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

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Stop. Breathe. Open your mind to new experiences. Be amazed. #inspiration

Last week my friend Gail asked me to attend a "sound bath" with her for the Winter Solstice. I had no idea what that was and nearly canceled because I felt lazy, but agreed to go anyway. Wow, am I happy that I did!

I found myself in a space with welcoming people surrounded by crystal bowls, candles, chimes, and drums. We were told to grab a blanket and lay on the floor, simply to clear our minds of troubling thoughts, set our intentions for the new year, and let the sounds vibrate through us. Sounds simple enough, right?

I set my intentions for an easier and joyous 2014, sighed, and listened. Music inundated my entire body. From the feeling of the drums reverberating against the floor beneath me, the vibration of the gong trickling over my skin, and the song of crystal bowls filling my ears, I could do nothing but surrender to sensation.

My mind cleared of all worry. The present moment was too sweet not to savor. I felt a release of the tension I'd carried into the room with me. Peace and bliss filled my heart.

And I nearly didn't go…what an experience I would have passed because of laziness and ignorance.

How many times do we hear of something out of our realm of knowledge so we brush it off as silly or foolish or something we would never be interested in because it's so far removed from our 'normal'? How sad is that?

I've gotten much better at trying new things over the past years, but there are still things that simply feel too uncomfortable to try. Like the sound bath. When I first heard the words, my immediate thoughts were along the lines of "a what?"…"sounds kind of froo-froo""or woo-woo""what will they want from me in return?"…"will this be too weird even for me?" But I went. It was definitely out of my comfort zone.

I've decided that the words 'comfort zone' are actually code for 'trap'. We stop growing emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually when we stop learning. Routines can become an endless loop like on the movie Groundhog's Day when nothing new ever happens and the same thing repeats every day. Sounds like a slow and excruciating death to me. I don't know about you, but I look at the rest of my life and see many years ahead of me. I'd rather spend them growing rather than dying.

So I am trying new things even when that voice in my head groans in protest and attempts to label it. Why not? If I don't like it, I won't do it again. However, if it lights me up and makes me feel like an explorer of possibility--which is how I felt after leaving the sound bath--then how great is that?

I encourage you all to try something new, no matter how strange it seems, and to go into it with an open mind free of judgement. Who knows what you'll discover about yourself and the world beyond your comfort zone?

Here's a YouTube video of singing crystal bowls so you can get a taste of what I experienced. I looked through several and none were exactly like the sound bath I enjoyed, but this is close. We had chimes, a flute, and drums, too. Before you listen…stop…breathe…set an intention…and open your mind.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Authors behaving badly: You're not a special little snowflake #writing #dec #asmg #nov

Last week, a friend of mine self-published her YA fantasy book. I encouraged her to write the story but also to go about it in a professional way (i.e. professional editing & cover). As anyone who follows this blog knows, I enjoy supporting fellow authors, which is obvious from the vast amount I have showcased and interviewed (see most popular blog posts to your right).

Well, I work nonstop these days between writing, starting my own publishing services company, and working a part-time job to make the ends meet. Seriously, it is 24/7. When I didn't respond to her text message right away, the wheels in her brain started turning. "Amber must be jealous." Then when she received a 2 star review from someone who had my book on her wish list from over a year ago (Sept 2012) and who also happened to be a Sandra Brown fan (she has millions of fans), this new author accused ME of being behind it. (I sell a lot of books…doesn't mean every fan is my buddy.) While I was working and living my own life without making a big show about her book, she created a mental story about how I am threatened by her mere existence in the writing world.

*heavy sigh* Really?! I have four books in the world, one of which has reached international best seller status (my memoir). I have a signed contract with a major NY publisher and a new release coming out in two weeks. More than that, I am part of multiple writing teams where the authors there will tell you I am one of the first to help promote them. I am the last person who would deliberately hurt anyone else, especially because I know how this writing business works. It's tough out there! That's why we need each other.

Get over yourself, people! Especially all of you new authors who think that uploading your book makes you special. I have family and friends who have never bought any of my books let alone reviewed them (which I don't expect). That's the reality of publishing. Your work is out there and no one may care except the general reader, which is all that matters anyway.

Was I given a chance to discuss this like an adult? Nope. Then she received another poor review from a writer I admit knowing, but this is not someone I "control" or who is vindictive in any way. She actually comments on the review on Amazon that "Amber" must be involved and that the reviews are lies. (I heard about this after the fact as well because I've been enjoying time with my family and friends over Thanksgiving…you know, living my life.) 

Authors need to show some class when receiving reviews and not blame people they know in "real life." The fact is that at the time of that first review, I had been too busy working to download her book let alone read it. But that's not the point here…being professional is. Instead of stalking your reviewers, read what they have to say, take it for what it is, and continue doing what you're doing. Period. Do not comment. Do not hunt them down. Do not "pray for them" or tell them they "have darkness in their hearts." Seriously, those were the author comments on the review. Do not do that! 

With the permission of the reviewer, I'm posting the review here so you can see that it is written professionally with constructive criticism. In fact, despite the 2.5 star rating, the reviewer seems to actually like the book. You'll see that it is written in a constructive way without any hateful tones. (and why would there be hate? This is a professional reviewer who has reviewed many books. In fact, her Amazon reviewer ranking is very high.) You can see the actual review and subsequent comments here: http://www.amazon.com/review/R3BKHB89RF8ZU9/ref=cm_cr_pr_viewpnt#R3BKHB89RF8ZU9
Customer Review

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Spark of a great series but falls shortNovember 27, 2013
Amazon Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: The Grail Court (The Thalo Series) (Kindle Edition)
Overall, I have to give this 2 1/2 stars. While the premise of the story has promise, the delivery falls flat. The formatting issues alone made it difficult to read. I have three different types of kindles and on each one the layout of the paragraphs looked terrible and choppy. I'm not sure if the use of mixed lower case and capital letters in the chapter titles ( sORT oF lIKE tHIS) was meant to be artistic or cute, but it was extremely jarring and pulled me out of the story. Multiple grammatical and style errors fill the pages in this one and could have been avoided with the help of an editor...one who knows fantasy in particular.

The teenage heroine Cassie seemed to have some spunk but she was never fully developed. None of the characters were taken further than the superficial. The author made sure we knew exactly what color hair and eyes all of them have, but never gave any insight into what makes them tick. As a reader, I couldn't get invested in the characters enough to care what happened to them...but the spark is there. The author just needs to develop her skills as a storyteller further. She has a potentially fabulous fantasy series here but as it stands now, it's lost in a world that's TOLD to us instead of SHOWN. Telling me Cassie is sitting outside listening to the night sounds is rather boring, but if the author would have described those sounds in detail, I could have pictured it all as her characters were living it.

I'd be willing to read this book again if it's rewritten and edited properly to bring out the story I know is there. Bring me into the world so I can see it in my mind and don't just assume I can see what's in yours.

No one likes hearing a poor critique of their work. Responding, accusing, stalking the reviewers past reviews & wish lists, are all horrible no-no's. Doing any of the above is technically called author misconduct. Don't do it! 

On Goodreads, as an example, I have nearly 180 ratings for one of my novels. Most are 4 and 5 star, but there are a handful of 1 and 2 stars in the mix. That's simply how this business works. Have I tracked down those who dared rate me low? No. You can't please everyone all of the time. The novel in question is still one of my most successful and one of my personal favorites. I have an author friend who found some of my most beloved characters "likable but annoying at times." We're still friends, go figure!

Listen. At the end of the day, I'd rather be handed an honest review like the one above that's written with precise feedback than simply receive a negative rating and wonder what they didn't like. Take it for what it is.

As an author, I commented on a 4 star review where the reviewer had given detailed feedback. I actually commented to say thank you for her insights because they were something I hadn't heard before--and saying "thank you" got me in trouble as an author. Like I said, this is a tough business.

You're not a special little snowflake, whether you're a writer or not. The world does not revolve around you. People have lives of their own and are busy trying to make it all work. Don't play the victim simply because not everyone out there thinks you're amazing.

And whatever you do--don't retaliate, don't stalk, don't accuse, don't comment, and don't go off your medication! If you do, you may end up burning the bridge that could have helped you the most.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Come out of the darkness: International Survivors of Suicide Day #inspiration #grief #suicideprevention

Good people die. The cause of death does not define a person's life--does not demonize or glorify them--it is simply a fact. My husband killed himself on May 29, 2005. Saturday, November 23, is International Survivors of Suicide Day. Before I was part of SOS, I didn't know what that meant…survive suicide.

I mean, it's not like I battled a physical attack or triumphed over a disease. I wasn't held captive in chains. I wasn't in a war. What does it mean to survive the suicide of a loved one?

Well, it's insidious. It's a psychological battle of guilt, anger, shame, and grief.

The internal battle (what we say to ourselves):
Wasn't I good enough? 
Why couldn't I save him? 
What signs did I miss that he was that sad? 
Didn't he love our family enough to fight to stay with us? 
Didn't he realize how much we loved him…how much we needed him? Was I too big of a bitch to let him know those things? 

The external war (what others say to us):
He's burning in hell, you have no right to mourn him. 
Suicide is the ultimate rejection, an unredeemable sin. 
Didn't you ever tell him you loved him? 
Couldn't you tell he was sad? Why didn't you make him get help?
He killed himself, he's a coward.
Did you do everything you could to help him? 

That's the battle we face--and it's socially acceptable. We often suffer in darkness, burdened by shame and guilt, and wonder if we could have said one word or done one thing that would have altered the outcome.

People whisper around us, suggest we lie about the cause of death to make others feel more comfortable, and tell us things like "if he was that sad, you're better off" or "you're lucky he didn't kill all of you if he was that messed up."Boom! Judgment is cast onto someone based on a final decision made in a desperate state of mind. A good person is suddenly deemed unworthy to be mourned because of one word…suicide. 

That's the true tragedy.

The stigma of suicide is a stain that sinks into our skins and scars our hearts. We survivors of suicide embark on a journey of grief that involves trauma, forgiveness, spiritual questioning, and guilt that eventually leads to peace and understanding. But, oh what a journey it is.

Even today, eight years later, I have Bible versus tossed at me that are supposed to invalidate the love I had for my husband. Personally, I don't believe God is that harsh and will not tolerate that kind of abuse.

And that's exactly what it is…abuse. Survivors of suicide mourn in the shadows, afraid to utter the word for fear of the judgment that always comes…the slight change in facial expression, the narrowing of eyes as if assessing us in a new light, the careless comments that wound an already damaged heart…judgment often based on ignorance.

Unless you have experienced anyone's tragedy, do you really know what they're experiencing? Replace judgment with compassion, open your heart and your mind, and think before speaking.

I'm thankful for organizations like the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention who host days like this, International Survivors of Suicide Day, and Out of the Darkness walks to bring this subject out of the dark and into the light. I'm grateful for the members in my online Survivors of Suicide support group who walked with me through some horrible moments along my journey. We are not alone. Suicide is not a tragedy to hide, rather it is one that is simply that…a tragedy.

At the end of the day…only love remains. 
"Understanding suffering always helps the energy of compassion to be born."
~ Thich Nhat Hanh

In an instant my husband stripped away my identity as wife, stay-at-home mom, and best friend. With his suicide, our world changed forever. He'd been the center of our universe, but then he was gone.

Grief is a dark journey, one often tainted with judgment and false perceptions. Add the word 'suicide' to the mix and more complications arise. This memoir, Free Fall, is intended for those who may be facing their own tragedy and feeling alone, hopeless, confused, scared, and misunderstood.

Free Fall is the journey of piecing our lives back together—overcoming children's anxiety as we traversed the brutal grief and trauma process, learning to say the words 'widow' and 'single mom' without cringing, surviving the fall out with friends and family who simply couldn't understand our healing process, triumphing over the stigma of 'suicide', forgiving my husband, and finding peace after chaos.

Free Fall is for widows, widowers, parents, survivors of suicide, family members or friends of one who mourns. This story is for anyone who needs encouragement that there is another side to grief. There is. We're there now. We're looking back and holding our hands out to you saying, "hang in there, you're not alone, and you'll get here, too."

You can purchase a copy of Free Fall now at: 

Friday, November 15, 2013

Art Meets Bling: Artist Interview with Goddess Artist Gail M. Austin #art #nov #asmsg #artists

I love artists…perhaps it's because their creative energy sparks mine and we end up in sync. Whether they're sculptors, painters, musicians, actors, designers, or fellow authors, I'm always interested in their inspiration. Today I'm interviewing Goddess Artist Gail M. Austin who is not only an internationally award-winning painter, she's also starting a new adventure by blending her artwork into jewelry pieces. 

Artist Interview with Gail M. Austin

Q: Have you always known you would be an artist?
A: "I have been doing art for as long as I can remember. My dad was an artist and the art director of a commercial art firm in Chicago. I remember him taking me to the Chicago Art Institute when I was really young and seeing him get tears in his eyes. I didn't understand why back then, but now I do."

Q: Do you have a media preference for your artwork?
A: "I enjoy many media. Oils, watercolor, photography, charcoal, silk painting, tile making, ceramic sculpture, sewing, embroidery, etcetera. Watercolor has been my main media for twenty-two years, ceramics for about ten. Majolica is my specialty in ceramics. Mojolica is a 13th century technique of decorating terra cotta earthenware. I use my watercolor knowledge on these pieces. Sometimes this is referred to as 'tin glazing'."

Q: What do you hope to inspire in others through your art?
A: "My artwork speaks to the inner senses, through symbols obvious to the viewer and 'knowing to the soul. I like to keep my expressions mostly open and free, creating expansion and 'Inner Light'. My intention is to express my heart, and somehow in being vulnerable, connect others to their own hearts. By doing my art, I am expressing inner wisdom, connecting other beings to the nature kingdom through the sense of sight. When their inner knowingness of all things expands, it encourages freedom or inspires an AHHHH moment that brings tears to their eyes. That touches me. We then have achieved a common ground, a safe place of peace."

Q: It's obvious that spirituality influences you. Can you explain how you integrate spirituality into your art?
A: "Art is creativity, freedom, and for me, an intermingling and communing with the Great Divine. When I'm painting, sketching, molding clay, whatever the medium is, I feel grounded in the NOW moment. I am fully present. On another level, I am Bi-locating to another space and time as I reach for Spirit. My body-temple is my vehicle. My hands are the expressers. I connect to the Great Mystery and everything makes sense. Art creates Spirit through a visual experience."

Q: You've stated that nature inspires you. Can you elaborate on that?
A: "I feel that nature is the most beautiful creation of art possible. As an artist, I desire to express my appreciation of nature and the love I feel in nature's presence. Nature gives us insights to life itself...the unfolding of a flower and the returning to earth of that flower with its seed to bring forth new life...trees reaching toward light...fields of vegetables...sun and planets moving effortlessly through their magnetic forces...stars giving us dreams and Divine intelligent information...it's all an inspiration."

Q: Do you believe that everyone has innate artistic ability?

A: "People have told me that they can't do or create art. Everyone is a work of art. Now I've heard that being said negatively, you know, 'you're a piece of work.' I take that as a compliment. We are all expressions of Spirit! We express our own Spirit differently, but we are all expressing the same thing, our humanity. Everyone is an artist. Look at how we create our lives! The webs of parallels and waves of energy come upon us like a gentle tropical wave on a sandy shore or crashing upon us like a tsunami. The lows, the highs, and all the experiences we create for ourselves let us know we are alive! So, with that being said, be who you are in your natural way, not forced, not controlled, but naturally in your wholeness, like a flower you are the artist!"
Follow Gail for updates on her jewelry, exhibits, workshops, etcetera http://www.facebook.com/GoddessWareGMAustin 
You can see more of Gail's artwork on her website: http://www.gaustinart.com/aboutgail.htm
Check out how she's transitioned her art into lovely jewelry pieces at: Goddessware

Monday, November 4, 2013

Are you hibernating? Unless you're a bear, it's time to wake up! #inspiration #asmsg #nov

It hit me last week like a tsunami: I am not living, I am existing. More than one person said to me, "have fun" or something similar regarding Halloween, and I realized it's been so long since I've laughed that I can't remember the circumstance. Another friend said, "you work harder than anyone I know, don't you ever stop?" 

I can't stop. 

I stumbled upon the above quote and it resonated with me. I've been in fight/survival mode for so long that I can't remember what it's like to relax, to have fun, to let go of responsibility. Nine years, to be exact. 

Sean acted like a lunatic before he died. He'd hallucinate, become paranoid, and he mastered the art of manipulation. The kids and I were on eggshells most of the time. We'd leave. Come back. I begged him to get help…for us. Then he committed suicide and our lives went into free fall. It's been nonstop fight mode ever since. 

Fight to keep the house, fight to keep the kids sane, fight against the stigma of suicide, fight against people who acted like we had no right to grieve, fight against those who told me I'd fail, fight against survivors guilt, fight against a depleting bank account, fight against depression, fight against sorrow, FIGHT. 

I've been in that mode so long that the stress has taken a toll on my body, my mind, my sense of well-being. 

Time to stop. 

I don't want to go through life merely existing. I have been hibernating. Perhaps I've stuck my head out of the cave once in a while to feel the sunlight on my face, but then I retreat again feeling that I must keep fighting or else I'll lose everything. 

For a few years after Sean's death, I had an abnormal anxiety over loss. Whether it was simply a shoe or a set of keys, if I lost it, I'd be a wreck. The kids were the same way. We'd already lost so much that we couldn't bear losing anything else. I took that a step further by becoming concerned about losing our lifestyle and our home…so much so that I can't stop working long enough to enjoy it. Because of that fear of loss, I also tolerated toxic people and their poisonous opinions. 

Last week a friend said to me, "Why do you still talk to someone who's been so hateful to you, who has undermined your every decision?" My answer was, "When you're already so alone, it's hard to let even one more person go." 

But I heard myself. I thought about that conversation all the way home and it didn't sit well with my soul. I paced. I wrote. I tossed and turned in bed. I hated how weak I sounded. I am not weak--never have been. I'm a survivor. I'm a professional. I'm a goddamn success story in every sense of the word. I've loved. I'm making a living doing what I love. My kids are healthy and smart. I've kept the house despite all the people at my husband's funeral who doubted me. Here I am! Still standing. So why in the hell am I hibernating? 

Life requires truth, especially authenticity of self. I've been holding on tightly to a life that is no longer mine. This existence, this sense of doing the right thing for the sake of others, is killing me. I know what I want, what I'm worth as a human being, and I will no longer settle for less than I deserve. 

I don't want to die having lived an unfulfilled life. I don't want to die having merely existed and tolerating abuse from people simple because they're related to me or because I've known them my whole life. No more. That is not who I am. 

I'm not hibernating anymore…and I'm on fire with ideas and inspiration! I'm in the sunlight. I'm awake.  

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Lessons Learned from a Cat Named SpecialT

As I've said before, one of the best things about hosting a blog is the other authors who share their stories with me. I'm often moved, inspired, and awestruck. Today I'm welcoming author, S. Jenny Boyer who is discussing the inspiration behind her book, Special T Nine Lives. 

Inspiration for the book SpecialT  Nine Lives─Nine Names by S. Jenny Boyer
My stories are all based on what I observed or shared with my little animal friends over the years. My inspiration for SpecialT, the lead character, was my wise and wonderful pet cat. As I learned piece by piece about the 10 years he lived before he was divinely sent to me, I knew I had to tell his story one day. Many people love animals, and can recognize their pets in T's struggles, and his escape from his valleys to his mountaintops, and identify with the lessons he taught me.
Excerpt from book: from Chapter 4,    Cat Fight, Lesson Learned
The night it happened was quiet and quite dark. Here in the country we have no street lights. It was the time of a new moon, so shadows were deep and night creatures were hard to see. Cats roamed the neighborhood freely then, and there were few complaints from neighbors about their night adventures while the rest of us were sleeping.
All at once a screech of gigantic proportions woke me from a sound sleep. I sat straight up in bed, then rushed to the window to see what was happening. There in the dark shadows of the driveway I could just make out T face-to-face with Wildcat, the next door neighbor's cat who was so jealous of T that the neighbor had returned T to live with us. The howls went back and forth on different tone levels, each escalating in sound. I grabbed my robe and slippers and literally leaped down the steps to put a stop this fracas, all the while whispering a prayer.
God, please protect T and Wildcat from each other. T is so gentle, I do not think he knows how to hold his own in a fight with Wildcat.
I ran out of the house through the garage just as the physical battle took place. Legs were flying in all directions, gray and orange intertwined like a pinwheel out of control, all accompanied by howls of distress and anger. I turned on the driveway lights and grabbed an old aluminum pot and a small hand rake and began beating them together with all the force I could muster as I ran towards the fur ball action At the harsh banging sounds, the entangled cats split apart, with Wildcat running home, and T lying still on the blacktop.
Oh God, let T be okay.
I picked up T and he looked at me with his calm golden eyes, his body limp, but breathing. I could imagine him asking me, "What just happened, Mom? Wasn't that a cat, isn't he supposed to be my friend?" I searched T's body for a puncture wound, which I knew from past experience with other cats could easily become infected, but with his long hair it was difficult to see down to T's skin. The one thing I did find was a V-shaped split in one of his ears, slightly tinged with blood.
Back we went to the vet when they opened the next morning. No real damage had been done, no puncture wounds to the body, but the cartilage in the ear would never heal together, and could not be stitched together, so T would always sport a natural “V” to remind us and him of his close call with danger. We called it his "victory" notch.
Summary The book is about the life of a wonderful tabby cat whose zest for living helped him meet and overcome the challenges he faced. T appeared I am sure by divine guidance, in my yard somewhere in the second half of his 20+ years. As I wrote of our time together, I was amazed at all the life lessons he reinforced for me and others. These lessons alone became one of the reasons that I felt compelled to finish and then publish his story. Daily T reminded me that the most important of life's lesson are very simple. It is we who complicate things, and miss out on obvious blessings. Things like baking in the sun, sipping water from a leaf cup, or a stroll through the woods can enrich a day that might otherwise be taken for granted.

The following are some of the lessons T reinforced in my life:


      LET HIM WORK.  





Places available for sale: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Halo Publishing, and Signed copies from the author.

About the Author:  Ms. Boyer is a retired nurse, an Infection Control Practitioner, whose world changed dramatically when she let the words swirling inside her escape to paper. Her story of her beloved cat, how he came to live with her later in his life and the lessons she learned from him, changed her life for the better. She lives in Frederick, Maryland with her husband Jim. She has three daughters and one step-daughter, and four grandchildren. Several of these family members are in her book. She continues to write about how other creatures impact her life, and the lives of others.

You can find out more about Jenny Boyer, her book and World of Ink Author/Book Tour at http://tinyurl.com/myydudk

To learn more about the World of Ink Tours visit http://worldofinknetwork.com