About Moxie Girl Musings

Moxie Girl Musings is about starting over from square one after tragedy impacted my young family. It's filled with stories of triumph, struggle, snafus, hopes, and dreams. Sometimes there will be features from other writers that I like and every so often I'll include an original short story, but normally I simply write what's on my mind at the time. Welcome to my unfiltered true-life story as I figure out this thing called life. http://www.amberleaeaston.com

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The story behind it

Maybe I'm weird, but, if I am, I'm cool with that.  A few years ago, I had a family member pounding on his chest asking why I didn't care more about money because I'm satisfied living a low key life and being a writer despite being the sole support of my family.  I suppose the trappings of a lavish lifestyle would satisfy others that I was taking care of things "better", I don't know---but, to me, that would mean sacrificing time with my kids who are only a few years away from college.  

The truth is...I'm not materialistic. I used to be, I can admit that.  I used to care about keeping up "appearances", but now I could care less.  I'm done with living my life according to someone else's standards.  I'm more interested in the story behind things that I own--the ring I bought in the Dominican Republic that I witnessed being crafted, the necklace that I bought in Cabo San Lucas on a girls' trip, the recycled vinyl purses I like because they're cool while simultaneously being good for the earth, this small cabin I live in where I've raised my children, or the faux fur coat of my Grandmother's that I wear because it's gorgeous and makes me feel wrapped in her love.  

When asked if my grandmother's coat is "real", I always ask why they want to know.  What does it matter?  It's gorgeous and warm.  It also has a story behind it.  My grandmother needed to work at a candy factory when things got hard for her family.  My grandfather and her, along with their four children, lived on a farm. Sometimes life wasn't easy.  She worked at the candy factory for extra money to make ends meet, but bought this coat as her "one nice thing".  I'm sure it was extravagant back in the day...and I'm also confident that no one asked her if it was real.  Now it's mine and, when I wear it, I remember how valuable it was to her, what it meant and feel beautiful in it because of the story.  

Too many people are caught up with "money".  Yes, it's essential in life, but it doesn't make someone better than another...or less than.  It is a thing, a way of exchange, a partner in our lives.  Do we need it?  Of course, I'm not stupid.  Do I enjoy earning it?  Yes, however, I'm not ruled by it.  

This Christmas I gave gifts with thought and some humor behind them, truly took time to think about what would be right for the person rather than what would be impressive.  It was perfect.  We had fun!  Santa gave me a flask, which I'll admit was the PERFECT gift!  (Guess who Santa is in my house?) 

To me, life is about experiences and stories.  Maybe I'm strange, I don't know.  Perhaps this is why I'm a writer rather than a CEO.  Whatever the reasoning, I am how I am.  I care more about the thought behind something, the story that comes along with a piece of art, the humor in the every day and the relationships in my life than the value of a thing.    

I don't see labels; I see people.  I'm bothered by those who are blind to the latter.  

Money comes...and it goes.  Stories remain.  



Sunday, November 18, 2012

Forget the why of it all

I've grown to dread the "why" question.  In the past few weeks, a close family member has been diagnosed with a brain tumor, a few friends of mine made inaccurate assumptions that caused permanent damage in a relationship while another friend's son threatened suicide with a knife and was put into a 72 hour psych hold.  In all cases, I hear the question...why?  

While discussing the suicide threat, attention was turned to me asking why Sean chose the option of ending his life.  The truth is...I don't know.  I will never know what was going on inside his mind at that specific time.  My friend cannot know what was going on inside her son's mind either.  That's why the why question is a tricky one, especially when directed at a survivor of suicide, as if we somehow have inside information and veils the subtle suggestion that we didn't care enough to stop it.

As a society, we like to assign blame.  I was Sean's wife so why don't I know "the why" of it all?  My friend is her son's mother so why doesn't she know "the why"?  As a wife...or a mother...aren't we responsible for our loved one's every thought and action?  No.  Still people ask the why question...and wait with expectation for an answer that we don't have.

When my very close family member is diagnosed with a brain tumor and asks why--why her when she's energetic, cares about her health and tries to live life by the rules?  Why a brain tumor?  Why now when life is unfolding in exciting ways?---there is no answer that will give solace.

When people make assumptions that are wrong but have already acted on those assumptions creating a permanent rift...it's easy to ask why...why were they quick to act rather than ask...why were they quick to assume rather than give the benefit of the doubt?  Why?

Here's the trick with the why question:  when it comes to human behavior, it's impossible to answer why people do what they do.  Psychiatrists have theories based on research, sure, but even they can only make an educated guess.  We layman--normal people--can't and shouldn't make those same assertions (although gossip mongers enjoy trying, I know).  We as human beings have free will.  No matter the dynamic of our outside relationships, it all comes down to individual choice.  Or, in the case of the brain tumor, a situation outside of our control.  All we can ever control is our own reactions to and thoughts about the situation.  Asking why is pointless and only fuels an already troubling situation with emotion.

I will never know why Sean committed suicide.  The why question used to bring about waves of regret (for not knowing), guilt (for not knowing) and anger (for not knowing).  Now, seven years later, I shrug it off because I will never know that answer and, quite frankly, am sick of being asked the question.  Only Sean knows.  Just like with my friend's son, I heard people asking her right away, before she could even fully process what had happened, WHY...why would he do that, people asked her, why is he unhappy.  Believe me, if she knew, she'd do something about it...but we don't know why someone else makes an individual choice or what thoughts are spinning in their minds behind the facade of a smile.

In all situations, all we can do is take full responsibility for own reactions and actions.  Oh, how I detest the why question.  As a journalist, I'm guilty of asking why a lot.  Now I make sure I only use it when I know there's an answer.  You see, there's not always an answer.  Sometimes we simply need to roll with the uncertainty, the not knowing, the acceptance that there are things in life beyond our control and stop torturing ourselves with "the why" of it all.

Instead ask...what can I do to help? That's a good place to start anyway.  Or say nothing and simply be there to listen.  Even better.


Friday, November 9, 2012

To speak or not to speak, this is the question


As an American, I love our freedom to express ourselves openly.  I love that we have comedians who make fun of the president or whomever without fear of persecution.  I celebrate the idea that I can vote for one guy while my neighbor votes for someone else yet we're friends at the end of the day.  I appreciate the diversity we have in the United States of America.  I'm stimulated at the sharing of ideas and different view points; in fact, many of my closest friends have an alternate political ideology than myself and we have amazing conversations.  

But lately one of our freedoms here in the United States is being misused as an excuse to abuse and threaten...freedom of speech.  You see, that concept only works when respect is present and hate is absent.

Remember when we were growing up and were taught about bullying?  Remember when we were taught manners?  Remember when we were taught to respect other people's opinions?  I do.  I remember being taught by my grandmother not to say anything I'd regret because you can't take the words back.  I clearly remember my mother telling me, "if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all."  

Oh, but isn't that infringing on my freedom of speech?!  

When your speech causes others to be afraid, to feel threatened, to feel put down or made fun of, are you truly being the best human being you can be?  Just because you have the right to tell me that I'm a terrorist for supporting the President of the United States and threaten to stone me in the street...should you really say that?  Just because you have the right to spread lies...should you?  And for those Christians out there who joke about assassinations...would Jesus approve?  (For the record, I, too, am a Christian and I don't think he would.)

As a writer, I appreciate my rights to create what I choose, to write this blog, to post stupid pictures on Facebook or sexy quotes on Twitter.  However, as a writer, I also choose my words carefully, respect each one I write and know exactly what it means when I hit "publish" at the end of this post.  I am conscious of the power of my words, the impact.  

On Wednesday morning, I woke up to a barrage of threats against our president, hate directed at myself as a liberal, rants based on misinformation (hello, people, verify your information...ever hear of factcheck.org?), dire predictions of the future of America...why?  Because we'd reelected our president by not only an electoral college majority, but by a popular vote majority as well.  Oh, the horror!  

I exercised my freedom of speech to object to the hatred I see being tossed about, asked for unity and the ceasing of stereotyping.  The result?  I had "it's our freedom of speech" tossed back at me.  Really?  You're going to defend being hateful, misinformed and downright mean? You're going to defend threats of violence against our leaders and your supposed friends because things didn't go your way at the polls?!  Try to spin it as a joke?!  Hate and violence aren't funny.  I doubt that's what the authors of our Constitution had in mind when they wrote the First Amendment.  I doubt they intended to create a nation of bullies.  

There are ways to present your thoughts and ideas in respectful and peaceful ways.  I know because I do it with many people with opposing viewpoints from mine every day--some of whom I'm going to meet for beers later.  

I'm sad to say that people unfriended me over my objection to their hate language.  Apparently, freedom of speech does not extend to me saying, "that's offensive to me, that scares me."  That's the true tragedy in America today. We are a nation divided...and misguided.  

The definition of the First Amendment is as follows as taken from the US Supreme Court:  Freedom of Speech is the political right to communicate one's opinions and ideas without government interference.  The term freedom of expression is sometimes used synonymously.  This includes any act of seeking, receiving and imparting information and ideas, regardless of the medium used. In practice, the right to freedom of speech is not absolute and is subject to limitations, as with libel, slander, obscenity, sedition (for example, inciting violence or ethnic hatred), copyright violation, revelation of information that is classified or a threat to national security.  

Please note the sedition exemption--inciting violence and hatred.  If this country ever has a chance of unifying, people need to get a grip, take personal responsibility for what they say (or write), educate themselves with facts rather than fiction, and start appreciating rather than hating differences.  

Just exercising my right to freedom of speech and expression in the hopes of bringing peace, understanding and acceptance to my small corner of the world.  However, because this blog is my domain, I operate it like a dictatorship and will delete any comments that spew the very thing I'm writing against. Thank you...may you blessed with joy and peace today.  



Saturday, November 3, 2012

I drive myself craaaaazzzzyyy!

My therapist--yes, I admit I've gone to therapy, figured it was better than eventual rehab--told me once that if I think I'm crazy, I'm not.  She said that insane people never question their sanity.  Well...whatever.  I drive myself nuts!

Over and over again I encounter the same obstacles that have been standing in my way for years.  It's like I'm in a distorted version of that movie, Groundhog Day, and simply can't figure out how to break the cycle of inertia.

Now that you're completely confused as to what the hell I'm talking about, let me break it down for you.

Despite my outward appearance of fierce warrior goddess (uh-hem), I'm often wracked with insecurity and mistrust.  You see, here's a secret...even the fiercest of warrior goddesses have scars.  Because of the scars, I am probably more sensitive than I should be.  Yes, warriors are often big softies beneath the shields.

It's easy to say that I don't care what people think, but that's a lie.  I do care.  No, I don't let opinions stop me from writing what I want or essentially doing what I want. That's true.  Instead, I do something more destructive and allow those emotions to build walls around me to keep people out.  Up goes the shield, I stand a bit taller, chin up, smile in place, move forward, defenses on alert--full warrior goddess mode in tact.

Walls may be good in buildings, but not in hearts. I advocate taking risks--look what I do for a living! Writers are gamblers, whether we want to call ourselves that or not. I risk rejection every day professionally and deal with it as if it's nothing--because it's not personal.  When it comes to risking my heart...well, that's when the fear bubbles up.

Like with the dating thing, I honestly just want to have fun after all the drama I've experienced so when it becomes complicated from the get go, I wonder if my desire to back off is legitimate or a remembered ache from the scars.  I hear the whisper...protect yourself, protect your heart...but what's doing the whispering?  Instinct or fear?  Am I looking for trouble instead of going with the flow?  Maybe.

Broken hearts never return to their innocence.  There's scar tissue there that needs to be acknowledged as we move forward.  But that's the problem--the scar tissue is hard, ugly and mars perceptions.  Doubts subtly snake around decisions, fracturing certainty.

I'm too old to date, too damaged to ever be desirable...that's why he's aloof, doubt whispers.

Were the naysayers right to question my career choice? I should have pursued something more stable after Sean died, doubt mocks.

You can't take care of the house in the mountains, you should have moved years ago when the kids were younger. You're such a disappointment, doubt says.

You're too intense, too MUCH to handle, doubt laughs.

They want you to fail, don't let them see you weak, doubt advises.

Over and over again...the same questions, the same struggles.  I drive myself craaaaaazzzyyy with all this!  I know it.  But here's the thing about being alone...at the end of the day, it's just you and your history sharing the silence together and sometimes that history is loud.

Long ago, I learned not to create stories about a situation, to take things at face value, and that I can only control myself.  I get that on every level, I do, and I can often adhere to that...until it comes to the really personal stuff like relationships (dating, friendships, family).

But I carry on--usually happy with my shield up and smile in place.  That's what we do, we warrior goddesses.  But that gets lonely...begins feeling fake after awhile...feeds the doubt.  Above all else, I want to be whole and authentic...so I drop the shield.

I can easily toss off a comment like "mov'n on, staying positive", but when the house is quiet and I'm all alone, the stories come mixed with doubt and remembered heartbreak and all I can do is roll in the emotion that consumes me.  And I wonder...will it ever end?  Will there ever be peace?  Will there ever be love again?  Will there ever be lasting rather than fleeting joy?  Will I ever be accepted "as is" rather than what I used to be, should be or could be?

Will I ever stop over-thinking every damn thing?!

Yep, crazy is as crazy does.  Didn't Forrest Gump say that?


Monday, October 8, 2012

Tainted

Just when I start thinking I've redefined my life--shaken off the shroud of widowhood--I'm reminded that I'm tainted more than I believed.  Perhaps there's a stain on my skin that I can't see.

As I've stated a few blog posts ago, I'm dating MoU (my code name for him).  Things have been going great, he's smart, successful, fun and lovable.  I really, really like him.  The date before last, though, he said that "this is a lot to take on".  I didn't know what he meant.  I'm a very independent woman, don't ask anyone for much of anything EVER.  I blew it off, thinking perhaps he meant my teenagers, but then again, it's never been a secret that I have kids.  Then Friday night, after another fun evening together and while kissing me goodnight, he says abruptly that he's still working out if I'm right for him--after telling me not too long ago that I was perfect for him, that we were incredibly in sync (which we are for the most part).  Mixed signals galore.  Then it made sense--it's the suicide thing, the widow thing, the only parent thing, and, oh, yes, my age (even though he's older than me it has come up because he may want a baby of his own and I'm "old" at 44).  Basically, the "a lot to take on" is the stain I carry of having a husband who took his own life and children who will forever be haunted by that decision.  The "a lot to take on" is my life.  It's who I am.  It's also who he knew I was before date one ever happened.

I hear it a lot--people raising eyebrows over Sean's death, the comments about how I mustn't have been a good wife to not see "the signs", the former friends who suddenly stopped calling after he died and who avert their eyes when they see me now.  I've grown accustomed to it, actually.  I can testify that certain types of pain begin to feel normal after awhile.

I guess I thought that once I "proved" to people that I could be successful (two published novels and a third in the cue) and raised two kids who are both honor students, athletes and good citizens of the world, that somehow the stain would disappear, that people would start seeing me for ME.  I'd hoped that I could move beyond it all, celebrate my life and find someone who would enjoy this new normal with me.

But maybe that's too much to hope for.  My life is messy.  I have teenagers who know how to throw tantrums, deadlines always looming, a budget that seems tight most of the time, a house that seems to be in constant need of something, and, yes, a dead husband who will always somehow be a part of our lives whether I want that or not.  On the flip side, I'm very fun, cute, smart, adventurous, successful, creative, sensitive and loving. I've been told I look great for my "age" (geez, you'd think I was 80 or something!) I am all of these things, but so much more.

I never wanted Sean's death to define me or the kids.  I now see that was idealistic of me.  I am defined by it and so are the kids.  The kids have some anger over it and I'm the living parent who is the perfect scapegoat for them to lash out on at times.  Despite their normalcy and successes, they will forever miss the father they barely remember.

And that's what I'm writing about--tragedy has permeated our lives despite all that we've done and how far we've come. It's shaped us, changed how we perceive the world, deepened our compassion for others and strengthened us as a family.  When I said I refused to let it define me, I wasn't realistic at all. Redefinition of who I am as human being was inevitable.  I'm not "stuck"--perhaps that was the true fear I had, being stuck in that hellish time--instead I've been molded.  There's a difference.

I like to think of myself as low maintenance, easy going, fun and uncomplicated.  For the most part, I think I am.  But underneath the laughter is a depth that is simply who I am.  Beneath the smile is a complex person.  And, perhaps my life is tainted by a major life event that happened seven years ago.  I can't change that.  I've moved forward and overcome so much, I'm actually proud of where and who I am now.

At this advanced age of a woman in her mid-forties (ridiculous), of course I have a past.  Anyone who is my age who doesn't have a past or come with some battle wounds is highly suspect in my mind!  Does this mean, though, that I'm really "a lot to take on"?  I prefer thinking of myself--and the kids--as assets rather than liabilities.

As Tom Petty sings in his song, Square One, "it took a world of trouble, it took world of tears, it took a long time to get back here."  That's how I feel.  I am finally, after so much pain and darkness, embracing life again.  Is it so much to ask for to have someone who wants to celebrate that with me?

http://youtu.be/qe2JmhjeQBY

Friday, October 5, 2012

Interviewing the brilliant author Byron Suggs today

Author Byron Suggs
Today I have the great pleasure of interviewing a fascinating man and author, Byron Suggs.  Enjoy!

Thank you, Byron, for taking the time to stop by Moxie Girl Musings today.  I really appreciate your time.  Can you tell us a little bit about your newest release?

Thanks for having me, Amber. Rockapocalypse is not your casual fare as far as books go. I believe a good tale should take you on an exhilarating adventure and leave you a bit more enchanted after you turn the last page. That’s what I tried to do with Rockapocalypse. It’s about a boy, Peter Travers, whose born into the world with a divine connection to a young man that leaves the world in a sudden a tragic way. What ensues is a fifty-two year tale that weaves the past and present until good and evil clash for the prize. In a nutshell, I would say Rockapocalypse is simply a book about the possibilities of the impossible, the timeless magic of music, the unbreakable bonds of friendship, and Faith. 

What inspired this novel in particular?

My childhood. I didn’t realize it at the time, not the way someone realizes something is better than expected, but as I grew older, more mature, I began to see just how precious those years in the 60’s and 70’ were to me and how genuinely fantastic they were in terms of cultural revolution and growth of the collective mind.

Who is your favorite character in this novel and why?

Now, that’s not fair, Amber. Every author know that once you’ve spent an enormous amount of time with your characters, they all hold a special place in your heart. However, since you put me on the spot, Peter Travers  was the impetus for the entire story and I probably relate to him more than the others. 

What comes first--characters or plot ideas?

Characters. Strong plots are essential, but interesting characters carry the plot. Readers have to bond with the characters in some fashion to really get into a book. 

How many books have you written?

For the record, two: Rockapocalypse: Disharmony of Justice and Cold Currents a literary mystery thriller. Cold Currents is on submission to four big publishers via my agent, Joyce Holland at D4EO Literary. I’ve written others in the past, but they were awful and I won’t discuss them. (frowns)

What is your favorite aspect about being a novelist?

The joy of “escapes”. When I’m buried in a project, my mind constantly wanders across the landscape of the story I’m building in my head. To others I may seem addle-headed, but I’m simply taking my character down different roads. That one escape. The other is being in the head of my protagonist, or main character. I had a blast building, tearing down, and re-building Peter Travers over the course of writing Rockapocalypse. In Cold Currents, it was a crazy ride with Bobby Taylor, absolutely crazy, but a blast all the same. 

What inspires you as an author?

People. The way they deal with the world. The depth, and unfortunately, the shallowness of humans. I find their resilience, emotional strengths and weaknesses, compassion and cruelty fascinating. People are the world as we know it. Existing gives us purpose. Purpose drives the human spirit, whatever direction that may take.   

What draws you to this particular genre?

I have no particular genre. I say that because my two novels are totally different. At this point I’m not sure I want to be locked down, or associated with a specific genre. But time will tell. My next novel, Bone Whispers will be a follow-up to Cold Currents. Maybe the thriller genre will be my label at some point in the future.

Are there any other genres you can see yourself writing and why/why not?

Maybe Horror. That’s a funny looking word, isn’t it? Anyway, I’ve always wanted to write horror but that’s a tough one to do. Really hard to pull off. 

What's your typical writing routine like?

I guess I’m not you typical writer. I don’t follow a lot of the “rules” most writers endorse. For example, most writers set specific word count goals every day. I set a general word count I’d like to reach but I don’t force it. The flow of the story sets the word count for me. I don’t believe in writing junk for the sake of writing. My second novel took about seven months to write. My daily word count fluctuated from 700-1800 words a day. In the end, there were no major revisions, no massive cuts of irrelevant story. The manuscript I have on submission right now is basically the first draft, with the exception of an intense line edit.

To you, what's the most challenging aspect of being a published novelist and why?

Marketing. It’s tough out there and getting tougher. Small publishers don’t have the budgets to do very much. I’m not sure what we would do without the internet and social media. It’s a little better with the major publishing houses, but not by much. I spend far more time marketing my book that I’d like. What I do like, though, is face-to-face events where I can talk to fans and potential readers. Where is that time machine when you need it? And cloning? I need two of me, at least! 

Tell us 5 little known facts about yourself. 

  1. I hate garden hoses, heavy duty power cords, and rolls of tape. Most men will understand.
  2. I cannot open any kind of package according to the directions. It’s a conspiracy, me thinks.
  3. I favor dogs over cats. 
  4. I like to eat melon with a pocketknife (it’s a long story.) 
  5. I like a droning noise present when I sleep: fan, A/C, etc., but in my waking hours such noises drive me insane. Maybe I am insane.


Book blurb of Rockapocalypse

1974

It started out as a typical summer in a small southern town for 15-yr old Pete Travers and his friends, until the real rock stars showed up.

Real dead that is.

When bizarre occurrences, unexplained disappearances, and outpourings of prejudice become frequent in Harper’s Mill, the four friends discover they’ve been destined for a gig far more challenging than anything they ever imagined. The rockers join forces with the four teens to rid the town of a hatred so intense, it has bred its own evil in the most unlikely of places. But will they succeed?


2011

Thirty-seven years later, record industry mogul Peter Travers lies in a coma as the result of a horrific auto accident.  As he teeters between life and death, he relives the life-changing events from the past in his mind. When his friends reunite to stand watch and offer their support, they realize Peter's auto crash was no accident. They also discover that the powers that saved them all those years ago have returned. But the question that burns in their hearts is: Why?

The power of music’s timeless message, the bonds of friendship, and a gift from God culminate in a cataclysmic battle that reaches to the gates of heaven. Is their faith strong enough to protect Peter and his family from the evil force that struggles to claim what he deems rightfully his - Peter's very soul?


An excerpt of Rockapocolypse 

Chapter Twenty-Three
2011 

     They were all in the kitchen finishing their breakfast when Margie came down. Millie and Peter Jr. were rinsing the dishes and putting things away. 
“Everybody ready?” she asked with a smile, trying to keep their spirits up, not to mention her own. Nods and gestures were given as a yes. “Good. We’ll take the van, ride together, if nobody minds. Millie, Peter…just leave those.” 
Everyone grabbed their personal effects and followed Margie out to the van. Black clouds were building off to the east as they all stepped to the edge of the drive. 
“Looks like we’re in for a pretty bad one,” Bill said, gazing off in that direction. Clarice put her arm in his and pulled herself closer against him. 
Arlo was grabbing a jacket from his car when Bill spoke. Now he stood there, jacket in hand, looking at Margie with her hand on the van’s door handle. Martin and Percy shared a glance. The kids were buried in their smartphones. 
“What?” Bill asked, confused by the reaction to his words. 
Arlo closed his car door and walked over to Margie. “Do you think it…?”
“I don’t know.” She shook her head, released the door handle. “After all this time, who knows?”
Martin and Percy walked up, both glancing back at the clouds that were moving too fast now in their direction.
“I say we give it a try.” Martin locked eyes with Margie, nodded, then looked at the others. 
“I’m in,” Percy said, raising his eyes upward. “God, please forgive me if this is against your word.” He grabbed Martin’s hand.
Martin grabbed Margie’s and she grabbed Arlo’s. Arlo and Percy hesitated a moment, looking down at their hands. 
“It’s the right thing to do, Percy,” Arlo said. He reached for Percy’s hand and took it gently into his own.
Four stood in a circle, and four stood back. The wind howled ahead of the storm front, trees began to sway as droplets of water struck their skin and clothes. Arlo was the first to look down, and then the others followed his lead. The grass swayed and bent, one way, then the other, until it formed a concentric circle and turned fluid, blurring as it rotated between their feet.
     The bottom dropped out.

Chapter Twenty-Four
Peter
     There are only two dancing lights now. Two that will merge as one…and they’re almost upon me. The sentinels are almost here, too. Friend or foe, I feel their essence, their being, emanating from those orbs, cautiously probing the thing that is me. I feel like injured prey, stricken and left for dead on the roadside, a black, hot sun bearing down. Scavengers circling above, more crouched in the bushes, inching ever closer. 
I don’t have the fight I had when I was younger. The years of a good life have softened me and I find myself on a strange, dark battlefield, unarmed and disoriented. I can only turn my thoughts to God now, and pray he’ll change my fate. 
And if he won’t do that, I can only hope he’ll give me my dignity, give me the same courage I had then, when the world was still a place of heroes and hope. Give me the strength and determination I had that day…. 
#
We rode single file up Open Bridge Road. Nobody spoke, but nobody had to because we all knew what the other was thinking. Fang had disappeared from my periphery, going off to be a dog. I’d hoped he would be there with me, but maybe he sensed just how bad things would probably get. I hoped not. Dark clouds moved low now with a fury, wind pushing at our backs. The rain continued to pelt us like metal tacks and we were soaked to the bone, Percy bringing up the rear because his glasses were smeared with moisture. Lightning was all around us. I thought of how crazy it must look to anyone who saw us out here running around in it.
I was guessing we had about a half mile to the pond when I heard sirens approaching behind us. I stopped my bike and looked back, bringing the others to a halt. Two state troopers barreled down on us and we shuffled into the grass and weeds off the side of the road to get out of their way. They blew by us in a roar, sending another gust of air and a fine mist across us that nearly toppled me and Margie into the ditch.
“Look!” yelled Martin. He pointed off in the distance and we all turned at once. Two helicopters were coming in low from the west. My heartbeat quickened. Suddenly it seemed it was all coming a little too fast for me.

Book trailer: http://youtu.be/f1HhDosXkX4

Author Bio and contact information:   Primarily a writer of southern fiction, Byron's first novel, "Rockapocalypse: Disharmony of Justice", is a tale of youthful dreams, adult peril, and Divine intervention by a few deceased rock icons. His second novel, Cold Currents, a southern literary mystery/thriller, is in the hands of his agent. He is currently working on his third novel, Bone Whispers, (a follow-up to Cold Currents), and a collection of short stories for future publication. 


His short works of fiction have appeared in publications such as Aries: A Journal of Arts and Literature and Black Heart Magazine (e-zine).

A child of the sixties, his first viewing of The Wizard of Oz shaped his outlook of the world and erased any boundaries that could have stunted his imagination. He believes that a good tale should take you on an exhilarating adventure and leave you a bit more enchanted after you turn the last page.

*Byron is represented by D4EO Literary.

Where books can be purchased:





Amazon (short URL): http://tinyurl.com/8j95ums


Barnes and Noble.com: Coming Soon!

Other Social Outlets:








Sunday, September 9, 2012

Inviting that first date home? Don't! --A funny follow up to my "here we go again post" from author Neil Chapman

Author Neil Chapman
Inviting that first date home?  Don't!
by Author Neil Chapman

(a funny follow-up to my "Here We Go Again" Post from Author Neil Chapman--now I don't feel so alone! Yay!) 

       So the Thursday night date had gone well. She was intelligent, funny, had a high- powered job, and she was athletically attractive. She was a widow too. Put it all together and for some curious reason, being a man, that usually works for me.  The only slight  ‘complication’ was the dead husband. Apparently he’d had some serious London gangland connections, which unbelievably (?) had only come to light after his death. She described his funeral as like something out of ‘The Sopranos’ and a couple of them had told her “ Don’t worry babe, you’re still ‘family’. Any one gives you problems, we’ll take care of it.” 
      As we said goodnight I said I’d ring her. And I meant it.
      Imagine my surprise when she rang me at 10pm the following night and told me that she was in her car, lost, just up the road somewhere, and perhaps I could pick her up? Eh?
       Now I’m not what you might call the perfect gentleman but I’d seen enough Cary Grant films to know what to do.  As I walked out of the house towards the drive, there she was! Parked behind my car… waving at me. Oh dear.
      I opened her car door and as she stepped out, she fell. It was an awkward fall not helped by the fact that she was clutching a half-opened bottle of brandy that she somehow managed to preserve without spilling a drop. I told you she was athletic didn’t I?
       It took the best part of 10 minutes to get her into the house, a full 15 yards away. The journey was interrupted regularly as she tottered, kept falling off her heels, clutching onto me, and slurring how much she really, really liked me.
       Am I worried at this point? Yes.
       I guided her indoors into the sitting room and plonked her on the sofa. (Plonk is an English slang word meaning ‘put’… in case you had other ideas?)
       I knew Cary would have suggested a black coffee at this point, so I did, and went off into the kitchen to make it. She had gone very quiet, but was that good thing or a bad thing? It was a bad thing.
         I carried the tray back into the sitting room and there she was. Still where I had sat her, but now she was naked, totally naked, legs akimbo. And asleep, snoring like my dear old granny used to.
       I know I need help but I can’t rely on Cary anymore, this is out of his league, we’re talking obscure Italian porn movie guys here.  But Cary won’t be denied. Spoilsport! So I covered her modesty with a duvet.
       But my problems are only just beginning I reckon. 
       What if her embarrassment, her humiliation, lead her to cry ‘Rape’ when she wakes up?
       Then I remember my daughter was due to pop in any time now. What would she make of her dad and a naked lady stretched out on the family sofa where once upon a time she used to curl up and watch ‘The Muppets’?? She was never a fan of me dating but this was something else indeed. 
        It got worse. What if she called one of her Sopranos?
         I turned the TV back on with the volume up loud. She was now snoring so loudly  I almost didn’t hear my daughter arrive. I’m out of the chair immediately, closing the door behind me and I almost frogmarch her into the kitchen. We chat about stuff and to this day I don’t remember a word that was said, and then I frogmarch back outside to her car. “Whose car is that dad?” 
http://amzn.to/Ns81ee
        “Oh someone broke down outside darling, so I said they could leave it here overnight out of the way.’
Well that was one problem solved. All I had to worry about now was being arrested, a rape trial, or being concreted into the next motorway bridge.
         I didn’t sleep very well.  
        She woke me around 6.30 am. She sat on the edge of my bed and we chatted as if nothing had happened.  Incredible really, not a word about being blind drunk, naked under a duvet, or finding her clothes all neatly stacked up beside her. I can only think it must have been just another Friday night for her.
She kept in touch, She not me. By now I had morphed into Humphrey Bogart and she eventually got the message. I still check underneath my car every morning for bombs, just in case she might have mentioned it to a Soprano, but so far…        
        So dearest Amber, with regard to your “Here we go again’ post, please don’t worry about the state of the house, whether the scatter cushions are neatly arranged, none of that stuff. Things could be worse. A lot worse.

Neil Chapman
Author.
‘A few days up North’
Amazon Kindle UK

Want more of Neil's humor?  Follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/NeilSChapman 

More about Author Neil Chapman:

A working class Grammar School boy, Neil was taken out of school early and pitched into work to help support his family, following his father's illness. That's what you did in those days.
An interesting few years followed.
Neil became a semi-professional footballer with two international youth caps, and then morphed into a croupier at a local Strip Club-come-Casino. As you do. A couple of years later, now in his early twenties and after swearing he never wanted to see a naked woman ever again (a feeling that soon passed, strangely), Neil went 'legitimate' and spent a few years building two used-car businesses.
Marriage settled him down a little, and the imminent arrival of the first of his two daughters saw him join a 'blue chip' multi-national company as a salesman. Four years later he was their youngest National Sales Manager ever. Twenty years later, he was their oldest Sales Manager ever, and now managed a large chunk of the marketing department too.
Its the marketing bit that's interesting, because that's where it all started.
Neil found he had a talent for writing and, for a number of years, wrote much of the company's internal and external communications, mail shots etc. and devised and scripted numerous international conferences. Not Man Booker stuff admittedly, but from small acorns...
Almost as soon as he hit fifty years of age, he retired. He wanted to write. Full time.
He reckoned that if you want to do something you love, you have to do it properly.
To date, he has finished his novel, 'A few days up North', and he has also adapted it into a three part TV serial and written a film screenplay based on the story. You can tell he likes the story.
So much so, he recently started the sequel, or is it the prequel? Let's wait and see.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Here we go again...

Alright, people.  Moxie Girl is back after an extended immersion in my writing cave.  Now that I'm back amongst the living, let me tell you a tale of a date I had last week with a guy I'll call M.U. (not his initials, but it works for keeping his identity safe and secure--Lord only knows, he needs to stay on the down low when hanging out with Moxie.)  

Let me begin by saying that M.U. is what we women would call a "catch".  He's got it all goin' on in the right way--looks, personality, smarts, character...everything.  Purrrrrrrr.....!

Last Thursday we met at the Denver Botanical Gardens.  You have no idea how stressed I was trying to figure out what to wear--mainly the shoe situation because of my bad ankle and then I made a critical last minute move with switching up the purse to bring an umbrella.  (Ladies, you know this is serious stuff!)  We met at the gardens and spent nearly four hours walking, talking and soaking up the scenery.  It sprinkled, I put my hair up in a clip. The sun came out, I put my hair down.  Never once used the umbrella, yet was now stuck with this annoying purse.  But I had a great time.  I really did.

Then we went to a restaurant called Cuba Cuba.  I told myself going in, "Moxie, only have two mojitos--two maximum."  Did I listen? Of course not. I went for number three.  Yeah, not a good decision when my nerves were jumping and I'd been walking all day generating a thirst.  I sucked down number three and then heard him say, "you're slurring your words."  Lovely impression, right?  He actually cut me off!  Ha!  As an independent woman, this at first annoyed me, yet at the same time, I really didn't need another mojito when I was trying to converse so...what the hell.  Loved the restaurant, had a great time, enjoyed the mojitos (obviously) and the company couldn't have been better.

We went strolling around downtown Denver, enjoyed people watching and generally laughed a lot.  Sounds like it's all going perfectly, right?

Well, he then drove me back to the gardens where I'd left my car.  Umm...problem time.  The parking ramp had been locked up--yep, with my car inside.  No way in, no way out.  I live SW of Denver in the mountains, he lives a few hours north of the city.  In other words, PROBLEM.

Being Mr. Nice Guy, M.U. said he'd drive me home and sleep on the sofa so he could drive me back to my car in the morning.  Very nice of him--sounds like a good plan--but my house was the extreme definition of disaster.

Before leaving that day, I'd said to myself, "I need to take a day just to get this place back in shape."  Too much working and running around has pushed cleaning down my priority list.  That plus two teenagers in the house is a recipe for disaster.

And disaster is what happened.  On the way up the mountain, I text my daughter to clean up a bit but she's not cooperative and it's a school night so "NO WAY".  Here's an image:  dishes in the sink, mail on the table, loose tile I'd been meaning to fix in the entry way, laundry piled up EVERYWHERE, dust layering the wine bottles, dust bunnies on the floor, dog hair on the steps---DISASTER.  This isn't exactly the way I wanted M.U. to see my house for the first time.  So then I'm a nervous wreck trying to clean without him "noticing".  Yeah, right.  Impossible task.

So I try to distract him by taking him into the backyard for a minute.  Well, the dogs start going crazy because THE BEAR IS IN THE YARD.  So we're forced back inside the pit.

Making matters worse?  Dog pees on the carpet.  Yep, the night is topped off by the smell of urine wafting through the air.  Lovely.

The next morning the two teens are loud about asking me who the guy on the sofa is downstairs and interrogating me about how I could possibly have gotten the car locked in a parking ramp. He got a good taste of my "real life",  in other words.

Then he drives me back to the Botanical Gardens and actually talked about "next time".  Really?  On top of that, I've actually heard from him since.  I'm a little shocked.

So here I go once again stumbling around in the dating world as a 44 year old widowed mom of two, making mistakes, far from perfect, but always interesting.  I'm hoping the "next time" goes more smoothly.  Cross your fingers for me.  (Maybe I should have gone for that fourth mojito!) 

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

I'm not the jerk whisperer


I have the above sign hanging next to my desk.  Why?  Because I occasionally try to reason with morons and it's a habit I'm trying to break.  As with all habits, this one requires constant monitoring on my part.

Here's a confession:  I try to be nice to everyone.  I've always been told that you should treat other people the way you want to be treated.  So I go out and put up with all sorts of boundary violating, snotty types who tromp all over my good intentions with their negative energy.  It's got to stop.  Seriously.

I'm on a jerk-elimaniting diet---a cleanse of sorts.

I have frienemies, that's for sure.  As I succeed, they're the ones who comment that I'll become a narcissist if I promote myself.  (Although I believe the point of any career is to make money and support your family, right? Am I wrong on that?)  They're the ones who mock my positive attitude and yoga/Pilates mentality despite the fact that it's good for me to feel healthy both mentally and physically.  They're the ones who always have a snide comment for every positive thing that happens in my life.  They're the ones who smile as they try to make my accomplishments "less than."

Why don't I cut them out of my life you ask?  Because I'm the Queen of Second Chances and the Princess of Benefit of the Doubt.  Because I like to see the good in people and am loyal to a fault.  All of these frienemies are people who've been in my life for years, who've seen me struggle, who've witnessed my tears and who I always thought would celebrate my success with me, too.  Why did I think that?  Because it's what I would do and, like I said before, I've always lived according to the "treat people how you want to be treated" motto.

But I'm getting better.  The cleanse is working.  I'm starting to think I'll be completely alone when it's all said done, but that's a risk I'm willing to take for peace of mind.  Or maybe I'll be ridding myself of the people who bring me down so I can make room for positive people who will bring joy to my life.  That's what I'm hoping--the latter.  I saw a quote recently, although I won't remember it exactly, that said "only surround yourself with people who recognize the greatness within you and lift you higher"...or something to that effect.

Now my frienemies will read this--although they'll deny it by making it a point to say something about how irrelevant blogs are and that they don't have time to read anything I write--and will think I'm being defensive.  (I love how bullies like to throw out the word defensive as soon as their target stands up to them.)  So let me set the record straight:  I'm merely addressing how I feel and stating what I will no longer tolerate.  That's that.  Simple.

I'm not going to be liked by everyone.  In fact, after the last seven years, I've discovered a lot about the fragility of friendships and the superficial nature of some human beings.  There are people who simply enjoy being immersed in drama and don't want me to break free from that.  There are others who haven't succeeded at their dreams--or don't even know what their dreams are anymore--and resent the hell out me for achieving mine.  I don't care.  My only purpose in this lifetime is be true to myself.

There is fall out from this jerk-free diet.  I don't trust many people anymore.  Maybe that's good for the long run--I'll be more choosy about who gets close, more picky about who achieves "inner circle" status.  But I don't want to change my innate nature of "treating people the way I want to be treated." I want to keep that part of me because I enjoy being nice, giving the benefit of the doubt and second chances.  So...I'm implementing the "three strike rule" as a compromise.  Three strikes...you're OUT!


Friday, June 22, 2012

Out and About at the Zoo, an interview with Author Jo Linsdell


Today I'm once again counting my blessings as I interview guest author, Jo Linsdell.  I truly am a lucky lady liv'n the dream and days like this when I'm able to chat with another author make me incredibly grateful.  Please join me in getting to know a bit more about Author Jo Linsdell, an accomplished cross-genre author, Out and About at the Zoo is her first children's book.  


Author Jo Linsdell
With two active children around, how do you find the time to write?  
It's not easy. I write when I can. I make the most of nap times and grab 5 minutes here and there when the kids are playing. Having a play box for the little one to go in was the best €32 I think I ever spent ;) I try to get larger jobs done after the kids are in bed and I'm often up until late. I love what I do though and so I'll always find time for it.
You write on a wide variety of topics and have an impressive collection of work.  Why did you decide to write a children’s book?
Thanks :) Yes I've written a wide variety of genres and like to experiment with my writing. With two young children I was already making up children's stories on a regular basis and and one day my four year old asked me why I hadn't written a story for him. I figured he made a good point. It was also a chance to use my art and design skills as I'm also the illustrator.

Specifically for Out and About at the Zoo, what motivated this particular story?  
Out and About at the Zoo came about because my son told me to write a book for him. He's four years old and full of questions. He's always shown a big interest in my writing and loves to know what I'm doing on the computer. I wrote 'Out and About at the Zoo' using our recent trip to the zoo as inspiration. Like most kids his age, he loves animals and seeing them up close was an amazing experience for him. 
I enjoyed the experience so much I'm already working on my next children's book.

In general, what do you think makes a compelling story?
I think a story needs to have good characters. Whether it's the illustrations in a children's picture book or the leading lady in a romance novel, the reader needs to be able to connect with them in some way. An element that keeps people turning the pages from start to finish. In Out and About at the Zoo it's a questions of what animal the child will see next and what it will be doing. For a novel there should be the same questions of what's going to happen next to keep the reader reading.

When did you first realize you wanted to be an author?
About the time I could hold a pen. I've always loved making up stories and creative writing was one of my favourite lessons at school.

Who were the biggest influences on you as a writer?
I get inspiration from everywhere and don't think I'll ever stop learning about writing, publishing and the writing industry. So far all my books have come about because someone asked me to write them. 
So I guess my biggest influence is my public.
Who are some of your favorite authors?
So many... I love Dean Koontz and Sophie Kinsella but also the classics. I'll read pretty much anything and everything. One of my all time favourites is Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt and I'll never forget reading Anne Franks Diary. It's fair to say that my taste in books to read is as varied as the genres I write.

What do you like to do when you're not writing?
Spend time with my family, read, work out on my wii. Now the summer's here going to the beach is definitely high on my list.

What advice, if any, would you give to a mother of young children?
Cherish every moment you get with your kids and always let them know how much you love them. They grow up so fast!

What advice, if any, do you have for aspiring authors?
It's never too earlier to start marketing. Even before you've finished your first draft you should be building a network and fan base. This might seem a bit strange but the more contacts you can make and followers you have, the easier it will be to market your book when it's ready for release.

Out and About at the Zoo is available at Amazon, AmazonUK, CreateSpace.  To find out more about Jo, check out her website at http://www.jolinsdell.com/id20.html

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The show goes on

May 29, 2012...exactly 7 years since Sean passed away...exactly 7 years since the most horrific night of my life.

I'll never forget cutting him down from where he'd hung himself.  I'll never forget his handsome face distorted in a mockery of life...his gorgeous blue eyes glazed over with death.  I'll never forget the kids screaming for me to save daddy or the police treating my home like a crime scene.  I'll never forget how hard it rained that night or how they wheeled his body through my family room and asked me to say good-bye to him there.  I'll never forget how my young children curled their bodies around me after everyone had left and how I stared at the ceiling in shock.

I've come to accept that I'll never forget those things.  How could I?  That night shaped my life and impacted my children's lives forever.  That night broke me open, tested everything I thought I knew about myself and erased some ideals I'd held for a long time.

Since that night, the kids and I have moved on in spectacular ways.  Those little kids have become amazing young adults who've overcome anxiety issues, nightmares, home schooling for a few years and grief.  When I look at them, I'm blown away by possibility. I've published my novels, kept the house standing and dated a bit.  It's been rocky but we're still here--and it's all looking good.  We've traveled, gone to a lot of hockey games, cheered at Bree's swim meets, watched many of Ben's lacrosse games and created a ton of great memories since then.  We're a tight trio, the kids and me. In fact, I'm in a place in my life that is so ripe with possibility and joy that I sometimes pinch myself to make sure it's real.

But I can't erase those images from my brain.  That one night 7 years ago was so vile that every year when it comes around I feel sick to my stomach.  I see those images in my mind all over again and feel that raw pain in my heart.  I lost the love of my life that night in a terrible way--like a scene from a movie.

I wasn't trained to deal with death like that. I'm not a paramedic or police detective--being up close and personal with death was traumatic for me.  It left a scar.  When I first saw him hanging there, I thought it was some trick of the mind.  I'd never seen anything like that and hope I never do again.  I wouldn't wish that horror upon anyone.  Of course it changed me.  My safe little world where I was a stay-at-home-mom who volunteered with the PTA, freelanced for "fun money" and had a handsome, hard-working, loving husband shattered into a million bits that night. In an instant--life as I'd known it had ended...but I wasn't supposed to crack?

Well, I cracked.  I'm the first to admit that I've gone through some dark times over the past years, perhaps I made poor judgments, lost time to sorrow, acted a bit nutty, shut myself away, became darker, felt lost, came close to losing everything and deepened my spirituality.  All of that is okay--it's normal for the process--yet I was constantly told to snap out of it, be who I used to be, not talk about it, be happy, think positive, "get over it".


Give me a f'n break!  I'm done defending how I feel about Sean, his death, or the hell we went through afterward.  (and believe me, no matter how I look at it, it's been pure hell and I'm often amazed that I'm still standing let alone excelling...it could have easily gone the other way.)  I refuse to justify my actions or decisions of the past few years to anyone--I was acting alone and in the midst of a living nightmare.  I did the best I could in any given instance--usually with zero energy and a massive amount of confusion.  Like I said a few sentences ago...give me a f'n break! 

Every year on the anniversary of his death we hike to wear we scattered his ashes and leave him flowers--not out of a morbid clinging on to the past, but as a memorial to the amazing man he was and how he lived his life.  He is more than his death--he is more than the mistakes he made while living.  He is nature, love, generosity, laughter, love and beauty.  We celebrate that when we hike.  We celebrate how far we've all come.

Yes, it's been 7 years.  I can't believe I just crossed that anniversary.  When I close my eyes, I see it all unfolding in present tense. It's a strange feeling, actually.  Hard to describe.  Time is meaningless when it comes to grief and trauma.  Anyone who judges this process is an ignorant ass.  I actually don't know what I'm more horrified by...his death or the reaction of people around me during the past 7 years.   Perhaps they are equally mortifying.

The show has gone on, as they say.  I'm finally at a place of acceptance, which means I accept that I will always love him, that those images are seared onto my brain forever, that few people possess true compassion, that my kids are amazing, that life is worth cherishing, that it's better to be alone than with anyone who makes me feel less-than and that I'm stronger than I ever imagined.  People kept telling me they wanted me to be like I used to be--but I've accepted that I will never be that person.  Everything that I was fell away--and provided me with an opportunity to really find out who I truly am.  I'm okay with that.  I like the woman I am now--I respect the woman I've become.

If anyone can't meet me in the present moment with an acceptance of who I am now and of the past I fully own, they don't deserve to know me or be a part of this big, messy, fabulous life I'm living.  That's just how it is.  I've earned the right to decide who's in...and who's out, regardless of family ties. I've earned the right to respect my journey without apologizing for any of it--especially Sean.
Sean Michael Easton--forever young and handsome. RIP