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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Ben’s Bouquet: Flash Fiction

It’s been ages since I’ve posted anything on this blog. Actually, I had given up hope that I’d come back to it at all. Life just got crazy, and then there was the whole neck, shoulder, and arm pain thing that plagued me for over a year. Oh yeah, and my computer decided to give up the ghost. But against all odds, I’ve come up with a little ditty of a story, and I posted it spurred by the naive hope that there are still readers out there who still dig my little stories, or that maybe I’ll meet some new ones. I say ‘against all odds’, because up until a few hours ago, I wasn’t even sure I’d write again. Why? I just couldn’t find the drive, the ideas, or the energy to focus. But, somehow, I caught hold of a feeling and decided to run with it. And so, here is my diamond in the rough…

 

Ben’s Bouquet

The bouquet rests in my hands. Its disgustingly beautiful, a brilliant mass of lilies and roses interspersed with feathery greenery. Even then, while holding my heart in my hands, the smell is intoxicating. I can barely think.

I remember now why I hate flowers. Sickeningly sweet, their aroma makes your head swim, and yet, like a drug, their beauty still manages to arouse your heart. And just when you fall in love with their colours and complexity, they die.

“Why’d you bring me flowers, of all things?”

Ben leans against a pillar, watching the buses come in and out of the station. They run on time, each one faithfully carrying its passengers away to parts unknown. The riders look happy; expectation lights up their faces. Men, women, children, singles, and families, clutching satchels and suitcases; backpacks stuffed with snacks for inter-city rides. The constant rumble of voices and the squeals of excited children hover over the platform. They should be holding these flowers, not me.

“I dunno. I thought you liked flowers. Tonight’s a happy occasion, right?”

“Is it?”

We shouldn’t be arguing, not now.

How much time do we have left?

The station’s giant clock looms behind him, but his silhouette obscures its face. I shuffle through my purse for my phone, but he takes my hands in his and sits on the bench beside me.

“You look like we’re at a funeral. We talked about this. You said you were thrilled.”

sad girl

I look at the bouquet resting in space between us. He was right. We had talked about it, but at the time the news was fresh and we were riding high on excitement and the possibility of what could be. But now…

The doors of a nearby bus snap shut. With a roar, it pulls away from the station, the red tail lights flashing as it pauses at the intersection before leaving the lot. Then it drives away into the night. Another bus pulls into its freshly vacated spot.

“I didn’t pick this internship, you know,” Ben says. “They chose me.”

“I know. It’s a great opportunity. You’d be crazy to pass on it.”

He tips my chin upwards so I could look into his eyes. Chocolate brown and earnest, it’s impossible to look away. “It’ll be fine. I’ll get settled in, and once things are in order, you’ll join me just like we talked about.”

The second bus finishes loading. Once the last passenger is seated, the door shuts with a snap and the bus drives away, it too, fading into the night.

For Ben’s sake, I decide to be brave. He was doing this for us, after all. “I’ll be fine, don’t worry about me. It’s just…so far.”

He pulls me in close for a hug. “Good thing I’ve got all those books on bio-engineering to keep me busy.”

His bus finally pulls up. Ben stands and throws his backpack over a shoulder. “It’s a big change for us, but it’ll be good. Trust me.”

He kisses me goodbye and boards the bus after storing his luggage. In a moment, he’ll leave for a new city, a new home. A new life. And until we met again, I will live on memories that would, over time, wither like a fistful of flowers.

I lean on the pillar as he had done, watching his bus pause at the intersection as if for one last look back. Then the engine revs and it drives into the night, red taillights glowering.

Once Ben’s news had sunk in and the whole picture had become clear to me, I’d told him over breakfast one day that nothing lasts forever, not even love.

“The sun comes up every day, doesn’t it?” he answered. “And even if we don’t always see it, the moon moves along its cycle today just as it’s done since the beginning. Some things might not last, but other things, the important things, do.”

I’d stopped arguing with him after that. He believed it, and that had been enough.

I press the flowers to my chest. They were beautiful. And he’d given them to me. Whether as a parting gift or a promise, I didn’t know. But tonight, before laying down for bed, I would dry one or two in a book. Just in case.

Rose

Dyane Forde July 2017

717 words

Author Interview with Francis H. Powell

Francis“I would like readers to perceive things in a different way. I would like them to see the world through the eyes of the underdog or outsider. I would like to think about how cruel people can be to one another. In my stories the oppressed often rise up in the end and enact some kind of revenge. There are many messages woven into my stories. They often attack the establishment.”–Francis H. Powell

Over the years, I’ve had the chance to host some really interesting interviews, but I have to admit that Mr. Powell’s is one of the most moving. His interview closed with the paragraph above, but I thought it was so important that this post should open with it. I hope you will join us today and meet Mr. Powell . I’m sure you won’t regret it and will be intrigued by his message and his work as well.

Thank you so much for being with us today, Mr. Powell. Please tell us about yourself and of how you came to write.

My family background and some history…

I come from a family of five. I am the youngest, perhaps the free spirit of the family. I was educated at various schools, before going on to Art Schools, to do a degree in painting and an MA in printmaking.  I loved most of my time at Art school, having experienced a painful time at school, where I was an outsider. Moved to Austria in 1995, lived there for two years and began teaching English as a foreign language.  Alongside this I have always followed a lot of other creative activities, including music.  During the nineties, did many concerts/raves and some short tours, playing electronic music.  While in Austria, began to write stories. Moved back to England, where upon pursued teaching career, including teaching English (literature/language) and Art. Decided to move to France at the end of 1999 have lived there ever since and have taught among other things British and American culture and Architecture.

This my life in depth…

What better way to put all my angst into short stories. Born in a commuter belt city called Reading and like many a middle or upper class child of such times I was shunted off to an all-male boarding school aged eight, away from my parents for periods of up to twelve weeks at a time. In such an institutions, where I was to rest until my seventeenth year, there was no getting away from the cruel jibes hurled at me from taunting tormentors. My refuge was the arts room, where I started to find some kind of redemption from the stark Dickensian surroundings, whose aim was nurture the army officers, businessmen, and gentry that dominate the class ridden world I was born into. The seeds were sown, I was an outsider. Happier times were to follow, I went to art school, where I attempted to exorcise my time spent at school. At eighteen I turned my back on a parentally enforced weekly visit to church and my head was filled with a range of nonconformist ideas. While at my first Art college through a friend I met a writer called Rupert Thomson, who was at the time in the process of writing his first book “Dreams of leaving”. He was a bit older than myself, me being fresh out of school, but his personality and wit resonated and despite losing contact with him, I always read his latest published books with not only great expectation and unabashed admiration, but also a fascination for a person I had really looked up to, his sentences always tight, shooting arrows that always hit the mark. My yearning to be creative stayed strong and diversified, from my twenties through to my thirties and forties I made electronic music, doing concerts, in front ecstasy infused crowds, at a point I was making videos and short films. When the age of the internet arrived I was really able translate my creative endeavors into something really tangible. To earn a living I have worked as a teacher. I moved to Austria where upon I thought I would try writing. It is sure that my writing at that time was rough and rugged and without direction. I dived into a story about immortality, the story remains vegetating on some dusty floppy disk. Then tried short stories for children with illustrations to go with them. It wasn’t until I was in my mid-forties that my writing took shape. I was at this point living in Paris, France. I spotted an advert for short stories. The magazine happened to be called Rat Mort (dead rat) I sent off a short story, in the hope it would match the seemingly dark world the magazine seemed to embroiled in. I got no answer. Not put off I sent two more stories. Finally I got an answer. It seemed the magazine editor was a busy man, a man prone to travelling. It seemed my first story really hit the right note with him. His name was Alan Clark. He had a flat in the Montmartre area of Paris, where he seemed known to all, especially those who frequented his favorite drinking haunts. He offered me many words of encouragement. I was writing stories that were coming into my head at regular intervals, as if a monster had suddenly awakened. I was writing them on scraps of paper, lest I would forget them, while I traveled on the Paris metro, going about my teaching work with staid business types. I had found a format for writing that worked, as well as a hunger to write about the demons of my past that still haunted me. Moving closer to present times, the desire to put together an anthology seemed to resonate in my mind. The Flight of Destiny evolved slowly. Many trans-Atlantic exchanges between myself and two editors seemingly far away. This evolution took my writing to a new level and the stories more depth and resonance.

As a writer…

I have had poems and short stories published, in books, magazines, and on websites.  I have had short stories published in an arts magazine called “Freakwave”.

About my stories in Flight of Destiny…

Flight of Destiny is a collection of short stories about misfortune. They are characterized by unexpected final twists, that come at the end of each tale. They are dark and surreal tales, set around the world, at different time periods. They show a world in which anything can happen. It is hard to determine reality and what is going on a disturbed mind. People’s conceptions about morality are turned upside down. A good person can be transformed by an unexpected event into a bad person and then back again to their former state. The high and mighty often deliver flawed arguments, those considered wicked make good representations of themselves. Revenge is often a subject explored.

Some of my favourite characters in the book:

Bugeyes:

Bugeyes

BUGEYES

We live in a world of body image stereo types, are perpetuated by the media. Those unfortunate beings, born with abnormalities, could face a lifetime of cruel jokes, and in this story’s case rejection.

Bug-eyes was destined to a life of toil. As his mother, Lady Harriet Lombard, remarked gruffly when holding her swaddled first-born, “He has disproportionate eyes,” adding tersely, “the child’s abnormal.” As she handed the squalling reject back to the doctor, she decreed, “Drop it down the well for all I care.”

Maggot:

MAGGOT

MAGGOT

“If you want to feel rich, just count the things you have that money can’t buy” Not all follow this proverb. A rich person thinks that his money will buy the beauty of a young girl, while her father thinks her sale will solve his money problems, both are in for a surprise, even the most beautiful of apples can go bad

Maggot was enraged and banged his fist on the table! Knives, forks, spoons and plates flew into the air, tossing food everywhere. Up to this point, the banquet had been cordial, even good-humored. Necessary pleasantries and toasts had been exchanged. But as soon as serious negotiations had begun, as soon as money was brought into the equation, everything quickly went wrong.

Little Mite:

LITTLE MITE

LITTLE MITE

This is a story for those people whose little sister or younger sibling have managed to do some irredeemable damage to their personal life, for those who have tried a trick that has gone horribly wrong. 

Arrival:

Arrival

Arrival

The task of placing a name, can be niggling, but what if this task becomes an obsession and the person behind the name a dark specter ?

“Mr. Weisler is coming! Mr. Weisler is coming! Mr. Weisler is
coming!” The words swirled around in his head like a rampant tornado,
scooping up all his thoughts, amplifying them until the mixture
seemed ready to devour him. Yet, what was vexing him was that he
could neither connect to nor put a face to the name.”

Where to find the book: 

https://www.facebook.com/flightofdestinyshortstories

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iwNl0F6095Q

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00WSWYVNK

https://authorcentral.amazon.com/gp/profile

Thank you so much for visiting us today, Mr. Powell, and for opening a window into your writing world. Readers, I hope you enjoyed the interview as well and will visit Mr. Powell at the links provided, or leave a message below. 

Flight

Conferences and Public Speaking: Cairo Amani Reveals Another Side of Writing

Hello, all! I’m always thrilled when my friends do something cool when it comes to writing. I recently learned that Cairo Amani, who has graced us with their presence many times already, has done something extremely neat: spoken at an arts conference about literature. So, of course I had to find out more.  Please stick around! You won’t want to miss it, and if you’re interested in this kind of activity, maybe this will encourage you to get out there and try it. 🙂

Cai! It’s great to have you back. Can you summarize the purpose of this conference?

Steampunk to Afrofuturism was a two-day conference that offered space for writers, musicians, artists, and academicians to explore, expand upon, and rethink the implications of speculative humanities

image (3)

Why was it important to you to participate in it?

Science Fiction and Fantasy is such a huge part of our world and our upbringing and it has the potential for so much more than we realize. We are born hearing fairy tales not realizing that those fairy tales did and still can have relevance to our everyday lives. We use fantasy stories to teach kids, manners, trust, respect and then we stop. But what if we continued? The conference asked us as readers and artists to rethink the implications of Speculative Humanities–and we absolutely should.

I love those points about how, at a certain point, we stop using fantasy to teach and to socialize youth, as well as to deal with important life questions. I believe childhood that thirst for the fantastic never really goes away, and that we continue to seek it in some forms throughout our lives.

How did you go about getting to be a speaker?

Most events have a “Call for Papers”. I try to do a search for calls weekly, to see if there are any that pertain to speculative fiction, that are open (no membership required) and where my subject matter may fit. Then I send in an abstract, which is a short summary of my presentation. Then I wait–because so much of writing is about waiting.

How did you manage your nerves?

image (1)I am not sure I ever did. I went with friends, I called my best friend on the phone just minutes before the panel began–and then I made the audience laugh. Throughout my entire career my plan has always been to make the audience laugh. When you open with a joke the crowd is ready to trust you–when you laugh with the crowd, you become ready to trust them.

How does speaking at this event fit into your long-term writing goals?

My ten-year goal is to be a professional scholar–meaning I’d be completely self-sustained by writing, teaching and public speaking. Writing queer people and people of color into mainstream stories is my form of activism. But those stories tend to be less popular on shelves. Meaning, I have to work twice as hard to find a place for my stories, to make a place for my stories. Public speaking allows me to show people that there is a need while also inspiring them to fill the need–so I’m not the only one.

What was your favorite part of the experience?

After the whole thing was over, there was a luncheon for all the speakers. I feel like it’s super rare that I get to sit around a table with a bunch of other Nerds of Color and talk shop. It was exhilarating!

 What was the essence of what you spoke about?

image (2)My presentation “Harry Potter Could’ve Saved Michael Brown” addressed how more diversity in children’s literature could lesson Xenophobia as those children grow to be adults. It also touched on how diverse literature that already exists could easily replace the texts we do read.

Message to our readers today?

Life isn’t Tetris, there’s not always going to be a place for you to snuggly fit yourself. But don’t let that discourage you. Think about where you want to be and then create that space. Don’t wait for people to realize they need you–show them they need you. Then be present.

… … ‘life isn’t Teris’. Love that.

How can readers contact you to learn more about you and your future activities?

Please visit my website to shoot me an email. There is also a “Find Cai” tab-which leads you to my calendar. http://www.cairoamani.com. I hope to speak to you soon.

Thanks for checking out Cai’s incredible experience. Please leave Cai a message below and/or go check out her website and drop her a line there. Also, she is speaking at an event this weekend called: AFROFUTURISM | Conference: Designing new narratives to empower the African Diaspora. Check out the Facebook page for details!

Have a great rest of the week! 

Anime that Stirs the Imagination: My Neighbor Totoro

Totoro

I have been thinking a lot about anime lately and why I find it so thrilling and inspiring to watch. Then I decided to share some of the best-loved movies with my children as a means of exposing them to amazing storytelling and visual imagery that is different to what they are used to. And it’s a joy to discover these movies with them.

wolfchildren

Yesterday we watched Wolf Children, which was so touching and beautiful I watched with tears in my eyes most of the way through, and tonight we watched My Neighbor Totoro, which had me laughing all the way through. Both are wonderful, fantastic fantasy movies which stir the imagination and fill the heart with wonder. It’s not often my kids walk away from a movie with their eyes still round with awe at what they had seen, and talking about the movies the next day. Today, my daughter said, “Wolf Children was sadder than I expected.” And I said, “Yes, it was.” Clearly, she was moved by the movie and thinking about what she had seen. Isn’t that what good storytelling in any genre is supposed to do?

As a fantasy writer, I find these movies encourage me to stretch my concept of what fantasy is and what it can be. This is one reason I love anime so much. I will continue to watch anime movies with my kids and hope they will be inspired too 🙂

Next week is Castle in the Sky!

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