Thursday, January 23, 2014

The Salute


The card slid smoothly into the slot as a click and green light indicated the door unlocked.  He pushed it open depositing his small black bag by the door.  When he originally planned the trip years ago, he wanted to stay in the Grand Hotel of his childhood days.  Instead, he chose the newer hotel and booked the suite with a fireplace.  The open space dwarfed the tiny living room he grew up in thirty-five years prior. 

After pouring himself a drink, he slid the balcony door open and stepped onto the patio.  Off in the distance, the full moon peaked over the mountain range freshly capped with snow.  Before his father left for war, the two of them spent many days in those mountains hunting, fishing, and hiking.  The past twenty odd years, he missed the feel of them watching over him.  The whiskey burnt going down his throat.  Loosening his black tie, he turned back to the room to get some sleep and stop the memories from overwhelming him.

          Throughout the night, the plaid comforter tugged and pulled as he fought his dreams.  Visions of kids twice his size taunting him filled his sight.  Harsh words of baby killer exploded in his head.  A bloody nose turned into a fire leaping up to consume him.  He jerked awake relieved at the sunlight streaming through the panes of glass.  The scars on his hands throbbed.  Stifling the urge to grab the bottle, he stumbled to the coffee pot instead.  He opened the laptop drowning himself in work until afternoon.

          An hour before the service, he slid onto the grey leather seat of his rental car.  His fingers turned the key in the ignition and the engine roared to life.  Maneuvering through traffic, the side street beckoned him.  He pulled into the empty parking lot.  Stepping out of the vehicle, he placed his beret on his head straightening it just right above the bridge of his nose.

He sighed at the look of the old building.  Bricks lay on the ground leaving holes in the wall.  The windows in his old science classroom long shattered from either old age or vandals.  Even a small tree grew from the cracks in the foundation.  Peaking through the window frame, he shook his head at the burnt tile on the floor where he tried to grab the plain green ball cap his dad gave him before he left for war, the cause of his scarred hands.  The rank and unit crest of the unit his dad worked with in the war was displayed on the front.  He remembered wearing the cap with pride until that fateful day.

The local bully called his father a baby killer and grabbed the hat off his head.  With a Bunsen Burner, the creep lit the cap on fire dropping it on the floor.  Not thinking clearly, he grabbed the flaming mass with his hands to beat out the fire.  The taunts only grew worse with each new report that came from the war zone.  Some teachers tried to shield him, but other teachers allowed debates disparaging the soldiers.  With the ball cap destroyed, he saved the unit crest and wore it on his jacket.

His father returned from the fighting with what they now call PTSD.  They only spent one day in the mountains.  The bullies and liberals accused his father further when he committed suicide a year after his return.  With a heavy sigh, he turned from the window and the memories.  He needed to finish his drive to his appointment.

          Cars lined both sides of the road.  Parking, he straightened his tie once more and beret.  Standing tall, he walked down the lane passing those grieving.  Discomforted, he avoided the looks people gave him.  A man in dress blues rarely appeared in this area of the country.  He stood near the back of the crowd.  The minister spoke standing next to the six foot hole the casket shaded.  As the service drew to a close, the military man waited until the last person spoke to the widow. 

          “Mrs. Blake, may I walk you to your car.”  He offered his arm to her.

          Once at the black limousine she asked him to wait a moment.  Reaching into the car, she grabbed a small book from the seat.

          “Richard kept track of your career over the years.  He was very proud of you.”  Wrinkled hands held out the weathered black book to him.

          Taking the gift, he flipped through looking at all the scrapbooked pictures and news articles to the last page with an article of his being pinned General.  Tears streamed down his face.  “Mr. Blake sat me down after the fire.  He told me I held the key to my future.  I could listen to the naysayers or I could overcome them.  My dad left us in dire straits, but with Mr. Blake watching over me and guiding me, I prevailed.” 

          They exchanged a few more pleasantries.  He helped her into the vehicle and watched it leave the cemetery grounds.  Executing an about face, he marched back to the casket saluting his high school principal.    He continued on to the poor side of the grounds to stand in front of a pauper's grave.

          “Dad, not a day goes by that I don’t think of you.  I do all my work with veterans and their families in your honor.  I miss you.”  Snapping his heals together, he saluted as a soft snow fell to the ground.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Grammar Fear


                Defeat overcame me as the words washed over my soul.  “Editor needed for grammar.”  No.  The entire reason I asked for readers I trusted was to face those issues softly.  Of course, I knew the truth in my heart.  A reader and an editor are two completely different roles.  In all fairness, hoping a friend would put in the time and energy to fix minute details was not realistic.

                Facing the computer, my fingers flew over the keyboard searching Google for editing services.  Quote one equaled a $2000 price tag, quote two, $1000.  I closed up Google.  Paying that amount of money fiscally was a gamble I refused to take or ask my family to take.  I zipped off a note to my reader thanking her for all her help and asked if she had any suggestions for editing at a reasonable price.

                The rest of the day I washed laundry and dishes.  Pulling the sheets tight across the mattress, thoughts of how to fix my problem tumbled through my head.  I sighed in relief as family members filtered through the door from work and school to help distract me from my problem.  I hid by not mentioning a thing to my husband.  My head throbbed, so I read other writers’ novels not thinking of mine sitting on the desk.  I fell asleep to listing all the daily happenings that I was thankful for, minus the comment about my novel.

                I trudged to the gym the next morning not thinking and continued through my morning routine until I opened my e-mail.  My faithful reader responded to my questions with three options to my editing dilemma.  I hated all her ideas.  I felt frozen in fear.  I closed up her words and played on the computer.

                For hours, I avoided speaking of editing out loud; yet, conversations ran through my head.  The continuous pressure in my forehead kept the problem in close proximity.  I read; I crocheted; I avoided.  As water streamed out of the faucet, a thought hit me.  Grammar Nazis!  I feared giving my work to anyone with a red pen.  The pounding in my head grew more persistent.  Instantly I was transported back to the classroom with the blood of red ink pouring off my papers.  I still hate the letters C and B with the sympathetic minus sign keeping the lower grade at bay.  I feared giving someone the opportunity to say I was a horrid writer.  This happened in the past; I didn’t want it for my future.

                Was I going to let one more set back keep me from my dream?  For another day or two, yes.  For all eternity, no.  However, the thought of becoming a fulltime crocheting, reading, gardening, stay at home housewife looked appealing. 

                A day crawled by when I finally realized a dear friend held an English degree.  I finally acknowledged everything to my husband/writing coach.  He confirmed my plan.  After some e-mails back and forth, Maria agreed to edit with pixy dust.  She would be my Grammar Fairy, not a Grammar Nazi.  With excitement mounting to work on this project with this amazing lady, we met over coffee and my novel is in her safe keeping.  My writing life is back on track awaiting more challenges.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Reflections 2013


                I just read the blog post I wrote last year about reflections.  I enjoyed reading about what I accomplished in 2012, so I will write about what I achieved in 2013 including my hopes for next year.  As always reading is at the top of the list.  Unfortunately, in September life became a bit complicated with an increase in writing activity and volunteering.  I stopped putting down the books I finished with the total being 40 books.  Opps!  I am changing my strategy and instead of listing books on a spreadsheet, I am going to post them on pinterest.  This will be a nice change for 2014.  As for what I read last year, I have to say I didn’t really have any books that stood out.  I read a lot of free books that I received off of Book Bub.  This year I am hoping to work more off my old reliable favorite authors list and suggestions from friends.

                The book I wanted to finish this year was the Bible.  Alas, I got about three fourths of the way done and stopped.  I feel guilty, but I ended up facilitating a Bible study twice a week and chairing a committee for a church retreat.  All of this took up a lot of time and really made for a great excuse.  Now is my quiet time of the year, so hopefully I will finish up this very special book.  With this, I ended up not reading the entire book of Saint Jerome’s writings.  To be honest, this became a little boring after a while, but I may pick it up again.  This year I am going back to Saint Frances de Sales’ work.  He entertained me a lot.  Besides, he is the patron saint of writers, so I have missed learning about him these last two years when I worked with different saints.  Also, I am keeping the words delight and joy in the forefront of my thoughts for the year.  Last year the word was discipline.  I did become more disciplined in my writing, but the word seems a little oppressive.  I want light and airy this year which delight and joy definitely fit.

                I am very excited about my writing journey the past year.  I didn’t keep up with the blog as much as I would like, but I grew in leaps and bounds with the word count, editing, and publishing.  The latter I added in the spring to learn about how to indie publish.  My goal for words I surpassed by 26,000.  I wrote 91,000 words of new fiction and the rest of my 227,000 words were all non-fiction.  This next year I am going to shoot to add 50,000 words to the total by doubling my fiction words and reducing my non-fiction by a little bit.  My daughter thinks I need to have a goal of 315,000 because this is what I need to reach 1,000,000 words.  I told her I would indeed try, but I am not going to worry too much.  As for my editing, I think I finally became better at rewriting my scenes and developing them.  I worked really hard on five short stories and my novel.  I blew past my goal by 2800 minutes.  For someone who hates to edit, I think I did awesome.  I went over my publishing minutes by 1500.  Really in both the editing and publishing, I am not sure how much time I should be spending on the tasks.  I probably need to do a lot more, but each year I increase the goals.  At some point I will find the correct number.  As always, this year I will strive to do more including indie e-publishing my work.

                Adventures were abundant this past year.  The family flew to Cancun to take in the resort scene; plus, we traveled to Chichen Itza to see the Mayan structures.  At some point, I still need to write the short story that my muse excitedly helped me write out an outline for during the vacation.  Throughout the summer, I went on a couple of hikes in areas I haven’t been before which I enjoyed immensely.  I also visited an area that I hadn’t been to in years, Ross Creek Cedars.  I want to go back this next year when the light is better to do some photo shoots.  The Cedars will be in a book idea I have down the road.  In the early fall, I took in some Scandinavian history and culture in both Washington and Montana.  Oh, I also visited an Amish store.  My last grand adventure took place in Missouri.  I visited the home of Laura Ingalls Wilder.  This next year I am not sure where I will explore.  I believe I will stay closer to home.  Falcons have become an interest for me in the last couple of months, so I want to visit a bird sanctuary about 200 miles from my home.  I suspect I will work on hiking into a waterfall I have wanted to explore for many years.  My options are unlimited.  In fact, a friend posted a link to a bucket list for Montana.  I have done 26 of the 100 activities.  If I add my bucket list items, I have plenty of adventures to choose from.

                This year I am adding a new goal to my arsenal.  Since I have retired, I have concentrated on healing, writing, gardening, multiple projects, and just enjoying life.  Because of the aches and pains from my autoimmune diseases, I have allowed myself to get out of shape.  I have exercised a bit, but hiking long distances has been out of the question.  I don’t want this to be my future.  I worry that my writing goals will suffer from the added stress working out will do to my body, but I hope over time I will be rewarded.  Besides, I really want to make it into the falls.  Hopefully, I will be sharing pictures of this in May or June.

                So, come on 2014, I look forward to all the fun and work we have in store.