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.

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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!

 

My Poe inspired Piece

Can Albert grant his father’s dying wish in time? 
My Father’s Final Wish

 
It looked like the eye of a lazy Cyclops peering at me as I crested the hill. I froze in my boots for a moment as a chill ran the length of my soul. I crept with caution down the steep incline, toward, The Gates of Hell. At least, that’s what the locals called it. I’d spent my entire life nestled on a hill not far from its humble location, but I had never dared enter.  I forced myself with all the courage I could muster to step inside. All trepidation, I cast aside with my goal set firmly in my mind. I could feel the cave’s cool breath on my skin as I stepped inside that most monstrous of earthly openings. “It’s just a cave,” I said to myself out loud. Just an opening in the earth’s skin. Nothing at all to be afraid of.  
Do you think me weak because my heart was pricked with terror at a simple caving expedition? Well, it is with good reason I fear this place. It is where my brother met his untimely end three years prior. He left on a caving adventure and was never heard from again, and my father’s health has deteriorated ever since until he became confined to his bed.  Yesterday, he took my hand and presented his plea.  If I could just ascertain my brother’s fate, then and only then, he proclaimed would he be able to die in peace. Rumors still circulate that my brother ran off to seek his fortune elsewhere, and it caused my father unbearable grief. 
My mother pleaded for me to stay. She’d lost one son. She shan’t lose another or her poor mother’s heart would not recover. However, I found the calling too strong, and I considered it my duty to grant my father this final wish.  It was under these circumstances that I found myself in this eerie place. I switched on my lantern, and it peeled back the darkness in a blanket of light. It was at this moment that I found myself longing for the noises of the busy city, and the comfort that they bring. The only sound now was the tap, tap, tap of my careful footsteps and the beating of my own heart. It was pounding deep within my bosom, and it throbbed in my ears. 
            Time had no place there, and I lost all concept of it. I could feel the dampness settling onto my skin, and I was starting to tremble at the chill. Just a little further, I told myself. Keep going. It was at this moment that I made a grand error. I let my mind wander for a moment to ponder my miserable state, and I wasn’t paying attention. It was then that I slipped and fell into a crevice and became quite stuck. The lantern on my helmet busted in the fall, and the light was gone. The precious light extinguished forever. Terror wrapped around me like a funeral shroud. I didn’t bring a spare. “Dear God,” I said to myself. “Why didn’t I bring a spare?” Worse still my boot was lodged, and I could not move it. The cave was going to claim another victim. I cried out until my voice was hoarse. There was no point.  The cave had been roped off after my brother’s disappearance as it was deemed unsafe. No one was coming to help me. 
Hours passed and I found all my energy depleted and my hope all but gone.  I accepted my fate began to ponder it. Was this punishment for the awful condition of my spirit? Deep down, I am a wretched soul that has nursed the most horrible of thoughts. You see. I always hated my brother. Yes, I know that it’s wrong to speak ill of the dead, but I hated him. I hated his adventurous nature and all of his good looks. His very existence made me feel small from the time that we were boys. He teased me all the days of our childhood. 
“Come along Odd Albert,” he’d say to me at school, and all the other children would laugh as I ran along behind. 
“Eat your dinner Oddball,” I’d hear as we sat at the table or “Good night weirdo.” 
One night I had a bad dream and crept down the stairs to the study where my father always sat smoking his pipe, and my mother would tend to her sewing. I wanted comfort, as children do, but before I reached the doorway, I heard their voices rise in dispute. 
“Albert is never going to amount to anything,” my father said, puffing his old pipe with fury. 
“Albert will be fine,” my mother defended. “He just needs encouragement.” 
“You coddle him too much,” my father said with a grunt. “It’s not good for a boy to cling to his mother’s skirt all the time. He should be more like his brother.” 
I’d heard enough and rushed back to my room, the bad dream long forgotten as a new pain welled up in my chest and it didn’t get much better as I got older. The taunts ceased as we matured, but I always felt like a burden. I watched my brother blossom into a handsome young man. A man whom the girls feigned over. A man who was going places. Much better places. I started to consider him the sole source of all my grief. I would always pale in comparison. I wanted, needed an escape. And with this respite, I could reinvent myself. I started to dream about the man I could be if only delivered from my brother’s cursed grasp. 
So you see, I had a right to hate him. I really did. And it was for this reason that the loathing took root in my heart like a nasty vine. I loathed him the way you do, a rat or a snake or some other vermin. My love and all the brotherly affections that I had as a toddler disintegrated. When he went missing, my mother’s heart was broken, and I wept for her sake, but not for my own. I watched my father fade into poor health and old age at the loss of the son, he most treasured.  
It was under these aggrieved circumstances that I began to prosper. People were kind to me because of my loss, and I secretly delighted in it. I made friendships at college and began to thrive. With Edgar gone, I was free to take his place. I stood taller. I smiled more, and everything changed. I even managed to obtain a decent post at a law firm right after graduation. My life was infinitely better and yet while facing my own end, I was haunted by nagging guilt. Guilt that my success came at such a hefty price. I began to wonder things I had never dared. If I had been a better man, could I have liked my brother or maybe even loved him? Was he really such a bad fellow or had it all been a product of my private insecurities? 
These thoughts preyed upon my mind like vultures and wouldn’t let me rest in what should have been my final hours. The past kept replaying in the landscape of my mind. I could, at last, see the love in my parents’ eyes and my father’s pride at the man I had become. My chest swelled with pain at the thought of letting him down. My father’s final request would be a disaster. This would, no doubt, be the end of him.  
So there I was, wedged with no hope of escape, when suddenly I saw a light. A glorious glow from above. I called out with everything I could muster, and suddenly I felt a hand. I could not see his face for the light of his headlamp blinding me and his grip was cold as death, but it filled me with relief, and I held onto it in desperation. 
“Thank God you’re here. I’m stuck,” I cried out. “My boot is wedged in tight.” 
“Wriggle your foot and see if you can slide it out of the boot,” called the voice. I pulled with all my might, but couldn’t move it. 
“It won’t budge,” I said.  
“Can you reach the laces,” the man said.  
“Shine the light down so I can see,” I replied. I then wiggled back and forth and my arm loosened a little, but I still could not reach my boot. 
“Use this,” the man said handing down a walking stick. I gripped the stick, and I used it to pinch the end of the lace against the surface of the rock, and I dragged it carefully along. It took at least twenty minutes of careful manipulations, but once they were freed from the hooks that held them around my ankle, I felt the tension on my foot release. 
“I think I’ve got it,” I called, handing up the stick and with that, the man pulled me up out of what I had presumed would be my coffin. 
“I can’t thank you enough,” I said giving him a hearty pat upon the back. 
“I’m glad I could help,” he said pointing down the corridor, back the way I had come hours before. I tried to make out his features, but each time the light blinded me, so I turned my attention to what was ahead of me for fear of another mishap. The man didn’t initiate any conversation. He didn’t give his name or ask what I was doing there. He didn’t explain why he was wandering around in a cave, and I sensed that I shouldn’t ask. I tried to make small talk, but he just nodded, so I prattled on about how grateful I was and about my family, and the girl whom I was seeing all the way to the mouth of the cave.  
“There you are Albert,” he said, handing me a flashlight. “Now you are back where you began.”  
It was well into the evening and quite dark, and I was grateful for the flashlight. I flicked it on and looked out towards the hill I had made my way down that morning. It was the most glorious sight. I turned to express my gratitude one last time, but he was gone. There wasn’t a sign of him anywhere.   
“Where did you go?” I called out, but only my echo answered. The hairs on the back of my neck stood at attention, and I shoved it out of my mind, as I went racing up the hill. My one foot ached from walking in only a sock, but adrenaline propelled me forward. I burst into the front door of my parent’s home, and my mother dove on me kissing my face. A policeman stood up to greet me and then excused himself to call off the gathering of a search party.  I sat down the flashlight and hugged my mother tight. I launched into an explanation of my ordeal and how I had been rescued by the mysterious stranger. 
“I shouldnever have asked you to go,” my father choked out as I walked into his room. I sat upon his sick bed and put my arms around him and wept.  I went to sleep a grateful man. It wasn’t until the next morning that I noticed it. I came down the stairs for breakfast, and I glimpsed the flashlight on the table and picked it up to examine it in the daylight. There on the side, scribbled in his familiar penmanship, were the words, ‘Property of Edgar Stalling’. This was my brother’s flashlight. The same one he must have entered the cave with three years prior. A tightness wrapped around my heart as the realization crept down my spine. The question of my brother’s fate was answered.  My father could go to his grave in peace.

Hiring An Editor

Those of you who know me, know that I am a big fan of The Story Grid podcast with Shawn Coyne and Tim Grahl.  I like to listen to them in the car because I feel like I’m doing something productive with my commute time.  I soak up every word Shawn says as he doles out sagely advice to novice writer Tim and I feel all of Tim’s pain and frustration along with him. 

One of the points that Shawn likes to drive home is how important it is to know your genre.  He even named his company Genre Management, Inc.  The man is that serious about it.  He preaches frequently about knowing your genre and all of its conventions so I did my homework.  At least I thought I did.  I thought that I was writing a humorous memoir.  People kept comparing me to Erma Bombeck so I read up on some of her stuff.

Imagine my surprise when my Editor came back and said the following:

Overview
This is a fun, engaging self-help style book. It’s humorous and the writing voice and style work well for it. I greatly enjoyed reading it.

When I first read this, I am ashamed to admit that I was scratching my head.  Did she Just say self help?

How did I write a self help book and not know it?  It was hard news to swallow at first, but I paid for Katie’s advice and I decided I was going to use it and I’m so glad that I did.  The manuscript turned into so much more under Katie’s direction.   Also, for the first time in my life I got to write, “The end” on something longer than a short story.

Here is the most important piece of advice that I can give you.  Don’t wait until you are 100% done to start looking for advice.  You can spend years tinkering away on something and adding the occasional spit and polish and still not know if what you are doing is any good.   Puppy Love was not near complete when I sent it to Katie.  I was still fuzzy even on how to end the thing.  It wasn’t even complete. 

By hiring Katie, I not only got great advice from a professional, I also got the push of a deadline hanging over my head.   Editors have a schedule.   You pay a deposit to hold your spot in that schedule.   That means you have to have it ready to go when the time comes.

I have always done my best work with a deadline looming.  My best papers in college were written the night before the paper was due.   Having that deadline forces you to finish and you are so focused on it, you finally ignore the voice in your head that says your writing complete crap.  There’s also something to be said for the subtle change that takes place in your mind.  Hiring an editor makes you feel like a professional, so you sit your butt in the chair and work like one.

In closing, I totally advise hiring an editor if you take your writing future seriously.  It has been an amazing experience for me.  Do your homework first and choose an editor that meets your needs and be sure that you know what kind of editing you are looking for.  There are different kinds and levels of editing.  I got Katie’s name off of Joanna Penn’s website at thecreativepenn.com.

If you are interested in giving my editor a try, her name is Katie McCoach.  Her website is katiemccoach.com.  She is a freelance editor based in Los Angeles.

I hope that you found this helpful.  Don’t forget to sign up for the drawing I’m having at the end of March for a free copy of “You are a Badass” by Jen Sincero.  It’s an awesome read and I think you’ll love it.  Happy writing!