Sunday, June 29, 2014

Writing Process Blog Tour!

I've been tagged! The Writing Process Blog Tour has been going around for a while, and I was lucky enough to catch wind of it and be tagged by the lovely Susan Adrian. 
I don't know Susan personally, but I've been following her on Twitter for years and our exchanges are always fantastic. She's made me laugh and she's taught and turned me on to things that are helpful as both a writer and as a person.  

Susan's debut novel, a YA thriller, TUNNEL VISION, is coming out with Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin's Press in Winter 2015. She is also the leader of the Fearless Fifteeners, a group of middle grade and young adult authors debuting in 2015.
Susan answered these questions last week, and now it's my turn. 

What am I working on?

I'm currently working on a fantasy adventure novel about Felix, an elf who's been chosen by the mystics of his kingdom to stop their world from being consumed by an ancient evil. 
In addition, I continue to update my website,, on a weekly basis. We focus on cocktail recipes, the history of alcohol, and fun alcohol news. 
I also have several short stories in the works, and am editing a mystery novella I wrote about five years ago and have only recently dusted off.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

In WWGR, Felix is not the main hero, but he doesn't know that, and neither does anyone else. 

Why do I write what I do?

When it comes to fiction, I write what speaks to me. That's why I could never classify my genre. This week I'm writing a fantasy adventure, next week I could be writing a horror. It all depends on the ideas I feel the closest to. 
As far as drink writing, I do that because I enjoy it. The community of beer, wine, and cocktail writers is diverse and wonderful, and despite the light subject matter, most of them take it seriously without being too pretentious. I stopped doing it for about a year and I missed it every day. So really, that's why. Because I really love it. 

I think that's the reason I write, in general. I love it. It's the best feeling in the world - creating, writing, getting lost in your mind.

How does my writing process work?

I like to begin by writing in my journal. I really throw everything down that's on my mind, no matter how inconsequential. This gives me the chance to clear my mind of all the things that might get in the way of reaching my daily goal, and keeps me from using excuses, since I've already remembered to call the landlord about a repair or do the dishes. Journaling also helps to get me started. Usually an idea or a spark of a muse will pop up while I'm writing in the journal, so I don't have to sit there staring at a blank screen or my previous line, wondering how to transition to the next thing.

After that, I just write until I can't write anymore. Sometimes this is one sentence, sometimes its nine pages. I like to keep a writing goal of about 1000 words a day, but sometimes that's impossible. Some days nothing comes, and that's okay.

Next up is Becky Wallace!
Becky's debut novel, THE STORYSPINNER, will be published by Simon & Schuster in March of 2015.  It's a magical adventure in which a case of mistaken identity exposes a young performer to a danger she could have never imagined and a secret her father died to protect. 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

What can I do to improve myself today?

"What can I do to improve myself today?"

This is a question that I don't ask myself enough. All too often I get stuck in the have-tos and better-dos rather than focusing on how to make my product and self better. I think it's high time that I made some time to make myself the best I can be. So, from now on, everyday I'll ask myself this question as much as I can. Maybe I'll start learning a new language. Maybe I'll read a book on how to be a better writer. Maybe I'll dance crazy and let out some much needed steam. No matter what, I will do everything I can to make myself better. It's already worked today.

What about you? What will you do to improve yourself today?

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Still Sad

I'm sad.

I've had the kind of summer that most people would consider dull. I've done little more than go to my internship, chill out at my house, and drink on the weekends, in Brooklyn, where I live.

Much of the reason for that, besides that I live a relatively simple life, is that my dog was quite ill.

I don't think I realized that I knew how ill he was. But I must have. I wanted to be with him all the time. I wanted to hug him and play with him, and pick on him, and do all the things I could with him. It wasn't obvious. I also yelled at him, and ignored him, and did all the things dog owners do when they think they have forever.

And then one Monday he woke up and his ankle was swollen. Oh, we thought he'd strained it somehow and so we did all the things the internet tells you to do, all the things but take him to the vet. Because we thought it was a strain.

Two days later, on Wednesday, his other paw swelled up like a tomato, and looked like one too. We took him to the vet immediately.

The vet then sent me to emergency care in case it was as serious as she thought it might be. They didn't seem to think it was. But they confirmed what we already had suspected - that Chunk had Cushings disease. Because his foot was so bad, though, they lanced his paw and sent him home with pain killers and antibiotics. Within two days his paw looked like a paw again.

When his pain meds rain out on Sunday, it was okay, he had a follow up appointment with the vet. She was happy with the way everything looked but wanted to up his antibiotics to kick out the infection.

Monday he stopped eating and was not interested in walking. We understood. He was on a ridiculous amount of antibiotics that all had the side effect of appetite loss, and he was no longer on pain meds and his foot was healing from the lancing.

Tuesday morning we woke up and he had made a mess of himself and the floor. I took him to the bathroom to bath him. He shook, and didn't want to stand. Adrian cleaned up the floor. We had a nice bath, I was just washing up his tummy, so no water in the ears. He hates water in his ears.

I took him out and dried him off and tried to get him to drink water. He had no interest in it and lay down on the bathroom floor. We called his name, but he did not acknowledge it. His breathing was calm. He was relaxed.

We started to consider our options. It was time to go back to the vet we both thought. It was nice that he was breathing easier. And then he stretched his front paws. The cute stretch that usually involves a raised butt and lots of awws even though we both had seen it a million times.

And then his head fell to the side.

I rushed to him, but in my heart, I'd known this was coming since he hadn't responded to our voices. He wasn't breathing anymore. He was gone.

The rest of that day is mostly a blur. I know I discovered that disposing of your deceased dog through the city of New York is awful, and I'm so very, very glad that we could afford to have him cremated through a private service. I know we cried, and drank, and talked about our dog. I know I missed him immediately. I know I still do.

Unfortunately, the world doesn't stop for the dead, especially dead dogs, and so we've had to pick up and be strong. But it's had an affect on me that is constant.

I'm sad.

Of course I'm sad, you say. My dog died. It's only been a month. It's okay to be sad. I know. I just hate being sad. I hate missing him. I hate coming home and knowing he won't be there, but the feeling that he will be still hasn't gone away. Same with taking the trash out, or getting up in the morning, or when we're cooking dinner. I think about him and I want to find him and hug him. I don't want to miss him. I want him to be here. He's gone, and something inside me feels empty, even still. It's getting better, but I'm having trouble writing, thinking, being creative. I'm having trouble being me without him. I didn't realize how important he was to my well being until he stopped being here.

I know it will get better, that time heals all wounds, but I also know that he will always be in my heart. He was my buddy, my pal, my little Chunky Butt. He was cranky but he loved us, and we love him so very much. If only love could have saved him. He would have lived forever.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Putting it out there with hope...

Two weeks ago two things happened - I received an internship at a well known start up home brewing supplies company, and my very good, understanding, competent therapist ended his residency and moved on to a program for which I do not qualify. I elected not to take up another therapist because I don't really like therapy. The only reason I went to this guy is because our first meeting was excellent and throughout our sessions he continued to have all the above mentioned qualities. I usually find therapists judgmental, and I have no interest in "trying out" anyone new, just to be disappointed again and again.

Unfortunately, it's been so long since I've had a stressful change that I forgot that change is my trigger. So, last week, after the second day at my new internship, all the anxiety and depression that's been happily gone from my life for a very long time suddenly appeared again. It's not that the job is especially stressful, it's a lot of writing and a lot of learning about subjects that I enjoy. In fact, it's quite fantastic. I've been waiting for an opportunity like this for a long time. It's just a change. A big change. Socially, I always feel a bit out of place, and the fact that I'm a 32 year old intern working with a group of people who are all much younger than me (other interns and the staff alike) doesn't help. It's a big shock to find out all the confidence and intelligence I thought I had is all just from an overly comfortable, non-challenging existence.

Adrian says this is pretty common when I start a new job and that I'll be fine. I believe him, it's just the transition is really hard, and it's a bit painful and frustrating. Most days I can pick myself up off the floor for the most part, but there's an underlying feeling inside me that is just not good. I'm oversleeping, I don't want to write, I don't want to leave the apartment, take Chunk for walks, work out, anything. It's not even that I'm sad, just empty. I want to drink, I want to eat copious amounts of chocolate. I want to curl up on the bed and just lie there. I hate feeling like this, and I can't quite punch a hole in it and pull myself out.

It's in these moments that I wish I'd had an appointment yesterday to talk about everything. I guess maybe that's why I've written this post. One of the things I learned in therapy is that when I admit to something, when I put it out there, things feel a little better. I'm hoping that by writing this post maybe the emptiness will break apart and I'll find a way out.

Fingers crossed.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Motivation Solutions

I've been struggling with a motivation problem. I work from home as a writer and a lot of times it's easy to fall into a pattern of getting nothing done. When I get into those habits, I have a problem pulling myself out from under them, and end up often times spending weeks with no motivation and no progress of any kind.

Because I'm aware that I have this problem, I have motivation boards and goals sitting right in front of me on white boards and peg boards and multiple calendars. These are helpful, but I still get in modes where I feel if I'm not working on my "big project" (aka my book) that I'm not doing anything. So today, I wiped all my goals from my white board and wrote out the current projects I'm working on. As it turns out, I currently have nine things in progress. Whoa. I had no idea.  Seeing these things written out makes me feel a lot better and I think will keep me motivated to keep working on them every day. I even wrote out plans for each project on how to proceed to the next level through daily goals. My biggest goal? To make this summer my most productive ever. I want to feel busy from the moment I wake up until I fall into my pillow at night/early morning. I think it's only fair to myself and to the beautiful projects I've currently got on my plate.

What about you? What do you do to stay motivated or get yourself back on track? 

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Ali Spagnola barred from performing in Michigan college community

Updated 5/4/2013: Ali Spagnola, a musician best known for performing a 60 minute power hour, was barred from performing a concert in Houghton and Hancock, Mich. on May 2 due to issues possibly involving Michigan Technological University and the The Houghton County Liquor Control Board.

The concert was to be held as part of Spagnola's Epic Power Hour College contest in which the college with the most votes received a concert at their school. Michigan Tech won the contest with 650 votes.

A “power hour” consists of 60 different one minute songs. At the beginning of each song, Spagnola and her audience take a one ounce shot of beer. The controversial show is likely what caused the initial problems.

Spagnola has played these concerts before without incident. Last year, she toured the United States, performing about 15 shows.

The event was originally scheduled for May 2 at the Continental Fire Company, a nightclub in Houghton, but they canceled on May 1 with a statement.
“We've received notification that MTU is quite upset with the idea of CFCo hosting your concert. We've hosted various MTU department events over the year and have begun to build our relationship with one of the MTU student groups such that we could serve as the venue for some student events. We were told that MTU would likely cut ties with us if we were to host your concert and I'm afraid we can't risk our long-term relationship with the university for the opportunity to host your concert.”
Michigan Technological University President Glen Mroz was surprised at the statement and denied this is the case. 

"This is the first I've seen this statement," said Mroz. "I don't know who wrote it, but I can say that no one was ever threatened with any reprisals...This is an issue between the organizers and vendors they have under contract. They need to sort it out."

Spagnola confirms that the university initially had no problem with her performing in Houghton, as long it was clear the concert was not affiliated with MTU. "The only communication I received from the university was an email asking me to clarify on my Facebook event that it was unaffiliated with the university and that I shouldn't use their logo," said Spagnola. "I immediately did as they asked, and they thanked me for my very prompt compliance. At that point I assumed they were happy with me. I heard nothing else from them though all of this."
The event was moved to the Orpheum theater in neighboring Hancock, but because they do not have a liquor license, issues with attendees bringing their own beverages forced them to move it to The Uphill, a nightclub in Hancock.

"Someone alerted the authorities about the show and I heard through word of mouth that what we were doing wasn't allowed and they were going to shut it down," Spagnola said. "Once I found that out, I again began scrambling for another option."

The concert then caught the attention of the Houghton County Liquor Control Board, who instructed The Uphill to shut it down, leaving Spagnola and her opening act, Professor Shyguy, with no place to go.

The reason for the cancellation, as explained to Spagnola, was three-fold.

"They said the event could not be advertised with a $5 cover. It's illegal to advertise the cost of something at a bar. The fact that the description of my event on Facebook had the word 'game' is also not allowed. The third problem is that I'm not allowed to sell my merchandise. They said it's illegal to sell things that aren't food or alcohol in a bar," Spagnola said.

MTU Alum Adrian Hannah was baffled by this reasoning. "It just feels like whoever contacted The Uphill was grasping at straws to try and do whatever they could to shut it down," Hannah said. "All of the elements of this whole situation put together feels like a concerted effort from one party to keep Ali out of Houghton." 

The students who voted for the concert were quite shocked and angered by the cancellation. Suggestions began pouring in encouraging Spagnola to come to the city anyway. A event was created to help cover Spagnola and Shyguy's expenses, and within two hours they were covered. Spagnola was thrilled by the support.

"Never has it been so awesome that so many people were upset. The students and alumni were really supportive of me through all of this and it was amazing to have them so excited for my show. I was absolutely flattered by the fact that there was such an uproar when it didn't work out," said Spagnola.

Even after the concert was canceled, however, it seems someone was still out to keep Spagnola and Professor Shyguy out of Houghton. A local establishment, The Downtowner, offered a room for a Power Hour-less party, but was contacted by the State Police and told they could not comply. Spagnola was also initially unable to find a room in the city.

"MTU even went so far as to try to stop me from having a place to stay. They told students not to let me stay with them. They tried to stop me from sleeping in the city of Houghton! On top of scrambling to find venues, I was scrambling to find somewhere to stay because people had canceled after MTU told them they should. I didn't know that was why at the time. I just thought I was having really bad luck with everything all at once."

While it's possible that someone at the university acted against Spagnola, President Mroz insists the school had no part in keeping Spagnola from performing.

"This is not a university function, nor is it sponsored by any university organization. So Michigan Tech has no say in it," said Mroz.

In the end, Spagnola is disappointed that those who wanted her out of the city didn't contact her in a reasonable manner.

"I really wish whomever was behind all of this would have just came to me in the first place. I was fighting a battle that I couldn't possibly win but I thought I was just fighting against bad luck and circumstances. This whole thing cost me a lot of time, money, hard work and stress," she said. "When I realized I was caused all these troubles not by bad luck but by a specific person or people that were out to thwart my every effort, it felt absolutely awful. I could have been saved all this strain, worry, effort and disappointment if they would have just been straightforward with me instead of silently following my every move and attacking once I'd gotten things set up again and again.

"Despite the fact that my marketing makes what I do seem like all fun and games, this is my livelihood. This is my business and my passion. I lost a huge amount of time and money that could have been spent on things that could have taken my business forward but instead, I was spinning my wheels and getting nowhere after days and days of effort because the people that were out to get me would not speak to me personally."

As of this time, none of the state agencies could be reached for comment.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Why does being gay have to come with an announcement?

Yesterday all my feeds blew up with the announcement that NBA player Jason Collins is gay. After the third or so post, I was already sick of it. The truth is, I cannot wait until someone's sexual orientation stops being a headline.

Don't get me wrong, I understand the importance of being the first openly gay current professional athlete. The fact that he's also black does not escape my notice. I'm incredibly happy for this man for being so honest when the blow back is going to be, and probably already has been, difficult. I guess the question I have is, why does it matter? It always shocks me when it shocks others that someone is gay. People are gay. Everywhere. In every culture, every profession, every place in the world. So the next question I ask is something I wonder every time a person being gay makes headlines - why, oh why does someone's sex life have anything to do with any other aspect of their life? If I don't have to proclaim myself as straight - an important part of who I sleep with and decide to have a family with - why the hell should my gay friends? It just seems invasive to me.

Why does being gay have to come with an announcement? Why should we force people to proclaim such a private thing? Why can't Jason Collins live his life openly without feeling shame for not telling everyone about it first? We live in a world that feels like it's everyone's business to know everything. We over share and don't understand when someone doesn't do the same. We also live in a world that shames people for who they are if we don't agree with the things they feel, say, or do. It's incredibly frustrating.

Why can't we just accept people for who they are, not worry about what they do in the privacy of their own home, and not be surprised/revolted/angered/cruel when who they are means bringing someone of the same sex to dinner?

I think Salt 'n Pepa said it best: