I’ve been thinking

If you’re on my personal facebook, or even follow the Amber Marie Writes facebook, you may have seen this already, but I felt it worth repeating here. I had a bit of a rough year last year, as did everyone. It hasn’t gotten much better this year but I’m pushing through and I’m determined to make something good this year. This post kind of came to me after I saw a graphic in my memories and I thought it was important enough to share here with maybe a little more detail than I’d put on my facebook. Some of it is a little difficult to talk about but the overall idea is about making art out of the difficult stuff that happens.

As most of you know, if you’ve paid any attention at all over the last year, I lost my Dad March 13th of last year. What only my brother knows, is that the night before Dad died, Damien and I were at the hospital until two in the morning. We were emotional and trying to distract ourselves. I had been gearing up for Camp NaNo which happens every year in April. I had written out an outline that I had spent the last couple of months creating from a random thought into an actual story. It wasn’t easy but dealing with everything those last couple of months with Dad gave us, it gave me something else to focus on while working nights. So, my brother and I sat there, three foot from my dad, talking about this outline, talking about my ideas, to distract us from what was happening in the bed right next to us. Dad died the next afternoon. And despite everything that happened in the years leading up to that moment, and no matter how many time we told ourselves we were, we weren’t ready. I wasn’t ready.

Then the world shut down in almost the same breath as we lost Dad. We were trapped at home. People were scared. I was grieving. Hard. I had no idea what to do and my brain desperately was searching for something to do. So a couple of weeks later, when April started, I did what I had planned to do. I did Camp Nano. I set goals, and I smashed them. Quickly.

It had been a very long time since I had finished anything besides a short story. I’d get almost to the end of something and then I just couldn’t finish it. It was frustrating. I started to feel like that with this but I pushed on. I made myself write every second I wasn’t working, or helping the kids with school, or cleaning the house. I did my best. I distracted myself to escape the pain. And this amazing thing happened. On April 25th, 2020, I finished Hold On. Sure, it was just a first draft. Sure, it wasn’t anything spectacular. It was just a piece of fanfiction that I may or may not publish anywhere. It was for me. I wrote my emotions out. I took that grief and turned it into something beautiful.

My goals, as you can see, were simple, 10k words minimum. That was my goal. just something on paper. Anything. Create Art, which I created a lot of art. I really did. And to finish it. Which I did. 25 days and I finished it. Ending with 18 chapters and a total of roughly 63, 457 words. I have never won a full NaNoWriMo before since I started competing in 2013. And the goal there is only 50k in 30 days. I wrote 63k in 25 days. It was huge.

That feeling allowed me to keep going. It allowed me to keep writing and to write everyday. When it’s not a NaNo month (April and November are when I participate), the timeline I give myself is somewhat more relaxed. And by the time October of last year rolled around, I had finished 3 stories, one was primed to go to my editor, and I was working on three more, as the ideas struck. I was making art, so much art, I had perfected my writing process. I was doing so well and I knew, without a doubt that I was going to kick NaNo’s ass in November. If I could do it in April, I could do it in November.

Then my Mom died. And it was, ugh. I shut down. Immediately. It was like my brain had a moment where it went “We’ve already done this, we are NOT doing this again!” I tried to do what I’d done earlier in the year, but I’d stare at the screen and couldn’t make the words come. I just couldn’t. They were gone. The words, the ideas, they were still there, I could feel them but they were silent. For once in my writing life, the voices that guide me were silent. And it was deafening.

I didn’t do NaNo last year. I barely made it through November. Dad’s funeral, finally, then Mom’s the next day. It was, a lot. Then the kids started acting out. Jay almost missed Thanksgiving. Emily hated her 16th birthday, even though I tried. Emily has been acting out since. Sneaking out, and taking off for weeks at a time. This has been constant since November. It hasn’t made the words come, if anything they feel farther away.

I’ve started editing again, because despite everything, life goes on. As much as I’d love to sit and never have to process the things I put off at the end of last year so that I wouldn’t have to deal with it, life doesn’t work that way. So, while I still can barely write, I’ve been editing. I’ve been plotting. I will make it through whatever I have to, and not lose my identity as a writer. I have to, because who am I if I’m not?

My 2k20 Camp NaNo Goals graphic was in my memories recently, and I saw it before I’d even had my first cup of coffee and when I saw it, I immediately remembered that sense of pride I felt when I was done. I felt my chest swelling with it again. I felt my shoulders squaring and my head lifting just a bit. It may be just a simple fanfiction that got me through a large portion of my grief. 63k words that I wasn’t sure I’d ever show to anyone. But I’m so glad that I did. It was officially published on August 31st of last year. Since then I’ve gotten 22 comments telling me what a great story it is. 22 comments telling me I was good at this. 22 comments that helped me get through the hardest year of my life, so far. As of yesterday, I’m up to 107 kudos, which if you read anything on AO3, you know that isn’t that great, but it’s not bad either. And the newest Kudos was just yesterday, according to my email.

I created something that will last. I created something. I took my grief and shaped it into a stepping stone for my goals. This stone may be a bit harder and I’m still working on it. I may be juggling more than one stone right now, but that’s all they are. Stepping stones to my dreams. Stepping stones to my goals. Each painted a different color of memory. I can take this, and I can use it. Art is emotion after all.

If you read all of this, thank you. It’s really just to remind myself that even when it hurts, even when it feels like you’re going to break, you never know what’s going to happen next and that next thing, may be everything you ever needed.

Leftovers

I know that it’s been a while since I’ve been here, but there have been a lot of things going on personally the last few months. But here I am, back at it and hopefully there won’t be too many more interruptions.

So we are going to kick off May with a lovely new Short Story Saturday. I’m going to pick up where we left off with Ailee Creed and her time in Port Shadeau. So, enjoy!

    Ailee set down the boxes she’d been carrying and wiped her forearm over her brow.  A quick glance at the clock as she opened the top box told her she wasn’t too far from the end of her shift.  With a smile she went back to unloading the boxes and putting the products on the shelf.  When she was finally done, she checked in with her Assistant manager who was working the evening shift, said goodbye to employees still on the clock, and then clocked out.  

    She made her way downstairs toward where Marlowe was also finishing her shift.  Ailee waited, leaned against the end of the counter flipping through a magazine while she finished doing what she was doing.  Once Marlowe was done they walked to the back to grab Marlowe’s coat and went out into the city to find something for dinner.  

    The next couple of days went the same way, and Ailee was happy to finally have a friend. It made her new life in Port Shadeau a little more bearable.  After work on Friday, Marlowe and Ailee met up at Marlowe’s for a couple of drinks and to make dinner.  Marlowe’s husband Wilder was at work for the weekend and so Marlowe had the apartment to herself.  They sat around at the counter and discussed the options for dinner.  

    “I have a lot of easy stuff because I’m not a big fan of cooking.” Marlowe explained standing in front of her fridge and trying to find something to make for them. “It’s such a difference cooking for me as opposed to cooking when Wilder is home.” 

    “Just because you make easy food doesn’t mean it has to taste easy.” Ailee said setting her beer on the counter and sliding off of the stool.  She moved to stand beside Marlowe.  

    “I don’t know how.” Marlowe said, shaking her head.  Ailee just grinned. 

    “I can teach you.  Let me see what you’ve got in here.” Ailee spent a couple of minutes looking through Marlowe’s fridge and cupboards.  She amassed a small collection of things on the counter and then looked at Marlowe.  “Okay.  Let me grab a couple of seasonings from my place that you don’t have, and I’m going to teach you to make something really delicious that isn’t complicated at all.” She said with a grin.  

    After she grabbed the few things from her apartment that she needed, she got to work in the kitchen teaching Marlowe how to make Chicken Penne.  They spent the time laughing and talking and Ailee was happy to really feel like she had a new friend here.  When the food was done, Marlowe was impressed about how easy it was to cook and it smelled amazing.  They sat down and shared a good meal with a lot of laughs and had a great evening.  When dinner was done, they worked together to clean the kitchen and pack up the leftovers.  

    “So, I’m gonna take these home with me since I don’t have to work tomorrow.” Ailee told her with a grin picking up the container off the counter.  

    “Oh no, those are staying here. I have to show Wilder I can actually cook.” Marlowe told her with a grin as she attempted to swipe at the container in Ailee’s hand.  

The girls devolved into a silly play fight over the leftovers before Ailee let Marlowe take them with a proud smile. She went home feeling happy that she had taught her friend the benefits of good food. Marlowe waited no time in taking the leftovers down to the fire house to share with Wilder. It took only one bite before he had shared with a couple of friends, offering a bite or two a piece. He was proud of his wife. When Marlowe got home, she had texted Ailee and asked her to do weekly cooking lessons, and Ailee was happy to agree. It was something wonderful and she was happy to be settling into her new life in Port Shadeau and settled into bed that night with a smile on her face.

Character Profile – Marlowe Lark

This week I wanted to tell you guys all about Marlowe Lark.

Marlowe Lark is the manager at the bookstore, the Librarie, and makes friends with Ailee Creed on her first day. It doesn’t take long for the two of them to become good friends.

Marlowe married a Diffuser, or Arkane fire fighter, named Wilder Lark when she was twenty two. They were high school sweethearts and didn’t let anything stand in their way. They moved to Port Shadeau about five years prior to the start of this story because of Wilder being transferred there. She started working at the bookstore shortly after and about a year later, they bought the larger of the two studio apartments above the Librarie itself. While they have no children, Marlowe and Wilder live a full life.

Marlowe loves to travel, and when their schedules align, they tend to go somewhere new. It averages out to one vacation a month. Although sometimes they prefer to stay at home and never leave their bed.

Marlowe spends a lot of time on her own because of her husband’s work schedule. Since she doesn’t work weekends, she usually spends her time reading and drinking tea. She also likes to wander around Port Shadeau and Seattle trying to find things no one else has. She hikes sometimes out to remote locations so she can play a little with the air discipline that she can’t use as much inside the city. Normally, she will sit on rooftops in the summer with a book and let herself play with the wind around her.

She takes great pride in the way she runs the Librarie. She likes to do special themes every couple of weeks to try and bring people into the shop. Ailee, once she hears about the plan, does her best to create special drinks to match the theme as well.

I don’t know if there are going to be too many surprises with Marlowe. So far she seems like the steady, kind of crazy, force you’d want as a best friend. This week’s Short Story Saturday features heavily on Ailee and Marlowe’s budding friendship as they hang out after work one day. I can’t wait for you guys to read it!

Let me know what you guys think of Marlowe, I’m excited to hear your thoughts!

Currently Writing

As you have probably figured out by the last couple of posts, I am always working on Short Story Saturday, however, I am also writing something else as well.

Just before my world blew up, I started working on the sequel for Noctivagus, tentatively titled Paroxysm. So far, I’m about twenty chapters in and already I know it needs some structuring. I am really excited about it actually.

Then just before the holidays, I got the manuscript evaluation back from my editor Erika, over at The Werd Nerd. You guys should check her out, she’s amazing! She sent me such a detailed report, that the work that needs to be done doesn’t seem all that daunting really. I am actually excited about the changes that have to be made for Noctivagus.

So how do I keep writing the sequel if I’m still making changes on the first story? Good question. I just know I have a lot to make happen, and the worst thing I could do is to stop writing. I took the last couple of weeks off to spend time with my family that visited for the holidays. Well, they left yesterday, so I am excited to get together with Erika and talk over the list she sent.

I have plans to keep writing the sequel, as it stands, Reid is facing a couple of challenges at the moment, and some of them are personal while some of them are a bit bigger than that. He’s having a bit of trouble working through some of these challenges and it’s starting to show in his stress levels. In addition to all of that he’s continuing to work. He’s still on Penelope’s protection detail, but he has his work to do for Atlas still.

I’m excited to see how this year shapes up as a writing year. I wrote three novel length stories last year, and a couple of short stories. Due to personal setbacks, I have been negligent in writing as much as I wanted to, but this year, I’m going to work as hard as I can to keep not only my writing on track as well as my writing platform running as well.

Well, have a great day guys! See you later!

Setting – Ailee Creed’s Apartment

Today we are going to talk about Ailee’s apartment. I mentioned before that she lives above the bookstore and cafe that she works at. It’s a little 500 sq ft studio space. I actually took inspiration for the entire thing from a post on Pinterest. I saw it an immediately knew it was the look I was hoping for for Ailee.

I don’t know what it was about it, but everything about it screamed that character’s name in my head. Back when I knew almost nothing about her but her name and her basic look, it made me latch onto it quickly. I followed the link and read all about the awesome lady that lived in this studio in Seattle. It seemed to be kismet.

So I gathered up the pictures, and then started making a few changes here and there, and I probably will continue to do so as the story goes on. I just loved the jewel toned colors and wood floors. It seems like the sort of space I would love, even though there isn’t enough room for me to craft. It seemed perfect for a person just starting out. Which of course, meant that it was perfect for Ailee.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this brief look into Ailee’s apartment. I hope that you’ve enjoyed seeing what I’m thinking of as I describe the apartment more in future stories. Have a great day guys!

Character Profile – Ailee Creed

So, if you caught the last Short Story Saturday, you got to meet a brand new character by the name of Ailee Creed. There are a few characters in the cast of the stories that will take place in Port Shadeau. Today I will do my best to introduce you to the main character, Ailee and hopefully we can all find out something about her together.

When we first meet Ailee she’s hanging out in her apartment considering a list of things she wants to do. Having recently moved to Port Shadeau from another location in the Arkane world, she’s just starting this new life. She talks a little about her estranged boyfriend Gideon, and the death of her father, but she doesn’t elaborate on either one.

From what I know so far, because I’m making this up as I go, after her dad dies, she doesn’t much want to hang around in Cheaveaux so she plans to move. When she chooses Port Shadeau, she asks Gideon to come with her, and he declines. She doesn’t see this as too much of a deterrent as those in the Arkane world can travel via Geo Drifting.

Geo Drifting is an easy way to travel once you’ve been trained. Drift points, which can appear in any location and often take the form of a doorway. An arch in the woods made of twisted branches, or a doorway at the back of an alley that appears to lead into a building. it could be anything. Most often in Arkane cities, they appear in their natural form, an archway filled with a swatch of swirling purple color, most often tucked up against a wall somewhere.

Drift points are easy to maneuver as long as you have a clear idea of where you’re trying to go, anywhere in the world. Essentially they’re portals, but only Arkane can use them. If a Jejune (typical non-Arkane human) were to walk through one of these Drift locations, nothing would happen. They’d simply be on the other side of the archway or door. By using these, Ailee could walk through a Drift point in Port Shadeau, Washington and walk out in Paris, France. The entire trip taking no longer than a few seconds.

Although not completely important to the story of Ailee, it is important to the Arkane world. Due to the ease of travel, living in another state from Gideon doesn’t seem like that big of a deal. Once she moves, however, he goes radio silent and she’s having a hard time dealing with it.

Ailee finds work in a bookstore cafe, which she also lives above for now. The bookstore, called the Librarie, is managed by a young woman named Marlowe Lark. The two of them become fast friends, and she finds it refreshing to have someone to talk to after a couple of weeks of near radio silence. Ailee is excited about the opportunity to run the cafe alongside Marlowe. She is concerned about some of her employees, and their well-being but isn’t too worried. it seems like a wonderful challenge, and exciting opportunity.

I’m not sure yet what her larger motivations are, but I’m sure that by the end of March we will know. I created these characters as little more than outlines. The prompts for 2021 are set, and I have sketched out a basic outline between now and March. Whether the story will continue after that or not, we will have to see. I hope to add more depth to Ailee as a character in the future. At least more than a mid-20’s blonde woman who has just moved to a new city and likes photography and has a crappy boyfriend. The story is really taking shape and I’m excited to share it with you! Have a wonderful day guys!

My Hive Mind

Every writer has a community of people. These people are our soundboard, problem solvers, supporters, ego boosters, beta-readers, editors, and whatever we happen to need while we are working. They are usually fantastic. I want to introduce you to mine.

So, my Hive Mind is made up of people that I’ve met at different points in my life and they all are amazing on their own, or even as just friends. They are all different too, in different stages of life and that helps get different opinions and outlooks. It really helps. They all have their own lives as well but are amazingly supportive of me, as I am of them. Once, they convinced me to rewrite a whole story that I was almost done with, just to add two characters. They’re amazing.

First, is Loca. Loca and I have known each other since Boot Camp, way back in 2003. We’ve been amazing friends ever since. She isn’t a writer, but she is the ideal person to read what I’m writing and tell me if it’s good or not. She represents my target market, but she’s more than that. She’s been integral in several of my stories and the first time I started talking to the man who is now her husband, was about a gun for a story. She is quick to tell me if something is stupid, or doesn’t make sense, or isn’t true to the character so far. She’s also full of ideas when that happens. She has so many ideas on how to fix it. When I’m feeling bad about my writing, or down on myself, she’s quick to pick me up, not with flowery words or reassurances, but with just the right amount of sass and “girl don’t bullshit me” and it’s perfect.

Doom Panda, there isn’t much I can say about her that I haven’t already told her to her face. We became friends when another friend from Boot Camp introduced us. (They’re now engaged and I cannot wait for that wedding!!!) He’s still wondering if that was a good idea or not because Loca, Panda, and I have a habit of ganging up on him to tease him mercilessly. Panda has become my family. She tells it how it is. She listens to me complain and whine and tells me, “but Cookie, you’re amazing!” She may not be a writer, but she is another creative soul. I love our talks where we just throw random bits of creative nonsense at one another and see what sticks. Sometimes others cannot follow our conversations, but we know. We know what’s going on. She’s my editor friend, she points out grammatical errors and spelling inaccuracies. She tells me when things don’t make sense and she genuinely falls in love with the characters that I create. I can always count on her for good ideas when I’m stuck. Even if all they do is make me laugh. (Don’t forget my love, the Plaza, in June).

Next up is the infallible Pele. Pele is my writing friend. Pele is my writing partner. We are working on a series together, and you guys will get to hear all about them the beginning of next year. She’s the one that I go to with the technical side of writing. She’s the one I complain to when the words won’t flow because she gets it. She understands how that is, intimately. She also has a great understanding of how I work when I’m writing because we are writing something together. She’s helped me craft the world that Noctivagus is set in over the last decade. Together, we have created characters so intricate that they feel real. I will commonly tag her in things on Facebook with just initials of characters and she knows exactly why. The other day it was a post about Lisa Frank makeup. I didn’t even have to say more than her name and she knew exactly what I was thinking. She is amazing and I couldn’t do anything without my Parabati and best friend Pele.

The newest member of the team is my friend Stichi Lee. Stichi has probably the most important job. She listens to me prattle on and on until I work out a problem or until I have understood what I’m writing. She gets to hear the story in real time, and often she’s the one I read chapters to to make sure they sound good. She has her favorites and has already declared which ships she will die on. She is the target audience, just like Loca, without any of the time to read because she’s always so busy. Her other important role, she supplies me with new music almost constantly. She works nights so it isn’t uncommon to wake up in the morning with fifteen new songs with notes attached with which characters she thought of when she heard it. If I need a specific song to convey an emotion so I can write, she has my back. She is one of the few who have read Noctivagus in full. Before I submitted it to the editor. Not that everyone in the Hive Mind doesn’t also have access, she was just the only one with time to read it while she was quarantined, as she had nothing more than a head cold and couldn’t work from home like everyone else.

These four ladies make day to day writing so much easier. But they aren’t the only ones. There is also my brother, who helps me solve problems logistically thinking. He’s another writer with no time to write. And my very good friend Hookerabati, who actually (through a weird turn of events) gifted me the character of Reid from Noctivagus. She was the one who got me writing again after a dry spell that lasted years. She cares as much for these characters as I do. Sometimes she is more protective of them, and proud of how far they’ve come since their initial inception. My Dad, who comes by once a month just to have lunch and discuss our writing. He isn’t’ my target demographic, but he’s a wonderful storyteller. Lastly, my editor. She gives me life. She gives me hope that I didn’t write garbage and that everyone else is just lying to me (I know, I know, you aren’t). Her messages make me feel about ten feet tall and she is helping to smooth out the rough edges of Noctivagus so I can attempt to get it into reader’s hands. I would be lost without my Fairy Wife back in Cali, or my Wifey Wife here in Michigan, they give me ideas and are always there no matter what I need.

I am truly blessed with the little community I have collected. There are so many more that aren’t mentioned that LOVE to hear about my writing. They are constant support, my sisters for example. The one has watched my stories grow from crap fanfiction drabbles that never made it out of the notebook to the work I’m doing now. The other, never has much time to read but supports me none the less. She brings me beautiful notebooks and peens that write so beautifully.

What kind of Hive have you put together? Who is your biggest help when you’re writing? Let me know, I want to hear about them!