Monday, September 23, 2013

Texts



         About a month ago, I read a short snippet of a book discussing short pieces of writing.  An idea of petite short stories came to my thoughts.  I became really excited and bought the book.  I have read about half the book only to be a bit disappointed.  The material is mainly about texts, tweets, Facebook comments and the like.  However, I still like my idea of writing a petite short story to post once a month here on my blog.  So, here is my first one.  Please feel free to tell me what you think.

 

Texts

The alarm’s incessant beeping interrupted her sleep as she reached across the pile of books on her night stand to hit the snooze button.  She closed her eyes trying to recapture the dream, but the images eluded her.  In defeat, she sat up in bed.  The scent of fresh coffee floated into the room, her favorite time of the day.  Standing up, she switched off the alarm and headed to the bathroom for her daily shower.  After dressing, she padded in stocking feet into the kitchen poring herself a cup of black liquid.  At the window she sat watching cars drive past in a hurry to get to their destination.  She flipped open her phone and texted, “I hope you are having a great day.”

            The morning rolled by with meetings, typing, and lunch.  In the afternoon, a colleague stepped in her office with a vein pulsing on his neck.  They discussed the ongoing crisis of his hating his job.  After he walked out the door a little less red and a little happier, she checked her messages.  None.  Sighing in disappointment, she tried again her fingers hit a multitude of letters.  “I am so tired of Greg’s complaining every day.  He needs to just find a new job.”  She caressed the smooth plastic on the front of the phone.

          As the sun descended to the tree line, B’elanna, the Welsh terrier, pulled on the leash as they circled around the lake path for the second time.  She released the cord to let the dog run free as she took a seat on the park bench pulling her phone out of her pocket, still no messages.  She longed to see his name pop up on her phone.  She wrote another.  “I hope you had a wonderful day.”  A cold wind stirred the colorful leaves.  Her hands pulled her sweater tighter.

          With the last light switched off in the apartment, she lay in bed reading until she eyes drooped.  Leaning over she switched the alarm on and the lamp off.  She checked the messages one last time.  Empty.  Falling asleep, her head rested on a damp pillow.
 

Friday, September 20, 2013

Naysayers

          Naysayer, a person who habitually expresses negative or pessimistic views.  How many times does a naysayer come along and thwart our dreams if only for a moment?  I remember when I was a little girl playing the board game Risk.  I must have been in about fifth grade.  A couple of the countries names I struggled with pronouncing correctly.  Looking at the board today, I haven’t a clue which name I struggled with, probably Paraguay.  The naysayer made the comment that I would never be able to do any career in foreign affairs.  Even at that young age the comment fired me up and I had the fleeting thought of proving this person wrong.  Now, I never had the desire to go into that line of work, but I loved history at an early age and ended up with a history degree.  Yes, I still struggle with pronouncing names when first introduced to them, but once I get the hang of them, I love how the sounds roll through my mouth.

          As a young adult, a family friend gave me grief about going to college to get my MRS degree.  I had heard the comment before, but this person I respected and the comment hurt.  In reality, I did get the MRS degree before my BSED.  The fact haunted me and drove me to overcome some pretty big obstacles until I did get that second slip of paper.  The funny part is I have continuously used my MRS degree for the past 24 years.  I really only used the BSED for three years.  I so love irony in real life.

          From the time spelling entered my life, I knew it would be a handicap for education.  I studied and studied and failed and failed.  In third grade, I was introduced to Little House on the Prairie.  I wanted to be just like Laura when I grew up.  I wanted to write.  I can’t even begin to remember all the people that said my spelling was so horrible that I couldn’t go into an English field.  In fact, one teacher wouldn’t sign off for me to take College Prep English.  But how can you deny your heart’s desire?  I loved to write.  I loved playing with words either in my daydreams or on the page creating scenes and characters.  Did I listen to these people?  Heavens no!  I talked with my guidance counselor.  She gave me permission to take the class.  I also invested in a pocket dictionary.  My second degree on my certificate is English.  I also worked in the writing lab of the college I attended.  I taught English and journalism for three years.

          The latest naysayers in my life now make comments about me publishing.  I have written four books and ten short stories.  I technically started the process in 1993.  My first rejection threw me into a major case of writer’s block.  I actually listened to a naysayer.  Luckily a couple of supporters kept nudging me to write.  In the last six years, I have written 592,857 words.  I have been rejected three more times.  In that period, I have read a lot of books and blog sites about writing.  In the past two years, my fiction writing has improved a good 50% or more.  I am so excited.  I have struggled through the pathways of traditional brick and mortar publishing verses e-publishing independently.  I have chosen e-publishing for the time being, but this entails more work.  I am learning more then I could ever imagine in all areas related to publishing:  formatting, sales, promotion, uploading, and book covers.  This all takes a great amount of time, a little bit of money, and a ton of patience.  I am getting closer though, I can feel it.

          Thus, the latest comment about me still not being close to publishing really annoyed me.  I have two short stories that are done in the area of writing.  My third story is being read by 2nd readers.  My fourth needs one more run through and it will go to my 1st readers.  My fifth story needs a complete edit as does my first book with my readers giving more perspective.  These six pieces of writing will then need to be formatted.  I will need to work out publishing pages, blurbs, pricing, book covers, and promotions.  These last tasks I am learning how to do while I am still writing and editing.  This is a huge amount of work.  My goal is to have them out by this next spring after taking four various classes that should help in the process.

          So, what do we do about these negative comments that are thrown our way whether in all seriousness or in jest?  Definitely, don’t take them to heart.  I try to use them as fuel.  I blow at them coaxing them along.  Soon, the comments turn into an inferno that will create success.  Best of all though, listen to all of the coaches out there.  I am very blessed to have quite a few supporters.  I rely on them when I struggle with the naysayers.  Oh, and at times, I can be the worst of all naysayers.

          “I have the strength for everything through Him who empowers me.”  Philippians 4:13.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Two Amazing Artist Dates


                This past weekend, I traveled 308 miles for an artist’s date.  What is an artist date you ask?  It is time with yourself once a week with no companions for your inner-artist.  I am usually very bad at the whole artist date thing.  I get so wrapped up in my chores and writing goals that many times I skip them.  I must also confess that many times I do them with family members.  This weekend I technically only went on one date though I do counted two dates.

                Saturday morning I woke at 5:30 to drive out to Ross Creek Cedars.  I wanted to spend some time alone to take pictures for my photography class and for me.  I was also hoping to capture some settings for a couple of scenes in the next book I plan to write in November.  I was not disappointed with the setting.  My pictures lacked because of my deadline to be back in town to have breakfast with family, so the light was very poor.


Here is a picture that validated a scene from my very first book.  Two of my characters struggle in a scene getting through a forest of fallen trees.  These two trees were taller than me.  I would definitely have a hard time getting over them.  Luckily, the path went around them.
 
I love these two trees.  They will be a fairy castle.
 
This hollowed out tree will make a perfect hiding spot.



I won’t reveal how, but there is a battle scene with this fallen tree.

 
Here will be the home of my latest character.
 

The second part of my day I do count as an artist’s date even though my daughter tagged along.  I visited a mock Viking encampment.  I loved the tents and the cooking tripod.
 
                Amazing artist dates don’t happen very often.  Many times I just do some gardening, go for a hike, or splurge for a latte.  I am planning another date for next month that is hopefully as amazing as this date, but I am going to keep that a secret until it takes place.  Stay tunedJ


 

Monday, September 9, 2013

Book Covers and Proverbs


                With my son gone to Fort Leonard Wood for military training and my daughter in school, this week my goal for my writing was to tackle book covers.  Now, I realized I wouldn’t have a finished product by the end of the week, but I didn’t think the book covers would tackle me.

                On Monday and Tuesday, I worked on my ideas of a cover for my first short story, Brother and Sister.  In June, I took a picture of my son and daughter out in the woods.  I plopped this into PowerPoint put in a title and author name (oh, so pretty) and my author brand with a nice background.  Now, I realize PowerPoint is not designed for book covers, but it is the only software I know how to run successfully.  I produced two examples of potential covers.  I liked them though they weren’t exactly the way I wanted them, but that is why I need a graphic designer.

                Wednesday morning, I grabbed all my things and drove to town.  I started the morning holding a beautiful baby boy and chatting with friends.  My nerves did fairly well until after I left and drove to the graphic designers’ storefront.  I chatted with the receptionist.  None of the designers were in at the moment, so she took my name and e-mail address.  She asked for my card.  I really need to get cards!

                I also messaged a friend of a friend that day and waited.  I hate waiting!!!  My cousin heard my impatience and need, so he gave me the name of an old friend of his.  I quickly sent out an e-mail.  I liked this last one.  He is an amazing artist.  I would love his illustrations to grace the front of all my work.  I waited a little longer.

                Friday, the company here in town e-mailed me and called to give me a quote on pricing, $400 for a cover.  Ugh.  The illustrator quoted me between $1400 to $5000.  Oh, my.  Chatting with a graphic designer friend, she thought the $400 quote reasonable.  Well, now I know.  Book covers are not going to come about this way until I am making up to a thousand dollars per project.  I can’t justify paying this much for a $2 short story which hopefully will make me music money.

                Plan Alpha, pay for a few book covers until I learned how to do them on my own, crashed and burned.  Plan Bravo is now in effect.  I am going to take two photography classes, a class in Photoshop, and an on-line book cover class.  Instead of publishing my first stories this month, I will be publishing at the beginning of 2014.  Again, I am waiting.  Have I mentioned how I hate waiting?

                This morning, I read from the Bible and found this beautiful proverb.  “Good planning and hard work lead to prosperity, but hasty shortcuts lead to poverty,” Proverbs 21:5.  All week I prayed about book covers.  I released the project for Him to work.  I must admit I was anxious for an answer.  Here it is.  Buying book covers was the hasty plan and not financially sound.  Spending all of this money could very well lead to poverty.  Hard work it is!!!

                Blessings.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Active-Traumatic Stress Disorder


                One of my favorite activities in writing is the research I do for the next story or novel.  Two weeks ago I realized the NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) was fast approaching.  I decided my novel project for November would be my story about a young girl left for dead after watching her best friend killed by raiders.  Eventually, she will befriend a falcon.  To begin, I checked out a falconry book from the library and bought a book about PTSD.  The latter is a topic near and dear to my heart since my husband and many friends have been to the warzones in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

                In my readings, I came across some interesting information.  As a wife, the first two years after my husband returned from Iraq were tough.  Reading other stories, our story is a picnic, but it still wasn’t easy.  My husband returned different.  Yes, the basics of his personality remained the same: Catholic, husband, father, and soldier.  However, his personality became rougher, he smiled less, and socializing no longer was a priority.  I, being an introvert, miss the socializing of the past and his consistency in smiling.  Also, he has stretches of extreme tunnel vision that drive me crazy.  For the most part, all our energy went into finding a new normal for him.  We both went to counseling and have structured a new life which has more bumps in the road, but usually they are more manageable.

                In Surviving the Shadows: A Journey of Hope into Post-Traumatic Stress by Bob Delaney, he extends his topic to the spouses of individuals with PTSD.  The spouses of soldiers experience “another form of PTSD on a different level-something I describe as Active-Traumatic Stress Disorder (ATSD).  The circumstances that trigger the trauma in ATSD…unfolds with anxiety on the home front, but the impact on a person’s body chemistry may be the same.”  This anxiety remains after the spouse returns home as the adjustment process begins and the PTSD needs to be dealt with.  In my case, I lived with anxiety for about three years.  I still feel it from time to time.  I am sure my kids felt all of this as well though we tried to shelter them.

                Putting a name to my experience felt really good.  Seeing a person speak in such a way helped validate all the feelings I had and still feel.  The spouse that Bob interviewed for this section of the book stated, “’But I’ll never be the same Mary.’”  I relate so much to this sentiment.  I will never be the same Lisa.  Some people realize this about my husband, but even fewer realize or understand that about me.  While going through all the anxiety, many people criticized me in the way I survived.  With that, I became more of an introvert and trust people far less then in my younger years.

                The military, government, and television are working very hard to educate others about PTSD in our returning soldiers.  I am happy to see that this understanding is extending to all citizens who go through traumatic experiences in the civilian world.  I challenge all of you to broaden this understanding to the immediate family members who live with people with PTSD.  We change as well or we don’t succeed in the relationships.  I believe a lot of the time the spouses change in the same way.  Most days, I am okay with that.  Other days are a bit rougher.  Now I know it is normal.

                The information will help in my writing.  My character at the beginning of the book still lives at home with her parents and younger siblings.  I will write about her PTSD, but now I will also write about the ATSD that the family will experience especially her mother.  My prayer is that I will do both justice.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Transitions


                After retiring from the military after 20 years and leaving my government job after 11 years, I adventured out to become more involved in my church and to write.  In reality, I traveled down the road of new self discovery, a new definition.  Lately, I find myself still wondering who I am now that the military is in my past. 

The other day, I sat in a beautiful living room with a whimsical fish hanging in a little alcove above windows with wooden shutters giving the room an airy feel.  I almost expected a salty breeze to come through the room transporting me to one of my favorite places, the beach.  Across from me sat one of my mentors, a delightful lady who has been in my life for twenty-six or so odd years, my mother-in-law.

                “I really feel you are in transition.”  The statement gave me pause. 

Another comment during the talk, “writer doesn’t define Lisa” left me wanting to scratch my head. 

The conversation left me wondering, who is Lisa.  How do I define myself?  The obvious is wife, mother, daughter, and sister.  There is also Catholic, prior Protestant, conservative, retired staff sergeant, writer, photographer, gardener, crafty, musical, creative, driven, and the list goes on.  Yet, after I retired, I put my military self to the side and strove to be a Catholic writer leaving many of the other definitions by the wayside.  This past November, I realized I missed writing fantasy.  In about March, my desire to blog began to lag.  Other areas of my life started losing their value of fulfillment.  That wise woman was right, I am in transition.

                Now for the hard question, where do I go from here?  In a week, I am taking my first photography class.  I am giddy with anticipation to learn more in the area.  Besides taking spectacular pictures, I am going to apply what I learn to book covers because my other goal is to start indie publishing my writing.  Eventually, this will lead to a website and who knows.  I am learning in leaps and bounds in the area of the arts.  I have so many ideas and projects sparking fires that I have about three lifetimes of work ahead of me.

I also decided to change my blog.  When I began The Journey to Holiness, my dear friend just died from cancer.  I marveled at her strength and faith.  I wanted to emulate that and to bring meaning to our lives through faith.  I did hesitate and wonder about creating a blog about Lisa or one about writing.  In the end, I wrote about faith.  I loved the topic, but have felt confined.

When originally researching blogs, many of them focused on one idea, boxed in with parameters.  I am not good at being put in a box.  Thus, I am going to change to a Lisa blog.  I am going to talk about all things that define me with the goal of learning more of who I am.  I will chat about my frustrations with technology as I learn to format and load books onto Smashwords and Kindle.  I will definitely promote my writing once it is available.  I will explore my mass reflections when so inspired.  Watch out, because I may even become political from time to time.

The title of my blog, as can be seen from above, is changing to simply Lisa Nixon-Richard; however, I am keeping this address until I create a web page.  So stay tuned and farewell.