Whence AbductiCon?

Every book has a story – of its origins, of the secrets and the inspiration which led to its existence, the surprises that leaped out at the writer during the process of creation, the dead end alleys, the astonishing moments of transcendence, the feelings that linger when the writer types “The End.”  These essays about my books originally appeared at the Book View Café Blog.

From Alma’s Bookshelf

AbductiCon: When time-traveling androids take a hotel full of SF fans for a trip around the moon

When people ask writers “Where do you get your ideas?”, they might get a growl, or an answer for some value of “EVERYWHERE!”, or some snarky comment about backyard idea trees. Or sometimes they get a bewildered look and disavowal of having any inkling whatsoever as to the provenance of a story that swam into the writer’s mind and demanded to be told.

Abducticon coverI am not entirely sure where ‘AbductiCon’ came from.

It’s like nothing I have ever done before. It is science fiction, not fantasy, although as  I frequently point out most SF is fantasy: (Beam me up? Really?).

It is contemporary, its characters are people you will probably recognize. It is funny. It is metaphysical. It touches on the lore of my tribe and our favorite pastime, the SF Convention. At its heart, it’s a love letter to the con culture and the tropes of the world of SF&F. I actually deliberately named a character something in order to have ONE PARTICULAR LINE appear in the book (and you’ll know it when you see it. Trust me.)

It is one of the most polarizing books I have ever written. People don’t have meh feelings for this thing. They love it and laugh and hug it to themselves in recognition, or they berate me for having wasted my time on it and call it frivolous, shallow, silly, not worth the time spent ticking off the tropes that appear in its pages on the AbductiCon bingo card.

In what is known in the industry as an elevator pitch, a summary of the book in one or two pithy sentences, this one comes in as possibly — “It’s like the cult movies ‘Paul’ and ‘Galaxy Quest’ had a love child”.

The basic plot: What we have is a classic comedy of errors which happens with any convention, anywhere. It is thrown into a higher gear when a bunch of time traveling androids kidnap the entire con – HOTEL AND ALL – and take it for a swing around the moon while they finish figuring out their own origins

It is a book for people who love science fiction. It is a book for people like me, for people I love, for all the friends and colleagues I have met over the years – it is a thank you to that world for being all that it has been for me in its time, for giving me strength, and courage, and fellowship, and laughter – yes, even while I was writing this, the book was giving me warmth and support and permission to laugh while I sometimes escaped into it, writing it as I did during a wretched period of my father’s last illness.

This book is both for new or casual con goers, and for those who actually know what FIAWOL means.

Get your copy Here

~~~~~Indians With Umbrellas illustration

Featured art: Fritz Scholder, “Indians with Umbrellas.”

With thousands of veterans on the way to Standing Rock to help defend Dakota Pipeline protesters against militarized police, Obama under increasing pressure to take a stand, and the timid corporate media beginning to admit there may be a story to cover, things are likely to get even more complicated and ugly.

This might be a good time to look at…

10 Books by Indigenous Authors You Should Read

For example:
Last Standing Woman cover


Winona LaDuke, Last Standing Woman

This novel spans decades and generations of people living on the White Earth Reservation in Minnesota, telling stories of struggle, strength and resistance that culminate in an uprising for independence.
See all the books at Lithub HERE

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Why not?

Today’s Quote

Holiday Foe Books poster


What is Slava?

Where I come from, under the wing of the Orthodox Christian church, birthdays have long been secondary in importance to one’s “Imendan” (name-day) which is celebrated on the day that belongs to the saint after whom one is named.

It is in some ways akin to the naming rules of some religious more Western countries where it’s the Catholic faith that holds sway and whatever the actual name given to a baby might be, there has to be an honest-to-goodness saint’s name embedded in there somewhere. In Serbia, where I was born, the “Imendan” was the important personal celebration.

A Slava Dish photoBut more than that, there is another custom which hinges on a saint’s identity and which is I believe unique to the Serbian Orthodox faith. This is something that we know as “Slava”.

The word literally means “Celebration”  or “Thanksgiving”. It is not an individual but rather a family celebration, and it is kept on the feast day of the patron saint of the entire family. Continue reading

How can I write…?

I and 33 other authors offer advice.

I wasn’t consulted, but my best advice?

Nothing is EVER finished – but you have to know when to let go. It won’t be perfect. Not EVER. Live with it. Get your story as good as you can and then let it step out into the world to seek its fortune. Hope it sends you a postcard to show you how it’s doing.”

That’s it. But it took me a score of books and a few million words to really recognize the truth of it. And between you and me, I sometimes have a hard time practicing what I preach.

I particularly like this advice:

33. “Ignore all lists of writing tips. Including this one…every time you hear a writing tip, you have to decide whether it means something to you, resonates with you, or (it’s) the stupidest thing you’ve ever heard. It’s your book, you need to learn to write it your way. Now please ignore this advice. – Marcus Sedgwick, author of The Ghosts of Heaven and others

And this:
As Bad as it gets posterimages.unsplash.com

07. First drafts are always horrible and ugly. Don’t worry about that – it’s the same for everyone…if you keep redrafting, one day you will look at your horrible book and realise that you’ve turned it into something actually quite beautiful. – Robin Stevens, author of the Murder Most Unladylike series

See all the advice at Buzzfeed HERE

The Japanese Museum of Rocks That Look Like faces

Rock faces 1Rocks have faces? Rocks have souls?

This is FABULOUS. this is a cabinet of stories waiting to happen. It gives me a happy and slightly insane urge to go out and start turning rocks over and asking them to talk to me.

Speaker to Rocks. There are worse things to aspire to be…

The museum is called the Chinsekikan (which means hall of curious rocks) and it houses over 1700 rocks that resemble human faces. It’s in Chichibu, two hours northwest of Tokyo and may be the only one of its kind.
Rock face 2 photoThe story in Colossal suggests this looks like Elvis Presley. I think it looks rather like our lamentable president-elect.

Read the whole story at the Colossal website HERE

26 Very Long Books Worth the Time They’ll Take to Read

My choice in this list of books selected by Boris Kachka in Vulture might be obvious if you know my background. I was born in Yugoslavia, a country that no longer exists. Clifton Fadiman of the New Yorker called it “one of the great books of our time“. I certainly agree.

I find the comments on the back cover of my own copy that was given to me shortly after the US and NATO’s war on my homeland to be very perceptive:

Black Lamb and Grey Falcon coverBlack Lamb and Grey Falcon: A Journey Through Yugoslavia,  Rebecca West (1941, 1,181 pages)

Written on the brink of World War II, West’s classic examination of the history, people, and politics of Yugoslavia illuminates a region that is once again the center of international concern. A magnificent blend of travel journal, cultural commentary, and historical insight, it goes into the troubled history of the Balkans and the uneasy relationships among its ethnic groups. The landscape and people Yugoslavia are brilliantly observed as Rebecca West and untangles the tensions that rule the country’s history as well as its daily life.

See all the other books at the Vulture website HERE

Quote of the Day

The best novels are those that are important without being like medicine; they have something to say, are expansive and intelligent but never forget to be entertaining and to have character and emotion at their centre.” ~ Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

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Whence The Weres?

One of a series of essays about the backstories of my books – the origins, the inspiration, the difficulties, the surprises. The essays originally appeared in the Book View Café Blog.

Every book has a story – a story of origin, of the secrets and the inspiration which led to its existence, the surprises that waited to leap out at the writer during the process of creation, the dead end alleys one wanders into and then has to battle to reverse out of when it becomes obvious that one is astray, the astonishment at the moments of transcendence that sometimes come unlooked for, the feelings that linger when the writer types “The End” and lifts hands from the keyboard.

These are the stories of my books, the children of my mind and my heart, and how they came to be.


Alma’s Bookshelf

The Were Chronicles

The origins of this series lie in my quintessential problem: I don’t write short stories, at least not easily or often or even willingly.

But when I got wind of an upcoming anthology about Were-kind, with the specific fiat that the editor did not want just the iconic wolves but OTHER creatures, exploring the possibilities of the trope, I had a wild idea out of absolutely nowhere.

It involved a Random Were, a creature that has its own primary form into which it Turns at its changing time under the proper moon, but if another warm-blooded creature is seen by the Were entity just as the Turn begins… then it is THAT creature which the Were turns into.

The potential for trouble and comedy was high, and that was the way I began to write the short story – and the tone was set early. For instance, my protagonist’s mother was… a Were-chicken. Because of an unfortunate farmyard accident at the moment of her first Turn.

You can see where this was going. I giggled to myself and began to write the story I thought I had started to write…

right until the moment that I realized that it was turning into something potentially much darker than the comic little tale I was originally pursuing, and that I was more than 5000 words into it and I hadn’t  even properly said hello yet. This thing wanted to be a novel.

And the further I waded into it and the more it unfolded it became clear that it was even more complex than that.

It ended up being three novels. But not your classic trilogy. More of a triptych, with each of the three books presented as a first-person narrative from a different POV character… involved in the same central tragedy. The different prisms through which the world and its events were viewed by these three very different characters gave my story an unparalleled depth and dimension. I was writing something very special.

Thematically, the books differentiated according to their protagonists.

The Were Chronicles coversJazz, the voice of “Random” (Book 1) was the youngest of the POV characters and one who was, perhaps, by far the most innocent of them. It fell to her to explore the dark and vindictive shadows of bullying and discrimination, of finding out about the bitterness of being “other” in the world, of having to struggle with the harsh realities of being alone and not quite knowing who or what to trust. It turned out to be a harrowing book, holding up a mirror to the truths which were being played out in many a reader’s real life – and for some readers it proved to be an unexpected spar of salvation and insight and understanding. (Buy it HERE)

Book 2, “Wolf” dealt with Science. I finally went back to my own educational background, my MSc in Molecular Biology, and I worked out the genetics behind being Were as opposed to being human. The book also dealt with the dangers of dogma and agendas when hidden behind the shield of that science, and explored those issues as well as ideas of guilt and expiation, of sacrifice and salvation, of growing up and finding one’s place in an uncaring world. Mal, my protagonist, Jazz’s older brother, was a brooding and moody angsty teenage BOY, in every sense of that word, until circumstances made him step up and take responsibility – and I was in awe of this character and what he brought to me and to my story, of how he showed the process of coming of age. (Buy it HERE)

And then came Book 3, “Shifter”, where Mal’s friend Saladin van Schalkwyk , better known as Chalky, took center stage. A Don Quixote of a character, a lost boy, a creature lonely and wary and abandoned, and the greatest and most unique Were of them all. He was a white knight and a trickster both, a transcendent creature, a joy to write about. And his book dealt with the dangers and the heady triumphs brought on by that isolation and that responsibility – and also, in broader terms, circled back to the original issues of being “different” and being hated and feared and where those things could lead (open warfare) when fueled by the torches of fundamentalism and malice. (Buy it HERE)

The three books are some of the best and potentially some of the most important things I’ve ever written. And I am immensely proud of them.

Quite aside from the main characters, all of whom were absolute gifts, there were moments of unexpected beauty and poignancy. There was the love between siblings, between family, which was stronger than anything that the world piled on and had to be honored. There was the love between friends, which was the bond of promise and trust. There was the love between mates, the two halves of a couple, and the bonds that are forged when two soulmates meet one another. And all of this was luminous. And then there was the dark light of hatred and fear and the wicked shadows that it cast across the world.

These may be be books about Were kind in title, but at their fundamental root they are actually books about what it means to be human.

People tell me they wept when they reached the conclusion of “Shifter.” I’m glad. It shows me that these books have reached a deep emotional core within people, as they had been meant to.

Writers are often asked  which of their books are their favorites – and it’s an impossible question to answer because it’s like asking a mother to choose her favorite child. But if I had to pick the books of which I am proudest – well – I don’t think I’ve ever been prouder of anything I wrote than I am of these books. They matter. They are part of a huge human story, instantly recognizable to those who pick up the books and yet breathlessly followed from narrator to narrator into places where the reader might not have expected to go.

I am lighting a path. I hope that readers will follow it.


Buy Random HERE

Buy Wolf HERE

Buy Shifter HERE

What’s wrong with SF authors?

Just why are these writers shunned?

Science fiction authors have long been outcasts from the literary world, John Howell writes at galacticbrain.com, sometimes attacked by their own.

He quotes Margaret Atwood ‘s mocking remarks several years ago: ‘Science fiction is rockets, chemicals and talking squids in outer space,’ noting that it was just one of her many attempts to convince people that she is not a science fiction author, “even though one of her most famous novels, A Handmaid’s Tale, is exactly that.”

author illustrationPersonally, the distain for the literature-of-the-future by the here-and-now crowd has always astonished me. If anything, the sheer vision required to create ANY future from scratch – yes, even the squid in outer space! or The Handmaid’s Tale – should be a feature of modern literature, not the bug.

But it’s just so easy to wave a hand and close the door on the SF ghetto. Sometimes I think that the “real” writers are so afraid of how they’ll be shown up by us genre folks that they’d rather just not compete at all and fondly imagine that by keeping the gates locked will keep the cooties away.

But I have news for them. it’s HERE in the ghetto that the future lives. The fences and the locks and the keys…they’re keeping THEM out, not US in. Because we’re already out there amongst the stars. Have the literati considered the possibility that it is around THEM, rather than us, that the locked gates and the iron bars really are…?

I’ll get off my soapbox now. You can read more of John Howell ‘s take on this at galacticbrain.com HERE

In a story at Bookriot headlined

Recommendations From an Unexcitable Reader

Sarah Nicolasan talks about eight books that actually do excite her, including ‘The Shifter‘.

That caught my attention since the last book in my series, The Were Chronickes, is called ‘Shifter‘. Alas, similar name but different book.

The Shifter‘ is by Janice Hardy and it sounds like something I might like myself as it involves “a young girl with a pretty messed up power. She can heal someone, but she must then push their pain into someone else.

The other recommendations by Sarah Nicolasan can be found at Bookriot HERE

For my own ‘Shifter’, a book which has excited readers and reviewers, go HERE

The 25 Best Quotes About Authors

Happy National Author’s Day! Well, actually you missed it. It was yesterday, November 1 but don’t let stop you from celebrating,

If you listen to my mother, writing is an affliction. When I would go off into my own little worlds she would call it being under the influence of my ‘writing virus’. But it is a syndrome that I have never really wanted to recover from, though.

Perhaps my favorite of this selection is a quote from David Gerrold — “Writers build their own realities, move into them and occasionally send letters home.
Writers are People illustrationSee all the quotes at writerswrite HERE


Tuck Everlasting author Natalie Babbitt dies at 84

Tuck Everlasting authorNatalie Babbitt. Photograph: Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images

Babbitt wrote and illustrated dozens of books, but was best known for ‘Tuck Everlasting‘, the 1975 novel which has sold over 3.5m copies. 

It explores the concept of immortality and has been adapted into two movies and a Broadway play.

Read more at The Guardian HERE


Quote of the Day

Feed The Authors illustration

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