Alexandra Duncan

Science Fiction. Fantasy. Feminism.

Fall events!

Have you ever wanted to meet a real, live introvert? Now is your chance! I have quite a few events lined up for this fall, both on my own and with other writers, so if you'd like to see me talk about books and try not to be awkward in public, you're in luck.

Here's where I'll be and when. . .

Sept. 4-7: DRAGONCON, Young Adult Literature and Science Fiction tracks, Atlanta, GA. Check my Events page for more information about specific panels as they become available.

10 a.m. & 2 p.m. Sept. 11: CAROLINAS MOUNTAIN LITERARY FESTIVAL panels with Beth Revis, Burnsville, NC

7 p.m. Sept. 24: SOUND BOOK LAUNCH, Malaprop's Bookstore, Asheville, NC

2 p.m. Oct. 4, YA AUTHOR PANEL with Alan Gratz, Stephanie Perkins, and Renee Ahdieh, Park Road Books in Charlotte, NC

5:30 p.m. Oct. 5, YA AUTHOR PANEL with Renee Ahdieh, Alan Gratz, Stephanie Perkins, and Will Walton at Fiction Addiction in Greenville, SC

4 p.m. Oct. 11, YA AUTHOR PANEL with Amy Reed and Jaye Robin Brown at Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill, NC

3 p.m. Oct. 18, YA AUTHOR PANEL with Dhonielle Clayton at Books of Wonder in NYC

SOUND ARC + SALVAGE PAPERBACK GIVEAWAY

Exciting things are happening in September!

This is me thinking about September.

This is me thinking about September.

1) The paperback of SALVAGE will be available Sept. 1st. Consider buying it from one of my two local indies, Malaprop's and Spellbound Children's Bookshop.

2) SOUND, the companion to SALVAGE, comes out Sept. 22nd! If you thought Miyole needed a story of her own, your wish has been granted.

3) I will be having a release party for SOUND at 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 24th at Malaprop's Bookstore in Asheville, NC. I'll be announcing some other September and October appearances soon, so check back for more info.

To celebrate, I'm hosting a giveaway! You could win a signed paperback copy of SALVAGE, plus a signed ARC of SOUND. This is your opportunity to  get an early peek at SOUND, because the giveaway will run from today through Sept. 1st. Click below to see all the entry options.

Also, here is that chicken dancing gif again, because I feel like celebrating and I cannot resist. YOU'RE WELCOME!

This is also me.

This is also me.

TATTOO

**Trigger warning - this post discusses depression and suicidal ideation.**

My 27th year was the worst of my life. I don't know exactly why my brain chose that year to try to self-destruct. There had been the car accident the year before, when another driver rear-ended me at a stoplight while going 45 miles an hour. Then the occupational therapy to recover, along with the endless phone calls arguing with the insurance company about my medical bills, the scramble to find a reliable car for under $5,000, and the stress of trying to scrape together money for physical therapy appointments not covered by my health insurance.

But by 27, I had mostly recovered, except for an inner ear condition that will probably never go away. So, why that year? 

Maybe it was the pressure cooker of pain, anger, frustration, and resentment I had been in for the past 12 months. Maybe all of that broke down the firewall I had built in my brain to keep me from thinking about the gaslighting and abuse my mother, sister, brother, and I suffered at the hands of my stepfather. Maybe being called for jury duty on a child abuse case that spring had something to do with it. Somehow, all of that anger mutated into self-loathing, and I decided everyone I knew would be better off without me.

I never tried to kill myself. I had enough of a grip on life left that when I started having panic attacks and fantasizing about driving my car into walls, I contacted my old therapist and convinced my doctor to put me on antidepressants. I ended up with a diagnosis for major depressive disorder and PTSD, along with a prescription for 40 mg of Celexa. The medicine helped, but slowly. I still remember the day, two months after I started antidepressants, when the windows in my living room suddenly came into focus, and I thought, I still want to be here.

The thing a lot of people misunderstand about antidepressants is that they aren't a magic bullet. They don't turn you into a zombie or a Stepford wife. What they do is give you enough of a handhold that you can get through the workday, make it to your counseling sessions, and start the long climb toward equilibrium again. They make it so that you can reason with your own brain.

It wasn't the antidepressants alone. My husband was amazing and supportive. He went on long walks with me and came to counseling sessions with me when I didn't feel like I could make it on my own. There were the cats, who seemed to sense that I was sick, and sat beside me on the days when all I could do was lie on the couch.

Then there was the garden. 

We were renting a house at the time, with a thin strip of grass between the front porch and the road. We had set up wooden tripods and grown green beans there before, but this year, my husband suggested we grow giant sunflowers, the kind that tower over your head and might have giants living at the top of them. I bought some seeds at a local garden center, and by the end of the summer, the sunflowers were as tall as me. 

We grew them the next year, as well. Watching them grow, caring for something, helped me come back to life. It helped me want to stick around. In the middle of that first summer, I made a promise to myself that if I was still alive in a year, I would get a tattoo of a sunflower to help me remember. 

I didn't have any tattoos. My mother, a nurse, had convinced me that a tattoo was a surefire way to end up with hepatitis. I only realized as an adult that her sample of people was a bit skewed - tattooed people without hepatitis are less likely to need medical care. Still, her lectures probably saved me from getting something regrettable burned into my skin during college, and made me very picky about finding a clean shop with a good reputation later on. 

As of earlier this summer - four years after making that promise to myself - I still hadn't gotten the tattoo. I had other uses for the money it would take - paying off those medical bills, repairing the roof on the house we bought after rent got so expensive in our town that it was actually cheaper to finance a mortgage. But now I was 31, the bills were under control, and I had scaled my counseling sessions back to once a month. It was time. I had already spent hours paging through local tattoo artists' portfolios online and settled on a shop I wanted to go to.  Before I could chicken out, I went in, consulted with the owner, and set up an appointment with the artist he recommended.

My husband came with me. I was worried about the pain and wanted to squeeze his hand. It ended up hurting less than I expected, but I was still glad he came. He and the tattoo artist had a long and interesting discussion about illustration that distracted me from what little pain there was. After two hours on the table, I walked away with this on my back. . .

I don't know if I'll end up getting any more tattoos. Everyone I've talked to says I will, and maybe they're right. The experience was cathartic, in a weird way. It was like a microcosm of the pain and healing I went through between my 27th year and my 31st. What I do know is that if I choose to get another tattoo, I want it to be as meaningful to me as this one.

 

 

A HERITAGE OF HATE

This is Asa Jackson Wyatt. He was an 4th Corporal in the Confederate Army, and died during the battle of Cedar Run in 1862. He was my great-great-great grandfather. Both sides of my family have lived in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia since at least the Civil War, so Wyatt wasn't my only Confederate ancestor, but he was probably the most prominent.

I'm telling you this not because I'm proud of him or what he fought for, but so that you'll understand where I'm coming from when I say that those who claim the Confederate flag is about "heritage, not hate" are dead wrong.

Growing up in rural North Carolina, I heard every argument for flying the Confederate flag that exists. In addition to "heritage, not hate," there was, "the Civil War wasn't about slavery. It was about states' rights." Which may be technically correct, but ignores the fact that it was about states' rights to own other people as slaves. We are old hands at cognitive dissonance in the South.

Wyatt and his confederates may or may not have harbored the same intense, burning hatred for people of color that Dylann Roof, who gunned down nine people in the historic Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C. last week, clearly does, but he undoubtedly thought of them as nothing more than chattel. He cared about preserving a social and legal system that devalued African American life. I am not proud of that. It's not a part of my "heritage" that I want to celebrate or advertise on the bumper of my car, or my beach towels, or my Facebook page. The South was on the wrong side of history in the Civil War, and I'm glad they lost.

But the Confederate flag has a life beyond the Civil War. It hasn't been flying non-stop atop the South Carolina capitol building since the war ended in 1865. It was raised in 1961, in the midst of the Civil Rights movement, and has long been a symbol of white supremacist hate groups like the KKK, which is still active in many parts of the South. (For an excellent summary of the history of the Confederate Flag, read  "Why is the Flag Still There?" in the Atlantic.)

Here is where the real hate comes in and any semblance of an argument for viewing the Confederate flag as a part of our "heritage" falls apart. No matter what the Confederate flag may have meant to people in the 1860s, no one today is ignorant of its adoption by the KKK and other hate groups. We all know - white and black alike - that a person of color is not safe going to a home flying a Confederate flag out front. We all know someone with Confederate flags all over their truck is more likely to tailgate you or try to run you off the road if you're black. We all know that guy with the Confederate flag t-shirt is probably going to drop the n-word, and later, when he's in his work clothes, he's going to be thinking it about customers and job applicants. We know all of this because it's happened, over and over and over again. There can't be any question about what the flag means, and anyone who tells you otherwise is deluding themselves, at best.

We - Southerners, Americans - are better than this. One of the few stories I know about my great-grandmother, Asa Wyatt's granddaughter, is that she and my mom were watching the first integrated Miss America pageant on TV in 1970. When Cheryl Brown, the first African-American contestant, came onstage, my great-grandmother turned to my mom and said, "She's beautiful. It's about time."

If this woman, who kept her grandfather's old sword and a photograph of him in his Confederate uniform, can move forward with the times, surely the rest of us can. Surely we can recognize the pain and damage proudly flying the Confederate flag brings to our friends and neighbors every day. Surely we can see that it legitimizes and disguises the culture of hate that bubbles beneath our Southern show of gentility and politeness. It makes people like Dylann Roof more difficult to spot until they're already pulling the trigger. Surely we can, at the very least, remove this symbol from our government institutions as a sign that we care about black lives and want to put an end to the inhumanity of racism. It's a first step, but an important one.

Take down the Confederate flag. After all, it's about time.

May the Fourth Be With You Flash Giveaway

Hello everyone, and Happy Star Wars Day!

I am a HUGE fan of the original Star Wars movies, and have been ever since my best friends and I discovered them at my local video store in seventh grade. So, in celebration of May the Fourth, I'm doing a flash giveaway of an ARC of my upcoming book SOUND! Here's how you can enter. . .

1) Leave a comment below about your favorite Star Wars movie or character, or if you aren't a Star Wars fan, leave a comment about your favorite sci-fi movie or TV show.

2) Tweet about the flash giveaway.

3) Follow me on Twitter.

The giveaway ends at midnight EST tonight. May the Force be with you!

Writing in the Margins

My friend and fellow writer Justina Ireland has started a new initiative called Writing in the Margins, to promote diverse literature and media. I'm lucky to be able to contribute as an ally. You can check out my first vlog entry, "Five Things About Diversity in Science Fiction and Fantasy," below. Click over to the Writing in the Margins Youtube channel to get to know the other contributors and check out their vlogs!

Guest Post for Stacked: About the Girls

Stacked ran a really great series of essays for Women's History Month this past March called About the Girls. Some of my favorites included Brandy Colbert's "What About Intersectionality and Friendship in YA?" and Amy Reed's post about writing "unlikeable" heroines. The site was kind enough to ask me to contribute an essay, as well, which I'm reposting here. If you want to read it on Stacked, though, please check out this link.

STAKING OUR CLAIM IN THE SCIENCE FICTION UNIVERSE

When you think of “girly” books, chances are, you’re not thinking about science fiction. Sci-fi, along with horror and other “weird” fiction, has long been male territory, where women are the exception. I learned this lesson over and over again as a teenager searching for sci-fi written by or starring women. Not that I didn’t get any pleasure from Robert Heinlein’s “boys” novels, for example, or gain insight about issues like poverty (Citizen of the Galaxy) or self-determination (Farmer in the Sky), but there was a special kind of excitement in finding a sci-fi novel with a female protagonist. After all, even Ursula Le Guin, who inspired me and whose books I loved dearly, often wrote about men.

The big boom in young adult literature came right after I graduated from college. Suddenly, here were all the books I had been desperate to read as a teenager, when my YA reading choices were limited to Sweet Valley High (too fluffy and formulaic), John Knowles’s A Separate Peace (good, but about rich boys courting tragedy at boarding school), and I Know What You Did Last Summer (the best of the bunch). Now I could read about kick-ass young women with magical powers and girls doing everything I had dreamed of as a teen. But the sci-fi pickings were still fairly slim. I loved fantasy, too, and now there was plenty of it, but where were the spaceships? Where were the girls surviving on hostile planets, like Rod Walker in Heinlein’s Tunnel in the Sky?

I had come across Anne McCaffrey’s Crystal Singer, about a young woman sent to a planet to help mine crystals by singing, at a used book store in high school. I wanted so desperately to finish reading the trilogy, but my small-town public library didn’t have the other two books, and the internet hadn’t quite caught on in rural North Carolina at that point, so I couldn’t track them down. Every time I went to a used book store for the next five years, I checked for the rest of the Crystal Singer series, with no luck. I’m sure there were other sci-fi books by and about women out there, but they were so few and far between, the chances of them making their way into my orbit were slim to none. Like many girls and women, I was making do with glimmers of what could be, like the scene in Return of the Jedi where Leia disguises herself as a bounty hunter and tries to rescue Han (before she ends up chained and in a bikini). 

Enter The Hunger Games. I was working at a book store at the time and managed to snag an ARC before the first book came out. I read the whole thing in one sitting, incredibly moved and energized. I felt like Molly Grue in Peter S. Beagle’s The Last Unicorn when she comes across the title character for the very first time and bursts into tears, shouting, “Where have you been?” Where had books like this been when I was a teenager? Why had it waited to show up until I was at an age where I was “supposed” to be reading adult books? But like Molly Grue, what was ultimately important to me was that it was here now. I didn’t know it yet, but The Hunger Games was about to usher in a tidal wave of dystopian fiction. It was going to lead all of its fellows out of the sea.

Some people don’t think of dystopian fiction, which women are writing in staggering numbers, as part of science fiction. I have to disagree. When you have genetically modified monsters running around a reconstructed post-apocalyptic North America with advanced technology and striking class divisions, you’ve got sci-fi. Others refer to dystopian novels dismissively as “soft” science fiction, as if books that deal with bio-ethical or sociological issues are not “real” science fiction. “Real” sci-fi is “hard” sci-fi, and it belongs to men.

Of course, this is a fallacy, too. Women have staked out territory in all areas of sci-fi in recent years. Beth Revis’s Across the Universe trilogy has made major inroads in introducing female YA readers to harder science fiction. Marissa Meyer has given us a cyborg Cinderella in her Lunar Chronicles series. Lauren DeStefano has deftly intertwined genetics and feminist issues in her Chemical Gardens trilogy. And the international writing team of Amie Kaufmann and Meagan Spooner has shown us through their Starbound series that all kinds of girls are welcome in the science fiction universe, both kick-ass soldiers and those whose appreciation of a nice ball gown doesn’t change the fact that they are whip-smart survivors.

The fundamental trouble here, though, is the false dichotomy set up between hard and soft science fiction. Why do we think we can’t have our space ships and explosions together with our explorations of the ethics of cloning or ruminations on the ways alien cultures might view sexuality differently from our own? Why do some people think of “soft” sci-fi as somehow lesser? Many women, myself included, write soft science fiction because sociological issues like cultural bias, discrimination, and abuse materially affect our lives. Authors like Nnedi Okorafor, who writes both YA and adult novels, Mary E. Pearson, and Alaya Dawn Johnson deftly bring social issues into focus under a science-fictional lens, and the result is dazzling.

In actuality, science fiction is the perfect arena for exploring sociological issues, because the genre has long taken on hot topics and attempted to reframe them in a way that might help us view our own world differently. We can take a fresh look at race, class, or terrorism without the baggage we have when reading the news, then return to those real-world issues with a fresher, deeper understanding. Women like the ones I’ve mentioned have proved they are not afraid to do this. In fact, they excel at this, one of the most fundamental values underpinning science fiction writing.

Women carving out a space for themselves in science fiction is changing the face of the genre, and changing it for the better. It is broadening and deepening the conversations we have in science fiction. If we keep reading and writing, who knows what brave new worlds we’ll discover next?

This post originally appeared on Stacked on March 31, 2015.

SALVAGE nominated for the 2014 Andre Norton Award

I found out last week that that Salvage has been nominated for the 2014 Andre Norton Award, part of Nebula Awards, given by SFWA. I am so thrilled, honored, and excited. As a long-time sci-fi reader, the Nebulas hold a truly important place in my estimation (and on my bookshelf). In addition to that, there are some truly talented people on the ballot, including my friend Alaya Dawn Johnson.

Here is a list of all the nominees,

Novel

The Goblin Emperor, Katherine Addison (Tor)
Trial by Fire, Charles E. Gannon (Baen)
Ancillary Sword, Ann Leckie (Orbit US; Orbit UK)
The Three-Body Problem, Cixin Liu ( ), translated by Ken Liu (Tor)
Coming Home, Jack McDevitt (Ace)
Annihilation, Jeff VanderMeer (FSG Originals; Fourth Estate; HarperCollins Canada)


Novella

We Are All Completely Fine, Daryl Gregory (Tachyon)
Yesterday’s Kin, Nancy Kress (Tachyon)
“The Regular,” Ken Liu (Upgraded)
“The Mothers of Voorhisville,” Mary Rickert (Tor.com 4/30/14)
Calendrical Regression, Lawrence Schoen (NobleFusion)
“Grand Jeté (The Great Leap),” Rachel Swirsky (Subterranean Summer ’14)


Novelette

“Sleep Walking Now and Then,” Richard Bowes (Tor.com 7/9/14)
“The Magician and Laplace’s Demon,” Tom Crosshill (Clarkesworld 12/14)
“A Guide to the Fruits of Hawai’i,” Alaya Dawn Johnson (F&SF 7-8/14)
“The Husband Stitch,” Carmen Maria Machado (Granta #129)
“We Are the Cloud,” Sam J. Miller (Lightspeed 9/14)
“The Devil in America,” Kai Ashante Wilson (Tor.com 4/2/14)


Short Story

“The Breath of War,” Aliette de Bodard (Beneath Ceaseless Skies 3/6/14)
“When It Ends, He Catches Her,” Eugie Foster (Daily Science Fiction 9/26/14)
“The Meeker and the All-Seeing Eye,” Matthew Kressel (Clarkesworld 5/14)
“The Vaporization Enthalpy of a Peculiar Pakistani Family,” Usman T. Malik (Qualia Nous)
“A Stretch of Highway Two Lanes Wide,” Sarah Pinsker (F&SF 3-4/14)
“Jackalope Wives,” Ursula Vernon (Apex 1/7/14)
“The Fisher Queen,” Alyssa Wong (F&SF 5/14)


Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), Written by Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Jr. & Armando Bo (Fox Searchlight Pictures)
Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Screenplay by Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely (Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)
Edge of Tomorrow, Screenplay by Christopher McQuarrie and Jez Butterworth and John-Henry Butterworth (Warner Bros. Pictures)
Guardians of the Galaxy, Written by James Gunn and Nicole Perlman (Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)
Interstellar, Written by Jonathan Nolan and Christopher Nolan (Paramount Pictures)
The Lego Movie, Screenplay by Phil Lord & Christopher Miller  (Warner Bros. Pictures)


Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy

Unmade, Sarah Rees Brennan (Random House)
Salvage, Alexandra Duncan (Greenwillow)
Love Is the Drug, Alaya Dawn Johnson (Levine)
Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future, A.S. King (Little, Brown)
Dirty Wings, Sarah McCarry (St. Martin’s Griffin)
Greenglass House, Kate Milford (Clarion)
The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender, Leslye Walton (Candlewick)

Holiday Giveaway Results

Hi everyone! We have a winner for the Holiday Giveaway. Congratulations to Colette, who chose the Solve ME/CFS Initiative as the recipient of the $50 donation. I asked her if she would like to share a little bit about the organization and why it's important to her. Here's Colette,

ME/CFS affects millions of people of all genders, ages, and ethnicities around the world.  The illness greatly decreases physical and mental function, causing chronic fatigue, dizziness, concentration/memory problems, and numerous other symptoms.  Currently there is no one diagnostic test for ME/CFS and no cure.  All treatments are symptom based and often offer little relief to ME/CFS sufferers.

I personally struggle with ME/CFS and know the impact it can have on daily activities that may seem routine to most people.  Completing an hour of homework, going out for dinner, or on bad days even getting out of bed can be difficult.  I contracted ME/CFS in middle school, and have fought it for almost five years now.  The Solve ME/CFS Initiative has offered hope and support to patients like me who seek a solution.  The organization funds research studies to try to discover a diagnostic test and cure for ME/CFS.  Solve Me/CFS Initiative also strives to advocate for ME/CFS patients.  ME/CFS is a widely misunderstood illness, and can often be met with ignorance and incorrect information.  ME/CFS is a real illness, and with the help of the Solve ME/CFS Initiative a diagnoses, treatment, and worldwide understanding are possible. 

Thanks to Colette for bringing this great charity to everyone's attention, and to everyone who participated, especially those of you who shared the names of your favorite charities. Please check out my A Better World page, where I've added some of your suggestions.

Happy Holidays, everyone!

Past Words

I listened to the St. Louis prosecutor's decision not to indict Darren Wilson for the shooting death of Mike Brown last night, and I was stunned. I think I knew what the verdict would be all week as I saw photos of police kitted out in military gear and listened to appeals for calm that only raised suspicions, but I wanted so badly to believe that there was still the possibility of a trial. The whole world was watching. Maybe that would prevent a blatant miscarriage of justice and the inevitable rage that would spill out of the wounded community of Ferguson as a result.

But no. Prosecutor McConnell gave his speech, rubbed salt in the wounds, and we watched the live stream of protestors and media choking on tear gas while other people rioted.

I want to write on and on about this, but I know the more words I write, the less they will mean. Besides, Roxane Gay is more eloquent, anyway.

When things like this happen, I want to do something more than write. Sitting at my computer retweeting people's links and photos only stirs me into a frenzy of despair. I want not to feel hopeless and powerless. I want to ease people's pain. So, I'm doing the only thing I can, which is to try to dig up ways to help, even though right now everything I do feels like walking through a room blindfolded. I don't know what will actually make things better. I have to think the only thing any of us can do is to keep putting one foot in front of the other and pray we're going the right way.

This week, I'm going to be taking part in each of the following efforts. Maybe you can, too. Maybe you know of other ways to help you can share in the comments here.

Hope Through Stories

Author Joelle Charbonneau is urging authors to send signed copies of their books to the Ferguson Library to show their support. (And as a librarian myself, I can say I'm sure they wouldn't mind some extras of other good books, too.) Joelle writes,

Fellow authors – I ask you to join with me in sending hope to Ferguson through signed books. The Ferguson Library is doing amazing work to help the young people in their community.  An interview with director Scott Bonner gives a glimpse into their efforts.  We can help them do more.  We all know that sometimes it takes just the right story to make the difference. Let’s send them as many as we can so each child can find the one that speaks to them. 

Donate to the Ferguson Library

Speaking of the Ferguson Library, they have been reaching out to the community and doing some amazing things, like giving kids a place to go when the local schools are closed due to unrest. You can donate on their main page (above) via Paypal.

#BlackoutBlackFriday

Instead of shopping this Friday, this hashtag movement is encouraging people to go out and protest police brutality and killings. Click the link above for more information, including events near you. Wouldn't it be nice to spend that money at black-owned businesses on Small Business Saturday, instead?

Donate to or Volunteer with We Need Diverse Books

Justice is never going to come without education. We have to teach kids and teens empathy. We have to remind them that they have worth, even if the past days' news makes them think otherwise. We have to show them that there is no "other." (And we adults could use a refresher on that lesson, too.) Literature is one of the best ways to do this. Donate to We Need Diverse Books to help fund classroom instruction and support for diverse writers so that more diverse literature is available in the future.

Keep walking.

Holiday Donation Giveaway

The tradition in my family during the holidays (for those of us old enough not to be toy-crazy) is to make charitable donations in another person's name, or buy them a gift from a fair trade shop, like Ten Thousand Villages. I want to extend this tradition to you guys this year, so I'm holding a giveaway. The winner of the giveaway will not only win a copy of Salvage, but will also get some fair trade gifts and have $50 donated in their name to the 501 c3 charity of their choice.

Here's how it works.

Enter the Rafflecopter giveaway below by leaving a comment telling me the name of your favorite charity, or by tweeting about the giveaway. I'm always looking for ideas for my A Better World page, so even if you don't win, your favorite charity might end up being featured there. The prize pack will include the following. . .

A signed copy of Salvage.

A signed copy of Salvage.

A fair trade coin purse from SERRV

A fair trade coin purse from SERRV

A $50 donation to the charity of your choice.

A $50 donation to the charity of your choice.

Fair trade cloth bracelets from SERRV.

Fair trade cloth bracelets from SERRV.

A fair trade notebook from SERRV.

A fair trade notebook from SERRV.

A stone heart from Million Hearts for Haiti.

A stone heart from Million Hearts for Haiti.

You can find links to each of these organizations on the A Better World page, if you want to learn more. The giveaway will end on Sunday, Dec. 21st!

Happy Hanukkah/Christmas/Kwanzaa/Solstice, etc. to everyone! Let's make every new year a little bit better than the last.

Mountain of Words Write-a-Thon

This November 8th, I'm taking part in the Mountain of Words Write-a-Thon, which benefits Asheville Writers in the Schools and Community, a non-profit in my home town that is part of the National Writers in the Schools Alliance. If you'd like to sponsor me or any of the other writers or writing teams participating, please visit the Mountain of Words web site and click on the Sponsor a Writer tab.

Thanks so much for your support!

Sunnydale Project: Buffy the Vampire Slayer Read-Alikes

This post originally appeared as part of The Sunnydale Project, a collaboration between Teen Librarian Toolbox and Bookish Comforts. The Sunnydale Project runs from Oct. 27-31st this year. Click over to find out about all the other excellent Buffy-related posts.


I started watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer during my sophomore year of college, a year or so before the show went off the air. The war in Iraq had just started, my family was in the throes of pre-divorce drama, and my long-term boyfriend - now my husband - was living in another city half a state away. It felt like the whole world was falling apart and there was nothing I could do about it.

Then along came Buffy. Buffy wasn’t perfect. She cracked jokes when she was supposed to be training to hunt vampires, and sometimes her secret identity got her into trouble with her parents and teachers, not to mention cultists and bloodsucking immortal demons. But Buffy had a purpose. She fought pointy-toothed evil and won, though sometimes at a cost. She had an amazing group of friends, and they fought evil, too, even though most of them didn’t have superpowers. The show could turn on a dime between genuinely creepy (the Gentlemen), hilarious (kitten Poker), and tragic (Buffy’s mom’s death). Sometimes it was all of those things at once. Yet my belief in the universe Joss Whedon created never wavered. Real life is like that too, sometimes. It’s a drama and a comedy tumbled together.

So, if you’re like me, you’re always on the prowl for something that reminds you of Buffy in some way. Maybe it’s the whip-smart dialogue, the bone-deep shudders, the doomed romance, the heartening sight of friends banding together to fight evil, or the sorrow that comes with death and regret. Maybe – if you’re lucky- it’s all of those things.

Today, you’re in luck. I present to you 13 titles that capture some part of the Buffy spirit. The show might be over, but we will read on.

hold me closer.jpg

1) Hold Me Closer, Necromancer, by Lish MacBride

Eighteen year-old Sam is working at a fast-food restaurant in Seattle when he discovers his long-hidden true identity – he is a necromancer. Not only that, he and his new friends might be the only people who can stop an evil necromancer on the loose in the city, a necromancer who wants to recruit Sam and use him for his own nefarious ends. With plenty of paranormal activity, Whedon-esque dialogue, and a reluctant hero leading a ragtag group of friends in the fight against evil, this novel is a perfect match for Buffy fans.

2) Paranormalcy, by Kiersten White

From the moment readers meet pink-loving Evie, you know she and Buffy would get on like a house on fire, whether they were naming their favorite weapons, trying on dresses, or kicking evil’s butt. Evie works for the International Paranormal Containment Agency, and she is not impressed by vampire posturing. She does, however, long for a normal life and maybe even a nice guy to go with her to prom. Too bad her destiny always gets in the way. Rejoice, readers: this is also the first book in a series.

3) Hex Hall, by Rachel Hawkins

After an unfortunate incident at prom reveals Sophie’s identity as a witch to the non-magical world, her single mother has no choice but to pack her off to Hex Hall, a reform school for troubled witches, wizards, and other creatures. There, Sophie makes enemies (a trio of Mean Girls worthy of Cordelia) friends (vampire roommate and fellow outcast Jenna), and tries to stop a series of attacks on her fellow students. But could Jenna be the attacker, or is something more sinister going on? Why are Sophie’s powers so different from her classmates’? And why do the hottest warlocks always have to be jerks? Sophie’s snarky voice is the perfect counterpoint to the creepy goings-on, and fans will be glad to know this book is the first in a series.

4) White Cat, by Holly Black

Rather than alcohol being banned during Prohibition, in Black’s world, it’s magic that’s against the law. Skip forward to the present day. Cassel is the only non-magical member of his family of curse-working con artists and underworld henchmen. He also might be a murderer. At least, he remembers killing his best friend Lila all those years ago.  But when he starts sleepwalking and dreaming about a white cat – a cat that somehow reminds him of Lila – he starts to wonder if things are really what they seem. This first entry in the Curseworkers series shares its tone with some of the more serious Buffy episodes, though there are plenty of creepy-funny moments sprinkled in. Lovers of Buffy’s darker shades and Anya fans will fly through this series.

5) Sisters Red, by Jackson Pearce

Sisters Scarlet and Rosie March are werewolf hunters. But these are no Zen Oz-werewolves; these are bloodthirsty monsters that stalk young women throughout the city of Atlanta. The sisters struggle with guilt, obligation, their own dark pasts, and, of course, axes as the werewolves run rampant. The final fiery showdown is worthy of one of Buffy’s fights with the Big Bad, and so is the combination of sibling rivalry and affection.

6) Devilish, by Maureen Johnson

Buffy aficionados know better than anyone that demons can bring some high comedy. That is definitely the case in the story of outsider Jane and her best friend Allison, who attend a Catholic girls’ school. When Allison suddenly becomes popular overnight and starts ignoring Jane in favor of the (definitely demonic) Lanalee, Jane knows that she has to save her friend and her friend’s soul. What she doesn’t yet know is how high the stakes are and what the deadly Poodle Prom has in store. Devilish has Maureen Johnson’s characteristic quirk and wit, this time with supernatural elements. Those who enjoy it should look into her new Shades of London series, as well.

7) Rampant, by Diana Peterfreund

Buffy always turned our assumptions about good and evil on their heads, and Peterfreund does the same here with unicorns. There is some truth to the old legends – only virgins can capture the creatures – but these unicorns are no harbingers of sweetness and innocence. They are venomous beasts who have no problem chowing down on humans with their razor-sharp teeth. When one of them attacks Astrid’s boyfriend, she finds herself shipped off to Italy to become part of a secret society that trains girls to become unicorn hunters. Is this sounding awesome yet? What are you waiting for? Go find a copy. Run like killer unicorns are chasing you!

8) House of Ivy & Sorrow, by Natalie Whipple

This one’s for the Scoobies. For young witch Josephine Hemlock, magic is about family and sacrifice. Haunted by a curse that killed her mother, Jo struggles to keep both her friends and family safe from the evil that has descended on her quaint, sleepy town. But can she protect everyone and stay alive? Can she afford to accept her friends’ help, even if it puts them in danger? If you enjoy this stand-alone, you’ll want to check out Whipple’s other fun, well-crafted novels.

9) Vampire Knight, by Matsuri Hino

Novels aren’t the only medium carrying on the Buffy spirit. This manga series follows Yuki Cross, adopted daughter of the headmaster at Cross Academy, where she also works as a guardian. Why does her boarding school need pistol-toting guardians? Because it is populated by both a “Day Class” of humans and a “Night Class” of vampires. Yuki was almost killed by a vampire when she was a child, so she knows better than anyone that when the two classes cross paths, there’s bound to be trouble. The only question is, can she and the other school guardians stop it?

10) Prophecy of the Sisters, by Michelle Zink

This first book in a series by the same name takes sibling rivalry to the next level with the tale of twins Lia and Alice, one good and one completely, irrevocably evil. After the death of their father, the girls discover their part in a prophecy that could bring about the end of the world. One sister has the power to unleash evil upon the world, and another has the power to seal the entrance to the underworld for good – but who is who?

11) The Archived, by Victoria Schwab

In Schwab’s world, the dead and their memories become Histories, stored in the Archive and watched over by Keepers and Librarians. Mackenzie Bishop has always wanted to follow in her grandfather’s footsteps and become a Keeper, guiding confused and violent Histories back to their resting place. Since the death of her younger brother, though, things have become more complicated, especially when Mac discovers someone has been erasing the memories from Histories and her new home might be the sight of a long-ago murder. The gorgeous prose and singularly unsettling setting should please lovers of all things creepy.

12) Chime, by Franny Billingsley

Briony is haunted by secrets and guilt. She’s a witch, and, after all, witches deserve death in her turn-of-the-century English town of Swampsea. But with the help of Elderic, one of the few locals who doesn’t shun the swamp, and the love her sister Rose, Briony begins to unravel the mystery of her family’s past and her stepmother’s death, something she has always thought was her fault. Rich, quirky writing and a beautifully dark atmosphere set this stand-alone novel apart.

13) Daughter of Smoke and Bone, by Laini Taylor

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If you were a fan of the way Buffy explored the sometime-blurry line between good and evil, you’ll love this first book in Laini Taylor’s dark fantasy trilogy. Karou has grown up in Prague, spending her days as an art student, but going home to an avuncular, tooth-collecting Chimera named Brimstone each evening. Karou doesn’t know why Brimstone needs human teeth or how she ended up with hamsas tattooed on her palms, but when she starts finding handprints seared into doors all over the city and is nearly killed by a beautiful, deadly angel named Akiva, the mysteries of her everyday life begin to connect with her long-forgotten past.

Halloween Book Trail: Galaxy Trail Stop #6

Welcome to the sixth stop of The Galaxy Halloween Book Trail!

If you've been following the trail so far, you probably know how this works, but for those of you jumping in here for the first time, here's what happens. This trail is based on the YAmazing Race with MGnificent Prizes presented by the Apocalypsies. You'll find all kinds of posts, and discover new authors and their work. Every post contains information that will lead to killer prizes! Books, swag, skype sessions, locks of hair (jk jk)! At the end of each blog you’ll find a link that will take you to the next stop in the trail. By the end, you’ll find a quiz. Now you’ll be happy you read all the posts! Submit your entry to the quiz for a chance to win a grand prize! Accuracy matters here, so take your time, or go back and refresh your memory! One quiz entry per trail.

Before I start revealing all of my deep, dark Halloween secrets, here's a little bit about me.

My name is Alexandra Duncan. I'm the author of the YA sci-fi novel Salvage, which came out this past April from Greenwillow Books. I'm also a librarian and short story writer. I live with my husband and our two monstrous, furry cats in the mountains of North Carolina.

This is my author face, courtesy of Kristi Hedberg. It looks pretty much like my real face, except that my fangs and dorsal spines have been removed via Photoshop.

This is my author face, courtesy of Kristi Hedberg. It looks pretty much like my real face, except that my fangs and dorsal spines have been removed via Photoshop.

This is my book! It looks exactly like this, except made of paper instead of pixels. Unless you have the e-book or the audiobook.

This is my book! It looks exactly like this, except made of paper instead of pixels. Unless you have the e-book or the audiobook.

Now that you know the basics about me, let's get into those harrowing Halloween secrets with these questions from the Trail organizers. . .

What is the grossest thing you’ve ever eaten on a dare?

Birthday cake flavored M&Ms. I also ate dry cat food one time, but that wasn’t a dare. I was four, and I just wanted to know what my cat was so excited about.

What scares the pants out of you?

Pretty much everything scares me. I am an enormous scaredy-pants. I’m afraid of snakes, sharks, face-eating chimpanzees, serial killers, clowns, serial killers dressed as clowns, flesh-eating bacteria, zombies, people in haunted houses with chainsaws, rollercoasters, really deep water, demonic children, possessed dolls, and probably a lot of other things that I’m not thinking about right now. Weirdly enough, though, I’m not really afraid of spiders.

If you were stranded on a deserted island or haunted house, what number are you to die and how?

I think I would be the second person to go. Since we’ve already established that I’m afraid of everything, I don’t think I would be the first person to charge off alone into the haunted woods. I probably would go looking for my friends, though, and I don’t have any particularly good survival skills or quick reflexes. In fact, I’m pretty sure my body would freeze up when the monster rose up out of the swamp, so I wouldn’t even be able to run away. I don’t know if I would get eaten, however. I think it would be more in character if I died in a horrible mishap – a Final Destination type scenario where lightning strikes a tree, which impales a werewolf, which knocks out its fang, which flies across the clearing and imbeds itself in my carotid artery, which causes me to pass out due to blood loss and fall off a cliff.

If you were stranded on a deserted island or haunted house, how do you survive?

Hiding.

What is your favorite Halloween memory?

I grew up with a single mom. The Halloween when I was four, she made the greatest Halloween costume that ever was. I was a unicorn, with a horn made out of pink foam curlers and a wire coat hanger, plus a mane and tail made out of yarn. We went trick-or-treating and then got my Halloween candy x-rayed at the hospital where my mom worked, because it was the ‘80s and everyone was freaking out about razor blades and drugs in candy. I was oblivious to all the adult anxiety, though, and thought this was just more excitement. It was the best Halloween ever, in part because it turned out there were not drugs or razor blades in my Tootsie Rolls.

If the zombie apocalypse happened (and it will), what would be your weapon of choice?

Hiding.

Please share a photo of your favorite Halloween costume you’ve worn.

Homemade Halloween costumes are the best. This is a photo from two years ago, when my husband and I dressed up as Star Trek original series characters. (NERD ALERT - I love Uhura, which is why I’m in red and wearing an operations insignia.) I made the insignias and sewed on the gold rickrack myself.

 

What magical/supernatural creature do you secretly want to be?

I used to want to be a mermaid, but now I think it would be even better to be able to shape-shift into a bear whenever I wanted.

What is your favorite sentence/paragraph from your novel?

“In another few months I might be weighted down with a baby like Soli and busy learning to manage the women at Luck’s mother’s side. But tonight, no one is looking for me. No one will notice I’m gone from my bed. It is the last night before I am fully a woman.

And so I let him lead me from the garden.”

Thanks for taking part in the Galaxy Book Trail! For the next stop on the trail, visit the always entertaining Beth Revis, Mistress of Explosions, at http://bethrevis.blogspot.com/2014/10/the-halloween-book-trail-galaxy-hunt.html

Halloweenery

Halloween is my absolute favorite holiday of the year. I love scooping the guts out of pumpkins, dressing up, handing out candy, and seeing everyone's costumes. (And of course, eating leftover candy. I'm not gonna lie. That's a huge attraction.) I'm doing several things to celebrate this year, both on- and offline.

First, I'm taking part in the Sunnydale Project, a Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan appreciation event run by Teen Librarian's Toolbox, which also runs the wonderful SVYALit Project. I'm a major BtVS nerd, and I love TLT, so this the match-up of my dreams. From Monday, Oct. 27 through Friday, Oct. 31st, the Sunnydale Project will be posting read-alike lists, personal stories about finding BtVS, and other fun things. Go check it out!

I'm also participating in the Halloween Book Trail, which sends readers on a hunt across blogs to discover YA & MG books and fun, weird facts about their authors. It ends with the chance to win one of five grand prizes. I'm part of the Galaxy Trail, but there are tons of other trails you can follow, too. Also, you get to see me in a unicorn costume.

And, of course, I'm making myself a Halloween costume. Since our own neighborhood is low on trick-or-treaters, my husband and I usually go over to a friend's house in one of the local neighborhoods struck with Halloween mania and help them deal with the tidal wave of kids ringing their doorbell. We also take turns hiding in the yard and jumping out at teenagers and adults. Normally, it's my husband who does this, but I think the costume I made this year will qualify me for a place in the yard.

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Ta da! I'm particularly happy with my headdress, which I made out of a foam floral wreath, fake flowers, and black spray paint. I intentionally left some of the flower tips red, because that's way more creepy, right?

Happy Halloween, everyone! Check back here for links to the Halloween Book Trail and the Sunnydale Project during the week!

Day One of Marriage Equality in North Carolina

If you read my previous blog post about how all married people are part of a vast conspiracy to make sure all of our friends get married so we can double-date, you know how I feel about the news that same-sex marriage is now legal in my home state of North Carolina.

Hint:

Here's another hint:

And a third. . .

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While you're celebrating, take a look at my friend, photographer Max Cooper's photos of the first marriages taking place at the Buncombe County Register of Deeds office in Asheville, NC, including the super-adorable first couple in line.

Teen Read Week Giveaway!

In celebration of Teen Read Week, Meagan Spooner, author of the Skylark trilogy and These Broken Stars, and I will be visiting the Burke County Public Library in Morganton, N.C., at 6 p.m. Monday, Oct. 13th. The third and final book of Meagan's Skylark trilogy, Lark Ascending, will be coming out Oct. 1st, just in time for Teen Read Week. In the run up to our event, I'm hosting a giveaway: a signed copy of Salvage and a signed copy of the first book in the Skylark trilogy.

Transient

Enter below!


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