60 Seconds of Midnight

If I Die

It was the perfect day for a yard sale, the kind of day where the sun mesmerized its audience by providing a magical glow to every object it touched. Jaime loved going to yard sales with her good friend Lana and was excited that they had picked such a flawless day to indulge in their shared hobby.

While others she knew would have preferred to be shopping the luxurious department stores, Jaime favored pouring over old books and antique lamps each touched by real people and their families, touched by their triumphs and tragedies. These used things brought more character to Jaime’s home unlike the factory produced junk one could snap up at any home store.

This particular event had not been in their original plans, but crept into their schedule when they spotted a man at a lazy intersection enthusiastically twirling a sign that boasted of the spectacular sale.

Jaime was perusing over some nicely framed old world maps with Lana at her side when she spotted a silver jewelry box, one that she knew well.

“Amazing. I used to have a jewelry box just like this when I was in high school.” Jaime said running her fingers along the slightly unclean salmon colored velvet interior. She noticed a small school photograph of a striking teenage girl.

“Really?” Lana responded.

“Yes, I used to love it because I hid notes from James in it.” She said as she fiddled with the bottom of the box.

“Sneaky girl.” Lana mumbled as she made her way to another table that displayed a colorful quilt.

“If you pull this compartment up here in the bottom there is a little space, perfect for hiding little not-” Jaime stopped when she noticed a folded piece of paper in the hiding space. With a careful hand, she unfolded the note and read the words that caused her suddenly unruly breath to choke up her throat.

“Twenty dollars for the jewelry box.” A man’s voice startled Jaime, who quickly balled the crumbling piece of paper in her hand. She looked up to see a man and woman standing behind the table.

The woman looked down at the jewelry box and removed the picture, “I didn’t even realize that this was still in here.”

“Is that your daughter?” Jaime stuttered.

The man took the picture and fell deep into his thoughts. “Yes, her name was Ashlyn. She died in an accident last year. Her mother has finally convinced me that we have to let these things go. Excuse me.” He said, walking away as the tears begin to well in his eyes.

“Would you like the jewelry box? I’ll cut you a deal…eight dollars.” The woman insisted.

“No, no thank you.”

“Is something wrong?” The woman asked a flushed Jaime.

“No, I’m ok, it’s just a little warm out today.” She lied as she turned away taking a few steps from the table. Jaime unfolded the note once again as she had to be sure of what she had seen and there she reread the same frightening message, If I die, my mother killed me.  –Ashlyn.

This Old House

April 14, 2016
This Old House

This Old House

Constructing her coffee with scientific precision each morning, two vanilla creams, no sugar, was just the first part of her stringent routine, routine and repetition being some of the only things left in the world that kept Darby Morgan sane. Often she wondered why she even bothered since it seemed that all of her senses had been dulled to the point that she had trouble with smelling, tasting and even feeling, but for that last loss she was grateful as she could hardly go on living were she forced to feel the bottomless emotional maw left within her from recently losing her husband, Wayne, and 16 year-old daughter, Maya.

What emotions Darby did feel, she had lost the ability to properly categorize. Again and again they came sweeping over her in tidal waves of paradoxical sensation, guilt and rage, helplessness and sadness. She hypothesized that in the instant that she had beheld the oncoming collision, that she instinctively knew would be catastrophic, her life, in that well-established spiritual tale, flashed before her eyes in an electrically charged flicker of love, hate, fear, joy and all the others and had been captured within her like a rare photograph snapped at the moment of a distinct phenomenon otherwise utterly elusive to forecasting or preparation and it seemed now that as a result she had a hard time picking those emotions apart.

Late morning light from a sun that Darby could not recall her last unfiltered sight of engulfed the living room. On the couch where she had once plopped easily into her preferred spot with her family to watch a Friday evening movie, she sat lightly and with visible discomfort as she did every morning since the accident like a person sitting on a psychiatrists’ chaise lounge for the first time. She could hardly digest how familiar and foreign her things seemed to her at the very same time. Wayne’s cologne haunted her here, his favorite, and the same cologne that he had worn since college. It was light and woody with the slightest of floral touches and she could smell it almost every day as if they were still having coffee together on that couch as they used to do each morning.

Every day, for a mother who lost a young child, was groundhog’s day, but it was especially so, for a mother who lost her child and husband, in one day, in one accident, the same accident that left her practically unscathed. Perhaps, it was punishment. If it weren’t a punishment, it most certainly felt like one. Darby knew that for people like her, routine was the last link to normalcy without which sanity would surely fade, losing ground quickly to the impenetrably dark army of depression and despair. Routine was the only thing that she had left, awkward but comfortable like a budding adolescent boy still holding tightly to a ripped and stained baby blanket, but still she sometimes wondered if the dizzying monotony of it all wouldn’t soon demolish what was left of her faculties anyway.

Leaving this old house was out of the question, she needed the customary creak of the hallway door, the aromatic curry odor that was cemented into the curtains from years of preparing her husband’s favorite dish at least once a week, the electric blue stain in the white carpet where Maya suddenly learned first-hand why Darby always insisted that she paint her toe nails over newspaper. All of these intimate catalysts were necessary, they held all of the pieces of her broken self in place like the backboard of a puzzle without which the parts that composed the complete picture would crumble into meaningless shards. Besides, everything outside of these four walls, now petrified her. There were many days Darby stood at that door with her hand on the knob ready to try again, but paralyzing fear always won out. Inside was safe.

Since the accident, she had not been out at all and the hours dissolved into days and the days into years, sometimes quickly and at other times it seemed as if the clock hardly moved. Hours passed as she engaged in one of her countless monotonous customs, the ones that filled the time between the aroma of her husband’s cologne and Maya’s sweet whispers, studying the burnt orange floral patterns on the couch pillows, counting and re-counting the exactly 167 flower petals contained on each side of the set. Now, Darby wasn’t sure if the accident had occurred one week ago or one year ago, not that it much mattered anymore.

After a nap Darby woke to the muddled scent of fresh baked cookies of some sort. It was Mrs. Candela, she must have stopped by to leave them the way she always had, once a week, before the accident and even now, after the accident, she did not abandon the once cheerful duty, now, decayed into dreadful chore. Before leaving for vacation once, Darby shared a house key with Mrs. Candela that she never bothered to reclaim and when after the accident she refused to answer the door or come out of her home, Mrs. Candela had resorted to sneaking in while she slept and leaving only her cookies to signal her periodic presence. Darby enjoyed the smell of the treats more than the actual flavor as they never tasted like much anymore.

Everything in the present was of such little consequence, memories were paramount now, Darby thought as she swung open the door to her daughter’s room, which had gone unchanged. There was the faint and fleeting fragrance of her shampoo which put one in the mind of island vacation, coconuts and fresh papaya. Nothing less than a complete miracle, Maya was perfect and Darby had found herself thanking God on multiple occasions that she had not been delivered one of those drooping, slack-faced teens, like Bethany, the bird-faced neighbor who lived on the corner with her aloof husband and a son from her first marriage. A boy for whom they all shared a secret, community fear that he would one day soon be starring on the nightly news for gunning down a group of jovial teenagers at Mountain View High School. No, Maya was whimsical and fun, but predictable in an all American way, her personality always putting her mother in the mind of easy Saturday mornings, sharp, sunny and saturated with optimism.

Admiring the plush, pink comforter, Darby studied the Polaroids of friends and family that her daughter taped to the wall in the shape of a heart. Once again, she heard her daughter’s voice, laced with a soft, emotional lilt, the way Darby often heard it, when she came in Maya’s room to be with her. “Mom, I’m here.” The voice called.

Darby felt the tears puddling painfully at the corners of her eyes.

The IV monitor beeped rhythmically along with the silent tap of Mrs. Candela’s foot as she sat stiffly in the corner chair of the hospital room holding the plate of cookies that she brought every week. Wayne Darby sat, dutifully, at the head of his wife’s hospital bed as he had at least three nights a week for the last five years.

“Doctor, do you think that there’s still a chance that my mother will ever wake up? It’s been five years since our accident.” A young woman asked.

Dr. Diaz was sympathetic but firm, “Maya, we just don’t know. We are really lucky that all three of you even survived. Not much has changed, your mother’s brain activity is good, but I can’t promise you anything. She could wake up from her coma tomorrow, ten years from now or not at all. We just can’t be sure.”

“Do you really think that she can hear me?” Maya, now a college student junior wanted to know, seeking desperate confirmation for a question that she had asked repeatedly to anyone that would listen.

“Yes, I think she can hear you.” Dr. Diaz confirmed.

Maya turned and leaned into her mother who had been silent in a coma for the last five years. Taking her mother’s emaciated hand into her own, she whispered, “Mom, I’m here.”

Jean Nicole Rivers

Jeannicolerivers.com

https://www.facebook.com/JNicoleRivers/

@jeannicole19

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5832487.Jean_Nicole_Rivers

 

Little Miss Dupree

April 7, 2016
Caydence Alise by Locked Illusions Photography

Caydence Alise by Locked Illusions Photography

There once was a girl named Little Miss Dupree who lived in a house on Hickory Street.

She’d peek through the windows and creep through the halls, opening doors and tapping on walls.

Her sisters played nervously, her mother could hardly sleep, her father never stopped looking and her brother wouldn’t say a peep.

Some days the girl laughed, but most days she cried and how she wished, she wished she were still alive.

 

Jean Nicole Rivers

https://www.facebook.com/JNicoleRivers/

@jeannicole19

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5832487.Jean_Nicole_Rivers

When To Let Go of Your Novel

April 1, 2016
When to Let God of Your Completed Novel

When to Let God of Your Completed Novel

Last week I pressed the “approve” button for the final edits on my first novel, Black Water Tales: The Secret Keepers, and it was more difficult than I could have ever imagined.  Over the past year as I composed the novel I could not wait for the moment to finally be finished, to have completed one of the “biggies” on the bucket list, to be able to say, “I have written a novel, I’m a writer, I have arrived!”

But instead of the triumphant (Rocky music playing in the background) feeling I had envisioned, I felt more like a mother standing at the glass doors of kindergarten, bawling her eyes out as she watches her baby leaving her.  It was a bit traumatizing.

There was a fear of losing something that had become so much a part of my everyday life.  For so long now, it has just been me… and the book, I have watched it develop, struggled with it, loved it, hated it and finally finished it.

Also, there was the fear of the big reveal.  Writing is personal and despite the fact that my novel is fiction, when people read anything that I write, they are getting a look into my personal thoughts and the feelings; they are literally reading from the pages of my diary. If you are human, you know the fear of letting people see the real you, with all of your vulnerabilities, insecurities and flaws.  One of our biggest fears as human beings is not that we won’t be seen, but that we will be.  It’s like stripping in front of a crowd and allowing them to make unencumbered judgments of your nakedness.

What if people hate it?  What if I missed a mistake? What if people read the first chapter and think that I’m unimaginative, long winded or just a complete idiot?

One would have to be made of stone not be intimidated.

When it is all done, I have done everything right, I have gone through the process of writing, re-writing, editing, re-editing, professional editing, more editing, peer review and the time had finally come for me to let it go, but how?

As I sat there in front of my computer with my mouse hovering over the “approve” button, vacillating in doubt, I remembered something a wise person once told me when it came to making tough decisions, they said, “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?”

I pressed the button.

I realized that the story was complete and that I needed the story more than it needed me anymore and that was a sure sign that it was time for the bittersweet process of moving on.

Writing your story is the most empowering things that you can do, but letting it go is one of the most courageous.

Jean Nicole Rivers

jeannicolerivers.com

https://www.facebook.com/JNicoleRivers/

@jeannicole19

How to Create A Book Trailer That Does Not Suck (Oh and on a budget)

March 15, 2016
On set for The Unwanted.

On set for The Unwanted.

As I finished up my sophomore novel, Black Water Tales: The Unwanted, I decided that I should take my marketing plan up a notch by creating a book trailer. Great idea, right? Yes, until I began my research by Googling “book trailers”. Talk about disappointment. Most book trailers (the ones not promoting big-budget authors like Stephen King and J.K. Rowling) were packed with stagnant images rolling languidly across the screen, music that failed to capture the sentiment of the story and bad font, but ALL of this was not even the worst part. When I began researching the companies responsible for these projects and their prices, I nearly fell out of my seat. To get little more than a glorified PowerPoint, prices started no less than $500 (and that was on the low side). For trailers, still simple, but with a more cinematic feel, I was looking at thousands, some of them up to $10K, which is ridiculous and completely out of touch with reality when targeting the indie or small press author.

But lucky for us, there’s a work around.

Because I also have some background in acting, I figured that I could produce my own book trailer and so can you. Check out my book trailer here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=naAt_s6NlfM

Here are some tips for producing your own cinematic book trailer on a budget.

  1. Keep It Simple: A budget-friendly book trailer is simply NOT the place for moon walks, explosions and high-speed car chases, but uncomplicated does not necessarily equate to unimaginative or valueless. Simple equates to budget friendly. You will have to get creative, but creative is your specialty, right? If you have an action book, you may not be able to shoot the woman parachuting out of the plane, but you can film the assassin on top of the building about to take out his highly sought after target. No matter what genre you write or what your book is about, you can easily create a scene or theme to shoot that captures the essence of your work.
  2. Find the local film community: It will be a little more difficult if you live in Preston, Idaho, but even in smaller areas, you can find people. There is always a film community, it may not be the exact same kind or size that it is in Hollywood, but that is not important. Look into local film industry meetups or contact acting schools or community theaters, who many times have a database of actors and crew and would be happy to send out your crew call and casting call for free.
    1. Most times you have to pay your crew, but not necessarily. Everyone is always looking to gain experience. Shooting a horror trailer, you may meet a video editor who has all of her own equipment and is willing to work for little to nothing because she’s been wanting to add some horror to her portfolio.
    2. Actors are more willing to work for credit and footage. In no way am I encouraging taking advantage of actors; if you have the money, pay them, but if you are on a super tight budget and you will not be making any profit from the book trailer, your actors will likely be willing to participate in exchange for the professional footage for their demo reels.
    3. Be up front about your budget (or lack thereof). Let people know that you are paying for everything out of pocket and/or that you are on a shoestring budget. Trust me, if anyone understands money woes, your local film community does and may have mercy on your wallet.
  3. Get organized
    1. Shooting a film, even a super short that will ultimately be made into a book trailer is no small amount of work. By the time you hire cast and crew, you should have an outline of how you want the trailer to look, a script, a budget, etc. The most important role will be your cinematographer, hire that person first, then other crew if you need them and last, the actors.
  4. Trust Yourself
    1. No one knows your book or understand your vision better than you. So what, if you have never directed a book trailer before, ultimately all that you are doing is bringing your work to life and no one will work harder to extract moving, vibrant life from your work.

By no stretch of the imagination am I saying that my book trailer is the best one out there, but what is key is that it is an authentic reflection of my work and within my financial plan. For a professional cinematographer, actors, editing, the little stock footage (images, sound, etc.) that I did use, I spent approximately the same amount that I would have paid a company for one of those slow moving PowerPoints. By producing my own trailer, I got a product that I am proud to put my name on and I could not ask for much more.

Jean Nicole Rivers

www.jeannicolerivers.com

www.facebook.com/JNicoleRivers

@jeannicole19

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5832487.Jean_Nicole_Rivers

https://www.facebook.com/Simply-Stylus-182082092179935/

 

3 Things To Love About Writing

February 26, 2016
Evening writing

Evening writing

Writing is an art form that, like many others, can take you through a whirlwind of emotions from exhilaration to frustration and back again quickly. Unquestionably, there is no lack of things to love about an activity that allows you to unzip the skin of the routine representative that you have learned to be, the politically correct, honest and kind person that everyone knows and loves and step out into the world in all of your raw and feral glory.

The month of love has not yet come to a close and the most valuable things to love about writing are poking me for acknowledgement.

Freedom: Writing allows you to be free. It makes for a safe place to escape the innocent, but monotonous confines that make us who we are in everyday life. While we as real people living in a strict reality have boundaries and standards, our characters are not bound by the same chains. Though at times it can be as frightening as it is exhilarating, these characters unlock the chains of reality and set us completely loose on the unsuspecting world.

Perspective: Writing gives broad allowances to tell the story in whatever manner the story demands. We are able to truly get inside of the head of the person standing next to us and see the world as they see it. The story can be told through the eyes of God, a child or even a mouse. It can be told with journal entries, from the mouth of a man on his death bed or with letters from incarcerated mother to daughter all with their own creative styles and story shaping perspectives.

Communication: Expression is one of the best aspects of writing. Writing is a passionate, but thoughtful form of expression. When speaking or debating, emotions can run high and words can be delivered without thought, but words on paper are always carefully calculated in order to express precise ideas and communication is what writing is all about.

As the month of love passes don’t forget the reasons why you love the craft.

Jean Nicole Rivers
www.facebook.com/JNicoleRivers
@jeannicole19

3 Reading/Writing Accessories That I Just Love

February 13, 2016

A person like me spends an embarrassing amount of my time roaming the floors of any and every book store that they pass. Often, I get overly and openly thrilled about the little #booknerd gems that I find on these frequent explorations. With Valentine’s Day only one slumber away, I thought I would share with you some of the most splendid little trinkets that I have recently discovered.

Jonathan Adler Elephant Book Ends: I never noticed how difficult it was to find nice and reasonably priced book ends until I was recently shopping for them. I absolutely love these white elephant book ends that I found, they are pretty, subtle and actually weighty enough to hold up my books and are in the $30 price range.

Jonathan Adler Elephant Book Ends

Big Word Flash Cards by Knock Knock: These cards can keep me entertained for hours. I love learning new and exciting words and usually I get them from Merriam Webster’s Word of the Day, but this is an awesome and fun way to pass some free time and it includes the childhood nostalgia for learning all for $11.95.

Big Word Flash Cards by Knock Knock

Kate Spade Occasion Card Set: Keeping a set of blank cards on hand at all times so that I can easily communicate with people in my life no matter the occasion is one of the great pillars of being a lady (or at least that is what my grandmother told me), however, admittedly, they are usually not the most modern or fun looking things. This set allows you a variety of cards in sleek, classy and modern style that will have you ready for any occasion. A little pricey at $30, but unquestionably adorable.

Kate Spade Occasion Card Set

Keeping reading, writing, learning and accessorizing in style.