Tag Archives: Chess Book

Where the Fuck Did May Go?*

24 May

*Yes it’s a David Bowie reference. Yes, I’m still upset. Leave me alone.

We must always work, and a self-respecting artist must not fold his hands on the pretext that he is not in the mood. If we wait for the mood, without endeavoring to meet it half-way, we easily become indolent and apathetic. We must be patient, and believe that inspiration will come to those who can master their disinclination. – Tchaikovsky

 

So wow….I seemed to have lost a month. During the beginning of which I turned 39 (!!) and by the end of which, today, my husband reached over and plucked a white hair out of the top of my head.

I’m not even kidding. It was WHITE. I’m officially old.

So in between now and then I have a few people to thank, list-style

In other writing news, I’ve been working with Six Gallery Press and Low Ghost Press on edits to Better Luck Next Year which should be out end of July. In case you don’t know it’s the poetry book that’s all about the cancer escapade. I won’t say journey cause I hate that term. Anyway, I gave Kris at Low Ghost a giant hot emotional mess and out of that he has helped to carve a really honest and raw look at what 2014-2015 was like from the days before diagnosis to the end of treatment.

Caveat: So I’m just going to put this here because a number of people have asked me about treatment lately, specifically Am I done? and if not When will I be? That’s a hard question to answer, even as I come barreling towards Cancerversary #2.  I’m not going to be “done” for a few more years. I’ll be on tamoxifen for at least three more years unless it causes potentially dangerous side effects. I’m still going to be getting injections of ovarian suppressants (Zoladex) for another year and a half. But what I do each month is not at all like what people typically think of when they say “treatment” which is chemo. So I guess the answer is yes-ish but also no-ish.

/end caveat

I’m really excited for Better Luck Next Year. I think it contains some of my best writing – and if not then it’s definitely got the rawest and most honest stuff I have done. I promise it’s not to terribly “woe is me” or too terribly depressing.

In other writing news, I’ve been doing a lot of hand wringing lately over Palimpsest (the massive nightmare that is the sci-fi book.) I’ve been querying agents and I’ve had some very promising leads and bites and interest but nothing that has panned out into an offer. Which is fine, these things take time. That said, at the beginning of the month I had a really interesting conversation with an agent who made some suggestions that would require a big revision.

Big.

And I have been heming and hawing about it for a month now, whinning to friends and beta readers if I should go through with it and “one person’s opinion” and “am I willing to do the work” and whine whine whine.

Ultimately the problem is the end. Endings are HARD. And then a friend shared this list of suggestions from Billy Wilder to Cameron Crowe:

  1. The audience is fickle. Grab ’em by the throat and don’t let ‘em go.
  2. Develop a clean line of action for your leading character.
  3. Know where you’re going.
  4. The more subtle and elegant you are in hiding your plot points, the better you are as a writer.
  5. If you have a problem with the third act, the real problem is in the first act.*
  6. Let the audience add up two plus two. They’ll love you for it.
  7. In doing voice-overs, be careful not to describe what the audience already sees; add to what they are seeing.
  8. The event that occurs at the second-act curtain triggers the end of the movie.
  9. The third act must build, build, build in tempo until the last event, and then …
  10. … that’s it. Don’t hang around.

 

* emphasis mine

My friend wrote a whole post about it here which is great and you should read it. It was number five from this list that hit home for me.

And I think I found the problem in the first act. So the only question is should I cut my loses, scrap this to “one person’s opinion” and move on?

Or am I able to do the heavy lifting – the WORK – that will be turning this book around? Am I willing to put my other stuff on hold to go back into the trenches with Palimpsest again?

Oh who am I kidding?

My alarm is already set for 5 am. There is no spoon.

Wish me luck.

 

 

 

 

 

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Hiddles, Links, Books and Rowling (oh my!)

31 Jul

 

That’s Hiddles making a little heart for no other reason than the fact that in the universe there is Hiddles making a little heart. And there it is. Don’t you feel better now?

So…here we are – now nearly a month since This Is Sarah was released into the world. Some reviews are coming in and that’s always nice and always appreciated because it helps spread the word. Speaking of, I was talking to my friend Rita about this. She had a podcast coming up for Book Riot (you can listen to the whole thing here) and she was curious about my opinion on how Goodreads is used – mainly do authors want “bad” reviews or is it just better to say nothing?

My answer? Bring on the bad reviews.

First off, everyone gets bad reviews. It happens, and you’ll be sad for a while and then you’ll get over it. Then it will happen again and eventually you won’t care.

But the important part of this is that a review is an OPINION which means that all the reviewer is saying is “I don’t like XYZ” and another reader might see that and say, “Well, gee, I LOVE XYZ” and buy your book. See how that works?

That said, the one thing you never ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever do is respond to a review – good or bad, really, but especially bad. We’ve all heard about explosions when authors behave badly.

But the flip side of that coin is that sometimes, readers behave badly. I’ve experienced this too – one reader rated my book one star before it was out…and I know who had ARCS via my publisher and she wasn’t one of them. Instead of responding, I ignored it and it went away. Am I lucky? Maybe. Would it be the end of the world if it had stayed? No.

The message here is this:

Readers – review the book, not the author.

Authors – hush up. Goodreads is a place for readers. Let them be.

Moving along – I have some linky things.

First off, is a recording that John Grochalski did of his poetry reading at Hemingways this past June for the release of Starting With the Last Name Grochalski. It was a great reading – a fun night of poetry and laughs and friends that ended with a mad dash through a Pittsburgh downpour. It was such a good night someone should write a poem about it.

Secondly, I got a little surprise in the mail yesterday – an ARC of Hagridden by Samuel Snoek-Brown.

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I forgot to take a picture of MY copy so you’ll have to settle for the cover from Sam’s site.

Sam was awesome and interviewed me for my release of This Is Sarah and I can’t wait to return the favor during this blog tour. I read the first chapter when it arrived and guys, this is the real deal. I’m so excited.

Next up I’ve got some linky stuff to share:

 

 

  • Also, This Is Sarah was entered into a Book Cover contest. Anita, at Race-Point really did a stellar job so if you have a moment to vote here, you can help her win! It would be much deserved!
  • Many thanks to Clockwise Cat for giving these poems a home.
  • And to Stephen at Dead Snakes for these.
  • I’m going to have a piece out about this on Saturday’s Forked Road – but August 9th is the This Is Poetry party in Illinois so if you’re in the neighborhood, you should check it out. This is Poetry was started by Michele McDannold as a tumblr and has now morphed into their very first book:

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Cool, right? I’m all:

 

And that’s about it from me.

EXCEPT today is JK Rowling’s birthday so to celebrate here’s the amazing new covers that everyone outside North America gets to enjoy!

My favorite new cover is Prisoners of Azkaban:

Azkaban cover

It’s my favorite mainly because it depicts what I think is the best scene in the ENTIRE series – the moment Harry realizes that it was the time-traveled version of himself that saves him from the dementors. It’s very “You are the One You were Waiting For” and it’s fantastic.

Okay that’s it. As of Monday it’s back to novel-writing. I’m looking at you Palimpsest.

Bye kids. Play nice while I’m gone.

Peace, love and starbursts,

Ally

Doctor, Doctor, Doctor

5 Aug

Hi.

So it’s been awhile since I’ve posted anything on here because I’ve been mired in revisions on my current WIP but I wanted to come out of my dank dark cave to share a few things.

There have been some new reviews of Lizzy popping up online. I posted them here but here’s a link to the newest from Pen and Muse.

P&M is a really great resource for writers and I was so excited when they agreed to take my piece on rejection which as I said when I gave it to them, was the most honest thing I’ve ever written about the submission experience for me. As for Lizzy they said some really great things like this:

Another thing I really liked about this novel is that Lizzy is a strong female protagonist. There’s nothing worse than opening a novel and starting to read it, only to find that the main female character is dependent on a male for happiness, or afraid to take action, etc. But this isn’t the case with Lizzy!

Also I have a new poem, Pick-pocketed by the Alchemist up at Electric Windmill Press so many thanks to Brian, the editor.

And in other more interesting non-Ally related news, we have a new Doctor!

Yes, in case you weren’t sure, I am THAT much of a nerd. As so eloquently described by the folks on twitter:

While I’m very excited about Peter, I’m still sad about Matt but have vowed to NOT repeat the theatrics from the David to Matt transition.

I vow to keep the tissue usage to a rational amount. 20 sheets max.

But before we move on, we’ve got a little time left with Matt – the sure-to-be-amazing 50th anniversary show and a Christmas special – and I just wanted to share this brilliant moment from his run, the moment in which I looked at Matt and didn’t say, I miss David.

The moment when I said, “Okay. That’s my Doctor.”

If we knew what it was we were doing, it would not be called research, would it?

13 Jun

The title is an Einstein quote.

Put on your smarty glasses kids. We’re gonna talk about Research.

Suzzallo library of the University of Washington, Seattle WA

The reading room of the Suzzallo library of the University of Washington in Seattle, WA, was built in 1926 and has a Gothic interieur. Photography by Cap’n Surly Flickr.com

One of my favorite parts about writing a book is doing the research. When I was writing Lizzy I spent hours looking up mythological creatures and Shakespeare in the library. I used books like Barthe’s and the Encyclopedia of Imaginary Places and books on how keys were invented and books about Elizabethan England and it was tons of fun.

So for my new book, Palimpsest (which I’ve talked about a little here and here and here ) I present my currently reading or recently read research list:

There’s probably a few that I’m missing….

And I’ve also branched out into podcasts on topics that I want to include like time travel, and memory, how the universe came into existence and the multiverse and doppelgangers and how our brains are wired and… and… and…

You know, easy stuff.

So I discovered RadioLab which is my new obsession. They define themselves as a show about curiosity and that is without a doubt the simplest way to put it. Here a few of my favorites. All the descriptions are from the Radiolab website. I embedded what I could for your listening pleasure.

Memory and Forgetting  

This hour of Radiolab, a look behind the curtain of how memories are made…and forgotten. Remembering is an unstable and profoundly unreliable process–it’s easy come, easy go as we learn how true memories can be obliterated, and false ones added. And Oliver Sacks joins us to tell the story of an amnesiac whose love for his wife and music transcend his 7-second memory

Memory and Forgetting includes Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Rat, Adding Memory and Clive which are parsed out below.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Rat

What is a memory? Science writer Jonah Lehrer tells us is it’s a physical thing in the brain… not some ephemeral flash. It’s a concrete thing made of matter. And NYU neuroscientist Joe LeDoux, who studies fear memories in rats, tells us how with a one shock, one tone, and one drug injection, you can bust up this piece of matter, and prevent a rat from every making a memory. LeDoux’s research goes sci-fi, when he and his colleague Karim Nader start trying to erase memories. And Nader applies this research to humans suffering from PTSD.

(This podcast was what lead me to read Jonah Lehrer’s book, Proust was a Neuroscientist)

Clive

The story of a man who’s lost everything. Clive Wearing has what Oliver Sacks calls “the most severe case of amnesia ever documented.” Clive’s wife, Deborah Wearing, tells us the story along with Oliver Sacks. And they try to understand why, amidst so much forgetting, Clive remembers two things: Music and Love.

(This podcast is what lead me to read her book listed above, Forever Today)

Adding Memory

We start this section off with a question from writer Andrei Codrescu“where do computers get their extra memory from?” And then we take it literally. Can you add memories?Dr. Elizabeth Loftus says yes. She’s a psychologist in the department of Criminology, Law and Society at the University of California at Irvine, and her research shows that you can implant memories—wholly false memories—pretty easily into the brains of humans. Her work challenges the reliability of eye-witness testimony, and is so controversial that she once had to call the bomb squad. Then, producer Neda Pourangbrings us the story of finding a lost memory. Painter Joe Andoe incessantly paints huge canvasses of seemingly random images: horses, pastures, and – more recently – a girl with a particular about-to-say-something look on her face. He didn’t realize until recently that he’d been painting a day from his past, a fragment of an afternoon 30 years earlier.

The (Mutli) Universe(s)

Robert and Brian Greene discuss what’s beyond the horizon of our universe, what you might wear in infinite universes with finite pairs of designer shoes, and why the Universe and swiss cheese have more in common than you think.

Have you wondered if there is another you out there? Somewhere? Sitting in the same chair, reading the same blog post, wearing the same clothes and thinking the same thoughts? Well, Brian Greene says there must be one. Or two. Or lots and lots and lots and lots and… Why? You ask, well listen to Greene’s argument in this week’s podcast.

We are still furiously working on Season 5, so while you wait we bring you today’s podcast of a conversation between Robert Krulwich and Brian Greene, physics and mathematics professor and director of the Institute of Strings, Cosmology, and Astroparticle Physics at Columbia University. The interview is part of a series called ‘Giants of Science‘ hosted by venerable New York institution, the 92nd St Y.

(Brian Greene wrote Elegant Universe from the list above)

And of course never underestimate the power of Wine + Doctor Who = Mind Blown when it comes to ideas. Big ball of wibbley wobbley timey wimey….stuff.

Research is one of my favorite parts because it’s when my books and my desk get covered in post-it notes and ideas are popping up like little delicious bubbles all over the place and I drive my poor husband crazy talking about it. The hard part is mashing it all together. That’s the point when I start to think that maybe, just maybe, I’m not clever enough to pull this off!

Eternal Recurrence

16 Apr

I’ve been reading a lot of Nietzsche lately – both his own writing as well as people writing about him. My books are filled with little post-it-notes with quotes like this:

But then it [the individual] discovers that it is itself something changing and has a changing taste. It discovers in its freedom the mystery that there is no individual, that in the smallest moment it is something other than in the next moment…the infinitely small moment is the higher reality and truth is a lighting flash out of eternal flux.

Mostly it’s been this notion of eternal recurrence that’s been staying with me. And yes, in full disclosure nearly all of this is for book research, which I’m not going to go into here other than to say I was struck today that my main character needs to be the Lighting Flash Out of Eternal Flux. And that this idea of eternal recurrence is a very central theme.

Basically Nietzsche said that this moment, right now, you reading these words, my typing them, my foot tapping as I do so has occurred in every possible time for all time. It will continue to occur. Everything in your life has already happened and it will continue to happen. (Those of you who are Battlestar Galactica or Matrix fans have already been weaned on these ideas. Only with cylons and cool stunts).

So that moment, this moment, the next moment, it’s all already happened. Your great family, your horrible job. They’re a constant. They will keep happening for all time. Unless you choose to change it. Granted if that notion doesn’t scare the bejesus out of you I don’t know what will. God created Man to create God.

Anyway, the point is this stuff is fascinating and I really could use way more free time to study it.

Also, bonus! I finally found a reason for YouTube. This guy does a bang up job of explaining Nietzsche’s Eternal Recurrence (British accent bonus!)

And Armand Assante is rocking it as Nietzsche (in When Nietzsch Wept). Guess who I’m gonna be for Halloween? I just need a big mustache.

Simply, Yes at Gutter Eloquence

9 Apr

Many thanks to Jack Marlowe at Gutter Eloquence for accepting the poem, Simply, Yes.

I think it’s kind of cool that this poem was published now because I’ve been reading Nietzsche and his theory of Eternal Recurrence for novel research and I found this quote. I feel like he said, what I was trying to say in the poem only, you know, better cause he’s Nietzsche (duh):

“I come again with this sun, with this earth, with this eagle, with this serpent – not to a new life, or a better life, or a similar life. I come again eternally to this identical and self-same life, in its greatest and its smallest to teach again the eternal return of all things”

Nice, right? Yeah. I thought so too. Thanks again Jack.

Writing about Writing about Laini Taylor

16 Nov

My Daughter of Smoke and Bone mask

I’m a big fan of Laini Taylor, a writer whose work I absolutely admire. Actually that’s an understatment. Her sentences make my heart go aflutter, her characters make me woozy, her storytelling is gather-round-the-campfire perfection. If she would let me I would love to buy her a chocolate sundae or barring that we could run away together. Either or. And it’s not the hot pink hair. Or at least not just the hot pink hair.

 I’m an avid reader of her blog and she recently had an article in Figment about her writing notebook and how she starts her ideas. She keeps these little notebooks, which she decorates and jots things in. Nothing major. Just little things like:

  • masks with bird beaks
  • collector of wishes
  • the bakery window, before dawn

And then she let’s it grow, organically from there. She explains it well here:

I just really like the word “wishbone,” and so I was unsurprised when it made an appearance on my first day of writing what would become Daughter of Smoke and Bone. I’ve told this story a lot, how I was deeply demoralized by a different book I was trying to write, one which just refused to ignite, and how I gave myself the gift of one day to write anything at all, just to remember that writing can be FUN. What appeared on the page, immediately and so very vividly, was an argument between a blue-haired teenaged girl and her … father? … who turned out not to be human? And from his first appearance, before I knew anything else about him, Brimstone had a wishbone around his neck that Karou was not allowed to touch.

If I didn’t make these lists and jottings, would that have happened? Maybe, but I bet not, and where would this story have been without it? The question: What’s with that wishbone? And: Why can’t she touch it? were among the handful that arose on the day of writing which had succeeded wildly in the FUN department. It was the best writing day of my entire life. I think my muse had just returned from a long gypsy caravan trip across Eastern Europe and was feeling bad for having left me to my own devices for so long, so she gave me a heavy dose of her rarest potion, Creative Glee.

Today I started the follow-up to Daughter of Smoke and Bone which is called Days of Blood and Starlight. Very dramatic titles huh? I squealed with nerdy fangirl glee when I saw that my hold was ready at the library and promptly went to get it. I realized from the first paragraph that all the other books I’m reading (I’m looking at you biography on George Mallory and the Game of Thrones series) are going to fall by the wayside.

Why?

Funny you should ask. Because of lines like this on page 30:

In one of his darker moments, the irony started him laughing and he couldn’t stop, and the sounds that came from, before finally tapering into sobs, were so far from mirth they might have been the forced inversion of laughter – like a soul pulled inside out to reveal its rawest meat.

AAAAAHHHHHHHH! Do you not love it??? Soul…pulled….rawest…meat!! These are the kinds of sentences that I writhe in joyous jealousy over when I read her books. They are edible. You can eat this sentence – though maybe with the rawest meat you don’t want to. But you know what I mean.

So that brings me to….well…me. Whatever, it’s my blog.

I have a friend of mine reading over one of my manuscripts. I’ve written about it here before – I call it the Chess Book cause I was never able to decide on an actual name.

This book has caused me equal parts heartache and joy. I’ve worked harder on the actual craft of writing with this book. I got caught up in the lives and fates of these characters more than any other piece of fiction I’ve written. I care about this book deeply. I guess what I’m trying to say is that this book, more than any other writing I have done hits a nerve for me. It’s about more than just magic and adventure. It’s about pain and loneliness and those moments in your life when you realize that so much is out of your control. And it’s also about falling in love and learning how to trust someone. It’s about truth and family and realizing that your good intentions had unintended bad consequences.

So what does this have to do with Laini Taylor or anything else for that matter? Well, for one thing she makes me want to be a better writer. She makes me try harder. And she reminded me that sometimes you have to separate the work from the outcome.

I was emailing with my friend who is reading the Chess Book today and he warned me that while he really likes the book and really thinks I have something here, to not get my hopes up because, well, you never know. This is my answer and it is without a doubt probably the truest thing I have ever said about writing:

I don’t have any expectations. I learned what having expectations does to you – it crushes your soul and cripples any desire to do anything creative again. While Lizzy was on sub with every major publishing house in america I sat down and wrote the chess book instead of the second Lizzy book because I couldn’t stand to think about wasting time and energy on something that might go nowhere. That book, that I sent you – the one you are reading – has some of the best writing I’ve ever done.

That said, if all it ever is, is a book that I poured my heart into, that I wrote some of my best stuff (to date), that had characters that I loved and cried over then that is enough. I mean that. It took me a long time to get here where the end result is the happiness with the book and not its place in the world.

Sometimes, I don’t believe any of what I just said and I think that if I don’t get something published by a Major Publisher I’ll die a total failure. But those days are fewer.

All I want to do is write something that I would love to read. That I believe in. That talks about the things that I love and that I fear.

I still feel that way. And I hope I’ll feel that way tomorrow, and the day after that and the day after that. Like the hokey bumper stickers say, life is the journey not the destination.

Writing is creative work. The end result is a book no matter what form it takes. 

Creative Glee, folks. Creative glee. And remember all you have to do is write the book you want to read. Nothing, and I mean nothing else matters.

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