inverarity

AQATWW: The Grind


Alex & David
Actual dialog excerpted from the first draft of AQATWW.


I have reached The Grind. That's where my progress keeps stalling because I have a bunch of unresolved plot holes that need to be filled in, and I've already written chapters I know will have to be rewritten, and what I should do is just keep writing, but instead I keep grinding my gears trying to work out a resolution all the way to the end.

I always end up here, and I really wish I was a super-methodical outliner who can lay out my story from beginning to end and then just get there

I've been trying out Scapple. I've never been a big fan of mind-maps, but for actually jotting down all my loose thoughts, dangling plot threads, questions that need to be answered, connections that need to be made, etc., it's sort of nifty. We'll see how much it actually helps.

Scapple for AQATWW

Right now, AQATWW is up to 40 chapters (outlined, not written), and I have written about 95K words (but that includes extraneous material, notes, and bits of book seven).

On the POD front, the artist I originally commissioned for a cover become too busy, so I am working out details with a new artist.

And Ankkes posted fan art of Alex and Larry on the AQ subreddit.

Alex and Larry, by Ankhes

This is so Alex and Larry.
inverarity

Book Review: The Years of Lyndon Johnson, by Robert Caro

A monumental, epic, highly recommended biography of an unscrupulous, magnificent, crooked, glorious bastard of a POTUS.


The Years of Lyndon Johnson.jpg




This is the story of the rise to national power of a desperately poor young man from the Texas Hill Country. The Path to Power reveals in extraordinary detail the genesis of the almost superhuman drive, energy, and ambition that set LBJ apart. It follows him from the Hill Country to New Deal Washington, from his boyhood through the years of the Depression to his debut as Congressman, his heartbreaking defeat in his first race for the Senate, and his attainment, nonetheless, at age 31, of the national power for which he hungered.

In this book, we are brought as close as we have ever been to a true perception of political genius and the American political process. Means of Ascent, Book Two of The Years of Lyndon Johnson, was a number-one national best seller and, like The Path to Power, received the National Book Critics Circle Award.



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inverarity

Book Review: The Ten Thousand Doors of January, by Alix Harrow

A portal fantasy in which white men are just The Worst.


The Ten Thousand Doors of January

Redhook, 2019, 374 pages



In the early 1900s, a young woman searches for her place in the world and the mystery behind a magical door in this captivating debut.

In a sprawling mansion filled with peculiar treasures, January Scaller is a curiosity herself. As the ward of the wealthy Mr. Locke, she feels little different from the artifacts that decorate the halls: carefully maintained, largely ignored, and utterly out of place.

Then she finds a strange book. A book that carries the scent of other worlds and tells a tale of secret doors, of love, adventure, and danger. Each page turn reveals impossible truths about the world, and January discovers a story increasingly entwined with her own.


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My complete list of book reviews.
inverarity

Alexandra Quick and the World Away ebook now available!

cactusfantastico, aka Bordraw, has created a new ebook cover for AQATWA to go with his previous series of AQ covers.

Alexandra Quick covers

As you can see, the first and last covers don't quite match the others, because Bordraw is redoing the previous covers, starting with Alexandra Quick and the Thorn Circle. Along with this updated cover, I am happy to announce that I have also digitally remastered the AQATTC ebook. Updated with not just several years worth of corrected typos and my improved ability to wrangle epub files, it also features chapter illustrations by Sam Gabriel, whom you all know as the fellow who's devoted an insane amount of time to the Alexandra Quick Audiobook project.

You can get the new AQATTC ebook, the AQATWA ebook, and all the previous ones (as well the old PDF files, featuring my awesome Poser illustrations) at the download link that has always been visible in the sidebar.

Bordraw is working on updated covers for books two through four, and Sam is producing illustrations for the next few books as well. So as I gather all the necessary materials, I will be releasing remastered ebooks for Alexandra Quick and the Lands Below, Alexandra Quick and the Deathly Regiment, and Alexandra Quick and the Stars Above as well.

Note that I do still correct typos (in all my books) when people send them to me. I don't go back and reedit the chapters posted to FanFiction.net and AO3, because that would just be too much work, but I periodically upload the latest revision of the ebooks. (If you are super-geeky, you can tell what version of the epub you have by looking at the "modification date" in the metadata.) For those who care, I used to create epubs using Calibre, which is actually an ebook reader and organizer with some basic editing functionality, but I have graduated to Sigil, which is awesome and powerful and about as user-friendly as Linux circa 1999.

Actually, my process is:

1. Create digital master copy, complete with stylesheets, page layouts, and illustrations, in Word. (I finally had to give up my beloved OpenOffice and bite the Micro$oft bullet because creating print-ready files in OpenOffice is about as user-friendly as Linux circa 1992.)
2. Save master copy as filtered HTML.
3. Open the HTML file in a code editor, spend a couple hours cleaning it up, creating a proper css stylesheet, and removing all the Microsoft cruft.
4. Open that in Sigil, and spend another couple of hours creating a tidy, nicely-formatted ebook which still does not consistently render the same in every reader because the epub format is still Linux circa ~2005.

But anyway, if I become unemployed due to the impending Coronavirus depression, recession, or global apocalypse, depending on which economist you listen to, maybe I can start a new side gig formatting ebooks for Amazon authors, because everyone will still be buying ebooks while sifting through dumpsters, right?

Just kidding. Hope you're all okay out there.

The Alexandra Quick and the Thorn Circle print book



I have just about finished the digital master for AQATTC. vielerseits did some awesome proofreading of the first draft and caught a ton of things that will make the first print copy look awesome.

Alexandra Quick and the Thorn Circle frontmatter

Alexandra Quick and the Thorn Circle (Ch.29)

The cover artist is taking longer than I expected, and that is really the only thing I am waiting for before I put together the POD file and order my first print print. A select few of you (you know who you are) will be getting copies. Yes, I've decided I'll probably make the POD file available to everyone else eventually.

And if you noticed that frontpiece illustration of Charmbridge Academy, that was done by an artist who I commissioned to do similar frontpieces for all seven books. Yes, I have the frontmatter illustration for AQATWW and book seven already. I may show them off (at least the ones for books two through five) soon.

Fan Art



cactusfantastico also painted an awesome picture of Alexandra facing Typhon:


Begone
by cactusfantastico on DeviantArt

And on the r/AlexandraQuick subreddit, u/shncha posted this beautiful portrait of Constance:

Constance Pritchard

Whatever are you thinking, Constance, showing your ankles like that, with your hair unbound? Hmm....

What you really care about: AQATWW



So, have I been taking advantage of the Coronavirus situation to sit in my home and write for 8 hours a day?

No. I've actually been spending a lot of time on other projects. But - I have also been writing! Maybe not quite as much as I would like, but it's proceeding.

As I said in my last Author's Notes, I am actually trying to do more outlining than I did in previous books, and having already hit some stumpers, a lot of my "writing time" is "thinking time," and unfortunately that's when I'm most prone to getting distracted by hopping onto a game site or reddit for just a few minutesthe rest of the evening.

I currently have 39 chapters outlined for AQATWW, 14 for book seven, 15 chapters written for AQATWW, and 2 chapters for book seven. (I finally did a Rowling and wrote the Epilogue that has been in my head for years. Then I ended up writing a second Epilogue.) The word count stands at about 87,000 words, but that's a very inaccurate count, as it includes outlines, notes, and such.

Scrivener outline

To everyone who has been emailing me and PMing me asking "When will book six be done?" and "Please don't take another five years!" - hey, I'm doing my best. I want to say that at my current pace, I'm not writing much slower than I was when I finished a book a year.... but shit happens, like pandemics and other things, and if AQATWA taught me anything, it's not to make promises. Right now, I am optimistic about my progress. Thank you for your patience.
inverarity

Book Review: A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World, by C.A. Fletcher

What better reason to set off across a post-apocalyptic world than to get your dog back?


A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World

Orbit, 2019, 365 pages



My name's Griz. My childhood wasn't like yours. I've never had friends, and in my whole life I've not met enough people to play a game of football.

My parents told me how crowded the world used to be, but we were never lonely on our remote island. We had each other, and our dogs.

Then the thief came.

There may be no law left except what you make of it. But if you steal my dog, you can at least expect me to come after you.

Because if we aren't loyal to the things we love, what's the point?


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inverarity

Book Review: On a Red Station, Drifting, by Aliette de Bodard

Vietnamese-themed soapspace opera.


On a Red Station, Drifting

WSFA Press, 2012, 159 pages



For generations Prosper Station has thrived under the guidance of its Honoured Ancestress: born of a human womb, the station’s artificial intelligence has offered guidance and protection to its human relatives.

But war has come to the Dai Viet Empire. Prosper’s brightest minds have been called away to defend the Emperor; and a flood of disorientated refugees strain the station’s resources. As deprivations cause the station’s ordinary life to unravel, uncovering old grudges and tearing apart the decimated family, Station Mistress Quyen and the Honoured Ancestress struggle to keep their relatives united and safe.

What Quyen does not know is that the Honoured Ancestress herself is faltering, her mind eaten away by a disease that seems to have no cure; and that the future of the station itself might hang in the balance…


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Also by Aliette de Bodard: My review of The Waiting Stars.




My complete list of book reviews.
inverarity

Book Review: Columbus Day, by Craig Alanson

A rag-tag international band of soldiers and an AI named Skippy save the world from aliens.


Columbus Day

2016, 273 pages



We were fighting on the wrong side of a war we couldn't win. And that was the good news.

The Ruhar hit us on Columbus Day. There we were, innocently drifting along the cosmos on our little blue marble, like the Native Americans in 1492. Over the horizon came ships of a technologically advanced, aggressive culture, and BAM! There went the good old days, when humans got killed only by each other. So, Columbus Day. It fits.

When the morning sky twinkled again, this time with Kristang starships jumping in to hammer the Ruhar, we thought we were saved. The UN Expeditionary Force hitched a ride on Kristang ships to fight the Ruhar wherever our new allies thought we could be useful. So, I went from fighting with the US Army in Nigeria to fighting in space. It was lies, all of it. We shouldn't even be fighting the Ruhar; they aren't our enemy. Our allies are.

I'd better start at the beginning.


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Alexandra

Looking for nitpicky layout and design geeks for Alexandra Quick and the Thorn Circle POD printing

As I have posted previously, I intend to print trade paperback editions of my Alexandra Quick novels - not for sale. I will be giving them exclusively to friends, family, my beta-readers, etc.

Eventually, I'll be doing this for all the books, but right now, I'm just preparing for a trial print run of Alexandra Quick and the Thorn Circle.

I've got a semifinal draft of the PDF I'll be using for the POD service. Do you want access to it so you can print your own copies? A number of people have asked for this. I may or may not make it publicly available in the future, but if you want early access and you are a super-nitpicky proofreader, preferably with some knowledge of layout and design, font selection, etc., here is your opportunity.

AQATTC POD layout

Basically, I want people to go over the layout with a fine-toothed comb to find any tiny little mistakes I might have made. A missing line break between paragraphs. A first-in-the-section paragraph that wasn't indented. A page number that got left off somewhere, or maybe the little icons in the corner margins got missed in one chapter. Are the pictures too large, too small? How does the font I used for Abraham Thorn's letter to Alexandra look? (I don't like the current one. I haven't found the perfect font yet.) Also, proofreading and comments on the frontmatter (disclaimer, dedication, etc.) and Author's Notes. Basically, any nitpicky thing that will make it look as much like a professionally-printed book as possible.

I am not looking for proofreading of the book itself. I mean, if you actually find a typo, I would definitely like to correct those, but otherwise, I am absolutely not revising the text. This is just layout and design. If you know your fonts and have an eye for whitespace and can do the boring gruntwork of going over every page looking for oopses, let me know. Your reward will be an advance copy of the final POD document, whether or not I make it publicly available in the future. (I'd like to offer an actual printed copy of the book, but I can only afford to print and give out so many of those. However, if you have the document, you can use your choice of POD printers to print your own.)

If you would like to be considered, please send me an email at inverarity.author at gmail dot com. Let me know what your qualifications are (basically, something besides "I really want a copy!") Those I select will be given a link to the PDF. Those who actually send useful comments and corrections will get a copy of the final, including the cover (which I don't have yet).
inverarity

Book Review: The Raven, The Elf, and Rachel, by L. Jagi Lamplighter

The second book in a delightfully ditzy Harry Potter derivative.


The Raven, The Elf, and Rachel

Dark Quest, LLC, 2014, 422 pages



Before coming to Roanoke Academy, Rachel Griffin had been an obedient girl – but it is hard to obey the rules when the world is in danger and no one will listen.

Now, she's eavesdropping on Wisecraft Agents and breaking a great many regulations. Because if the adults will not believe her, then it is up to Rachel and her friends – crazy, orphan-boy Sigfried the Dragonslayer and Nastasia, the Princess of Magical Australia – to stop the insidious Mortimer Egg from destroying the world.

But first, she must survive truth spells, fights with her brother, detention, Alchemy experiments, talking to elves, and conjuring class. Oh, and the Raven with blood-red eyes continues to watch her. It is said to be the omen of the Doom of Worlds. Will her attempts to save her world bring the Raven's wrath down upon her?

And as if that is not bad enough, someone has just turned the boy she likes into a sheep.


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Also by L. Jagi Lamplighter: My review of The Unexpected Enlightenment of Rachel Griffin.




My complete list of book reviews.
Alexandra Quick

AQATWA: Author's Notes


Alexandra
Illustration by Jerlyy. A lovely likeness, though it's probably what Alex sees in her magic mirror.


It's been eight years since my last end-of-book Author's notes. Rereading that post, it's kind of funny how much has changed and how much hasn't.

Finishing Alexandra Quick and the World Away felt... incredible. I've been asked more than once why I don't write something original (working on it), and why I don't try to publish AQ, maybe after stripping it of its Harry Potter provenance. (I addressed that a long time ago) Yes, I do want to write (and publish) original novels. I'm not getting any younger. At the same time, Alexandra Quick is literally a labor of love, and no one will feel worse than me if I never finish the series.

But let's talk about this book, now that it's out there in its completed form.

The writing process and the cutting room floor



Alexandra Quick and the World Away took me over seven years to write. That's taking into account many months in which not a single word was written, and many more months where I opened up the draft, managed to tweak a few sentences, and then closed it again. My initial burst of productivity in the months following the conclusion of AQATSA was followed by years of almost no writing, until last year, when I finally got in gear again. And it was still a long, hard haul. I went back and forth with my betas, sometimes over and over on a few points. There are significant plot arcs that were dropped, and others that were added.

I kind of hesitate to give a look behind the scenes at all the things I changed, because it might damage my image as a master plotter who always knows exactly where the story is going and how to get there, and who planned every brilliant twist all along. What?

Okay, that's not actually how it works. (Stares at notes.)

In fact, most of the major things that happen in the series have been planned since book one. I have always known who lives, who dies, and how the series will end, right down to the final chapter. (Unlike Rowling, I haven't actually written it yet, but it's mostly plotted out in my head.)

That said, things change. Not every single thing I've planned has happened according to my original plan. Occasionally I have had a new and better (or at least different) idea. More often, in order to make the things I had planned work, I had to change other things. Fitting plot points together when you organize like I do can be kind of like putting together a jigsaw puzzle where half the pieces are missing. I'm one of those writers who has numerous scenes vividly detailed in my head — I know what I want to happen and how I want to write them. I have a whole series of them for Alexandra's entire saga, like individual milestones. But I don't have the road that leads past all those milestones, and sometimes forcing my way to one of them is like, well, trying to move a road.

Some of you speculated about the things that were late changes or additions in book five. I won't enumerate all the different iterations and revisions, but literally everything in the Ozark sequence was rewritten multiple times. When I first wrote Alexandra's Ozark quest, she had to do the whole thing without a wand. There are different versions of the story where she ends up with one, two, or three wands. I had to cut a scene with Mr. Bagby that I liked a lot. :( (Don't worry, he will appear in the next book.) A scene with Alexandra, Professor Haster, and the wizards of the Research Office was cut before it even made it to my betas. It was interesting and would have made Professor Haster more of an actual character, but it ultimately added complications without a clear story payoff. Another scene with the hill dwarves was pushed to the next book.

The Ozark sequence was originally even longer, but I knew (and my betas agreed) that some parts needed to be cut. I was self-indulgent with the Pruett School arc; my betas wanted me to chop most of it, and I know that a professional editor would make me do the same. I never insert anything that I don't think has a purpose, but yeah, I probably could have made the story work with a few less day school kids and chapters. The Junior Wizarding Decathlon was problematic in terms of timing and pacing too. I did originally plan for Alexandra to complete the entire Decathlon, but I never even wrote that version because I quickly realized that it needed a different, more abrupt, resolution.

I always had a plan for Bonnie, but it changed significantly in the final draft of this book.

All feedback is good feedback



I've read all your reviews, and most of the discussion on the /r/AlexandraQuick subreddit. And a shout-out to the Dark Lord Potter forum as well, which has supplied an interesting combination of fans and hate-readers for years. It's been great to see that kind of (mostly positive) feedback, while there are always a few folks around to keep me humble by telling me how much I suck.

I'll admit the one criticism I find frustrating is when people still say "Alexandra is such a brat! She never learns!"

I know probably not many people love Alexandra as much as I do, but some people are really too hard on the girl! I know she's flawed and bratty and I deliberately made her hard to like at times, but I still find it hard to understand why some people actively root against her or think she's been more terrible or amoral than she is. And I really don't understand the claims that she "never learns her lesson" and never changes. I think there's a big difference between 16-year-old Alex and 11-year-old Alex, not just in terms of being older and wiser, but also in that 16-year-old Alexandra actually does think about what she's doing and the consequences, and has a stronger moral center. Not that she's perfect by any means — she is still impulsive and reckless and sometimes a jerk. But she has grown up! She's gotten smarter! She's even gotten more considerate! Not just since book one, but since last book! And in my opinion, that progression has been continual throughout the series — with, admittedly, some occasional backsliding. (Her low point was probably book three, which was all about her trying to come to terms with Max's death and making some really bad decisions before she did.) She has continued to make impulsive, bad decisions, but to me, they seem within the range of normal teenage behavior. Maybe compared to Harry Potter, Alexandra does seem pretty bad. Harry's worst moments were screaming at his friends a few times. (Oh, and that Crucio, but that doesn't count, right?) Other than that, he almost always does the right thing. Alex isn't like that. She usually ends up doing the right thing while trying to correct the bad thing she did previously.

I'm not going to tell readers they're wrong, because the reader always takes what they will from the story, and it's not the reader's fault if what they take away is not what the author intended. But I hope Alexandra has aged and matured and seems a year older in each book.

I also realize not everyone is upset when Alexandra is a hardheaded, stubborn little brat, and are waiting to see her go Full Dark. Well, wait and see.

Your speculations and discussion have been gratifying and entertaining (and occasionally baffling — but mostly I haven't felt an urge to say "No, that's wrong!"). Some predictions were spot on. Some, not so much. Some of your ideas made me wish I'd thought of them! Sometimes you give me too much credit. ("Oh... yeah, I totally meant to do that all along!") And sometimes I totally did mean to do that all along.

But there's one thing that made me facepalm, repeatedly.

Holy crap, you guys, I seriously wish I had never mentioned....

"Peak Asshole"



That was a flippant comment I made in discussion with my betas, and I made the mistake of publicly joking about it before I finished the book. So of course readers were waiting for Alex to approach, or cross, the Moral Event Horizon, but when she did, most of you missed it.

But in fairness to you, so did I the first time around.


Alexandra Quick and the World Away
So, cheating on her boyfriend while she's suffering a magic-induced manic episode was unforgiveable,
but what's a little ethnic cleansing?



I don't really blame you if you didn't have the same gut reaction to Alexandra smiting the hill dwarves that a couple of my betas did, because I didn't either. They were the ones who called her out on this — "Like, did Alex just commit genocide? And then create a refugee crisis?" Yeah, she kinda did.

"Genocide" is a little strong. But what Alexandra did was obviously pretty bad. Collective punishment inflicted for the actions of a few, it almost certainly caused casualties, and Alexandra literally destroyed their homes. I admit it was only after my betas pointed this out to me that I realized, uh, yeah, there probably are dwarf women and children in that mountain too, not just the assholes who jumped her. I wrote that scene to be awesome, over-the-top payback, and yes, to show that Alex can get carried away and be kind of dark when pushed. She certainly unleashed her Inner Asshole in that moment. But a couple of my betas reacted very strongly to this, to the point that they were practically rooting against her after that.

To be fair to myself, I was never going to treat it like no big deal. There will be some future consequences, which I did have planned beforehand. But I realized there was something a bit lacking in the aftermath of Alexandra literally purging a community, and risked making it seem as if it really had been no big deal. I'm generally against obligatory authorial moralizing (i.e., "The main character did something bad, so the author must make it clear that it was bad"), but Alex needed to be confronted with the consequences of her actions sooner than next book.

Now — in Alexandra's defense:


  • She had been exhausted and terrorized for days.

  • The Unworking had literally driven her half-crazy.

  • Notwithstanding everything I said above about Alexandra's character growth, she was 15. How many kids wouldn't react disproportionately in her situation?

  • While maybe not every single member of the hill dwarf community was guilty of wrongdoing, this wasn't just one gang of hoodlums... There were other hints that Alexandra was not the first person to get abducted by the little fuckers.



Does all of that excuse what she did? Maybe not, but I think it ameliorates it considerably.

That said, it was definitely way, way worse than cheating on her boyfriend (which she also did while suffering what jackbethimble aptly called a "magic-induced manic episode"). I mean, come on.

So, that's it. That was what my betas and I considered the "peak asshole" moment, while a lot of you spent the rest of the book asking "So, was that the Peak Asshole moment? No? Do you think she's going to do something even worse?"

Even my betas sometimes think Alex is a bigger jerk than I do. So maybe I'm just too much of a doting author.

(My betas also think Alexandra is totally a speciesist. Admittedly, her relationship with non-humans has been antagonistic more often than not.)

I did spend a lot more time (and discussion) on the other big scene following her magic-induced manic episode:

In which "an old(ish) white dude" writes about a teenage girl's sex life



Many readers assume I'm a woman until they find out differently, and I generally take that as a compliment. I'm a middle-aged guy writing a teenage girl MC, so to be able to do it well enough that readers are convinced she's being written by a woman means I'm probably doing okay. But this book was when Alexandra loses her virginity, and I admit I was a bit worried about all the ways that a middle-aged man writing about an underaged girl having sex could go wrong. And of course, to make it even more "problematic," the guy she hooks up with is 19.

Obviously I had no interest in sexualizing Alex or writing erotica, but I wanted it to be realistic without being prurient. And I was threading the needle between "Statutory rape is totally cool!" and not falling back into that obligatory authorial moralizing.

(Incidentally, gods help me I actually looked up age of consent laws. I think Burton would technically be okay in Arkansas, thanks to a close-in-age exception, but guilty of a felony in Missouri or Illinois. I don't know what Ozarker or Confederation age of consent laws say; Burton should probably be more worried about what Alexandra's father would say...)

So I went back and forth a lot with my betas (two of whom are women, btw) about all the interactions with Burton. Was I making it seem like it's no big deal that a 19-year-old is hitting on a 15-year-old? Did I need to be clear in the text that this is Not Okay? As I said, I have a strong aversion to authorial moralizing, but pro authors get dragged for less, so it was a concern. I've generally been pretty good about writing a teenage girl in a believable, non-creepy way (so I have been told), and this was definitely an opportunity to fuck up with /r/menwritingwomen material.


old white dude

Apparently I write like this guy.


So far I've only received one really negative review. Someone really didn't like my handling of Anna and Alex, and wrote a screed about how "trashy" the writing was.

Dear anonymous reviewer: while your criticism stung, hate-reviews from anons are hard to take seriously. Someone who won't even leave a pseudonym to sign a flaming FU does make me wonder if I'm just being trolled.

So, I honestly have no idea what you meant by "porn dialog," and I'm not sure how being white made my failure extra-faily, but it's time to talk about....

Shipping




Torpedoed Ship.jpg

Yeah, I did that.


Let me answer the big question many of you have had: yes, I had this planned from the beginning. Yes, all the way back in book one. Anna has always had a crush on Alex, and it was never going to end well, because... Alex isn't gay. People have picked up on the "shipping vibe" for years, but read carefully and you'll see that what you were picking up on was Anna's feelings. Has Alex ever reciprocated, in any way but friendship? No. Rather, I think the hints have also been there, nearly from the beginning, that whatever romantic feelings Alexandra had were directed at boys. She loves Anna. But she likes boys.

Now, I've been accused of "teasing" shippers, and of course I was not insensible to the fact that many people saw signs pointing to an Anna/Alex pairing. But y'all saw what you wanted to see, and I just didn't contradict you. Things proceeded in what I considered to be a natural and inevitable way, as I planned from the very beginning. Alex avoided responding to Anna's increasingly strong signals, because she didn't want to confront those feelings and break her friend's heart. Yeah, she loves Anna enough, and she might even be "bi-curious" enough, that she'd be willing to give it a try, but fortunately, after her initial undignified breakdown at the ball, Anna herself realized what a bad idea that would be. (I think Anna can be forgiven for not being her best self in the very moment her heart was broken.)

I set up the hints and I set up the heartbreak, but I wasn't teasing, I was telling a story about falling in love with your best friend, who doesn't feel the same way.

Am I giving you Word of God that Anna/Alex is never, ever going to happen? Well, they're both teenagers and teenagers have a lot of living and finding themselves to do. That's not a hint or a promise or a tease. I'm just saying there are possible worlds in which the two of them could wind up together (I guess you could consider that permission to go ahead and write your own fanfic!). But I just told you which way Alex leans, so...

Why Did You Do That????




Foe yay

Am I trolling you? Maybe I'm trolling you.


Yeah, I also planned Alex and Larry from the beginning.

By which I mean I planned for them to develop feelings for each other — I'm making no promises of foe-yay sex, let alone a HEA.

Larry has always, of course, been Alexandra's "Draco." Observant readers have noticed that though AQ has diverged wildly from the HP plot arc (and now, from Rowling's canon), I have deliberately set up parallels throughout the series. I don't echo every plot point or character archetype in Rowling's books, but I hit a lot of them, while putting my own spin on them.

So, Harry/Draco is really, really popular with HP fandom. Which led me to think: okay, what if I actually went with that? What would an actual non-crappy foe-yay ship look like?

To do that, of course, I had to make Larry a believable antagonist, but also not an irredeemable dick. Ya know, Harry/Draco shipping never really bothered me per se, because fans like their yaoi. But it did annoy me that so many people read a redemption arc into Draco's story that just wasn't there. Rowling only started humanizing the little bastard a little bit towards the very end. He fears for his family, he's torn up about having to kill Dumbledore, and once he's actually in the Dark Lord's service, he realizes he doesn't like what he signed up for. So he's not a complete sociopath, but Draco doesn't have a single moment in seven books, until that head-nod in the Epilogue, when he's not a violent, nasty bigot. Rowling never made him even a little bit sympathetic or likeable. Even his regrets are entirely self-serving. I could believe maybe he was like a kid growing up with white supremacist parents who never really understood what lynching was like, but he still read to me like his parents, who did not seem to regret their life choices, only that they hadn't worked out the way they expected.


Hermione and Draco

Alexandra would be a lousy Hermione.


Way back in Chamber of Secrets, Draco openly wished for the death of the "Mudblood" Hermione, which makes Draco/Hermione shipping seem a lot like shipping a Hitlerjugender with Anne Frank. But I get it, it's the lure of the "bad boy" who can be redeemed by love.

That wasn't exactly what I was going for with Alexandra and Larry: Alex is no one's redeemer, and I wanted Larry to be a kid who starts with prejudices and an attitude but who actually grows up. I know "opposites attract" rarely turns out well in real life, but I always find those stories interesting. I meant for their rivalry to signal a deeply-buried level of fascination, turning to grudging respect, turning into mutual attraction, so pat yourselves on the backs, Larrex shippers, for spotting that all the way back when. I know a lot of people hate the "foes-to-lovers" trope (including at least one of my betas) but... well, too bad. That's how I roll, and this was my plan all along. I wanted to take a pair of antagonists and turn them into something else.

The rest of their story has yet to be written, of course. Plenty of folks have commented on the, ahem, volatility of Alex's relationships. And Larry, while he certainly possesses nobler qualities, is still an enthusiastic supporter of the Elect and their privileges, which means he has some stuff to deal with after the end of AQATWA.

And for the folks who don't like shipping at all and wondered why Alexandra's hormones kept interfering with her mission — she's a teenager, and while she may be an extraordinary teenager, she is nothing if not passionate. I am not a romance writer and shipping is never going to be the focus of my stories, but I have always tried to make my teenagers realistic, and teenagers think about sex... a lot.

Alexandra Quick - the Character



Psst. This is the section for 100% unthrottled RPG nerdery. Just skip it if you don't care.

jackbethimble made a D&D 5E character sheet for Alexandra. I initially thought Int 18 seemed high, but I acknowledge that it doesn't strictly correspond to IQ, so okay, mechanically it probably fits.

Nowadays I'm more of an OSR guy. (I'm actually playing in a D&D game, for the first time in years, but 5E feels... wrong. There's a very noticeable difference between TTRPGs before and after the age of computer RPGs.)

I've never thought D&D is particularly good at representing cinematic or literary characters outside of a very narrow swords & sorcery setting, though. (Even if Dragon Magazine did once publish a stat block for Bugs Bunny. This back when RPGs were so niche and nerdy that they flew under the radar of WB's lawyers. Not so much nowadays.)

But GURPS? Now that's a system that can do almost anything. (Though admittedly, not everything well.)

I don't play GURPS much anymore, because games where you need a spreadsheet to create a character scare most people. But GURPS Character Sheet makes it a lot easier.

So, here is Alexandra, age 16, as of the end of AQATWA. Any GURPS grognards feel free to discuss the character sheet, but note that this is a fairly quick and simple job (all 9 pages of it...), without a lot of setting-specific customization.

Alexandra Quick GURPS.png Alexandra Quick GURPS 2.png Alexandra Quick GURPS 3.png Alexandra Quick GURPS 4.png Alexandra Quick GURPS 5.png Alexandra Quick GURPS 6.png Alexandra Quick GURPS 7.png Alexandra Quick GURPS 8.png Alexandra Quick GURPS 9.png
Seven pages are just spell lists...


I didn't spend a lot of time engineering a house-ruled Harry Potter/AQ-specific magic system, but the standard GURPS system actually covers most Harry Potter magic pretty well. I stuck to the default limit of Magery 3; otherwise Alex would be a total munchkin with, like, Magery 8. All you'd really need to do is make a list of spells (like Invisibility, Flight, and Create Food) that are off-limits, and devise the rules for wands. Wands should probably have some "Powerstone" functionality - meaning they store extra fatigue points to cast spells with, which Alexandra's skinny 8 ST ass needs. I might also let wands have individual bonuses and penalties for certain schools, according to their affinities.

And I'd let Alexandra attempt spells she doesn't know or do wandless magic with a reduced penalty, if she makes her Poetry roll and if the player improvises a good rhyme on the spot!

Does she seem a little OP? Well... I rounded her off at 400 points, so if we assume she started as a 100-point character at age 11 (for reference, GURPS PCs usually start at 150 points; 100 is the lower end of the "hero" scale, and I might be able to create an 11-year-old Alex with as little as 50 points), then she's earned about 60 XPs per year, or 5 XPs per month. That's a bit generous, since she wasn't actually "adventuring" every month of her life since age 11, but I guess she gets in a lot of solo sessions with the GM.

Not every spell listed in her GURPS grimoire is something you've actually seen her cast. I mostly followed GURPS rules, but ignored a few prerequisites here and there. But yes, in GURPS terms, our 16-year-old witch has a spell list to put veteran wizards to shame. Of course, she has a whole lot of spells she knows well enough, but very little specialization. (You can bet Abraham has a bunch of spells at level 20+.) She's dabbled in most colleges, but has few of the "major" spells from any of them. Aside from all those Planar spells, which are frankly a plot device.

A small note here about appearance, since I also noticed some people speculating about how pretty Alexandra is. In GURPS, Charisma is an Advantage that is separate from physical appearance. You will notice that I didn't buy any levels of Attractiveness for Alex. She is, in my mind, average looking - neither pretty nor unpretty. Like most young people, dressing up and a little makeup can have a dramatic impact on her appearance (as Julia keeps pointing out), but Burton's description of her, while a little mean, was not inaccurate.

Obviously, even GURPS is only an approximation; while it was fun and interesting to create this character sheet, I'm not using it when I actually write the next book...

Alexandra Quick and the Wizard War



I had to go back and forth with my beta-readers a bit on whether it should be Alexandra Quick and the Wizard War, Alexandra Quick and the Wizards War, or Alexandra Quick and the Wizards' War. I mean, any one of them is technically correct.

Given how long it took me to get AQATWA out, you are understandably wondering how soon you can expect to see AQATWW.

I will make no promises. I will set no deadlines. I've learned my lesson.

That said, I have been writing, and I have hopes that I'll be able to continue writing at a pace nearer to books 1-4 than book 5.

I've said before I tend to be a poor outliner. This time around, I am trying to outline more beforehand. Even with an outline, it's hard, because listing what you want in chapter 22 doesn't mean it will fit there or provide the narrative path to get there. But for the first time, I have actually written down every single plot point, every milestone, every character development, all the scenes that have been in my head since the beginning of the series, and arranged them loosely in the order in which they are supposed to happen.

That doesn't mean the story fits together yet, mind you. It's kind of like if I started outlining Star Wars and had written:



  1. Luke on the farm. Intro to Tattooine. Aunt and Uncle boring. Farmboy wants to go on adventure. Texting long distance gf on the moon.
  2. Some shit with Jawas and Tuskan raiders, introduce droids (XYZZY & T0kT0k?), and then Obi Wan Kenobi shows up.
  3. Mos Eisley, Han Solo, bar scene. Fight with Stormtroopers, maybe Vader shows up? Rumors of Death Star. (Orbiting overhead, everyone going "Oh shit"? Maybe blow up moon?)
  4. They're going to AldebaraanAlderaan? Endor (save for book three).
  5. Some dogfights with Tie-Fighters and something something here. X-Wings!
  6. Luke is supposed to learn The Force - have him and OWK do a lightsaber duel.
  7. "That's No Moon." Fucking Death Star!
  8. Rescue Princess Leia. Trash compactor, Hidden Fortress shoutout. Duel with Vader. Everyone gangs up on Vader but he Force Powers the shit out of everyone but Obi.
  9. Obi Kenobi dies.
  10. Death Star blows up Alderaan. Darth Vader super-evil. (Move this, has to happen before Obi dies or can't do the "psychic scream" scene... or maybe have Luke and/or Leia feel the thousands of lives snuffed out)
  11. Wind up with Rebel Alliance. They want to blow up Death Star. ("We're gonna need a bigger ship.")
  12. Politics - recruiting people to rebel cause. Old Republic remnants? Find some clues to Darth Vader's power in old Jedi temple?
  13. Maybe they should sneak back onto the Death Star, find blueprints to blow it up, or hack the computer... how are they supposed to destroy this thing?
  14. Traitor on Death Star? Vader psychically fucks with Luke and Leia.
  15. Trigger a supernova, destroys Death Star, Rebel fleet hyperspaces out just in time. Blow it up with perfect shot at weak point. (How, the thing is the size of a planet! Luke manually mans rebel battlestar main gun and uses Force to guide antimatter missile?)
  16. Han Solo returns in the nick of time, glorious moment with him shooting Darth Vader out of the sky.
  17. Darth is Luke's father. (Save reveal for next book.) What about Leia? Sister? Future love interest? Probably not both...



Take all the ways that needs to be fleshed out, all the failed ideas discarded, and everything rewritten to make it make sense and appear in the final form, and that's about how much my initial outline resembles what you see in the final form. But much more elaborate and...entangled.

I am outlining books six and seven right now — my aim is to have the entire arc of the end of the AQ series more or less plotted out before I even finish book six. The problem is that all those loose ends I've left laying about, all those unanswered questions, I have resolutions and answers to them — or at least, I have my original plans. Except that the story has sometimes taken twists and turns I didn't originally foresee, and now I'm like..... huh, how is that going to work? And there's shit like "Blow up the Death Star" which I have always known is going to happen, and still don't know how. I have plotted out the major arcs of Alexandra's story years in advance. Actually doing the work to bring it all together coherently, well, hopefully an honest-to-god outline will help.

Yes, I still plan on a seven-book series. I mentioned a while ago that I might end the series with book six. That's still not impossible, but it would require a pretty substantial revision in my current outline, and I don't think it's going to happen. What I also don't know is whether I'll be able to stick to the "one year per book" formula. That parallels Harry Potter, but it was difficult stretching AQATWA out over a year, because of the loss of the school year structure, and so while the Wizard War could easily take a year or more, right now I am staring at long stretches of time between major scenes, and trying to figure out how to fill it. My plan has always been for Alex to be 18 when the series ends; going seven books, but with Alexandra only 16 or 17 at the end, won't feel quite right.

I don't want to tie myself down to a particular structure and timeline just because "That's what I always intended," but I am loathe to abandon that HP parallel that I've managed to maintain so far.

Right now, I have thirty-five chapters of AQATWW and 14 chapters of book seven roughly (very, very roughly) outlined.

So far, I've actually written 13 chapters and about 75,000 words (though that word count includes outlining, rough notes, character descriptions, and other miscellaneous non-story text).

It's in progress, and it's moving, though I'm back to a lull as I try to push past the plotting problems I'm having. I will continue to post here to update you. I've seen many, many comments along the lines of "Please don't take another 4-7 years!" All I can say is, Ima gonna try.

/r/AlexandraQuick AMA



Although I have read the AQ subreddit regularly, I have rarely posted there. (I use the reddit username inverarity-writer.) I didn't want to change the nature of the discussion by having the author "present."

I still don't plan to actively participate there, but I did promise an AMA. I am going to tentatively declare this to be Saturday, March 7. On that day, I shall log in at approximately 9 am EST, and give you all a chance to ask me... uh, anything.

Please note that "AMA" doesn't mean I'm going to answer everything. Obviously, I will not be handing out spoilers for books six and seven. (Maybe teeny-tiny ones. We'll see.) And I'm pretty guarded about my personal life. But in general, ask away and I'll do my best.


Alexandra Quick print and ebooks



My project to produce a professional-looking trade paperback version of Alexandra Quick and the Thorn Circle (and eventually, of all the books in the series) proceeds apace - thanks to none other than Sam Gabriel, who is producing wonderful chapter illustrations for a ridiculously low price.

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Don't miss Sam's Alexandra Quick Audiobook Project (he's up book three now).

I've commissioned a full color cover for the book, so I'm hoping for a test print run later this year. I'll show off pictures when I have them. Several people have asked for access to the PDF files so they can print their own copies. I am still thinking this over. My inclination is to say yes: I don't think there are any legal considerations, other than the gray legality of all fan fiction, since I would not be charging anything to anyone, not even shipping costs. On the other hand, a bunch of people paying to print off their own copies of a fan fiction novel does start to edge into territory that might draw the Eye of Sauron. And selfishly, I kind of like the idea of keeping these exclusive print editions... well, exclusive. On the other hand, selfishly, I like the idea of Alexandra Quick paperbacks appearing all over the world, too. And really, people could print the existing PDF copies of my books if they really wanted to, though those are definitely not formatted for POD printing.

In the meantime, I will definitely be creating an AQATWA ebook to go with all the other AQ ebooks. I just need a cover for the epub version.

Thanks for reading! Please give me a heads up if you do any AQ fan art - I love to see it, and sometimes I discover stuff posted on Tumblr or DeviantArt that's been there for years, yet the artist never told me about it.

Lastly, if I could ask as a favor, any fans who are so inclined to consider updating the Quickipedia and/or the Alexandra Quick TVTropes pages. Also, rather to my surprise, I have a Goodreads author page! I thought they used to prohibit fan fiction, but apparently, you can go and rate my books there. (I am not, however, the Inverarity who authored Labour Employment Compliance in Ireland.)

That's all! Comments welcome.