Some things in writing must be researched. Most things, actually, because for all my enthusiasm I’m not going to break a rib just so I know how much it hurts. But a very few things I can figure out myself. They’re just the strange, small details.
Like parsnip porridge. You’ve (hopefully) already read the scene where Alynn attempts to make oatmeal out of parsnips because the root cellar’s snowed over. (It’s in Tales of an Active Imagination, Part 2: Lights, Camera, Action! if you’re interested.) In an earlier version of Where the Clouds Catch Fire, before I learned that potatoes didn’t come to Ireland until the 1500s, I had Alynn make potato porridge. And I actually made some myself, just to find out how terrible it would taste.
It turns out that boiled potato bits with onion and garlic actually taste pretty good.
So then, it was back to the drawing board, and I thought long and hard about what could ruin food. And eventually, I found my answer: milfoil.
You might know milfoil by its more common name: yarrow. And even when it goes by “yarrow,” it’s not too well known, thanks to a declining knowledge of herbs and plants (and nature in general) in North America. I only call it “milfoil” in Where the Clouds Catch Fire because it sounds more British, and for sake of clarity, I’ll stick to “milfoil” and not switch terms on you.
Milfoil is my personal favorite herb. (I’m only familiar with 3 or 4 others, though, so it doesn’t have too much competition.) But milfoil is good for literally everything. Taken internally, it helps cure colds, coughs, flus, fevers, and chicken pox. I’ve heard it’s good for your liver. If you know what you’re doing (and I apparently don’t), you can even take a milfoil bath to get rid of high fevers overnight. Externally, it helps cuts and sprains heal, and the leaves stop bleeding. I use milfoil quite often in this aspect. I’m the queen of cutting myself shaving.
On top of all that, milfoil is beautiful. You might be more familiar with Queen Anne’s Lace—the beautiful white flowers that fill roadsides and empty lots in the early summer. Milfoil is barely distinguishable from it. Milfoil also smells divine, and sweet, almost like honey. Better yet, it grows wild where I live.
It also tastes absolutely terrible.
I once went to a private school, and the pastor of a small church would teach Bible class every morning. One day we discussed bitterness, and someone asked for a definition. I brought some dried milfoil leaves the next day, gave some to whoever wanted some, and announced, “Bitterness is when your soul feels like this tastes.”
Because milfoil is bitter. It’s terrible. The young leaves are bearable, but the old (or dried) leaves turn your entire face into a puckered grimace. Even if you eat one dried speck, it’ll sit on your tongue and burn with the fire of a thousand Texas sunsets.
And that, my dear readers, is how Alynn managed to mess up her parsnip porridge.
What’s your favorite herb—or worst cooking failure? And do you have the boldness to share your stories in the comments below? God bless you, dear reader, and don’t forget to like us on Facebook!
"Stop it!" The Author exclaims, her Italian volume at full blast. Her hair's still damp from showering last night, and it's flying every which way as the Imagination slowly turns off its Setting. "Whose idea was this?"
"It's my own fault fer participating," Lukas admits. He wraps Alynn in his cloak. It'll take her a while to get warmed up, even after the Setting gets turned off. "Someone get her something warm to drink."
"It was the blond Viking guy's idea," says Rhett the time traveller's son. "The rest of us tried to talk him out of it."
"Look at how well that worked," The Author snaps. "Listen. I have to be up, dressed, and teeth brushed by 8:00. I don't have time for this! Everyone shut up and go to your rooms!"
Muttering to themselves, all the Characters find the white door with their name painted on it. Lukas helped Alynn stand up. She's still shivering almost too hard to walk. I start to run over to her, but The Author stops me.
I turn around. "Yes, ma'am?"
The Author smiles at me. "I'm going to write out a scene you're in this afternoon, just for fun. You ready for it?"
I grin. "You bet I am!" I say, trotting off to Alynn. "Did you hear that? I'm going to be in a scene!"
"That-t-t's-s-s gr-r-rand-d-d," Alynn says, her teeth chattering. She looks pretty terrible, but she tries her hardest to smile at me. I give her a hug to help her warm up, and Selah brings her a cup of tea. I think there's magic in everything that Selah makes--I've seen her use her handkerchief as a gas mask, and it worked. Alynn is perfectly fine by the time the tea's gone.
The Author glares at us, and we dash off to our rooms.
My scene doesn't get written until after dinner, but I don't care. I'm excited.
The Imagination turns into an oasis in the Gobi Desert. I'm on a mission with my sister Alliance and a few of her classmates that are about to graduate this year--Bri the medic, Peter the robotics guy, and their leader Captain Israel. Since I was just sent here by mistake, I spend my time staying out of everyone else's way. At the moment, I'm programming the cyborg dogs to search for water.
Peter walks into my tent and looks around. "Have you seen Alliance?" he asks.
"Great. She's missing." Peter leaves, and a breath of hot air comes in through the tent flap he forgets to zip shut. I finish programming K9-7H, then turn him on. His tail starts wagging.
"Good boy!" I smile, scratching all the parts of him that are still fur. He smiles at me, but his ears suddenly perk up. His bionic eye grows red, and he yaps three times. He's intercepted a warning signal.
I flip the replay switch that's implanted in the back of his neck, and I hear Alliance's voice, screaming for help.
"Search for victim," I order, and I take off flying at his heels. "And call for backup!"
My bare feet are burning in the hot sand as I run. My lungs are burning. My head is spinning. I shake myself and keep running, trying to keep up with K9-7H. He barks once, saying that we're 500 yards away from Alliance.
I can see her now. She's under a lone tree, fighting something off. I squint in the sun. I think it's a shape-shifter, a victim of some sort of biological experiment gone wrong that can turn into a wraith when it's angry. It's in wraith form now. I run harder.
"Alliance!" I scream through a dry throat. I pick up a handful of sand as soon as I'm close enough and throw it at the shape-shifter. I get some in its eyes. I keep throwing sand.
"What are you doing?" Alliance asks. She grabs her quarterstaff, but the shape-shifter knocks it from her. I grab it and thrust it through him--but he's in wraith form. It doesn't do much of anything.
Suddenly, the wraith's hand turns human. It knocks me over, and it sits on me when I fall. Its face is a horrible mix of wraith and human as I look into it, and its eyes are pure evil.
"I don't have the power to kill you," it hisses, "but what I do--"
A sudden, burning pain tears through my left shoulder, and I scream. The next thing I know, Alliance has the shape-shifter trapped in her bulletproof cloak, and I'm screaming, watching the sand grow red with my own blood.
It's a funny thing that faith is. We take it for granted, ignore it, then wonder why it's so weak when we need it.
Sure, I grew up with churches. But whatever faith I had wasn't in God, or at least not much of it. We'd trust the church and the people who ran it. We'd take to heart the things that it taught. When something happened, when Tarin got sick or we ran out of food or someone didn't pay Father for his work, we'd pray. But not to God.
Why bother God, said we, when the saints would intercede for us? It made sense. Everything we did, even going without breakfast so we could pay our tithes, made perfect sense.
But then, I met Lukas. At first, nothing he did made sense. All monks have eight prayer services a day, but he only has three. Most Benedictines wear black, but Lukas wears brown. And while everyone else in Christendom prays to saints and angels, Lukas prays straight to God.
I've learned a fierce lot from Lukas, but some things are easier to accept with my head than they are with my heart. I know why he prays thrice a day--he hasn't time for anything else--and he wears brown clothes because it's the darkest color he can dye them. But deep in my heart, I couldn't decide what I believed about God.
But slowly, I've learned one thing that I'm fierce sure of. It's that God really, truly does love us. It's why He sent Jesus to save us. It's why He gave us the Bible, so we can come to love Him back. And it's why He gives us people like Lukas, to help us learn more than we ever could on our own.
And after I came to know this--not just in my head, but in my heart--I started to love God back. What love does is change people. It took Saul and turned him to Paul. It took a dead man and made him live. It took me, an orphan, and made me God's daughter.
And it'll do the same for you.
Everyone looks up at the person who spoke. He's not much older than me, maybe fifteen, and really cute. Like, I-want-your-face-as-my-computer-desktop cute. Alynn told me that his name is Erik Gavinson, and she has a crush on him, too.
"Don't ya remember the last time you convinced everyone to play a joke on The Author?" asks John the pioneer guy. His girlfriend's pet raccoon is perched on his shoulder, and it starts protesting loudly as he pushes it off. "How we all got grounded for a week?"
"I'm certain that was a one-time event," Erik declares. "Tomorrow morning, when she's praying, we'll act out one of her favorite scenes. We'll have the grandest entertainment since The Author wrote her own fanfiction."
"That was an interim short story," John says. The raccoon squeals angrily, climbing up John's pant leg and biting his hand. "Ow! Dad-gum coon! Someone take it!"
"We shouldn't interrupt her while she's praying, lad," Lukas interjects.
Erik gives a haughty smile. "Aye, sir. But if you've any better ideas, I'd be honored to hear them." Lukas doesn't say anything, but he crosses his arms. I almost want to say something, but then I look at Erik's perfect blond hair and change my mind.
"Interruption it is, then," Alynn mutters next to me.
The next morning, the Internal Clock wakes everyone up at 6:50. But then, The Author rolls over and goes back to sleep. Her Imagination automatically sets a scene--it's cold and drizzling ever so lightly. We're in a clearing in the woods. The sun hasn't risen yet, but there's a reddish streak on the eastern horizon. I love this scene, because it's not recorded in Alynn's book.
Lukas pulls up his hood and starts walking, praying in Latin. Suddenly, he pauses. "Why have Ye been asking me to pray in Gaelic recently?" he asks God. He shrugs and starts walking again. "Lord, I'm glad Ye know what Ye're doing, because this is madness from my perspective. Why would Ye wake me up afore dawn, ride three hours through a thunderstorm into Barbarian territory--"
The Author looks at the clock. It's 7:02, and she immediately opens her curtain. She prays for a while, then takes a Bible off her nightstand.
"Now's our chance!" whispers Erik. "Keep doing your scene!"
"I won't interrupt her," Lukas insists.
"Fine, then. You've a spare tunic I can borrow, don't you?" Erik asks. "I'll act out your part."
All the Characters look at each other, and Selah is the only one with the boldness to speak up. "But you are so much shorter than him, Erik, and you have so much hair," she says. "Perhaps you should find another scene to act out. Or perhaps we could have a celebration instead, with feasting and dancing. Erik, The Author loves God. Perhaps it is wrong to force them apart."
"What do you know about The Author's God?" Erik sneers.
"I know much about Him," Selah replies. "And you are quite qualified to speak for me, as you worship the gods of Asgard and Vanaheim."
Rhett the time traveller's son laughs. "Burn!" he shouts.
Selah looks up and sniffs the air. "What is burned?" she asks.
"It's a figure of speech," Rhett mutters.
Lukas sighs. He keeps walking through the woods, praying quietly. I know that The Author's getting distracted, because the setting grows more vivid. Lukas groans, and he throws a quick "Lord, forgive me" into his murmurings.
He stops at the edge of the woods. "Now what?" he asks God. Fear and suspicion mount in his eyes as God reveals the answer to him, and he quickly looks around. Carefully, he runs half-bent-over for camouflage to a wooden pier and hides behind a barrel.
Lukas is too cautious to say anything. He's inside of the Barbarian village he's been hiding from his entire life. I can't blame him. But he trusts God, and gathers the courage to leave his hiding spot and stand on the very edge of the pier.
Then, he looks down.
"God, have mercy!" he exclaims, kneeling down and dragging a half-frozen Alynn onto the pier. "Can you hear me? Young lady!"
All of a sudden, the Imagination goes dark as The Author snaps out of her daydream. Her clock reads 7:13. "Erik, I hope you get in trouble," I say.
"Shut up," Erik scowls.
All of a sudden, The Author herself shows up, and she isn't very happy.
When you're a Piazza, you know how to make work fun. Either that, or you can't have fun without taking a break and working. I'm not sure which is more accurate.
Either way, last week my family and I found ourselves on a plane to Florida, to stage my late grandmother's condo for selling--and also, to enjoy ourselves. We hadn't been to Florida in a while. I was expecting a huge climate change the moment I stepped off the plane, just like what happened the last time we flew to Florida. But last time, we flew from Illinois, and turns out the weather in Texas isn't too different from the weather in Tampa Bay.
Grandma's condo wasn't too different from her house in Illinois--full of nice furniture and duplicates of things. We found four irons and three coffee makers. Two of the bedrooms didn't have overhead lights--just two or three lamps per room. But the view was nice. We even saw dolphins one day.
Speaking of dolphins, I found a coupon for the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, which was only a 25-minute drive away from where we were staying. If the name sounds familiar, it's because you heard it in the movie Dolphin Tale. I got to see Winter herself (from a distance) and look at some of the movie sets. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience and well worth the rather exorbitant entrance fee.
I learned a couple of things on this trip. First, that clams burrow themselves into the sand to hide from seagulls and sand pipers, and they're adorable doing so. They also tickle if you happen to be standing on top of one, or if you're holding them in your hand.
Second, watermelon sorbet is really good.
Lastly, I learned that all states are obsessed with something. If you come down here to Texas, for example, you'll learn that we love our state. You can't walk through Walmart without finding something silly with Texas on it. I've even seen a Texas-shaped sandwich cutter. We love firearms, Jesus, and sweet tea, and we're about the sweetest people you'll ever see. Unless we're driving. Then, we're maniacs.
See? I wasn't lying about the sandwich cutter.
But Florida is different. Driving out of Tampa International Airport, I saw a sign that said "Welcome home, veterans!" I saw VFW's and billboards thanking veterans for their service. And I couldn't agree more. I also saw more crosswalks and "watch for pedestrians" signage than I've seen in my life. And they have bicycle lanes.
(I still don't know what Illinois is obsessed with, despite living there for twelve years. I guess it's corn and soybeans, because even in my little residential neighborhood, I lived within walking distance of a cornfield.)
What's your state obsessed with? Have you ever been to Florida, or to Clearwater Marine Aquarium? Have you seen Dolphin Tale? Tell me in the comments below! God bless you, dear reader, and don't forget to like us on Facebook!
"Allegiance, will you shut up?" Alliance mutters. She shoves me away as she stands up. "I'm a figment of someone's deranged imagination. I can't get hurt!"
"It's still nice to know that you care for her," Alynn comforts, setting a hand on my shoulder. I cross my arms. I just want Alliance to love me the way a big sister should. I'm pretty sure I look like a pug, the way my face is all pouty. The funny thing is, Alynn doesn't know how to deal with this face. She think's I'm crazy and takes one quick step backwards.
Suddenly, I hear a loud voice from the center of the room that demands, "What on earth is going on here?"
Everyone freezes. That voice, with a southern belle accent and an Italian's volume, belongs to The Author. She's spawned right in the middle of the room, staring at everyone with a really weird look on her face. I don't think she always knows what's going on the deepest recesses of The Imagination. We'd like to keep it that way.
"The American started it!" bellows the weird Viking chief guy. He points at Rhett, the time traveler's son. Rhett deflects the blame to his friend Ji, who's too modest to do anything about it.
The Author sighs. "Okay, guys. Do what you will, but I need some of you for a scene. Alynn, Lukas, let's go! Everyone else, shut up!" She sits down and opens her laptop before I realize she doesn't have a chair. It's funny to watch her suspended in space like that, but it's her Imagination. I guess she can do whatever she wants.
We know the drill. All the Characters who aren't in this scene line up against the walls. Alynn tosses her sword to me, then joins a really nice monk named Lukas in the middle of the room. The Imagination changes into a large kitchen. The walls are stone, and there's three cooking fires lining them. Only one is lit, and there's a pot boiling over it. Alynn ladles whatever's in the pot into two bowls. It looks like a cross between oatmeal and camel puke, and it smells absolutely terrible.
I hear a door open while Alynn's setting the bowls on the table. Lukas joins her in the kitchen, dusting snow off his boots and his dress. Everyone tells me he's wearing a tunic, not a dress, and that I'm insulting him. But not even Alynn's dress isn't as long as his.
“I surveyed the blizzard damage,” Lukas remarks. He seems oblivious to the stench in the air. “Nothing worse than at least three inches of snow, thank the Lord. And…what, may I ask, is this ye’ve set on the table?
“Parsnip porridge,” Alynn answers. Her face turns a slight shade of red. "A mouse chewed a hole in the bag of--"
"This won't work," The Author mutters under her breath. She taps at her keyboard for a bit, pushing her glasses farther up her nose as she reads over what she just wrote. "Try this."
"Parsnip porridge," Alynn repeats. “I finished the bag of oats yesterday, and the root cellar’s snowed over."
Lukas stirs the pot over the fireplace, and I think he finally realizes how bad it smells. “Indeed. How’d ye make it?
“Grated, boiled, and seasoned parsnips,” Alynn says. She sets two spoons on the table. “Don't worry, I've taste-tested it."
They both sit down at the table, and Lukas prays for their food. Then, for a while, they just stare at their bowls.
"It won't poison you, if you're wonderin'," Alynn snaps.
"Nope," The Author declares. She taps again at her keyboard. "I am a terrible writer...."
The keys keep tapping for a while, and Lukas's prayer is worded differently. As soon as it's over, he takes his spoon and slowly tries one bite. He chokes on it. I almost laugh as Lukas practically drops his spoon and downs half his mug of water. "Och, goodness! What did ye add to this after ye tested it?"
Alynn's eyes widen as she takes a bite. She looks sick, and she spits it back into her bowl. "Faith! Lukas, I'm sorry, it won't kill us, will it?"
"Crap," The Author mutters, tapping again at her computer. Then she stops, like she's heard something, and looks up quickly. "Coming, Mom!" she shouts with an Italian volume that makes the cooking fire flicker. She disappears like a magician--but it's her Imagination. I guess she can do whatever she wants.
"And while she's gone," someone shouts, "let's play a joke on her!"
I'm sure that, at one point in you're life, you've had this thought:
Well, there's nothing stopping you from being a great writer yourself! It just takes a little practice. I'll help you out--finish this short story and get started on your writerly journey!
I had Chinese food; she had a large, cheese-only slice of Sbarro pizza. You can get pretty much anything in the food court of Sweet Valley Mall.
“Orange chicken?” Jasmine asked.
“I’m stealing some,” Jasmine announced, giving me a friendly smile as she did. We’re practically siblings, so I let her, but I was fully planning on eating her garlic-encrusted pizza crusts.
I glanced over the huge food court. There were people everywhere, and about fifteen different food vendors selling everything from pretzels to McDonald’s to Thai cuisine. TV screens suspended from the ceiling played music videos.
“I wish they’d play some Christian music,” Jasmine muttered. She blew on her pizza before she took another bite. “Ow.”
“Are you okay?” I asked, almost laughing, as she desperately sucked ice water out of a straw. There was probably more ice than water in her glass, and it wasn’t helping her any.
“I burned my mouth.”
I took some wooden chopsticks and tried to pick up a piece of orange chicken with them. “That’s literally the only bad thing about pizza.”
“That and the carbs,” Jasmine said. “I should have gotten a salad. I’m going on vacation in two weeks, and I’ll need to wear a swimsuit. I want to look nice in it!”
“You can’t change too much in two weeks,” I objected.
“I know. I just want to feel like I’ve been trying, you know?”
Jasmine picked up her pizza and decided it was still too hot to eat, so she pointed at a blonde girl at the table beside us. “Look at her hat.”
“What do you mean, ‘what hat’?” It’s really cute, and I’ll bet she never has to wear sunscreen. It’s such a good idea.”
I got a closer look, and it turned out that her ‘blonde hair’ was actually an oversized sunhat. I marveled at it.
“You’d look really good in that, Jasmine,” I said.
“I’d always be getting it shut in doors. And look at that guy.” Jasmine pointed to the stream of people walking in through the doors. “He’s wearing a hoodie. It must be 80 degrees outside!”
I scanned the crowd, and I saw the guy Jasmine was talking about. He was wearing a blue hoodie and cargo pants, staring at the ground, hood up. “Dang,” I said.
“Can you even tell what color his hair is?” Jasmine asked. She leaned backwards, trying to get a better look at him. “I wonder if he’s homeless. He’s got a backpack.”
Suddenly, the hoodie guy looked up at us. His face was a strange combination of surprise and shock and horror, and I’d never seen anyone’s eyes open wider. He made eye contact with Jasmine, and then with me. The color slowly drained from his face.
“Holy crap!” he shouted. He ran out of the mall like his life depended on it, but no one else seemed to notice.
Who's the guy in the hoodie? Why did he freak out? Does he know the narrator or Jasmine? And what's the narrator's name? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below! God bless you, dear reader--and don't forget to like us on Facebook!
My name is Allegiance Simm, and I’m a fictional character.
It’s actually a lot of fun. I get to hang out with a whole bunch of other characters from about five different books. We have our own little space inside The Author’s mind. And since all authors are a little bit on the odd side, nothing here is normal.
Not that there’s such a thing as normal.
Take today for example. We’re all playing an extreme version of Capture the Flag. (By “extreme,” I mean that weapons are involved, and my sister’s best friend almost got his eye gouged out.) I’m on a defensive unit with three other people--an Irish girl named Alynn, her brother Tarin, and this really pretty girl from a strange culture named Selah.
Selah grabs her spear and thrusts it in the air, her fancy sleeves fluttering. “Stand firm,” she shouts, “for they prepare for another attack!”
I’m pretty sure she’s convinced this is actual war.
“The blasted gomeys don’t give us a break, do they?” Alynn asks. Fighting back advancing rebels with a wooden sword is pretty energy-consuming, especially when one of them is my sister Alliance. The two of them were engaged in hand-to-hand combat for fifteen minutes during the last attack, before Alliance got yelled at to retreat. I’m 98% sure she’s coming back to finish her battle.
Tarin’s running all over the place, gathering things to shoot with his slingshot. “I’ll help you, Alynn!” he declares. “It’ll be like David and Goliath!”
“Just so long as Alliance doesn’t get her head chopped off,” Alynn mutters. She has a cute, sing-song accent that I love listening to. “Allegiance, take care of her!”
“It won’t be easy!” I warn, jamming a clip into my automatic Nerf rifle. “Alliance is the toughest in Cornerstone Military Academy!”
Alynn doesn’t get to answer, because we’re rushed by a swarm of enemy soldiers. I send a sweeping storm of bullets raining across them, but it doesn’t even slow them down. They’ve got shields. They block. One pioneer guy gets hit in the crotch and falls. He’s the only casualty.
“Selah!” I cry.
I still can’t see how Selah can move without stepping on her pretty, flowing green dress that makes her look like a wood nymph. But she can put up a pretty good fight with her spear. She hits three people, but not Alliance. Alynn intercepts her just before she gets to our flag, and they’re fighting.
Their books are set in parallel universes, and about 2,500 years apart, but Alynn and Alliance are somehow evenly matched. It helps that Alliance doesn’t have her bulletproof cloak, or her special armor and comm link, or that her double-edged quarterstaff got replaced with a piece of wood.
“So, you’re used to fightin’ in hot places, are you?” Alynn asks. “You’d not last a day on St. Anne’s Cleft. The wind’s cold enough to freeze you half to death.”
“And you’d die in the Gobi Desert,” Alliance retorts.
Alynn’s sword clangs against Alliance’s quarterstaff, and I’m not sure who to root for. They’re both panting and red-faced, but Alynn especially, because Alliance has spent the better part of her life in a military academy. I shoot at her, but she blocks all my bullets with her shield.
“Don’t be a defector!” Alliance shouts at me. I aim for her face, but she blocks again.
Suddenly, I hear a cry in Gaelic, and Alynn’s little brother Tarin shoots his slingshot with all his might. Alliance only has two hands. She can’t block me, block Tarin, and fight Alynn all at once, but she tries. She spins around, only for Alynn to bring her sword down on her neck.
“Alliance has been defeated!” Selah shouts. She stabs one last attacker with her rubber spearhead. Almost immediately, a red-headed girl flies across the boundary line with two defenders hot on her heels.
“We’ve won!” she shouts with a Scottish brogue, and everyone on our team cheers. Alynn takes Tarin into her sweating arms, and Selah shouts something in her language. I cheer, too, before I see that Alliance isn’t moving. Every ounce of sisterly affection in me boils until I hear myself screaming her name and running to her side.
I have a confession to make.
I didn't walk my dog this morning. And it's partly because I stayed up too late last night researching names that, turns out, I'm not going to use anyway.
You might be wondering, how do writers come up with all these wonderful names for their characters? Names like Riley Poole and Stoick the Vast and Baroness Rodmilla De Ghent (from National Treasure, How to Train Your Dragon, and Ever After respectively). Is there a magical hat that we pick our names from?
Writers, myself included, tend to haunt baby-naming websites. We search by nationality and by meaning. I spent last night on www.catholic.org/saints/, which is a list of Catholic saints. (Lots of people during the Middle Ages were named after saints, or at the very least, picked a saint's name when they were confirmed, but that's another story.) I also get most of my Norse names online.
But websites aren't the only places we get names from. Sometimes we find a name that haunts us. It's perfect. It's beautiful. And hopefully, it's easy to pronounce. I wanted a character named Evangeline for a while, and eventually used her in a school assignment.
The thing about names, though, is that writers tend to be picky about them. Why did I spend two hours researching saint's names? I wanted to rename a character. You see, I named a particular character after saint who lived and died in the early 11th century, and Where the Clouds Catch Fire is set in 963. And even though I figured out what two of Alynn's aunt's names are, I didn't get anywhere with renaming Adelaide McLain.
But I had more than one reason for wanting to rename my character. Adelaide starts with A, and so does Alynn--and Alrik, whom we meet in the sequel. It was too many A's for me. I thought about Margaret, and Mildreth, and Bridget, but nothing seemed right. Finally, I went to complain to Mom (because she can fix everything) and she told me to keep the name. So Adelaide McLain will forever be Adelaide McLain.
It's apparently common for people to ask a writer, "Can you use my name in a story?" This has only happened to me once. Will we use your name if you ask? We might. But more often than not, we'll make you into a caricature of how we see you. Or, just to annoy you, we'll make you into the half-witted comic relief or the villain. And we might kill your character afterwards.
Unless we like you. Then we'll probably be nice to your character, too.
Are you bold enough to submit your name to a writer's eye? Comment below, and I might use it in an upcoming short story! Keep your eyes peeled for Part One of "Tales of an Overactive Imagination," coming Monday! God bless you, dear reader, and don't forget to like our Facebook page!
M. J. Piazza is a Jesus-loving, dog-walking country girl who just so happens to write books.