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.

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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.

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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?

 

Writing Techniques: Stuck

What is one of the ultimate nemeses of a writer, and the occasional downfall of their productivity? That’s right; Writer’s Block.

There are writers out there who don’t “believe” in Writer’s Block, and while I understand that perspective, I don’t agree with it. Because I’ve fought that horrible, soul-gouging feeling of being “stuck” many times before, especially in recent months. I’ve actually been feeling “stuck” for a long time and it’s taking me longer than usual to work through it, due to a combination of different factors.

Sometimes, the words just… won’t. And what can you do to battle it?

The factors contributing to being “stuck” can be external, internal, or a wonderful combination of both, and over time, they take a toll. There are some days where I cannot even manage to form a coherent thought, never mind write one down.

It’s hard. And when a day – or days, even – pass by, and my fingers barely grace the keyboard, it’s enough to make a writer, aspiring or otherwise, feel worthless. Like a failure. Those are difficult emotions to work through, and they aren’t so easily resolved, so if you’re feeling stuck, there’s no need to feel down on yourself and make things even worse.

There are ways to combat it, though I’ve often had to attempt two or three different methods before something sticks.

1.) Free writing. If you’re stuck on a specific project, it helps sometimes to dabble with some unrelated writing prompts, to try and get the gears grinding again. Or to take a breather from a major work and just write whatever comes to mind for a few minutes, to try and prevent burn-out.

2.) Take some space. Go for a walk, get some fresh air, or take a time out to do some other activity. It’s okay to step away for a while, if pressure or lack of inspiration are bogging you down. Battling through it isn’t always an option, as forcing yourself to write when you are feeling stuck can be a detriment rather than a boon.

3.) Switch projects. If your bout of Writer’s Block is specific to one particular manuscript or screenplay or whatever, then switch over to something else until the creativity starts flowing again.

4.) Indulge in the things you enjoy. To try and break free of the doldrums, I typically engage in the things that help to ignite my passion for creativity – for me, that’s reading and watching movies. After seeing a great movie, I usually have a hankering to get home and sit down at my laptop for some writing. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but it’s a worthwhile strategy.

There are 10,000 word count days, 5,000 word count days, 1,000 word count days…. and sometimes, 0 word count days. People get “stuck” – and not only with writing. It’s natural. So if you’re struggling with Writer’s Block, don’t let feelings of shame or worthlessness drag you down. You can fight it or ride it out, so long as those feelings don’t become permanent, or else, other intervention might be needed. Passion for writing waxes and wanes, but Writer’s Block, while frustrating and agonizing at times, is not meant to last forever, even though it sometimes feels that way.

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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.

There’s something about…

…Popcorn.

Apparently, January 19th is National Popcorn Day. Everything gets a holiday, it seems.

Admittedly, I’m not the biggest popcorn fan in the world (and kettle corn is an abomination), but I’ll give credit where credit is due… popcorn is the ultimate movie theater snack. Besides M&Ms. I’m also really tempted, every time I go to the movies in the morning/early afternoon, to get the cinnamon roll bites they have for sale, but I have yet to do it.

Popcorn is a magical thing, and it works in mysterious ways. Right now, sitting here at my laptop and typing out this blog post, I have no desire for popcorn. Like, none whatsoever. But put me in a movie theater seat, dim the lights, and start showing previews on the screen, and I guarantee I’ll have a hankering for some salty, buttery goodness.

To satisfy such urges, I usually buy the refillable popcorn bucket my local theater offers every year, and it gets plenty of use. This past year, it had Matt Damon’s face on the cover, advertising The Great Wall. I look forward to replacing it with the 2018 bucket, whenever they come in.

Occasionally, I’ll feel like having popcorn at home, but for the most part I consider it to be a movie theater exclusive snack.  I don’t know why popcorn works in such a way, but it does – and I can eat a ton of it without my stomach hurting. My dad and nearly demolished an entire bucketful of popcorn before the previews were over when we went to see The Last Jedi for a second time, and my mom and I regularly finish off a bucket between the two of us. We are seasoned popcorn pros, but only in the perfect environment.

Happy National Popcorn day! Be sure to celebrate with some popcorn while you’re sitting down to watch Netflix tonight – or, if you’re like me, just hold off until your next trip to the movies.

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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.