I just revised my lovely little Selah story. It’s halfway done! Click here to read Chapter One.
I just revised my lovely little Selah story. It’s halfway done! Click here to read Chapter One.
“You are crazy to do this for a prisoner!” my former best friend screamed at me as I was trying to return my U-Haul rental van on a hot June afternoon. She and her 4 kids had helped me move from Victorville, California (in the High Desert) to Bakersfield, California (in the lush Central Valley)–to be close to my fiancé, Jose. She was not happy with me for a long, hot weekend of packing and unpacking–with no restaurant treats, a too-small budget, and a cheap motel (at least they gave us a free Continental breakfast).
“You volunteered to come,” I reminded her. “I can write my books anywhere, and most places need an English teacher.”
“Well, just stay away from me!” she yelled before getting out of my life.
Not everyone thinks I am crazy for loving Jose, a prisoner in a private prison that contracts with the State of California. He was born in Mexico and lived most of his life in California, where he got involved in a gang and then was arrested, tried in court, and given a too-long sentence. We met when I was teaching the GED course in an Adelanto prison. He was my student, new to class, who gave me a Christmas card, a New Year’s card–and his whole sweet heart. For weeks we secretly exchanged love letters and sometimes met alone in the classroom to talk after other students left. I wrote him into my new Selah book. I got caught with 2 of his letters, was fired on Valentine’s Day, and then was banned from visiting him. For 4 months we did not see each other. Faithfully, he sent me cards for Valentine’s, my birthday, Easter, Mother’s Day. He drew them with his own hand, with bright pencils that brought the color back into my life.
He called me at 11:30 p.m., 6 weeks ago, excited to tell me about his transfer. His voice was calm and strong, like baritone music. I thought that, as long as he spoke to me, I could never be afraid or sad. No longer would only write each other letters or talk on the “monitored and recorded” telephone! We chatted excitedly, both nervous about having our first hug and kiss. I could not imagine how it would be to walk, sit, and eat together for hours on Saturdays and Sundays, in the prison’s Visitation room and courtyard, but I felt elated as if in a lingering, long-awaited dream.
My favorite of my 7 books is the perfect little fantasy novel called “Selah of the Summit.” I poured my own true life experiences into that book but made it look like fiction. A lot of the details were added fantasy elements from my imagination, but the basic tale was true. Writing fiction is much easier than writing a nonfiction, reveal-all book with my name as the main character and the awful viewpoint “I.” Victims of abuse often find it easier to distance themselves from the abused person they are by creating another persona and objectively telling their story (like a drama or puppet show they can control) as if it happened to someone else. So “Selah” tells my story of being an abused wife and survivor of other traumas, set into the deliverance tale of a desert slave girl who is freed from her castle-like prison and led to the mountains. I even made the San Bernardino Mountains (where I lived for years) the setting for that journey.
Now I’m writing “Selah 2.” I call it “Selah of the Desert.” It shows my more recent history and adventures. For over 9 months I taught full-time inside a California High Desert prison for male felons. The hours were long and difficult, security was crucial, and I (as well as prisoners) was always closely watched. I never expected to find something valuable there (or, more precisely, someone)—until love slipped between the prison bars.
I was miserable, sad, and lonely after the break-up of my marriage to a Turk. I was stranded in the desert, not adventuring overseas, and very few family or friends knew that I existed (except thousands of people on social media—but they were not exactly real). Christmas approached. I wasn’t invited anywhere except to the Geo Company Christmas party (one night) and church (where I was new and not a member of a special group). I kept catching viruses from the inmates and struggled through long days inside the prison sneezing and blowing my nose, always holding a tissue in one hand. I had one friend to meet at Starbucks, but later that fell through. I gave everyone who worked at the prison hand-signed Christmas cards, fancy ones I bought at Costco. The last thing I expected was a sweet Christmas card from one of my inmate students.
I hope you are enjoying my new Selah book. I’ve decided to make it easier to read by placing the new version of Chapter 1 here.
A Prison in the Desert
Selah was walking in the desert late at night. Clouds must have hidden stars and moon, for very little light shone around her. Her eyes got used to the dimness, and she carefully stepped over rocks and avoided tall, sharp cactus plants. In the distance she could see the mountains that surrounded the desert on 3 sides. The 4thside, westward, opened toward the Golden City and the Sea.
Selah looked at her glowing, hand-held Tech. It showed the time at 3:33. She held her breath. Nothing moved: no wind, no living creature, no distant wave of sound. Even Selah’s thoughts silenced. Then, in the next second and the next breath, the westward sky exploded in a brilliant light.
It seemed beautiful at first: a roundish ball of glistening white became a mushroom, reaching high and low. In moments it leaped upward and out toward Selah and the distant desert, edged by shooting flames of red and blue, consuming everything in its path. Later the sound followed, a shock millions of times louder than the close-up shooting of a metal gun. It would destroy any ear that might hear it, but since it was slower, the light would already have erased everything in a cataclysmic firestorm, until even the molecules—once dazzling in the air—burned to nothing.
“Maker, are you here?” Selah asked, speaking in the total dark. How could she still be alive to think or talk? How could the darkness feel both cold and peaceful?
The scene changed to a simple bedroom. Late-night blackness poured through closed, barred windows as a little light appeared inside, illuminating color. Selah parted crimson drapes. Pale yellow stars swirled into the darkness like a firefly dance. Selah reached out to catch one in her hand. It glowed between her fingers. She took a step, wishing for a tree. A hemlock fir appeared, draping its branches around her shoulders like green, antique lace. It was the perfect place to hide. She opened her fist and placed the firefly star upon the closest branch.
“Oh, cover me,” she cried to the arcing branches. “Keep me from the empty dark and memories. Hide me from Apocalypse.”
She ached with desolation, pain from head to toe.
The distant sound of bells broke through the shifting images of dreams. Selah reached out to her bedside table, pressed a button, and silenced the Tech device that woke her.
The sun was not up yet. Faint wisps of pink and orange clouds like feathers drifted above the east. Selah looked up at them between the open wooden window blinds.
“It was just a dream, again,” she whispered to console herself.
Her mobile Tech device blinked red, drawing her eyes to it. She sat up and reached for it, staring at its luminescent screen that glowed with particles of blue light. Red light pulsed through it, telling her that it would not stop until she checked the message that waited for her.
My family is my daughter Jessica, the only one of my 4 children who wants me in their lives. She is having a baby soon, the only grandchild I will see–unless things change. Jessica spent Christmas with me in a nice (but inexpensive) hotel in Ontario, California. We stayed there before–during the Miss California competition and Thanksgiving. The hotel has a cheerful, red-hued lobby; a pool; and walkways with a gazebo and rose gardens. It reminds me of hotels I stayed in throughout China. We gave away some of my books to curious staff members and enjoyed green tea, butter cookies, and a few wrapped gifts. I am thankful that, though I do not own my own home, this year I was not homeless. I have a good job and can afford a hotel near to where Jessica lives.
Jessica read the story of the first Christmas as written in the Bible’s Gospel of Luke. As a Messianic Jew and a Christian, I could be criticized for celebrating Christmas, a holiday not well steeped in valid history. However, I love Christmas for the songs whose words I memorized when I was a child, the tiny blinking lights, angels, and evergreens. Jesus came as the “light of the world.” He died on a tree, our sacrifice to wash away our crimson sins, and rose again to bring new life. Somehow these ideas do not erase older traditions of Hanukah, but fulfill.
How was your Christmas?
Last night the Queen invited all her court, friends, and their family & friends to celebrate Christmas on 12th Night (in January), as was done long ago and is still done in some places today. Seeing people who have become family to me, feasting on our homemade food, listening to music and stories, and playing games like the Gift Exchange, I remembered back to last summer when I entered a better Reality than this modern age. Close your eyes and enter a slower-paced, more fantastical time where surprises waited behind tree branches and in the spark of children’s eyes.
I watched the most life-changing film, “Man Down.” Not only veterans get PTSD I have had it since I was not yet 5 years old, when my father shot himself in the head–in front of me–on Christmas Day. Through abusive men, cancer, and near-fatal car accidents, trauma has returned repeatedly. Jesus help veterans and all of us who have PTSD. Woman Down.
You can read all about my journey with PTSD in my 3 nonfiction books which I call my “Survival Series.” Start with “Crossing the Chemo Room,” then go through “I Saw You in the Moon.” Realize that I do not tell the whole truth until “Fire and Ice.”
May our 2018 be a year less affected by trauma. Sadly, I cannot help but feel that everyone on Earth is in danger of PTSD the way things are headed. Like my Selah fantasy character, may we overcome!
I am a beautiful fool
eyes as aquamarine against faded gold
like the ring my daughter gave me
living in my own dream world
Galadriel of the forest
giving to Arwen
pink flowers in moonlight
standing, frail, against the doom of a sorcerer
waiting for a miracle
**This is the poem my daughter Jessica wrote for me when she gave me this ring:
Please buy my books, just $2.99 each, so that my dreamlife may continue in practical, unpoetic, expensive California. Thank you, this Day after Thanksgiving, Year of our Lord 2017.
My last blog, written 3 months ago, was set in my Happy Place–the Big Bear Renaissance Faire. Since those Merry Days ended, I realize more than ever that I was born out of time. I should have lived when women wore capes and could be Queen, accompanied by a faithful, silver-armored soldier. After reading my daily news and Technology Update (outdated the moment it’s published), my aching, spinning head longs to shrug its Technology Trauma and wear a simple, golden mesh “snood” that blends with my emerald flounces. I don’t need to know about Killer Robots, camera-equipped drones, Bitcoin, or the newest smartphone. I want to walk in red forest dust, beneath boughs of evergreen branches, beside breeze-dancing edges of graceful tents. Mountain summits, still with snow, hover above me; knights, ladies, priests, and dancers surround me; and we all yell together,
“Long live the Queen! May she reign forever!”
as we follow the purple-trimmed Spanish Queen of Misfits who allows anyone to join her bountiful land and escape the terrible Inquisitions.
So I updated my “Selah of the Summit” fantasy cover with a photo of me at that Renaissance Faire this summer. Do you like it? I sadly replaced the cover with my daughter Jessica looking like Arwen from “Lord of the Rings” because its resolution was so low (when I added it to the cover format). Did you like that one, too, in its original state, below? Which is better? Email me your preference, please: firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you and Happy Olden Days!
Lonna Lisa Williams
My Turkish husband “Jack” first saw a Renaissance Faire with me in the foresty mountains of Big Bear, California in 2015. I went to the 2014 Big Bear Renaissance Faire alone. In 2016, Jack and I were having such a difficult time just trying to find a home that we did not attend. Now, in August of 2017, the last weekend of the faire calls to us. We hope to stroll again among the knights and ladies, fairy children, castle gates. Join us in this colorful world where you will be amazed at what you may see.
If you like my photos, slideshow, and video, please check out my books. I wrote a fantasy novel about Selah who escaped an evil tower in the desert and followed Micah up the mountains where she felt her first rainfall and touched her first trees. I wrote a science fiction novel about Miranda who cared for the earth’s last tree and traveled back in time to meet her great, great-grandmother Gabrielle, who saved tree seeds for the future.