A New Way to do The New Year

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We’ve all done it.  You know what it I’m going to say, don’t cha?  Yep, I’m talking about resolutions.  How many of you have made resolutions and then promptly forgot ’em?  Or worse, you make a serious attempt, only to lose your mojo around mid-February.  At least, that’s when I notice the parking lots at the gym start to thin down.  Not that my ass is in one mind you.  It’s cold out.

Most of you, by the time you get to be my age stop making resolutions altogether because you just make yourself feel bad when you aren’t able to change the things you want to change.  That would be me.  I started to rethink resolutions a few years ago.

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I didn’t want to give up doing the New Year’s thang altogether.  There is a part of me that loves the idea of a fresh new year.  It’s like a pretty new piece of blank stationary.  Writers love pretty stationary.  And pens.  I have a very nice pen that my husband won for hitting a sales goal.  I promptly stole it while he was celebrating.  He was so drunk, he didn’t notice.  True story.

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Okay, I got sidetracked by pretty paper and perfect ink pens with just the right weight.  Sorry, they’re like catnip for writers.  Where was I?  Oh yes, the new year.  First, I quit making resolutions and set goals for myself instead.  This worked better.  I hit a few goals and felt invigorated, but I still wasn’t quite there yet.  Then, the other day, I was Reading “Awaken the Giant Within” by Tony Robbins.  For those of you that don’t know me, I am an avid reader of self-help books.  And books on writing. And fiction, of course.  Who doesn’t love fiction?   I have about 55 books in my Kindle and I set my new goal on Goodreads for 52 books this year.  If you are ever trying to find a good book to read, you can find plenty of suggestions on my blog or friend me on Goodreads.

Anyway, in this awesome book, Tony mentions a discovery he made about words.  Apparently the words you use in everyday conversation when referring to your life have an effect on how you feel about your life.  If you want to change your life, you just have to change your words.  I don’t know about you, but this idea blew my mind.  Could it really be that simple?  If I start peppering my conversations with the word fabulous, will I feel fabulous?

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I’m feeling fabulous already.  I decided that not only did I need to test out this idea, but I needed to do it on a grand scale.  Why?  That’s just who I am baby.  Amber likes to go overboard.  That’s how I roll.  I decided to choose five words.  I could have chosen like a hundred, but my life coach Brooke Castillo talks about constraining your focus.  That’s a hard one for me obviously.  I have twins for crying out loud.  I couldn’t even have babies one at a time.

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Yep.  Those are really my twins.  Are they cute or what?  Even without the bangs that their big sister cut off like a week before picture day. I tease my son that he is going to be an underwear model one day.

As I was saying, I chose five words that I wanted to epitomize 2018.  Not the year I think I will have based on past experience.  No.  I’m talking about the year I want to have.  The kind of year I dream about in those rare dreams when you wake up smiling because you were so happy.  You know, like I’m a size six and I’m wearing a stunning designer evening gown and Steven Spielberg is hounding me about movie rights while a hot English actor is dragging me onto the dance floor.  That kind of dream.  Don’t tell Chris.  Shhh.  Our secret.

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So what are the words/phrases I have chosen?  Drum roll please.  They are as follows:

Prosperity

Adventure

Legacy

Willingness to Fail

Fun

 

There they are.  That is the year I want to have.  What kind of year do you want?

Why I Write

So you dream of being a writer? At least, I assume that you do or else you wouldn’t be reading this blog posting. Perhaps, like me, you dreamed of getting a degree in creative writing, but chickened out and trekked down the safer path. In my case, I got an accounting degree instead.

I’m going to share something with you here. Most subjects in school came naturally to me, except one. It was math. I struggled to break a B, starting in the fourth grade. At times, I got a C, which for any of you other perfectionist first-borns out there, you know that missing the honor roll by a small margin is enough to chap your ass. For years, my self-esteem was marred by this one cursed subject. Stupid, I know. This is my teenage self we are talking about. I wanted acceptance. I wanted to feel worthy and being smart was my ticket to getting what I longed for deep inside. Because of arithmetic, it alluded me. I didn’t feel smart because I wasn’t good at everything and I deeply believed that I should excel in everything. Other girls wanted to be cheerleaders or make a sports team. I dreamed of being Valedictorian. Yes, I am a nerd. You probably already figured that out, but I’m a straight shooter, so there it is. Anyway, we had seven valedictorians the year I graduated. I won’t tell you what year it was, but I will tell you that I wasn’t one of them.

So why in God’s name, did I then turn around and choose a major that focused on my Achilles heel. I discovered it yesterday in a book by Martha Beck called Finding Your Own North Star: Claiming the Life You Were Meant to Have. It’s because my social-self was resisting my essential self. My essential self (a.k.a. my true self) wanted to be a writer or a history teacher or a social worker, but my social-self wanted the acceptance of the people closest to me. My then-boyfriend, now-husband Chris didn’t like the sound of any of my career choices. We’ve all heard of the starving artist and teachers, and social workers aren’t known for making the big bucks. Chris wanted me to make a good living. Actually, he wanted me to make an exceptional living. The kicker is that without the elusive sense of worth the money was never going to come. Especially as an accountant. I always felt like an imposter when I was doing accounting. It’s a struggle to be something you’re not. It takes away all of your energy. Doing other people’s taxes makes me feel like I am slowly dying. I guess, if you think about it, we are all slowly marching towards death, but I don’t notice the gradual crawl towards being worm grub until I’m staring at a 1040.

You might be feeling a bit of outrage right now. You may be thinking that I should have told Chris to kiss my ass. I can’t say that I disagree, but you have to understand that he had the best of intentions. He wanted me to do something stable and being a writer doesn’t sound like a safe option. Most of us have family members like this. They mean well. They want to protect us. They think they are saving us from the fall. After all, the reality isn’t kind. The world is a cold, hard place and the sooner you accept it, the better. To this day, I cringe when people ask me how my hobby is going.

Okay, so the amount of money that I have earned so far is technically within the hobby range, but I refuse to give up. Why? You know what my relatives are thinking. That’s a lot of work to put into something to make a mere pittance in return.

I’ve had to fight my inner critic just to get words on the page. I’ve had to face fears of persecution by society at large when I hit the publish button. Fears I didn’t expect to feel until they were right there in my face staring back at me.  My book has swear words in it, I thought. What is my mother-in-law going to say?  In case you are wondering, she said, “She was disappointed in me.”  It kind of stung, but Fuck it.  It’s my life after all.  It was a long hard road just to publish one book, and now, I am working on another. I’m getting ready to send it to the editor and spend a decent chunk of change that I might never see in return, and yet I persist.

Here is why. I write because I feel cranky and out of balance if I don’t. I write because it’s my air. It’s my North Star, and I have to follow it even if I never receive the critical acclaim of Stephen King or manage to eke out a living. I spent years waiting for the people close to permit me to do what I love, and it never came, so I had to stand firm and give myself permission. If you long to write, then write. Doing anything, for the sheer love of doing it, is worth it.  Don’t worry about what your parents will say or your spouse or your kids or your mother-in-law. Know your why and follow your North Star. If you still need permission, then I give it to you now. Go chase your star. Seriously, like now. Right now. What are you waiting for?

Ten Things I Never Thought I’d Hear Myself Say Until I Had Children.


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Children say the darndest things, but guess what?  So do parents.  I have on many occasions now caught myself saying things I would never have dreamed I would say.  What follows is a list of a few of my personal favorites.

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  1.  Keep your magic wand out of the dog’s behind.  Cookie doesn’t appreciate it.
  2. Keep your fingers out of your sister’s nose.
  3. I can’t put Daddy in time out.  I’ve tried, and it doesn’t work.
  4. I didn’t know that baby poop could shoot out like easy cheese.
  5. If you feel like you are going to have an accident, at least try to make it to the tile so I don’t have to scrub it out of the carpet.

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6.  That’s a litter box not a sandbox.

7.  We do not eat toilet paper.

8.  Don’t tell the neighbor that he is old.  He already knows.

9.  Quit squirming and let me have the booger.

and finally….

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10.  Don’t drink the bath water.  You never know if someone peed in it.  (Words to live by my friends)

If you have your own Thing I never thought I’d hear myself say until I had children, then e-mail it to me at thewritedestination@gmail.com.  I like to know that I’m not alone.  If I get enough of them, I will post them in a future blog posting for everyone to see.

If you would like to see the complete list of 33 things, pick up a copy of my book Puppy Love: Life Lessons In Disobedience.  Happy Thanksgiving!

Stay-at-home mom’s walk of shame.

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Taking my children to the dentist usually gives me mixed feelings.  On the one hand, I feel kind of elated because I know I’m about to enjoy twenty-three minutes of quiet me-time.  Score!  As an added bonus, I know that they can’t fight from their adjoining dental chairs because their mouths are going to be cranked open as far as a small child’s mouth can go in a sort of socially acceptable torture.  Stretch your mouth out to capacity right now and try to say “Jerk!”  Just try it.  I tested it just to be sure.  Can’t be done.  Double score!  That is where the good times end though my friend because after my time in introverted fun land I’m going to be graded.

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My children’s dentist office clearly prides themselves on perfection and seem to think that oral hygiene is the ONLY THING in life that matters.  Granted, it’s important.  I’m not saying it’s not, but they have a grading system for crying out loud.  They would tell you it’s so that you can measure your child’s needs.  The truth is that your parental abilities are what is really being graded.  As a compliant first-born/ people-pleaser by nature, I want to do well.  I was always a good student.  I want the A.  I want three A’s as a matter of fact.

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I have never gotten the three A’s.  I’m the mom all of the hygienists talk about at the oral hygiene convention.  I picture them huddled together with sugar-free, tooth friendly cocktails with cute little toothbrushes instead of umbrellas and their talking in hushed tones.  Today I got my gently worded, semi-annual lecture and promised that my children would do better and prepared to sulk out of the office with my head hung low after purchasing forty-five dollars in high-octane, super fluoridated (I pray miracle working) toothpaste.  I think the worst is over and then notice that two of my three future denture wearers are missing.

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I feel a hint of panic in my throat and make my way for the restrooms which is the only logical place they could be and call there names from outside the single restroom.  My nine-year old daughter opens the door and I can see my son standing behind her with his hands over his manhood and his pants around his ankles.

“Jackson needs help wiping,” she says as she flees the restroom while rolling her eyes as big sisters do.  I breathe a sigh of relief and then turn around and to find Jackson has already assumed the position (Bent over as far as he can for easy access). This is not his first rodeo.  Goodbye momentary sense of relief.  I go to lock the door so that no one else has to endure this shit show.  Guess what.  No lock.  Fabulous.  I race to get this done in mock speed.  I can just see someone walking in and getting an awkward eye full.  I proceed to fight the toilet paper dispenser because the cheap paper wants to break at every perforation and this isn’t a two square job.  I break out into a cold sweat.  Pull gently.  Pull gently.  I have him almost clean when I look down and find that his underwear are soiled.

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The voice in my head is saying “What the F—!  Why me?  Why?  Expletive.  Expletive.  Expletive.  Did he get the poop sweats in the dental chair.  WTF.  WTF.  WTF.

My outside voice says, “Son, Why?”

Jackson starts singing while wiggling his butt,” Because I’m a man.  Because I’m a man. Because I’m a big ‘ol man.”

I can’t help, but laugh a little because sometimes you have to laugh or cry and this was one of those times.

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“What are we going to do Jackson?” I said.

His response, “Don’t worry Mommy.  I’m wearing two pairs of underpants.”

Sure enough his underwear were layered.

“Why are you wearing two pairs of underwear?”

“Grandma told me to put on clean underwear this morning.”

Of course.  Why didn’t I think of that.  The answer should have been obvious.  He then prided himself on his preparedness for the situation.  He brought it to my attention as if he should be rewarded for shitting his pants and having clean underwear on standby.  Kind of like the one time in sixteen years of marriage that his father did the dishes.  Chris made sure to get his pat on the back.  Do I get a pat on the back for doing dishes twice a day, every day.  No, but I digress.  I took a deep breath and crammed the forty-five dollars worth of toothpaste and free toothbrushes and floss into one of those tiny bags they give you and put the Pikachu boxer briefs that will never be the same in the other.  I got him dressed in the clean extra pair and calmly walked out the door and back into the lobby.  Nothing happening here folks.  Just keep looking at your phones. I’m half way to the front door with a minuscule level of my dignity still intact when Jackson grabs the bag with the soiled underpants and tries to rip it out of my hand because he wants his bag of treasures.  Not the underwear.  His five cent prize for holding his mouth open compliance.

I blurt out, “No Jackson!  That’s the dirty underwear.”

Ooops.  (My brain – Expletive.  Expletive.  Expletive.)  Every parent in the crowded waiting room turns to stare at the crazy woman with dirty underwear in a toothbrush bag.

I took a deep breath and did the walk of shame all the way the minivan.  It took a Starbucks and a tooth decaying cake pop to help me shake it off.

“Can we have a cake pop too Mommy,” they said.

“Sure.  Why not?”

If you enjoyed reading this considerably more than I enjoyed living it, then you want to check out my book Puppy Love: Life Lessons In Disobedience.

My New Critique Forum – Creatives Academy

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I am so excited to introduce you to my brand new forum.  I call it Creatives Academy.  I have been in the writing game for a few years now and finding a critique group that really works has been difficult, so I decided to create my own.  I want to foster an environment of creativity as well as collaboration.  I want it to be part critique group, part mastermind and part support group for the difficult times, before you hit it big. Think of it as an online cocktail party for introverts.  Did anyone else just shiver at the mention of a cocktail party?  This will be different though.  This will be ours.  I want to put you in groups by genre so that you only get critiqued by people who know and like the genre you write in.  It just makes sense.  If your into sci-fi or dystopian or steampunk then you don’t want to critique romance.  Am I right?  There are a few things you should know before signing up though.

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  1. I have a humming bird brain! 

My mind likes to flit around from one beautiful thought to another.  Sometimes it gets off track, but eventually it comes back around.  A certain amount of tolerance is necessary.

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2.  I swear.

I have a bit of a potty mouth.  I actually enjoy swearing.  I love the color and punch that the occasional swear word adds like shit or damn.  Occasionally I drop the f-bomb, but I usually refer to it as the f, dash, dash, dash word or some such abbreviation.  It’s my own personal brand of panache.  If you do not like swearing, that’s okay.  My mother-in-law recently lectured me because my book has swear words and she said she was very disappointed.  I love her anyway.  Not as much as I did before, but I still love her somewhat, which brings me to number three.

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3.  My wickedly dry sense of humor.

How does this photo depict dry humor?  It doesn’t really, but I thought it was super cute.  I get distracted by cute puppies (See, hummingbird brain.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you.)  Anyway, my sense of humor is dryer than stale, sourdough bread.  If you’re not into that or swearing or my meandering brain, then this probably isn’t the forum for you.  If you are looking for a community of like-minded, mildly swearing introverts that are out to take the publishing world and succeed no matter what, then get in on the ground floor of something awesome.  I may have a hummingbird brain, but it has flitted around so much that I am well versed on a lot of writing topics to help out my fellow creatives.  I have a wealth of knowledge on creative topics and quotes from The Princess Bride.  I’ve learned to use it to my advantage.  Seriously, join today.  What are you waiting for?  I want to help you.  Help me, help you.  Did I just careen off into Jerry McGuire.  Possibly, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Join the cocktail party for introverts!

 

How to Outline a Novel or Can You Teach an Old Dog New Tricks? Part 1

Do you ever fall into bed at the end of a long day, and wonder where all the excitement in life has gone? You had dreams. Big dreams. Remember that girl. Remember the size jeans you were wearing? I remember what size I was wearing. Not the same size I’m wearing now, but that’s not really important. The point is, we tend to give up on those dreams. The moment we graduate college, they go up in smoke along with that awesome metabolism that allowed you to eat whatever you wanted.  Boy, do I miss that metabolism. Some call it growing up. I call it fear.

If you are reading this right now, you have decided to tackle that fear. That is why you’re here right? You’ve decided you can dismiss your husband’s suggestions that you are having a mid-life crisis. You’ve decided you can ignore the gentle nudging of friends that miss you because you now stay home to slave on your manuscript. You’ve decided that you can miss the last season of Game of Thrones, if that’s what it takes. Okay, maybe let’s not go quite that far. Kit Harrington’s abs. That’s all I’m saying.  What?  You didn’t know fear was involved?

Well, let me tell you now, this path is not for the weak at heart. It’s going to require bravery. It’s going to require dusting off skills that haven’t been used in a while. It’s going to require that you stretch out of your comfort zone, learn something new and conquer your primitive fear’s ass. Yes. I said primitive fear.  What is that?  Well, we all have it. That’s why mingling at dinner parties makes some of us feel kind of like we are going to die. I suppose you could put an eye out with one of those little plastic swords in the finger foods, but death is highly unlikely.  I just feels like death to an introvert.

I have the perfect example.  I have a wiener dog named Buddy. He is the cutest, smartest, most awesome dog in the entire world. Problem is, I didn’t realize he was a miniature until we were pulling out of the breeder’s driveway and I looked down at the card.

My immediate thought was, “Shit, this dog is going to fit through the fence. Forever.” Poor planning on my part? Possibly. There were three children and a dog crazy husband involved. This was not solely my fault. I swear.

 

Baby, I’m Worth It.

My husband won’t let me so much as take him outside on a leash. You see where I worry about him getting out of the yard and being hit by a car, my husband is afraid that a large bird-of-prey will try to pack him off. No, I’m not kidding. Sigh. Chris is really that high strung. So, for the last year, I have had puppy training pads all over my house. I do not like having pee pads all over my house. I hate it. I really, really, really hate it, but yesterday I had this brilliant idea that I would train Buddy to use a litter box. I was feeling pretty proud of this brainchild of mine.

I told Chris, “I’m a trailblazer baby.”

His response, while rolling his eyes, “You teach that dog to shit in a cat box and I’ll call you a trailblazer alright.”

Undeterred I went to Target and purchased a litter box. I couldn’t wait to introduce Buddy to a new way of doing his business. I put it in the bathroom right next to the toilet so he could feel just like a person. We treat him like one anyway. I gently sat him down inside and…drum roll please, he took off in a fit of terror and threw litter everywhere. Seriously, like he was being killed. Was it rational? No. Did that make him any less afraid? Nope. Still terrified. That’s the fear I’m talking about. Don’t let that fear take over. Don’t be afraid of the litter box! Okay, bad analogy but you get what I’m saying. You are going to start writing that book, right now.

Here is what I want you to do. I’m going to break my process down for you and give it to you in small pieces so you don’t feel like there’s a lion in the corner waiting to eat you.

Step 1:
Color in an adult coloring book for fifteen minutes. If you don’t have one, then pull out your kids. I know, it sounds a little crazy, but this will recalibrate your brain. There is real neuroscience behind it. If that’s just really not what you’re into, then try meditating or just close your eyes and listen to music. Go for a short walk. Do something to help your mind relax and get out of the state of stress that most of us live in.

Step 2:
Take a blank sheet of paper and write down every nugget of an idea that you have about this book. Do not self-edit! I repeat, do not self-edit. Pretend that your brain is like a child on a playground. Let it play. This is the fun part. Go crazy. Think you might kill of a character. Insert evil laughter here. Write it down. There is no right or wrong idea. Just put them on paper.

Step 3:
Use your brain dump from step 2 to sketch in a macro outline. We are going to borrow Shawn Coyne’s Foolscap Global Story Grid Method. If you haven’t discovered his website, thestorygrid.com or his podcast, then consider that homework as well. Nothing is set in stone at this point. Kind of like in Pirates of the Caribbean when Geoffrey Rushes character talks about the rules. “Arrrr, they’re really just guidelines.” Sorry, I couldn’t resist.

Anyway, it goes something like this:

Beginning Hook
Inciting Incident:
Complication:
Crisis:
Climax:
Resolution:

Middle Build
Inciting Incident:
Complication:
Crisis:
Climax:
Resolution

Ending Payoff
Inciting Incident:
Complication:
Crisis:
Climax:
Resolution:

Those are the three steps that I want you to start with. Let me know how that works for you and I will let you know if Buddy ever gets over his fear of the litter box. Feel free to ask questions in my Ask Amber Forum. No fear.

Extra Homework:

thestorygrid.com

and The Story Grid Podcast

Why?  Because they’re awesome.

Vote for Reader’s Choice Award

Hello fellow creatives!  My short story Falling In Love is published in short fiction break and I need your help to win the reader’s choice award. There are a lot of stories with similar titles as the contest theme was falling in love so please be sure to choose the one by Amber Meyer. Big thanks and happy writing.

Click to vote

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Excerpt Falling In Love

Thomas looked around at the sage green walls. The soothing color did little to ease his nerves. There was a piece of framed art on the east wall. A piano with a vase full of flowers on top. He’d stared at it a million times, dissecting every inch. No good. His eyes drifted back to Rhonda. Her veins so purple and swollen from over use of an IV that the shock of seeing them never wore off. Two long years she’d been lying there. The doctors rarely came. If they did, it was at night after he’d gone home. Of course, he’d heard of cases where people just woke up. Helpful friends were always sharing the story of someone, who knew someone, who knew someone, who’d heard of a miracle. Some such bullshit. It was clear to him that it was over. Clear to everyone, but Rhonda’s mother Alvera. The woman had hope, and she was washed in the blood of the spirit. She led weekly prayer vigils at church, and each day seemed more certain that her only child would be returned to her. Thomas admired her faith, but his hopes of having Rhonda back had receded as quickly as the tide. He wanted to believe. He envied her hope.
Mostly these days, he came to the hospital out of obligation. Obligation or guilt or a mixture of the two. A sudden chipper voice snapped him out of his somber thoughts. It contradicted his emotions with such intensity, it felt like trying to look at the sun. He turned with the intention of scowling at the new nurse, but thought different when he saw the flowing red hair cascading down her shoulders. He blinked twice to make sure his eyes weren’t deceiving him. She was beautiful. Really beautiful. A stunning kind of sexuality sizzled in every movement she made.
The beautiful nurse walked up to Rhonda’s bedside and took her pulse with a frown. Thomas studied her face. His gaze slid slowly down. She turned to meet his eyes with a pouty-lipped expression. Kind of like a child with a broken toy.
“How long?” She said.
“Two years,” he said.
“Oh dear. You poor thing,” she said as she walked around the bed and gave him a big hug. Her hair smelled like fresh peaches. He didn’t want her to let go. It had been so long. She walked back around and picked up the chart.
“This is my last round of the day,” she said. “No harm in taking a few extra minutes.” Her hair fell gently on the chart in front of her as she studied it with her stunning blue eyes. “Tsk. Tsk. So sad. A car accident.”
“Yeah,” Thomas said with a shrug. “On her way to meet her mother at church.”
“Oh,” she said. “Was she a good Christian?”
“Devout,” said Thomas. “A much better person than I.” He added giving her a hungry look.
“I see,” she said walking to the door and peeking out. “My shift is up. How about I buy you a drink? You’ve been through a tough time.”
“Really?” He said, not believing his luck.
“Sure,” she whispered. “Meet me at Smitty’s, across the street, in twenty minutes.”
“Twenty minutes,” he repeated, still in disbelief. “Wait about ten minutes and then leave,” she said. “Technically I could get in trouble for seeing a patient’s husband after hours.” She smiled and waved as she walked out the door.
His heart pounded and his ears buzzed with excitement as did other parts of him that hadn’t been awakened in a long time. Long before Rhonda’s accident. Rhonda had always had very definite ideas about how their bedroom activities should be conducted. Come to think of it, she’d had definite ideas about how he should do everything. What few things Rhonda didn’t have an opinion on, Alvera did and no qualms about letting them be known. He stared at the clock. Nine more minutes. He got up and walked to the window. He longed to open the window and let in some fresh air, but it was an old hospital and there were bars on the windows. Rumor had it there used to be an asylum on this floor and they did it to keep the patients from jumping. It was probably good in a way. More than once he stared out window and felt like taking the plunge. But today was not one of those days. Six more minutes passed and he could see her cross the street. She’d changed into a little black dress, but he was certain it was her. He started to pace like a panther in a cage. The minutes dragged. Finally, it was time. He walked to the door and flicked out the light.
“Thomas,” said a voice from behind….

Read the rest at Short Fiction Break.

Voting ends on Tuesday, September 12th at midnight pacific time.

Vote now!

 

10 Tips for Finding Time to Write


Hello creatives! I’m so excited to share this with you. I discovered Life Coaching over the summer and it has made a huge impact on my life and I have been learning so many cool things to share. Here are ten tips for finding more time to write. It’s life changing stuff. Promise.

1. Make a plan. Okay this sounds simple, so it should be easy. Right? Deceptively simple but not easy. A lot of us avoid making a plan because then if you don’t follow through on that plan, you will feel bad about yourself and it will compound your feelings of inadequacy and self doubt. It’s time to show up for yourself. In my life, I have been so guilty of this. I show up for everyone else, but me. If you made plans to help your friend with her garage sale, you wouldn’t just not show up for her. Would you? Why do it to yourself? Love yourself like you love your best friend. Follow through. But that sounds so structured and constricting some of you are thinking. Here is what I have found. Making a plan of how I am going to use my time is incredibly freeing. I not longer have to think. I just do. I don’t just plan for work either, I also plan for fun and I look forward to and enjoy my fun time more. I don’t feel guilty or worried about getting it all done because I have a plan in place. Just taking all of the swirling to do’s from inside your brain and putting them on paper is empowering. Getting them on paper gives you something to attack. They don’t seem so ominous on paper.

2. Make decisions with power. Indecision is a time suck. Make a decision and stick to it. Warning! Your brain may possibly fight you on this. It will try to get you to change your mind. Your primal survival instincts will kick in. This is especially true if you have made a decision to step outside of your comfort zone. Commit to your decision and do not let your brain derail you. Finishing the task will only help your personal feelings of well being towards yourself. Start with little things if you have to and then work up to larger things.

3. Take massive action. I love this one. Most of us think we take action in life. We go to college. We get married. We have kids. We’re living life. We’re taking action. Once you reach a certain point, however, you begin to coast. You hope to get a promotion, but you don’t actively do anything to get it. Sure, your doing a good job and you hope the boss notices, but what are you really doing other than sitting back and waiting for life to hand you something. Plan the life you want. Decide what you need to do to get it and then focus on massive action.

4. Ignore how you feel in the moment. Okay, you’ve made your plan. Let’s say, you are going to get up one hour earlier each morning to work on writing the next great American novel. You have an epic dream and you’ve finally decide to make it come true. When the alarm goes off, you aren’t going to feel it. The self doubt will creep in and try to talk you out of it. You will feel tired. You’ll have a cold. You stayed up too late watching the Game of Thrones season finale. Ignore the feeling and do it anyway.

5. Practice constraint. Pick one thing to focus on and attack it with everything you’ve got. I used to be incredibly guilty of this. My brain is usually going a hundred miles an hour about all of the things I need to do and it is hard for me to focus because I want to do them all. What happens is you waste your time trying to do ten things at once. It hurts your productivity. So pick one. If you can’t decide which one to do first, let fate choose for you. Write each one on a piece of paper and put them in a hat. Draw one out and go for it. No looking back. No, but maybe’s. Just go for it. When that item is finished, you’re allowed to draw a new one out of the hat. And so on.

6. Fail. You read that right. I just ordered you to fail. Don’t fear failure. Embrace it. Most people who have had huge success in life also had epic failures. The difference between them and most people is that they chose to learn from what didn’t work and press on. Most of us avoid fear like our lives depend on it. When we lived in caves and caught our own food this was necessary. Now it mostly just keeps you from being the next best version of you. If you don’t have any epic failures, odds are you don’t have any epic wins either because you’re not really put yourself out there. Start patting yourself on the back for failures. It means yours living a life of intention instead of complacency. Uncomfortable? Hell yes. Worth it? Hell yes, again.

7. Learn to say no without making excuses. Most of us are people pleaser’s to one degree or another. Your boss asks you to tackle an extra project. Of course. Can you make brownies for the church bake sale? Sure. Can you volunteer for the PTA? It’s for my kids. How can I refuse? No one can do it all. Give yourself permission to say no. You don’t need to give them a reason. You know what you can reasonable handle. If you are asked to do something outside of that, then say no without guilt. Okay, If you won’t give yourself permission then I’ll give you permission. Amber says, “It’s okay not to be supermom or superman”. Although, if you follow all of this advice, you are going to feel pretty super. Just saying.

8. Delegation. Focus on the things you do best and the things you like doing most and delegate the rest. One of my biggest goals in life is to get a housekeeper. It’s seriously on my list. As soon as I make enough money, I’m getting one. I am a terrible housekeeper. If my husband read blogs he would comment his agreement. The poor man had no clean underwear yesterday. I would rather be writing and planning and working on my self development. That’s my jam. Housework always feels like drudgery to me and with three children, an exercise in futility. They mess up faster than I can clean. I’m not a messy person myself, I just can’t keep up with everyone else and I don’t like trying. I could beat myself up about it, but why not hire it out instead? Although, I will probably still have to wash Chris’s underwear. I’m guessing that no one else will take that job. Did I mention how glad I am that my husband doesn’t know what a blog is?

9. Completion. Don’t quit before you finish. This goes back to following through. No doing just half or three quarters of a task. See it through to the end no matter how much it hurts and you’re lying brain is going to tell you that it hurts, but you will feel better on the other side. Promise.

10. Take the word try out of your vocabulary. You are not going to try to write a novel. You are going to write a novel. Using the word try is giving yourself an escape hatch. That way if you don’t finish, “Oh well, I was just trying after all.” Saying try is not committing yourself. You’re not all in. Saying you are going to do something creates a subtle, but powerful mindset shift in the way you think about yourself and the thing you are going to accomplish. Notice, I didn’t say try there. You can do it.

Follow these ten tips and you will be amazed at all you can do. Start by taking a time audit for a week to find blocks of time in your schedule. The next week, plan each day in advance. Wash. Rinse. Repeat. Let me know how it works for you. I’m super excited to hear from you. Until next time.

My submission for the Writer’s Digest Short Story Competition 2016

I have been working on this until I can’t look at it anymore and the deadline is today anyway.  What do you think?

Fade To White

By

Amber D. Meyer

 

He studied himself in the mirror and ran a hand through thinning hair that had lost most of its fire and dulled into a pale orange.  His face looked scruffy.  No point in shaving.  He stepped out into the living room and she looked up from the sofa, staring at him with the angry calm of a pit bull on valium.

                “Guess it’s time,” he said, an invisible fist wrapped around his heart.  She nodded and got up.

You could at least say something.

                He followed her out and squeezed into the front seat of her tiny, silver sedan.  The sun stabbed his eyes, so he put on his Costas.  He looked out at the seafoam green bungalow they had shared.

                “The grass needs mowed.  You need to —.”

                “I know.  I’ll take care of it.” 

                 A rainbow of southern colors spun by as they headed down the street: tropical blues, soft greens, peachy, sunset oranges and even dewy lipped pinks.

                “Boy, Smitty needs to repaint,” he said.

                “Mm hmmm.” 

                He felt the car accelerate as she pulled out of the subdivision.

                “Take the long way would you?  Down Barker.  We’ve got time.”  He saw the muscles in her neck flex and pulse, but the car maneuvered towards Barker and he relaxed a little.

                The engine hummed a tune as the inter-coastal came into view.  How many hours had he spent out there fishing?  How much time had he wasted?  Didn’t matter now.

                He watched the lines of the coast curve like a lover’s body until it disappeared.  He kept thinking about the cab.  Why hadn’t he just gotten into the damn cab?  It hit his mind in regular fits: the lights of the cop cars, his buddy bloody on the sidewalk and the dingy, puke yellow cab the owner had called for him.  If only. 

                His heart dove when she pulled into the parking lot and eased the car against the front curb.

                “You’re coming in with me?”

                “I can’t.  I just…can’t.” 

                “Will I see you when I get out?”

                “We talked about this,” she whispered.

                “That’s it then?”

                She shut her eyes and nodded.

                “Twenty-three years and you can’t even walk in with me?”

                “Please, don’t.”

                “You’re a bitch,” he said getting out.  “A first-class bitch.”  He slammed the door with a trembling hand.  Her car lurched away like a Silver King Fish breaking the line.  He stood on the curb and watched until the sedan blended into the pavement.  Stupid!  Why did he end it like that?   

                He teetered towards the angry, grey building and took big gulping breathes.  The hearing was quick, just as his attorney had said it would be.   A tall man with acne scars led him to the jail.  His personal belongings were catalogued and placed in a manila envelope, his clothes stripped, and a stiff orange jumpsuit issued along with an inmate number.  His cell sat on the second floor, tucked in a corner. 

It was more a compartment than a room, like a bank vault with a tiny window.  On the right side was a bunk bed and a toilet on the left.  No roommate.  Thank God.

                “In you go,” said the guard.  “Keep your hands behind your back.”  He glanced at the guard, who elbowed him forward.

“You heard me,” the guard snapped, as he stumbled inside.  His arms jerked apart when the cuffs sprung open and the metal door clinked behind him.  He sat on the bottom bunk and fought the urge to vomit.   Losing the fight, he lurched towards the toilet.   The dry heaving ceased, when he heard a voice coming down the hall.  It was melodious with a hint of reggae in it.  He wiped his mouth on his sleeve and looked up to see a short, black man.  His hair was braided and full of beads. Grey strands danced through each one.  He looked like a witch doctor in a happy, yellow t-shirt.

                “We have a new one I see,” he said.  “Do you believe in God, man?”

                He blinked.  Did he hear that right?

                “Who are you?” He asked.

                “I’m Pastor Morgan,” the man said, snapping on the last syllable with a Jamaican rhythm.

                “What do you want?”  He jerked himself up off the floor and returned, wobbly, to the bottom bunk.  Pastor Morgan looked at the guard, who took out the key to open the door.  Pastor Morgan walked over and stood in front of him, his portly middle protruding out of the bottom of his shirt.

                “It’s not what I want,” he said, clicking.  “It’s what he wants.”  The Pastor pointed a small, fat finger up at the ceiling.

                “I doubt he wants anything from me.  I let him down,” he said, his chest starting to burn.

                “God loves us all.  He loves every last man in this building.  We’ve all fallen short of the glory of God.”

                “Oh yeah, what have you done?”

                The Pastor rubbed a fat finger along his shiny, black chin and stepped closer.   He smelled like bacon and something mysterious.

“I let down my child, failed him I did,” he said.  A pained expression washed over his chubby cheeks.

                “I’ve let down a lot of people.”  His ears began ringing.  He laid back on the bunk and shivered.

                “I visited my son here for the first time three years ago.  He was just down that hall.  I should have told him that it was okay, that God washes away all of our sins,” the pastor said, closing his hand into a fist.  “But I was stubborn and I told him that I was ashamed.  Told him he had disgraced my house and made a mockery of me.”

                “Lots of father’s say things like that.  Mine said it plenty,” he said choking a little.  He cleared his throat.

                “My son killed himself the next day.  Far as I know, he never accepted…,” he paused a moment and looked away, shaking his head.   “I am a Pastor and I couldn’t save my own son.”  The beads swayed and clicked in chorus.

                He looked up at the tiny pastor.  His shirt, so brightly hued, it hurt to look at it.

                “I’m sorry,” he muttered looking away from the stinging yellow. 

                “Do you believe in God?”

                “I don’t know.  I want to.”

                “That is all you need.”  The Pastor kneeled down beside the bed and grabbed his hand.  He felt the palm meet his with sweaty confidence.

                “Pray this prayer with me.”

                “Pray, right now?”

                “You got something better to do?” 

                He shrugged and looked around, his own palm starting to sweat in the grasp of the tiny hand.

                “Dear God.”

“Dear God,” he repeated. 

“I ask you to come into my life,” the Pastor said, looking upwards like an ethereal being hovered there.

“I ask you to come into my life.”

“And to be my Lord and Savior,” the Pastor said.

His shoulders curled inward.

“And to be my….,” he whispered.  His chest heaved into a sob, soft at first and then breaking into a rolling tide.  He could taste the salt in his mouth as he struggled to breathe.  A sharp pain lapped across his chest and it tightened in misery.

                “I want,” he cried, clenching the hand still in his grasp. 

                “You can do it.”

                “I want you to be my Lord and Savior,” he said, in a rush.

                “You did it man.  You are saved.  See how easy.” 

                A warm rush swirled down.  It started with the top of his head and swam into his ears, throat, stomach, down to the end of his toes.  His muscles all relaxed.  He likened the sensation to floating in the warm water of the gulf, but as soon as it came it fled, thrust out by another sharp pain.

“Oh God, it hurts.”

                “I know son, but God has the power to make it right.”

                “No.  I mean, it really hurts.  Something’s wrong.”  He looked up at the Pastor again and pulled the little hand towards him.  The Pastor’s shirt began to blur into a sunrise.  It struck him as familiar, like an old friend you bump into on the street.  It shone with brilliance, an almost blinding sunshine yellow, fading into pale banana cream.  It swirled around him, becoming more pure with each rotation until it morphed into soft marshmallow white.  Then it glistened and gleamed the whitest white he’d ever seen.

               

               

Amber vs. The Universe

Okay, I said that I was going to enter the Writer’s Digest Short Story Contest and the Friday Deadline is taunting me like Lucy with a football in a Charlie Brown cartoon.  Normally I have time to work while the twins are at preschool.  This week I have had snow delays, student of the week responsibilities and a dentist appointment.  My me time has vanished faster than virginity in a whorehouse, but I remain undaunted.  I have a rough draft completed.  I just need to polish it.  You will not win Universe.  I am getting it done if I have to lose sleep.  Just so you know, I really love my sleep so that is huge.  I will post my completed contest submission soon.  Good luck to all of my fellow writers.  Never give up!