Thursday, September 17, 2020

On Ice on sale!

My book, Teammates: On Ice (you may have heard me mention it one or two million times) comes out September 20th, 2020. That's only three days away! I've been working toward this moment for two years and I'm nervous as fuck. But also more excited than words can express. The book is good. And it's the first in a series. Once I'm done writing this blog post I'll be going back to revising book 3. 

Do me a favor, lovely people... You see, I don't have a big marketing team, so I'm relying heavily on social media and word of mouth. So after you read the book, leave a review, recommend it to your friends, ask your local libraries and bookstores to carry it. I make basically no money off paper copies sold at small bookstores unless I work directly with them, and even then it's less than through Amazon or B&N but that's okay. I didn't write this book to get rich. I wrote it because the stories it tells are deeply personal and important to me. 

On Ice is not a book about hockey, it's a book about people. These people just happen to come together through hockey. You don't need to be a hockey person to like this book. If you'd enjoy reading about four badass women challenging the patriarchy and each other while throwing around a few 'fucks' and the occasional Firefly reference, then this is the book for you.

Friday, September 4, 2020

Imagining the Worst is the Best!

Part of having an anxiety disorder—at least for me—is an extreme talent for imagining the worst-case scenarios in ridiculously vivid detail. Ever heard the old cliché where the kid comes home after curfew and then mom screaming, "where were you?! I was afraid you were lying in a ditch somewhere!" Amature hour, man. Try this on for size...

I started getting worried about one minute past your ETA. The later it got, the most specific the fear. I knew you hadn't slept well last night. I could just see you, squinting into the light of the oncoming traffic as you drove across highway 19, your head starting to nod. Maybe you would veer into the opposite lane, running head-first into a semi and die on impact, or maybe they'd blow their horn just in time and you'd overcorrect and roll your car into a ditch, where you'd hang upsidedown bleeding and alone in the dark for hours. No, I'd remind myself those are all so terrible, have faith that your luck won't be so bad. Perhaps you nod off, your foot will slip off the gas and you'll trundle down into the ditch, still asleep but ultimately unharmed. Yes, that is the best-case scenario and most likely explains why you're now five whole minutes late.  Maybe you'll awake in a few hours or be found and woken up by some helpful citizen. Hopefully not a rapist or murder, of course. I hope you'll think to call me then, but I could understand if you were overwhelmed—you need to get your car out of that ditch and all. But that's probably all wrong. Maybe the reason you're now an alarming seven minutes late means you're not planning to come home at all. You've run away, skipped town, called a friend in California and are halfway through Nabraska by now. Oh, why would you run away? I can think of a few dozen reasons of course—oh wait. You're home. Ten minutes late! I nearly died of fright, young lady, how could you do that to me?

That was just spitballing of course. In a real panic, there would be more cycling back and rehashing and doubt and it wouldn't be as easy to articulate. But you get the idea. 

So why is this the best?

It's fantastic practice for creative writing! If I can take that slightly less than exuberant greeting and spin it into a person hating me, or turn a hangover into raging covid-19, or a creaking sound in the night to child traffickers coming for my kids... then I can also create characters with colorful lives and deep back-stories and wide-ranging emotions. I can give them a task to complete and then take them on a journey through all the pitfalls and failures as well as triumphs. It's fun. And exhausting. And sometimes I think maybe the writing then becomes practice for the anxiety. Like a workout for the Thought Monkey. Sometimes when I shut my computer I forget to shut off my imagination so it feeds even more stories to my anxious brain.  And that's how I end up taking a twenty-minute shower because I'm practicing for an argument I'll probably never have. But that's okay... *nervous laughter* Right?

In all seriousness, I wondered if there is a link between the way the brains of writers work and those with anxiety disorders (or other mental illnesses). So I googled it. Low and behold, it seems that there is. I haven't dug deep, I have other things I should be doing, but I do find it fascinating and I'd love to hear from people who see this link in themselves. I'm also hella curious about the role/effect of medication and other mind-altering substances (booze!) on our creative anxious brains. 

As an aside, I was a speaker on a panel at CONvergence 2019 called Depression, Anxiety, and the Creative Life. So it seems like this should have occurred to me before but at the time I think I was coming at the topic from a different angle (anxiety/depression as an impediment mostly) so even if I did entertain the idea, it didn't hit me quite like it has now. Maybe it was mentioned and I forgot. Honestly, the biggest thing I got from that panel was a really awesome new friend and a little bit of confidence that I can be funny in front of an audience, even as I'm shaking with nerves.

I'm not quite sure how to wrap up this post... I could remind you that my book is coming out at the end of this month and I hope you buy it, read it, and love it even half as much as I do. 

Thursday, August 20, 2020

The Improbable Story of Us

In one of my past posts, I promised the story of how Kristin and I got together. So here it goes...

It starts way back in 1999 in high school German class. Kristin and I both took German. I was also learning Japanese on the sly, getting the teacher to give me work, and even let me take quizzes over lunch even though I wasn't actually in Japanese class that year. Those were my favorite two subjects, German and Japanese, because I'm a giant language nerd. I was a pretty socially awkward teen but there were a few things I had some decent confidence in, and that included languages.

One thing I did not have confidence in was my sexuality. You see, there was this really cute girl in my German class. She was cute and blonde and cool and she did this thing where she would run her fingers through her hair that was... distracting. And I heard that she was bi. And due to some combination of all these things I just could not stop thinking about her. And that was a bit confusing as up to this point all my crushes had been on boys. But she was a girl. And her name was Kristin.

So I did what any girl would do when confronting the idea that she's not straight: I borrowed lesbian movies from the teacher who ran the school pride club. (totally normal, right?) I guess I figured that if the movies struck a chord it would somehow prove I was really bi and that this thing I felt for this girl in my German class was more than just curiosity. The movies I watched, alone in my room on my super cool TV/VCR combo unit, were But I'm a Cheerleader and The Incredibly True Adventure of Two Girls in Love. And well, I've had a crush on Natasha Lyonne ever since. So yeah, they struck a chord. 

So there I had it, "proof" that I was bi. Of course, I didn't actually tell anybody about this at the time that I can recall.  I was way too scared. But I did do one thing. I summoned up all my socially awkward nerd courage and tried to flirt with that cute girl. The one who wore jncos, white t-shirts under button-down shirts, and glasses. The one who was quiet and petite and mesmerizing. The one named Kristin. 

So, I sit next to her in the German classroom—in my memory, we're in the back of the room where there were some comfy sofa seating options—and I  get out my whiteboard marker, and on the inside lid to my metal lunchbox I write あなたはかわいいです。And I say to her, "I wrote this for you." (smooth, right?) She asks what it says. "It says you are cute." She looks at me (in my memory my heart is going like a jackhammer and my palms are all sweaty, I'm sure I'm literally shaking) and she says, "why did you write that?" And then allllllll my courage evaporates. In my head I'm like "she thinks you're straight, and you're acting like an idiot" so I clam up and that's that. The end of my one attempt to flirt with the first girl I ever liked. 

I don't remember much else about that time but I always remembered her. She was forever the first step in the story of me figuring out that I'm bi. We hung out together a bit when we both had German exchange students but we were never really more than friendly classmates. She graduated in 2000, a year before me, and that was that. 

German class, spring 2000

Years passed. I eventually gained more confidence in my sexuality, discovered polyamory, and began to date women. As one relationship was ending, I set up an OkCupid profile, in hopes that it would help me find a more substantive relationship than I had found via Tinder. (I was still crap at flirting with women in real life, I needed the apps, trust me). I even paid so I could message people once before they matched me. 

One night before bed, laying in bed feeling a little drunk, I was looking through profiles and I saw this one woman. She was cute. Glasses, short blonde hair all styled up—she looked way too cool for me. I immediately assumed I wasn't her type, but in her profile she said that a good date would be hanging out watching reruns of The Office. So I was like, "hey, drunk Ali, send the cool cute lady a message, who knows, maybe she won't ignore you." So I started typing. While laying in bed. Drunk. And this is what I managed to get out before my stupid palm hand accidentally hit send:

 Rewatching The Office whine teeing to figure out the tween thing

Smooooooth. I couldn't send a follow-up so I figured that was that and I'd never hear from her and I should take this as a sign to just go to sleep. 

The next morning I woke up to a message on OKCupid that started like this:

Who would have thought after all this time that "this" would be the way we reconnect....

I looked at her name. Kristin. I did a double-take then shot straight up in bed. I don't know if I'd ever felt as surprised and dumbfounded as I did when I realized the girl I had messaged was the same girl I'd been thinking about for almost twenty years. It was Kristin. THE Kristin. The cute girl from German class was suddenly no longer just a memory but a real-life person who was messaging me. You could have knocked me over with a feather. There was a flurry of messaging and looking up yearbook pictures and pinching myself because how could this really be happening? I was so flustered I showed up an hour early for hockey missing part of my gear.

On the night of our first date, I picked up pizzas and wine and drove to her house. I was sooooo nervous. I arrived early so I basically drove around her neighborhood for ten minutes hyperventilating so that I would be exactly on time. She showed me her place, we talked about our paths to poly, we ate pizza and watched movies and played Blink. Her face when I beat her in my third try, I think I fell in love right at that moment. It was so wonderful it was surreal. It still feels surreal sometimes. She's Kristin. Kristin. And she's perfect. 

And there's so much more I could say about falling in love and moving in together amidst covid and all the wonderful moments we've shared in the last ten and a half months. But I'll save those for another day maybe. I want to wrap up this post. Kristin's almost home from work. <3 


Thursday, August 6, 2020

Book Release Announcement 1

The Teammates series is getting published! 

After years of hard work, it's finally time to release my babies into the wild. Originally titled 'My Kind of Bitches'— Teammates Book 1: On Ice will be coming out in September 2020. Just in time for the hockey season I so desperately hope we get to have.

I've been through quite a rollercoaster ride getting this book written and published. The four main characters in this book, Tessa, Fitz, Dawn, and Michelle, have been some of my closest (if imaginary) friends. I love this series and I am all kinds of excited to finally share it.

On Ice is the first in a three-book series, followed by Take Shots and Full Strength. All three books follow four friends and teammates as they work to build and maintain a functioning hockey team amidst the drama of their lives.

Teammates Book 1: On Ice
For Patricia ‘Fitz’ Fitzpatrick, hockey is her only escape from her controlling husband and the isolation of her suburban life. When the drama on her team threatens that one happiness, Fitz takes matters into her own hands. She convinces three of her teammates—Michelle, Dawn, and Tessa—to join her in building a new team. The Darts. The Darts have the potential to be something fantastic—if they can survive their first season. As Fitz’s marriage takes a dark turn, she puts more pressure on the team to succeed, so when personal issues with Michelle endanger that success, the Darts begin to crack. Can these four unlikely friends learn to trust and support each other before it all falls apart?
Please stay tuned for the exact date of the release and the book launch party at my real-life teammate Courtney's restaurant, Local Roots in Richfield, MN. I owe a great thanks to her and to all my friends, family, teammates, beta-readers, and editors who have helped this all come together.

I also plan on adding some additional sections to my blog to deal specifically with book-related information and special bonus material. I'll also try to keep updates rolling on my Twitter @alioffthemark (I'm not the most prolific tweeter but I try).

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Come out, come out, wherever I am...

A long time ago I wrote a post about being queer and said the following:
The reason it's hard to post about this is because, well, it doesn't really matter. I'm married to a man. I'm done with dating. And that's that. Who cares if the celeb I'm crushing on right now is Hannah Hart and not MANnah Hart? (I am on a roll today!) Do I try to make up for my very heterosexual life by being involved in as many lesbian stereotypes as possible? Like coaching and playing women's hockey, going to gay marriage rallies, and watching women's basketball? Maybe. Maybe I'll even buy a Subaru one day. But unless Ethan kicks it, or we discover that we're actually raging polyamourists, I'm pretty settled.
Well, hold on to your hats folks. Turns out I am a raging polyamorist after all! Well, maybe not raging, per se, but I am poly! I have two fantastic partners now, Ethan and Kristin. We all recently moved in together into our big love-filled poly house.

I know a lot of people don't "get" poly... yet. But you can learn (maybe I'll even make a post about it one day)! And I also know plenty of people out there don't "believe in" bisexuality. But it isn't a phase or imagined, or any of that. It's actually probably more common than you know. Be kind to your bi/pan friends. It can be a whole world of NOT FUN to be constantly questioned,  fetishized, and erased. Being bi can so super totally SUCK. I used to hate it a lot of the time. Just the fact that I thought it didn't matter hurt. Yeah, I hurt my own feelings over it. I think it would be more bearable if people understood. So here I go with a bit of a rantsplanation...

My mantra: Both? Both. Both. Both is good.
It can SUCK to be bi. If you tell people you are you'll find out that nobody wants to know; it's treated like unwanted, unnecessary, and sometimes 'fake' information. Or they want to know way too much. I'm often asked to "prove it" by telling people about my sex life with women. "Whaaaat?" you ask. "People can't seriously be asking about your sexual history!" Yup. It's true.

The basic premise seems to be that you can’t be bi if you haven’t had sex with both men and women. By this logic, nobody can be anything ending in -sexual until they’ve had sex and that is just absurd. Nobody says to a heterosexual that they aren’t really straight because they’re a virgin. I’m guessing that homosexuals do get the “are you sure” question, especially when you’re young. Bisexuals always get that question. Forever. It hurts and sucks and kept me up at night for years.

TMI alert! I didn’t have sex with the first several girls I made out with. I also didn’t have sex with the first several boys I made out with – hell my first boyfriend and I didn’t kiss at all in three months of dating. But nobody told me I wasn’t attracted to him, although I wasn’t particularly attracted to him, he was just the first person who’d ever asked me out. No girls ever asked me out. It turns out a large number of my close female friends were bi too, we were just all too scared to talk about it. That kills me because I dated some loser dude I didn’t even really like when I could have been dating a girl I really cared about and thought was beautiful? Fuck that sucks. And I know homosexuals go through this too. Being NOT STRAIGHT in high school was hard. I hope it is easier now for high schoolers now.

I met Ethan during my first semester of college. He asked me out. 3 years and 9 months later I married him. And that was it. I’d chosen, right? Being bi was no longer relevant because we had a heterosexual marriage. The end. But it never stopped me from being bisexual. I love him to death but the one thing that kept me up at night – that I LITERALLY lost sleep over for YEARS – was that I hadn’t had the chance to really be with a woman before I “settled down”. Alone in my head, I questioned myself constantly about my sexuality. Am I really bi? Why the fuck should it matter? But it DID matter. Because I wasn’t straight and I didn’t like pretending to be.

I was so jealous of lesbians back then. It sounds irrational because I liked my life and loved my husband but I was still so fucking jealous because I felt like I was missing something they had. When I say being bi is hard, I am not saying being gay is easy. I know it’s not easy. Everybody in our society is pushed toward living a straight life. When you’re bi it’s easier to pretend to be straight, but it isn’t comfortable and can be quite painful.

When I started actively looking to date women it was not just because I believe in polyamory (which I do, obviously), but because the self-doubt over my sexuality was eating my soul. It sucked that I had those doubts, but I was lucky enough to have some great experiences that helped me reaffirm who I was. And even luckier still to end up with Kristin. (I think our story merits a post all its own not squashed in with this particular rant.)

The point I am trying to make is this: My old post was both right and so very wrong. I am queer and it matters. It mattered then and it does now. I am the same person I always was and so are all the bisexuals out there in monogamous relationships. And I apologize to myself and the rest of my bi brethren for having ever said that it didn't matter.

Monday, February 10, 2020

I'm going Bingle-Bongle

Blogging is harder than I remembered. Am I forgetting how to interact with real people? How to write for an audience? Is it the shift from third to first person? Or am I just more insecure about it because it's been so long? Maybe all of the above.

I spend most days working on my book(s). In the Teammates series, I have four major "point of view" characters: Michelle, Fitz, Dawn, and Tessa. At this point, I know them so well that writing with them is like playing with my imaginary friends. I get pretty deep into these characters. Some days I'm just really feeling them, like, too much. When that happens my kids say, "Mom's gone bingle-bongle again."

I remember once, a few months ago, when I was deep into writing book 2, I had spent a long day writing and was very much in my head. While I was making dinner I was thinking about what I'd written and what it was leading to, and I started getting all worked up. My nine-year-old daughter Dani asks, "Mom, what's wrong?" And I'm like, close to tears, "Tessa's had a really hard day." Then Dani rolls her eyes and walks away. Bingle-bongle.

Do all authors that their characters to heart this much? If so George R. R. Martin is one fucked up dude. Ha!

Going bingle-bongle can have its advantages. I think some of the best parts were written when I was in full crazy mode. But the disadvantage is that it can sometimes be hard to find myself afterward. How many times have I said to my husband, "oh, fuck, sorry, I'm just feeling a little Michelle still I guess."

Blogging is like the ass-opposite of fiction writing. I have to be so... me. And that means I also have to take ownership of my words in a different way. That's an adjustment. I have major respect for the memoir writers out there. That shit takes guts. If you write about somebody real, whether it's yourself or somebody else in your life, the feedback you get from readers has to be on a whole different level. I love getting feedback on my characters (most of the time). I mean, I do feel a little conceited when people say "I love Michelle" and I'm like "I know, right?" but when people say "I really hate Tom" I feel no qualms about agreeing whole-heartedly. How crazy different that all would be if those people were real! *mind blown*

PS: Ten points to anybody who knows where "bingle-bongle" comes from.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Life as a writer is nuts, man!

Well, I can't say that I'm super proud of my last few posts on this blog, but I'm back to give an update and I'm not going to delete them. So there. I guess.

picture of a stack of Teammates books
Draft copies of the Teammates series for my beta-readers,
with a little bi pride thrown in for my own entertainment.
The last year and a half have been a wild ride, my friends. What did I do? I wrote a book, fell in love with my characters and with writing, wrote a second and then a third, and learned that I detest the querying process. (Not necessarily in that order.) I also edited my pants off and have more editing yet to go.

Book one, Teammates: On Ice, is polished. It is ready to be read by agents and publishers. I am trying to get that to happen, although querying is painful and gives me All The Anxiety. I love this book and these characters are my fucking soul. It just needs to get published... which it will, one way or another. Some day. Soon hopefully. (Oh, hey, there's that anxiety again.)

Book two, Teammates: Take Shots, is my favorite of the three; it is my Empire Strikes Back - it is the book that doesn't end happily and still makes me cry. And I love it. (I'm dark and twisted like that.) And it is fairly polished as well. I say fairly mostly because I think maybe it could use another beta-reader. But I'm proud as fuck of that book.

Book three, Teammates: Full Strength, exists, but is still in need of some real work. I have a stack of post-its and a brain full of thoughts on how to polish it to make it better. I admit that I let myself get over-focused on one of the storylines to the detriment of the others. But I'm fixing it. It's a good book - there are parts that make me swoon - it just needs some nips and tucks.

Want to know what the series is about? I like to say it's Big Little Lies meets The Mighty Ducks. It deals with the real-life struggles of four women - Tessa, Fitz, Michelle, and Dawn - as they come together to make hockey an oasis where they can escape the challenges they face outside the rink and find support from their teammates. The series touches on serious issues relating to love, sexuality, abuse, mental health, parenthood, and loss. It's difficult at times but also very sweet and touching. And it's funny as fuck. (Honestly, 100% of beta-readers LOLed IRL.)

So in my attempt to get this published, I'm giving social media a bit of a "hello, again" run. My love is for writing, not marketing. But you gotta do whatcha gotta do, ya know?

If you want to read something that has been published. May I recommend the lesbian romance novel Lust in the Stacks by Natalie Falkenwrath. She and I are like, super close. I'm totally jelly that her book is out and mine isn't, even if that's because I'm trying to go traditional and she's "indie" published. It's fine. When I do get Teammates out it will be all the sweeter for the waiting.

Until next time!