What Number Seven Taught Me

In the last days of December 2017, a friend pointed me toward a writing competition. The theme for the competition was “Awakenings”. The group that posted the competition welcomed all genres, with a great desire for romance and speculative fiction, among others. I’ve written romance in many forms over the years, from the simple to the unapologetically raunchy. I had only a few days before the deadline, but I’d come up with – what I thought at the time – a straightforward love story set in a pseudo-familiar setting, and one I could finish pretty quickly.

Then I actually started to write it.

What poured from my brain was a twisty-turny, upside-down-reality tale of love, duty, patriotism, relationships, even politics(!) that took nearly a full five months to finish. It wasn’t what I had first planned, and it veered a lot from my original plot. But one lesson I’ve learned through writing fiction is that, when I allow the characters to speak freely, they will forge their own path. More often than not, that path is more satisfying than any I may have planned at the start.

Number Seven

Seven, like so many of my original characters, embraced his being-ness with so much quiet strength and determination, it overwhelmed me. I could think of no other story or character for those five months I wrote. In fact, writing became almost like transcribing. Many times, it felt like he was standing at my shoulder, telling me who should do what and what should happen next. That letting-go is one of the most joyful feelings I’ve experienced as a writer.

Number Seven doodle

Dour Number Seven, a doodle by me.

I said I wouldn’t apologize for Seven’s story, and I won’t. He took me on a new journey into personhood, one I hadn’t considered before. I grew with him, and because of him. He made me open my eyes a little bit wider to the world around me. He’s a bit suspicious, as I am, and he’s quite the serious individual, as I can be. But he also has to trust himself, a lesson I took to heart along the way, too.

If any of this has piqued your interest, you can read “Number Seven and the Life Left Behind”, part 1, here.

What’s Next

I’ve posted this story for free because it’s a project I want to share with people. I am working on a hardcopy version, and when that’s available, I’ll be sure to share that news. In the meantime, if my story moved you at all, I’d encourage you to take a moment to consider where you are in the world today, and what struggles you see, nearby or faraway, hidden or in plain sight. Everywhere, there are people fighting the good fights: for freedom, equality, and love. This story is for them. And for me, and for you, because we’re all in this together.

Now,Thanks

A writer rarely creates a story in a vacuum. People influence us in their own ways. Sometimes, that influence makes it onto the page. Sometimes, it helps us just get to the page in the first place.
Thank you to Sue for giving me the impetus to write this story.
Thank you to Chase for joining me for the ride.
Your thoughtfulness and support means a lot to this lonely writer. 🙂

 

“Like” It or Not

Recently, I took part in a flash fiction writing challenge, the #WriteFightGIFClub’s #PhotoStoryPrompt, from writer and Twitter user Radina Valova. Challengers are encouraged to use the photo to inspire a flash fiction piece while adhering to some very basic criteria. Here was this particular prompt:

When I see a flash fiction/writing prompt challenge, I give myself five minutes to find my idea. If I don’t hit on an idea within five minutes, I move on. I think prompts like this one can be great for kick-starting the story-writing process, but I’ve already got a few works-in-progress I’m working on! For this prompt, an idea did come immediately to mind:

Longtime followers should recognize Maggie and Rob from my “Finding Mister Wright” series of slice-of-life stories. If you enjoyed the story, maybe you’ll click “Like” at the end of this post. When you “like” something on a blog like this one, everyone else who comes to this page sees that you did. If you’re on Twitter, if you click “like” on (or “heart”) a Tweet, all of your followers see that you liked it in their own timeline. That’s kind of obnoxious, but I’ll show you a way to stop those “likes” from potentially cluttering up your timeline.

Let’s say you follow a lot of people on Twitter, and those people love to click “like”. What happens is that your own timeline starts to fill up with all of those different “likes”. That can be overwhelming, but here are some steps to keep it under control. Keep in mind that these steps will unilaterally disable likes from a person, so be careful for whom you use them.

Step 1: Click on the down-arrow to the far-right of the Twitter user’s handle/name. You’ll open a drop-down box that looks like this:

Select “I don’t like this Tweet”, to go to the next step.

Step 2: Click on the option that best fits your desire: either Show fewer likes from a user, or Show fewer Tweets from the person they “liked” or retweeted. I’ve blanked out the usernames from this example so I don’t make anybody feel bad. 🙂

Step 3: Once you decide on your choice, you should get the following notification in your timeline:

Remember, this basically turns off ALL likes from that particular user. So, if you want to keep abreast of some of their likes, you’re stuck with all of them. At least until I figure out the next step to share with you!

Did you like my post on Liking in Twitter? How about my flash fiction story? If you’d “like” to participate in the #PhotoStoryPrompt short fiction exercise, head over to Twitter and check it out. There’s a new one every Thursday!

Happy Siblings Day!

April 10 is Siblings Day, a day in many parts of the United States of America used to celebrate the importance of siblings. It’s not a federally-recognized holiday, yet, but it’s still a nice time to remember and honor the brothers and sisters in our lives. In lucky circumstances, a sibling is our oldest friend, a member of our genetic family with whom we will often know and share the greatest amount of time of our life. Our parents will usually pass on before we grow old; our children will often outlive us. But siblings grow up with us, and influence us in many ways they may never know.

I have one sibling, a sister. Sisters Day is the first Sunday in August, but I didn’t want to wait that long. I’ve mentioned before in my blog how my sister nurtured in me a love for stories. Through example of her own stories, she taught me about things like character and plot. She was also the first person ever to read my stories. While I couldn’t teach her much, being the little sister, I like to think that we offered each other encouragement when one of us might have felt down for not being like more “normal” girls who liked concerts, clothes, cars, and boys.

My sister has always been an avid reader; she is, in fact, one of the most well-read people I’ve ever met. From science fiction and psychology to folk tales and philosophy, she will read anything, even the back of a cereal box! She just…loves reading. That love was instilled in us by our father, I think, who always put a high value on the joy of reading. He used to tell us to never let us lose our joy for reading. Once you lose that joy, it’s so difficult to get it back. To my sadness, I’ve discovered this is true, among my friends and peers.

Wheaties 2

Wheaties box ca.1937. Well before our time, but this is the kind of stuff cereal boxes used to have on them.

Luckily, my sister has never lost her joy of reading. She’s kept that joy alive in me, too. There have been times in my life when I’ve felt  too tired, too restless, too jaded to read. But then I remember my sister, and how smart, compassionate, and generous she is, and how she got that way from being so well-read. And, just like as if I were a little girl again, I want to be just like her.

These days, I stay reminded of my sister with my favorite bookmark: an old Polaroid of her that I keep in whatever book I’m currently reading. When I open up that book each night, and I see her smile, it reminds me how lucky I am to have a sister who loves stories, and who started in me a love of stories, too.

Happy Siblings Day to you! Do you have a sibling with which you share a love of something intrinsic to you both?

Make No (Livestream) Mistake About It

A Cautionary Tale for the Livestreamer

There once was a communications technologist named Mayumi. Mayumi really liked her job producing video events at a major university. One day, a high-profile guest came to campus, and the high-profile department sponsoring the high-profile guest decided to livestream a video event, to both the Book of Faces and the Tube of Yous. Mayumi had done simultaneous live streams before, so she got to work, building and testing stream pages like she’d always done. A few days before the big event was going to happen, Mayumi tested the connections to both the Book of Faces and the Tube of Yous. All went well, as Mayumi expected it to, and everyone involved went on merrily.

The day of the event arrived, and Mayumi got ready to start streaming to both the Book of Faces and the Tube of Yous. But when she pressed the big Start button on her magical encoder…the Tube of Yous didn’t start! All of the settings were right, and the Book of Faces was going strong. But the Tube was not reacting as it should have done!

Mayumi recalled the Golden Rule of Technology: When in doubt, restart. So, she restarted her magical encoder machine. She started her connections again, using the same information as before. But wait! Now, neither the Book of Faces nor the Tube of Yous was starting properly! Oh noes!

There was only one thing left to do. Mayumi rebooted again, and rebuilt from scratch BOTH the connections for the Book of Faces and the Tube of Yous, discarding the event credentials from before. She pressed the Start button on the magical encoder, and…they worked! Mayumi monitored both working connections through the end of the event, and they stayed live and sending, with no more troubles. But what had happened to those other connections?

Here’s what Mayumi learned:

  • A Book of Faces stream event can be created up to seven days in advance. You can test-stream to this event without going live as many times as you want. Once you go live, though, that stream’s unique identity cannot be duplicated. Which means, if you stop the stream (like with a machine reboot), you need to create a completely new event, with completely new credentials.
  • A Tube of Yous stream event can be created a long time in advance. But if you test-stream to that particular event page, the Tube of Yous will expect you to go live shortly thereafter (within a couple of hours); it will look for the EXACT SAME data stream for the live event, that you used for your test event. The error may not apply if you ARE using the exact same data stream, from the exact same output hardware, but just in case, test your Tube of Yous live stream event with a separate test event, especially if you’re testing a few days out.

Now that you’ve read Mayumi’s story, you won’t have to panic when you run into either of these issues. You’ll know what to do! And, as the famous saying goes, knowing is half the battle.

 

Freeing Myself From the Comparing Mind

It’s a new year, and with the start of a new year, we traditionally make resolutions. Over the last several years, I have focused my new-year’s-mind on being kinder, listening more closely, supporting more causes in which I believe. I think I’ve become a (slightly) better person for those past resolutions. This year, though, I need to look inward.

I’ve been struggling with a kind of lingering depression for several years, now. It has not been clinically diagnosed, but I also know it’s more than just mood swings or the odd blah feeling. I function fine at work, and I carry on my family chores and responsibilities. My creative soul has been drowning, though.

I have known for a long time that I waste too much effort comparing myself to others’ success. Others’ popularity. Others’ epicness. I had thought that the best resolution for me this year was to be more accepting of others’ accomplishments, but it has to go deeper than that. The real answer came to me from a cooking show, of all things.

Jeong Kwan "Creativity and ego cannot go together."

Jeong Kwan

 

The show “Chef’s Table” (available on Netflix) did a portrait on Jeong Kwan, a Buddhist nun in South Korea. In her interview, she said the above, as well as the following:

“If you free yourself from the comparing and jealous mind, your creativity opens up endlessly.”

Jeong Kwan said these words in regard to her cooking, but I have taken them to heart for my writing. She equates the art of making wholesome and natural food to spiritual enlightenment. I believe that the same can be done with writing. Creating characters and stories has given me strength over the years. I’ve learned from the conflicts of those characters, and letting them speak, fight, and sing through my pen has opened my eyes to perspectives and ideas that might not have occurred to me otherwise.

I know my journey to this greater enlightenment and peace will not be easy, but every journey worth making takes effort. I hope to become a better creative, and a more well-rounded person, for that effort.

How do you deal with jealousy? Have you made any resolutions in the new year?

Final Count!

The final count for my “Change, in a Bottle” Giving Tuesday 2017 charity contest is in: $39.94! Wow, even I didn’t think it would be that much!

 

 

As I said in the post from last week, I’ll be donating my collection of lunch change ($39.94) to my charity of choice, the Sierra Club. Since so few people participated in this contest, though, I don’t want anyone to feel left out. So…

EVERYBODY WINS!

That’s right: each of the following charities will receive a donation of the final tally, $39.94:

When I saw the small number of folks who took a chance on this contest, I was kind of sad, because I tried hard not to make this about blog hits or comments or subscriptions. I didn’t want to be one of those people who demands a subscription or a story comment to participate in something. But then I reminded myself that this isn’t about me, or my blog, or my writing. It’s about even just the little bit of good that I could give – or give back – to the environment and community around me. The world needs our help to keep growing for the better, whether that’s through charity, art, purpose, care, or communication. We’re one world, and it’s up to all of us to keep the world and all of its inhabitants healthy, strong, and protected.

Thank you to everyone who participated! Let’s keep the giving going!

Even if you missed this contest, why not share the name of your favorite charity in the comments? You never know who may be reading and looking for a good cause to support!

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