimed and is going to its new home tomorrow. ❤

our trauma. our vast national grief.

I just finished watching the national memorial service for our Covid dead, arranged by President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris. I thought it was important to participate because through all of this, we have never collectively been allowed to mourn the grave injury that we are all suffering. In fact, half of the country is actively denying the injury, trying to gaslight us into believing there is not in fact this gaping hole in the nation and in our hearts where nearly half a million of our friends, co-workers, and loved ones were just a year ago.

That our incoming president felt the necessity of acknowledging the ache of this national wound — simply, humbly, without bravado, but with solemn sincerity — and inviting all of us to join him briefly in sharing the burden of that grief before turning toward the celebration of his inauguration, is so decent. So human. So normal. Almost as soon as the service began, I started sobbing uncontrollably for the stark contrast between this decency and the grotesque inhumanity of the monster who has been subjecting all of us to the whims of his diseased psyche for the past five years.

Now that the destructive T**** regime is coming to an end and the weight is beginning to lift, I’m starting to realize just how constantly triggering it has been as an abuse survivor to live under the national thumb of an abuser whose name and face and relentless indignities have been centered so prominently in the daily business of our lives. Having escaped abuse before, I know that the period after you get free is when you collapse under the weight of everything you’ve been carrying for so long. It’s no surprise that I would find myself suddenly heaving with sobs just because an average Joe and his Vice President addressed the nation for a few quiet minutes to recognize the collective trauma we’ve been unable to process because it is ongoing. Because it is in dispute by those who would gaslight us and traumatize is further. Because we’re supposed to be focusing on going to our jobs and doing our work and “supporting the economy.” Because to truly admit to the vastness of this loss, this grief, would mean having to admit that we are in real trouble and it is our neighbors, friends, and family who got us here by uncritically swallowing the lies of a sociopath.

This grief, this vast national grief, is too big for any one of us to bear. As I watched the memorial lights serenely reflect into the pool of the National Mall while our incoming leaders joined us in a moment of silence, it hit home that we don’t have to bear it alone anymore.

It’s going to be a while before I’m okay. Trauma does a number on you in so many ways, and you never know how it’ll pop back up or when. If you’re also not okay, that’s fine. We’re all in this together and we’ve all been through a lot.

But for now, it’s good to be reminded that it’s possible to expect and see decency in our leaders. The last administration was a four-year stress dream. Let’s wake up, wash off the funk, and remember that no matter what our abuser tried to tell us, we do all have inherent worth, there are people who love us and want us to succeed, and selfish cruelty is not normal or tolerable.

There’s humanity in the White House again.

because I’m worth it

Full disclosure: this is a silly post.

You know how occasionally people will say things like, “Make [x year] the year you get serious about your skincare regimen”? Well I decided to do that in July of 2019. I was in the middle of physical therapy for my degenerative disc disease and I was feeling like there was so much about my health and body that was out of my control, so at the very least I could do this one thing.

I renewed my commitment to drinking more water and I went out and bought facial cleanser and a decent moisturizer with SPF protection. May not sound like much, but you have to understand that until that moment my skincare regimen consisted of literally nothing. I stopped wearing makeup sometime in 2017 after my dog walking business picked up, because I was always just sweating it off anyway, and the only time I could ever remember to do anything to my face was when I would use a light floral toner to wipe my makeup off at the end of the day. No makeup => no toner wipedown before bed => no skincare routine at all.

It never mattered much that I do nothing to my face, because I always stayed out of the sun and I’ve generally just had quite nice skin — the one way in which I seem to have won the genetic lottery. However, by July 2019 it was definitely starting to show that I am a chronically dehydrated 40-something woman who now spends a fair amount of time outdoors.

So that was when I told myself I was going to be serious about skincare, as so many people constantly advised.

This may sound horrifying rather than like the triumph that it is, but I’d like to announce that on the very final day of 2020, I used up the last of that bottle of moisturizer. Only took me slightly less than a year and a half. That’s a big step up from previous attempts to regularly use a moisturizer, which have ended in the product drying out and having to be thrown away before I finished it.

I am beginning the new year with a new bottle of SPF moisturizer and the renewed commitment to drink more water. (And, you’ll be pleased to hear, I’ve actually gone through four bottles of the facial cleanser. I’ve gotten in the habit of using it in the shower.)

Thank you to everyone who is out here reminding the rest of us to take care of ourselves. It’s not only easy to forget, but it’s also easy to convince myself that I’m not worth the effort. You’re doing good work.

my 2020 review. spoilers: it sucked

I’ve been composing a long year-end wrap-up post for the last hour and a half, but I just deleted the whole thing. 2020 is slippery and difficult to grasp and also, I finally realized, not worth the effort I was giving it.

It’s like this:

Fuck off, 2020. In a decade where every year has arguably been worse than the one before it, you really managed to take the entire cake.

You will not be missed. Go away.

listen to Chuck

A little more than four years ago, I walked to my neighborhood polling station and cast a vote for Hillary Clinton.

I had mixed feelings about the vote, because she hadn’t been my preferred candidate and because I had not been immune to the GOP’s twenty-year campaign to taint her in the public perception, but also I could hardly deny my feelings that it was well past time for a woman to be president and that she would do a respectable job of it. I was, like all decent people, disgusted by the vile personage that was her opponent, but despite my general pessimism I didn’t think he had a serious chance of winning. I thought surely not enough people would be taken in by the con. Surely the majority of people had to see that the most unqualified candidate in the history of the race was running against arguably the most qualified.

At the time, I had recently begun dating someone indescribably wonderful and I was certainly under the spell of new love. That’s how I account for my uncharacteristic optimism. I understood the danger posed by Donald Trump, but I believed we would pull together to reject him.

This was my face after waking up to the news on November 9th, 2016.

I knew they were there, and powerful, but I underestimated the Titan strength of misogyny and white supremacy in this country — a breathtaking reveal that has continued as an unrelenting assault since that day.

What followed over the course of the next four years was as turbulent and often grim in my personal life as it has been on the national scale. Silencingly so. The scale of what has been wrong these last four years has rendered me largely incapable of forming my own words about it except to exclaim in truncated horror in Tweet-sized blurts.

This blog post by Chuck Wendig, in its entirety, does a fine job of voicing much of what I feel but have been unable to articulate.

“This Grievous Wound” by Chuck Wendig

You should give it a read.

the author’s voice

Last night, we had a wonderful virtual launch party for TRAJELON and I did a reading from the first chapter (while my jerk dog loudly ate his kibble right next to me.)

This is a recording of that stumbly reading in my very echoey dining room, for anyone who wanted to be there but missed it.

Other highlights of the event included a giveaway that I swear was not rigged despite the fact that the same eight people won all thirteen prizes, a lovely group toast, and an uproarious game of Cards Against Humanity played with a custom deck we made just for the occasion. All cards were in the theme of writing, fantasy, sci-fi, or Asrellion. Several people asked if they could purchase the deck for themselves because it was amazing. (Alas, it’s a one-off.)

The real hero of the night, the card that could win every hand, was “Wookiee Wang.”

Happy Birthday, TRAJELON!

From the Kickstarter fundraising campaign for Trajelon: The Way of the Falling Star Book 2, Tuesday November 24th 2020:

We did it! It’s November 24th, 2020, and TRAJELON is live for purchase at all of the major online retailers.

And at literally 12:00 a.m. of release day, there are already hucksters claiming to have used copies to sell.
And at literally 12:00 a.m. of release day, there are already hucksters claiming to have used copies to sell.

Hopefully, all of you have your copies already, as I sent out the physical copies three weeks ago and the eBooks last week. I’m very proud of this book and am terribly excited for you to read it!

As a reminder, this evening at 8 p.m. EST I am having a virtual launch party featuring a prize giveaway and a naughty writing-themed card game. All you need to attend is Zoom, the link to the party room, and the password 2TRAJELON. There is a handy FAQ here to address all of your questions.

To keep all social media posts about the party easily followable as the evening progresses, please use the hashtag #TRAJELONparty.

I hope you will be able to join me, not least because this Book Birthday is your victory too! Thank you again to everyone who helped make this happen. We did it! We made a book!

A final word before I twirl off to enjoy my Book Launch:

This mostly concludes the Kickstarter campaign for TRAJELON, with two notable exceptions and one request.

All rewards have been delivered at this time except for the two fancy maps of Asrellion (which are in progress), and the exclusive backer Q&A which will take place some time in January. Look for news about that after the New Year. If there remain any rewards you are due that have not arrived yet (or, like the eBook or short stories, that you are having trouble accessing,) please get in touch with me so we can get that sorted out right away. Otherwise that’s us square and I hope you enjoy the book you helped me make!

Which brings me to the request: Now that TRAJELON is out in the world, its success depends entirely on reviews and word of mouth. Please help this book you supported to realize its potential by doing your part in that arena. Online reviews and ratings, blog posts, social media boosts, book clubs, even just gifting it to your friends or talking it up to anyone who might appreciate it — all of that is an essential part of helping a new book to thrive in the wild. If all you can do is an Amazon and/or Goodreads rating, that alone is significant and a great help. So pretty please, go forth and review!

And I hope to see you tonight on Zoom at 8 Eastern.

A Word About the eBooks

From the Kickstarter fundraising campaign for Trajelon: The Way of the Falling Star Book 2, Thursday November 19th 2020:

Well we’re in the final days of the countdown until launch here and I just wanted to let you know, in case you didn’t see your emails, that I did in fact arrange for the eBook downloads early. 

Be sure to select “Ebook.”

Find your copy here at this shop (and be sure to put the eBook rather than the Paperback into your cart — a blooper that more than one person has made, so you would be in fine company if you did too.) The promo code for your free download was sent to the email address you provided on your backer survey.

Just a heads-up, the eBook does not automatically appear in the Kindle app when you download it from Aerio, unlike when you purchase an eBook from Amazon. We discovered this through trial-and-error on the day the emails rolled out. You have a couple of options to ensure that the book goes into your Kindle Reader app.

Option one: when the Aerio store asks you for the delivery email address, enter your Kindle delivery address. You can find this in the “app settings” in your Kindle app. This method, however, requires the preliminary step of adding the sending address aeriosupport@ingramcontent.com to your “Approved Personal Document E-mail List” in your Amazon account settings, before you have the file sent. If you do not, the delivery will be blocked by the Kindle app.

Option two: go into the File Manager on your phone or Kindle device, (wherever you downloaded the book to,) find the actual eBook file (named 9781733648042.mobi), and move it into the Kindle folder. Then, when you open the Kindle app, the title will appear in your library.

If for some reason you have not received your email with the promo code, please let me know.

Also, I am aware that international backers had some trouble downloading Mornnovin from Aerio last year. If they’re still a problem for my backers outside of the U.S., get in touch with me and I’ll make sure you have access to a download.

Do you need a pick-me-up?

From the Kickstarter fundraising campaign for Trajelon: The Way of the Falling Star Book 2, Tuesday, November 3rd, 2020:

Because I felt the need to do something productive and positive today, I just spent an hour and a half at the Post Office mailing out these bad boys.

It’s, uh, going to take me a while to input each and every tracking number for you guys, so bear with me on that.

Now that I’ve put all of the hard copies in the mail, three weeks before the official launch date, I’m mulling over the unfairness of the fact that the eBooks will not be downloadable from the Aerio store until November 24th. The only way to circumvent this would be to manually add the eBook to the store early, which would make it sort of a soft early release because it would then be available for purchase to anyone who should happen by. So… not sure how I feel about that, but I’m also not completely taking it off the table. I’ll get back to you.

But in any event, the paperbacks (and hardcovers) are now on their way to everyone to whom one is due. I hope they arrive swiftly and that they hit the spot when they get there!

And don’t forget to join me for the launch party on the 24th!

All Falling Into Place

From the Kickstarter fundraising campaign for Trajelon: The Way of the Falling Star Book 2, Tuesday October 20, 2020:

Just five weeks! That’s how soon this book we’ve been waiting all year for is going to burst onto the scene. I hope you’ve got the launch party in your calendar, because the custom card deck has gone to print and I’m really excited to play a silly game with it. (I know I said I would take suggestions through October, but we were full up already!)

The signed grand prize poster is here and it’s beautiful – ready and waiting to go to whomever the lucky winner of the draw might prove to be.

Shiny.

The special hardcover copies for the top-tier backers have also arrived, and I am pleased to report that they are just scrumptious.

I hope you're as pleased with it as I am, you three!
I hope you’re as pleased with it as I am, you three!

It’s also worth mentioning that I’m getting very excited about this book birthday – so excited that I am almost certainly going to mail your books out to you even earlier than I said I would. Probably the instant it’s November. The envelopes and the books are just sitting here ready to go, and I’m champing at the bit.

As a reminder, there are short stories at my website if you find yourself craving more Asrellion in the next month while we wait.

Very close now, folks! I hope to see you at the party!

on this day: part 2

Continued from earlier, when I told you about the courtship and wedding preparation in honor of this, the second anniversary of my marriage to the most wonderful man in the world.

It had seemed until the week of the wedding like everything was under control and we were on track to have a lovely, low-key event.

Buckle up, because the universe had other ideas.

Continue reading

on this day: part 1

Two years ago today, I stood in front of a small gathering of friends and family and married the best man I’ve ever known. It was a breathtakingly beautiful moment in a total clusterfuck of a day.

About a month ago, knowing that this anniversary was approaching, I set out to write the story of our wedding, for posterity. The truth is that despite planning the event for one year and ten days, and it being a deliberately simple affair, factors beyond our control led to the thing being an almost total disaster. I’ve already started to gloss over parts of it in my memory in the course of trying to preserve only good feelings about the day, so it’s lucky I chose this year instead of two or three from now to set it all down.

But because the disaster of our wedding day began before the day itself, I’m going to have to go back a bit.

Continue reading