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.

What I’m writing

So, idea time. What say we talk a little about the book I’m currently working on. Sound good? Okay then.

Currently, I’m working on a story called No Ordinary Love. I absolutely love this story. It’s one of my oldest ideas, only this time it’s been remixed. When I came up with the idea, I was maybe seventeen, and still fully engrossed in writing nothing but fan fiction. I had original ideas, but an entire cast of original characters was a bit scary at that time.

I’d already written four mediocre excuses for fan fiction by the time this idea came to me. Honestly, it was one of the most beautiful things I had written to date. I was so proud of it. I worked incredibly hard on it as well, filled notebook after notebook with ramblings. I’m pretty sure I did more writing for that story in English class my senior year than I did actual homework.

Sadly, before I left for the Navy, I was sorting through old stories and got rid of a lot of things. Something someone had said to me made me angry and I threw everything away. Well, almost everything, I saved one or two of the really bad stories, but not this one. I hadn’t finished it, but I knew what was going to happen. It went into the garbage bag with the rest and then to the trash.

Flash forward fifteen years. I still thought about this story a lot. I thought about it with increasing frequency to the point that I just knew I had to get it out again. This time it was going to be all original characters. This time I was going to do it right, and finish it and to hell with anyone who thought it was garbage.

The name for the story came from something I remember very vividly writing in the margins of the notebooks I had written it in originally. I like to listen to music while I write, and when I hit a block I used to doodle in the margin while I thought. It didn’t occur to me until I was re-reading it one day, way back when, and saw the same three words in the margins of about twenty pages in a row. It must be a sign right? Well, seventeen year old me thought so. So you can credit the Backstreet Boys for the title of this one.

The story itself didn’t change, at least not the overall premise. Girl has best friend when they’re little. Girl moves away just before seventh grade and they never see one another again. That is, until one of them starts showing up on posters and the radio. Well, it’s been years since they’ve seen each other, she has to go and see him, and hopefully he’ll remember her. Good news (Spoiler!) he does!

So what happens between them, now that they’ve reunited and been as strong as they always had even a decade later? How will he react when her newest boyfriend happens to be one of his friends? What happens then?

No Ordinary Love follows Ember and Mason and the ways that their friendship is tested and changes due to the every day stressors of life. I can’t wait to finish it so that I can get it out for everyone to enjoy! I’ll keep you posted.

Have a great day guys, thanks for joining me!