Monday, February 15, 2021

Ode To My Blog

 

 

 

Oh, blog I know you are there

It’s been months since I stopped by, I haven’t been fair

I should post something witty, offer something to share

But sometimes I just don’t care

Then suddenly I feel your stare

The guilt is too much I just can’t bear

So I offer this dumb poem and prepare for your glare

Monday, October 5, 2020

For Beta or for Worse

 

Like so many others recently, I found a few new distractions over these last strange months. Aside from the TV shows I will not admit to becoming addicted, or the amount of online shopping I engaged in, I began beta reading.

As a writer, beta reading isn’t entirely new to me. But, beta reading in the true sense – reading and reviewing for a complete stranger was uncharted waters. Friends have read my early manuscripts and vice versa, but this format is quite different – and I like it.

As an avid reader, I agonize over my next read and always have. During Quarantine, I plowed through books, but still chose very discerningly. Fear of disappointment looms with every selection, even when recommended by a friend.

Enter beta reading. Through the Upwork platform I was selected to blindly read and review manuscripts. Each average 200 pages and can be any genre, heat level, and in any stage of development. In the past six months I’ve read all points on each spectrum. Some so bad I found it difficult to give feedback and some so well done I wondered if I was slipped a bestseller to check my credibility.

The process is mutually anonymous, so I feel free to give honest, solid criticism and praise. I benefit as well from practicing my craft and have to laugh when I point out weaknesses such as, ‘telling instead of showing’ and later peruse my own work-in-progress for the same.

The best part of beta reading is the reading. I don’t experience any anticipatory anxiety. No selection sorrow. Whenever I email I’m ready for another manuscript, I sit back, wait for a reply, and wonder what I’ll be reading for the next few days. 

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Stay in Your Lane




I love the quotes addressing parents to allow their children live their own lives. Recently, I’ve needed the gentle reminder. With one daughter at my alma mater and the second of three applying currently, I’ve made more than a few references to, “when I was there…” followed by the ever-popular, “when I was your age…” and “we used to…”

So, when I come across beautiful adages on social media, I appreciate their message and try to heed the advice.

You will teach them to fly, but they will not take your flight.
You will teach them to dream, but they will not dream your dream.
You will teach them to live, but they will not live your life.

Beautiful, right? I agree. But not easy to put into practice. Why? Because how can I resist comparing my college years in the early 90s when they are literally wearing every article of clothing I did back then?

I mean, really, girls. I’m talking to you now. The mom-jean? We knew they weren’t cool 30 years ago and I take comfort in knowing you’ll cringe too later and probably worse than me and my friends since there are only about eight photos from my college years, not 64 KB.

Yes, I will try not to chime in and tell you how great that bar used to be, or how we all used to love the hockey games, but maybe don’t Facetime me wearing that white turtleneck tucked into high-waisted button-fly black jeans?

However, should any of you don a braided, brown leather belt with a brass buckle looped around itself with the ‘tail’ hanging over – all bets are off. I will then wax prophetic about White Claw being an imposter, just Zima 2.0 for the sugar-free generation.

Monday, April 1, 2019

The Secret Posts - Part Two



Secrets can be weighty. Whether you’re holding your own or someone else’s, you can physically feel its presence. Now, sometimes the weight comes from a secret about something negative – a problem at work or school or with a friend or significant other or a health concern. These are the secrets that weight on our shoulders like those cartoon anvils or gives that ‘pit in the stomach’ feeling. But sometimes the secret’s weight is the opposite. Good secrets can give you a lift and put a spring in your step. Waiting until the magic week 12 (or whatever the doctor advised) to announce a pregnancy, holding back sharing the news of a college acceptance or job offer until the ‘deal is sealed’. These too are secrets that are weighty but instead lift the weight. In a perfect world, we’d all have more of the positive kind and less of the negative. But one thing is for sure, we’ve all got them.

Secrets. Big, small, kid-size and adult-size. Yours, mine, our parents’ and our children’s. We’re all holding on to them. Try as we might to be open, honest and transparent – we’ve all got something we’re holding. Everyone we interact with is also holding a secret, for good or bad, but probably both.

I think it’s just human nature to hold secrets and to ask others to hold them for you. They are essential to relationships and can provide a true litmus test between two people. Recently, I’ve discovered as my children have gotten older, when they ask me to not to reveal something they’ve told me in confidence, they really mean it. Gone are the days when, ‘don’t tell Dad’ was a cute thing to say to me to keep them from getting in trouble. (I assume there were many ‘don’t tell Mom’ instances as well) Now they confide and expect the level of secrecy once only reserved for the adults in my life. Previously I shared just about everything they did – good, bad, naughty, and especially funny. Now I hold back and hold in. Just another life transition I’m learning the hard way. Secrets are secrets, even when I don’t agree they need to be secret.

So where am I going with all these thoughts on secrets? Do I have a good one to spill or a bad one to confess? Stick with me for another week of observations - and don’t keep it a secret.

Monday, March 25, 2019

The Secret Posts - Part One




“Don’t tell anyone, but…”

I am currently the keeper of roughly one dozen different versions of the end of the above sentence.
Maybe I have one of those trusting faces. Or possibly I put people at ease and make them feel comfortable spilling their secrets to me. I’d like to think it’s because I am known as trustworthy person and loyal friend deserving of the privilege of secret keeper.

Some of the secrets have been and are currently minor, personal confidences while there are always a few major life-altering whoppers. Both types give me anxiety, but I take the secret-keeping very serious.

There was a time last year I held so many secrets from different people I thought I would burst. I began to imagine a spreadsheet in my head and even contemplated writing them all down to keep them straight. Don’t worry, I didn’t. The urge to write is tough for me, but I know better than that in this situation and resorted to simply keeping my mouth shut. Also tough. Secret keeper is not a position I enjoy, yet can’t seem to shake.

The relief I felt when hearing the secrets were finally ‘out’ or public knowledge was physical for me. I could feel my teeth unclench at every mention of the information I held inside. You’d think I’d learn not to accept any more confidentialities, but just two days ago I heard those words again from another friend, “Can I tell you something?” I almost said no, but of course I put my hand on her arm and said, “Sure, anything. You can trust me.” And I meant it, but as soon as she spilled her confession, I immediately regretted allowing her to confide in me. I don’t like knowing this particular secret. Thankfully, this one has an expiration date and soon it will be public knowledge. Until then, well I’ll be avoiding a certain group and suddenly too busy for coffee on Thursday mornings through the end of April.

As with this big secret, most expire on their own. Thankfully the information becomes public or moot. But now it’s got me wondering – as a writer- what’s the shelf life of a secret? At what point is it acceptable to assimilate into a story? Obviously – “All names, characters, places and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are used factiously. Any resemblance to acutal events, local, or persons living or dead, is entirely coincidental.”

Maybe my friends should think twice before prefacing me with, “Don’t tell anyone, but…”

You’ve been warned.

Monday, September 3, 2018

The First Fifty




I began drafting this blog on July 1st in hopes of posting right after the July 4th vacation week. My plan was to have finished half of my Goodreads Reading Challenge for 2018 of 100 books and list them along with the reason I chose to read them. Not reviews, or even if I liked them, just the circumstances that led be to pick it up, download, borrow, buy or listen to a particular book.
Now, it’s Labor Day and I finally finished the 50th book. (According to Goodreads, I’m 17 books behind in my Reading Challenge, so I’ll try to keep this short and get back to reading).
Without further ado and/or Columbus Day, the following is the first half of my 2018 Goodreads Reading Challenge:



Title -  Author  - Why I Chose



Little Fires Everywhere- Celeste Ng  - Peer pressure, I saw ‘everyone’ reading it



How to Find Love in a Bookshop -  Veronica Henry - It sounded cozy. About books & writing



Sisters First - Jenna Bush Hager - Needed an audiobook for cleaning house



Tell Me More - Kelly Corrigan - By Glitter & Glue author, I’d been anticipating 


The Hideaway-  Laura K. Denton - My book club’s January pick.



Graduates in Wonderland -Jessica Pan - Downloaded from library late-night 



So Far Away-  Meg Mitchell Moore - Waiting for new & realized I missed this one



Icing on the Cake - Ann Marie Roache - New release from a friend



The Dry - Jane Harper - My book club’s February pick



I’ve Still Got It… - Jenna McCarthy - Wanted something funny after The Dry



Party of One…  - Dave Holmes - Was in mood for a funny audio memoir 



The Captain’s Daughter - Meg Mitchell Moore - New release I was waiting for



The Truth According to Us - Annie Barrows - I can’t remember why I picked this


Digging In - Loretta Nyhan - New release from a friend



An American Marriage - Tayari Jones - Christmas gift. Oprah’s pick



Alternate Side - Anna Quindlen - I never miss her new releases


Educated: A Memoir - Tara Westover -  Read great reviews and saved for vacation


Every Note Played - Lisa Genova  - Recommended by a friend



Frat Girl - Kiley Roache - Daughter of friend’s first book



Townie - Andre Dubus III - Wanted a memoir audio book for plane ride



Welcome to Night Vale -  Joseph Fink - Recommended by my daughter


Hot Mess - Emily Belden - My book club’s April pick


Boys in the Trees - Carly Simon -  Wanted another memoir for audio


My Dear Hamilton - Stephanie Dray - Bought the day of release, loved previous book


Force of Nature - Jane Harper - Liked first book, decided to try second



Less - Andrew Sean Greer - Gave in to Amazon & Goodreads rec’s



Etched in Sand - Regina Calcaterra - My book club’s May pick



The Address - Fiona Davis - Recommended by a friend



Girl Unbroken - Regina Calcaterra - Sister’s version of Etched in Sand, HAD to read



Lawn Boy - Jonathan Evison - Lucky Day shelf at library. Like the cover


All the Little Lights - Jamie McGuire - Follow the author, new release


As Bright at Heaven - Susan Meissner - Recommendation from book club friend


The Woman in the Window - AJ Finn - My book club’s June pick


Beartown - Fredrick Backman - It was finally available at library! 



Everything I Never Told You - Celeste Ng - Heard it’s better than Little Fires (true) 


I Have Lost My Way - Gayle Foreman - My daughter wanted me to preview



Truly Devious - Maureen Johnson - I follow her on Twitter and was intrigued



The Divorce Papers - Susan Reiger - I thought I had to read before Heirs (false)


The Heirs - Susan Reiger - Recommened thru Goodreads



Designing Your Life - Bill Burnett and Dave Evans - My daughter’s college’s reccomendation


White Houses - Amy Bloom - My book club’s July pick


Now That You Mention It - Kristan Higgins - I follow her on Twitter, sounded good


I am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter - Erika L Sanchez -  Recommended by book club friend


Lilac Girls - Martha Hall Kelly - My book club’s August pick


The Perfect Couple - Elin Hilderbrand - Eagerly awaited to read on vacation



The Summer Wives - Beatirz Williams - Sounded good for vacation 



Crazy Rich Asians - Kevin Kwan -Movie looked great and I  Always try to read book first


Clock Dance - Anne Tyler - New one from her, chose audio


Good Luck with That -  Kristan Higgins - New release by author I read recently 


Next Year in Havana - Chanel Cleaton - Recommended by a friend (not Reese)




That’s 50! For a sneak peek at the next 50, I am currently reading China Rich Girlfriend by Kevin Kwan because it's the second in the trilogy and super fun. I am also listening to Curtis Sittenfeld’s newest release: You Think It I’ll Say It because I love her style and quirky storytelling.



I try to review everything I read on Goodreads so catch me there and send me some recommendations. I hope to update this before NYE!





Ally


Monday, February 19, 2018

Easter Eggs on President's Day

It’s President’s Day and I’m thinking about Easter Eggs.

Isn’t it a little early? I don’t mean the kind we hard boil and dip dye for the big bunny to hide, I’ll get to those next month. I’m referring to another type – literary Easter Eggs.

Yes, literary Easter Eggs. If you’re a writer, do you use them? Apparently, I do. I’ve been weaving subtle ‘gifts’ for my friends and family in my writing since I began. However, it wasn’t until years into my venture I learned this practice is an intentional method.

Much like the physical Easter Eggs, they can be decorated and hidden in many ways. Without knowing the term, I was leaving them for my friends and family via personal references. Naming characters after friends and family members seemed too obvious (and cause for possible contention), but I wanted to include shout-outs to my people who I hoped would be reading a someday-published novel after hearing me complain about it for months and years. I began to sporadically drop Easter Eggs and it made me smile to imagine my friend or cousin coming across their name as the title of a business or street or their childhood house phone numbers (‘disguised’ of course with the universal 555 pre-fix). I’ve used birthdays, addresses, pets’ names and most recently a combination of names to form a fictional law firm.

Why? Who doesn’t like seeing their name in print? Or better yet, a personal inside joke hidden in dialog? It’s fun. After my most recent novel released, I received a middle-of-the-night text from my cousin when she discovered her egg and another call from an old friends’ mother to say how tickled she was to see I used her last name as a neighbor in the story. I haven’t seen her in years, but it came right to me and I knew she’d appreciate it.

While I’ve never been able to use trademarked song titles in my writing (something to aspire to) I dance around the issue by referencing lyrics that I know will evoke a certain emotion or define a timeframe. But, secretly I think about that friend or ex (okay, definitely the ex) who might wonder if I was thinking of them. Devious? Hey, writing can be frustrating and lonely. If motivation arrives dressed as devious, I let her in.

Another way to use Easter Eggs is to hide them amongst your various stories. This is easily achieved by having a past character pop up in a new work, or better yet an obscure, minor character appear in the background. Inanimate objects work well too. That necklace a character wanted in book one, might show up on someone else’s neck in book three. Movies are notorious for using this kind of egg dropping.  My current work-in-progress is set in the 1990s, and some of my friends may recognize their before-becoming-a-mom cool cars.

A hook for friends, family and loyal readers? Sure. Fun for the writer and reader? Definitely.

Who doesn’t like an Easter Egg hunt?