Rolling the dice on genre

As a reader and a writer, my interests have always been all over the place. If I was pressed to decide on two categories, I’d say they fall in mostly history and science fiction. I’m working on a historical romance right now. But I’m also (kind of off/on, kind of simultaneously) working on a YA sci fi novel. For a while I felt horrible about this. Like, isn’t it bizarre if your brain can switch gears between the turn of the century and a space station?

I’ve pretty much accepted this bizarreness recently. Some days I want to be in history. Some days I want to be in space. Life goes on. I expect as I get closer to the end of one of these WIPs, I’ll be making a choice to focus solely on that till I get through the editing phase and move on to submitting. Don’t get me wrong–I think e-publishing is awesome and totally the wave of the future, but that doesn’t mean I’m giving up on the whole submitting-to-agents thing.

So this is my current weirdness. Say I submit both the YA sci fi and the historical romance. Say (I know we’re jumping ahead of ourselves a bit here) I get a contract for one but not the other. Since I can’t seem to settle on a genre, that would pretty much pick for me, wouldn’t it? I’m happy with either, but I find that idea incredibly strange. I can think of a few writers who work in different genres under different pseudonyms, and even a few who do different genres under the same name. But it’s not the norm.

I guess I’m an oddball. I write what I want. For now, since all my novels are unpublished, I can gleefully go on doing so.

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For all my 90s gamers: Wolfenstein 3D in a browser

Well, I guess we all know what I’m going to be doing tonight.

I mean writing…

Fighting Nazis in "3D? Yes please!

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HBO has betrayed me

I’ve been reading George R R Martin’s books since 2003, so believe me, Game of Thrones on HBO is one of my favorite.things.ever. Overall I think the show is amazing.


A girl wonders where her bathhouse scene is.

HBO, we need to talk. Game of Thrones’ use of “sexposition” (ie: dude character randomly exposits backstory via monologue to nameless naked whore/wench) is pretty infamous. There is a lot of sex in the books too, and it isn’t always nice sex. It’s not that I mind the naked exposition. I don’t, not horribly much. Deadwood used this plot device a lot, wherein Al would go on these awesome monologues to his favorite saloon girl Trixie while they were alone in his room. I get that it lets a character talk freely to the audience who otherwise would not.

But. (You knew there was a “but” coming.) I am asking for a little equality here. Yo, Game of Thrones, you have a lot of female viewers! The sexposition in the show is seriously, SERIOUSLY, imbalanced. Male viewers have gotten full frontal tons of times. Boobs, boobs, and more boobs. They even invented a character who’s not in the books (Ros) solely for the purpose of male characters expositing at her naked breasts. What eye candy has there been for us? Let’s review:

  • Full frontal Alfie Allen as Theon (acceptable)
  • Full frontal Hodor (!!!!!)
  • Shirtless Gendry last week was OK
  • That one scene in the pilot where all the Stark boys are hanging around shirtless
  • Oh, and my fave male full frontal: the dude who is being dragged to his death behind a Dothraki horse. Yeah, that was totally sexy.

So, as you can see from this list, not exactly a scintillating list of male sexy parts. But last night was the proverbial Straw That Made Me Go On A Massive Twitter Rant. And I wouldn’t have even known about it. They MIGHT HAVE SLIPPED THE WOOL OVER MY EYES… had I not gone back into A Clash of Kings to check how some scenes played out in the book.

Y’ALL. Seriously. When Arya tells Jaqen H’ghar her second death wish in the book, he is sitting naked in a bathhouse. Oh yes he is. (For comparison, we got full frontal Osha sexing up Theon on the show last night instead. I will give you one guess as to whether that happens in the book.) But on the show, they changed it so Arya was all in a hurry and she runs up to him like, “You need to kill this guy this second before he reveals who I am!” and he’s all, “A man rolls his eyes.” And then, like a badass, murders the guy 10 seconds later. So, to recap, no assassin in bathhouse action.

Why does this matter, you ask? It matters because the guy who plays Jaqen H’ghar is hot.

Just for reference, this is the actor we did not get sitting naked in a bathhouse:

YEAH. I know.

Granted, he is dirtier and with weirder hair in the show. But still. HBO, you are on notice. Step up your game. A girl is mad.

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A photo slice of history

This is where my historical WIP takes place.

No, really, this is exactly where it takes place. I know this because according to my research there was a camp called Sunset Camp on this point on Raquette Lake, in the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York. Which, coincidentally, is the same spot the camp in my WIP is located. My story is set in 1898. This picture was taken not long afterwards, from Sunset Camp looking out at the lake. There is something incredibly cool to me (I’m a history geek as well as an SF geek) about this photograph. The idea that my characters went down on the dock and looked out at exactly this view is… pretty mind-blowing to me.

Of course, the photo is amazing on its own. This was taken a hundred years ago, and yet when I look at it, I can almost smell the tang of the hemlocks and the lake water.

If you follow me on Twitter, the availability of this archive of photos online is what I was geeking out about early last week. I found this one there, as well as many others. They are free to download, so guess who now has a giant folder of random photos from the late 1800s/early 1900s on her laptop?

I’ve never written a straight historical before (straight as in, without any steampunk or magic or aliens) and I am having an incredible amount of fun with it. My ability to switch gears kind of makes me laugh (I wrote an SFR novella before I started this). My goal is to have a first draft by the end of May, and I’m about halfway there.

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Release date now TBD

OK, release of Unsecure Connection didn’t happen on Friday. I will post updated information as soon as I have it. Please hold….

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Alanna’s big list of stuff I can’t resist in books

What are the characters/scenarios you just cannot resist in a book? Like, you read the blurb and go, “I MUST HAVE THIS IN MY LIFE RIGHT NOW.” Everyone’s got different ones. And I’ve realized some of mine are really specific and weird. I’ve decided to create this list and maybe keep updating it.

I am thinking of also creating a companion list of Stuff I Really Really Don’t Care About In Books and Usually Won’t Read. At the top would be vampires. I just don’t give a shit about them.

  1. Bluestocking heroines
  2. Friends to lovers romances
  3. Nautical settings
  4. Archaeologists
  5. Historicals set in Egypt
  6. Historicals set in India
  7. Smugglers (either the historical or space variety)
  8. Pirates (ditto, see above)
  9. Post-apocalyptic ruins
  10. Space station settings
  11. Enemies to lovers romances
  12. One night stands that turn into something more
  13. Historicals with a female character who’s not a virgin
  14. Historicals with a widow who actually had a decent first marriage
  15. Suffragettes
  16. Badass heroines who physically fit the role (ie: not too skinny and model-like to pick up a sword)
  17. Thieves (Somehow I always end up playing a thief in RPGs)
  18. Beta heroes (like, the guy who is the right hand man to the big alpha guy)
  19. Heroines with unconventional careers in historicals
  20. Bars in space (you can see my Star Wars influence in this list…)
  21. Heroine doesn’t end up with the completely obvious character but with someone else instead (When Tamora Pierce had her main character marry someone else who was not the prince in Lioness Rampant, my sixth grade mind was blown.)
  22. Interracial romance in a historical (I never see this in a mainstream, print-published historical, and I really wish I would, because it would be all kinds of interesting and awesome. *Except in one of Tessa Dare’s books, there is a secondary romance, but it’s the only one I know of. Besides those cheesy old-school Native American ones I read growing up, and you know, yuck.)
  23. …. To be added!
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I’m on Daily Dose of Decadence today

I’m talking about realistic characters and getting the right cyberpunk feel for  my story. Also, I’m giving away a copy to a random commenter.

So go check it out and make sure to leave a shout out!


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Character intro: CJ

Here’s the funny thing about writing a cyberpunk story in which multiple scenes take place in virtual reality. I was searching through the novella to find a good passage that described CJ, my male character, and realized there are two. For my heroine, who has three different appearances including real life and two avatars, it’s even worse.

So, OK. This guy CJ. He’s got some heavy stuff on his plate. He used to be the best hacker in the community. But then he got caught by SpectreTek (the evil corporation). They confiscated all his illegal body modifications (people in my story’s world have data jacks in their necks and flash drives in their arms), and kept him prisoner in a facility in Connecticut Delaware (see what happens when I don’t look facts up in my own book!) until he agreed to work for them. His job? Tracking down his former friends. So he’s kind of a high tech bounty hunter.

But he’s also a prisoner. He has guys who come every week to check up on him. He also has an implant that won’t let him go more than a kilometer from his apartment and will kill him if he tries to remove it. So he’s pretty bitter, as well as scarred–both physically and metaphorically.

Like Riley, his real life appearance is kind of scruffy-looking. Because there need to be more romances about scruffy-looking people, okay??

Here’s a description of CJ from Riley’s POV. It just happens to be during a sexy part. But hey, everyone loves sexy parts!


His avatar had been better looking, but there was something visceral and downright dirty about the real man whose weight pressed her into the floor. His muscles were the long, rangy kind, and they flexed as he propped himself on his forearms above her—forearms, she saw now, that were dotted with round scars. They were shiny, circular patches, as if someone had stubbed out ten or twenty oversized cigarettes on his skin. His T-shirt had several holes in it, and his dark hair had grown long over his ears, which had silver studs running up the edges.

It was nothing that should make her so hot, and yet it did.


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My grammatically incorrect title

Yes, I meant to type that. Why you hate like that, little red line? Whyyyy?

My novella is titled Unsecure Connection. And I am a grammar nerd. What do these two things have to do with each other? Let me show you. (See left.)

You are my problem, little red line. Or maybe I’m my problem. I should have known better than to title my novel something that’s only kind-of sort-of a word. But I couldn’t help it. It was a pun, see. A geeky network pun. My two main characters are hackers– an unsecure connection is like a field day for them. And in kind of a cool way, the title also describes their uneasy relationship.

But the problem is, spell check always thinks I mean insecure, because unsecure is not a word. 14 and a half million people on Google think it is, though. But if you’re talking about a wireless connection, I think the proper way to say it would be unsecured, as in “That network is unsecured.” See, no red line. (Well, you can’t see it. But I can. And trust me, there’s not.) The Network Connections dialogue in Windows in fact says unsecured. But colloquially, it seems like most people say unsecure, not unsecured. So I went with it.

Oh woe, my book title is only sort of a real word

I sort of regret it, though, whenever I start typing something up and I get that constant reminder that there is something grammatically shady about the title of my novella. It’s just the kind of person I am when it comes to grammar. I hate that I did something grammatically questionable. And yet I still think it’s kind of a cool title. (How funny is it, BTW, that the third search result down says “Unsecure connection: Many wi-fi spots vulnerable to hackers”?)


Character intro: Riley

Riley Janacek is the heroine in my cyberpunk romance novella Unsecure Connection, which debuts soon. So what’s her deal?

She’s a hacker who goes by the handle LaReineTX2, which stands for Queen of Tarrytown. You don’t call yourself that unless you think you’re the best, or pretty close to it. When we meet her, she’s hacking into a corporate database for a list of passwords. Only it turns out someone else is in the system, monitoring her. That’s CJ, the hero of the story. Well, more like an anti-hero, but we’ll get to him tomorrow.

Riley is kind of paranoid. I can’t really blame her, considering her line of work. Basically until the last page of the story, she won’t tell CJ her name. He knows her handle. And he knows one of her aliases, Samantha McTavish. And since he doesn’t have anything else to call her, he starts to think of her as Samantha. I can tell you other things about Riley, for instance that she is sarcastic and that she has a messy apartment. (Both my characters do. I like to think it’s what brings them together. Just kidding… although there is a moment where they talk about their dirty dishes growing mold.)

I don’t always imagine out my characters’ appearances that much. I know Riley has blue hair and a lot of implants in her arms and neck. I know she cares more about what she looks like in virtual reality than in real life, mainly because her work and her social life don’t tend to be in real life. She has multiple avatars… one for socializing, one for gaming, and I’m assuming another one for meeting clients, although we don’t see that one in the story.

In this excerpt, CJ considers Riley’s different avatars and what they might say about her:

Each of her avatars had similar features, but just enough was different about them. Her social avatar had bigger breasts than the real Samantha. She also dressed a lot more daringly. CJ remembered the little skirt from that first night. This avatar had muscular arms and a sturdier figure. And, he couldn’t help noticing, an ass that looked great in those military pants with the pockets. She wore a bandana tied like a headband across a forehead that sported a jagged white scar running from the left side down onto her cheek. This Samantha was pretty bad-ass. Like the other one and like the real Samantha, it had blue hair.

He wondered what her avatars said about her. The real Samantha was too skinny to even be called by more flattering words, like slender. In fact, scrawny would have been the most appropriate, but even CJ wasn’t stupid enough to say that to a woman he wanted to sleep with again. Was her Killblock avatar her attempt at experiencing what it was like to be physically powerful? And her social avatar that he’d seen in Slash was an exploration of what it would be like to be sexy? That thought sobered him. Was that what she saw about her real-world self? Things she longed to change? Because she was powerful and sexy just the way she was. To him, anyway.

Or maybe he was reading too much into it. It didn’t have to be either a massive wish-fulfillment fantasy or just a game. The truth might be any shade of gray in between those two extremes, he realized.

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My cyberpunk-ish noir-ish setting


Dark city.

Night had fallen on Tarrytown, at the far north end of the urban sprawl that had once been known as Manhattan. Here, where the vacant hulks of old buildings crumbled and moisture dripped from the shadowy rusted beams. Where the city moldered and you could see the fires burning in barrels in the very lowest levels where people camped. The people who lived here were the people the corporations forgot, as they gradually consolidated and closed up the buildings and moved south. It was the sort of neighborhood where no one looked each other in the eye. It smelled like wet metal and Chinese food.


This is how my debut novella Unsecure Connection, which is upcoming from Decadent Publishing, opens. I’ve always been attracted to the undersides of large cities, the parts that are more grit than glamor. My story takes place in a future version of New York. I never got specific about how far in the future–the truth is I don’t really know. But I don’t think I need to for the purposes of the story.

Anyone familiar with the state of New York (and I am, since I grew up around Albany) knows that Tarrytown is on the Hudson River a good ways up from Manhattan. So what’s the deal with my setting? Well, what I envisioned was a future in which there had been a huge growth explosion for New York city, and it had expanded to take over much of the lower part of the state. In this future, tech corporations rule the world. But at some point, the inevitable financial collapse happened, and the city was reduced once more to its center. It’s not post-apocalyptic exactly, but it’s post-financial apocalypse. So the outer areas of the mega-city become abandoned. And who still lives in the run-down, abandoned parts of the city? Shady characters, of course.

My characters are shady characters. So there you go. I’ll be introducing them in posts later this week.

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Furball of mine

I have two cats. I think I’ll take a minute to introduce them on this blog. First up, Jolee!

His full name is Jolee Bindo. And yes, he is male, not female. He’s named after a Jedi in the video game Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. Jolee is of indeterminate age and origin. He’s a Katrina cat who I adopted in February of 2006. So I’ve had him six years now, but I don’t think he’s on his last leg(s) yet, since he’s still pretty bouncy.

I got him “as is,” which means 1) missing half of one of his big front teeth, 2) with the top of his left ear clipped (you can see this in the picture) to indicate they’d neutered him, 3) shaved because his fur was very matted, 4) kind of PTSD and hating all people.

As you can see, the fur grew back, but he is still a very particular cat who does not like to be touched by anyone who isn’t me. (This includes my husband, who has never at any point in time since I adopted the cat not lived with me. Yeah, I don’t know. The cat believes my husband is plotting his death.) I believe he’s some sort of long-haired Siamese mix as opposed to a Himalayan, because he doesn’t really have the smushed face of a Himalayan or Persian. He also has the Siamese yowl (if you’ve never had one, they can let loose with some completely unearthly howls) and temperament.

Another fun thing about Jolee is that he has multiple extra toes on his feet… I think seven on one front foot and eight on the other. His feet actually look like mittens, with “thumbs” that stick out to one side. He will actually use them to prop himself up and kind of stand on tiptoe sometimes. One of these hidden toes has a GIANT CREEPY CLAW that I have to have professionally cut off by the vet each year with the big dog clippers because he won’t let me at it. It grows to, like, the size of my thumbnail or larger.

Jolee is not super friendly, and he’s not a lap cat, although in the past two years he has warmed to the lap somewhat. (Yep, I had him for four years before he ever sat on my lap.) He’s very much a proximity cat though, in that he wants to be near me, even though he doesn’t want to be on me. He does like to slide behind my head and sit on the arm or top of the couch like my pillow. He is fond of headbutting either me or my laptop, and he does it hard. He has kind of a “purrrrOWWWW” half-purr half-meow that is really cute. His weirdest quirk is his need to follow me into the bathroom. I can’t sneak past him. It could be 4 AM and he just has this sixth sense that I’m in the bathroom and comes running in to purr and headbutt my legs on the toilet.

So basically, he’s a cat.

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