Pay It Forward Thursday

Pay It Forward Thursday

Helping others through an attitude of gratitude…

Have you ever noticed that the happiest people, are also thankful people? I’m not talking about the kind of temporary happiness that only lasts while everything is going well, but the kind that overflows, even when circumstances aren’t so great.

Feeling a sense of gratitude, even in the little things, goes a long way in lifting up and maintaining a joyful spirit.

I have to work at it sometimes, but I have a few friends with that kind of spirit that seems to pour out of them naturally. Those are the people that I prefer to be around. It’s a little like having your own cheerleaders, helping you to stay charged up and moving forward.

So, I want to take a few moments to share a few things I am thankful for.

First and foremost are God, my family, and my friends. They are the greatest blessings in my life, and I absolutely cherish them.

I am thankful for my home, and the beauty of my surroundings, and the peacefulness I feel here.

I am also grateful for the folks that encouraged me to write so long ago. Without their encouragement, I probably would have never considered becoming an author.

I’m especially thankful for the kindness of other writers that helped me to learn the trade, improve my skills, and even shared my work with others.

Paying it forward…

Many years ago, when I started my first blog, I was blessed in getting to know some pretty awesome folks.

In the world of business, it often seems that competition creates an atmosphere of trying to “out-do” everyone else. Traditionally, it means that you don’t help your rivals succeed.

But I found the opposite to be true in the writing industry, especially with the independent authors. I think it comes from knowing how tough it is to get started in this business, particularly in promoting the work, and most of the authors I’ve met tend to enjoy helping each other.

One such author I met years ago, shared an idea he had that not only helped to grow his audience, but also helped others to grow theirs. He did this by building trust, not only with his readers, but with fellow authors as well. He learned that while self-promotion is a necessary part of an author’s work, if it is over-done it will turn folks off.

Instead of a “look at me, look at me” mindset, he began sharing the work of others, folks that he admired in some way. He devoted one day each week to a list of personal recommendations that he shared with his audience, including links to those books, websites, and resources. He also interacted with folks in a sincere and friendly way, creating a genuine atmosphere of friendship.

There is a spirit of thankfulness when someone gives you praise for your efforts. When someone takes the time to share your work or recommend you to others, it brings a sense of satisfaction and reward that money cannot buy. A connection is established, reputations are built, and friendships are made.

Connecting with others is a major part of why I write.

So, with a pay-it-forward kind of spirit, I’d like to show my thankfulness for some folks whose work and character I admire. Some have inspired me, some have given me valuable advice, others have promoted my work, and others that I may not know personally but I like their work.

Let’s begin with a few authors…  

I’ll start with Pam Thorson. I met Pam through my blog about 7 years ago, when she gave me a “like” on one of my articles and left an encouraging comment. I replied to her comment, and a conversation started. We began following each other’s blogs, did interviews of each other, and promoted each other’s books. Pam’s story inspired me, helping to strengthen my resolve to keep going, even in the toughest situations. Her strong, but kind and caring heart earns her a place of recognition and deep respect from me. Visit her at: http://www.pamthorson.com/

Next, I want to give thanks to Mike Dillard for the knowledge and training in marketing and promotion. I learned the hard way that there are many devious-minded folks that make a fortune from basically scamming people with empty promises of teaching them how to be successful. But Mike proved himself, not only through his successful track record, but also in his desire to actually help others. While he makes available what is referred to as a “high-end package” (a complete step-by-step course with full membership of high value), he also remembered his own humble beginnings, with little money to invest in such a high cost. So, he broke his package down into single guidebooks and references at a more affordable price for those just starting out. He believes in investing in yourself and continuous learning. And each of his products stand alone, allowing you to start off on a smaller scale to begin earning while you’re learning. He even shares a good deal of helpful knowledge and insight for free, his way of paying it forward. You can learn more about what he does at: https://mikedillard.com/

Last, but not least, on the list of authors for today is my friend, Seumas Gallacher. I originally met Seumas through twitter. He’s what I call a “friendly Scottish gentleman”, with a great big heart and wonderful sense of humor. I’ve always had a fondness for Scotland, so I was easily drawn to his writing because he writes with an accent. Every time I read his blog, I hear the words in my head with a Scottish accent, and he makes me laugh. His books are primarily of the crime-thriller genre, though he has also published books on blogging and promotion. Seumas’ referral to himself as “an ol’ Jurassic scribbler” and down to earth friendliness earned him a reputation in my book as a friend. For a peek into his work: https://seumasgallacher.com/

Resources for the writers…

While learning through practicing the craft gives writers a strong foundation, there’s no need to learn everything the hard way. One of the greatest resources I have used in helping to hone my skills is FaithWriters. They promote writing contests, challenges, gentle critique, forums, and opportunities for finding paid work in writing. Through sharing some of my articles and receiving positive feedback on their site, I was encouraged to enter a few contests they were promoting. I won 2nd place in one of those contests, which was a great boost to my self-confidence. Another contest earned me a position as 1 of 40 co-authors in a book published by FaithWriters on Amazon, Trials and Triumphs. Whether you are a beginner, or a seasoned author, if you are a person of faith, I highly recommend this site: https://www.faithwriters.com/

Another invaluable resource for writers that I have used is Writers Digest. The entire site is devoted to helping writers with everything from learning how to write, to promoting their work, finding agents, and getting published (self & traditional). They are considered by many to be one of the go-to leaders in the industry for writers of all levels. I highly recommend starting off with their free advice articles first if you’re just getting started. (I always recommend starting with the free stuff first, to see if it’s a good fit for you, like a try-before-you-buy thing. If you find it useful and can afford to, then by all means, invest in your knowledge and yourself!) For more information, their address is: https://www.writersdigest.com/

This list contains just a few of those I am thankful to. I’ll be sharing more next Thursday, continuing to pay-it-forward.

An invitation…

If you are interested in being added to my weekly pay-it-forward list, or know someone you would like to see promoted, subscribe to my email list here, and receive the newsletter with the information on being added.

I also want to thank everyone that signed up to follow my blog, and for the likes. The writing is a reward in itself, but those little pats-on-the-back always give a boost to my heart.

That’s it for today. I’ll be back tomorrow with more Friday Fun. In the meantime, have a Happy Pay-It-Forward Thursday!  – Amber

Wednesday Wisdom

Your life is your story, so make it a great one…

As a writer, to create a good story takes imagination, ideas, planning, and time. Sometimes it is like a game of connect-the-dots, keeping everything flowing smoothly and in order.

At other times, surprises and obstacles must be thrown into the mix, to make the story interesting and real.

Life is like that too. We write the story of our lives, with each day being a new page.

The trouble is there are events and circumstances that will occur, things that we have no control over. It’s like someone else took control of the pen and added a scene when we weren’t looking.

However, it is still our choice in how we will react to and deal with these things. We can choose to keep a positive attitude and make the best of the day, or allow ourselves to fall apart and be completely miserable.

Focus on the little things…

Not many of us live a life of grandeur, glamour and glitz. We may have our moments of fame, but our days are mostly made up of the little things of life.

It’s those little things, the beauty of a sunrise or sunset, playing a game of fetch with the dog, listening to a good song, bike rides, road trips, having a cup of coffee with a friend, those are the moments that create the daily joy in our heart to keep us going.

Unfortunately, I hear many people say, “I’ll be happy when…”, or “I’ll be happy if…” Why not find something to be happy about right now?

Real joy and happiness comes from inside of us, starting with an attitude of gratitude…just being thankful. Sometimes I have to take a mental inventory of my life and realize, I am blessed! It doesn’t mean I have everything I want, not by a long-shot. But I’ve learned to appreciate my life where it is right now. I’ve set goals for where I want to go and what I want to do, and I’m taking intentional steps to get there. I intend to enjoy the little moments along the way.

Sometimes we just need to re-focus our priorities, to think about what really matters to us. Working on those priorities gives a sense of reward and satisfaction, a joy that comes from deep inside.

I don’t want to get to the end of my life and look back with regret. I want to make each day count for something, to have meaning and purpose. I want my heart to be filled with lots of memories of love, joy, and laughter.

If you knew for sure that today would be the last day of your life, what would you do with it? Go do that! Make today a great story. Then do the same for each day you have.

Well, that’s all for today. Hope to see you again tomorrow! – Amber

Getting Creative

An artistic mind…

I love art in it’s many forms! Even better, I love the creative process of making something new out of something old. When I came across the above picture, it sparked my imagination and the day was filled with landscaping designs for my own yard.

For as long as I can remember, I loved to create pictures. I wasn’t all that great with colors, but I could do an awesome mural with a pencil, although it did land me in hot water once when I was a young teen and I covered a wall in a friend’s bedroom. It was a life size drawing of a warrior on his horse, inspired by a picture on an album cover. Did you know that pencil requires several coats of paint to cover up? I didn’t, and my friend’s parents were not happy about it.

One of my favorite hobbies is handicraft projects. When I moved to Alaska, touring the local shops was a real treat for me, as there were so many items created by hand from the local artists. I was not only inspired to create, but I also felt quite at home in the midst of so many uniquely creative minds.

Most of my creations are one-of-a-kind, and for the most part, not for sale. I often create items with a specific person in mind, to be given as a gift. One such item was a gift I made for my dad. It was inspired by a joke, that “it’s so cold in Alaska that even the fish grow fur”. I made a 10 inch long fish from clay, with bulging eyes and long fangs, then spent 4 months covering it, layer by tedious layer, with dog hair in 3 different colors. I mounted it on a plaque with the title, “Alaskan Fur Fish”, and sent it to my dad for Christmas. He raved about that fish for years!

Stifled creativity…

I enjoy creating things, but I do not like being a salesperson. Looking for ways to make a living in art without having to do any selling led me to an opportunity with a company to produce small craft items at home. I thought I would be “creating” and the company would be doing the selling, a perfect gig for me.

The first project I was given was assembling tiny brooms, about 2 inches long. The company supplied the materials and instructions, which had to be followed precisely. Their objective was in mass production of identical products, so there was no room for creativity. And I ended up hating the job. After completing the first set of 1,000 tiny brooms, I turned in my resignation.

When I was younger, a common phrase among most of my teachers was, “She does not follow instructions very well”. I still don’t like to, though I’ve at least improved enough that I don’t get into as much trouble for it nowadays.

From a creative perspective, one of the major attributes of the artistic mind is originality. But that originality suffers and is stifled when you have to go by someone else’s rules and instructions. And while it may be considered a “flaw” by many, I simply prefer to do things my own way. (This is also a common pattern with most entrepreneurs.)

My mind always seems to be busy creating something new. And this includes new ways of doing old things. To be honest, it doesn’t always work out well and I’ve spent a lot of time in correcting or starting over.

There are, however, times when the ideas do work out well. Those are the successful efforts that keep me going, such as when my stories touch someone’s heart or makes them laugh. While my writing methods may not follow the rules of academia, I’m not writing to please any college professors anyway. As an author, I write primarily to connect with others in a more personal way, to create images shared in the heart.

Even when I’m doing freelance work, while there are certain guidelines that must be followed to satisfy the client, the writing itself is still my own creation. I find that freedom (along with the paycheck) rewarding.

I suppose I could have followed a more traditional path to a writing career, but I don’t think I would have found much joy in it.

Instead, I think of the words of Jim Rohn:

“We all have 2 choices in life… to be all that we can be, or to be less”.

To me, that means being an original, to create from the heart in my own way, even if it means the hard way sometimes.

So, with that thought, I’m off to painting pictures with words (working on my fiction series).

Have a Happy Tuesday, and go create something beautiful! – Amber

Monday Motivation #1

Monday Motivation #1

What motivates you?

Sometimes motivation is unintentional. I’m sure the fella in the picture was quite motivated to peddle as fast as he could to get away from the bear. His motivation was fear, which can propel us into acts of seemingly super-human ability at times, while at other times makes us freeze up and unable to move.

Motivation is simply an incentive or a reason for doing something, and is generated by our thoughts and emotions. For instance, the fella in the picture was probably thinking something like, “I don’t want to be meals on wheels”.

That type of motivation is instinctual, for self-preservation. It is usually a very quick thought process followed by immediate action.

So, what about the more mundane circumstances of life? Do we jump out of bed on Monday morning and get ready for work with the same kind of enthusiasm? For most folks, the answer is probably “no”, unless perhaps we’ve overslept and are going to be late. Still, there are some that wake up ready for action.

It takes my brother-in-law about 20 minutes from the time his alarm clock goes off to get showered, dressed, and in the car leaving for work. And he does it without any coffee!

I, on the other hand, am an early riser, yet it takes a little time (and a few cups of coffee) before I’m ready to swing into action.

That created a problem for me when I became a self-employed freelance writer.

Since I set my own schedule, it was easy in the beginning to procrastinate in getting started for the day. I work from home, so no one cares what I wear, or if I even bother to get dressed at all. I could even skip brushing my hair and teeth if I wanted, however, I do not recommend that.

I could find all sorts of excuses to do anything but work, and no one will yell at me. Unfortunately, the paychecks are determined by actually doing the work, so I had to get myself organized and motivated.

Can we design and create our own motivation on purpose?

The answer is yes. But how?

Did you know there are 12,500,000 results for motivational conferences on google? Seems there are a lot of folks searching for that spark to move them to action. I have attended a few seminars myself over the years for motivational training in particular areas.

One of the main attributes of the speakers at these seminars was their ability to influence a change in thinking, attitude, and behavior in their audience. The reason to change is primarily to stop a bad habit, something that is preventing you from achieving your desire, and replacing it with a good habit that helps you to attain your goal.

I needed to change my habit of procrastination. So, I started by examining how I thought about myself as an employer verses an employee. It didn’t take me long to realize that as an employer, I would quickly fire me as an employee, because I wasn’t doing the work required on time.

I had to create a schedule and a specific deadline, and treat it with the same attitude as if I were on the clock for an employer. I also had to prioritize my activities and alleviate the distractions that consumed too much of my time.

One thing I discovered about myself in doing this is that I tend to create to-do lists that only Wonder Woman could hope to achieve. This makes prioritizing critical for me, especially in writing.

I also needed to be more effective in my time management. Once I get on a roll in working on something, I don’t like to stop until I’m done. I lose track of time, and other important tasks can end up being neglected. I know it sounds silly, but I actually had to set alarms on my phone to remind me of things like letting the dog out, eating occasionally, and when to stop working for the day. Eventually I was able to create a routine that kept the basic necessities covered.

Pursuing a career in writing can often involve a certain amount of frustration, dealing with rejections, lack of income, and the like. It also requires a lot of patience.

When I first started writing, it was more of a hobby, and there wasn’t much pressure with it. But as a career, it does involve pressure, sometimes enough to make me think about quitting.

So, why don’t I quit? Because I’ve learned to keep myself motivated with passion. I remind myself all the time that I’m doing this because I love it! The reward of satisfaction from sharing encouragement and helping others is greater than the petty irritations that may come.

I learned a long time ago that no matter what job I’m doing, there will be things about it that I don’t like. But it still has to be done. So, then I have a choice. I can do it with a miserable attitude, or I can do it with a pleasant attitude. The one I choose determines how I feel about myself at the end of the day. I can become a bitter person, or I can become a better person.

And for those mornings when I’m having a hard time getting started, I created a little resource of quotes, memes, and sayings that give me the boost I need for that passionate spark to take off. (Maybe I’ll share some of those next Monday).

Until then, I’d love to hear what motivates you? What influences your passion or desire enough to create a change? Share your suggestions and experiences of what works for you. It may the key to helping someone else to grow.

Well, that’s it for today. Make it a good Monday, and I’ll see you tomorrow!  -Amber

Friday Fun #2 – Coal

As promised, this week I’ll begin introducing the cat clan.

Meet Kitty Coal…

Also known as Big Ol’ Handsome Boy, or Handsome for short. It doesn’t really matter what he’s called, as he only responds if he feels like it anyway.

As you can see, he is well read and highly intelligent.

Coal is the eldest of the cat clan, taking ownership of the cabin after being rescued in 2007 when he was 5 months old.

Although he is getting older, he is still ruler of the beasts here. In spite of Frodo’s size and weight advantage, even he concedes to Coal when the claws come out in full glory. (He remembers those talons impaling his tongue when he was just a pup.)

Living wild for his first 5 months, Coal never learned how to play gently. His version of playing is like a fight-to-the-death scene from a Bruce Lee movie (and my arms have the scars to prove it). To him, it’s the only way to play, but the other critters always end up running away. There were only 2 exceptions: a little black kitten named Spunky, but he didn’t have a lick of sense anyway; and a wolf named Trocaire who wanted to eat Coal (that is why Coal was at the top of the bookshelves in the picture, to get out of reach of the jaws).

Coal is a large cat, weighing in at 20 pounds, and he walks around with the majesty of a lion full of confidence. His feet make a rhythmic heavy thunking sound on the floor when he walks, so you always know when he enters the room.

One of his favorite activities nowadays is to lay across the top of my chair behind my neck, and smack me in the face with his big fluffy tail. He is as accurate in his strike as Indiana Jones with his whip, sending my glasses flying more than once.

He also likes to pounce into my lap unexpectedly, which feels like having a bowling ball with claws dropped on my gut.

Most of the critters I’ve known over the years have been afraid of vacuums (except a dog I had years ago that would attack them). But not Coal. He actually lays down in front of the vacuum on his back, waiting for the hose to suck his up his fat belly. (I wish the other critters liked being groomed this way.)

As is the nature with most cats, Coal is demanding. He will start with the wide-eyed stare, followed quickly by the squinty-eyed glare. If that does not elicit the desired response, he begins softly poking with the tip of his claws. After 2 or 3 attempts, as a last resort to get his way, he employs the full arsenal of his teeth. This always causes action, though not necessarily the kind he wants.

Another typical cat trait is the love of knocking everything over, and Coal has mastered this ability. It seems to be his favorite way to annoy me when I’m trying to sleep, as he wanders around the house clearing off every horizontal surface he can get to. I watched him once, sitting on the counter, knocking one thing at a time off. After each item hit the floor, he would look me in the eye, almost smiling, and then push something else off. He also lines items up on the edge of the tables and then bombs Frodo with them.

To say that Coal has made my life interesting and filled it with entertainment is an understatement. But he has also filled it with joy and affection. He doesn’t really give kisses, but he drools on me (a lot) as he purrs away in contentment, snuggled up on my shoulder.

I could go on for a lot longer about Coal, but I think I’ll save some for the next book of Crazy Critters.

Next week, I’ll introduce another member of the cat clan, so make sure to come back for a cup of coffee and a few giggles.

Have an awesome weekend, and I’ll see you Monday! – Amber

The Inspiration of Mike Rowe

Inspiration Comes Without Warning…

I actually set out to write a totally different post for today, but through the research, I came across something that altered my direction of thought.

My original idea was about reviewing the success of a few people that I admire, folks that made that long climb up the ladder to the top of their industry. There were 4 names on my list.

As I began the research on their backgrounds, I came across another name, one that I didn’t really know much about. I had seen him on TV, and I remembered seeing something on the internet about a project he was working on that had piqued my interest, but I never got around to checking it out.

Today I looked him up. His name is Mike Rowe, but you may know him as “the dirtiest man on TV” from the show Dirty Jobs.

Aside from the fact that I like his sense of humor and style, there were some things he said regarding work ethics and attitudes that resonated with my beliefs, so I added him to my list of names.

Then, I came across the section involving his scholarship program, which was the project I mentioned earlier.

Part of the application process involves something called “The S.W.E.A.T. Pledge”, which stands for: Skill & Work Ethic Aren’t Taboo. There are 12 parts in this pledge, and he put together a series of short videos giving a brief explanation for each with real-life examples.

I found all 12 videos to be informative, encouraging, and inspirational. But #8 actually brought me to tears. There are no additional words that I could give to add any value, so instead, I’d like to share the video. It’s only about 6 minutes long, and well worth the time.

An Attitude of Gratitude

I was left completely humbled and inspired, so I just want to say thank you to Mike Rowe for his efforts in this worthy cause, and a special thank you to Staff Sgt Travis Mills, thank you for your service and sacrifice, along with your efforts in The Travis Mills Foundation. You are a true hero and role model.

Maybe we all need a reminder from time to time, life can change instantly, in the blink of an eye. Instead of whining and complaining about what’s going wrong, lets try being thankful for what’s going right. An attitude of gratitude does make a difference.

Well, that’s it for today. The cats are calling me (in other words, I can hear them all running around, tearing things up in the other room).

So, until tomorrow, have a Happy Thursday!  – Amber

(Disclaimer: I am not receiving compensation of any kind, and am not affiliated with Mike Rowe or The Travis Mills Foundation. I just like what they do, and thought you might like it too.)

Becoming a Great Leader Starts With This…

In the beginning…

When I write, I can put the jumbled thoughts that are swirling through my mind into written words that can make sense, even if only to me. Because I must focus to move my fingers on the keyboard, I can take my time and just let the words flow in a more selected way, and then change the thoughts into more organized patterns.

The intent is to imagine these patterns as pieces of a puzzle, and then begin putting them together to form the complete picture. That is the magic of writing.

When I write non-fiction, the pictures often represent the emotions in my heart. But they also represent knowledge learned, which came through seeing, hearing, and doing, my life’s experiences.

One of the books I am working on now came from the experiences I’ve endured on my journey to becoming an author, and I’d like to share a brief excerpt here today. (Though my book is being written primarily for authors, much of it applies to any business or industry.)

From the business end of it, you are promoting yourself as an author (not your books, but you as a person).

Another aspect of the business is based on the idea that an author can be thought of as a leader. You are leading the minds of your readers with your words.

The following excerpt is about building your reputation as a leader with integrity:

Building Leadership Skills: 4 Keys to Becoming a Person of Influence

During a recent study group session regarding leadership skills, the question was asked, “Who are your primary influencers & Why and how do they influence you?” Our answers were varied on “who”, but there was a general pattern in the “why and how”.

What makes a leader stand out from the crowd? It is their ability to be effective in their influence on others, in thought or action, combined with integrity.

In any form of leadership, it is important to connect with those you are leading. Otherwise they won’t follow you for very long. Here are 4 keys to becoming a person of influence, and building connections that have a powerful impact.

1. BE TRUSTWORTHY

People will not listen to you if they don’t trust you. Trust is earned when you demonstrate:

  • Honesty – ALWAYS be honest…at home…at work…at play. We build reputations based on what other people see firsthand, and it doesn’t take long for word to get around.
  • Fairness – When we gain a reputation for being fair, people are assured they can rely on us in finding agreeable solutions.
  • Dependability – ALWAYS do what you say you will! If you can’t be counted on to keep your word, people will not trust you.

2. BE CONSISTENT

Let’s face it, there is nothing outstanding or extraordinary about a McDonald’s hamburger. Yet they have become a known and successful fast-food chain. Why? Because they are consistent. People know they can rely on getting the same food item each time they order it, and they get it quickly (usually).

Being consistent means:

  • Doing things in a reliable and predictable manner each time.
  • Getting effective results.
  • Being dependable.

* This ties in with #1 – when you demonstrate consistency, you build on your reputation of being trustworthy.

3. BE KNOWLEDGEABLE

No one is going to listen to you if you can’t demonstrate a real knowledge of what you’re talking about.

  • Do your research. Study everything you can find on your field or subject.
  • Gain first-hand experience whenever possible.
  • Invest in yourself, invest in your knowledge. Never stop learning.

Remember, nobody likes a “know-it-all”, so be humble. They also don’t like false information, so make sure it’s accurate.

And again, BE HONEST! Don’t be afraid to say that you don’t know the answer or have the information if you don’t. Then offer to research it and share it, and make sure to follow through on it. This reinforces confidence in your ability and wisdom, as well as your honesty.

4. BE EMPATHETIC

I’m not talking about some kind of supernatural psychic skills here. To be empathetic means, “to be aware; having knowledge of, and comprehending the needs, feelings, problems, and views of others”.

  • Learn to be a good listener.
  • Make an effort to understand.
  • Don’t judge.
  • Create an atmosphere of unity and sincere concern for others.
  • Ask people what they need or want

The difference between being a “boss” and a “leader” is that a boss is concerned primarily with his own needs and wants, whereas a leader is concerned with the needs and well-being of those he/she is responsible for. No one is going to willingly follow or support someone if they don’t believe that person cares about them.

People want to feel a real connection with their leaders, and they want to know their needs are understood.

Each one of these skills by itself is a good asset to anyone in leadership. But when you combine all 4 together, you become a powerful influencer, and that is the gateway to changing the world.

And don’t forget…lead by example, in life as well as business. Be the kind of person you would want to follow. – end

I’d like to take a moment in closing today to say THANK YOU to all of my followers here! I truly appreciate your support. It is my hope that you will find encouragement, along with useful information, and a little entertainment as well on the site, and perhaps share it with your friends.

One of the most valuable insights I have gained in my years of writing is the AWESOME generosity of independent authors when it comes to promoting each other. This applies to blogs as well as books, articles, and other works.

So, in the spirit of sharing, if you are interested in having your work promoted here, or a suggestion for someone’s work that you admire, please share a link and a brief description in the reply section. (The only requirement is that it must be free from obscenity and vulgarity. Anything of this nature will be deleted.)

Have a Happy Wednesday, and I’ll see you tomorrow! – Amber

Welcome to the Digi-verse!

Welcome to the Digi-verse!

I am old-school…but thankful for technology

I am thankful for my cell phone. I remember the times before cell phones even existed. Things like being stranded on the roadside in pouring rain and walking a few miles to find a payphone to call for help. I remember actually pointing a camera to take pictures and having to get the film developed into a print to stuff into an envelope, which then had to go to the post-office and spend days (or weeks coming from Alaska) in the mail, just to share with family and friends. I remember the fold-out paper maps that always managed to tear right across the road I was looking for. (By now you should have a pretty good idea of how ancient I am.) To top it off, yes, I even remember when phones were attached to the wall and the length of the cord on it determined how far you could go from the wall while talking. (OMG…I’m as old as Methuselah!)

I am also thankful for the computer and internet. As an independent author, these tools have opened up doors for me that otherwise would not have existed. The time this technology saves me is invaluable, as it makes quick work of transmitting, copying, editing, and publishing. Now, instead of weeks, months, or even years, I can go from the idea stage to a published book for sale in less than a week (if I really put my mind and fingers to it).

I remember the days of the old typewriters, and changing the ink ribbons (which always managed to leave me with blackened fingertips, no matter how careful I was).

I also remember a teacher from my typing class in high school who removed the screws from the carriage returns on our typewriters before class on the day of our final test for the year. We began the test, pecking away as fast as we could on the keys, racing against the clock timer, eyes focused on the text we were copying, paying careful attention to avoid any mistakes. But suddenly, at the end of the first line, when the carriage returns were pushed (these were old manual typewriters, not electric), instead of stopping at the beginning margin as usual, the whole top of the typewriter fell off onto our desks. As we sat there rather dumbfounded, our teacher was laughing hysterically. As it turned out, our final test for the year was learning how to put our machines back together.

Even for the traditionally published author, the ability to instantly transmit a manuscript and receive correspondence from the publisher or agent is a worthy asset.

I must admit though, I rather miss the sound of the keys clacking on the old typewriters. However, I just recently discovered there is a keyboard that makes the same sound though, and I’m actually considering buying it. Oh, the irony…using modern technology to recreate the things of old.

Those were the days…

I also remember the time spent with family and friends, when we actually enjoyed our time together. There were real conversations, when you actually paid full attention to each other.

I remember the days of childhood, the revelry in jumping on a bike and taking off with your friends to explore, or chasing each other through the neighborhood playing tag. Sometimes we just sat on the porch steps, pondering the mysteries of life from a kid’s point of view.

Another favorite activity in the summer was simply playing in a creek, enjoying childish antics, but more importantly, enjoying the companionship of our friends.

There was no such thing as “constant contact”. If you wanted to talk to someone, you simply called them on the phone. If there was no answer, it meant they weren’t at home, and you either went looking for them in the favorite hangouts, or you called back later (we didn’t have answering machines back then).

On a side note…I was pretty excited when I got my first phone with an answering machine. It meant no more worrying about missed calls, and since I was looking for a job at the time, I was relieved to know that I wouldn’t miss an opportunity for an interview.

However, my German Shepherd apparently did not like the intrusion of a strange voice speaking from the little box (or perhaps she was just trying to rescue the person and free them from their tiny prison?). She destroyed the machine the first time someone left me a message.

In the wintertime, all it took was a fresh snowfall and every kid in the neighborhood joined together to build colossal snowmen and start the epic snowball battles. For the more adventurous (and graceful) folks, there was ice-skating and skiing. For the rest of us, there was sledding.

Year round, we spent our time in building relationships, through talking and doing things together. And we learned about each other’s character in personal ways, through the experiences. We even learned how to solve our own problems and get along with those few that we didn’t really like.

Even into adulthood, though the means and methods changed somewhat, the interactions were still real and of a personal nature with our friends. We still did things together and had meaningful face-to-face conversations. It is only through real life that real friends and relationships are built.

There always have, and always will be, people that come and go in our lives. But there are some, if only one or two, that no amount of time or distance can separate from us. Those are the friends that really make you feel like you are important to them. Those are the real connections, because they are of the heart.

Don’t be a phony…

Is it just me? Or has anyone else noticed how the glorious world of cell phones and digital screens are robbing us of real-life interaction?

I really didn’t intend for this post to be a rant, or to bash technology.

But…in my disgruntled opinion…the all-consuming use of technology, especially cell phones, is hampering the ability to develop and maintain real relationships. I find this both rude and disrespectful.

It gets really irritating when during a conversation, the person you are talking to is continuously distracted with constant texts or calls. I understand the folks trying to contact them may not be aware that they are in the middle of a conversation. However, that does not negate the fact that in total disregard to the person speaking, the other person will immediately stop listening to read and respond to every text or call. Even more disturbing is the constant checking of social media. I mean, seriously? Is the picture of dinner someone just posted on Instagram really more important than the actual person sitting right in front of you? (And by the way, those pictures and posts will still be there later to drool over, but the person you’re with may not be.)

To me, that is the same as saying, “I am more interested in what anyone else might have to say, or pictures they may share, than having a real conversation with you”. It is for this very reason that when I go to visit someone, I usually leave my cell phone in the car, or put the ringer on silent and refuse to check for messages every 5 minutes. I want for my family and friends to know that they have my full attention when we are visiting, because they are important to me. I even went so far as to encourage folks that visit me to leave their phones off while they are visiting, although that hasn’t worked so far. (I guess having conversations with my critters isn’t a bad thing after all. At least they don’t have phones…yet.)

Being old(er) and remembering what life was like before being continuously plugged-in, I still like to enjoy some uninterrupted time to myself, like when I’m trying to sleep or work. I often think about a conversation years ago in which my younger sister was fussing at our Dad about turning the ringer off on his phone and not being able to reach him. He said he didn’t like being bothered when he was busy or napping, to which she replied, “But what if it’s an emergency?” He told her, “Well, if it’s an emergency you better call 911. They’ll get there a lot faster than I will”.

While I’m ranting about this digital age, one alarming attribute is how easy it makes it to be deceitful, even harmful, for those wishing to do so.

A while back, a well-meaning friend suggested that I try online dating as a way to meet folks. My reaction then (and now) was, “Hell no! I might start off with Sam Elliot online, and end up with Ted Bundy in person!

We can literally put whatever we want online and say it is true, while behind the screen it is actually the opposite. Scams are a-dime-a-dozen nowadays, and countless folks fall prey to them every day. We need to approach any kind of online relationship with caution, and keep in mind that even with the best verification methods available, deceit is still always a possibility. (This is true even in the real world, but the ability to manipulate and deceive is far easier online.)

One other gripe I have with the online world is the over-abundance of sharing everything. While I realize that everyone has an opinion, and they have the right to one, I have to ask, “Is it really necessary to share every one of them”? Some of us really don’t care what the Kardashians are doing, or why a confused 17-year-old high school kid thinks our moral convictions are wrong. And the amount of drama and hate that gets stirred up over stupid subjects that have absolutely no important meaning to life simply boggles the mind! I don’t want to waste the precious moments of my life debating stupid crap that serves no beneficial purpose. (Although I must admit, it has increased my finger reflex in speed-scrolling past the junk I don’t want to waste my time on.)

I personally choose to not share certain aspects of my life for global view at will, so the idea that someone could truly know me just from the digi-verse is absurd. While what I do share is honest (or just for entertainment or education purposes), there are personal sides of me that are reserved for my real-life family and friends only.

I think what it really comes down to is this: are you living a real life, or a phony life? Do you spend more time engaged in personal experiences in the real world, or the digital world? I’ve seen first-hand the similarity of screen use and drug use, especially in the younger generations. Most folks just can’t seem to stay away from their screens for very long before they become anxious and go into withdrawal symptoms.

There are now numerous studies showing some dangerous trends and addictive effects on people from the constant use of digital screens. Drugs that are found to be addictive and harmful are banned or heavily regulated. But it is up to us to determine how much and in what way we use technology.

Again, I’m not trying to say that digital technology is bad. We just have to ask ourselves, “Am I using this technology as a tool to enhance my life, or is it consuming my life”?

Well, it’s just my opinion and some food for thought. And I’m hungry for some of yours, so please share.

I’m going to go out and enjoy some sunshine, and play frisbee with my dog.

Happy Tuesday, and I’ll see you tomorrow.  – Amber

A Sneak Preview

The Beginning of a Fairytale

Since I first began writing, the majority of my content has been in the non-fiction category. But there have also been moments of creativity when an idea sparked my imagination and a story began to unfold.

As I was cleaning out my office files, I found an old folder with several stories that I had started but never finished. One in particular caught my attention. It was only a basic one paragraph idea, not even to the outline stage, but it stuck in my head. So, over the weekend I took the idea and just let it loose.

This morning I decided to give a little preview of what I have so far. It is designed to be a short fictional story for kids and young teens.

This is the first chapter:

WISDOM’S CHILDREN

Once upon a time there was a beautiful fairy named Wisdom. She carried in her heart all the secrets and knowledge of life. But she lived in a world filled with darkness, pain, terror, and hate. Wisdom knew what was needed to bring light and goodness into the land of mankind, but every time she tried to help, she was rejected and ignored. Finally, with a heavy heart, she created a magical cloak that made her invisible and hid herself away from the world.

After many years of wandering, Wisdom found a new land. This new land had not been infected by the evil darkness, so Wisdom decided to make it her home. She spent centuries creating many beautiful and wondrous things, but she had no one to share them with.

From her loneliness, Wisdom gave birth to 4 children. To each child, she gave unique talents and abilities in order for them to survive the encroachment of the world of man, for she knew it was growing and would soon reach them.

To her firstborn son, Integrity, she gave the gift of honor and loyalty, to always do what was right and good, no matter what the cost.

To Courage, her second son, Wisdom gave the gift of a brave heart, always ready to face any danger or fear.

Wisdom gave her daughter, Hope, a huge heart filled with faith and dreams of glory. She also had a magical voice that sung straight into the heart.

And to her youngest daughter, Freedom, Wisdom gave the gift of unrestrained independence. Freedom did as she pleased, determined to fully enjoy all the goodness that life had to offer.

One day, when they were still young children, they stopped to rest by a stream after a long run through golden fields. As they sat quietly enjoying the cool breeze and listening to the sound of the water gently swirling over the smooth rocks, they heard a raspy voice behind them. As they turned to look, a large bear approached, hobbling on three legs.

He called to them, “Please, help me! My foot is broken, and it hurts so much”.

Integrity said, “We will help you. Lay down here beside us and let us see what we can do”.

Thankful for the offer, the great bear laid down his massive body with a thud and uttered a sigh of relief.

As Hope held the giant paw in her lap examining it, the bear said, “I was eating berries from the bushes over the mountain when a man appeared. I offered him some of the berries, for they were plentiful and very tasty. But he seemed angry, and instead began throwing long pointy sticks at me, so I ran away”.

After a long drink of water that Integrity brought in his hands, the bear continued. “The man chased me over the mountain and as I was running between the rocks, I stepped into a hole and my foot got caught. But the man was very close, and I was afraid. So, I pulled with all my strength to get free and as I did, I heard a loud crack and felt a sharp pain in my foot”.

The children had heard stories of man from their mother, but they had never seen one. Freedom asked the bear, “What does man look like”?

The bear replied, “I never saw one before today, but he looked much like you, except his eyes. His eyes were not kind and gentle like yours”.

Suddenly there was a strange noise, a high-pitched whirring sound. As they were turning to look, a long spear struck the ground right beside them. Then they saw the man. He was running toward them, yelling words they could not quite understand, but they knew he meant to harm the bear.

Without hesitation, Courage jumped to his feet, instinctively taking the spear in his hand. He stood in front of the bear and his sisters, as Integrity joined him.

The young boys were not sure what to do, but they knew they had to protect the bear. As the man came closer, still yelling, Courage raised the spear and shouted, “Stop” in a voice that came out like thunder. It surprised the man, and he did stop.

As he stood there looking at them, Integrity asked him, “Why are you trying to hurt this bear? What evil has he done to you”? The man replied, “It is a bear, it must be killed”.

Freedom stood and joined her brothers, saying, “It is not a crime to be a bear. He has done nothing wrong, and his life does not belong to you. Go away and live your life in your land”.

Courage pointed the spear at the man, and said, “I will not let you kill this bear, and if you do not leave, it is you that will die”.

There was something different about these children, though the man could not tell exactly what it was. But it frightened him. Knowing that he was outnumbered, he said angrily, “When you let down your guard, the bear will eat you. Then you’ll be sorry you didn’t let me kill it” and he turned to leave.

Then Hope spoke. It was the most beautiful and gentle voice the man had ever heard, almost like a sweet lullaby. She said, “The bear was trying to be your friend, even offering to share his breakfast of berries with you. I think you need to learn to love others”, to which Freedom interrupted with, “Even if they are different from you”.

And with that, the man left and the children took the bear home to Wisdom, so that she could heal him.

The man considered their words on the long journey home, and he could not shake the gnawing feeling in his heart. He could not understand why those children had helped the bear. But their words and actions were still in his head when he arrived at his village.

As he shared the story with his people, they listened in amazement, some believing, others laughing at his tale. It was a story that would be talked about for a long time to come. (End of chapter 1)

Well that’s it so far. What do you think? Any thoughts, or suggestions?

I always appreciate feedback (even the negative side…just be gentle), as it helps me to improve my writing skills. So I hope you’ll take a minute and leave a reply.

Thanks for reading! And have a Happy Monday. – Amber

Friday Fun #1

Writing For Fun

I’ve been working hard all week, and now my brain is feeling a little weary and fried. So, I decided to change things up a bit and just have some fun.

I think I’ll start with a little insight into my personal life.

One of my top favorite things to do in life is laugh, and sharing that laughter with others. In my youth I discovered storytelling as a way to inspire such cheeriness, though being labeled a class clown in school earned me no favor with my teachers.

It was in fact, that very same type of storytelling that started me on the path to being a writer 20 years ago.

It all started in an online chat room with me sharing something that one of my kids had done that made me laugh. Several folks gave smiley faces and “liked” it, and then someone asked me a question about kids. That sparked another story which also included one of our pets. From there, the stories and conversations grew and I began receiving quite a few suggestions to consider writing as a career.

So, that’s how I got started. Now onto the good stuff…

I Love Animals!

Currently there are 5 cats and a German Shepherd living in my cabin. (Actually it would be more accurate to say they own the place and just allow me to live here because I feed them and buy them toys.)

Allow me to introduce the crazy critters:

I’ll start with the German Shepherd, since there’s one in the photo above.

His name is Frodo Buggins (and for Lord of the Rings fans, no, that is not a misspelling). It is “Buggins” because he “bugs” everyone.

Frodo is a gorgeous (though slightly chunky) 5 year old. He is totally OCD about playing fetch or catch. It’s what he lives for!

He has the longest tongue I’ve ever seen in a dog, and it doesn’t seem to really fit into his mouth. Quite often his tongue just hangs loosely out of his mouth and sort of jiggles while he pants, flinging spit everywhere, especially right after he’s had a big drink of water. (I know, it’s one of the gross things about dogs.)

Typical of the German Shepherd breed, Frodo is exceptionally intelligent though he often exhibits a stubborn mentality that earned him the nick-name of “Jackass”, which he also now answers to.

Frodo and Spot

One of Frodo’s all-time favorite games to play is chasing the laser light. (The cats are pretty crazy about it as well, but not as zealously as Frodo!) It is absolutely hilarious watching an 80 pound ball of furry fury, bowling over anything in his path as he tries to catch the elusive little red dot. But because of his OCD nature and never wanting to quit, I had to set some boundaries, incorporated as part of the game.

First of all, I named the dot “Spot”. Frodo knows that Spot sleeps in the little pen in the drawer next to my chair, and he will stand there staring at the drawer, waiting for Spot to come out to play.

When I pull the laser pen out, Frodo becomes so tense and focused that at times I worry he will pop-a-gasket in his head and explode! In order to teach him some patience, I make him wait as I release Spot from the pen into my hand (and yes, I talk to it and say, “Hi Spot. Are you ready to play with Frodo?”) Then I “toss” Spot out onto the floor and the chaos and laughter begins.

Though Frodo is quite agile, it is still amazing to watch him try to make a full 90 degree angle turn at full speed. Such attempts have wrecked furniture (or anything else he plows into), and left a few bumps and bruises I’m sure, on his backside from the wipeouts. I’ve also had a few bruises from some of his less-than-graceful attempts at victory.

Once he has created or sustained enough damage, usually in about 10 – 15 minutes, I tell Frodo, “Okay, it’s time for Spot to go night-night”. He immediately stops and watches, as I put my hand down to the floor and Spot returns, and disappears back into his little pen. Frodo gives it a sniff and then rolls his eyes at me in discontent as I put the pen back in the drawer.

In addition to his intelligence and agility, Frodo has achieved mastery over the art of eye-rolling, head-tilts, and facial expressions. While he may not have the power of the human language, he still speaks to me. Sometimes it’s in the way of slinging insults or half-hearted threats at me, such as he is right now, sitting at the door of my office with a toy in his mouth and glaring at me. He is clearly telling me that it is time for our morning romp, and if I don’t go play with him, he will inflict some punishment on me, such as knocking over his water bowl or using one of the cats for a squeaky toy.

Since one of my many masters has spoken, I guess that will be it for today.

I hope the peek into my private world brought a little smile, and didn’t scare you off. Next week I’ll introduce the feline members of the clan. Perhaps I will dedicate Fridays to some light hearted humor if that would be okay. Let me know what you think in the comments, and please feel free to share your own stories too. I’d love to hear from you!

Have a happy, fun-filled, and blessed weekend! – Amber

P.S. To give credit where credit is due…the photo at the beginning of the post was shared by I Love German Shepherds page on Facebook.

%d bloggers like this: