What happens when your New Years Resolution calls your bluff (hint – the universe laughs)

What happens when your New Years Resolution calls your bluff - www.alliepottswrites.comThe term bomb cyclone began to trend as the mercury began to fall. My phone rang. The number flashing on the screen could mean only one thing. I let it go to voicemail as if by not answering, I might somehow change the message. My phone rang again as it received an incoming text from the same number. My other phone rang. An alert flashed across my computer screen. The truth was no longer something I could avoid. My hand was dealt.

It was … a snowday.

Only there wasn’t any snow.

It was cold outside to be sure, but the skies were clear and the roads dry. Nonetheless, the schools would be releasing students early due to hint of winter weather (fairly typical response where I am from), which, while an inconvenience,  wouldn’t have been a major issue except for one little thing. I was scheduled to give a live presentation on my experience with publishing and what happens after you type the words, ‘The End.’

I’d agreed to this talk in a moment of holiday merriment. One my husband’s friends had just survived a major heart attack and there was an undercurrent in the room of what might have been as well as a call to seize the moment while we can. So when I heard that there was a need for a speaker as well as interest in something I enjoy talking about, I accepted the offer without thinking.

But that was before the holidays. I’d had plenty of time to think since then. Plenty of time to think of all the ways, despite my planning, in which my talk could go terribly, terribly wrong.

My public speaking coach is an author too. (image is an affiliate link)

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy talking, especially about books, but even so doubts began to gnaw at me. I found my confidence as uncertain as the weather. What if no one showed up? What if they did?

I’ve met so many people who have considered writing a book one day. Did I really think I had anything new to offer? What if I was boring? What if I overwhelmed? What if I stumbled (figuratively or literally), rambled, or stuttered?

Maybe postponing my speech wasn’t the worst thing that could happen, I told myself. I could blame the snow, get the kids, and revisit my speech later. I’d feel more prepared by then, I rationalized, as I turned back to my computer to revisit my now-oh-so-seemingly-inadequate preparation work. I considered folding.

A blog post caught my eye.

It was my own.

(I’m pretty sure I heard the universe laugh out loud).

Words about change and the need to do something even if you don’t know the outcome stared back at me in black and white. My words. My resolution. My most annoyingly positive self, urging me to shut the heck up and get out of my own way.

Man, I dislike me sometimes.

But I had to admit I had a point.

I looked at the clock. I did the math in my head, calculating my kid’s revised estimated arrival time. I realized not only could the show could still go on, it must go on.

I stuck my tongue out at my screen, but I gathered my things and went anyway determined to do my best no matter how things played out. I arrived at the venue equipped with a handful of books, bullet points burnt in my brain, and a magnetic card reader (affiliate link) for my phone (just in case).

I was both dismayed and delighted to see a full room.

I felt my doubts rising as the guests greeted me individually to say how much they look forward to my talk. It had been pitched to the group as “the best presentation they’d heard all year.” No pressure (even if it was the first meeting of the year).

Then my name was called and the time for doubts was over.

My New Years Resolution had called my bluff, but I wasn’t about to lose the hand.

So I rose from my chair, I walked to the podium, and I looked out at the sea of faces. I saw more than one smile in the crowd.

Yes, I stuttered and rambled once or twice (or maybe more), but I left with fewer books than I brought and less uncertainty of what I could do too. Not only had I conquered my nerves, I even found myself hoping I might be asked back to do it all again someday.

Then all there was left to do was pick up the kids and plan how best to entertain them for the rest of the afternoon as I still had work to do.

It turned out, as my floors, cupboard, and even the dog will attest, giving a talk to a group of adults proved the least of my fears that (lack of) snowday.

What happens when your New Years Resolution calls your bluff?

You put your cards on the table and continue playing because though it might start as a bluff, you might just still end up winning.

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You Should Experience Change At Least Once In Your Lifetime And Here’s Why

I don’t know how you choose to celebrate the new year, but at my house, we watch the Rose Parade. It is an event which takes place in Pasadena, California each year. Similar to Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in terms of network coverage and national tradition, the parade features marching bands and the occasional musical act, but unlike its northeastern relation, this parade relies on drivable “floats” decorated using only botanicals rather than on the same reusable balloons.

As I watch the parade coverage, I am constantly amazed by the amount of detailing that goes into each of these floats. Groups spend a year or more designing these displays, planning the look to the last petal. There might be a dragon that can bat its eye or a giant bicyclist who can tip his hat. You never know what you are going to see until it makes its way down the boulevard. Which is why I’ve gotten frustrated over the years with the trend in network coverage to skip floats in order to have more time to promote their Spring line-up or break for the millionth commercial.

So this year, I decided to do something different. I decided to watch the Funny or Die / Amazon Prime’s coverage (affiliate link) of the event hosted by Will Ferrell and Molly Shannon under the guise of their fake personalities, Cord Hosenbeck and Tish Cattigan.

The coverage was a satire, though the joke was on hosts like themselves rather than parade participants and what made me chuckle the most was a bit they did on New Years Resolutions.

At the beginning of the parade, they talked about the resolutions they’d set for themselves for 2017. Tish’s, for example, was to “put herself out there and let the universe be her guide.” They talked about their relative success. Tish’s felt she’d really taken that risk and grown as a person by attending a wine class. Then at the end, they announced their resolutions for 2018.

They were EXACTLY the same, delivered in a blissfully unaware deadpan voice.

Were Amazon to bring these characters back next year, you can imagine only too well they would be discussing the same resolutions as well as the same results year after year. We can imagine it because when it comes to New Year’s resolutions, that’s the sort of thing so many of us in real life do too.

We resolve to lose the same 15 pounds or eat less of the same junk. We resolve to spend more time on our personal interests or travel more as if by the stroke of midnight on Jan 1st, we can suddenly invent more hours in the day or money in the bank. We tell ourselves it didn’t work last year, but it would this time because this year was different – we were different.

It’s not entirely a lie either. We ARE different. However, the difference usually comes down to one thing – we are older. The rest is pretty much the same. Thus ensuring that the next time the end of the year comes around we will find ourselves in the exact same place we are at its beginning.

Which brings me to my point. In order to truly be anything other than simply an older version of ourselves, we have to be willing to make a significant change at least once in our lifetimes.

I’m not talking about a change in hairstyle or taking a new route to the job. Something significant. Something that challenges what you’ve done before and what you think you know. Something that involves a risk and is guaranteed to make an impact.

Whether that impact will prove to be good or bad, only time will tell, but one thing is certain – you will not just be older after trying, you’ll be wiser too.

To that end, I’m making a few changes of my own this year.

For example, this year, I am inviting other to occasionally add their stories to this site and have added a page under my About menu detailing my instructions for those interested in participating as guest writers. It is my way of saying thanks to those who have similarly helped me by way of paying it forward.

If you have a story in you about a risk taken, a new venture, or an event that set you on the path you find yourself on today, I would encourage you to reach out in the coming weeks.

Because big changes aren’t as scary when we resolve to make them together.

So here’s to trying new things as well as a happy new year.

 

 

 

#ShortStory Saturday’s Flash Fiction Fun with The Writer’s Toolbox – Part Eight

I love to use The Writer’s Toolbox (affiliate link) and its creative games, even if they always cause me to end on a cliff-hanger. Unfortunately, all games must come to an end. While I may choose to revisit these characters one day and continue their story, the following is a conclusion to this particular series.

Once again I would like to thank Jamie Cat Callan of the Writer’s Toolbox for sponsoring the original posts, in spite of them going a little dark, and for creating such a fun and easy tool for priming the creative process. 

May you all have a safe and happy new year.

To read from the beginning, visit the first post here.


A Writers Toolbox #ShortStory - conclusion - www.alliepottswrites.com

An ear-piercing squeal jarred Margaret back from the darkness. As another dose of adrenaline spiked her bloodstream, her vision cleared enough to see the unguarded doorway. Thoughts were difficult to string together. Margaret didn’t need them. Animalistic instinct took over.

She could sense an overwhelming pain as she pulled herself out of the chair, but it was as if the pain belonged to someone else. One foot dragged behind the other as she crossed the room. She barely noticed. A man’s voice complained about a sticky wheel in the background. It was all she needed to fuel the urge to get away.

The knob turned in her hand, opening to a kitchen staffed by many who’d long since learned to turn a blind eye to the goings-on of the back room. All it would take one to raise the alarm. Though it was empty, she dropped to the ground. The brown tile floor bit into her knees as she crawled through the narrow pathways separating the stainless counter-tops.

She glanced over her shoulder. Her captors had not yet noticed her disappearance. A trail of red marked her progress. Margaret risked rising up into a crouch as she looked around the kitchen for anything that might aid in her escape.

Aprons marred with spots of gray from contact with grease hung from a line of hooks on the wall. A pair of rags draped over the edge of an industrial sink within easy reach.

She grabbed the rags scented thick with bleach and tied one around her largest wound. Margaret tried used the other to wipe away the trail leading to her but only managed to create a pink blur. Wrapping the rest of her body with one of the aprons, she made her way toward the swinging door of the kitchen’s exit, hoping the disguise would be enough to keep her from being noticed.

A foursome blocked her final path to freedom.

One of the four spotted her. “Daisy?” His face drained of color. “You were here this whole time?”

“Out of my way Bill,” Margaret growled. Muddled thoughts continued to swirl, forbidding her from letting her guard down. It didn’t matter if he was her brother. If he was here, he could be one of them. She couldn’t afford to lose her edge now. Not when she was so close.

One of the others raced to her side, pulling her into a crushing embrace that made her eyes water. “I thought I lost you.” He relaxed his hold. “I mean, I thought we lost you.”

The warmth of his arms was unbearable. “Not you too, Larry,” Margaret whimpered as tears filled her vision. “Let me go.” She fought against his hold as a new sort of pain entered into the mix.

Her brother’s best friend released her with wide eyes. Larry’s gaze dropped to the apron, now spotted with pink as well as gray. “I didn’t mean to hurt you.” He took another step back. “I’d never–I’m not–”

Light spilled into the dining room as the kitchen door swung open once more. Margaret didn’t have to turn to know that a large man stood on the other side. She screamed as she attempted to push past Larry, only to be caught by her brother as her legs gave out.

“Donald.” The woman standing closest to Bill smiled, stepping between them and the man. “If you are here, does that mean Frank is close by?” The woman’s voice was smoke and honey. “Ah, there’s my favorite artist.”

“Laurie?” A voice that would haunt Margaret’s dreams, spoke up from behind the large man. “And here I thought you still held hard feelings.”

“Tough day at the office?”

The man shrugged. “I’ve had better. Speaking of work,” He nodded in Margaret’s direction. “I’ve got a delivery to make, but if that past business is behind us… Afterward it can be like before.”

“Oh, I’ve learned a lot since then,” the woman practically purred. She reached into her purse and rummaged around until she pulled out a tube of lip gloss. She coated her lips in slow meaningful strokes as she crossed the room before pulling Frank’s head down to meet his lips with hers.

Frank broke the kiss first. “Now that’s my kind of hello.”

Laurie shrugged. “If you say so.” She walked to Donald and kissed him on the cheek. “I choose to think of it as goodbye.” She returned to Bill’s side.

Frank grabbed at his throat as bloated hives broke out across purpling skin. Donald scratched his cheek where Laurie kissed him, then clawed at his pockets before similarly turning red followed by blue.

“Looking for this?” Laurie asked brandishing a tube in one hand as both men dropped to the ground. Gone was the warmth from her voice. “I keep a package of peanuts in my purse, to keep my metabolism up while dieting. Good for me, but bad for those with allergies.” She let the injection tool taken from Donald’s pocket fall to the ground and crushed it under a shoe. She looked down at the men gasping for breath on the floor. “The next time either of you see Leslie, be sure to tell him I can too act.”

Returning her attention back to the group she smiled. “It is time we all enjoyed a change of scenery, don’t you think?”

Margaret was reminded of their childhood as her older brother scooped her up and carried her out of the diner. Police cars raced by in the direction of Leslie’s penthouse. She’d traded more than cooking tips at the class in Duluth. Her lips turned up as she allowed the darkness take over once more. And now, the scenery wasn’t the only thing that would be changing.

A Holiday Address From Her Royal Highness – 2017 Edition

A Holiday Address from her Royal Highness - www.alliepottswrites.com

Her Royal Highness fell asleep while posing for this year’s royal portrait.

It gives us great joy to address you on this, the shortest day of the year. Though this means the longest night is upon us once more, We say joy, because from this point on, darkness will only grow shorter.

While winter has begun, blanketing half the world in cold and gray, We take comfort in the knowledge that the season, for all its cruelty, is in a state of retreat at its very beginning, and that summer is present, if only on the other side of the world. While winter may yet show its bite, the growing days are the constant reminder that winter’s worst is never more than temporary.

Is it any wonder then, the word following the beginning of winter, the world solstice, is so close in form and sound to solace?

And so we fight back against the approaching cold with blankets, cookies, and candles, confident in the knowledge we have the upper hand. We refuse to give into the darkness and instead, celebrate the joy that is this season by opening our hearts and homes to strangers as well as those held most dear.

Winter may represent the end of the year, but with it also, a beginning. It is a chance to start over, to forgive, to change, to add more pillows, or address past mistakes.

So go forth, and do not be afraid of the darkness that surrounds, for it has already lost. Cherish the traditions that brought you this far, but dare to do something different from time to time. Make this coming year everything you wished the previous year could be. For our time in the summer’s sun is all to short and winter will return again.

Therefore always remember to look for the joy in the everyday, whether that day be winter, spring, summer or fall. Know that all days have within them the potential to be shiny and bright. The only difference is the season.

Warmest Regards,

HRH, The Princess Royal V.C. Potts, the first of her name


Although this is my last regularly scheduled post for the year, I do have one more post planned – the conclusion to the short story mysteries series I’ve been running on Saturdays since November. If you’ve missed them, you can read the first in the series here. Fair warning – they have absolutely nothing to do with the holidays, so do not expect warm fuzzy feelings.

I’ll still be checking in from time to time, but will be spending most of the next few days deep into mugs of hot chocolate (with the occasional eggnog) while I plot and plan for 2018.

I hope each of you also gets some time for rest and relaxation as well however you choose to celebrate the changing of the year.

-Allie

#ShortStory Saturday’s Flash Fiction Fun with The Writer’s Toolbox – Part Seven

As much as I absolutely love to use The Writer’s Toolbox (affiliate links are included in this post for your convenience), I have found it always makes me end on a cliff-hanger. As I am curious as to the story’s end (and hope you are too), I have decided to continue the series with a few more posts. While these posts are not sponsored and do not conform to the rules of the game, I hope you enjoy them all the same.

If you’d prefer to start from the beginning, you can read the first post here.


A Writers-toolbox inspired short story - www.alliepottswrites.com

A crimson ribbon swirled in the sink as Frank rinsed off the tools of his trade. He twisted the faucet knob, slowing the flow of water to allow the color to expand and formed intricate shapes before contracting once more and disappearing down the drain. He sighed as the water ran clear. As much as he tried, he could never quite capture the raw beauty created by the drowning art on his canvas with paint.

A grunt behind him reminded him of the task at hand. Frank turned to his partner, Donald, who was still standing guard by the door. “The girl’s tougher than she looks,” he gestured at the crumpled figure in the chair. “Stupid — but tough. Leslie isn’t going to be happy.”

Donald didn’t need a tongue to tell Frank his feelings on the subject. The expression on his face spoke volumes enough.

Frank looked at the girl again. “Guess there’s nothing left to do but clean up.” The girl. Margaret was her name. Emphasis on was, Frank thought as he shook his head. He remembered how she’d looked when she’d arrived with eyes that flashed between hope and fear. And those pouty lips.., he savored the thought as he would a snifter full of high-end brandy later that night. At one point he’d found himself almost ready to believe her. He shrugged, dismissing the image. Such a waste. Thoughts like that served no one and they still had work to do.

Donald’s face was once again a mask of granite as walked over to one of the large plastic drum style containers the restaurant hiding the back room used to transport leftover grease to the biodiesel processing plant. He picked up the drum and positioned it on the hand truck with an ease that came from years of practice.

An aroma of freshly baked bread tickled Frank’s nose and made his mouth water as he dried the last of his instruments. The kitchen’s really stepped up their game today, he thought as he packed his tools back into their leather case. The scent of rosemary was normally not so strong. His stomach rumbled. It would have to remain empty a while longer. In his line of work, it was never a good decision to delay sharing the results of an interview, no matter how enticing a meal was.

Frank winced as an ear-piercing screech came from the direction of the hand truck. “Stop, stop, stop,” he said coming to Donald’s side. He crouched down to examine the base. “Here’s the problem. The wheel’s stuck.” He poked at the wheel, looking for whatever was blocking its axle. The cool metal rim was tacky to the touch with strands of matted hair stuck to its surface. “Is this the same one you used on the last job?” He pushed on the rubber of the tire, but the wheel stubbornly refused to turn.

He frowned. If they didn’t clear whatever it was out now, there would be no way to get the container out of the room once it was filled. Then again, Donald had more muscle in a finger than most did in their entire arms. He might not even need the cart. The girl probably only weighs one hundred sixty or so, he thought as he glanced over his shoulder.

The chair was empty. Frank jumped up and spun on his heel. His gaze followed a trail of red spatter from the chair to the unguarded door.

Donald grunted.

“Yeah, yeah, I know.” Frank whistled. Donald wasn’t the only one getting sloppy. “Maybe she’s not so stupid after all.”

His partner snorted.

“Well, don’t just stand there.” He gestured at the open door. “Go get her. She can’t have gone far.”


Read the conclusion here