Alpin’s #AMMconnect Bio

I’m Alpin (like owl-pen). I’ve been writing since before I molted into a human person. My dad and I used to trade each other stories, and I’ve been at it ever since.

Why no face?
I like my glowing pyramid, but I keep my face off the internet because I have wild dysphoria some days. Plus, I’m nonbinary! Not using my face takes away some of the snap judgements people make. If you use pronouns for me, they/them is easiest, although I’m sometimes partial to it.

What do you write?
Young Adult SFF. I’m obsessed with my current project, about a kid who fakes a superpower with engineering. But! I’ve got a stack of other projects that I churn through, and most of those are fantasy. I write about young people, identity, and weird stuff. I write about choices and fate. I write what I needed to read as a young human.

Wait, superpowers?
Oh heck yes. My AMM submission, Confessions of a SuperFake, is about a hotheaded Hispanic teenager who can build anything. At university, Lexus accidentally discovers the College of Heroic Aptitude, and engineers a fake superpower to sneak in. The story is about walking two paths, doing bad things for good reasons, good for bad, and how we live with ourselves straddling both sides of the proverbial coin. Plus, I was an engineer for a whiiiiile, and dude, building things is fun! I want to get young people, especially young queer people, interested in STEM fields. We belong, I swear.

Lex? Is this about Lex Luthor?
… Don’t rat me out, fam. No, this isn’t a Superman/Lex Luthor retelling exactly, but if I get to continue with a series, be prepared. SuperFake is, though, loosely based on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.

What is it like???
Try: If Iron Man was poor. If Susan Storm was evil. If the Terminator hadn’t quite learned to kill yet…

I need comparable titles!
Vicious (VE Schwab) for the villains
Lock-in (John Scalzi) for the genderless protagonists
Not Your Sidekick (C.B. Lee) for the wicked superhero, morally ambiguous government, & technopath ambiance.

That’s all for now! I’m looking forward to getting to know y’all, and I’m crossing my fingers for Nov. 19!

-ARG (Add me on Twitter!)

Quick book reviews

These are a few thoughts on the books I’ve recently finished. I read much, and think much, but individual posts for reviews are quite a bother.

Gemina (The Illuminae Files #2): Awesome action-packed follow up to the most visually stunning novel I’ve ever read (Illuminae). Mildly eh on the end, but overall couldn’t put it down. Read over 24 hours.

Merrow: I had difficulties with setting in the beginning, and with plot for the first…60ish? pages. Once the protagonists met Ulf, I was more hooked. (Mind, I read this thinking I’d get a Cthulhu reference or two, but this is a separate, older version of historical fiction.) Setting: Carrick Scotland, Manx language (from Isle of Man), possibly 900s A.D.

Girl Mans Up: Loved this. Very real. Feels so truthful. I immediately made this a new ‘book club’ read. Rarely does a contemporary wind up in my favorites list, but this did.

Flame in the Mist: This is a good story, but there were some character issues and annoying tropes. Within the first 45 pages, four separate POV characters were introduced. Near the end, I got exceptionally annoyed with a “big reveal.” That being said, Renée Ahdieh seriously impressed me with her exquisite attention to detail in creating the feudal-Japan inspired kingdom of Wa. Bring on the sequel, please.

The Seafarer’s Kiss: I liked the twists and turns, especially since this is a Little Mermaid retelling starring the rise of Ursula (Ersel), the sea witch. I especially loved the F/F romance at the front and center, and the genderfluid Loki, whose pronouns were consistently they/them. BUT, I had a few issues with the one instance of violence that showed up in the main relationship (they punched each other?), and then was glossed over. Skeeved me.

The Blind Contessa’s New Machine: Beautifully written. A bit of a  friends-turned-lovers romance that had a serious age difference, but it didn’t feel like a “grooming” situation. Mildly dissatisfying ending.

Empress of a Thousand Skies: Reads a little heavy, but very pretty. I wasn’t astonished, but I will be reading the sequel(s).

The Dust of 100 Dogs: Weird, but reads well. The piracy is pretty well done (note: I don’t condone violence, peeps). It jarred me a little to go from 1st person POV (Saffron) to 3rd person (Emer, etc). Made me happy that my siblings are hella fab.

Twisted: Recommended to me by my sister-in-almost. It strikes me as a standard YA contemporary thriller, and I’m glad the protagonist gets some closure. Not impressed by the adults, but as I grow older, I realize that humans tend to plateau in competence/empathy. It is our way.

Guards! Guards!: Picked up after the second half-ish, when the dragon actually becomes king (like the back cover says). It isn’t cool that it took 200pages for crowning the dragon to happen, when the blurb says “in rather short order,” but if you like Terry Pratchett’s weirdness, dive in. It’s a little jumpy, but has many funny moments.

Book Review: Still Life with Tornado

Still Life with Tornado by A.S. King was recommended to me after I spent thirty minutes eavesdropping on a conversation at my local bookstore.

After the crowd thinned (there were six people, I’m not barging in on that), I talked to the writer of the group.

During my eavesdropping, I learned that she’s working toward her MFA in creative writing, and writes Young Adult contemporary. I prattled on about my writing group, projects, and different writer-ly things, all while holding a pile of books. She added some to my pile, and this was one of them.

Still Life with Tornado

Although the truth unfolds slowly, it’s apparent early on that this is more than just a tale of teen angst. Abuse, guilt, and family play major roles as well.  Other than a mild continuity error at the end, I enjoyed this piece, and tore through it in a day and a half. It reads easy, it’s weird, and I adore that the protagonist renamed herself “Umbrella.”

Camp NaNoWriMo: April 2017

This month, I convinced my human writing group to participate in the April edition of Camp NaNoWriMo.

It’s been a ride. I validated, got my little winner sticker, and now I’m staring at my graph.

CampNanoStats4.17

Lumpy, right? Lemme explain.

At the beginning of the month, I struggled to finish another revision for the YA sci-fi novel I’ve been working on. Camp WordCount: 0 out of 50,000. After that went off to my editor on the 4th, I finally started writing.

I got a whole day’s worth of writing done before I hit a snag. I got busy (with just a hint of overwhelmed) and spent a few days largely ignoring the project. See days 4-7, the first plateau. This is when I got my first hints. There’s something wrong with my Na-Novel.

Yep. No idea what though.

The next thousand words are dedicated to an unfinished short story (days 8-9). It’s still not done. I just needed a change.

The first wind came on day 10. I finally figured out the problem. My project is in the wrong tense. It couldn’t have the reflective quality that comes with past tense. It has to be present. So that first wind is rewriting everything I’d written previously, including a new set of circumstances. I introduce new characters, name a few others.

Day 15, around 22,000 words, I hit another snag, even though I’m zipping through words with only minor delays. I derailed my plot. The characters took a turn I hadn’t anticipated. They literally turned and headed in a different direction.

My plot was bare-bones to start with. I had twenty-four note cards with ideas written on them, shuffled into the most tentative of orders. But I hadn’t anticipated every move, and something that started as a background detail turned into a driving force. It was a better story. It stayed.

I wrote. I even got ahead!

On the 22nd day, I spiraled. Not the fun, confusing, writing spiral that begets weird stories and a bit of magical realism. My mood tanked. I tried to spend time with a friend, with my family, but I lost myself in hundred-yard stares and fatigue. For days, I didn’t shower. I didn’t leave my house. I played solitaire. I disgusted myself.

What an inconvenient time to sink into depression! I didn’t tell anyone. There’s a shame associated with mood disorders, though plenty of people talk about that. I clawed my way out day 25, afternoon. I got just enough energy to shower.

Passed out after. I woke up clean, and read an article on fighting depression. Just because there’s not new information, doesn’t mean it doesn’t help. I needed that reassurance. That teaspoon of willpower. I took it, and I picked up an unfinished book. I cleaned something. I wrote some words. I still couldn’t leave my house, but I ratted myself out to the sibs. Peer pressure is an effective motivator. Trying to live up to how my little brother sees me? That’s powerful.

It got a little better. I wrote a little more, went to a coffee shop on the 26th, the library on the 27th, and met with my writing group on the 28th. I finished, after five-ish hours of word sprints and friendship.

So I bought a sasquatch t-shirt.

-ARG

Atlanta Writing Workshop!

Hello Humans!

I am going to my first writing workshop today, in Atlanta.  I’ve been looking forward to (& dreading) this for some time, but it happens today regardless.

Conference Goals:

  1. Meet Other Writers! I use twitter to interact with many different people, especially writers and authors, but this is a great opportunity to make a personal connection. Yahoo!
  2. Learn Cool Stuff! I’ve looked through the sessions offered and selected which ones I’m going to attend. I’m most excited about the Sci-Fi/Fantasy session, but I’m looking forward to all of them.
  3. Stay Awake! (This is a personal goal. I couldn’t sleep well last night and am looking at a very long day. Wish me luck on this!)

Before I get on a plane and fly all the way to Atlanta, Georgia, I wanted to give a quick update on what I’ve been doing. I finished a fantasy novel draft around mid-January (working title: Good Wizard Bad Dragon), and I’ve been working through a penultimate revision on Confessions of a SuperFake (shorthand: COSF). After going through beta-reader responses, I decided to make structural changes to make COSF the best book it can be.

I’ve also been writing many short pieces and submitting to competitions, some of which will be published on websites soon. WooHoo! I’ll be sure to link here when those go live.

… & Just in case you, dear human, need some short fiction to read, check out the links below.

The Middle

Zombies Don’t Eat Cheez Whiz

Confessions of a SuperFake (5-page snippet)

Also, feel free to make First Contact.

Take care,

ARG

How Many Books???

Question: How many books could I read?

The reading speed for an adult human (English) is somewhere around 200-300wpm (I’ll use 300wpm). From Amazon’s text stats, the median novel length around 64k words. That’s about 3.5hours per book. Set aside 8 hours for sleeping, and about two hours for eating/everything else- That’s about 4 books every day.

DO NOT DO THIS. I’m pretty sure this is dangerous. From my observations, humans require activity variety.

Over the course of a year, that’s a maximum of 1460 books (reading only). But humans, I have another number for you.

In 2013, there were nearly 305 thousand new titles and re-editions published in the USA. Even if you read for that entire year, that’s less than 0.5% of what is available. You’d have to dedicate 200 years to read all of what was published in 2013 alone.

So, don’t worry about not finishing your TBR pile. And thank you, thank you, thank you, for spending some of your valuable time on me.

With affection.

-ARG

 

Confessions of a SuperFake (5-page snippet)

[Hello Humans! Below is the beginning of Confessions of a SuperFake, a sci-fi novel with superheroes. Enjoy! -ARG]

Chapter 1: The Northern University Bus Incident

I stood over a stranger.

Barely conscious of my bloody knuckles, I watched instead of running. The unknown student splayed before me, legs on the bus, most of his torso on the frozen sidewalk. If I stuck around I’d go to prison. But the question kept my feet planted- was he alive?

I’m not saying I don’t deserve to go to prison. I probably do. I shouldn’t have fought a stranger, not on the first day of classes, and not on a crowded campus bus. His cough snapped me out of my trance, cuing me to run. Shouts followed me out the exit doors. Thank god I was nobody- anonymity allowed me to get away.

I cut through a parking lot, my feet ploughed through iced-over dew. The unreasonable cold bit at exposed skin on my neck, my fingers, my ankles. I’d intended to get to classes early enough to slip in unnoticed, just like high school.

Today I’d need extra time to wash off the blood.

I hardly paid attention during the first lecture. Northern University in Winthrop, Washington, had given me a full ride in engineering, but I desperately missed Georgia. Last week, I’d been in a balmy summer with my siblings, excitedly discussing the cool things I’d build in college. Building had been my passion all my life. This was my chance.

I’d almost blown it.

 

 

*

It was snowing by the time my classes were over.

I hadn’t expected snow, even flurries, in September. My second-hand tennis shoes soaked up cold slush water, unavoidable on the sidewalk. I needed weather-appropriate clothing- a protective jacket, boots.

To escape the frigid weather, I stopped at a small coffee shop midway between engineering campus and my dorm. I welcomed the painful tingling in my face from the sudden warmth. I pulled out my sketchbook.

Still empty.

Since leaving my family, I hadn’t designed anything. In Georgia, I’d been able to fashion fantastic devices out of materials available in my neighbor’s garage. He had so many incredible tools. I had a small collection of hand tools that I’d brought with me, but it didn’t compare to my neighbor’s acetylene torch. No materials, No Tools, No Inspiration? No designs.

My pencil sat welded to the page, waiting, trying not to think about snapping at the random student this morning. My knuckles served as a reminder that I’d sucker punched him, and not for any reason that would get an approving nod from my older brother. Not that I’d tell him; Lou would put two and two together and realize that it had something to do with his phone call this morning. If Lou decided that my parents were right, that I should be kept ignorant about our sister’s relapse, he might never tell me anything. Then that jerk student had been running his mouth about the financial burdens of federally funded healthcare, like my sister needed.

I’d just lost it.

I didn’t know if my sister would even be alive when I got back home. If I could give Leccie a kidney, I would.

I’m so damn helpless here.

I switched to my less-bruised hand, to mentally regroup. The sketchbook’s gridlines rippled, mocking me, laughing at my lack of inspiration. I leaned back in the booth and refused to look at anything. A sting on the back of my head reminded me that guy had ripped out some of my hair during the fight. I still wasn’t going to get a haircut, no matter what Mom said.

It was minutes before I noticed someone had come to sit next to me.

“What am I, invisible?” The flawlessly dark-skinned intruder had a green coat, black hair in dozens of dreadlocks, and a hand extended to me. “I’m Jordan.”

I looked at the hand, offered like a secret. After a short handshake, I put away my sketchbook.

“This is where you tell me your name.” Jordan smiled.

“Uhh… Lex.”

“Alex? Is that short for something?”

“No. Just Lex. My parents are big on L’s.”

“Can I call you Lexy?” Jordan asked. I shook my head.

“No. Definitely not. Who are you?”

“Jordan Moore. Your new best friend.” I stared at the newcomer, my supposed new friend.

“What makes you think… I don’t understand… what?” What was Jordan doing, in my booth, talking to me. People don’t talk to me. Especially not attractive, well-dressed extroverts with stunning smiles.

“You’re new here. I figure you don’t have a best friend yet.”

“Why do you think I’m new?”

“Got a loner vibe.” Jordan shrugged. “And no wind breaker. Also, sneakers. Seriously? Not a veteran of NU.” The barista brought coffee and a smile for Jordan. Heavenly steam poured over the lip.

“You want some?”

I did.

“No. No I’m good.” I looked at my hands, tucked in my lap. Jordan sipped, chatting for some time about the area and classes to take. I didn’t mind listening. Very little input was required until Jordan asked if I’d go bowling.

“I really can’t…” I couldn’t pay for bowling, or any activities.

“C’mon… My treat.” Jordan insisted.

I did need something to distract me. My normal building-based methods weren’t working.

“Ok.”

“You free Thursdays?” Jordan asked.

“Sure.” I shrugged. “Wait, Thursdays?”

Jordan started to get up.

“Best friends hang out at least weekly.” Jordan said, returning the mug to a dish bin. Jordan couldn’t leave yet- I needed more logistics from this strange, friendly person.

“Where?” I asked.

“Meet me here Thursday, Seven-ish.”

Jordan waved from the door.

Apparently, I had a new best friend.

 

*

Post coffee-shop, in the warmth of my dorm lobby, I browsed bus routes. If I didn’t want to have to walk four miles to the engineering campus, I needed a route where I hadn’t committed felony assault. Avoid recognition. Avoid arrest.

In my hour-long search, I came across a brochure on plain paper. The route inside–  labeled Northern University CHA transport–  had a 6:30am stop a few blocks west, and would let off on a side road on the southern edge of campus.

I reread to make sure I hadn’t imagined it. From other maps, the stop would only be a half mile from the engineering campus, if I cut through the woods. A woodsy morning walk? Sounded almost pleasant.

My roommate hated my extra-early alarm, and I hated the pervasive cold that followed me onto CHA bus. I had my flimsy hood up and my nose tucked awkwardly under my collar. Warm face coverings seemed common on the route.

No one spoke. I preferred the silence to another fight.

The silent students trotted off northward while I lagged in confusion. I’d intended to walk through woods, not several stories of unlabeled box-building surrounded by tall pines. The black rectangular building and massive adjacent greenhouse hadn’t been on any map I’d seen.

Hoping for central heating, I followed the students inside. They must be students, to meet on a college campus and take a school-affiliated bus to a building on school property.

Inside, the crowd dispersed, leaving me to explore the unknown building. The floor shone with fresh wax, next to faded wall paint. Why wasn’t the old, well-maintained building on my maps? The question compelled me forward.

I found a large, single-stall restroom, an odd dispenser next to the hand dryer.

The unhelpful label read: You only get one. Keep it safe.

I pressed the button. A small black mask dropped down the slot.

I studied the paper mask. Leccie, my comic-loving little sister would appreciate the of eccentricity. She would have insisted I wear it. I pulled the surprisingly comfortable cord around the back of my head.

Lou hadn’t called with any hospital updates today.

I peered into rooms along the hallway, keeping a mental track of the variety- classrooms, empty rooms, small gyms.

Around seven, one of the classrooms had bodies. The instructor looked over at me, as if I’d interrupted.

“Are you going to take a seat?”

I considered. This was clearly a lecture, and but on what? I filed in and sat in the only empty seat. Front row.

“Welcome to your first class in the College for Heroic Aptitude at Northern University.”

 

 

[END SNIPPET]

[If you’re interested in reading more after that, the full first chapter is available at https://alpingeist.com/works/superfake. Readers welcome. -ARG]