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.

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…


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.

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.


For a very long time – like, half of my life – I hated pancakes.

I refused to eat them, even at the annual pancake dinner fundraiser held at my church. The very thought of them – and their fluffy, syrupy goodness – made me feel nauseous. Same goes for waffles and any other similar breakfast foods. I straight-up hated them and wouldn’t touch them with a four-pronged fork. Because those are the only legitimate forks, by the way. Don’t come at me with that three-pronged fork nonsense. Four-prong all the way.

Truth be told, I’m not sure where my pancake hatred began, or what the impetus was. I just know that up until a few years ago, the word “pancake” equated to “EW,” in my brain, so I always skipped over them on diner menus and whenever they were offered up as a breakfast option at a sleepover or something.

Then, one fateful day when I was in my late teens, I somehow ended up at an IHOP. And, of course, you can’t not order pancakes at IHOP. It’s the International House of Pancakes, for crying out loud. I mean, it’s not like it’s the NHOP, or National House of Pancakes. It is a force not restricted by national borders – you cannot forsake the cake at an IHOP, end of story.

So I ordered the most generic pancakes available on the menu and figured I could just slather them with syrup, suck it up, and suffer through it. But when they arrived at the table, an odd thing happened. My nose twitched, enticed by the sweet scent of maple. And my mouth began to water, instead of my mind blaring, “EW” over and over again like a siren. My stomach growled, too.

So, I took a hesitant bite. Then another, and another. And wouldn’t you know it?

As it turns out, I kind of like pancakes.

Now, I order them for breakfast all the time! I prefer the oat-bran variety, though, because I am secretly an old woman concerned about my digestive system. But I never would have known this if I hadn’t given pancakes a second chance. Inspired by my quick turnaround in opinion when it comes to pancakes, I have also tried to see if my opinion has changed on other foods, but alas, I still hate watermelon (all melons, actually), pears, squash, pretzels, and animal crackers, among others. But I have made an effort to give the things I once dismissed a fair chance to prove me wrong.

So, what’s the moral of this pancake-based tale, you might ask? Is it to always give those you have spurned a second chance?

In a way, yes. Pancakes deserved a shot at redemption in my eyes, to prove their worth to me. I granted them that chance, and they effectively reshaped my opinion, to the point where they are now one of my favorite breakfast foods.

However, people don’t always deserve a second chance. That would be ridiculous. It’s a case-by-case basis when it comes to human beings – sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t. Some people deserve a chance to right a wrong or mend a bridge or whatever. You’re not obligated to give people a second chance if you don’t want to, though. Because people aren’t pancakes.

Always, always give pancakes a second chance.

If you’re in need of a new read, or need something to spend your holiday money on, 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.

What Could Have Been

As I’ve mentioned before, my debut novel I’m With You underwent many changes from inception to publication. The original story I envisioned was vastly different from the final version, and, just for funsies, I thought I’d list some of the things that “could have been” had I kept on along the initial route…

Minor spoilers ahead! You have been warned!

1.) Ciarán did not exist.
Ramus was originally intended to be the narrator, but his role was also different than his final incarnation (see below). I added Ciarán because I wanted to show the main characters through the eyes of a different party, and did not want Ramus’s perspective to paint the narrative. I thought the themes and the lessons would be better portrayed through the eyes and in the voice of a teenager, especially since I was aiming for a YA audience, so Ciarán was created to fill that role. And I’m glad it was his voice that told the story.

2.) Ramus (and Valkyrie) were hit-men.
The original plan had Ramus and Valkyrie serving as hit-men from the same nefarious organization. Ramus is hired to eliminate Remiel by her paranoid grandfather, but Ramus ultimately turns against his employers and decides to save Rem instead, and he recruits Valkyrie to help him get her to safety with some family members across the country. So, there are some similarities, but I nixed the hit-man idea when some other plot elements were changed and new characters were introduced. Also, there would have been a lot more violence and fighting. The Ramus/Valkyrie relationship was mostly the same, however, though instead of being established before their introduction, it would have been over the course of the narrative.

3.) I’m With You was intended to be a trilogy.
Back when I had very lofty ambitions for the layout of the story, I figured it would take about three books to tell the whole tale. However, there were several different sub-plots going on that were eventually discarded. Valkyrie was going to become a “villain” of sorts, and there was an arc that would feature a “world war” type of event… but in the end, it was way too convoluted and confusing and I couldn’t quite scrape up enough plausible detail to weave all the events I wanted together into a cohesive tale. The main story was supposed to be “get Remiel to safety” and as I kept adding more and more, it strayed further and further from the point. After I sliced down the scope of my ideas and shuffled the remaining elements together, I was left with enough content to fit within the pages of a single book. And I’m super glad that it ended up as one novel instead of 3.

4.) Kaz and Kia were originally twins…
…and both were villains. Kia was originally envisioned as an acrobat in a circus, and Kaz, her brother, was still a fire-juggler. They were to be villains in the second main arc of the story, enlisted by the second main antagonist. That is why their names and origins are similar; both got an age-change in the final version, as Kaz is 30 and Kia is 25ish.

5.) Dahlia was the main villain.
She was also known by the moniker “The Boss,” as she ran the organization that the hit-man versions of Ramus and Valkyrie were involved in. Markone also did not exist in the original plan. Dahlia and Valkyrie also would have ended up having a child, though they weren’t in a “relationship” – Valkyrie was more or less forced into a liaison with her. Long story. Obviously, that changed quite a lot.

6.) Most character descriptions were changed.
Camilla originally had black hair and brown eyes, but ended up blonde and blue-eyed. Valkyrie had two-toned hair; brown and red, but he ended up with auburn. Kaz was bald, I believe, and Dahlia was a little older and had red hair. I think the only characters who kept the same exact appearance/physical description were Remiel and Ramus, though Remiel was younger in previous plans.

7.) Mitzi was a minor character.
The original “party” for the story was Ramus, Remiel, Valkyrie, and Camilla – as previously mentioned, Ciarán didn’t exist, Kaz was a villain, and Mitzi was a minor supporting character in what I envisioned to be the second book of the trilogy. She had a very similar temperament, but was employed by a government organization and would end up working against her employer to help the main crew. When the plot shifted around, I decided to include her in the main party because her personality added a bit more balance to the rest of the characters.

Shameless plug: My book tour for my YA novel, I’m With You, is still ongoing! Check it out here: LINK! Plus, the ebook is only $1.99 or (£1.55) and paperback is $9.99 on Amazon Amazon UK. 


I’M WITH YOU on the road…

I’m taking my YA novel I’m With You on a virtual book tour starting TOMORROW!

Here’s the LINK for the tour, if you’d like to keep up with the stops! I wrote up some fun guest posts and there are a couple of interviews, which I hope folks will look forward to reading. And in conjunction with the tour, I’ve got some additional news…


I’m With You is now only $1.99 in ebook format (down from $4.99) and $9.99 in paperback (down from $12.99)! Check it out if you haven’t yet!

Here’s the Amazon LINK if you’d like to take advantage of the deal!

Summary: 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?

Writing Rewind #7: Wings of Fate Chapter 4 Part 2

Let us continue our slog through my decade-old manuscript! Our unlikely hero Heiwa has bid goodbye to his family and is now aboard the UNMEI, still hoping for his chance of a lifetime! Who will his roommate be? What are the rest of the commanding officers like? Let’s not tarry… it’s time to resume our ADVENTURE!

We’re picking up right where we left off, with Heiwa venturing to his room assignment.

Strikethrough = cut out
Highlight = rephrase/reword/awk
Blue highlight = minor additions
DANGER RED HIGHLIGHT= massive cringe

ch4 p2 p1

*eye twitches* So much needless detail and suspense for literally the smallest thing. Heiwa discovering that his roommate is Daisuke should not take half a page.

ch4 p2 p1 changes

Ah, it’s axe time! My favorite time! Some of this dialogue also needs to be shaved down and reworked, as Heiwa and Daisuke don’t need to be saying the same thing a bajillion times. And that awful reference to Heiwa’s “jade eyes” is going in the trash heap.

ch4 p2 p1 fixed

Honestly, I could probably trim even more from the first paragraph, but this version still builds on Heiwa’s anxiety without going horrifically overboard. The dialogue is pared down, and cleaner. And let’s not mention the odds of Heiwa and Daisuke actually ending up as roommates… I took some liberties. Stranger things have happened.

Next up, we’ve got…

ch4 p2 p2

Alright, alright… there is no way that Heiwa and Daisuke would be permitted to just sit on their beds as the airship is taking off. That can’t be appropriate safety regulations in any instance.

But, along with that, there’s a myriad of other things to change! GOD, WHAT FUN!

ch4 p2 p2 changes

Trim, trim, trim, cut, cut cut, and tweak, tweak, tweak! There’s a lot of clunky wording to be reworked, and details to be changed.

Also, I’ve got a recurring issue with dialogue tags having a descriptive adverb , when a new word can just be used. So, “said excitedly” can become “crowed” or something similar, and it gets the same point across in a more effective way.

ch4 p2 p2 fixed

Ahhhhhh, much better! And boy howdy, I am going to get sick of changing the “V” in “von Schneider” to lower-case every single time it comes up, but it must be done. This is my penance.

So now, the safety regulations have been somewhat addressed, and the whole take-off process is condensed down into a more succinct passage.

For our next selection, let’s go to…

ch4 p2 p3

I’m not sure Sergeant Kahler got his point across well enough. He only said the same thing four times.

The main issue here is wordiness, per usual, so my proposed changes are…

ch4 p2 p3 changes

The last bit dwells too much on Heiwa’s thoughts on Dr. Black, just like Sergeant Kahler dwells too much on his threats in the first bit. Plus, the same issues that crop up again and again need to be fixed…

ch4 p2 p3 fixed.PNG

Much better! Shorter, sweeter, and to the point… er. I guess. Anyway, it’s shorter; that’s the main point.


ch4 p2 p4.PNG

What a SHOCK!!!! There’s a female commanding officer!!!! God, so progressive. Anyhow, point is, the shock needs to be toned down, because it isn’t a huge deal in a futuristic scifi epic – it should be expected, or, at the very least, not a massive, jaw-dropping stunner. It shouldn’t even be a big surprise today, honestly.

Plus, lots of other things need to be amended.

ch4 p2 p4 changes

So much to fix… exhaustion setting in… we’re in the final stretch of this chapter, now. Must. Not. Give. Up.

Here are the changes in place!

ch4 p2 p4 fixed

Daisuke’s oohing and aahing is toned down a bit, the wordiness is rephrased, and some of the other dialogue is tweaked. Also, no red highlights this time! That doesn’t mean much, though… there’s still plenty of cringe here, just on a smaller scale.

Alright, so that wraps up chapter 4! Next time, we get to officially meet Colonel Berkmann, and Heiwa attempts to make a good first impression during training. Will Colonel Berkmann have some kind words for Heiwa? Probably not, but you never know! Stay tuned next time for Wings of Fate, Chapter 5: The Colonel’s Words.