Monthly Archives: August 2015

Returning to ordinary

So at least two good things happened on vacation 1) I survived the flight to the Atlanta, and 2) I survived the flight back to Newark. Yay! I’m alive – even with all the red lasers being aimed at the pilots coming in on midnight flights like ours to Newark – so you know, double happy. Of course, vacation was wonderful on many levels, but as the daughter of a pilot, I’m kind of uber aware of the perils of flying. And, considering good ole’ dad was the first guy to survive a backseat ejection out of an S3-Viking into the shark-infested waters of the Pacific Ocean, I figure he knows a little on the subject. As you can imagine, I much prefer road trips and holding it for hours, to security lines and tiny plane toilets. Give me a gas station bathroom any day!

But I did get a road trip out of it. We picked up the grandparents and a rental van at the airport and hightailed it to the panhandle of Florida. Our destination was a beautiful spot called Santa Rosa Beach on 30A (which all Southerners know about. Just ask one.) So ensued 7 days of … thunderstorms! At least that’s what the forecast said. I did spend Monday (#PitchWars day people) huddled under a blanket, working on my query and first chapter just one more time, before submitting them to the contest. It was storming that day, which was perfect. No guilt for this mamma bear.

We did get a few showers throughout the vacay, but the rest of the week was spent on the beach or in the pool relaxing (and checking the #PitchWars Twitter feed – sometimes surreptitiously, other times not so much). This brings me to good thing 3) No one got eaten by a shark, although PBS assures me they were swimming unseen all around us. However nearly all of us were stung by a jelly fish. And while I’m glad I didn’t get kissed by a shark, those jellies are brutal lovers too.

So, armed with a new tan and several jelly fish hickeys, we packed our bags, loosened our belts (thank you seafood restaurant paradise), and hopped a midnight flight home. Road weary and bleary eyed, we found our car, battery dead, in the garage. Disaster averted, a nice man came in 2 minutes and got us going. Home at 3 am, one child now definitely ill with a fever, we return to ordinary.

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Writers beware. Don’t lose your voice!

Here’s the thing about us writers; we all have a voice. Our own voice – a unique voice. We each have a way to group words into something someone else (hopefully) wants to read. There are lots of voices out there. Yours might be a long, flowing poetic voice, a crisp and sassy voice, an aloof voice, or a warm-as-honey draw-me-in kind of voice. Whatever yours is, it’s yours alone. Be proud of it.

So here’s my word of caution to authors out there tonight. Maintain your own voice! As you reach out to others in your community for critiques and help with queries, chapters or a synopsis during #PitchWars, be thoughtful as to how you use the feedback you are given. I came at this tonight, not because I was frustrated at someone else’s critique of my own work, but because of my own thoughts on another’s. This author’s voice is light, airy and crisp. It’s a little punchy and not afraid to take a risk. I loved it. And while I did have suggested edits like any good critique partner, I worried they were too much, too out of character for this author’s work.

That’s when I wrote this person and shared with them what happened to me when I took someone else’s suggestions too far. In writing and critiquing my original query, I joined an author’s group whose many commentaries and suggestions eventually watered my query down to a semblance of my original voice. In the end, this query was perfect. And completely boring. Yes, it touched on the set up and the plot and the stakes. Someone may have even found the idea intriguing, but I’m guessing they passed over the query wishing the voice had been stronger (or even there at all.)

So, if you do agree with the nature of the changes that are given to you (and you certainly don’t have to), make sure you find a way to put them into your own voice. No one wants a watered down version of something that should scream, YOU! It’s your voice that will sell your story, not someone else’s you might respect.

It’s yours.

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Monkey see. Monkey do.

What’s up buttercups? Nothing munch, Captain Crunch? Then stay a while and get to know me! In the spirit of the #PitchWars Mentor blogs, I’ve decided to do a Top-10 on good ole’ me. If you’re a fellow author stopping by, a mentor, a friend, or an agent, I think this is a great way for us to get to know each other outside of 140 character Twitter tweeting. I like to write BIG, and 140 is small.

As for me, I’ll be pitching my YA SFF Romance, HalfWorlder in #PitchWars August 17. It’s best described as alien (the loveable human kind) Indiana Jones with a tug-your-heart-out love story. It’s also a big romping adventure through the heavy sands, suffocating heat and ancient temples of Egypt … well, that is until it starts snowing on the Great Sphinx. But hey, this is fantasy, right?

TOP-10 Things you should know about me.

  1. If you didn’t catch the Big Bang “Penny” quote above, say because you haven’t watched thousands of episodes of the most incredible show on TV (ahem, Big Bang Theory) over and over like me, then we can still be friends. But you really ought to consider setting your DVR. Truth be told, if I could be those boys’ neighbor, I totally would be. Not just because they crack me up, but because I’d want to pick their brain about the nature of the universe. Maybe I should have been a physicist, but alas I snagged a B.A. in journalism instead. But still, I’m happy. And Google can answer some of my questions even if Sheldon can’t.  And my friend who worked at the Large Hadron Collider can answer the rest.
  2. I was raised on Star Trek and Jane Austen and anything in their related genres in equal doses. I used to stay up reading said novels until 4 am with a flashlight, hiding under my sheets. I’m pretty sure my parents knew what I was up to, but figured if that’s all I was doing wrong, they didn’t have much to complain about. Then my uncle introduced me to Dune and I got wrapped up in the infuriatingly heart-rending Little Women. And the rest is history. I guess that’s what made me want to write Spec Fi with a historical / mythological grounding. I love them both.
  3. I’m sort of a nerd. Don’t judge me. I like my A’s all neatly lined up. I graduated college with a nifty little 4.0, and got to give the commencement speech because of it. But don’t think I just sat around studying the whole time. I’m not boring. I write SFF adventure stories after all! In college, I loved playing laser tag at Frost Chapel. I once had to ride in the back of a “campus police” car for swimming in the reservoir (naughty, naughty), and I did this thing called “running” that college girls tend to do to stay slim enough to catch a boyfriend. Though unfortunately for me, it worked. I caught one. But I had to throw him back one month before graduation when he started to stink. I also loved mountain biking on my beautiful campus with the wind racing back against me, and I pretty much joined every committee they would let me on. Yes, overachiever. Also, Waffle House lover. That’s where I did most of my studying — over hash browns scattered, smothered and covered.
  4.  If I were a plant: I was potted in California (If you can’t infer what I mean here, I can’t help you), this while my Navy pilot dad flew anti-submarine warfare missions a la Tom Cruise. (He had the glasses and everything.)  My roots are in the South. (I was raised near Atlanta, the “diverse, respectful, friendly” Atlanta). But my branches found the sun in the Northeast. (Where my manly man of a husband and I potted our own little garden — again, not helping.) Oh, and speaking of him, you should know the “Nothing munch,” quote above came from hubs. He’s quite funny when he wants to be.
  5. I’m jealous of the person behind the idea for a time travel mailbox in the romantic movie, The Lake House. Then I googled it to see if I could read the book, and found out it was taken from a South Korean movie called Il Mare. 1) Not so jealous anymore since it wasn’t from a book, and 2) If I find out the directors of Il Mare did get it from a Korean novel, my best friend will have to read it to me in English. Also, I like kimchi. Also, she has a southern accent and she is adorable.
  6. In first grade, I won a blue ribbon for a writing contest. It’s one of the most precious memories of my life, that and what it felt like to read Charlotte’s Web or The Box Car Children for the first time. There’s nothing like those first books that captivate you and transport you, or those first teachers who motivate you. I hold those memories quite dear. It’s been my dream to be a writer ever since.
  7. When I got my first job editing, my boss told me the college professor she called for a reference told her she should hire me because of my humor. “It’s different. You’ll like it.”  I wasn’t sure what I thought about that statement at first, but different can be good, right? RIGHT?! So, now I like to use my odd (is that a better word? probably not) humor in my writing, in my novels, etc., because it balances the serious. And balance is what most people want in life. And who wants to write something no one wants to read? I like to think “marketable.”
  8. I’m one of those people who opens their mouth and says the second half of their sentence before the first part comes out, when I’m nervous. For goodness sake, please let me write things down rather than have to talk. It’s sorta’ my thing.
  9. Did I mention I like Kimchi? I’m convinced that hot hOT HOT, spicy foods are the best kind on the planet. Sweet gets second place. (And they go well together.) I cry when I have to eat pizza without Tabasco or copious amounts of hot pepper (powder). Of course, I still cry when I eat the pizza covered in the hot peppers too, but then the tears are the happy kind. Give it to me hot. (And no, I don’t write in THAT genre.)
  10. I play the piano. By ear mostly, though my old Southern Baptist pastor’s wife of a piano teacher did try her darndest to get me to memorize the notes, God rest her soul. Try as she might, nothing stuck but the rhythm and the emotion (the woman had some passion). And somehow I figured out that you could tap into that and then the keys would write their own music. I like to create beautiful things. The piano helps me do that.

I’d love to get to know you too! If you write a Top-10, please come back and comment with the address so we know where to find you!

-Ali

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