Open Book Blog Hop: How and Why I Started Blogging

This post is in response to the prompt provided by the Open Book Blog Hop. Today’s topic is: How’d You Start Your Business, Blog, Or Freelance Career?

blog

How’d I start my blog?

With fear and trembling. Seriously, it was a challenge to get started but super rewarding once I did. But, in case you want details, I invite you to read on. Then, please me leave a message with your thoughts, or about your own blogging experience.

The Beginning:

I’ve been blogging for a few years, I’d say roughly four, not including last year’s sabbatical. The journey began back when I decided to get serious about writing. I wanted to share my stories with people but didn’t have the means to do it. A blog seemed like a good idea but I was just starting out. I had no major contacts, no experience, had never managed anything like a blog before. And, who cared enough about me and my writing to read my posts, anyway? The whole thing seemed scary and unattainable. That said, the need to try, as well as to take charge of the problem, won out.

So, I had my mission. But how and where to begin?

At the time, I was active on Google+ where I had met many supportive people at various stages in their own writing pursuits. One thing I noticed about most of the successful ones was that they had writing blogs. This made sense, since the marketing wisdom at the time urged writers to develop strong writing platforms. This usually included an active blog. As for me, I was writing stories at an incredible pace, and had become a moderator of two writing communities. Also, I had published my first book, The Purple Morrow. After about a year, I finally felt I had enough experience to take the plunge.

Still, the idea scared me. I mean, nothing is worse than being excited about a piece when no one else is. Worse, what if no one notices my articles or comments on them? In the end, though, I put all that negative thinking aside and got to work.

The first attempt was on Blogspot. The benefit was that it was connected to G+ so, right away, it gained attention and feedback. I named it Purple Pebbles…not sure why anymore, except that purple is my favorite color. I posted stories, poems, and short essays about my writing experience, and was genuinely surprised at the positive response. The blog enabled me to meet and engage many new G+ people, and easily follow and interact with current contacts. Lastly, it boosted my confidence.

excited

The Middle:

Then came the move to WordPress. People had told me that WordPress was the way to go if I wanted to reach even more people. They also argued that the platform itself was better. So, after worrying about using a new tool and whether or not people would follow me, I made the switch. I named it Dropped Pebbles in reference to the idea that every author has a unique voice, and our words resonate beyond the written page. Then things really took off. Being able to share posts via multiple social media platforms at once, including the vast WordPress community, opened new doors. Then followed blogging awards, requests to guest blog or to contribute to e-magazines, blogging about my writing ups and downs, book reviews, and invited guests. I particularly enjoyed hosting author features and author interviews. I knew how hard it was to get books in front of potential readers, so it was important to me to help in any way I could.

whirlwind

Looking back, the whole thing feels like a blur. After being away for over a year, I am still surprised at the whole experience. Surprised and grateful. People are busier these days more than ever, so the fact that they took time to read, comment on, and share my blog still means a lot.

Not Quite the End:

Dropped Pebbles was closed for a while, but I decided to test the waters again. When I started blogging, my original goal was to establish myself as a serious writer, as well as to use my experiences to help other hopefuls navigate the pitfalls that plague our Great Writing Adventure. This time around, my goals are a little more humble. I’m coming back to the game somewhat out of practice but with more realistic expectations about said adventure.

Still, I’m here now, seeing things with fresh eyes and a different point of view.

*grins* But more on that another time.



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Motivating Friends to Write With Flash Fiction

WOW555 Contest Prompt with photo by Vanessa Pike-RussellSo I’ve entered the WOW555 flash fiction contest again, this time as a means of encouraging two writer friends to try something new. One says she has trouble writing short stories (what better way to break that than by writing a story of less than 500 words???), and another who just needs a kick in the butt to get writing, period. I checked in with one of them last night after he’d submitted his story, and he said he was glad he’d tried it and thanked me for the push. When I checked in with the other this morning, this is what she said: ‘ Dyane remember when I said you were the best? You’re actually the worst. THE WORST.’ To which I replied, ‘Lol lol lol Happy to oblige, as long as it gets you writing. Ta!!’ 

Anyone else feel they need a little motivating? 😀

Anyhoo, my entry is below. It’s experimental and darker than usual, but if there’s an opportunity to try something different from your norm, flash fiction is it. 🙂 Hope you enjoy it. And if you have a moment, why don’t you give the contest a try? There’s still time! Or check it out anyway to read some neat stories, meet some new writers, and vote! Voting opens tomorrow!

Eye of the Beholder

I follow her through the trees, just as I’ve done since we were children. Only now, her dark hair reaches to her waist, and when we stand side by side, the top of her head sits just under my chin, perfect for nestling. The grass gives under our feet. We steal around tree trunks like ghosts. The smells of the forest come up from the ground, earthy, pungent. It is spring, and the wind carries the airs of life as well as the vestiges of winter’s breath. I follow her, as always. And she leads me where she wills.

At last, I see our place, a knife-shaped outcropping. It is covered in moss and slick unless you know where to put your hands and where to dig in with your toes. At the top we sit. Side by side, knees almost touching. Far away, the sun sinks in the sky, a dark-yellow disk that will soon sear the tops of the trees.

It won’t be long now, she says, her voice a hopeful sigh in the wind. We’ll be leaving for the city in a few days.

I look at the ground beneath us. The soil is soft, green with grass and sprouting wildflowers. I used to twist flowers like those into wreaths for her hair.

She’d always wanted to leave this dead-end town where jobs were scarce and happiness scarcer. Only, I always believed I’d be the one to save her from the dying farms and the soon-to-be ghost-town.

She goes on. I want a job. And decent friends, women who have opinions and ideas in their heads. This town is dead. If I stay, I’ll die with it. You understand that, don’t you?

She looks at me. And in the failing light, it’s not me I see reflected there, but another.

The rock under me is unbearable. Its jagged edges cut into my rump. I get up quickly. Startled, she looks up, asks what was wrong.

But I’m heated, crushed to the ground from the weight of his shadow in her eyes.

What’s wrong? she asks again, reaching for me.

How could she not know?

My hands are around her neck. They are cold. She struggles. I am numb. At last, my sickness steals her breath.

The soil at the foot of the outcropping gives easily to a pair of determined hands armed with a stone. The gash in the ground won’t be easily noticed. She lies in the ground, my beautiful angel looking up towards heaven. And this time, I am pleased to see my dark and distorted reflection in the drying wetness of her eyes.

The outcropping is not quite so hard beneath me as I reclaim my seat. The sun has slipped past the tops of the trees. Its fire has gone out. And finally, I am at peace.

Copyright@ Dyane Forde 2015

Looking for something new? Try a Flash Fiction Contest

I won! After the posting of my last article that included the flash fiction piece The Task, I was invited to enter a WOW555, flash fiction contest hosted by author, ghostwriter, and editor Wendy Strain on her blog writeonwendy. It was a tight battle, but thanks to a tie break, the story won. How cool!

Are you looking for a place to practice flash fiction? Give it a go! Visit the site to see the other great entries for last week’s event, and try your hand at this week’s. It’s a lot of fun, the participants are warm and welcoming, and you’ve the chance to bang out some writing at the same time. 🙂

WOW 555 Writing Challenge Winner’s BadgeSee you there! 

 

‘The Task’: Flash Fiction Story

I’ll be writing more about setting writing goals later, but I took matters into my own hands today and did that and wrote my first flash fiction story in a while. I’ve been focusing on short stories, finishing my novel, and blogging so it’s been a while since I went back to this fun yet challenging activity.

I wrote ‘The Task’ out of desperation. The story that follows is a fictionalized representation of a real situation. 2015 started off rough: my brain was stuffed with disorganized plans and ideas, leftover goals from 2014, and a lot of anxiety about what to do next. Also, coincidentally (?) I ran into a lot of posts about setting writing goals and knowing what it is you want from your writing experience. Even the site I got the prompt from, StoryADay.org, had some info about that on their home page. Anyhoo, here’s the story. Enjoy! And drop me a line about how your 2015 writing year began and what your goals are. I’d love to hear them!

The Prompt: feeling overwhelmed

The Task (381 words)

The pencil tips snaps, leaving an ugly gap in the line. What the heck was I writing again? I scan the nearly blank page, and vague memories, like blind men in fog, come stumbling back to me. Oh right. That.

I change pencils and hit the page again. The words come, haltingly, but at least they come. Grey lines begin to fill the page, and slowly there is more grey than white. My anxiety decreases, excitement and confidence rises. For the first time in weeks, I’m in control. The mess of nagging thoughts, doubts, insecurities—the chaos–finally tamed.

You’ll never amount to anything. All your work is in vain. Who reads your stuff anyway? 

I flip the pencil around, jamming the eraser across the page. Shut up!

Why are you pushing yourself so hard? You really think anyone cares about your work? 

Pink bits of eraser collect in piles on the page. The white of the page begins to dominate the grey. Soon, I’ll tear through the sheet. My daughter did that last night when she struggled with math. She’d had to tape the hole closed and then write on wrinkly paper. I’d been mad at her for being careless. And now, look at me.

The evil voice laughed in my ear. It didn’t have to speak—it’s message was loud and clear.

Shut up! I’ll finish this!

 No you won’t. You’ll give up. You’ll fail. All your scribblings won’t matter in the end.

Damn you, I won’t!

You will.

Shut up!

The paper rips. I stare at the pile of pencils scattered around my desk. Jagged wood pokes into the air where the tips have all broken off. There is paper spilling out of the garbage bin, enough to be a fire hazard under the right conditions. But I am finished.

Writing Goals leaps up in grey letters from the page, followed by a clear, detailed plan of my writing intentions for the next two months. I sweep a hand over the page, grandiose. Victorious. Eat that! I throw down my pencil, push away from the page and hit the computer.

The evil voice is silent.

I smile. And get to work.

‘Goal number 1,’ I mutter under my breath, as my fingers fly over the keys, ‘start writing again…’

Copyright@ 2015 by Dyane Forde

The Verdict is In: Writing by Hand Rocks

Mission accomplished. From handwriting the first draft of my current light science-fiction story, The Keeper and The Kept, to the current computer rendering, the deed is done. So what’s my verdict?

I freaking loved it.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the early results and initial conclusions of this experiment here. But that was just the beginning. So I figured I’d complete the story by shedding some light on what I learned as well as what worked and why.

1)      The final version is vastly different from the handwritten version.

So what? I’d suspected that would happen anyway. In the past, this is often what happened between drafts—which is one big reason I was against working this way in the first place. I mean, why go through all that writing (and hand cramping!) only to end up with something totally different?

But I chose to look at it this way: the first hand-written draft is really just that: a draft. It’s the act of working out on paper by way of full scenes, vignettes or random bursts of inspired prose what is unclear in my head in preparation of the versions to come. It’s a means to do away with the performance anxiety of ‘getting it right on the first shot’ and letting inspiration lead the process rather than my head. Mistakes? Big deal. They stay in my notebook. No one sees them, not even me; once written down, I rarely look at the first draft again anyway. I take what I need and leave what I don’t.  

2)     This is a great way to write a long story. For those who have read my posted stories, you probably noticed that my sweet spot for stories is around the 500-2000 words mark. Due to lack of time and my desire to practice the craft as much as I could, I focused on writing whenever I could in focused bursts–2K was about my max before my brain went numb, anyway. I always used to wonder how people wrote stories so long!! But this is one way great way to do it. What I found, mostly because of the points above, the story took time to build, in this case, about 2 weeks. This allowed the story gestate. The longer process enabled me to understand about what it was I wanted to write, as well as figure out the characters, etc. so that when I sat to write at the computer, the story flowed so much easier. From a pen and paper version of maybe 1o pages (maybe 2500 words) came a story of 7ooo words. How exciting!

3)     This method allowed me to write a more complex story. As stated, this method took more time. However, there was another important bonus. On my downtime, the wheels kept turning in my subconscious and, at the same time, I was conscious of what was going on in the news. Suddenly I saw ways I could write a story that was socially relevant as well as entertaining, taking my writing to a new level. That was a really pleasant surprise.

So I suppose I should provide a sample of this story I keep talking about. 🙂 Below is a portion of section two of The Keeper and the Kept. (this is still a draft version)

Part 2

“What the hell are you doing?” Argus shouted at Leo from across the mess hall. Leo was a botanist, long-haired and lazy. He enjoyed all things plants, especially if he could put it in a pipe and smoke it. “Haven’t you got it in your head yet that you’re in space? Put that out! Fire does weird things out here!”

“Ah, shut it! One smoke won’t do any harm,” Leo called back. “See?” He blew out the fire-stick and then stuck the tip in suppressant gel, an extra precaution. “It’s out, alright? No harm done.”

Argus scowled and shook his head. He was a nervous type, always seeing death and ghosts where there weren’t any, at least none that anyone with an ounce of sense and a set of balls could see. Still, reliable people who followed the rules were the ones other people cried for when things went wrong. ‘If only so-and-so were here, this never would have happened!’ they cried while rueing how horribly they’d treated that very loser/savior. Jed gave Argus an encouraging look.

Argus went on. “You just never know, is all. I mean, it only takes one moment of carelessness–”

“I’ll be careful, okay? Geez, quit your crying, already. This is our downtime. Try to relax a little, if you even know how.” Leo sat back in his chair and inhaled deeply from the pipe. He smiled and looked into space, Argus and his stodgy worries already forgotten.

Unsatisfied, Argus was about to retort when Jed cut in. “Just let him be, man. Dude’s hard-headed.”

“More like stoned, if you ask me.”

“That too. Either way, you’re wasting your time.”

Argus glanced up from twirling his tin mug between his fingers, looking at Jed through long, white-blond bangs. “Idiot. For a scientist he sure takes things pretty lightly.”

“Most of us are scientists, good ones, even if we do work for the Cartel,” Jed said.

Argus smiled, but it was thin. “I suppose for this kind of job, you have to expect an ass or two. You look like one of the decent ones. Haven’t seen you around much.”

“Uh, yeah. I stick mostly to engineering, sometimes the lounge when I feel I need a little camaraderie.”

Argus snorted. He gestured discreetly at a few of the women sitting and talking in groups around the lounge. “Looks like you have found ‘camaraderie’ quite often over the last few weeks.”

Jed reddened but kept his easy smile. “And you said you hadn’t seen me around much but you’ve obviously been watching me.”

“Ah,” Argus said, with a wave of his hand, “I just pay attention to things. To people. Goes with being a psychologist. It’s my job to ensure the well-being of the crew.”

“I see.”

“Still, there’s one lady you haven’t seemed to make any headway with.”

Both looked towards the door when it slid open to let Saana in. Her dark skin glistened, as though she had been running, or maybe just fresh out of the shower, and her close-fitting jumpsuit, standard issue for mechanics, hugged her figure in all the right places.

Saana was a pretty woman and good at her job, but damn she was cold. Atmospheric interference prevented sensors from getting a clear read on Ataxa, but it was believed to be a cold planet, rolling with snow drifts, glaciers, and ice floes, and pitted with patches of tundra in areas it got warm enough for basic forms of life to grow, if only for a few months a year. But Jed didn’t doubt that, side by side, Saana’s frostiness rivalled the planet’s, maybe even surpassed it. Hadn’t aboriginals survived in the arctic for centuries? Who could survive that woman’s cold?

Their eyes met. When the passive mask of Saana’s face cracked, Jed thought she might smile, but she averted her eyes and went to sit at a quiet spot by the portal.

“I wonder what her deal is, anyway?” Argus commented.

“What?”

“That impenetrable façade she puts on. She’s efficient, intelligent, and keeps out of trouble, but something tells me it’s for show.”

“You have her file. You must know.”

“A file’s only as good as what it contains. You have to know a person to really ‘get’ them. She won’t let anyone close. I’ve tried.”

“That’s because you’re a psychologist,” Jed concluded. “No one wants to feel like they’re being analysed.”

“You’re talking to me.”

“But you’re not analyzing me—are you?”

Argus smiled. “I am what I am.” He put up his hands, pleading for patience, when Jed began to protest. “Look, maybe she’s one of those Kept. Think about it: she’s alone, on this near hopeless, off the books mission, and with that coloring—”

Now Jed leaned in. “Why me? What do you know?”

“I know that out of everyone here, you’re probably the best one the get through to her.”

Jed frowned. It was unsettling to know that Argus, a stranger, knew that much about him. Still, he had enough presence of mind to not let on that the fact bothered him.

“Anyway, every time she’s around, you suddenly get quiet and your eyes follow her around the room.”

“I do not!” Jed protested, louder than intended.

Laughing a little, Argus said, “Hey, I’m just telling you what I’ve seen. Anyway, she’s not so bad. Aloof, yes, but she works hard. Maybe she just doesn’t like people much. Well, maybe not people like us. You know how things are on Earth. Maybe you could smooth things over a bit, in the interest of creating a healthier work environment for everyone.”

Jed almost reminded the psychologist that he was as white as he was, but let it go in light of the rest of what Argus had said. Jed did know how things were on Earth. It was why he’d left in the first place, but that wasn’t anything anyone had to know. Though, somehow, it looked like Argus did.

Copyright@ 2014 by Dyane Forde

Thanks for reading! Drop me a line below. I’d love to hear your thoughts!