Sunday, October 23, 2011

Coming and Going-Oct 2011

October 2011, Contest Rules - had to be 600 words or less and based on: someone comes into town, someone leaves.

It was hot. He was sure Texas had been hotter, but he couldn’t remember when. He spat chew on the sidewalk just to see if it would sizzle, was disappointed when it didn’t. Then he tried his best to blend as he stepped into the local diner.

The waitress irritated him with her birdsong, chirpy voice. He forced himself to smile before he looked up from the menu to order, “Coffee and your Cowboy Breakfast, please.”

Tami found herself inexplicably edging away from him even as she poured his coffee. Determined to be friendly, she asked, “You in town for the Festival?”

“Yes, I’ll be here through the Festival,” he replied bluntly, curtly.

At the last booth, Agent Erin Holbrook sipped her coffee. “This is going to be fun,” she thought. “Poor bastard has no clue.”  She wasn’t thinking of Seth, the lame brain on the stool. She was after his boss, Tommy. Had been for some time.

It had been a lucky break that Mitch, Tommy’s youngest son, liked his ex-stepmom and his half brother. That was the main reason Mitch had contacted her.

The kidnapping was to take place today, July 4th. Tommy had sent Seth. “And there he sits, like a fly in a trap,” Erin thought.  She put money on the table and walked out to check on the surveillance stations.

The parade was organizing and band members tuning. It wouldn’t be long. She saw Angela setting up chairs across the street. She had convinced Lucy to let Angela, one of her best agents, sit with the boy. Angela was trained, Lucy wasn’t. Things were going according to plan. She turned to take one last look in the diner.

He was gone. She scanned the crowd, the streets, quickly looking at height and build. Nothing.

The clowns were coming down the street with the band blaring behind them. She quickly looked at all checkpoints. Her teams were in place. Seth wasn’t. She had to break silence and alert them. At that moment a clown picked up the boy, and everyone went on alert. Just as quickly, he sat him back in his chair and ruffled his hair. As the clown got closer she saw it was a woman. Relieved, she looked back at the chair. It was empty. So was Angela’s. Then she saw them.

Angela was in pursuit. Seth had the boy. Erin screamed orders while on the run. She went down the side street and through the alley. She rounded the corner and barely had time to pull her gun. Soon Seth was surrounded by 7 other officers. He looked at each one before concentrating on Erin.

“Let the boy go.”

“I can’t do that.”

The flatness in his voice worried her, “Why not?”

“If I go back without him, my boss will kill me.”

“Then you’re in a bind. There’s no way you’re walking out of here with that boy.”

He considered it for a moment and looked again from officer to officer. Then without warning he raised the gun and shot himself.

Later that afternoon, the agents met Lucy and her son at the airport. He was jumping up and down, delighted to ride on an airplane. Lucy was entering witness protection. Erin hugged them both then stood there until the plane started down the runway.

Angela asked, “You liked them, didn’t you?” Lucy looked back at the plane and beamed. “Yes, yes I did. And her testimony is going to put Tommy away for a very long time. Let’s go tell him.  Shall we?”

10/23/11 - Writing with a Purpose

I stayed up last night until the wee hours of the morning again. Only this time I was writing! Writing makes me happy. Just the act of writing in and of itself makes me feel alive, a bit giddy and somewhat anxious, sometimes scared (is it good enough?), but mostly it's heaven on earth. Don't even get me started on what I feel based on the characters. That's a whole other story!

I was writing throughout the night because my roommate came home and told me about a contest he had just heard about on the radio. NPR was conducting a contest for short stories that could be read in 3 minutes or less. So, still on a high from the epiphanies from the day, I decided to make a submission before going to bed. I went to the NPR website and previewed the guidelines: 600 words, someone comes into town, someone leaves. That was it. Create a story based on that.

I did what I usually do when I am going to write. I closed my eyes for a moment, cleared my mind, and then just began writing the words that flowed. I was on, and it felt good.

Until I finished with the base story and looked at the bottom of my monitor. My original word count was right at 1700. I nearly fainted. OK, not to be deterred, I started culling. That is what my life is about right now anyway, right? Three hours later I had it down to 599 words. I emailed it to my roommate so he could read it and then I went back to the NPR website to find the submission button.

Only to find out that the deadline was last month.

I didn't care! I literally laughed out loud. The thrill of writing and living within the pursuit of my dreams was enough. Plus, I have a finished piece of work that I was willing to submit. That is thrilling! And it gave me new direction. I will seek out competitions, research the guidelines and deadlines thoroughly from now on, and write, write, write. It will be interesting to see if it takes me months or years to win a competition or even get an honorable mention. Either would be nice, great actually, but I don't care! I will be writing.  And in between submissions I will continue to write on the story lines I'm already creating. Direction and purpose. Aren't they wonderful? 

I went to bed at 4 a.m., not even tired. And for those of you who are wondering by now, no. I am not manic. LOL.

When I woke up I decided to take care of my laptop - defrag, run scans, etc. It is going to be my livelihood and I have been putting off its general maintenance for far too long now. It was amazing to me how different my life felt with this new found direction. Everything has new meaning.

I decided to start tracking all of this newness so I can write an article or short story on it one day from my RV. I created what I call my RV lists: RV?, RV Cull, RV Heirloom, RV Keep, RV Need, RV No, RV Sites.

Basically, it's notes on the following:

RV? - A list of questions I will need answered about living in an RV. Someday I hope to get to talk to Glenn Morrissette about some of these. Right now he's dubbed the responses he's received from the online article as "post-Yahoo tsunami."  Catch you later, Glenn.

RV Cull - This is a list of things I will get rid of between now and the time I drive off in my RV. Probably not important to anyone else, but I will incorporate the list in the article or short story one day.

RV Heirloom - Similar to RV Cull, this list will show what I gave away but kept in the family.

RV Keep - Going with me baby!

RV Need - Things I don't have but at this point, think I may need. A subscription to Triple AAA and melamine dishware are on this list.

RV No - This is perhaps the most interesting list. It is a list of things that I would normally purchase if I weren't fixated on accomplishing my goals. There are already several things on this list and I just started it today!  Now, that's funny. For example, I have the house opened up because we are having absolutely gorgeous weather here right now. Just beautiful!   However, the back door won't stay open. So, usually, I would put a doorstop on my shopping list and get one next time I'm out and about. Nope, don't need it. It won't go in the RV with me so I'm not buying it. Period. Will be interesting to see how long this list gets.

RV Sites - Places I want to overnight while traveling.

And okay, now I can hear everyone admonishing me for living in a pipe dream, putting the cart before the horse, daydreaming too much or spinning my wheels. I'll have you know, I am not doing any of those things. The lists are on my phone and I quickly text in the items as they come up. Keep reading. You'll see that I had a very productive day. Thank you very much. :)

I realize that in addition to saving money for the RV, my biggest challenge is going to be coming up with a steady, mobile income before I can quit my job. That means socking back a lot of money in savings and making an income as a writer. I sat down and put pencil to paper. Without rent or mortgage, I should be able to live on $1000/month. It may take forever to make that much money as a writer, so throughout the day I had my thinking hat on to come up with additional ways I might make mobile money.

One of the things I thought of is my ability to photoshop pictures. I use a variety of software to enhance and repair photos. I customize, combine, design, and even create artistic digital scrapbook pages with digital embellishments and improved photos. Surely there is a market for that. I just have to find a way.

Bottom line: save enough for an RV, have at least $1000/month in mobile income, and I hit the road. I'm outta here. I just have to find a way.

So, in between working on all of this, cleaning house in between defrags and scans, I also googled writing contests. Most of them have an entry fee! They call it a reading fee. One site said that they get about 400 submissions per contest. I actually thought there would be 10x that amount, but okay, whatever. Let's do the math on the piddly 400 submissions.  It appears most contests charge at least $15 for this "reading fee." 15*400=$6,000.  Not too bad since most of the prizes were around $1200. Anyone want to invest in creating a writing contest? Seriously. Anyone?

I found myself getting discouraged. Not because of the volume of entries, not because of the fees (although that IS a deterrent), but because there were contests listed that had guidelines I couldn't even understand! I had no idea that billions of different essay types existed! What were some of those anyway?!? And to top it off, I noted that most of the past winners had MFAs or multiple works published already. I stopped. Regrouped. And remembered my goals: 1) to live mobile, 2) to write, and 3) to be a public speaker. I can do this. I got this.

Besides, if I enter contests back-to-back, nonstop, it can only improve my craft, right? So I forged ahead and chose my 1st contest. I am going to submit a work of fiction to Writer's Digest for their 12th Annual Short Short Story Competition, 1,500 words or fewer.

My submission will be a story I drafted sometime ago, "The Blue Lady." Trust me, it's not going to be what you think it might based on the title. I quickly put notes on my computer years ago after seeing this tiny, old, old, old, gentile woman dressed in blue, with blue hair, leaving a store to get in a blue car with the help of a maid that was driving her, dressed in blue uniform. On top of that, they were a picture straight out of the 60's, only it was the 90's. Surely I can create a story from that scene!

Wish me luck!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

10/22/11 (2nd) - What a Difference a Day Makes

Right after finishing my first ever blog last night, I began the process of logging off, when a scrolling article on the Yahoo newsfeed caught my eye. It spoke to my heart and touched my soul. It inspired me.
I also read the blog that was embedded in the article: To Simplify. His name is Glenn Morrissette. And I think his story is amazing.

I created my blog account last night, well, truthfully in the wee hours this morning, with absolutely no idea why I was doing it or what I ultimately, firmly wanted to do with my life. After reading the two pieces listed above, I went to bed with visions of sugarplums dancing in my head, or maybe it was Glenn's chariot on a ledge. LOL. Whichever. Whatever. It worked.

Glenn's Rig
I have been "playing" on FB all day. I also have been reading articles, looking at pics, trying on different ideas inside my mind's eye - seeing how it all fits together, thinking, listening, writing. Creating space to burst out of the chrysalis. So far, it has been a 7 hour process and I can't seem to do anything else. All I know is that when I publish this and announce this blog to my friends, I will have emerged (another Jana Stanfield song). What a blessing this 24 hour blog journey has already been!

For years I have known I want to write, and I want to be a public speaker. I have dabbled in both; wanted to get serious about both. I have never known how to reconcile my daily responsibilities - family, friends, household, employment, financial judiciousness, hobbies, interests, social obligations, blah, blah, blah, with the dreams God has given me. I've always known I want to put to good use the experiences I've had and help others, if at all possible. I also firmly believe God gave me a talent for writing. (It remains to be seen whether or not anyone else agrees. Ha!) This is what has especially been probably the largest conflict in trying to reconcile all of this: God has given me a vision of accomplishing all this while living as an unencumbered free spirit, and yet also living large. And by living large, I mean reaching large audiences. I have always wanted the personal aspects of my life to remain private, somewhat solitaire in nature, beautiful and simple. Arriving at a solution that encompasses all of that has been a struggle, to say the least. But I have arrived. I'm there. Now I know!

I consider myself to be out of the chrysalis. Today. Right now, as of this moment, I'm free. My wings will still be wet and stiff, and flight will no doubt encompass a huge learning curve, but at least I have a vision of all facets working together. Do you have any idea what a blessing, what a relief that is? The celebrations - Woohoo! Woot Woot! And all that! - don't even begin to come close to how relieved I am. And this is just the initial planning stage, the seedling sprouting, as it were. Can you imagine what it's going to feel like moving forward to accomplish my goals? This blog will keep me accountable. That in and of itself will be an enormous help. Who knew miracles could come from creating a blog account? Well, we know who knew. Thank you, God. Now I know!

So, I have a lot to do and I have no idea what the timeline will be, but at least I have knowledge of a life I want to accomplish. I WILL map the timeline out eventually and stay the course, but in the meantime, my initial thought is that I will reach my goals in about 5-7 years, tops. Like I said, I have a lot to do. If I get there sooner... Woohoo! Woot Woot! And all that! :)

Here, in a nutshell, is the life I'm going to create:
-- My life will be mobile.
-- I will write.
-- I will be a public speaker.

OMG! I just had to set my laptop down and thank God for the clarity, the peace. Incredibly ecstatic am I! I don't know why I couldn't get here sooner, but I'm on board now - watch out world! Jesus is my driver!

This is the only category of the 3 that I'm sure of. It will look just like Glenn's life from the links above. Only instead of a cat, I want a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel - definitely, maybe. LOL. I say that because when the time comes, if that doesn't work out, a kitcat will be just as perfect. Heck, Miss Hope may still be alive. She's only 10! Sadly, Nonni and Bentley will probably be gone. I may have to put Bentley's pic on the dashboard as I travel tho. He LOVES to travel on the open road. His favorite thing is to stand or sit up tall and stare straight ahead through the windshield as though he's the pilot or something. Don't try to distract him. He's on a mission!

Note: I'm trying not to regret that I didn't get to this point sooner in my life. Bentley would be the perfect mobile mate. Nonni wouldn't LOVE the traveling but she would want to be wherever I was. Period. I just don't see a 70 lb. Rhodesian Ridgeback being happy in a small RV!  That's all I'm saying. LOL. Having said that, I also have to say that I can't wait for the day I shut the door on wherever I'm living at the time, and step into my RV, never to look back. That may sound callous but please know that I have already been dreading the grief I am going to have to face someday when these darlings pass. I've been wondering what I was going to do without them. Now I know! I will still be sad when they are gone, and I will still grieve, but it will be a natural progression to my new life and I will take my babies with me in spirit!

I just realized this also answers my dilemma about home ownership. I desperately want to own my own home again but have been dreading and rebelling against the idea of being strapped with a mortgage and the upkeep of a regular house. I couldn't understand the discrepancy since owning my own home was so important to me and I was SO devastated when I lost it. Still, the idea of traditional home ownership was just not working for me. What an answer to prayer this is! Now I know!

The age old conflict for me has been balancing life while making time to write. I have not successfully been able to routinely do both. Now I don't have to! I will need to work and keep my job (which I am very grateful for), until I can afford my RV AND make a living on the road, but I don't have to include my current career as part of my life plan now. Nor do I need to invest in anymore purchases, etc. Simplify, simplify, simplify. Cull, declutter and downgrade. I don't need much and I certainly don't spend money on "things" but now I don't even need to buy things to establish a home. I'm already headed to freedom! Do you have any idea what kind of energy that is going to free up so that I can write? Right now. Current, real time. The possibilities from there are endless!

And here's an even bigger miracle - I'm going to replace my scrapbooking room with all digital for mobility! That's why I haven't been able to put my room together since moving here! My heart has just not been in it and I haven't been able to figure out why. Now I know! I will finish unpacking it so I can organize it for resale ... or give it away - don't worry family and friends. I haven't forgotten you. LOL.

I am so grateful to live in this modern age of technology so that I have this opportunity. I can stay in touch with loved ones, enjoy my photography and scrapbooking hobby, and still be true to the real me that has been begging to get out for sometime now. The only thing I might still want while on the road is a motorcycle. That remains to be seen. But I digress. This is the writing section.

All of this really does have to do with writing tho. Or the lack thereof. Because these are the issues that have kept me blocked. That block is lifted! I have no idea what my genre will be. I have limitless romance-suspense stories, books for children, one book for preteens so far, and my bio (the only nonfiction piece). Some completed, most not. I also want to try my hand at a few of the screenplays rolling around in my head. Where will the Lord take me on this journey? It will be interesting to find out. At least the journey can now steadfastly progress.

I haven't done this on a large scale in 20 years. Everyone was interested in what I had to say when I was the wife of a wealthy, high profile corporate lawyer. Now, not so much. But that will change. That much I know - I just don't know how. I've already made the announcement in my 2012 Leadership Mansfield Class that I want to get back to public speaking and that I'm a TBI survivor (traumatic brain injury). I also just added to my calendar (even before all the epiphanies) to contact Safe Place next week and offer my services. Where will the Lord take me on this journey? It will be interesting to find out. (Yes, a repeat. There is not an echo on the page. Do not adjust the dial.)

I've always admired the youth of this world that seemingly came out of the womb knowing what they wanted to do with their lives. They held strong, remained steadfast, and accomplished their seemingly predestined goal(s).  I could never imagine what that must feel like. And until today, I feared that I would die without ever knowing. Now I know!

So there you have it. I know what my future looks like. I may not know when I will get there or the details on how I'm going to accomplish it or even the minutia. I just know I'm going to do it. Thank you for being on this journey with me.

My hero since the 70's.
A goal since the late 90's.
A dream since the 80's.

A vision since 10/22/11.

10/22/11 (1st) - I'm Not Lost. I'm Exploring.

I created this blog today because I have no idea what I'm doing, and I'm talking about my life - not technology. Somewhere, somehow, something in the Universe, at 3 a.m. in the morning, told me to create a blog. A blog was the last thing on my mind, never even considered it, didn't know how to do it, but here I go. I usually call those moments "God Nods," but I hesitate to be that emphatic out of fear that I'll sound insane. Which, by the way, did I mention it's 3 in the morning and I don't know what I'm doing? LOL.

Searching. Meandering. Wandering. Again. Been here so many times I should have a permanent bruise on my forehead from hitting that brick wall so hard, so often. For example, in the late 90's I was taking a friend to the DFW airport. She was probably regretting her choice for a ride, but she listened patiently as I droned on and on. I was performing the already familiar, same song & dance exactly as I am now. "I feel so lost!" I exclaimed. Just as I wailed my announcement, we saw that the car in front of us had this bumper sticker: "I'm Not Lost. I'm Exploring."  My friend just cackled!  It turns out that the bumper sticker is actually the name of a song. Also turns out that less than a year later, I had the extreme privilege of hearing the song performed and I met the singer/songwriter and brilliant artist responsible for that bumper sticker: Jana Stanfield. What a treat.

From the day I first saw that bumper sticker to the day I attended the concert and met Jana Stanfield, my life had changed. That was almost 15 years ago and to be honest, I can't even remember what was so bad OR what had changed to make life so great. That's the point of this blog.