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

getting close now

Well it’s October now which means that Trajelon comes out NEXT MONTH! It sure has been a long and crazy road just to get this far.

I’m slowly but surely preparing for the virtual book launch party.

I’ve ordered some prizes for the raffle, I’ve spruced up my press room, I’m planning decorations and snacks for the evening, and most of all I’m working on the custom card deck for our Cards Against Humanity-style game. I even worked up a spiffy event flyer.

It occurred to me suddenly when my friend sent me those adorable book earrings, and I commented that now I knew what to wear to the book launch, that actually I hadn’t been giving any thought to getting myself ready for the party. If this thing were in-person, I absolutely would have already been thinking of what to wear. I’m not sure why that never crossed my mind for this. So yeah, now I’ve also begun to fuss over my party clothes. It might seem like a silly thing to worry about, but I want to get into the proper party mindset as much as I can, even though circumstances are weird. Especially because circumstances are weird.

But the main thing, right now, is that custom card deck. I am still soliciting suggestions and welcome all of your fun and kooky ideas. Anything relating to writing in general, speculative fiction genres (for example: Tolkien references ahoy), and references to my stories is welcome. We’re currently at about 70 white cards and 40 black cards, which is respectable but more would be so much better.

If you think you have a prompt for a custom card, email your idea to alyssabethancourt@gmail.com. If you feel a little iffy about the necessary format, don’t worry. We’ll clean it up so that it fits. I’ll be taking suggestions through October, so the clock is ticking!

And the winner is…

For the past two weeks, I’ve been running a book giveaway to find homes for three advance reader copies of my upcoming novel Trajelon, due out 11/24/20. It is now my pleasure to announce the three winners!

Using Random Name Picker, they are nevadawolfe, terriwriting, and notimeforpants (which is one of the best usernames I’ve ever seen.)

Congratulations to our three winners! Get in touch with me at your earliest convenience at alyssabethancourt@gmail.com with the address you would like your book sent to!

friendship and mood medicine in miniature

Holy mackerel, I know some truly wonderful people!

Two weeks ago, I saw this cute post from Guylty, a friend and fellow blogger of the Richard Armitage fandom persuasion. She has gotten into crafting some really impressive projects in the last few years and one of her latest masterpieces are these tiny, tiny book earrings.

photo by Guylty at guylty.net

Little Hobbit books!

Naturally I was charmed, given my special relationship with The Hobbit and also my lifelong love of miniature treasures, and I told her so. To my surprise and delight, she offered to send them to me as a much-needed pick-me-up. Heck yes! I’ve actually been thinking of them every day since she made the offer, wondering how quickly they could get here.

Can you believe they’re here already, all the way from Dublin?!

I always check the mail while I’m waiting for the hot water to boil for my late-morning tea, so this was a lovely little diversion to be able to sit down with at Saturday breakfast.

Look at that adorable envelope. Did Guylty make it herself?
Awww!

Inside I found this assortment of goodies. A really nice handmade Richard Armitage/Shakespeare postcard, the long-expected Hobbit earrings, and… something else? What could it be?

They’re so cute!!! I love them!
But what is this?

Another handmade envelope, this one intriguingly tiny. The postcard hinted at an additional surprise treat to make up for the fact that she’d had to reveal the secret of the Hobbit earrings by asking for my address. I love Guylty’s imagination, so I was keenly interested to see what lay inside this “extra surprise” envelope.

OMG! OMG OMG OMG! SHE MADE MINI BOOK EARRINGS OUT OF MY BOOKS THAT I WROTE!!! AND THEY LOOK SO GOOD!

Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

I was so excited that I rushed upstairs to show my husband and promptly fumbled them all over the floor with my ecstatic hands. I LOVE THEM! Looks like I know now what I’m wearing at my book launch party! XD

THANK YOU SO MUCH, Guylty! You are creative, fun, extraordinarily talented, and a good friend! This delivery definitely gave my mood a lift! What great medicine for my soul.

And the rest of you should definitely go check out more of her adorable creations (with I assume more always to come)!

I’m wearing the Hobbit earrings right now, by the way. ❤

You Are Cordially Invited!

From the Kickstarter fundraising campaign for Trajelon: The Way of the Falling Star Book 2, Friday, September 18th, 2020:

Well we’re heading toward the end of September now, which means that Trajelon comes out in just a little over two months. I’d hinted before that I was working on a book launch party plan.

Today is the day I tell you all about it!

You are cordially invited to join me on Tuesday, November 24th at 8 p.m. EST for a virtual party to celebrate the release of Trajelon, the long-anticipated second entry in The Way of the Falling Star.

After a reading from the bookI have arranged for a number of fellow authors and artists to join me via Zoom in a very special game of the Cards Against Humanity sort for your entertainment, using a one-of-a-kind deck crafted for the occasion. The event will be hosted by the convivial Matt R. Lohr, co-author of Guide to Screenplay StructureThere will undoubtedly be appearances by my adorable husky Hento throughout the evening, as I will be beaming to you from the virus-free safety of my living room. And! I am planning a special little giveaway open to those who attend.

And because I’m all about that audience participation, I will be accepting card suggestions until the end of October. The theme of the deck is writing, books, genre fiction, and Asrellion references, and I am seeking ideas for both White and Black Cards. (There will also be references to the created universes of the other participating authors, but that’s another story. Heh. Get it?) Feel free to leave your suggestions here or email them to me at alyssabethancourt@gmail.com.

Surprise, surprise, I don’t actually know how to have a virtual book launch party in the middle of a global pandemic, so I’m still tinkering with the technical logistics of the thing. For now just put a pin in this date and time; I’ll send out the relevant link for the party when I have it all worked out, soon. It will in all likelihood take the form of a big Zoom meeting.

So grab yourself something sparkly to join me in a toast, and a little snack or two, and settle in to watch an evening of Authors Behaving Badly on 11/24/20 as we launch this beautiful book out into the world!

the birth of an orchid

I was given this orchid plant last October, as an anniversary present from my wonderful partner in crime. It had a number of exquisite blooms on it at the time, which started thinning and getting ready to fall right around Christmas. The last of them hung on until mid/late-January. I derived much joy from them in that time.

After the last flower fell, the flower spike itself soon began to wither. That, I concluded with fond regret, was apparently that.

But…

The leaves of the plant still looked so shiny and deeply, vibrantly green. While the plant was brought into our home in order to provide a view of the orchid flowers which I love so much, I do also love leaves on their own merit. And these quite obviously still had some life in them. It seemed a shame to give up on them.

So I cut back the dead flower spike and continued to water the plant as normal through the winter.

In the spring, I noticed that while the plant was still chugging along, it was looking a little droopy. I’m basically an utter novice where it comes to plants, coming as I do from the desert where nothing grows unless it wants to, but it seemed to me that maybe it was overwatered? I cut down to two ice cubes a week from the recommended three. The plant rallied.

But then I noticed it was suffering another ailment: the leaves were drying and cracking. It was getting too much direct sun in the spot I’d been keeping it in. Oops. I wiped the leaves down with a wet towel and moved it again.

In the early days of summer, I made an observation that gave me a tiny thrill of satisfaction: new leaves! There were new leaves coming in! I was managing not only to not kill the plant, but to give it enough love to let it grow!

That satisfaction turned to giddy excitement one day when I saw something else happening to the orchid plant. A small green tendril of some kind was poking out from between the leaves. Never in my wildest dreams had I ever imagined that the plant might flower again under my care, so I thought this was probably a new bit of root. Still exciting, because it would mean life. But to be sure, I asked the internet. The internet told me that I would be able to tell a root from a flower spike by the shape on the end. The end of an orchid flower spike, apparently, has sort of a mitten-y shape.

WELL GUESS WHAT!

I dug out a stake and began coaxing that bad boy into an upward trajectory. As a complete and total flower novice I was surprised that apparently orchids try to grow straight out sideways, but I rolled with it. Every day, I would check its progress like a proud parent marking her child’s growth on the wall. It was a big day when I noticed what looked like the first bud forming. We eventually got six.

The house next door to mine has been empty for the last two years and something of a jungle has grown up on the property, swallowing the crumbling structure whole. I didn’t mind because it blocked the view and also, some wild Rose of Sharon hibiscus sprang up in the space between that property and mine. Lovely. The overgrowth was so intense that it actually blocked the morning light from coming directly in the northeast windows in my dining room, instead giving us nice diffuse sunlight on the dining table.

Because time and perfect lighting stand still for no man, the bank finally sent someone around to chop down the jungle and try to get that house ready for sale. Suddenly the orchid plant was getting blasted with direct sunlight first thing in the morning and the new buds started to sag. I had to scramble to find a new home for it where it was getting light, but not too much. Now it’s hanging out on the other side of the house in the living room, with all of the books.

I was a little worried about those sagging buds that had gotten the full sun blast, but they kept getting bigger and looking more and more like they were about to burst.

And then, yesterday,

We have separation!

How long would it take to see that turn into a flower, I wondered? I have no idea what I’m doing here. This has all just been a happy failure into success. But look what I woke up to this morning.

Maybe it seems silly to you that I would go on and on about one little orchid plant that has sprouted a single flower a year after it was given to me. And maybe it is silly. But maybe, also, this is about more than a plant. Maybe this is also about all of those years I spent dying in the desert where nothing grows unless it wants to, and how I don’t live there anymore because I escaped through epic struggle that didn’t end even after I made it to Pennsylvania.

Maybe it’s about salvaging life when it looks like that life is over. Maybe it’s about perseverance even where there’s no reason to think anything will come of it. Maybe it’s about changing the narratives we’ve come to accept about ourselves — “Oh, I can’t grow anything. I have a black thumb. Ha ha.” — and understanding that sometimes it’s personal growth and sometimes it’s about the environment we’re trying to survive in. Sometimes we just need to leave the desert.

In any case, here’s a pretty flower that I grew.

Simply, thank you.

Yesterday, looking at the last $62.36 in my bank account and the massive stack of hospital bills in front of me, I had a minor breakdown and put out a post asking for some help limping through this leg of the COVID-19 crisis. I never doubted that at least one friend or two would float me a little grocery money, because I know that I’m friends with some genuinely wonderful people who aren’t blowing smoke when they talk about wanting to help take care of their community.

I absolutely did not expect for twenty friends, acquaintances, and almost-strangers to throw enough money my way to easily cover the cost of groceries and prescriptions for the next three months. Holy crap.

It sounds trite, but I honestly cannot express how moved and grateful I am for the help. I feel loved, and now I have the peace and strength to stand up to another day of this nightmare. You’ve done a small miracle.

This is community. This is humanity. Thank you. All of you.

in need of community support

*EDIT*

Due to the generosity and compassion of, like, everyone, my needs are taken care of for the time being. Thank you all for your assistance. Keep being wonderful.


Hey, friends.

Some of you have shared posts over the past few months stating some variation on the offer that if any of your friends are in need of help in the midst of all of this, they should not be afraid to ask you.

Well, this is me asking.

My work instantly stopped in March, with the lockdown. I’ve been limping along since then on the one government stimulus check, the generosity of one very lovely person just after my surgery in April, and what little I had in the bank, all while my medical bills have been piling up.

I’m about to enter a new billing period with nothing now left in the bank* and only $200 worth of contract work on the horizon (not to be paid out until September 14th.)

Jon still has work and has been keeping us afloat, but it’s not enough and frankly the pressure is crushing him. Obviously, I have no idea when things will pick back up for dog walkers like me. Quite probably not until next year. Who knows? And I am definitely not well enough to go out job hunting or work shifts at the sorts of jobs that are available right now even if I could get one of them. (Nor would it be safe for me to do so.)

So, yeah. I could really use some of that community support you’ve been talking about, if you’re still in a position to offer it.

I don’t have Venmo or Ko-fi or anything fancy like that. Just good old-fashioned PayPal at vulcanelf[at]gmail[dot]com or paypal.me/dogwoodhousellc. Every little bit would help me pay off another medical bill or buy my meds and groceries.

Thank you for reading this all the way through, and I hope you’re all weathering the nightmare that is 2020 better than I am. ❤


*Except Kickstarter money that belongs to the TRAJELON project, which is not for me to spend on my own personal expenses. I just want to assure everyone that the TRAJELON money is safe and secure and there are no worries about that.

Three Months Until Launch!

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

Hello, friends! 

As of today, we’re just three months out from the official launch day of Trajelon and I seem to be regaining some cognitive function on my latest med dose. Good thing too, because it’s almost past time to really get into the work of reaching out to book bloggers and securing advance reviews. It’s also time to seriously rethink the launch party.

When I was first contemplating launch party options, back in January and February, the world was a very different place. A place where, as you know, things happened and we sometimes went to them. My town has a nice little library that is very enthusiastic about supporting local authors; I imagined I’d approach them about hosting my shindig. It would have been a bit of a hike for the friends I have in Pittsburgh, but I was going to ask some of my local author friends to attend. Ideally, one of them would have given me a nice introduction, and I would have read from Trajelon before doing snacks and a signing. It wasn’t much, but I’m an introvert and a writer, not a publicist. It would have done the job. 

Now of course we’re in fully uncharted waters and there be monsters here.

Like a lot of us, I clung to hope well past its printed expiration date that we might be able to resume our normal activities by mid/late fall. It took me a while to admit that no, that’s just obviously not going to happen at this point. The drawing board awaits. Lucky for me, with my book launch happening later in the year, I have the example of many other writers who have worked out the concept of virtual launch parties to follow and take inspiration from. And one plus side? Any of you can attend if you want, no matter where in the world you are!

I can’t say yet what precise form the virtual launch will take, as I’m still brainstorming and working out details. When I do work it out, you’ll be the first to know. And I look forward to having you there with me as I debut Trajelon to the world!

For the moment, let me debut something else to your waiting eyes.

Hm. A box from Rebubble. Whatever could it be?
Better get in there and see.
Ooooooooooooooooooooo.
It’s gorgeous!!!!!

You can order your own TRAJELON release poster on Redbubble today!


As an additional WordPress note, if I have any readers who are interested in doing an advance review of Trajelon on your blogging platform, Goodreads, The StoryGraph, and/or Amazon, contact me at dogwoodhousebooks@gmail.com.

what power, what comfort lies in the naming

You know what’s weird? Everything, right now. What’s somehow even weirder? That I still have a book coming out in three months, which is both the most surreal and most mundane thing, at a time when everything else is bonkers.

But there it is! I have a book coming out in three months, as you can see on this very spiffy countdown clock.

Not just any book, either. This one… is very special to me.

My first book, Mornnovin, came into being after many years and many drafts. The first time I started writing it, I was in elementary school. I always intended for it to be just the beginning of a series, but it took me a long time to resolve – out of all the possibilities – just what would come next. That makes sense, because I was young. I hadn’t yet figured out what I wanted or needed to say. At that point, I was just transcribing my favorite fantasy novels into my own universe.

That’s not to say I wasn’t racking up life experience. I was, in fact, racking up too much life experience. By the time my teen years rolled around, I was living in a soap opera at least partially of my own making. It was stupid. I was stupid. Then poof! hey presto! I was pregnant in high school, then marrying my rapist to raise our child together.

Everything I’d planned for my future vanished in the blink of an eye. The stories I had in me all turned dark. That year, I wrote a sequel to Mornnovin in which I was most definitely punishing myself for “ruining my life.” It was bleak, but it was what I needed to write at that time. I’m glad I never published it.

Time passed. Things changed, or didn’t. I grew up in some ways, clung stubbornly to immaturity in others. I stuck out my time in that terrible marriage, and got the hell out the minute my son and I had an escape route. It took eighteen years.

That was eighteen years with someone who, at best, thought of my writing as a waste of my time. Something annoying that pulled my focus away from him and housework, and gave me unrealistic ideas, and wasn’t even earning any money.

Free at last, and having just finished writing what would be the final version of Mornnovin, I set out into my new life with the goal of finally being able to give my writing career the earnest attention it deserved, now that I no longer had a judging naysayer hovering over me. I wrapped up final edits on Mornnovin in late 2015, took a short breather to work on my query materials, then started writing a new Trajelon in January of 2016.

I finished it only six months later.

My experiences over the previous years of living with my abuser – of surviving gaslighting, sexual and emotional abuse, crazymaking, constant manufactured drama and unnecessary financial hardship, my physical and mental health needs being minimized, watching my son suffer daily emotional trauma at the hands of his father, my identity being suppressed and warped to survive the toxic environment, and all of the accompanying depression and anxiety – gave me a different perspective than I’d had the first time I wrote Trajelon. Beyond simply feeling sorry for myself as I had all those years ago, I now had something to say about going through all of that and coming out the other side.

It was quick work to write, but not easy work.

All of this is a story that I’ve actually told before, but I wanted to add something to it today. If it sounds to you like Trajelon is probably going to be a huge downer to read, well. Maybe. Maybe it will be. Writing it was certainly difficult at times, when I would have to walk away and practice some gentle self-care before returning to the keyboard and putting myself back into the necessary headspace. I am lucky that I finally had the safety and space to do that. I recommend taking that approach while reading it too. But I do think, without any trace of ego, that it is an important story to have brought into the world. This is not torture porn; this is a story of survival. Of triumph against darkness, pain, and loss, and against those who would weaponize your own vulnerability and empathy to hurt you.

How many fantasy novels have you read that are about defeating your abuser and choosing to stand fast against your depression to fight for the hope that tomorrow will be better?

(Seriously, if there are others, point me to them. I’d like to read them too.)

It might sound odd to say that I’m excited about debuting a book of this character, but I am. It genuinely fills me with joy to know that in three months, this story will be born into the world for all to see. I kept my pain in for such a long time – a lonely, heavy burden. By setting it free, I deprive it of its power. I name it and sever its hold on me. I show the way to others carrying the same kind of pain. I give them the tools to take back their strength. That makes me incandescently happy.

I was excited to publish Mornnovin because that was me finally realizing my life-long dream of publishing a novel, any novel. Being a teller of fantasy tales, which is all I ever wanted to be when I grew up.

I’m excited to publish Trajelon because I truly feel that this story adds something necessary to the universal library. Writing it was arduous, often harrowing work, and every piece of it has been crafted with care; I’m proud of what I created. I can’t wait to share it with you.

Just three months now!

TRAJELON comes out on Tuesday, November 24th, 2020 from Dogwood House LLC. You can pre-order your print or digital copy on Amazon today.