Wednesday, May 26, 2021

The making of an Audiobook... or two


My second audiobook just came out and I thought it might be fun to share a little bit about the process. I worked with Lessa Lamb. She is not only crazy talented but she gets my jokes and appreciates my absurd geeky references ("I am a leaf on the wind, watch how I eat all the Cheetos.") Before she narrates something of mine, I give her the manuscript as a google doc and she comments on it as she reads. She's brilliant at finding little typos the editor missed, but the best part is when she leaves reaction comments to the story itself. If I had my way, all readers would give me reaction comments. It is literally my favorite thing in the world. I've had beta-readers do this too and it makes me beyond happy.
The google doc also gives me a place to add notes about how a line should be read ("it's more of a rolled eye fuck you than a pointed fuck you fuck you"), more details about the background of the scene, or what it's foreshadowing (hehe). These notes (hopefully) help her be in the right mental space when she does the narration. And that's what Lessa is KILLER at, being in the character's emotional space when recording a scene. I know it can be brutal, but it's what makes her so amazing. I'm not gonna lie, there are some hard times in these books for all of the main characters. Lessa brings those emotions alive in the audiobooks. She's made me cry and I wrote the damn thing.

Anyway, I was talking about the process... After we've had our little comment-fest on the doc we have a video chat (or three) to talk about character voices and just touch base with one another. She's really easy to talk to and it honestly feels like working with a friend. I am, as Fitz would say #blessed to work with such a cool person (which I almost don't want to say because I don't want any other authors taking more of her time; I want her all to myself. lol.)

After all this prep, Lessa hops in the booth and works her magic. Her sound guy goes over the files for technical mistakes and then pops them into the shared drive for me to listen to. I get to comment and decide which technical mistakes are worth changing and which lines I'd like redone for more... tonal purposes. I love this part too, although I feel bad every time I ask for a change. I'm pretty sure I was insufferable for the first book. These characters are my own little horcruxes; they mean a lot and it was hard to relinquish some control over them during this process. But Lessa was hella cool about it and I think I was much less of a pain in the ass during the second book.

Then Lessa goes in and re-records bits. We track it all on a nice little spreadsheet (seriously how did people function before google drive?) so that everybody knows what's going on. When it's done and the sound guy has done his magic it gets uploaded where I officially approve it before it moves on to be approved by ACX. And boom! That's it! Now my words and Lessa's magic voice are available for the world to hear. Literally. 

Now the fun part is over (both of the process and this post). Here comes the worst part: marketing. AKA making sure people do listen to it. Marketing is my least favorite thing in the writing world. But ACX helps by giving me promo codes! So here's the deal, my friends: if you have a platform to promote me, I have free copies of the audiobooks available for you! I appreciate each like, comment, and share. DM me on twitter @alioffthemark if you're interested.

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

All the Updates!

 I had forgotten I wrote this, so pretend it got posted like two months ago, okay?

I have been struggling hardcore with depression lately. I was already being treated for anxiety and depression before the onset of the covid pandemic, but the complete disruption to daily life and prolonged unknowingness has plunged me deeper into the darkness that is depression. This has made being "productive" in any way very difficult. However! There is light. Therapy is giving me hope and the Teammates train is still chugging along. (I give mad props to "Past Ali" for setting me up pretty well there).

On Ice has gotten good reviews and was recently reviewed by Chick Lit Café, here's just a snippet: 

Teammates: On Ice by Alison Sommer is an action-packed book created to excite and entertain. It is complete with drama, intrigue and dynamic relationships that really speak to the modern reader. Even if you don’t understand a single thing about hockey, you are going to love this book.

 And the fantastic and talented Lessa Lamb has brought On Ice to life in the Audible audiobook version. I am so impressed with her. I've read the books aloud a million times but never got Fitz's voice to sound right coming out of my mouth. And I am absolutely in love with her rendition of Tessa. She reads with so much emotion she got me to tear up! And I wrote it! That's impressive. I hope you'll check it out.

Last major book update: that the second book in the series Teammates: Take Shots is coming out next month! This is a little hard for me because I haven't been able to get as amped up and ready for its release as it deserves due to the depression. I love Take Shots. It really takes the reader through the wringer with these women. It gives me all the feels. Look for it online and in stores March 10th, 2021! (Happy birthday to me!) Take a moment to appreciate the beautiful cover by the talented Predrag Markovic

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.