Were

I don’t think I will ever forget the day I ran the third leg of the 4×1 relay at a track meet in Harrisburg. I remember noticing that the anchor was a little too far ahead for me to hand her the baton. I was so sure we were going to miss the handoff – we were going to step out of bounds, she was going to have to stop, our coach was going to be pissed because this was the week before the next big invitational. At the last available second, I did a move that the cast of the Matrix would probably be proud of. The anchor grabbed the baton and took off for the finish line. My foot got caught in the track and I hit the ground, and as I lay there on the turf, the line judge asking “Are you okay?” I knew that no, I was not okay, because knees are not supposed to protrude out the side of your leg.

I mean, at least we won the race. That was my only consolation as the doctor at the emergency room snapped my knee back into place – in the waiting room. A woman waiting for her turn exclaimed, barely audible over my screams, “Oh my god they broke her leg!”

I remember having to put on the blue bonnet, and the surgical gown, and the bright lights of the operating room fading as I drifted out of consciousness, and then waking up to the blurry face of my extremely handsome doctor looking over me. The morphine in me decided to tell him “I love you” and thankfully he just laughed and said “That’s what they all say.” He explained that they found a few bone chips during the operation, as well as a mysterious ligament in my leg – apparently, the existence of this ligament was debated, and I had provided them with more proof. Yet they refused to name it after me, which, to this day, I consider a grave injustice.

The first night, when the nerve block wore off, it felt as though someone had repeatedly plunged fiery-knives into my leg. A week later I returned to school and developed a burning hatred for ramps, which are surprisingly difficult to traverse with crutches. And a month later, when physical therapy began, I learned just how hard it is to teach yourself to walk properly again when your brain refuses to tell your knee to bend. It was a long journey, and though I languished through so much of it, I had a lot of help from friends and family.

Eight months after that, I learned that former glory is not always able to be recaptured – just because you used to win gold medals, and have trophies decorating the shelves in your room, doesn’t mean you’ll always be able to do that. Coming in dead last in the 200m trials, a race I used to dominate, during track tryouts the next season proved that my ability had shattered with my knee. Now, I can’t forget the flashing ambulance lights, and the x-rays, and all the physical therapy, and how one leg of my pants will always be ill-fitting, and the unintentionally biting words of my former coach as I packed up and left after the first day of tryouts, “You were a real good sport.”

And the worst part about it is that word.

Were.

~~~~~

If you’re in need of a new read, check out my YA novel, I’m With You! The ebook is only $1.99 or (£1.55) and paperback is $9.99 (£7.99) on Amazon Amazon UK.  Nook book is also $1.99 and paperback is $9.99 on BN.com.

Advertisements

“Eff” The Police

When I told my mother that my friends and I were going to go sit in a graveyard and read classic literature, she said “Over my dead body.”

I laughed. She didn’t.

But after assuring her that it was a harmless activity (and that Dante was best read by candlelight next to a tombstone), she gave me her blessing. The questionable legality of the activity seemed unimportant, at the time.

There just so happened to be the perfect graveyard setting just about a mile or so away from one of my high school friend’s house, out in the backwoods of our tiny town. It was his idea, as he and some college friends from down south had done the same thing during the semester. We sat together, each taking a turn with a dusty volume – Shakespeare, Milton, Keats, others – filling the summer air with the almost unintelligible sounds of Middle English and the flowery prose of literature’s legendary greats. We defied logic and managed to turn the Canterbury Tales into a rap as our laughter bounced off the gravestones.

For the second round, about a week after the first, I drove to my friend’s house straight from work. I hungrily shoved my hand into the jumbo bag of Martin’s popcorn someone had brought for the occasion. There were about twelve of us. One friend carried the heavy books in a drawstring bag, someone else took a bag of candles (for ambiance). I brought the popcorn along with me – after eight hours of folding men’s khakis, I needed that popcorn. We prepared a handful of excuses if we happened to run into any figures of authority – for instance, “We’re a prayer circle” or “It’s a séance.”

If there had been the option for it when we elected senior superlatives, I would have been the hands-down winner of “most easily frightened.” The first time we ventured to the graveyard, arms laden with Shakespeare and Milton, a friend of mine decided it would be funny to hide behind a gravestone and jump out during the prologue of Paradise Lost. So I made sure I walked between two other friends as we trekked down the cornfield-lined road toward the sleepy graveyard. The rural outskirts of my hometown at night are unsettling to walk through, especially when the fog starts to come in. Even the chirping crickets seem to signal doom. It’s the perfect setting for a B+ horror film. And I’d never do anything like this now, because I watch far too many episodes of Forensic Files and other true crime shows.

The church was soon within view. We were almost there. And then someone spotted it. The unmistakable blue, white, and yellow cruiser with ‘YAPD’ stamped on the side. Sitting like a predator right in the church parking lot, just waiting for the whiff of something suspicious.

“Cop!”

My heart was thundering against my ribs as we abruptly turned around and started heading back up the road. I looked back over my shoulder and saw the cruiser crawl away into the night. We were safe.

…Until another cruiser came ambling up the road.

One friend summed it up nicely. “Well, shit.”

The female cop pulled the car up beside us, rolled down her window, and smirked at us. “Where are you kids going?”

“…Up the street.” We pointed.

“And where are you coming from?”

“…Down the street.” We pointed again.

Somehow, that mediocre explanation satisfied the cop and she just told us to be careful, before she drove away down the gravel road. I relaxed, and we hurried up the street, desperately seeking salvation. We were three houses away on my friend’s street when two cruisers rolled up to us. The man in the lead car had a different air about him. The iron-grey mustache on his face indicated importance.

As the burly cop roused himself from the squad car, I sincerely thought we were going to get charged with something. I was going to have a big blemish on my permanent record. But what were the charges going to be? Literary sacrilege? Crimes against fictional characters? Conspiracy to entertain the deceased? I didn’t know – all I could do was clutch the bag of popcorn like a salty, buttered teddy bear. As though, if I were carted off to jail that exact moment, the popcorn would valiantly save me. I mentally prepared an escape plan – settling on ‘throw popcorn at cop and run for the cornfield,’ though I highly doubted my trembling limbs would have listened to that mental command. I inwardly begged, “Please don’t ask about my popcorn. Please don’t ask about my popcorn.”

“Who’s the oldest?” The cop asked. That is the only time in my life I have ever been grateful that I am the youngest out of my immediate group of friends.

Our oldest friend stepped up to bat. The cop asked some routine questions, took down his contact info, and explained to us that so many cops were prowling the normally-dormant streets because there had recently been a string of car and house burglaries in the area, so we should head back home for the night and avoid getting into any trouble. They didn’t search our bags or ask any other questions. He just advised us to go home. And with that sage warning, he got back in his car and headed off down the road, the second car following suit, off to hunt for ne’er-do-wells.

We were at the mailbox of my friend’s house – so, so close to sanctuary – when the last cop car came into view. “Hey, did someone talk to you kids already?” The cop hollered from his car.

“YES!” My friends chimed in perfect unison. I just squeaked. I lose my voice around figures of authority.

The last cop drove away, but one friend couldn’t resist jumping into the middle of the street, his middle fingers pointed toward the stars, shouting “FUCK THE POLICE!!!” as the red brake lights faded in the distance. Some of my friends laughed, clapping him on the back as though he’d done something ground-breaking. I rolled my eyes and wondered where that bravado was when the frighteningly muscular cop was within earshot. It’s easy to have courage when the beast is facing away from you.

We gave up on our quest, moods spoiled, and just sat on the hoods of our cars in and discussed the unexpected events of the evening. The consensus seemed to be that the cops should have minded their own business instead of ruining our fun, and that we weren’t doing anything wrong. I bit my tongue. Because the way I saw it, we were a troupe of college kids carrying a bag full of books, a bag of candles, three flashlights, a bag of popcorn, and giggling like five year olds as we strolled down a dark back road on the outskirts of town at midnight. We might as well have been carrying a big neon sign that said, “LOOK, WE’RE SUSPICIOUS.” But who am I to be a wet blanket?

I couldn’t tell my friends that they were being ridiculous – nor could I just go along with the ‘fuck the police’ sentiment. All I could do was sit cross-legged on the hood of my Subaru, lean against the windshield, and keep my mouth shut, the bag of popcorn sitting forlornly by my front tire.

We should have told them ‘It’s a séance.’

~~~~~

If you’re in need of a new read, check out my YA novel, I’m With You! The ebook is only $1.99 or (£1.55) and paperback is $9.99 (£7.99) on Amazon Amazon UK.  Nook book is also $1.99 and paperback is $9.99 on BN.com.

Allergies

Friday evening, I worked until 7PM and decided to do some grocery shopping on my way home from work, so I wouldn’t have to contend with weekend crowds. I generally loathe grocery shopping, so I ensure I get in and out as soon as possible. The whole “scan it” and bag your own stuff revolution is a marvelous thing.

In total, I had about re-usable five bags full of food and a jug of milk. I wheeled my cart back to the vestibule and weighed my options. I could take the cart out to my car, or I could risk it and carry all my bags with my spindly noodle arms. I think you can discern what choice I made, because I imagine myself to be a moderately self-reliant person who can handle her own groceries. I don’t need a cart. Spoiler alert: I needed a cart.

So, I hooked two bags onto one arm, two onto the other, had the milk jug in one hand and the final bag in my other hand, and my purse over one shoulder. I was somewhat overburdened, but it was manageable. I just had to make the long trek across the parking lot as the setting sun cast an orange-gold glow over the land.

I made it across the crosswalk just fine, and then they struck. The dreaded allergies.

Pennsylvania has had a temperamental spring thus far, as we can’t seem to shake the last remnants of winter. But the last couple of days have been practically balmy compared to some. One might say that spring has sprung. I was fine all day on Friday, but as I was journeying to my car, arms laden with bags of sustenance, my eyes began to water and my nose started to run.

And this wasn’t just a couple of tears and a sniffle or two. It was a full-on assault, both nasal and optical. I also am one of those people who park their car far away from everyone else because I can’t stand the way people drive in parking lots, so my little Nissan was WAY out in the distance. I have never hated my parking habits more than in that moment.

I couldn’t back out, or slow down. My eyes grew so blurry with tears behind my glasses they started coursing down my face. My nose was running so badly I could barely breathe. My arms were weighed down with bags, milk, and my purse, and I don’t exactly give the impression that I am the pinnacle of strength. I am sure, to the strangers who witnessed this event, I looked like I was having a public breakdown on a Friday night in a grocery store parking lot with my weak, struggling arms full of bags. Quite a picture.

When I finally made it to my car, I slammed the milk down on my trunk, dug my keys out of my purse, propped my bags against the side of my car and threw open my driver’s side door and scrambled for my tissues. It took me two minutes to get myself under control, eyes red and stinging and nose stuffy, then I packed up my bags and thankfully remembered to retrieve my milk from the trunk. With a deep breath, I drove off, and made it home without another strike from the dreaded allergies.

But, while this was happening to me, my parents were at a child’s birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese. So, I suppose, it could always be worse.

~~~~~

If you’re in need of a new read, check out my YA novel, I’m With You! The ebook is only $1.99 or (£1.55) and paperback is $9.99 (£7.99) on Amazon Amazon UK.  Nook book is also $1.99 and paperback is $9.99 on BN.com.

Book News!

My YA novel, I’m With You, is officially available on the Nook, and it’s only $1.99!

Here is the LINK to the Barnes&Noble website. Give it a read, and leave a review to help an indie author out.

book coverSynopsis: When fifteen-year-old Ciarán Morrigan eavesdrops on a conversation between his father and two mysterious strangers, his life–and the life of his little sister, Remiel–is changed forever. After their father makes a startling decision, the Morrigan siblings are forced to flee the only life they’ve ever known and embark on a dangerous adventure across the nation of Empirya. With the help of a disinherited vagabond, a cynical violinist, a fire-juggler with a fierce temper, an aspiring mechanic, and a cheerful librarian, Ciarán and Remiel must fight to escape those who have been hired to hunt them. But will Remiel’s dark secret prevent the Morrigan children from finding a place they can truly call home?

It’s also still available in ebook format on Amazon, and is still available for paperback on both Amazon and Barnes&Noble for $9.99.

Writing Techniques: Out of Order

It’s almost safe to say that no writer writes exactly the same way – it’s a unique process for most. Some folks must have absolute silence, some prefer total isolation, others can be productive in a busy coffee shop whilst other patrons are slurping lattes and chatting with friends. It’s all up to the writer.

And how a person writes vastly differs as well.

When I was writing I’m With You, I wrote the first draft entirely in order until around chapters 13-15 range (can’t remember the specific chapter), then I got stuck. I tried to slog through it, but couldn’t figure out exactly how to puzzle out that segment, so I just moved on to what became chapters 17-19. I had a better idea of where I wanted that portion of the store to go and what I hoped to achieve with it, since it’s a fairly contained section of the narrative. Thus, it was easier for me to draft.

I used to think I had to write in a strictly linear pattern – point A to point B to point C and so on – so when I hit a roadblock, I’d just… stop. Several bouts of frustration and stress later, I’d manage to get momentum going again, but it didn’t occur to me until around my college years that I could write out of order. I could go from point A to point J if I wanted. It doesn’t matter, so long as you can seamlessly link the parts together after they’re all done.

That realization – though simple for some, it was a groundbreaking revelation for me – actually first came to me while writing essays for college. English majors have to write a lot of essays. A crap ton, one might say. And the bane of many college writers is the intro paragraph, which contains the dreaded thesis statement. I used to sit and stare at my computer for ages, trying to think of a compelling intro with a powerful hook, as the cursor blinked mockingly at me from an empty document. To be fair, I’ve encountered many other students and writers who also thought that you had to do the intro first. How else would you know what to write, if you haven’t yet set it up?

I learned, by my senior year, that, as long as I had at least some idea of what I was going to write about, I could just skip the intro, write out the rest of my essay, and then hope motivation and momentum carry me enough to pump out an intro by the time the rest of it is done. Or, if sudden inspiration happened to strike, I could go back and write it out at any point. There are no rules dictating the order in which you write an essay, or a narrative, or any piece of creative work.

By my last couple of semesters, my drafts starting looking like this:

487009_4395092474564_234789100_n

For the record, I do still believe that intro paragraphs can die in a hole. As you can see, the start of this draft is ugly, my thesis ends with “something something something,” and I haven’t even got a title.

But here is the final version, which came together as I was writing the rest of the essay:

final scor.PNG

A bit wordy, but it gets the job done. Your thesis and intro can take shape during the development of the body paragraphs. A lot of the time, I would have no idea how to word my thesis, but I knew what I was trying to prove… and working through the meat of the essay helped me find the right words.

For my current MS, I got stuck on a particular chapter for months – but I didn’t dwell on it very long. I didn’t forget about it entirely, of course, but when I felt hopelessly stuck and had no idea what to write next, I just moved on and kept chugging away at the other sections of the story, the ones I did have a clear path for. Ultimately, I worked past the roadblock and got the chapter done. So, if your writing patterns and habits seem a little unorthodox, don’t let others tell you that your style is out of order. Sometimes, being out of order is exactly what a writer needs.

~~~

If you’re in need of a new read, check out my YA novel, I’m With You! The ebook is only $1.99 or (£1.55) and paperback is $9.99 (£7.99) on Amazon Amazon UK. Paperback is also $9.99 on BN.com.

Mother Nature

Mother Nature chose to celebrate the coming of spring in an unusual way, here in the northeast. She did not bring us flowers, birdsong, or gentle showers and soft sunlight.

She brought us a storm. A long one, at that.

Thus, my tiny pocket of PA found itself buried in a little over a foot of snow on the first day of spring.

Which – to be frank – is bullshit. Mother Nature had all winter to give us weather like this, and she chose to slam us with snow on the first day of spring. It’s cruel.

I mean, in all fairness, we didn’t get socked too hard this winter – not nearly as bad as our northern/New England brethren, who have fared far worse. We had maybe one “big” storm last month, and it was only about four inches of snow, which all melted by noon the next day because it was 60 degrees. Aside from that, all the other wintry events have been brief spurts of flurries or a minor coating to an inch, which typically disappears within the next few days. So I probably shouldn’t complain. I mean, I have lived in the northeast for 21 years, so this weather isn’t new to me, and if I move south the humidity will turn my hair into a perma-fro, so that’s not quite an option at this time.

We’ve had a few close calls this year, up until now. Just a couple of weeks ago the meteorologists were warning us about a potential 6-8 inches… which fizzled to nothing. So I was skeptical of this past week’s forecast, but when I saw the first flakes tumble down from the sky on Tuesday morning, I knew they’d actually called it right. Actually, they initially called for 4-6 inches and it turned into about 12, but whatever.

Mild winter activity like we experienced over this past season isn’t enough to send heartier members of the public scrambling to the grocery store for milk, bread, and eggs, though many will flock to fill their shelves. I once went to the store the day before an alleged “storm” and legitimately needed bread, but it was so packed in the bread aisle I had to settle for corn muffins instead.

I suppose it was too much to hope for that we could escape from winter completely unscathed – not even the first day of spring could stop the fickle Mother Nature from sending a blustery blizzard from sweeping over the region. I blame the groundhogs, honestly.

I had to call out of work for the third time in 9 years because I was buried, spent a good chunk of time shoveling heavy snow and thus destroying my noodle-esque arms, and worked on some writing while sipping mint hot cocoa. So, though Mother Nature decided to be cruel earlier this week, it was not all bad – if it gives me a bit more time to write, it is acceptable in my book.

Besides, the snow is already melting… and soon, spring will be here in earnest. And, after this last storm, that is certainly something to look forward to, so long as Mother Nature doesn’t have any more wintry surprises left for us.

What’s in a Name?

Nicknames are a curious thing. Monikers earned due to a specific event, a casual simplification of a name, or a specific trait. Though I’m mostly referred to by my actual given name, I’ve had a few nicknames over the years, and while some have lingered, others have faded away – for the better, in some cases.

Briefly, in my later years of elementary school, I was called “Alf.” It’s a shortening of my first name and the first initial of my last name. It’s also the name of a furry extraterrestrial sitcom character from the 80’s, to whom I like to think I bear no resemblance. This one didn’t last very long, though – only a year or so, if that.

After an accident during a track meet when I was fifteen, I was plagued by a recurring injury that resulted in the disastrous end to my athletic career, a few stints with crutches, and reconstructive knee surgery. Due to my less than stellar walking ability for those months, a handful of friends dubbed me “Gimpy.” Other variations of this name were used, but “Gimpy” was the most frequent, and that stuck from sophomore year of high school through senior year, long after my limping stopped. Fortunately, I have since shed it, and no one has referred to me this way . Looking back, though the nickname was imposed upon me with a measure of friendly affection, it’s actually pretty offensive, so I’m glad I don’t look over my shoulder at a shout of “Gimpy!” anymore.

In college, a friend gave me the nickname “Allenson.” The impetus of this one is foggy, but I think it had something to do with Vikings? I’m not entirely sure of the circumstances, but I do remember it was hilarious.

I actually used to detest being called “Allie.” I used to think it was too “girly” sounding for me since I was a huge tomboy growing up, so whenever folks called me “Allie” in an effort to be nice or spark a rapport, they were met with my wrath. It’s a variant of my actual name, but none of my family ever called me Allie in my early years. However, when I got to kindergarten there was another little girl with the same first name, and she ended up with the shortened moniker while I got to keep the long version, a distinction which lasted through the entirety of high school. Now, I do not mind being called “Allie” as an adult – I wouldn’t have chosen it as my pseudonym, otherwise. Most people in my life don’t call me Allie anyway, except for the few folks who only know me for my writing – it’s actually made it somewhat easier to separate my personal/business life. As a writer, I also give a lot of my characters nicknames – either due to their actions, or traits, or because I can’t be bothered to type their full name out all the time.

People closest to me (family, close friends) commonly refer to me as “Al.” It’s the kind of nickname that sounds wrong when it comes from the lips of an acquaintance, or from someone I’m not very familiar with. If I go out and meet someone who proceeds to call me “Al” without prompting, or without knowing much about it, it grates on me – in a “You have not earned the right to refer to me as such” type of way. I’m not sure why that is, or why I’m so particular about it – perhaps because “Al” is the most personal nickname I’ve ever had. It’s an “If you don’t know me, don’t call me that” nickname.

Nicknames can be adored, abhorred, earned, given, or inherent – and some carry a unique origin story with them. What’s your unique nickname story?