The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men…

Angie Dixon-The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men-Image of a Partially Deflated BalloonWow! Has it really been since before Thanksgiving that I posted here?

This was always both a pet project and a personal one, but I did hope to write more often on things that occur to me from time to time.

But…do you ever feel like a deflated balloon?

I’ve felt that way for weeks, for several reasons.

First, I’ve not felt well for a couple of months. Nothing I could put a finger on, but tired and having more migraines than usual. This week I found out that was caused by magnesium deficiency and I feel great.

Also, a few weeks ago, my LeonardoTrait.com website disappeared off the face of the web. I’m still working on reconstructing it and still praying there might be a backup somewhere, but so far no luck.

But the main reason, the real reason, the bottom-line reason that I have not posted on my personal blog for three months, is that I was doing a lot of thinking, but almost none of it was anything I wanted to talk about at all, let alone on my blog.

Now, though, I can say that I’ve figured out a way forward as a Leonardo, as someone with multiple passions and projects and energies. I always had a way forward, of course, but it usually involved weeks-long swaths of overwhelm and exhaustion.

Now, to the degree that someone like me can live a balanced life, I am, and I intend to keep doing so.

PS: I finally got my ergonomic chair and it is AMAZING! You should definitely get one.

PPS: Today’s my birthday, but it’s okay that you didn’t know. I wished myself a happy birthday on behalf of the world.

From Where I Sit [A Reflection on Giving Thanks Always]

Angie Dixon-From Where I Sit-Image of a Blue Chair in a FieldAs I write, I’m getting ready to go pick up my new phone.

I’m excited about the new phone, and I hope that getting a new phone will help relieve some of the pain in my right hand. I use my phone to read and do research for hours a day, and I think the large phone I had might have been contributing to some pain in my hand. Since I’m right handed and I type with both hands, relieving that pain is important so that I can work.

However, I don’t need a new phone. Not really. My current phone works. It makes calls. It gets Internet. The onscreen keyboard works. It’s fine.

I wanted a new phone, and we got a good deal which actually lowered our monthly bill, so I decided to get a new phone.

I got a new phone because I can.

I write on a laptop most of the time, rather than with a pen and notebook, because I can.

When I do write longhand, I use better-than-the-cheapest paper and pen. And you know why? Yep. Because I can.

I can do all kinds of things.

I can walk today because I had insurance and could get my knee replaced because it was bone-on-bone.

I can go to the AT&T store to pick up my phone because we have two cars, both of which are paid for.

I have my own office because we bought a house that had an extra room–and we were able to do that because we’ve worked hard, but also because we’re fortunate.

We’re all fortunate, in many ways.

I don’t do the “3o days of gratitude” thing in November. I don’t do trendy and I don’t do gimmicks and I don’t do challenges and I don’t do games. I’m not saying the 30 day gratitude challenge is any or all of those things. It’s just something I don’t do.

But I am profoundly grateful, every day, for everything in my life, including the things I don’t want to be grateful for.

So Many Books…

Angie Dixon-So Many Books-Image of Old Books on ShelfI’ve just started making an effort to be active on GoodReads. If you’re not familiar with GoodReads, it’s a social media site for readers, all about books and reading. It has status update feeds and groups and friends and lists and quizzes and polls and “Ask the Author” features. It’s really pretty cool. I’ve just never taken the time to dive in before now.

This month I’m participating in a 30-day book marketing challenge with Heather Hart and Shelley Hitz of Training Authors. This week, one of the videos covered GoodReads, and I decided now would be a good time to start creating an active presence there.

One fun thing you can do on GoodReads is add books to shelves in your account, and indicate whether you have read the book, want to read it or are currently reading it. You can also rate books from one to five stars, and you can leave reviews.

I decided to go back through my public library borrowing history and start listing, over time, the books I remember reading from the ones I’ve checked out over the years.

According to the records, I’ve downloaded just shy of 4,400 books in just shy of 10 years.

That. Has. Got to Be. A Mistake.

They have obviously lost the records for half the books I’ve checked out in that time, because there’s no way it is that few.  Sure, maybe the last few months have been a little lower on the checking out because I have Kindle Unlimited and Scribd. But in general, I check out probably 30-50 books a month.

It just got me thinking about how much I read, and how many books I have in various queues and checked out from various places, and it made me feel grateful to live where and when I do.

Books rock.

 
 
Photo Credit: FromOldBooks.com

 

 

Some Things Are Just Wrong. This Isn’t One of Them.

Angie Dixon-Some Things Are Just Wrong-Image: Cow Wearing Roller Skates

I recently read an article on five things smart people say that make them look dumb. For the most part, it was an interesting article.

I wish, however, that I’d just read the article on WiseBread that the Inc. author pulled her information from. I really could have lived without the last item, which is a good example of a smart person looking dumb, but probably not in the way the author of the article intended.

After the first four points, which were intelligent and on-point, the author of the Inc. article pronounced that “studies show” that using big words makes people think you’re dumb.

Studies may show that. I doubt it, but I really don’t know, from reading this article. She linked to one study, in which some students were given versions of an article with each noun and adjective replaced with its longest synonym.

The students thought the author of the altered paper was “dumb.”

And they were right. He was dumb enough to think that experiment would prove some kind of point.

Using a more complex word, correctly, when it’s the best word, is not dumb. Reasonable, intelligent people don’t think you’re dumb when you use the correct word. They think you’re saying what you mean.

Throwing out buzzwords like elucidate and utilize because you think they make you look smart–that makes you look dumb.

But I’m talking about having a large vocabulary integrated into your life so that you always say exactly what you mean because you always can.

That’s not “showing off.” That’s communicating.

My first paper for my college comp class came back marked with a “B” and a note: “Write like you talk.”

The next day my roommate took my paper with her to class. She stopped our instructor after class and said, “She does talk like that.”

The day after that I got my paper back. The “B” had been scratched out and replaced by “A+.” A new note said, “Nice work.”

So, yeah. Trying to show off by throwing fancy words around makes you look, at best, like a buffoon.

However, using big words makes what you say clearer and more accurate.

Not to mention that words are fun.

 

There’s a Story Here…

There's a Story Here-Angie Dixon, Author

I’m Learning “How to Write Flash Fiction That Doesn’t Suck”

Last night I started Holly Lisle’s free three-week fiction writing course, “How to Write Flash Fiction That Doesn’t Suck.”

Like so many other things, including the fan fiction I’m writing now, flash fiction has never been on my radar. I wasn’t interested and didn’t think I’d be good at it.

I enrolled in Holly’s free flash fiction course not because it was free, or not just for that reason.

First, I own some of Holly’s other courses but have not gotten around to studying them. I thought I’d start with this course, as she recommends.

Second, Holly says that this course teaches you:

  • one way to come up with great ideas fast
  • how to develop a sense of pacing in fiction, how to write the middle of a story
  • how to write two “broadly applicable types” of endings
  • how to “write stories that matter, both to you and your readers

Third, if I do the work, when I finish the class in three weeks I’ll have five complete stories.

I like to think I’m a talented writer. I know I’m a skilled writer. The thing is that my skills are primarily in nonfiction writing. So hells yeah, I want to learn what Holly’s teaching in this class, especially since she’s so generously made it free and especially since I can complete it in only three weeks (Holly’s system delivers one lesson a week at her website, after you sign up).

And hells yeah, I want to write five stories.

I obviously love writing, so five new little writing projects excite me a lot.

I’ve been wanting to finish something, because finishing a project, for me, builds momentum in other projects.

I’ve also been wanting to write a short story to give away on this blog.

So I’m enjoying the class.

Story Openings

My assignment for Lesson 1 was to create a number of characters and situations, and then choose five of each, pair them in interesting combinations, and write story openings for all five of them.

I stayed up late last night doing the five assigned openings, and then did ten more this morning.

I thought you might enjoy them:

The headings are not titles, but just descriptions of the main character’s desire. I haven’t reached  the title portion of the class yet 🙂

To Find the Magic Yo-Yo

To Find the Magic Yo-Yo-Angie Dixon-Story Idea-Image: Alfred the Great and His Imperial Yo-YoPorkchop had looked everywhere for his magic yo-yo.

Tubby must have taken it. He swore he hadn’t, but he must have. That was the only possibility.

Maybe if Porkchop promised to gift the yo-yo to Tubby after the Astorino party, Tubby would return the yo-yo. Just as a loan.

If he couldn’t locate that yo-yo…

Well, he’d better hope fish liked clowns.

If he didn’t do his signature trick for the Astorino brat he’d be sleeping with the fishes.

Where was that damn yo-yo?

A Warm Coat

A Warm Coat- Angie Dixon Flash Fiction Story First LinesForrester didn’t want the coat for himself. The army kept him warm. Warm and fed and with a roof-of-sorts over his head. Just not safe. Of course not safe. He lived and worked in a war zone.

Poor kid lived in the same war zone. Lived there alone now, after a grenade–Forrester’s grenade–wiped out his family.

Hell, he could have Forrester’s coat. If the C.O. court-martialed him for theft, as he’d promised, at least Forrester would go to the brig. He wouldn’t kill any more innocent families of innocent little boys.

 An Honest Senator

An Honest Senator-Angie Dixon-Story Idea“You want to be my campaign manager.” Matt Ripley hoped he hadn’t put too much or the wrong kind of emphasis on the word you. But this man…

He really looked at Scott Keller for the first time. Even in prison garb, months past his last salon visit, Keller looked ready to take the floor in the U. S. Senate.

“I’m qualified, ” Keller said. I know the rules that I broke. I know why we need an honest senator. And I know what my  corrupt successor will do to you during the campaign.

“Let me help.”

Ripley cooked an eyebrow. Keller knew this was Ripley’s tell. He was going to say yes.

I’m sorry,” Ripley said,   “But employing you in any way in my campaign would be suicide. I truly am sorry.”

 To Get Home

To Get Home-Angie Dixon-Story IdeaSpike wished she could stay.  This was the nicest house she’d ever seen. But she had to get home. She found one of the strange humans. They could understand her.

She’d just  explain. They had said she could go  home in time. She needed to be home in time for the big yellow car to spit Jamie out.

“Human?” Spike said to the nearest person she saw.

The human looked down at her with those big, sad eyes in that big, gray head. Spike said, “I have to go home now.”

The human shook his-her head. “I am sorry, bee-gull. It is not yet time. You must stay on our spay-ship.”

Spike felt her tail drop between her legs. Spay-ship. This wasn’t a house. She knew what this place was. She had to get home.

She had to cree-ate a dis-track-chum. That’s what Jamie would do. She had to get back to Jamie.

To Get Out

To Get Out-Angie Dixon-Story idea“Cadet Harmon, dis-MISSED!” Jake stood at attention, waiting, wondering which cadet was lucky enough to go back to their room–their barracks, he reminded himself.

Sergeant Moore leaned over Jake. “Is there a problem, Cadet Harmon?”

“No-no, sir!” Jake saluted and headed toward the barracks in, he hoped, proper military stride.

There definitely was a problem. A bunch of them. His new mom was going to kill his dad. He was in military school three states away. And he was only five years old.

 

A New Pair of Shoes

Red Shoes-A New Pair of Shoes-Angie Dixon-Story IdeaMax had tried to tell Dr. Sims why he needed the shoes, but the psychiatrist had stopped listening at “red patent leather pumps.”

He’d probably written “shoe fetish” in Max’s chart.

He’d probably told the orderly to watch Max and make sure he didn’t steal a female inmate’s shoes.

Patient, he reminded himself.

They were all patients here, not inmates.

Inmates couldn’t leave whenever they-

Well, inmates didn’t get drugged to the gills three times a day, anyway.

To Make the Voices Stop

To Make the Voices Stop-Angie Dixon-Story IdeaThe voices were talking again. No, wait. This time they were singing.

He’d knocked on the door.

No answer. Neither car was in the parking lot.He’d even called both offices, asked the receptionist at one for Mark Bell and at the other for Sheila Bell.

He had talked to both of them.

They weren’t home.

They were. Not. Home.

So where the hell were those voices coming from?

 To See a Long-Lost Friend

“AAlcatraz Cell-To See a Long Lost Friend-Angie Dixon-Story Ideany last requests?” the warden asked. “You can have one visitor on the day. I need to know the name by breakfast tomorrow so I can clear them.”

11 days. He had 11 days to live. Well, 10 days and 20 hours.

There was someone he wanted to see. His best friend. He wrote down Leo’s name and the last address and phone number he remembered.

The warden looked at the paper.

He looked at James.

He looked at the paper.

He looked at James.

“Is this some kind of joke? You want to see the guy you’re going to die for murdering?”

To Win

To Win-Angie Dixon-Photo IdeaJosh knew he could win the photography contest.

And when he did win, he and his mom could rent an apartment.

She could buy a cheap car, just something that would get her to work and back.

She could buy nice clothes, work clothes.

Someone would have to hire her if she had a place to live, nice clothes and a car.

And $15,000 would buy all of that and more.

$15,000 would buy them a new life.

He even knew what he’d take a picture of and why it would win the contest.

Now he just needed a camera, and their new life was guaranteed.

 

So there they are! I’d love to hear what you think.

 

 
(Red Shoes Photo Credit Leandro Gomes Moreira. Alfred the Great and His Yo-Yo Photo Credit Mike Licht, licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License)