Tag Archives: Palimpsest

Sucker Literary Magazine Bloghop: The Writing Process

28 Apr

 

1011604_651511744890294_879845539_n

Howdy

So my buddy Robert over at Middle Grade Ninja tagged me in this Writing Process Blog Hop. That’s the cover of his novel up there!

Here’s how it works:

Robert posts his blog about the writing process (read it here) and then tags me and a week later it’s my turn and I, in turn, tag some other writers and this crazy merry go round keeps spinning.

So here we go:

1. What am I working on?

Lots of stuff, actually.

I’m working on edits for my upcoming YA novel THIS IS SARAH which is scheduled to come out sometime in June. Here’s the blurb in case you’re curious what it’s about:

When Colin Leventhal leaned out his bedroom window on the night of May 12th and said goodbye to his girlfriend, he never expected it would be forever. But when Sarah Evans goes missing that night, Colin’s world unravels as he is transformed from the boyfriend next door to the main police suspect. Then one year later, at her memorial service, Colin makes a phone call that could change everything. Is it possible that Sarah is still alive? And if so, what is Colin willing to do to bring her back?

 

And as Colin struggles with this possibility, across the street, Sarah’s little sister Claire learns how to navigate the strange new landscape that is life without her sister. Even as her parent’s fall apart, Claire is determined to keep on going. Even if it kills her.

 

THIS IS SARAH is a meditation on loss, love, and what it means to say goodbye.

 

I’m at the point right now where we’re pretty close (at least I think we are) to passing this along to the copy editor. Mary, who is my content editor at BookFish Books has been amazing – part teacher, part cheerleader, and all around awesome.

I’m also working on a poetry collection that I’m calling How To Be An American. It’s a series of poems that are based upon ideas expressed in a book entitled Culture Shock: America. The purpose of the book is to educate new immigrants about our culture and it’s filled with some absolute gems. You can read some of the poems that have already been published here.

And finally I’m working on revisions of a YA sci-fi book called PALIMPSEST which I’ve been working on FOREVER and am thankfully really close to finishing. Unfortunately it’s a complicated story (probably too complicated for my feeble brain to hold together) and it keeps getting interrupted by other projects, like SARAH.

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Hm. Wow. I don’t really know how to answer that.

If I’m going to talk about THIS IS SARAH, I guess the thing that makes it different is that it’s small, quiet and sad. I think a lot of YA books are really big, really loud, and really dramatic. Vampires. Monsters. Girls falling in love with their dead boyfriends (literally). The paranormal romance thing is huge.

And I’m not criticizing that – I think there is a lot of really good stuff out there dealing with paranormal romances. But SARAH is decidedly not that.

Like I said, it’s small – only about 47K words. And quiet – there are no zombies, vampires, or anything like that. No one is trying to save the world. No one has special powers. No one is related to a fairy or any other member of the fey.

It’s just about a high school age boy who trying to keep it together when the unthinkable happens. And it’s about a sixteen year old girl who has to manage without her sister.

It’s about loss.

Like I said, it’s a sad book.

3. Why do I write what I do?

Sheesh, this is even harder than the last one.

I guess because it’s the story that I want to tell at the time I start telling it.

So far, I’ve written three novels (I”m counting the sci-fi one, cause guys, it’s ALMOST done) and they are all wildly different. The first was a MG urban fantasy called Lizzy Speare and the Cursed Tomb. I wrote that because I wanted to write something that I would have wanted to read when I was a little girl. Back then books were my world. I wanted to add a story to that amazing lexicon.

I wrote the scifi book because I wanted tell a story about memory. I have a terrible terrible memory. It’s embarrassing actually and PALIMPSEST is very much about how memory shapes your sense of identity and how without it, you can fall out of your own history. And it’s about time travel and alternate dimension and chess cause I like those three things.

And I wrote SARAH because it was a story that I wanted to tell. That sounds like a cheap explanation but it’s the truth. See, when I submitted it to BookFish and it was accepted, one of the editors said the following:

 The emotions throughout are so incredibly real that I wondered if maybe you have experienced such a horrible thing as losing someone you love in such an unresolved kind of way. I certainly hope not. If you have, I am sending you a virtual hug even though it’s not general protocol. Either way, you deserve it.

And I wrote back and said, “oh no, no, it’s just a story.”

But that is a lie.

Because even though I didn’t have Colin or Claire’s specific experience, I’ve lost people that I have loved and I’ve struggled with how to move on. I’m an extremely sensitive person and everyone says that it’s great because when you’re like this you experience happiness and joy on such a grand scale. True. But you also heal at a glacial pace. Writing this was cathartic. I packed a lot of my leftover emotions into a suitcase and I handed it to Colin. And when Colin picked up that suitcase and walked away with it I felt lighter. Ultimately I think that’s one of the reasons to write anything, right?

 

4. How does my writing process work?

It’s messy, actually.

Part of the reason that PALIMPSEST is taking as long as it is is because I have this bad habit of coming up with an idea, not thinking it through, writing like a maniac in my excitement about the story idea and then realizing 150K words later that the book is really about A and not B. Then I revise for half a decade. There is much wailing and gnashing of teeth.

That said I think I’m starting to learn. SARAH was the last long piece I wrote and it started as a novella and then morphed into a novel and the total amount of time actually writing was close to a month and a half which is really fast (for me).

That said, I wasn’t doing any world-building like I did with the other two so that might have helped.

On a more logistical level, I write every day (minus the weekends cause, Hi, I want a life) from 5 am to 7:30 am. Then I take a two hour walk and think about whether I just wasted the morning writing stuff I’m going to delete the next day.

On the good days, the answer is nope.

Okay so now it’s time to pass this along to Patrice Cadwell and Mary Waibel.

 

photo

 

I currently study Political Science and English with a concentration in Creative Writing at Wellesley College and recently won the SCBWI Student Writer Scholarship thanks to one of my manuscripts, ALEX DE VEGA AND PANDORA’S BOX (MG Sci-Fi Thriller). I also blog about writing and books for MG, YA, and NA audiences at whimsicallyours.com (which has over 1,200 subscribers). I have been published in various college publications as well as Lambda Literary and DiversifYA.

Mary Waibel Author Photo

 

Mary is the author of THE PRINCESS OF VALENDRIA series- a set of fractured fairytale fantasies.Quest of the Hart, Charmed Memories, and Different Kind of Knight (releasing winter 2013/14) from MuseItUpPublishing.

 

Looking forward to hearing how their process works!

And thanks again to Robert for the invite!

Peace, Love and Starbursts,

Ally

Things and other things about things…with a video

4 Mar

Palimpsest

Hi all.

First off that blob up there is me being a goofball and creating a word cloud out of Palimpsest, the sci fi book I’m in the final death throes of revising.

Word clouds are cool.

Other things that are cool are poems published by Stephen over at Dead Snakes. It took a long time for Summer Lake, Late Nineties to find a home so I’m glad it happened. You can read all three here.

And in other cool news, I got my first book of poems, entitled The Wanting Bone by Six Gallery Press reviewed. I’m completely flattered by all the nice words that Poetry Hound had to say.

You can read it here.

And in the best news of all, my buddy Oscar Varona got a story published. He and his girlfriend Aida are my two favorite artists/ people/humans that don’t live in the US (damn them!). You should read it especially if you like weirdness and Samuel Beckett and funny. And who doesn’t like that?

And finally, soon I’m going to be here:

images

and here:

cavern-club1

and also here:

Oxford

and maybe back to here:

stratford

where I’ll finally get to see this:

grave

Cause you guys all know what happened in 2009, right?

Want a hint? The moose outside should have told me.

Peace, Love and Starbursts,

Ally

How to Be An American poem at Regardless of Authority

4 Dec

download

It’s December.

When did that happen? December?

The last month of 2013.

It’s been a weird year. On the one hand it was all amazing with Vienna and Salzburg and Mozart’s house and driving up the coast of California and so much poetry written and read and heard and published and indian food and Chagall and Klimt and a new little baby named Wes and Nietzsche and novel writing about memory and the theory of eternal return….

and on the other hand there’s been sad things and weird things and few more sad things….

so basically I guess it’s been like all the other years. Some good. Some bad. Some not even worth mentioning.

At the very least I have managed to get a lot of writing done this year. While these five am writing mornings five days a week are probably shortening my life significantly, there’s at least ink on paper, right? Enough to bury me in.

So anyway, many thanks to Regardless of Authority for picking up one of my How To Be An American poems for the new issue. You can read it here.

It’s based on a true story. That all actually happened at the Duomo (pictured above) in Florence just about a year and a half ago. And yes, my poor husband does have to put up with me mouthing off to strangers.

Thanks again to Regardless of Authority.

Peace, Love and Starbursts,

Ally

I HATE THIS BOOK WITH THE BURNING STENCH OF A GARBAGE FIRE

14 Aug

DISCLAIMER: (Everything I’m going to say here is much better said here by Chuck Wendig (Hey at least I’m honest.))

I’m revising.

Have I mentioned that I’m revising? Cause I am. And by revising, I mean, I’m pulling the broken spine out of a disgruntled hemorrhoid riddled gorilla and re-assembling it with legos. While he’s sleeping.

I’ve been ACTIVELY changing things since March. My plan (ha! what’s a plan?) was to be done by June. I was going to spend my summer writing nothing but poetry for a new chapbook tentatively entitled “How to Be An American” or “How to Spot and American” or something about Americans.

It was based on the amazing things I’ve found in this book:

Can you see how much fun that would have been?

Cause I can.

Except here it is August bloody 14th and i’m still only half way though the revision. And I have a novella I want to finish and short stories and that chapbook and and and and and (this is the part where I get all hyperventilate-y)

And the hardest part with all this spine ripping is that I really can’t tell if what I’m changing is making it better or worse cause it’s just one big patchwork quilt from hell at this point. Thank god for beta readers right? If I sell this thing I’ll have to give them half my royalties.

So aside from my complaining, which let’s be honest is the whole point of a blog, what I wanted to share was  this piece by Chuck Wendig because basically the things that go through his brain when he’s editing is what goes through my brain. Also he’s much funnier than me.

Be good kids.

I’m gonna go chew my fingers to bloody nubs.

Okay bye.

*laugh/sob/laugh/sob*

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.

%d bloggers like this: