Project Gene Assist Book 2, The Watch & Wand – You always have a choice. Make the right one

The Watch and Wand, the latest in the Project Gene Assist #Book Series Launches December 5th www.alliepottswrites.comBarring acts of God or radioactive slime beast hellbent on scaling the largest tower in my city while simultaneously leaving a swart of destruction in its wake, by this time next week, my book children will officially outnumber my human children.

I am going to level with you – it hasn’t been easy.

An Uncertain Faith - www.alliepottswrites.comWhen my first bookborn arrived, I didn’t have a clue what to expect. I did whatever any new bookparent would. First I converted a small underused space on the internet into a cozy little site where my bookbaby and my author platform might grow side by side. I overbought supplies (many of which I hadn’t the first clue how to effectively use) so I might be ready for any occasion. I sent out cards alerting the friends and family. I hung up bright shiny pictures of its cover positioned in various poses and dreamed about all the things I thought it might one day be.

I nested. I sanitized my words. I reached out to other new bookmoms and bookdads for sympathy, tips or other advice.

But I was overwhelmed and no matter how much attention I bestowed, my bookbaby still always demanded more.

I consulted the experts who all agreed that the best thing I could do, for us both, was to give my bookbaby a sibling.

I made a choice.

Project Gene Assist Book 1: The Fair & Foul - www.alliepottswrites.comSo after a lengthy labor of love, culminating on one cold rainy night, my second bookbaby made its grand first appearance. After the launch, I wanted nothing more than to get some rest and enjoy the benefit of my expanded catalog. Only things didn’t work between the two quite as smoothly as I imagined.

For one, the newest edition was a completely different genre, meaning, as I learned in short order, I wouldn’t be able to utilize most any marketing hand-me-downs. Nor did either book’s temperament allow me to bundle them together. Well… shoot.

I consulted the experts once again on what to do. The answer was the same.

Write more books (preferably this time in the same genre).

But at this point, my other children, my human children were no longer going to bed early or taking mid-day naps, nor was the day job getting any less demanding.

Then, to make matters worse, the words stopped flowing. Not all at once, but bit by bit until one day I realized that somewhere along the line, I’d let my story slip.

I found myself at the base of a mountain – a mountain of a goal – a goal I’d created.

I thought about quitting. I thought about it a lot.

I thought about quitting.

But I didn’t.

You didn’t. You could have. You didn’t let me.

I made a choice.

So now I’ve scaled a mountain – a mountain of a goal – a goal I created, only to see another mountain on the other side.

With your continued patience and more than a little of your support, I’ll scale that one too.

Thanks to you all.

I’d never have come this far without you.


Project Gene Assist Book Two: The Watch & Wand officially goes on sale Tuesday, December 5th. (Kindle Pre-order now available). You can read an excerpt here.

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One foot forward – what a summer vacation can teach about determination

One Foot Forward - www.alliepottswrites.com #vacation #determination

Background image by rpertiet (The Stairs) via Wikimedia Commons

“Are you combing your hair with your toes?” is a question I never thought I would need to ask, but when your child is the human incarnate of a Gumby doll, I guess anything goes.

My youngest, LT, has hypermobility, a condition that allows him to perform fun party tricks like the one above, but at the same time made it difficult to build up the muscle definition needed to sit up, crawl, or walk. He spent almost a year of his life in physical therapy mastering skills which other kids picked up naturally at a half (or a third) of his age. At times it seemed he would never gain the knack, until one day the pieces fell into place, and he took his first step.

It is now time for him to take his next first step – into kindergarten.

To say that I am a wee bit nervous is an understatement. Thus far he has spent his entire life surrounded by those who have known him, his abilities, and his limitations from birth. But as of next week, he’ll be in a classroom of twelve to twenty children, each with unique talents and challenges of their own. Has he caught up to his peers? How will he cope? How will his teacher? We will soon find out.

As the last days of summer break wound down a group of us (eight adults, six children under the age of ten, and two dogs) decided to head to the Outer Banks, which is a series of naturally forming islands off the coast of North Carolina where pirates once sailed and wild horses still roam.

After two days of red flags, signifying a dangerous riptide in the water, we decided to take in the surrounding sights and made our way to the Currituck Beach Light.

Currituck Beach Light - www.alliepottswrites.com

Currituck Beach Light –
Just in case you wanted to know what 1,000,000 bricks look like

Currituck’s lighthouse is not the tallest lighthouse in North Carolina, at 198.5 ft (60.5 m) that distinction goes to the lighthouse at Cape Hatteras, but it would do.

The sun beat down on us as we waited in line. Sweat formed as the staff advised it would be another twenty to thirty minutes wait before we could go inside. The kids scattered across the green while the adults held their places. I watched as my eldest and one of his cousins started playing tag. LT attempted to join in but he couldn’t compete with their speed and soon the game lost its appeal.

LT returned to my side and guzzled down the contents of my only remaining bottle of water already showing signs of tiring. I looked at the tower. 220 spiraling steps awaited us, constructed prior to any form of building safety code (or air conditioning). Some of our group discussed sitting this one out as the crowd waiting increased along with the temperature. I looked at LT. There was no way I would be able carry him to the top were he to slip or give up mid-climb.

The line moved. Our group was next. It was time to decide who was going and who was staying on the ground. LT didn’t hesitate to join his brother and cousins at the front of the line. His face was set. His decision was made. I guess mine was too.

The majority of our group disappeared up the stairs within seconds of our entry. I hung back ready to react as I could as my youngest grabbed the handrail and took that first step forward. I watched with laser focus as he took another. Then another. We reached the landing at the top of the first flight of stairs. Eight more flights to go. LT didn’t look back. We rounded the next. The inside of the tower narrowed.

Halfway up, another group appeared at the top of the next landing and began their descent. I made the mistake of glancing down. It was all too easy to imagine what might happen if LT were to slip now. Maybe it would be best for us to stop to wait with our backs against the wall while they squeezed past. I hesitated. LT did not. Instead, he kept climbing.

We met more and more people the higher we went and each time my stomach twisted along with my heart, but LT never looked back, never complained, never asked me to do the work for him, and never once stopped.

Currituck Beach Light - www.alliepottswrites.com

View from the top

Then we were at the top of the stairs and roughly 150 feet (45.72m) from the ground. A small doorway through the brick wall opened to an external landing, which circled the lighthouse and provided an unencumbered view of both the ocean and the sound separating the island from the mainland. But the most beautiful sight for me was the smile on LT’s face as he joined the rest of our family on the rail.

It was enough to make me forget we had to still go back down. Well … almost.

We reached the bottom with LT leading the line of children behind me. After exiting, I turned and looked up once more, amazed again at how far this one little guy had gone on his own and reminded once more of how much can be accomplished one determined step at a time.

How would he cope with this next stage in his life or any goal he sets his mind to for that matter? I had my answer. It was the same way any of us should – with one foot forward.

Other random facts

  • Built in 1875, Currituck Beach Lighthouse is one of eight official lighthouses in the state of North Carolina, though there are more than twenty if you include replicas like the Roanoke Lighthouse and converted offshore rigs like the Frying Pan Shoals Light, which also serves as a bed and breakfast for a truly unique off-grid travel experience.
  • Also known as the graveyard of the Atlantic due to the number of shipwrecks, the sea bed around the Outer Banks can shift quite dramatically as evidenced by the sudden appearance of an entirely new island earlier this year.
  • The shifting sands and storm erosion also required the Cape Hatteras lighthouse to be moved 2900 feet from its original site in 1999, which was a feat of engineering and worth reading about.

 

 

 

 

Contemplating success at the corner bus stop

contemplating success at the corner bus stop - www.alliepottswrites.comIt was my morning with the kids and their cousins. My morning to supervise them as they pulled out every toy I had so painstakingly put away just days before. My morning to ensure they reached the bus stop with backpacks and lunch sacks intact.

Some mornings those tasks are easier than others.

I informed the crew that it was time to clean up. My youngest, LT, pouted. “Now, honey,” I started. He pouted some more. “Five-year-olds are big enough to pick up their own mess.” He grumbled and whined, but I was satisfied to see the toy go back into its spot.

Now typically on my morning, I drop LT off with the wonderful woman who watches him while I work before taking the rest of the kids to their destination. But this morning, one of the kids asked if LT might come to the bus stop with them instead. Another chimed in – they wanted to race. I looked at the clock. We’d have to wait outside longer than normal, were they sure?

Spring has come early to my neck of the woods this year. We’ve spent the last two weekends with the kids outside and the windows open. Already the trees and flowers are budding and small pink petals dot the streets. My concern about a few minutes extra exposure to the great outdoors fell on deaf ears.

Fine. I’d be democratic about it – this time.

I altered our course and soon we were at the stop. The children dumped their bags at the corner by my feet and congregated a few yards away – close enough for me to keep an eye on them, but far enough that they might whisper among themselves unheard. The next thing I knew they were running down the sidewalk back toward me.

Or more specifically, LT ran. Kiddo, my eldest, and my nephew, Casimir, took turns moving in what can only be described as spastic hop, yet tiny tip-toe sized step that might have only impressed a snail with progress. LT, passing them with ease, ran around me, grinning from ear to ear. As LT returned to their starting point/finish line both Kiddo and Casimir tried to one-up each other in exaggerated groans about how fast their youngest competitor now was. It was a far cry from the fits and tantrums we used to experience about ‘unfair’ contests and proof of how mature the boys had become.

Before long other children began to arrive, filling up the sidewalk and preventing further races. One child shouted “Bus,” like a whaler of old spotting a blowhole out at sea as the big yellow vehicle appeared from around the corner. The kids scrambled to pick up their backpacks and gathered in a line as LT returned to my side.

Picking him up, we waved at the faces grinning at us from the other side of the windows. “That’s going to be you soon,” I told my youngest as the bus pulled away. “Are you ready?”

He smiled and nodded, undoubtedly thinking that the coming school year would be filled with fun and games like the time he’d just had.

Recalling the display at being asked to put toys away, I decided to make this a teachable moment. “You know, when you are in school, you are going to have to listen to your teacher when he or she tells you to do things.”

LT looked at me and cocked his head to one side. “Why?”

“Because you don’t want to go to the principal’s office or get bad grades.”

The look of confusion on LT’s face only deepened. He repeated, “Why?”

“Because they will call mommy then or give mommy a bad report. You don’t want that.”

He chewed on my answer for a moment or two. “Okay mommy, I’ll listen to my teacher.” I smiled and patted his head. Then, so softly, I almost missed it, LT muttered, “sometimes.”

LT might think he is ready for school, but I now have to wonder if his school will be ready for him.

Later, our conversation made me think of my own plans for the future and some of the stumbling blocks I’ve already encountered. Often, I complain about how long these plans are taking as patience is not my best virtue. The morning then became a good reminder that while I might achieve the measures by which I currently judge my success, there will always be challenges I have yet to envision.

Therefore, I cannot, will not let those unforeseen bumps discourage me completely. I have to remind myself of those that traveled a similar path before me, of those who didn’t know then what they know now, and how they matured along the way. Every day, as I take another step down that path, I tell myself, I am closer now than ever before, even if I am forced to retrace a few steps or take the occasional detour.

Because that is what I do. That is what I’ve done.

Though it sometimes seems I still have a long way yet to go, I know that when (not if) I finally do reach the future of my dreams, the bigger question is now will my dreams be ready for me?

An unexpected lesson on never giving up

An Unexpected Lesson on Never Giving Up - www.alliepottswrites.com

background image courtesy of http://www.pexels.com

I elected to take AP English in my final year of high school. For those not as familiar with the American, specifically, North Carolinian education system, at least during the [decade redacted], an AP class was an advanced course you could take leading up to an exam at the end of the year which could translate into university credits depending on scores. I say ‘elected’ because while all students must pass senior English in order to graduate, no one said you had to do so at the AP level. What can I say? Peer pressure.

I knew from the very first second I stepped into that classroom that this course was not going to be like the ones I’d previously taken. The cinderblock walls that made up the main buildings of my school’s campus, were painted in a mural of literary characters. It was bright and glaring and took a while for my eyes to adjust looking at all that color considering all the other walls around campus were stark white.

The class was barely underway when our teacher began handing out a list of books we would not only be required to read in addition to our regular coursework, we’d be also expected to analyze. I remember thinking repeatedly as more titles were rattled off, what have I gotten myself into?

The question only grew louder in my brain as the class went on. I thought of the rest of my schedule and the demands of my other courses. Classes like science and math. Classes, which I thought would have a greater impact on my future career.

You could still ask to change your schedule during the first two weeks of school, and so after the second class, I approached my teacher to tell her that as much as I liked her style, I was worried I would be overwhelmed and would she mind signing my transfer request.

My teacher listened to my concerns but didn’t pick up her pen. Instead, she looked me in the eyes and told me she thought I had what it took. She asked me to think about it a while longer and if at the end of the second week I still wanted to move to another class she would sign the request without argument. Considering she didn’t know me any more than the other students in the class, I wondered briefly if she had said what she had out of some form of self-interest. Would she get dinged for her performance if kids transferred? I wondered. Then again, I argued, she’d probably get dinged more for kids not passing. Wouldn’t she? Mostly, though, I found myself wanting to believe what she said. I wanted to be that person she thought I was.

I agreed to her suggestion. In the scheme of things, what really, was another day or two?

At the end of the year, we entered the room only to find the mural all but gone with the majority of walls painted the same white as the rest of the campus. Our teacher explained then that for those final days she wanted us to fill in the blank spaces. She would supply the paint and we could pair up however we wanted, but we were to create a mural of our own based on readings we’d done throughout the year for next class to enjoy the following year.

I left behind a piece of myself on the walls of that classroom, if only for as long as an extra year, but I took with me much more.

I’ve blocked out the majority of my high school experience, but not her class, and not the lessons I learned there. For it was there I learned that, while I will be tempted to quit when the work gets difficult or otherwise overwhelming, if I press on the end result will likely prove to be worth the sweat and tears. I also learned that while I might not always believe in myself, there are others out there who are willing to believe enough for the both of us. The trick is to trust them.

It is important to find mentors in life, people who believe enough in you to coach you through the tough times. A simple nod of encouragement by these people can be enough to make the difference between success and failure. And there is no rule to limit a person to just one. You can build yourself a team of mentors if that’s what your path to success requires.

And if you do find yourself one day looking into the eyes of someone considering giving up, think of the people who once believed in you. Look them in the eye and tell them to give it another day. Who knows what a difference your words can make.

Related readings

Cause baby, there ain’t no mountain high enough

Earlier this year we introduced Her Royal Highness to water. Being that at least part of her noble ancestry can be traced to Labrador, she deemed that this introduction most pleasing (almost as pleasing as pillows, which she will tell you, remain at levels well beneath her station). Therefore, when we received an invitation to a friend’s house at a nearby lake she sent her acceptance post-haste.

Being the highly trained servants we are, we prepared her luggage, which included a bag filled with assorted balls designed to be retrieved from lakes or oceans. When we arrived at our destination, she eagerly inspected the property. She sniffed. It would do.

While the front yard is relatively flat, like many other houses on this particular lake, the house sits well above the water’s edge, the ground in the back, with its steep decline more cliff than yard. The land further dropped away under the water. Without a beach or even shallows, to speak of the owners expressed their concerns about playing games such as fetch from the home’s pier. “She won’t be able to get out on her own,” and “you will have to pull her out.”

Undeterred by troublesome things like risk, or topography, Her Royal Highness made her way to the bottom of the hill where she waited for we servants to attend her. Splash. Her Royal Highness leapt into the water and began paddling. She turned and looked at those of us standing on the platform. She swam. Then she was gone.

I scanned the area, spotting her moments later on the rocks at the lake’s edge. The only problem was the rocks weren’t anywhere near the access platform. Her Royal Highness pressed on. I watched, more than a little concerned, as she scaled the hill. Her claws digging into the mud. I wondered as she somehow fit her body between the dirt and a tree, giving herself more leverage. She reached the platform, but unfortunately, its wooden planks were still well above her head. The ground should have been too steep for her to use as an effective launch pad, but launch she did.

I’d gone to the platform intending to haul her up as our friends suggested. I hadn’t needed to. The concerns of man (or woman) had not registered in her ears. She crawled up on the platform. Dropping the ball, she wagged her tail and ran back toward the water leaving muddy paw prints in her path. “Yeah, I don’t think this is a good idea,” I told her as I picked up the ball. I tried to put it away. After that athletic displayed, she’d earned a rest.

She disagreed.

Splash. Once again she was in the water.

Over and over she repeated the process. Each time, I thought for sure she’d had enough and each time she proved me wrong. Soon she was finding another way to launch herself. Instead of scaling the hill, she found another rock at the bottom, positioned close to another edge of the pier and would jump from there. Sometimes she would miss. Sometimes she fell down. But she never stopped trying. There is no place for the word ‘can’t’ in Her Royal Highness’ kingdom.

“The man who begins to say it can’t be done is often interrupted by somebody else doing it.” – quote generally attributed to Confucius, George Bernard Shaw, or Elbert Hubbard

They say that people eventually resemble their pets, and with regards to Her Royal Highness, I find it no insult. As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve all but written the words End of Book Two in my current draft in process. I’ve written before about how writing a novel is much like running a marathon and how impossible reaching the finish line can feel when you are at the base of a particularly big hill (or at a lull in the story’s progress). Today, I’ve written over 70,000 words (that’s equivalent to 280 book pages for my non-writer readers). And that’s just this last book. I’ve written approximately half a million words now when you look at all my publications.

Somedays the words came easily, but not every day. Somedays I had to jump from questionable surfaces, get my hands dirty, and scale seemingly impossible walls. I did this because I have a goal in mind and the confidence and determination to see it through. I am the only thing that can stop me. All that suggests otherwise is simply noise.