Empty Chairs

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Photo by Artem Maltsev on Unsplash

There will be two empty chairs at our table this year.

One, left just as the party was really getting underway. While the other wouldn’t have surprised me had he stayed well past closing time.

Someone new will have to carve the turkey this year. Another to be among the first to nurse a glass of holiday wine.

No one will worry this year if I take too long in the shower. No one will judge if I go back for another slice of pie.

Two empty chairs, once filled by two very different people.

We’ll be raising our glasses in remembrance this year. However, I’ll try not to dwell on all the reasons to be sad.

In between courses, I’ll gaze out the window. I’ll see the waves on the lake ebb and flow. And like those waters, I know other guests will join us as the years go by. My family will continue to grow.

I am thankful there is room still at our table.

Even if today, it also means there are two empty chairs.

Getting back into shape

I make no secret of the fact that I have a day job in addition to writing my novels. Some in the publishing community say it means I don’t take my dreams seriously enough. My children, however, have told me once or twice that they enjoy eating. As their voices are typically loudest in my ear, I tend to listen to them more than faceless critics. That said, it also helps that I enjoy my day job too.

While my day job has a corporate headquarters, its staff are scattered across North America. This has allowed me to meet and interact with people coming from a variety of backgrounds and life experiences, which has been an even bigger plus. I’ve also since learned that I am one of many who have chosen to give a new career a chance.

For example, I learned the other day that one of our most recent hires was a spin instructor in her once-upon-a-time past professional life. It came up in conversation when she mentioned she was stiff and was shocked by how out of shape she’d become. She also mentioned how difficult it was to get back into a workout routine after taking an extended absence.

It occurred to me that I could say the same about my blog writing habits.

I’d been incredibly disciplined for several years. I’d written even when I could barely summon the energy to get out of bed thanks to a fever. I’d strung words together in between birthday parties and bedtimes. I’d filled page after page time and time again. I’d told myself once the manuscript was done getting back into the blogging habit would be easy.

It is not. It’s not that I’ve forgotten the formula. If anything, I know what needs to be done better than I did before. However, I’ve forgotten how to properly warm-up. That said, I’m here today. I showed up. I followed my own former instructions.

I might not be fit enough to teach a class at the moment, but I’ve taken my first step toward getting back into shape. And when it comes to writing, or pretty much anything else for that matter, there is a lot more you can accomplish by trying than by giving in to all the many excuses to hold it off another day.

The Book That Almost Broke Me

I did it.

I wrote another book.

Ok, in fairness, I wrote another manuscript. The book part will be a few weeks longer yet as it still needs to go through early reads, professional edits, and formatting. But I wrote another book.

So what, you might be saying. You’re a writer — a novelist — that’s what you’re supposed to do. I thought so too until I tried to write this one.

However, this time was different from the rest.

Perhaps it was the fact that it is the final book in my science fiction trilogy. It was as if my characters refused to share their story with me, knowing it likely was their last.

Perhaps it was the new house or the new job. Maybe my brain needed its old combination of background and routine to get into its groove.

Perhaps it was my family. The kids are getting older now. I am unfortunately finding they aren’t as willing to go to bed before the sun completely sets, just because their mom needs to hit her daily word count. Nor have our weekend become any less full.

Perhaps it was simply me.

amuse yourself with more writer problem memes at https://writerblueprint.com/writing-memes/

I should have finished this manuscript in February. That was my intent. I would take a break from the blog for the holidays and focus, instead, entirely on it. When February passed, I said, eh, it’s a short month anyway, I’m not that far behind.

Weeks stretched into months and still the most glorious words in the writer’s language, ‘the end’ continued to elude me.

I wrote during this time. Don’t get me wrong, but it was a steaming pile of word turd mixed with verbal vomit left behind to fill a blank page and little more. Thanks for that imagery, you might be thinking. Just be glad you weren’t the one expected to clean it up.

This is all to say, I might be late, but I’m still here.

I set a goal — I missed it — but I didn’t let a self-imposed deadline stop me.

Instead, I found a way to finish what I started.

I wrote a book.


My manuscript is off in beta reads, but I am looking forward to seeing it on the shelves soon. Until then, I thought I would share its initial description:

Side effects may vary.

Juliane’s woken to a world she barely recognizes with no memory of the days leading up to her time in cryogenic stasis. Plagued by guilt, Stephen longs to sleep without being haunted by the faces of those he’s lost. Both are seeking more than answers.

Meanwhile, the defeat of the Watch has created an opportunity for a new world order to step in and take power. On one side, there are the Sorcerers, a group of super-humans whose abilities come at a terrible price. On the other—Beastmen, genetically modified individuals lead by one of the people responsible for the plague and economic collapse starting it all.

Juliane is on a mission to restore her legacy.

Stephen is out to save his soul.

Can either stop the upcoming war before it destroys what’s left of humankind? In this struggle for survival of the fittest, they may have to find a way to save themselves first.

You can find the first two books in the series here:

Book 1: The Fair & Foul – https://books2read.com/u/mKJePy

Book 2: The Watch & Wand – https://books2read.com/u/mYgJ9G

Or you can learn more about my other books by visiting my books page.

Invention of the Year: Kids’ Motion Sickness Goggles

My family has logged an inordinate number of hours this summer on various US highways, byways, and the occasional gravel trail. We’ve gone from the mountains to the sea and several places in between. I wish I could say all this travel was for fun, but sadly that’s not been much of the case.

However, it could have been worse. (This post includes affiliate links)

Far, far, worse.

My eldest son suffers from acute motion sickness and we’ve spent the last ten years honing our senses in order to detect the little signs and giveaways that indicate that it is either time to pull over or locate a makeshift barf bag. The signs are subtle. First, there is the unnatural quiet that descends upon the back seat. Then there is the closing and stowing of electronics or the howl of wind from a rear window cracking over. Ignore any of these signs at your peril.

I didn’t know then that I would be spending so much of this summer on the road, but whether by coincidence or providence, I decided I’d had enough after nearly being christened again following a long drive into the mountains. I recalled seeing an ad with a set of funny-looking goggles appear in a browser search months upon months ago claiming to relieve motion sickness. I’d dismissed them at the time as nothing more than yet another way to separate me from my money, but at that moment, seeing my boy’s normally happy face take on a shade of pale green (yet again), I decided to give it another look.

“Order them mom,” my son begged.

Who would have thought something so small could have such a big impact

And so I did. A few weeks later, the goggles arrived in a narrow tube. I call them goggles and not glasses as there is nothing in the four rims (two in the front, another one on each side) other than a thin chamber containing a blue liquid. The frames themselves are made of a thick rubbery plastic that bends and makes you wonder how well the device can actually stay up on a child’s ears.

However, somehow they do.

Even better, after forcing him to wear them for ten minutes at a time for one long car trip after another, I am happy to say they somehow work too!

The downside is now my son’s ravenous appetite is still in full effect from journey start to journey end. This has done a number on our travel meal budget as he used to not be able to stand the sight or smell of food for at least an hour after we finally put the car in park, but I suppose I prefer cleaning out a few extra snack wrappers to the alternative.

We may still have miles and miles to go before we sleep, but at least, thankfully, we don’t have to immediately find the laundry machine when we get there.

Life is a beach

It’s been a while. I could explain, but I won’t. At least I won’t/can’t today.

Oak Island collage - www.alliepottswrites.com

Oak Island, North Carolina

Taking a break from the heat (and maybe a few other things I am beginning to associate with June) I went to the beach with my family and my sisters’ families for some much-needed rest and relaxation (or as much rest and relaxation as you can expect when you are traveling with seven kids 10-years-old and under and three dogs).

We’d picked out the home shortly after the new year. That had been a whole stressful process in and of itself, requiring lengthy negotiations and more than a few compromises, but it checked the major boxes. It had beds for us all (or so the ad claimed) with a pool as well as an oceanfront view and beach access.

On paper it was perfect.

In reality, not quite. The beach access was not directly across the street as it had appeared in the photographs and at some point, the owners had replaced bunk beds with queen-size meaning several of the kids would have to enjoy even more cousin time, but it served its purpose.

We arrived in mass with cars loaded up like the opening credits of the old show Beverly Hillbillies. All that we were lacking was our family matriarch riding in a rocking chair up top (she’d wisely driven separately). We divided rooms and filled the cabinets with a week’s worth of groceries while the cousins darted around and attempted to keep watch of the various canines.

The first day went great, the second too (the nights on the other hand – not so much). However, storms rolled in mid-week and the combination of early-week sunburns, over-tired small people forced to share beds, a flare-up of a stubborn ear infection, and more than one instance of a pup bolting from the house very nearly become a decorative hood ornament on a passing car, caused my sisters to consider calling it a week early.

Sunset over the dunes - www.alliepottswrites.com

Sunset over the dunes

I chose to stay and volunteered to watch a couple of my nieces on the beach while their parents packed. Sunglasses on, book nearby, and beach chair out, I prepared the soak in the last rays of stress-free (or at least stress-lite) living. It didn’t last long.

A niece marched up to me crying. Her eyes stung. Hastily applied sunscreen had mixed with saltwater, rendering her blind, and in pain. She couldn’t see or swim. The sand was no fun. She wanted to go back to the house and she wanted to go now.

I looked over my shoulder. I could see the house over the dunes. We hadn’t been gone nearly long enough for my sister to pack their stuff away and clean. I did the only thing I could. I handed her a towel. She complained her eyes still hurt. I grabbed a bottle of freshwater and instructed her to tilt her head, while I splashed her face.

“Now dab,” I said.

“Dab?” she asked.

“Yeah dab,” I said again, gesturing at the towel in her hands.

“Okay…” she replied. But instead of drying her eyes, she lowered her face and swung both arms out, parallel to each other, in pure celebratory fashion.

In short, she dabbed.

I couldn’t help it. I cracked up. Leave it to the younger set to take a perfectly good simple instruction and interpret it in a way you’d never see coming.

It might have been the freshwater rinse. It might have been the trendy move, but in either event, the smile returned to my niece’s face. She turned and the others where they built sandcastles in the surf until noon.

It wasn’t a perfect trip, and it’s been far from the perfect summer, but moments like these prove that there are still plenty of reasons to laugh, even with things aren’t as expected.

chasing the tide - www.alliepottswrites.com

chasing the tide

It also illustrates one final universal truth, which is:

A day at the beach beats a day in the office almost every time.