A Character Sketch

Hokey Sloan was a farmhand at Jenkin’s Ranch.  The ranch was in the middle of west Texas where the ground was dirt and rock and the tumbleweed had free rein.  Hokey lived in a tiny one room shack he had built himself not long after coming to the ranch.

Hokey was in his mid 40s, but looked far older. He had spent his entire life in the outdoors with the sun and the wind and the horses and cattle.  He had no regrets-except one.

Hokey’s black hair was now sprinkled with grey and hung to his shoulders. His scraggled beard was more grey than anything else and he had developed a pudge in his middle from the lazy meals he created for himself.  Hokey also drank too much whiskey.  It helped to numb the pain from regret.

Hokey Sloan was lonely. He was heart broken and he was tormented and his one regret was named Diane. 

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Ten Down To Eight

It came to me in a dream.

In this dream, I was in Baltimore {a city I have never visited} and I was spending the day following Chip and Joanna Gaines {from Fixer Upper on HGTV} around looking at old townhouses, etc.  At least, I think that is what they were doing.  For my part, I seemed to spend an inordinate amount of time looking for my car.  I searched street after street, but never found my car.

I was beginning to be a bit freaked out because that car was nowhere in sight, when Joanna came up behind me and put her hands on my shoulders. She turned me to have me look across the street at a little door.  There was a cross over the door and, when we stepped up to it, a small sign on the door said “prayer room”.  Joanna opened the door revealing a room the size of a small closet furnished with one chair and shelves along each wall covered with books and papers.  She told me to go inside.

For my part, I am a Spiritualist and the Christian traditions are a bit different from what I practice, while the end result is mostly the same.  With this in mind, I stepped into this tiny space, closed the door and sat down.  All I could think of was “I need to find my car”.

When I then stepped out of the tiny room, I looked at Joanna and said “I didn’t even drive here. My car is at home.” Joanna smiled and said “See?  Ten down to eight.”

That was my dream.  When I woke and thought about it, I immediately knew what it meant.

Ten down to eight refers to problems in life.   In the dream, I faced one problem-the absence of my car. When that problem was figured out, I could move on to the next problem.

Yes, dreams can be weird and make very little sense, especially in the translation, but when you wake up and you immediately understand, it is time to think about it in depth.

We all carry so many problems around with us. Each and every day, we carry them over from the day before and we add more to the load.  It is so easy to become overwhelmed.  The answer?

Remember the rule of Ten Down to Eight.   Take one problem at a time. Deal with THAT problem and THAT problem ONLY.  Work out that problem.  Decide what to do about THAT problem. Leave any other problems in the background.  We truly can only do one thing at a time so stop trying to do it all.


Ten Down to Eight!

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The Spirit Moves Me

The Spirit Moves Me

©2014 Nancy L. Stanford

When Molly George sat down at the desk, she knew, of course, that she was supposed to be working. The problem was, Molly could not seem to focus. She was constantly being distracted and she had no motivation to charge through the distractions.

Molly was a writer who had seen her work rejected so many times over the years, she questioned her talent. She questioned the reasoning behind even attempting to write and she questioned the practicality of constantly pursuing something so unreliable. But despite all the questioning, Molly could not stop her writing.

The young woman wrote everything from short character sketches to long, involved novel length stories, but had never published anything. She had been writing for years with no sign of public acknowledgement. She had put her efforts out there for friends and family to read and had even asked for feedback, but none came. She had posted a few items on Facebook and had nearly begged for comments and had received none. So why did Molly continue?

Molly needed to write. She saw her writing as just as necessary as breathing. Even when she only wrote a short paragraph, Molly felt the surge of pleasure in creating something which had not existed before.  She felt the elation of sharing a part of her soul, even if no one else ever saw it.

So now, she sat at her cluttered desk with a blank screen in front of her. Many writers, she knew, began with an outline or a very carefully worked out scenario before they ever put their fingers to the keys, or pen to paper, but Molly could not work that way. She had discovered early on she had no talent for following such rigid guidelines. She could only go with what came to her. She often simply wrote a title and let that guide the rest of the piece. Sometimes it came out very well, and other times it was good only for quick deletion.

Today, Molly had no idea what she would write, knowing only that she would. She had turned off the television and the radio and sat in complete silence, but quickly realized that would not work well.  The silence was too unsettling.

Walking across the room, the young woman brushed her auburn curls from her face. When reaching the radio, she chose a station of soft rock favorites. She purposely kept the volume low and prayed it would help. As she sat down again, the voice on the radio began talking about a new app. He called it the Ghost Finder. Molly found herself immediately distracted from her writing. She reached for her cell phone and pulled up the mentioned app.  When it came up, she hit the button that read “install”. Once installed on her phone, Molly brought it up. In only a matter of moments, there were little green dots all over the screen which was supposed to mean there were that many spirits around her.  Part of the app were supposed to actually give voice to words the spirits would “say”. Molly didn’t really believe in such a thing, but she enjoyed such things for entertainment. As she watched the green dots move around, there was a sudden voice.

“Language.” It said in a female monotone. Molly shrugged.   Mere seconds later, the same voice said “story” and then almost immediately “do”.

Molly sat back quickly. She was suddenly fighting with her logical mind which told her the app was just a silly game. The voice had told her exactly what she needed to hear. She DID need to get to writing.

Molly decided that she would accept the words as real. She didn’t care if the app was a game, it was telling her what to do and it was right.

From that day, Molly would open the ghost app and place it on her desk when she sat down to write. She would then devote all her time to creating her world of words. She didn’t want to disappoint her spirit guides, as she had begun to think of them. At the end of the first month, Molly had finished the first draft of a story she had toyed with for several years. She knew that the hard part now began. She would have to edit and rewrite.

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Here We Go

Six months {or so} ago, I released my first book, Letters to Sarah-Book One.  That day, I was breathless and stunned and feeling a bit out of body.  I had worked for many, many years to reach that point and there it was.  A book that had been such a part of my life, my heart, my very existence, for so long was now out there in the universe for all to see.  Whatever talent I had was out there, but so was whatever faults in writing and whatever quirks.  Everyone would see, to their own judgement, if my words actually deserved to be on paper.  

The result and the response have been wonderful.  Book sales have been encouraging, of course.  People will not spend their hard earned money on nonsense, as a rule, so for them to spend it on a book I wrote is such an honor for me.  It is also a responsibility.

Once the initial euphoria began to fade from that initial book release, it settled in on me that I now had a greater responsibility.  Those who bought and read the first book were now waiting for Book Two in order to further follow Mary’s story.  I no longer had a choice about writing this story.

Through the years, I have written enough short stories, character sketches, paragraphs and possible books to fill a semi, I’m certain, but those were all for my eyes and those were all tucked away for the time they MIGHT become something more.  No one ever knew of their existence except me.  Now, Letters to Sarah, came along and changed everything.

With the release of Letters to Sarah, what I wrote was open to public view and opinion. Those are things I welcomed then and still do.  But it also changed my life in subtle ways.

My name and my work is ‘out there’.  Because of that, I have a ‘brand’. I have an obligation to present myself in such a way that is far more public than it has ever been.  What I post online, how I act in public, the persona I put forth at all times now becomes important…even in my small town way.

There are young people, I now realize, who are watching and listening and it is incumbent upon me to take that very seriously.  It is vital for me to put forth thoughts, ideas, and words that are encouraging and enlightening and helpful in some way.  None of that is a burden, however.   Those are the things I have always strived toward.  I have not always succeeded, but I have strived.

So, with Letters to Sarah-Book One out there in the hands of so many people, my life has changed.  It is about to change yet again. Because, you see, today-December 15th, 2017-Letters to Sarah-Book Two is released to the public.  Today, Mary’s story continues. Today, more of my heart and soul is put out there for everyone to see and read and hold in their hearts and hands.  I only hope I am worthy.

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Real is Unreal

Tomorrow I have a book signing at a Barnes and Noble store.  

I have had book signings before this, but they were local and I knew most of the wonderful people who came.  But this one is not local.  This one makes my hands shake.  This one makes my insecurities peek over the edge.

Writing is to put your inner soul and your heart right out there.  Many times, what you have written stays in the drawer. When most of the people who bought my book were friends and family,  I was reassured and my confidence was greatly boosted.  My words, my efforts were out there for others to see and read and evaluate.  This time, that is all changed.

Tomorrow, I will be in a venue where I know almost no one.  I will have my book out there for total strangers to look at and purchase, or smile that polite smile that says “Isn’t that cute.” and then walk away.  That is fine. But once strangers buy my work, my heart and soul are out there for the masses to know…to evaluate…and to walk on, if they see fit.

My work is no longer my own at that point.  These characters and this concept become a part of that outside world instead of a safe and secure escape for me.   THAT is why my hands shake.

I wanted this.  I have strived for this my entire life.  I have had this goal in my mind and in my heart for as long as I can remember.  I am up for it. I am more than ready to accept all criticisms and critiques. I am more than aware that you can’t please everyone and not everyone will like my work. That’s cool.  I don’t like everything I read either.  I am good with all that.  Let’s face it, I welcome rejection letters.  Why?

When I receive those rejection letters, just as when I receive any constructive criticism of my writing, I do so with the understanding it means I put it out there. I didn’t just write something and throw it in a drawer-never to see the light of day.  I put this out there knowing it could be called any number of things-from brilliant to cool to fun to lame to silly and to really bad.  I get it.

But if I hadn’t put it out there, I could not live with myself.  I would not be true to myself.

So, tomorrow, I will take my box of books and my supply of pens and I will set up at Barnes and Noble and I will HOPE that I have a good reception. I will HOPE that the people like my book as much as I like bringing it to them.

Then-on to the next step.


{Book One now available on Amazon,com and can be ordered through your favorite bookseller.   Book Two release-DECEMBER 15}

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If I was that sort of person I would have done it long ago-back when the bullying started. I would have done it that first time I was used and discarded. I would have done it when I was first told how worthless and stupid I was. I would have done it when the ones I trusted first started to leave me. I didn’t do it then so I won’t do it now that the last of my trust has been stolen. I won’t do it-but I understand it.

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A movie came out the year I was born. That movie was THEM.

This movie starred James Whitmore, Joan Weldon and James Arness and is all about giant ants.. giants because of nuclear testing or some such thing.  But when I was a child, I didn’t CARE why they were giants.

In the beginning of this movie, the policeman {James Whitmore} finds a little girl about 6 years old wandering the desert in a catatonic state. 

THAT first scene with that little girl terrified me as a child.  That little girl was wandering all alone out there and if those policemen hadn’t just happened to be checking out a call, and if they hadn’t just HAPPENED to glance out into the desert as they were driving, they might never have seen that tiny little girl and she would have died. 

I don’t know how old I was when I first saw this movie, but I remember how it made me feel. I remember thinking how scared I would be if I were to be alone somewhere like that. I remember how terrified the little girl was when she caught a whiff of the acid smell given off by those giant ants.  I remember how I kept thinking she was completely alone because here parents were gone. 

I consider that I was very young at the time, but still was thinking about things that were never really addressed in that movie… her parents being killed, the silliness of the basic premise of giant ants, etc., but I also remember being deeply affected by her fear and by her being alone, and why, now that we mention it, were they camping in the middle of the desert with no water or electricity or anything nearby?

Now, as  and adult, I always seem to watch movies and ponder the questions most others probably don’t.. for instance, one of my favorite movies is The Last Starfighter.  What happened AFTER Alex and Maggie left for the stars?  Did Louis grow up to be like his brother?  Did they ever catch Zur?

Or even in Star Wars-Leia and Han and Luke had barely met and they were already addressing one another as though they had known one another forever.  Anakin built C3P0 and yet, Darth Vader doesn’t seem to recognize him at all.  Uncle Owen BUYS him from the Jawa and doesn’t recognize him OR R2D2.  What is in the water in that galaxy?

Or Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone-when Snape is putting Harry down for not paying attention the first time they meet, why didn’t Harry just show him his notes where he was copying down what Snape was saying?

Yes, I get that I am seeing all this through an adult’s eyes now, and I DO tend to be logical and practical and “persnickety” about details, but all those things go through my mind.  I find myself attempting to rewrite various scenes in many movies I watch.  I find myself trying to accept plots which are too ridiculous for words..  then I remind myself I love Harry Potter and I love Star Wars and I love science fiction for all their unrealistic and nonsensical ideas and plots.

But NONE of them has hit me where I live..deep in the heart of fear…like THEM.

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