About Ali

Personal posts about Ali Cross, including personal insights, stories, family, etc.

the heart goes on

| About Ali

It’s kind of weird because, growing up, I didn’t want anything to do with my family. I’d hide out in my room as much as possible when my older sister and brothers came to visit. I just didn’t feel like I was a part of them. I felt like an outsider–and my behavior ensured that I stay one.

It wasn’t until my mom was dying, and my sister (Heather), came to stay with us to help take care of Mom, that she and I really developed a friendship of lasting value. But I never really got that opportunity with my brothers who are 10, 12 and 14 years older than me.

So it’s strange to me that I’ve grown into this person who loves, needs, relishes, and craves family history, connectedness and love.

Since my family lives very far away–between 1600 and 3000 miles, depending on who I went to visit–I don’t get to fulfill those needs in person. So the next best thing is to celebrate my connection to my ancestors, every chance I get.

Even before our sons were born, David and I enjoyed going to Scottish festivals and doing family history research. My boys have grown up going to the festivals a couple time each year–it’s one of our favorite traditions. This weekend was the largest festival our area offers, with world Scottish Athletics competitions and Western US Pipe and Drum band competitions.

We stayed for hours and watched as much as we could. The Athletics and Bands held our attention so we missed all of the dance competitions, which was a bummer. This is what it looks like to see a pipe band competition. They march on, then take up a circle position with the drums in the middle.

Lots of people dress up at these festivals. Some treat them much like Rennaissance Faires or Pirate Festivals and dress up in old-timey garb, including Steampunk. But a LOT of people wear their kilts and clan crests and such. I wear a tartan scarf (MacDonald) and pin with our coat of arms. The boys (especially Charlie) and David want kilts and the whole get-up. One of these days. Kilts are NOT cheap, and we’d want to get a proper one. Plus, the boys aren’t done growing yet. If I got them kilts this summer, they’d be mini-kilts by next year!

Anyway. I just wish I could go back in time and grab my younger-self by the shoulders and give myself a firm shake. I’d tell myself to get over it and go downstairs and hang out with my brothers, already. I’d make trips out east a priority. I’d cherish the family I have living even more than those who have gone on. 
I’d still go to and enjoy Scottish festivals, though!

Do you guys have any fun summer traditions that help you feel closer to your family?

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now THAT didn’t go as planned!

| About Ali

I found this post in my list–I have no idea why I didn’t publish it! I remember wondering why no one commented to tell me what books they’re reading . . . and duh, it’s in draft mode. 😛

So this is what I wrote after Memorial Day . . . it’s still sort of pertinent, except that I’ve since read a friend’s ARC and am reading another ARC, while reading Mikey Brooks’ The DreamKeeper.

Cue my I barely-survived post . . .

Last week . . .

             Wow . . .

I didn’t even have a minute to myself to throw up my Going Ninja sign. 😛 It was CrAzY. To the maxxxx. LOL

BUT, I survived and here I am on the other side of it and I’ve had a great weekend with my family and life is still good. Whew! Never doubted it for a minute. 😉

This weekend I planted mostly dead petunias. My theory is that the roots didn’t seem dead so hopefully they’ll come back to me. David got me flowers for our yard for mother’s day–which was what I wanted. But the weather didn’t cooperate and like I said, things were hectic so there just wasn’t time. We tried to keep the flowers alive in their little cups and about half of them did great but there were a lot of spindly sticks! *fingers crossed they’ll come back* (Please don’t tell me if my hope is wasted. I’m not ready to accept the truth yet!)

I read a great book last week, though. And thank goodness for it, too! I read it every time I went to the bathroom or ate my lunch or to give my brain a tiny buffer from work to sleep. I might not have told you before but I’m a HUGE Devon Monk fan. I’ve read all the Allie Beckstrom novels, the first in the Age of Steam series and last week I read Hell Bent, the first in the Broken Magic series. I LOVE THEM ALL! It’s been a long time since I’ve allowed myself to get lost in a great book and Hell Bent was just what I needed. Ahhhh . . .

Now I’m reading Gravediggers by Cindy M. Hogan. To be
honest, while I love Cindy as a friend and admire her as a business woman, I haven’t been able to just love her Christy books. But I had a copy of Gravediggers so I thought I’d give it a chance . . . and so far I’m very pleased! It’s keeping me turning the pages and I’m totally caught up in the mystery. Yay!

We can still be friends, love and admire, people who write books we don’t love–our books are not US–but it sure is a happy bonus when you can love both the author and the book!

Have you read anything by Devon Monk or Cindy Hogan? Have you read anything great, lately?

(And I’ll be including this giveaway in every post until it ends at the end of the month.
If you’ve already entered, I’d love it if you’d help spread the word about my new book
by sharing the giveaway! Thank you!)
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IWSG ~ know when to fold ’em, part 2

| About Ali

Visit the IWSG page to join in!

Last week these dreaded words fell out of my mouth . . .

Maybe I should give up writing.

I swear, until the moment I said them, I had never considered quitting writing. But once I did, they felt real. I spent a good seven days fixated on the concept of quitting and crying. A lot. And I don’t cry.

And then I had crit group. Have I told you before (haha, I know I have!) how much I love these women? It bears repeating ~ Stacy Henrie, Elana Johnson and Sara V. Olds rock my world. They love me and are so kind, generous and encouraging.

Elana talked about writing as a hobby (she has a day-job) and really opened my eyes to the possibility of writing without pressure. To be honest, I’d always thought hobby, when said in association with writing, sounded derogatory. But Elana’s perspective was actually liberating.

It doesn’t matter if my books aren’t selling. I don’t need them to sell.

What I need to do is write (and publish because I need to publish) what I love.

If I consider it a hobby, there’s no pressure, no guilt, no disappointment. Because I’ll have pleased myself, I’ll have enjoyed the process.

And really, for me, that’s what it always was about ~ but somewhere along the way I lost sight of that joy (though I didn’t acknowledge it) and felt only pressure. Pressure to be connected, to do the right things, to be smarter, sell more, be more awesome. Gah!

So I buckled under all that pressure.

I nearly gave up.

Okay, not really because all the tears were proof that the idea of giving up was completely abhorrent to me.

But I did nearly lose the joy in doing what I love.

Thank you Elana, Stacy and Sara for talking me down and helping me see that *I* am okay. Also, thank you for laughing with me over my horrible contemporary romance attempts. (Seriously. It’s BAD. But I’m determined to whip this story into submission!!)

I will not be folding them this time, people. I am only adjusting my perspective. Like getting used to a new vision prescription, it’s kinda weird and wonky at first but you know that in the end, you’ll be able to see a lot better.

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know when to fold ’em aka when i let my kid choose his own path

| About Ali

When I started writing this post, it was about one thing, but then it became about another . . . so now I’m dividing it in two. This is part one, Wednesday I’ll post part two.

It’s not like it’s rocket science or anything–just a couple things I’ve been thinking about lately.

I listened to a lot of Kenny Rogers when I was growing up. Him and Dan Fogelberg and Harry Belafonte and Neil Diamond. (Hey, I loved my mom and she loved music, so . . .) As a result, I pretty much have Kenny’s Know When to Hold ‘Em memorized. So it’s not a surprise that this was the song line-dancing through my head this weekend when I finally made a decision about Thing 2.

I decided to let him choose for himself.

I’d been kind of pushing Xan into musical theater–and he had an opportunity to get into a particular class/club that would have been an amazing thing for him. He loves acting, has a great voice and a lot of charisma. He would have been awesome in that club. And he might never get that particular opportunity again.

On the other hand, Xan is rockin’ karate right now. He loves it and is getting everything he possibly can out of it.

I thought he needed something else. He’s been in karate mode for almost eight years now. Isn’t it my responsibility to make sure he experiences all that he can, so he can make the best choices for his future? So he can be his best self? I *thought* that’s what it was, anyway.

So I pushed and pushed for him to take the opportunity that I wanted for him. It wasn’t a fight or anything like that–we don’t really operate like that in my house. But we talked. Or rather, *I* talked. A lot.

Then after the karate tournament this weekend (Xan (13 yrs old, 2nd degree black belt competed against other black belts ages 13-15 and took first in traditional weapons and third in contemporary weapons) when Xan was listing his thoughts and ideas on how to improve the demonstration team’s performance, and his own individual performance, something inside me shifted.

And that’s when I knew.

Xan is his own man. He is choosing a good thing. The right thing for himself. I’ve raised him well and he knows himself and believes in himself. And that’s exactly how it should be.

I do hope he allows himself to experience everything (or as much as possible!) life has to offer him but for now, he is happy. He’s actively engaged in something that’s good for his mind and his heart. He’s learning responsibility, compassion, hard work, dedication. He’s growing up and choosing his own path.

So this is me “folding”. Stepping back and trusting my kid knows himself and can choose good things. The right things.

I love ya Xan Man!
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ali: the BIG IDEA girl

| About Ali

David and I have always had BIG IDEAS. We’ve started several companies together, one that was exceptionally successful but ended in legal turmoil as a result of the partnerships we developed. We hold a couple patents on things but have never developed the projects. We’ve put serious effort into things that never panned out at all. *sigh*

I continue to have Big Ideas. Sometimes they are stories that I can write and so they’re put to good use.

But sometimes I have other ideas that I feel like I must pursue, but . . . at some point I just can’t do it all. The ninjas–I envisioned something like NaNo every month because I loved the comraderie that exists between writers during NaNo and I wanted that every time I was writing a new book–which is more often than once a year. But it didn’t quite pan out the way I desired.

Book Rave ~ this one is what brings me to write today. I believe in this idea. With great passion. Providing a way for indie authors to extend their reach? A way for readers to discover indie books by browsing and flipping through books? HECK YES.

But . . . it’s so much work and I already have too many things.

There’s this principle I learned from one of my church leaders of “good, better, and best”. It’s a simple concept, really, one you probably already know. It talks of how too often we get caught up in good activities, but neglect those that are better, or even best.

I just wish I didn’t have so many ideas, man! If only I’d never imagined Book Rave or even the ninjas. Then I’d have no angst over whether I should feel bad about not doing then, or feel bad because I’m overworked and what all but I still should do them.

Ah! ::holds head with hands and pulls at hair:: I need a Magic Eight Ball, or angels from Heaven or something to come down and tell me what to do. I just need a Heavnely to-do list. That’s what I need.

Actually, just saying that reminds me that I pretty much already have one. I know that my priorities should be God, my husband, my children, my church responsibilities, and everything else. That’s great and I could do better at those things (namely daily scripture study), and I could spend more time with my family, but what about everything else??

Man, I’d love to just be a writer! A simple writer, a simple mom and church music leader. Simply ali. That sounds sooooo good.

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| About Ali

When I was a girl, my Mom had a boyfriend named Ed. For a long time I didn’t like Ed very much. He wore thick gold chains and had a hairy chest that showed at the top of his open collar. He didn’t like me very much, either. He often called me “precocious” and when he was particularly frustrated with me he would hang me by my shirt to the edge of the basement door. Seriously. It was like a scene from Diary of a Wimpy Kid.

But as I got older (and could control my mouth a bit), I came to respect Ed.

He was good to my mom. I felt safe with him. He was quick to put me in my place, but he respected my privacy and never, ever, made me feel threatened in any way–which was something. A very good something.

When I was about eleven, Ed asked Mom to marry him. He’d even found us a house. He’d taken great care to find a home that *I* would like, too. Coming from a small townhouse, the daughter of a single mom, I really wanted what Ed was offering. The house even had an indoor pool that divided the bedrooms from the kitchen. For the first time in my life (that I could remember) I felt like I was being offered sanctuary. Not only safety from the storm, but a life I’d only dreamed of up until then.

But Mom said no. She only loved Ed like a brother, she said, and that wasn’t fair to him. It broke Ed’s heart ~ he was willing to accept whatever love and companionship she could offer him. He just wanted to provide for her.

I don’t think Mom was wrong for her choice. I get it. But things didn’t work out the way she had hoped–she never did find the love she was looking for and only opened the door for evil to come into our lives. But she couldn’t have known that.

Anyway, we lost touch with Ed. He didn’t stick around after that and Mom went on to find herself other men–no one who ever cared for her the way Ed did. When we tried to reach him to let him know that Mom had passed away, we discovered that Ed had died of cancer, too.

You see, Ed had worked in the Canadian effort to clean up asbestos insulation. Its extreme cancer-causing fibers had sparked a widespread mandate to remove asbestos from all homes and businesses and Ed spent every day of his adult life dressed in a hasmat suit stripping buildings of the stuff. Except it wasn’t enough because Ed contracted mesothelioma–a deadly cancer.

I wish I could have talked to Ed. I wish I could have thanked him for trying to give my mom and me a better life.

So when Heather Von St. James contacted me and asked if I’d help spread the word about Asbestos Awareness Week (this week), I was glad to help. Heather, exposed to asbestos far too often as a child, is a survivor of mesothelioma. But her story is not the norm. I think she sees her survival as a call to action–an opportunity to spread the word because in the United States asbestos insulation is not illegal and many homes and businesses still have asbestos.

I was flat-out shocked to hear it. I mean, Ed was cleaning up asbestos in Canada since at least 1978.

I would very much appreciate it if you would learn more about Asbestos Awareness Week, or read Heather’s story. You can visit her page here.

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and, we’re back!

| About Ali

Is it wrong that I’m relieved the blog tour is over? Elana did an amazing job ~ she got me a LOT of reviews, which is just awesome. And everyone who participated, either by hosting me, or entering the giveaways . . . THANK YOU ALL, SO VERY MUCH.

But . . . I’m relieved because the guests (that I love so much!) have all gone home.

Ahhh . . . . . .

Time to let the dishes stack up while I watch TV, hang around in my PJs, make mac ‘n cheese for dinner instead of always having to have a sit down dinner with napkins and the whole bit–ya know?

Like I said . . . Ahhh . . . . . . .

BUT, this is a busy week, and I have a lot going on so of course you’re going to hear about all that. This week I’m helping some friends celebrate the release of their new books, I’m helping a bloggy friend spread the word about Mesothelioma, and I’ll be giving an update (and sales pitch – ha!) for IndieReCon LIVE.

Also, there are winners to be announced! I’ll edit this post to add them in when I get them later today.

I’m just grateful for all of you who keep on hanging around. ((hugs))

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what superpowers do you have?

| About Ali, About Ali's Books

Thank you to everyone who celebrated Blood Crown’s release with me last week! The winner of Alex J. Cavanaugh’s rockin’ sci fi CassaStar is Robyn Donnelly! Congrats Robyn! I *loved* CassaStar, so I hope you enjoy it too!

There are a few strong themes in Blood Crown that I wanted to talk about over the next couple weeks. Each week is represented by a book and a movie that I love and reflects the theme. Each week I’ll give away a signed copy of the book, and the movie will be added to a Grand Prize to be awarded at the end of the month. So be sure to check back often and enter to win both giveaways.

This week’s theme is
Discovering you have *special* powers!
enter to win this week’s signed paperback,
then scroll down to the bottom to enter to win the  Grad Prize!

I chose Open Minds because Kira thinks she’s a big, fat zero in a world of mind readers. People don’t trust her because she’s different. Even she thinks there’s something seriously wrong with her. Kira is different–but not in the way people think. And what she is is something even greater than she ever dared imagine.

I Am Number Four is a lot the same. John knows he’s not human and nothing like the kids he goes to school with–but there’s a lot he doesn’t know. And more than that, his gifts, there are powerful enemies searching for him–enemies who won’t hesitate to kill him the moment he’s found. 

In Blood Crown, Serantha knows she’s something else. Not quite human. Not quite android. She longs to fit in with the humans around her, but it seems that whenever she tries, something goes wrong. Meanwhile, she has enemies she doesn’t even know of who are searching for her–who see her very existence as a threat to all they’ve worked  toward. Serantha has to embrace everything that makes her different in order to fight off her enemy but doing so will change everything–for her and for the human race.

I don’t have any special powers. At least, not like Kira, John or Sera. But I did discover who I was and that discovery changed everything in my life.

*warning: I’m going to wax a little religious here*

When I graduated high school I was really lost. While all my friends were going off to university, I was dealing with the looming death of my only parent. When she died, it sent me on a tailspin and I very literally lost myself to the sorrow, grief and depression.

I tried to kill myself a couple times, but I’m a chicken, I guess, because I could never take it all the way. Instead, I lived on the edge, essentially escaping life through alcohol, drugs and dangerous living.

I still went to university, still lived a “normal” life, but I wasn’t normal. I felt like a parasite, like a creature with no redeeming qualities who just clung to a life that didn’t want me anymore, that held nothing for me.

When I was twenty-one, things changed. I discovered a religion (I think God finally found a way to break through the concrete walls I’d erected around my heart and mind so that I could discover myself) and came to see that I had a reason for being here–in this life, in my body, in the who and what of myself.

I discovered I was a good person, capable of loving and, more importantly, of being loved.

I could sing–and not just for my own pride but to bless and uplift others.

I could pray and sometimes my prayers brought comfort and healing to those around me.

I could be happy.

In case you didn’t know, happiness is a superpower. It’s contagious, it uplifts, it guides and directs, it opens the heart to hear the whisperings of the Spirit, it builds a bridge between souls.

I never knew I could have a positive influence on others. I never knew I mattered. But now I do.

So how about you? Have you discovered any “superpowers” of your own?

This week’s Blog Tour stops:
(each blog offers something new about Blood Crown!)

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ten thousand hours . . . and so much more

| About Ali

For a while now, my thirteen-year-old son Charlie’s goal in life was to become an NBA basketball player. What do you say to a child who dreams of a career that’s extremely hard to break in to? What do you say when that child isn’t necessarily . . . uh . . . very good?

Yeah, I didn’t really know, either. I mean, I didn’t want to crush his dreams, but I also felt like it was my responsibility to prepare him for real life. So we talked a lot about how even NBA players need a back-up career. Something to do when they’re done playing. Or at the very least an interest to study at university while they’re playing on the college team.
I also taught Charlie about the 10, 000 hour rule of master–that theory that says it takes ten thousand hours of practice at a specific discipline to achieve mastery. 
Okay, so I gotta tell you . . .Charlie is one of those guys who’s maybe “the typical guy”. He doesn’t say a whole lot. So I said my thing and Charlie’s like,
” . . . “
The next day Charlie was sitting at the kitchen table, working. He’d drawn a calendar of sorts.
“Whatcha up to, bud?” I asked.
“Just figurin’ things out.”
“Okay.”
A while later, he was still working on the calendar. I pulled up a chair and leaned in.
“Whatcha got goin’ on there?”
Finally Charlie leaned back and stretched. I guess planning out your life is hard work.
“I figure I’m gonna need to practice two hours a day, six days a week from now until I go on my mission,” he said. “And even then, I don’t think I’ll get ten thousand hours.”
To which I said,
” . . . “
Inside, I was thinking, Holy cow! He actually listened to me? He’s actually going to try this hard? 
And he has.
He has been practicing at least two hours a day. 
In the fall he tried out for the local high school’s “training” team–eighth graders who will train, prepare and compete and be in a good position to make the high school team in grade nine. Charlie did not do particularly well. 
I thought for sure that would be the end of Charlie’s big basketball dreams. 
And then the kid showed me he had become a man.
He has redoubled his efforts. He practices hours and hours every day. He reads and watches and thinks and dreams basketball. 
He’s been playing on a league team this winter and David and I have been in tears a couple times. The guy out there, that tall, lanky guy who’s been awkward and unsuccessful up until now? That guy’s not the one on the court, anymore. 
The guy playing on the court these days is a baller.
And he’s not done. “Winning just makes me want to practice more,” he said. 
To which this mama says, ” . . . ” because . . . what is there to say? My son is thirteen years old and he has learned a life lesson that took me well into my adult life to learn. And now he’s teaching me. 
About how not to give up. 
How to set my sights high no matter how unattainable my dreams might be. 
And how to be your best self–and then make yourself better.
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Mea Culpa!

| About Ali

Holy Hannah. What a 2014 it’s been already! 
There has been 
three funerals,
the flu,
fibro flare,
my own book edited,
my own book formatted,
seven books formatted for others,
one of my MG’s read and line-edited,
that same MG sent to my Dream Agent (in the full! woot!),
IndieReCon to plan,
IndieReCon to manage,
a ton of digital editing and website stuff,
basketball games,
extra karate practices,
a couple school events to attend,
a house to manage,
children to raise,
husband to date,
dinners to be made,
dishes to wash,
a church calling to rock
and probably even more stuff I can’t remember!
Oy! OH and I’m making a trial run at a new business venture! I say “trial run” because we (my friend Britny, Goddess of the Home Party) decided that before we make it a REAL THING we should have a trial run and see if it’s got any merit. I really, really hope it has merit! Not because I’m dying for ONE. MORE. THING. TO. DO. but because I think it’s a great idea and I think it could be a truly awesome thing for everyone involved. More on that another day!
But all of that aside, I have two things that are right before my face right now that I’m giving all my attention to–IndieReCon (see below!) and the release of my YA/crossover sci fi romance, BLOOD CROWN. IndieReCon is February 25-27 and BLOOD CROWN releases February 28th! Yowza!
It’s gonna be a wild ride, for sure. One that I hope you’ll come with me on! 
I especially hope you’ll join me at IndieReCon coming up in two weeks . . .
IndieReCon, in its second year, is a free online writer’s conference dedicated to indie publishing.

Last year, IndieReCon was awesome with chats and giveaways and days of helpful and pertinent information. This year will be even bigger and better!

Barry Eisler and Joe Konrath will speak about The Evolving Indie Industry and Standing out in the Pile and then entertain your questions. You’ll discover insider secrets from representatives from Amazon, Kobo, Smashwords and Goodreads, and learn how to write fast, try your hand at serials, work with other authors to maximize your marketing efforts and much, much more.

Not to mention, it’s a great place to network, connect and have a lot of fun.

AND, there’s still time to enter to win IRC’s Best Indie Novel Award and IRC’s Best Indie Cover Award. Go here to learn more about those awards! (But hurry because Friday is the last day to enter!)
PLUS, ALSO there will be a massive giveaway you can enter to win . . . more on that Monday!
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