Alyc Helms

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Alyc Helms

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What I Write

Writing Sample

After the Mouse King’s Fall


“How many ballet shoes do you have?” Bluejay holds up a bouquet of frayed satin, goes down on one knee as though proposing. The bouquet is bound at the shanks by pink ribbons much stronger than they look. Elastics bob and droop around Jay’s fingers like grey-tinged leaves.


Claire used to have a poster hanging on the back of her door, of a dancer en pointe balancing atop an egg. Impossible feat, a trick of photography, but Claire hadn’t known that growing up. All she saw was a challenge to balance her weight on egg and toe, to achieve the impossible.


She flexes a bare foot against the floorboards, pushing up through the ball to demi-pointe. The muscles in her arch bunch. She could do it even now. Balance on toe. On egg. Without shoes.


She could do the impossible.


Jay swings the bundle around by the ribbons like a flail. From satin bouquet to weapon. In The Nutcracker, Marie killed the Rat King with a slipper. Most people forget that the sugar-spun fairy tale begins with a death, like most fairy tales do. “So, pack, sell, or trash?”


The shoes are worn to uselessness, the boxes soft and shanks broken. “Trash. No. Wait.” Claire draws out a single shoe, tugging the tangled ribbons free of the others. The shoe smells of dust and rosin. Time has erased the scents of sweat and blood. Memory has faded on what character she danced in the shoe. Marie, maybe, or Sugar Plum. It’s a performance shoe, not practice. A shoe like this once killed a king. Fitting talisman for her current mission.


“Go ahead and toss the rest,” she says, and chucks the pink slipper into her field kit. You follow the script, you dance the choreography just as you’re told, hoping the tyrants will get their just desserts. Instead, you are left with sugarplum dreams and caviar wishes.


They don’t teach you that killing a king is only the start of a revolution, never its end.

What I Write

Alyc Helms prefers tea (especially a really smoky Lapsang Souchong) over all other beverages. They studied folklore and anthropology what feels like a lifetime ago, and they dabble in corsetry and costuming, dance Scottish Highland and Irish Ceili at Renaissance and Dickens fairs, and game in all forms of media. They sometimes refer to their work as “critical theory fanfic,” which is a fancy way to say that they are obsessed with liminality, gender identity, and foxes. They are a freelance RPG writer, a graduate of Clarion West 2012, and have published short fiction in Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Daily Science Fiction, Crossed Genres, and Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet. They are the author of the Adventures of Mr. Mystic novels from Angry Robot and, as M.A. Carrick, the co-author (with Marie Brennan) of The Mask of Mirrors, first in the Rook & Rose trilogy forthcoming from Orbit Books in January 2021. They can be found on Twitter @alychelms or at, and for M.A. Carrick stuff at


The Mask of Mirrors, by M.A. Carrick. Orbit Books, January 2021 (forthcoming).

The Conclave of Shadow, by Alyc Helms. Angry Robot, July 2016.

The Dragons of Heaven, by Alyc Helms. Angry Robot. June 2015.

“The Blood Carousel,” by Alyc Helms. Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet. June 2015.

“A Screech of Gulls,” by Alyc Helms. Beneath Ceaseless Skies, #168. March 2015.

“A Song of Sixpence,” by Alyc Helms. Crossed Genres. 6/1/2014.

“And The,” by Alyc Helms. Daily Science Fiction. 11/4/2011.

My Write-a-thon Goals

Writing Goals

Primary Goal – Marie and I are working on Book 2 of the Rook & Rose trilogy, averaging a little over a chapter a week (around 8k words). I’ll mostly be working on that, with the occasional blog post or MXTX fanfic peppered here and there.


Secondary Goal – Because of the above, I’m keeping my other goals light. I have a new themed series called “My Favorite Trope” that I’ll be posting for my Patreon supporters first (and then to my blog after revision). My goal is to get a jump on that by writing six posts, one per week of the write-a-thon, which should cover me to the end of the year.

Write-a-thon sponsors will get a sneak preview of those posts.

Fundraising Goals

I would like to secure at least 10 donors at $5 per donor, for a total of $50.


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