Weekend Coffee Share: Driving (Insert Here)

Good afternoon,

I finally have a chance to catch my breath and meet up with you all. I had an energy drink earlier today. (I know. I’m trying to cut them out of my diet.) I’ve been getting some pretty bad headaches in the morning. Probably stress-induced. I’ll go into detail in a minute. First, let’s get situated. There are K-cups, but I also have unsweetened tea and apple cider. Just don’t ask me to warm it up. 

So, I have some news. I picked up a new second job as an Uber driver. I’m excited, yet sad that I’m leaving Pizza Hut. It was an experience working in the food service industry. And I gained a better understanding on what goes into making great food and satisfying customers. It’s like retail in the sense you have to think about what will make your customers happy. Having the products they want. Being served in a timely manner. Going above and beyond to make sure they come back. I will say that working at Pizza Hut—especially as a delivery driver—doesn’t present as much opportunity to build an one-on-one relationship with a customer. The other thing I will miss is the crew I worked with in the year I was there. But like any other business, I saw associates come and go. I had a couple of go-tos if I needed help with something. And management was very accommodating with my primary job. I will visit whenever there’s opportunity. 

The time has come to turn the page. Like I said, I picked up a new second job with Uber. Unlike taxis, I’m driving my car to take passengers around. And so, I’m putting more priority on making sure the car is clean and running in peak condition. I had to purchase some accessories to make for a pleasant experience. Like a car mount for safety and needed to purchase a car mount so as to not be holding my phone all the mints and water bottles. The only thing I’m missing is one of those car fresheners. I’m looking into what would be ideal. 

In the week I’ve been doing Uber, there have some good and bad things. First, the good. I set my own schedule. I can drive for as long as I want. I get to meet some lively people. (So far, most of my passengers have been pleasant.) I can cash out my fares any time I wish. Especially handy when I’m in need of extra cash right away.

There are some drawbacks. For instance, it’s hard to say no when I’m on a roll. This is not necessarily bad, but sometimes I can end up not getting the proper sleep I need for the next day. Hence, the energy drinks. Also, I don’t know where I’m taking my passengers until I pick up my fare. So far, I haven’t come across an unsavory situation, but I hear stories. And being on call all the time, essentially, cuts into my time I would like to spend writing or doing something to unwind. 

But overall, it’s a fun adventure. I try not to think about driving with Uber as work. But more like I’m learning more about the city and meeting people different from me and getting a glimpse into their lives. Something that might come into handy with my writing.

Well, that is all for this week. Kind of a short visit, but like I said, doing these jobs doesn’t allow for a lot of free time. But I want to hear from you. What’s going on in your life? Anything new? Let me know in the comments. 

Until next time…

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Writing Update: An IWSG Post


Hello,

It’s the first Wednesday of the month, which means it’s Insecure Writers Support Group Day. By this time, you know the drill. So I’ll go ahead and give thanks to the administrators of this group, which underwent some changes since last time. More details about the group can be found here. Have a look, see what the group’s about, and sign up. 

I can’t believe we’re in the home stretch of 2017. It’s been a tumultuous year as I’m sure you can surmise. Political unrest, protests, disasters. I don’t know about you, but I’m ready for this year to be over. But enough about the world. Let’s get to the writing. 

I had to look at the archives to remember all the goals I set. I had four main goals plus some I added midway through the year. And there are some more that I added in the last three months. But before I get to them, let’s discuss what progress I’ve made with the previous goals. 

Write a Short Story Outside My Genre. Success. I didn’t have a particular order in terms of priority, but this was a topic of conversation throughout the year. I’m happy to say that I succeeded in this goal. I have a fantasy and science fiction story in my notebook. And I actually enjoyed writing them. I think it helped listening to music put me in the right frame of mind. I haven’t written a second draft on either one. I put them aside for the time being. I certainly plan on revisiting them before the year is over.

And while I accomplished this “feat,” this challenge is far from over. I plan on taking on another genre. The superhero genre. After talking with some writers on Twitter, I decided that this will be the next challenge on my list. I love what Marvel and DC have produced in the last several years. And while it won’t be on the grand scale in terms of writing, I think I can create a good universe. Right now, it’s in the planning phase. When it’s done, I plan on posting it on my blog. More details to come as the project progresses.

Submit a Short Story to a Writing Contest or Magazine. Not Started. Next to the short story venturing, this was another priority. Unfortunately, I haven’t started this process. Blame procrastination. Blame fear of failure. Blame not trying new genres. Blame not having the right tools. Whatever. It doesn’t change the fact that I have yet to submit a story. There have been plenty of opportunities. I follow a Twitter handle that posts free writing contests. I follow a blogger that posts writing contests every month. And yet, I fold. I psych myself out every time. If I’m going to improve as a writer, I need to stop making excuses and get this done. 

Compile Stories For a Series. Fail. For over a year, I told you, my writing/blogging friends, that I would write a short story series and post them on my blog. In the three years I’ve had Project Blacklight, I had three ideas for short story series and they flopped. The first, and perhaps the more truthful reason why these failed to gain traction, is that I lacked the motivation to keep writing the stories. I wrote one story, but gave up on them when I found myself stuck.

In addition, I didn’t have a plan. I’m someone that has to have a plan for everything. Especially when it comes to writing. I can’t just write by the seat of my pants, even if it’s a short story. Consider it a lesson learned from this experience. 

Write Twelve Short Stories This Year. In Progress. To be honest, I forgot about the original goal until I pulled it up from my last post. It was to write a short story a month. I’m altering this goal for two reasons. One, I have drafts scattered all over the place. I have some on Google Docs and some in my notebook. And two, I wrote more than one story on various months. I’m guessing I’m three-quarters of the way through. I’ll have to flip through my notebook and check the time stamps on Google Docs to get a more accurate measurement. 

Read a Book Outside My Genre. In Progress. This was one of two goals that I added to my list this year. This coincides with having a plan for my writing. I have to have guidelines. Plus, it’s said the best way to write a lot is to read a lot. And not just within your genre of choice. I have to say this has been a struggle. I have choices. I asked for recommendations and received some good ones. And I borrowed books from local libraries. The real struggle is making the time to read. Like some writers, I have a day job and family responsibilities. So time to myself is very scarce. Even more so with a second job I picked up recently. 

And then, there’s the issue of losing interest. I’ve mentioned this on a few occasions that I’m in the firm belief that watching so much TV has spoiled me. I’m not very patient. And I’m very picky about books. AND my interest in genres wavers. Like right now, I’m interested in the superhero genre. I read one book this year, Wayne of Gotham, but haven’t read another superhero book since. But this is where I need to think about what I like and don’t like about facets of different genres and find books that mostly match my criteria. 

Write Every Day For a Month. Success. I was worried about meeting this goal. I decided on July to be the month where I set out to write every day. And it just so happened to coincide with Camp NaNo. With the lack of free time, I had to get creative on some days. On others, I had to hunker down to get words on paper. But I can say that it was a success. I’m actually thinking about taking on this goal again during the real NaNoWriMo, though I won’t participate in the festivities. (Don’t ask why.)

So, that’s my progress. The last three months should be promising for my writing. I would love to hear from you.

How has your writing come along? What goals have you yet to accomplish? Let me know in the comments. 

Until next time, take care…

(Note to self: I need to come up with a better exit line.)

Reunion: Time to Move Forward

I think I can safely that high school was one of the most trying times in our lives. I know for me, it was. As a transplant from Ohio, it was so hard trying to fit in. There are things I regretted not doing. Relationships I wanted for myself. Yeah, high school was a time when while I had things going for me, it wasn’t enough. So you can probably imagine my feelings when I heard about my school’s 20-year reunion. 

I was excited at the beginning. I missed the ten-year reunion; I wasn’t going to miss this one. But as the date drew closer, the more feelings of regret and sadness creeped in. Sadness of not feeling like I belonged. That I tried so hard to be a part of the cool crowd, and ultimately failed. So I put it out on the school’s reunion page on Facebook. I wrote it just to get those feelings out. The responses I received were not what I was expecting. My classmates stated that I was one of the nicest people they knew. Some understood and sympathized with my lamentations. So I decided to go, and it was the best decision I made this past week. 


I had a wonderful time that night. I saw friends I hadn’t seen in years. It amazed me that we hadn’t changed. Sure, all of us lead different lives. We got married. Had kids. Moved to different parts of the country, even out of the country. But we were still the crazy class of 1997. I was glad to introduce my wife and tell everyone about my kids. I felt proud. I felt like I had nothing to be ashamed of. I look forward to the next reunion, where impromptu or organized. Whether it’s with a bunch of classmates or a few. Going to the reunion made me realize that my life is better now than twenty years ago. Do I still have regrets? Sure. But I’m not letting them stop me from living now. 

Weekend Coffee Share: Short Visit

Good morning.

It’s nice when we get together for coffee and a quick bite. I’ve been trying to get back to a healthier diet. Having energy drinks doesn’t help, but I’ve felt it necessary because I’ve had to take my sister-in-law to work early in the morning. But I could do without and stick to making a cup of coffee to get me through the day. And eating foods that provide the protein I need for energy. Which is why I like these Jif To-Go packs. Makes for a quick snack, but like everything else, have to eat it sparingly. 

So, let’s talk. 

I really don’t know where to begin. There are a lot of things to complain about, but I’m trying to be grateful, especially with work. I must say that I’ve had issues with customers and their blatant disrespect for the associates and the goods we sell to them. I know I shouldn’t be so worked up over it. It happens all the time. But I can’t help but to feel—what’s the word? Upset—about it. We do all we can to make the store presentable to our customers, and they just wreck everything. It’s maddening. 

Ok. I’ve had my rant. Now to better things. 

My wife recently started a blog on our journey with our son who, as I mentioned before, has been diagnosed with autism. Some of the things she’s shared, I couldn’t agree more. There are a lot of assumptions made about parents of autistic children. She doesn’t shy away from addressing those issues. (Actually, she doesn’t shy away from a lot. That’s one of the reasons I fell in love with her.) I encourage you guys to have a peek at her blog and let her know what you think. Here’s the link.

As far as writing goes, it’s been pretty slow. I have a few ideas for stories, so I’ve been writing them out just so I can get them out of my head. I don’t really know what I will do with them. But I figure it’s best to do something to keep my writing brain in shape. And I have been journaling more to express my frustrations. But that only goes so far. At some point, I have to put myself out there. I have a slew of unfinished pieces waiting for the editing block. And if I’m going to be a better writer, I need to get some–you know what–and get these stories into the wild. Be prepared for the inevitable rejection. So, wish me luck. 

Well, that is all I have to say about this week. It’s been slow. Next week, though, I’ll share my time at my 20-year high school reunion. I’m looking forward to it. In the meantime, feel free to share your week in the comments. 

Until next time, take care and watch your step. 

Weekend Coffee Share: Getting Back Into a Routine

Good afternoon,

Nice to see you guys again. It’s been a crazy couple of weeks. Sorry about the mess outside. Haven’t had a chance to clean up after Irma blew through here. Help yourself to some treats, including some autumn mix candy. We love this stuff, but can’t eat all of it. I’m sure my sister-in-law won’t mind. 

Ok? Good. 

So, it’s been a couple of weeks since I’ve seen you. Last week, everyone was focused on Hurricane Irma. At my Walmart, people were buying water, portable battery packs, flashlights, battery-powered radios. Pretty much anything that could be of help when the storm hit. By the time my shift was over, the store was practically picked clean. 

I paid a lot of attention to the weather reports on the days leading up. I had a local weather app I checked frequently. I watched and listened to weather reports whenever I could. By Monday, I breathed a little sigh of relief when I heard the hurricane weakened to a tropical storm upon reaching my neck of the woods. Still, it was pretty scary and it was no time to rest. There was still the issue of winds gusting up to over 60 miles an hour throughout the day. Monday afternoon, our power went out and was out for a little over a day. School for Zoe, obviously, was cancelled the day the storm landed. And the following day. I assume the school had their power issues too. I was off of both jobs that day, thank goodness. But I had to come in at Walmart the next day. And they were still out of power. From what I understood, the power was out for two days.

The focus this past week has been on trying to get back into a routine. We had to buy some supplies we used during the storm, which wasn’t a lot. I spent some time with my grandmother last week, too. It was nice to get out of the neighborhood. And Colleen posted an impromptu reunion for some of her friends who went to Georgia because of the hurricane. But the day of, there was a change of plans. We went to meet with one of the friends and had the makeshift reunion there.

The one good thing that came from the storm is the amount I had for assessment. Trying to figure how to make things better for me and my family. One conclusion I came to was finding another second job. So finally, I pulled the trigger and applied for another job. I hope to hear something within the next week. Also, I need to be more diligent in taking care of my health. I’ve been lackadaisical in not only counting my calories, but also my gym attendance. I think that comes from not making a schedule for the week and not getting the sleep I need in order to have a productive workout session. Starting today, even though I can’t make it to the gym, I need to get back to the enthusiasm I had starting out. 

I haven’t done a lot of writing the past couple of weeks. Last week, my focus was on the storm and trying to keep the kids busy. But that’s not to say I haven’t been thinking about it. The past couple of chat sessions on Twitter have been very spirited. So much so that I’m thinking about a new project. I’m not going to talk about it now only because it’s in the planning stages. I can say that this will be something I hadn’t thought of before and it will be probably the biggest undertaking of my writing journey. And truth be told, that’s what scares me about it. But I am lucky to have some great supportive writers. I’ve been doing on research on not only the project, but on how to “publish” it. I thought about starting a Wattpad account, but I got a lot of negative feedback on the idea. So I’ll leave it to my blog. And with some perseverance, you will be seeing my work coming to life. 

So, that about wraps it up. My thoughts go out to those recooperating from Harvey and Irma. Feel free to leave comments on how you’re dealing with things after the storms. Did they give you some perspective on certain things in your life? Let me know. 

Until next time, take care…

My Writing Rituals

Everyone has a set way of doing things. A certain process or procedure they follow deliberately and zealously. A ritual. Whether it be how you get the day started, the roads you take to work, the way you eat your lunch or dinner, how you wind down. Whatever you do, there’s a ritual. And certainly applies to writing. Some writers can be meticulous—borderlining on OCD—when it comes to their rituals. It’s like the stars have to be aligned just right—figuratively—in order to have a great writing session.

Over the last week or so, I watched YouTube videos on authors and their writing rituals. YA authors Kim Chance and Mandi Lynn started the tag and I’ve seen other videos by authors participating in the tag. Their answers are quite fascinating and they take pride in their rituals. As I listened, I found myself agreeing with some of these activities. More than I thought or imagined. So, even though I don’t have a YouTube channel, I thought I’d share my rituals with you, my blogging audience.
So, let’s get started.

1. When do you write? Day? Time? I don’t have a set day time to write. I work two jobs throughout the week, but when I have a break, which varies upon the schedule, that’s when I write. Evenings or weekends don’t work because I’m either working or spending time with the family.

2. How do you seclude yourself from the outside world? That’s hard for me to do. I steal time to write whenever I’m not with the wife and kids. I’ll put the phone on silent and will go somewhere else. Most of the time, my room. I’ll put on earbuds, turn on Spotify, and tune to a station that I know will help with my writing. I wear a Fitbit so I’ll get a notification when someone calls me. So unless it’s someone important, I won’t bother answering it. 

3. How do you review what you wrote the previous day? It depends on the stage that I’m at in my story. Overall, I don’t go in depth on what I wrote the previous day. I’ll skim over it and mark on my outline the section I completed. If I get a new idea for my story, I’ll revise my outline, then start fresh on a clean page in my notebook if it’s the first draft. On later drafts, I’ll start a new paragraph.

4. What song is your go-to when you’re feeling uninspired? I listen to a few stations on Spotify, and it will usually depend on what I’m writing at the time. For everyday writer’s block, I listen to Lindsey Stirling and the like. Recently, I found an artist on YouTube I really liked named Taylor Davis. She does violin covers of popular anime and gaming tracks. So I subscribed to her station recently. I have a “writing music” station I listen to when writing Contemporary Fiction. I love listening to music scores and Hans Zimmer and Steve Jablonsky are two of my favorite composers. And lastly, a band called Two Steps From Hell. Kim mentioned this band in her Writing Tag video. If you’ve watched any action film trailer in the last several years, you might recognize their work, or something similar from artists like E. S. Posthumus. I’m trying to branch out to different genres like science fiction and fantasy, and those songs get me pumped, especially when writing an action scene. 

5. What do you do when you find yourself struggling with writer’s block? I do a few things. Instinctively, I’ll turn to YouTube and watch videos from different authors. I recently subscribed to Kim’s channel. But I watch videos from Kristen Martin and Jenna Moreci. I also watch TV show clip compilations or Internet-based shows. I subscribe to ScrewAttack, a gaming channel. The channel does Top 10 lists and a show called Death Battle. If you want a good laugh watching characters from gaming and anime fight to the death, it’s worth watching. I also write in my journal. I write to vent my frustrations about a story or whatever is going on throughout the day. I have a journaling app on my phone called One Day I use mostly. I also have a hardbound journal, but I fear losing it when I’m at work. 

6. What tools do you use when you’re writing? I have several tools depending on the stage of my projects. For brainstorming, I use Evernote on my phone. I have a notebook for writing notes. Then one for each project. They usually compose of character sketches and plot outlines. When writing first drafts, I use a pen and composition book so as to force myself to get the story out on the page. I don’t really bother with separate notebooks for my stories, unless they’re for a series of stories.  For later drafts, I have WordPerfect on my laptop. I recently bought the software so I’m still getting a feel for it. I also use Google Docs when I don’t have my laptop on hand. And finally, I have a 4-in-1 pen I use mostly for editing. I use red ink for striking out words and sentences, the green for adding words, and the blue for highlighting questions on certain sections of a story.

7. What’s the one thing you can’t live without during a writing session? I have a couple of things, but since I have to choose one, it would be my 4-in-1 writing pen. It’s my go-to pen. I love how the smoothness when I’m writing with it. It’s wide enough to where I don’t have to worry about my hands cramping during a writing session. And most importantly, I love the convenience. I don’t have to fumble around my laptop bag or my pencil case to find the right pen for whatever task I need accomplished. And it’s useful for not just for writing stories, but pretty much anything where I apply pen to paper.

8. How do you fuel yourself during a writing session? Just about any beverage except tea. I used to not be a coffee drinker, but my wife turned me on to it. I don’t have a preferred flavor mostly because I use flavored creamer and whatever sweetener is available to offset the bitterness. Sometimes, it’s sugar; sometimes, agave nectar. If I’m at Starbucks, depending on the season, I’ll order either a Strawberries and Creme Frappuccino or a Caramel Apple Spice. Anywhere else, it’s a toss-up. I won’t order food because I worry about leaving my grease prints on the paper. 

And finally…

9. How do you know when you’re done writing? I really don’t have a way of knowing when a story’s done. When I feel like I’m dragging a story along, that’s when I know it’s time to end it. Now, if it’s a lengthy piece, I’ll refer back to my outline, noting specific plot points. When I feel like I reached a good stopping point, I’ll call it a session. I don’t go by time or word count because–again–I try to write whenever the opportunity presents itself. 

So, there you have it. My writing rituals. In the videos, Kim and Mandi tagged certain authors, but that’s optional. I’m not going to tag anyone on this blog, but I am interested in what everyone’s writing rituals are. If you want to participate, go right ahead. And if you have any questions or comments about my rituals, let me know. 

Until next time…

Surprises About My Writing: An IWSG Post


Hey there. 

It’s time for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group post for the month. As always, thanks to Alex J. Cavanaugh and crew for the opportunity for us writers and bloggers to encourage others with our stories about our writing journey. If you want to know more or join us in supporting others, click here

Today, I’m going to answer this month’s question:

Have you ever surprised yourself with your writing? 

There are many ways to answer this questions. I can think of a couple of ways. First, and I think it’s the most obvious, I’m surprised at what I’ve written. For those who don’t know, I “specialize” in contemporary short stories. Lately, though, I’ve felt this urge to branch out in other genres. There’s a part of me that has wanted to broaden my horizons. The thing that scared me from trying is that I didn’t know the “rules” when it came to certain genres. The common threads. The clichés to avoid. The differences between casual and hardcore. The ways to incorporate these “rules” into short story writing. All these factors intimidated me from writing in different genres. But friends on Twitter encouraged me to go for it. As one friend put it, “go into overdrive.” As far as the “rules,” everyone said the same thing: the “rules” are more like guidelines than actual rules. So, I took stabs at them. A couple of months ago, to challenge myself, I wrote a fantasy and sci-fi short story. It took some time; more time than I anticipated. But it helped listening to music to put me in the right frame of mind. And when I finished and looked it over, I felt proud at what I accomplished. Sure, they were only first drafts, but I felt this surge of confidence. Like I could write anything. 

Going along with the works I’ve written in the last couple of months, I found I have the capacity to create some interesting stories. For starters, I have to give credit to the Flash Fiction Hive on Twitter. If you’ve read my blog, you know how much I’ve talked about this group recently. I also have been gathering prompts on Facebook and Pinterest. They range from the rooted to the outlandish. The important thing is that the prompts have pushed me to think outside the box. To step up my writing game. This has especially been helpful because for a while, I wasn’t posting a lot of stories. That has changed. I feel like I can post more and be confident in doing so. 

Those are ways my writing has surprised me. What about you? Has your writing surprised you? If yes, how so? Let me know in the comments. I would love to encourage you. 

Until next time, take care…