A Year of Letting Go

letting go quote

Source: Google Images

2022 was a challenge for many; Covid-19 and its variants, housing difficulties, job and financial losses certainly have tested our proverbial mettle. Even I could not escape its most antagonistic grasp. I was forced, often to my chagrin, to face aspects (read: imperfections, failures) of my personality, relationships and life in general as I worked through some difficult and oft-repeating themes. In moments of overwhelm, I simply decided to let go. Why was I hanging on to people, places and things that no longer fed or supported me emotionally or spiritually?

The Great Escapes

At the onset of 2022, one of the first tasks was to walk away – no, ESCAPE from – a lousy job of 2.5 years. High stress, high turnover, low pay, filthy working conditions, etc. I had so many reasons for leaving but couldn’t muster the courage to take that leap of faith. Not only did I walk away but I managed to secure a long-term seasonal job with better pay, (much) lower stress, and a (much) smaller workforce (total of 7 of us in the office). I finalized my escape at the end of January 2022.

In the spring, I ESCAPED a living situation that had gone from slightly uncomfortable (two very different, occasionally opposing personalities) to over-controlling and immovable (on her part). As an Aries, I can tell you that the one thing you CANNOT do is trap, ensnare or corner us – we’ll lash out in some way. My way was to move out. End of story. (A bit of a struggle with the housing issue at first but I stayed my course and am now living in a way I CHOOSE for myself at this time. Can’t get anymore Arian than that!)

Eight of cups

Source: Avantika’s Astrohelp on Twitter

Mercury retrograde through May knocked me on my keister but I knew Jupiter in Aries was soon to follow so I hung in there best I could. I picked up another long-term temp gig with a company that has kept me working (most of the time) and at a much higher rate of pay than most jobs here.

Over the summer, I cleared out my storage unit of unwanted pieces of my life that were no longer useful. Done. Now I can breathe. Being tethered to less and less of the material world has helped free my spirit and has lightened my load in so many ways.

Hangin’ In There But Still Letting Go…

Indian summer/fall found me struggling with another Mercury retrograde (while Jupiter was still in Aries so it didn’t hit so hard) but still working. Then I got hit with a medical issue that brought me to the ER after much arguing with myself that it really wasn’t that serious. It wasn’t, turns out, but there was something else that was discovered in a follow-up appointment with my PCP. I was taken aback at first; for someone who’s always been a foodie (I love my veggies and fruit over junk food) and relatively healthy, this new diagnosis was a surprise, albeit a scary one – at first. Once the initial shock wore down, I did some research (I did have a medical license for some years, after all) and realized that I could do what was needed without having to make too many changes in my food choices or daily habits.

I decided to let go of the fear of the negative long-term possibilities and scheduled an appointment with a local talented Acupuncturist/Chinese herbalist. I’ve kept going and boy, what a difference! I’m constantly amazed (and disgusted) by the defeatist attitude so prevalent in Western medicine. They consider my situation nonreversible but that’s not true in Chinese medicine. It rarely is. If one is willing to make some changes in diet/lifestyle for the long term good, the outcome will no doubt be to your liking.

When It Comes to Family and Friends…

And then there’s family – or at least what’s left of it. With mine, sadly, there were some losses in 2022 but it’s my generation’s turn so not much to be done about that. Facing mortality is a fact of life, especially when you reach my age. (I find myself more and more pragmatic about it the closer to the other end I get. That’s good right? Acceptance?) Even old friends, long gone from my life (for not always the right reasons) and still on my mind had to go. I had to make space in my heart for the new in 2023.

What I’m referring to is the letting go of relationships or perceived relationships that I have been unwilling to sever, for lack of reciprocity. I’m not a hopeful romantic but I have spent far too many years ‘hoping’ that certain friends and family members would – how to say this – change the way they feel about me, the way they treat me. 

Not gonna happen.

In the wee hours of this very morning, I did a visualization: I conjured up images/faces of those particular family and old friends with a satin-like ribbon extending from their images to my body. I took a pair of scissors to each ribbon and, one by one, SNIP SNIP SNIP. What a release! What a nice way to close what has been a very challenging year (for so many, not just me)!

Once completed, I felt relief. Emotional freedom and the permission to go about my life as I choose. I don’t care anymore. I can’t. It’s been draining me for too long because I’ve received NOTHING in return. Some people just can’t be the people we envision, the people we need, the people we hope they can become. For whatever reason, they simply cannot or will not be what they could be. So I have to let them go.

In Elizabeth Gilbert’s movie Eat Pray Love, Richard from Texas (actor Richard Jenkins) tells Elizabeth (actress Julia Roberts): So miss him. Send him some love and light every time you think about him, then drop it.

Brilliant.

That’s what I’m gonna do. I will send them love and light when I think of them and then I’ll drop it. I’ll let go. So I can be free. To be me, warts and all.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

#writersoninstagram #authorsontwitter #writersontwitter #authorsoninstagram #writing #blogging #lettinggo #eatpraylove #tarot #eightofcups #farewell2022 #happynewyear #2023 #amwriting #elizabethgilbert #freedom #independence

Happy Holidays to One and All

xmas1

Source: Google Images/Dollar Tree

I came across this poem many years ago. I don’t know who wrote it (if you do, please let me know). Each Christmas I’d print this out and stick a copy in each card I sent to family or friends. This year I share it with you, dear readers, in appreciation for your loyalty, comments and kinship.

May this holiday season be rich with good food, the warmth and comfort of family and/or friends, and maybe a nice snowfall!

The Christmas Card List

There is a list of folks I know

All written in a book,

And every year at Christmas time

I go and take a look.

And that is when I realize

Those names are all a part

Not of the book they’re written in,

but deep inside my heart.

For each name stands for someone

Who has touched my life sometime,

And in that meeting they’ve become

A special friend of mine.

I really feel that I’m composed

Of each remembered name,

And my life is so much better

Than it was before they came.

Once you’ve known that “someone”

All the years cannot erase

The memory of a pleasant word

Or of a friendly face.

So never think my Christmas cards

Are just a mere routine

Of names upon a list that are

Forgotten in between.

For when I send a Christmas card

That is addressed to you,

It is because you’re on the list

Of folks I’m indebted to.

And whether I have known you

For many years or a few,

The greatest gift the Universe can give

Is having friends like you.

#Christmas #Xmas #Holidays #friends #writersoninstagram #writersontwitter #author #amwriting #christmasgift #giving #Hannukah #Kwanza #friends #travel #Italy #wanderlust #newmexico #connecticut #massachusetts #california #oregon #washington #Instagram #Twitter #Tribel #Mastadon

Not Speechless But There Are Limits

free speech1

Source: Google Images/Cartoon Movement (cartoonmovement.com)

In light of what’s been happening on Twitter and in the political arena, I thought it might be a good time to clarify what ‘free speech’ actually is – in case you didn’t already know. The internet and social media have become a haven for every lunatic with a not-so-informed opinion; violence, racism and various forms of hatred now clog up the digital highways. Hardly a day goes by when I’m not cleaning up, blocking or getting rid of unwanted ads and other attempts at sucking me in to a digital vortex of Never Never Land.

Ongoing attempts at regulation and censorship often butt up against protectors of free speech. I’m usually in the free speech camp but these days the negative and often violent rhetoric makes it difficult to defend our First Amendment in all its glory (and unintended or unseen disadvantages).

In Elonis v. United States, heard by the U.S. Supreme Court, is one such case. (If interested, you can read about it here.) The crux of it came down to which forms of expression are or are not protected by our First Amendment right to free speech. So many writers now live online via Goodreads, FB, Twitter, IG, and numerous other social media accounts because it’s how we stay in touch, learn from other writers, and connect with writers we may never even meet. Which makes it all that much more important to understand and acknowledge that ‘free speech’ is not as free as many believe.

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” First Amendment to the U.S. Bill of Rights

According to an article from Sidebar Saturdays author Matt Knight, “The right to free speech protects individuals from government censorship, including all government agencies and officials, whether federal, state, local, legislative, executive, or judicial. The government cannot fine, imprison, or slap you with civil liability for what you say except under certain circumstances.” 

In Reno v. ACLU, the Supreme Court extended free speech to the internet. But the constitutional right to free speech only restrains government not the private sector. Herein lies the rub: Private companies, including all the social media companies (Instagram, Twitter, etc.) are free to regulate speech. *deep sigh*

Granted, people are more disinhibited online when it comes to spewing whatever comes to mind each and every moment of the day (don’t these people have jobs? Families?). I’ve got news for ya – there are limits to our constitutionally-provided free speech and the following is a good explanation of those limits.

From Sidebar Saturdays, When Free Speech Meets Social Media (12/3/22):

Content-Related Restrictions — Most content-related speech is protected from government regulation, even vulgarity, hate speech, and blasphemy. But the government can suppress certain ideas and messages from a few narrow categories such as:

  • Obscenity – Most forms of obscenity fall within the freedom of speech. But if the obscenity reaches a high-test threshold, like hard-core, sexually explicit pornography, the speech is not protected. Companies like Facebook and Twitter also regulate outside boundaries like this on their platforms too.
  • Fighting words – The government can prohibit speech used to inflame another (like a personal insult) that is likely to lead to an immediate fight. This would include speech meant to incite violence and hatred, and encourage others to commit illegal acts. This would not include political statements that offend others and provoke them to violence — like anti-abortion protesters that provoke violence from their targets or church members yelling obscenities that provoked LGBT people to attack. It also doesn’t include hate speech, which means contemptible, bigoted speech is usually protected.
  • Defamation – False statements that damage a person’s reputation are not protected.
  • Child pornography – Speech that depicts a minor performing sexual acts or showing their privates is not protected free speech.
  • Crimes involving speech – Any speech used to commit a crime is not protected, e.g. perjury, blackmail, and harassment.
  • Incitement – Speech that is directed to incite or produce imminent lawless action, i.e. encourages others to engage in illegal activity, is not protected free speech. Incitement has been extended to cover repeatedly encouraging someone to commit suicide.
  • True threats – Threats to commit a crime are not protected free speech, but there must be mental intent to commit the crime. [My addition: this is called mens rea and one’s intent can be very difficult to prove.]
  • Copyrights and trademarks – Infringement of someone else’s copyright or trademark-protected content will not withstand a free speech defense.
  • Commercial speech – Most advertising is protected free speech, but things like false advertising are not and can be restricted by the government.

Content-Neutral Restrictions — The government can suppress speech when the restriction is done without regard to the content or message of the speech, e.g. regulating noise [law enforcement/disturbing the peace], protesters blocking traffic, or the use of obstructive signs.

Special Government Relationships — The government can suppress speech when a special relationship with the government exists. For example, speech by government employees can be restricted if it keeps the employee from doing their job (a police officer making racist statements, a public school teacher encouraging students to experiment with drugs or a CIA employee who releases classified information). The government as head of the military and prisons can regulate the speech of military officers and inmates.

So that’s your free-but-has-limits speech in a nutshell. Now go forth and protest freely, associate freely, believe in whatever ‘god’ you choose, but remember this: you can think whatever you want but be careful with your words. Remember, they have power, just not as much freedom as you once thought.

#FirstAmendment #freespeech #authorsoninstagram #writersoninstagram #twitter #amwriting #SidebarSaturdays #MestengoBooks #rights #BillofRights #USConstitution #censorship #democracy #goodreads #socialmedia #hatecrimes #stoptheviolence

Be Water, Fellow Scribes

Water element

Source: Google Images/Radiant Shenti

Winter, a time of powering down and going within, is almost upon us. The softer sounds of winter beckon to us; the gentle swoosh of wind and snowfall (unless you live in a warm area – too bad, your loss), the crackle and crunch of snow under boots, or the quieter chirps of birds that don’t migrate (like our red cardinal, an eyecatcher resting on a snow-covered bush). It’s a great time for writers to hunker down and get their words on.

In Chinese medicine, “water is the element of Winter, the most Yin of seasons. It represents the completion of a cycle and the cleansing of previous cycles. Energies are stored deep within, as in the roots of plants and trunks of trees, as well as within ourselves. It is the time of year to be more introspective and less physically active.” (The 5-Element Guide to Healing with Whole Foods, 2016)

“Water… flows on and on, and merely fills up all the places through which it flows; it does not shrink from any dangerous spot, not from any plunge, and nothing can make it lose its own essential nature. It remains true to itself under all conditions.

Nei Jing (475-221 B.C.)

My advice? Be like water, fellow writers. Remain true to yourself and your stories; do not lose your essential nature and write your stories from a place of unwavering candor. 

“Be like water making its way through cracks. Do not be assertive, but adjust to the object, and you shall find a way around or through it. If nothing within you stays rigid, outward things will disclose themselves. Empty your mind, be formless. Shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.”

– Bruce Lee, martial artist

To keep our writing skills sharp and be more like water, we need to take care of our mind/body/spirit connection during this most Yin of seasons:

“Winter is the season of the Kidney/ Urinary Bladder organ system, where our root energies  lie. Bitter and salty foods are contracting and inward/downward moving, which help us store our energies and keep us centered.

Salty foods strengthen Kidney but too much actual salt can weaken it. Include miso, soy products, seaweed, seafood, millet, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, celery seeds, and barley in your diet. Bitter foods include parsnips, cauliflower, cabbage, turnips/rutabagas, celery, alfalfa, rye, quinoa, chicory root, and burdock root.

Roasted chicory root blended with other roasted herbs makes a nice substitute for coffee, which depletes Kidney Essence[1] with its caffeine content. One-pot meals like slow-cooked soups and stews are your best choices, and you can add in both salty and bitter foods to create a healthy, nutrient-dense meal.” (The 5-Element Guide to Healing with Whole Foods, 2016)

The characteristics of a healthy Water element (which is within each of us, to a varying degree) will help you get through the winter months and any writing challenges that might come your way. Water element likes a calm, unrushed environment; it allows us to better communicate (like through our stories) and to influence others (like through our stories). If your Water element needs a boost, wear black, dark blue, or dark purple (violet).

If you feel ‘stuck’ or have writer’s block, envision water: flowing, smooth, soft. When we are rooted in our Water element, our will is rooted and we’ll have a powerful source of intuition that can positively affect our writer’s imagination. There’s a deeper sense of knowing. Write without fear. Act on your inner faith as a writer. That is Water element in action.

Be like water, fellow scribes.

[1] This is the pre-natal Qi we get from our parents; a definitive amount is passed to each child and must be used sparingly to ensure a long and vital life. Lifestyle excesses (alcohol, sex, food, etc.) will use up Essence more quickly, which can speed up the aging process.

#Chinesemedicine #Waterelement #writersofinstagram #authorsontwitter #thewritinglife #BruceLee #author #writer #blogger #wordcount #amwriting #nutrition

And the Accent Goes On…

diacritical marks1 (2)

Source: Google Images

I’m a word-y person. I love a play on words, words that rhyme (especially in funny poems or jokes), words with unusual spelling or pronunciation (I like a good challenge), even words that make me giggle (like ‘kerfuffle’). All part of being a writer, I suppose. Writers must love words of all kinds to build their stories, don’t you think? 

The words that got me thinking about this post are those with accent marks still used in our modern English. Many have been dropped as we modernize even more in this Digital Age and I wonder what will happen to our language as we know it. Will it, too, adapt to a point of unrecognizability? I hope not. I enjoy it too much.

Are Diacritical Marks All That Critical Anymore? I Say YES!

Accent marks are called diacritical marks. And in our modern English they are being used less and less. The accent mark, or diaeresis (omg, I had to add this word to my computer dictionary) indicates, according to Wikipedia, “the modification of a vowel’s sound when spoken.” In modern English the only two that are used consistently are the grave accent (è) and acute accent (é). Even these tend to disappear in certain types of publications, such as an online blog (but not mine, ok?). 

Take Your Pick

The list of diacritical marks is longer than I expected (you can view it here) so I’ll cover the accents most relevant to the English language and currently in use.

From Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English_terms_with_diacritical_marks:

  • the acute accent and grave accent
    • as in née, frappé, soufflé, résumé (e.g., I shall resume writing my work resume – just doesn’t look right to me without the accents; neither does drinking a glass of rose… or rosé?)
  • the circumflex (entrepôt), borrowed from French
  • the diaeresis (Zoë), indicating a second syllable in two consecutive vowels (similar to, but not same as, the German umlaut)
  • the tittle, the dot found on the regular small i and small j, is removed when another diacritic is required (poor little tittle goes away…)
  • the macron, lengthening vowels, as in Māori; or indicating omitted n or m (in pre-Modern English, both in print and in handwriting).
  • the breve (ă)
  • the umlaut (über), altering Germanic vowels
    • written now as (ü) ue, (ö) oe, (ä) ae 
  • the cedilla (soupçon), in French, Portuguese and in Catalan it is a softening c, indicating ‘s-‘ not ‘k-‘ pronunciation
    • So garçon (waiter) doesn’t sound like ‘garkōn’ (something from a Lord of the Rings movie, maybe?)
  • the tilde (Señor, João), in Spanish indicating palatalized n, and Portuguese indicating nasal a and o (although in Spanish and most source languages, the tilde is not considered a diacritic over the letter n but rather as an integral part of the distinct letter ñ; in Portuguese the sound is represented by “nh”)
    • as in piñon (mmm…my favorite when they’re fresh picked) instead of pinyon/pine nut

There are several others, “representing European personal names, anthroponyms, and place names, toponyms” (remember these from my -Nym post?) and you can search them out yourself, if so inclined. 

There are also digraphs…but I digress…

There are a few English words that actually don’t borrow diacritics from another language, we made them up just for us! It’s called a hiatus – two separate vowel sounds in adjacent syllables – and you thought it was just a break from school… As in words like coöperativedaïs and reëlect  – now they’re replaced by use of a hyphen (re-elect) or made into a whole word (cooperative, dais). (Note: certain publications still use the hiatus, it’s not just for breaks anymore!)

When one breaks down a language, it’s amazing what can be found. Sure, we learn English language in schools – nouns, verbs, adjectives and such – but no one teaches the history of our language unless you major in it in college.

If the history of language or words were taught in grade schools, perhaps there would be more word nerds like you and me, then. Get your word on!

#authorsoninstagram #writersoninstagram #English #language #amwriting #writerslife #poetry #creativewriting #writersblog #Mestengobooks

My Old Posts: Like Visiting Old Friends

hjacksonbrownjr1

Source: Google Images/brainyquote.com

It’s been one of those weeks. Actually, it’s been one of those months. Health issues have taken up a large portion of my time and I’ve missed some work as a result. Now that I’m back in full swing, I’m too exhausted to even think about a new topic for my next post. So apologies all around for not writing a mind-blowing post this time around (wink wink nudge nudge)…

Stepping Back in Time…

So I did what I have an occasional habit of doing – I randomly revisit previous posts. I start with the most recent ones and at the bottom of the page I click on a post from the Related section. Sort of a ‘free association’ attempt at getting ideas for this post – and clicking on a related post after that, and so on. It has also provided an opportunity to make some updates to outdated information and add a new hyperlink here and there.

Amazing what you find when you look…back.

Eeny Meeny Miney Moe…

My first click was to this post: https://mestengobooks.com/2017/08/03/talk-to-text-a-writing-lesson/

This one didn’t go so well. I haven’t used talk-to-text since this eye-opening (and almost vomit-inducing at the sound of my own voice) attempt at a shortcut to the writing process. It seemed like a good idea at the time. C’est la vie, eh?

The next click was:  https://mestengobooks.com/2016/07/22/subliminal-messages-and-the-call-of-the-word/

Too bad this one didn’t come to fruition…I got quite far into developing the chapters then gave up because I stopped practicing some years ago. But I did end the post with some good advice:

“Pay attention to the hidden messages all around you. Let them be your muse, let them inspire you to answer your ‘call of the word.”

And the next link after that: https://mestengobooks.com/2016/07/08/success-and-failure-the-yang-and-yin-of-writing-life/

“In summary, the lesson of Hexagram 47 from the I-Ching is about oppression and hope – that even during difficult or bad times we must dig down deep, not fear failure (the inevitable downswing of the life/writing-cycle), quietly embrace it, and carry on with the understanding (hope) that all will be better again (the inevitable upswing of the life/writing-cycle).”

Yikes. I’ve been in the oppression phase (yet again) but seeing this post is a reminder that what does DOWN must go UP. Here’s to mini successes! I hope they arrive soon, I’m tired of the other side of this cycle…

“Failure happens to everyone. It’s how you handle the failure. Ride it out, like a big bump in the road and you’ll come out the other side wiser, and perhaps, more successful. In whatever way that means for you.”

I sense a running theme here… (If only you could see my facial expression right now…)

And finally, the pièce de résistance: https://mestengobooks.com/2020/07/15/words-have-power-so-be-careful-how-you-use-them/

The first paragraph of this post is more than prophetic – all you have to do is read your feeds on Twitter, IG, TikTok, etc. Chaos is everywhere, especially in the American political arena, where a major war of the words (read: lies, slanders and unfounded conspiracies) has been ongoing for far too long. The danger of violence against fellow citizens (regardless of where on this globe you live) lurks around every corner and now in every grammar school. We have to take responsibility for our words and the power they can have over others. Now more than ever writers are needed to provide light and laughter, adventure, facts, TRUTH.

Yes, these wise words were mine (amazing, I know). This is why I go back and re-read – who knows what goldmine of tidbits I’ll find.

And maybe learn from, like the advice of old friend.

#writersoninstagram #authorsontwitter #thewritinglife #oldfriends #blogging #freeassociation #thursdaytips #thewritelife #author #writer #words 

Punctuate the Point with Proper Punctuation!

punctuation

Source: Google Images/grammarly.com

Clothes may make the man but proper punctuation makes a good writer. I’ve posted often of the grammatical irks that raise my ire. Yet the folks who regularly annoy me are exactly the folks (including nightly newscasters who shall remain unnamed) who don’t read my blog or any other grammar-focused posts. It appears they are content with being perceived as unintelligent, unprofessional and/or uncredible (yes, incredibly, it’s a word, I looked it up).

So here are a few pointers I do hope you’ll pass along to someone in dire need of a good grammatical lesson (hmmm, almost everyone online…):

  1. Please STOP using apostrophes to make a word, abbreviation or date/time plural. It’s 1950s not 1950’s. It’s MDs not MD’s. Inserting an inappropriate apostrophe makes the word possessive (i.e., ownership). Another correct use is for shortening certain words: have not becomes haven’tis not becomes isn’twill not becomes won’t. Get it? Do the ayes (not aye’s) have it? Good.
  2. Speaking of which – STOP using the apostrophe version of its (it’s) when needing a neutral pronoun: The book fell over on its side. I’ve read too many online articles where the writer has not edited the work for errors and this careless mistake is one I see often.
  3. Some writers sprinkle too many commas into their words, like shaking salt on a pizza until it’s covered.
    1. There are seven appropriate way to use a comma:
      1. 1) in dates, addresses, titles, and numbers;
      2. 2) between two clauses;
      3. 3) following an introductory clause;
      4. 4) before and after a clause not essential to the sentence;
      5. 5) before and after a nonessential description;
      6. 6) follows a name of someone you address directly; and
      7. 7) after each item in a sentence (list).
  4. Using semicolons like commas – I’m definitely guilty of this one. They, too, have their appropriate place in a sentence:
    1. 1) to join two separate but closely related sentences, especially when the second sentence begins with words like “furthermore,” “besides,” “however,” “therefore,” or “for instance.”
    2. 2) in place of a comma in a long list of items, especially if the comma has been used in the sentence prior to the list. 
  5. Dash or hyphen? A hyphen joins two words together while a dash (see use in #4) separates words in parenthetical statements. No space around a hyphen but space on either side of a dash. Have I just “dashed” your grammatical skills? Oops…

“Do not use semicolons … All they do is show you’ve been to college.” – Kurt Vonnegut

#punctuation #grammar #writersoninstagram #writersontwitter #authorsontwitter #Englishgrammar #Grammarly #MLA #styleguide #writerwednesday #amwriting #blogger

Would Hemingway, Fitzgerald or London Have Joined a SM Writers Group?

white fang

Source: Google Images/raptisrarebooks.com

I Often Wonder…

Did the great writers of the early to mid-20th century, like Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald or Jack London, share their works with each other? If available, would they have joined social media (SM) like FB or writers’ groups? Sure, they drank (all three), sometimes together (Hemingway and Fitzgerald); caroused together (the same two); even shared a few women (Hemingway) with other men. But would they have wanted or needed SM? In their day, and for centuries prior, writing was a solo activity relegated to dark offices or the corner table at a local café. Maybe that’s why so many were heavy drinkers or alcoholics… maybe some contact with other writers outside of bars to discuss their works would have made it less lonely – or more sober.

Maybe.

No Time Except for Writing

Jack London was too busy living his stories to have sat around and kibitzed online. Fitzgerald and Hemingway knew each other and were friends in Paris in the 20s. They certainly drank together and partied till the wee hours. It’s what many of the great writers did back then. When they weren’t partying or off on an adventure, they were hunkered down in front of their typewriters or pencils/pads, scratching away at novels now considered some of the greatest literary works. Would/could a FB group have improved on that? Or are writers in the 21st century more insecure or more reliant on others’ opinions? Is that insecurity a result or side effect of SM? Or is the thought of toiling away, all alone, too frightening? Do we really NEED someone else’s input to craft a great story?

Social, To a Degree

Yes, we are social creatures by nature but writers have survived for eons working on their own… or have they? Perhaps there were many discussions among writers about plot, characters and settings. In the end, though, each writer must go it alone to write the story. It’s the last bastion of solitude enjoyed by fickle artists.

I often wonder, if any of them were alive today, what they would think of SM and its effect on writing. Hemingway might have enjoyed the celebrity SM offers (he did have a bit of an ego); perhaps Fitzgerald as well. But Jack, in my opinion, would have poo-pooed the notion that he needed to join a group for ‘support.’ After all, he wrote a thousand words a day on his own and often while out living one of his stories – tinker, tailor, oyster pirate, WRITER.

A life of WORDS from a life LIVED. All without social media. Amazing.

#ErnestHemingway #FScottFitzgerald #JackLondon #writersoninstagram #authorsoninstagram #fiction #greatnovels #novelists #tuesdaytwocents #thegreatamericannovel #socialmedia #facebook #instagram #twitter #authorsontwitter

Lingo is Just as Important as Location in Your Writing

harvard yard lingo

Source: Google Images/spreadshirt.com

Lately I’ve been seeing a lot of references for Boston, MA (not unusual since I’m planning to move home soon and it’s always on my mind) and it got me thinking about the lingo (aka slang) in our American English and how it differs depending on where one lives. In a previous post I discussed the importance of weather to set scenes and overall stories; for characters, it’s vital for writers to research the local vernacular where scenes will be set. Just as important is the time period in which the story or scene takes place and research in this area is integral to getting the right feel for both the character dialogue and setting.

For Example…

In Massachusetts, those tiny candy sprinkles you put on cones are not sprinkles, they’re ‘jimmies.’ A ‘packie’ is a liquor store and anything you like is ‘wicked’ (very, really) good. ‘Dungarees’ are blue jeans and I called them that through the 70s. Having lived out here in the western part of the U.S. for so long I have finally replaced ‘grinder’ (pronounced ‘grindah’) with ‘sub’ (which I will stop as soon as I get home). A remote control is a ‘clicker’ (pronounced “click-ah”). But I refuse to refer to soda as ‘pop’ as it’s just plain silly. 

In Chicago, they eat ‘haht dahgs’ not hot dogs; ‘frunchroom’ is the front room or a room used for entertaining. They call soda ‘pop’ and ‘the’ becomes ‘da’ as in ‘Da Bears’ (football). In Texas and other parts of the south, ‘dad gum it’ and ‘ya’ll’ are popular. Smaller towns will have their own slang words, different from bigger cities. When possible, it’s a good idea to travel to these places to meet some of the people who live there to get an idea of what life is like for them.

No Time Like the Present… or Past…

Time periods are representative of language current to that time. In the ‘roaring 20s’ words like ‘copper’ (police), ‘bee’s knees’ (extraordinary person, thing or idea) and ‘behind the eight ball’ are just a few slangs made popular by 20s-era gangs, flappers and prohibitionists. A good international example is Shanghai. At one time, in the early-mid 20th century, Shanghai was so dangerous that the slang ‘shanghai’ meant to kidnap (and still does).

Writing this post helped me realize that the dialogue in my fiction stories is not location-centric. This means I need to research the local lingo based on where my stories are set. Funny how that happens – one minute I have an idea for a blog post and next thing you know I’m thinking about what I missed in my own writing. Sometimes we learn as we go, I guess.

Isn’t that a ‘wicked pissah.’wink #authorsoninstagram #writers #languages #englishlanguage #fictionwriters #mysterywriters #boston #slangwords #writersoninstagram #saturdaystories #amwriting #bookworm #grammarnazi #blogger #creativity #writerslife

What’s in a Word? -Ough Of Course!

ough sounds

Source: Google Images/ieltsonlinetests.com

Whaddya Mean You Don’t Understand?

I can’t imagine what it’s like for someone whose first language is not English and arrives in America with all their hopes and dreams but little or no (American) English language skills. Our conversational styles, which vary from region to region, idioms (“knock on wood,” “under the weather,” “bite the bullet”), buzzwords/buzz-phrases (“new normal,” “kicks” for shoes), clichés, ambiguous remarks and just the way we pronounce words (“drawer” vs. a Bostonian “draw”) must be beyond confusing for foreigners wanting to understand and communicate.

English, brought to this country by colonials (Anglo-Saxons), is considered a Latin-based language also made up of words with roots in many other languages (Greek, French,  Arabic, African, etc.). According to ilovelanguages.com and Wikipedia, the roots of English actually began with Germans, Angles, Saxons, and Jutes (Germanic tribe that settled in England after the Romans left). The transition to early modern English began around 1480. Then there was The Great Vowel Shift shortly after that and then a large-scale migration from England to North America; late modern English came in around 1800. This lead to a new strain of English that we know and use today here in the U.S.

Wait, How Do You Pronounce/Spell That?

The point I’m making is there’s such a long history of words changing in spelling and pronunciation it’s got to be hard for new arrivals to learn our language. One example of this is the suffix -ough, used in a variety of words with different pronunciations, different meanings and same spelling. Imagine being a new immigrant; try to pronounce, spell, and understand the following words and their contextual use.

There are 9 distinct pronunciations of -ough; see if you can differentiate:

1. -ow (like ‘cow’), oh (long Ō), oo (as in ‘moose’): bough (like ‘cow’), borough (like ‘burrow’ but a different word), dough (the kind you knead or use to buy stuff), though (not ‘thou’ in the Bible), through (like ‘threw’), although, slough (‘slew’ – Scottish origin), thorough, plough (as in ‘plow’)

2. -uff (short U), uh (short U), upp (short U in ‘up’): enough, rough, tough, hiccough (‘upp’ sound)

3. -aw (as in ‘awe’), au (as in ‘hat’), ah-ff (as in ‘off’): bought, cough, draught (spelled ‘draft’ in U.S.), drought (we say ‘drowt’), ought, thought, wrought, slough (this one is ah-ff, as in ‘skin sloughs off daily’), trough, fought

4. This one’s just for fun: lough (pronounced läk) – a lake, bay or inlet sea (Ireland); loch in Scotland

Phew. Confused yet? You find slough in #1 and #3 with different pronunciations and meanings. Have fun with that one!

More of Me Being Silly (and still making the point)

Online I found a sentence (yes, ONE sentence) that uses all NINE (there are actually TEN) pronunciations:

“The wind was rough along the lough (#4) as the ploughman fought through the snow, and though he hiccoughed and coughed, his work was thorough.”

It’s kind of silly but this is one I came up with:

“As I took my bow (I didn’t tie a bow with a long Ō) in the outdoor theater, down came the tree’s bough upon my head. And even though it was rough I was tough and fought to stay alert. “Enough!” I yelled as I thought I ought to see a doctor about my wound; he can give it a thorough cleaning and slough off the dead skin around the edges. I wrought my hands in anguished thought about whether I could go through with it and if I had enough dough to pay the man. I came to my senses quickly and thought I might first have a draught to make me brave.”

Then I came up with this:

twiddle twaddle diddle dawdle (catch that?) fiddle faddle… yikes…it never ends…welcome to English, people…

#whatsinaword #vocabulary #englishlanguage #ESL #comingtoamerica #writtenword #fridayfunfacts #authorsoninstagram #writersoninstagram #writersgottawrite #write #spelling #blogging #bloggingaboutwriting #historyofwords #languages

What’s So Wrong with Ordinary Anyway?

Simplici_Tee_Staples

My “Simplici-tee” logo – copyright © 2021

An Ordinary Life Is Good Enough After All

I have to ask: what’s so wrong with ordinary anyway? Why do we always strive for MORE? When is it ENOUGH? As my logo above states, a simple life brings more happiness; the Chinese characters translate loosely to ‘simple qi, happy life’. (I’m working on getting the logo larger, ready for t-shirts.)

This has been a theme I’ve thought a lot about the past several years. As we mature, we gain wisdom and seek out simpler lives. I no longer desire the activity and complications of my youthful life. My days of chasing dreams and reaching for the proverbial brass ring have, thankfully, come to a close. It was an exhausting run that never really came to fruition in the ways I’d hoped. As is the way for many of us, I think.

Many chase dreams; few catch them; fewer have the courage (or energy) to live them. The rest of us settle for ordinary – and that’s good enough for me.

Ordinary Is Extraordinary

Why can’t ordinary be extraordinary? The story of ordinariness is one of a simple life, not reaching for the brass ring, finding happiness in the simple moments. Ordinary means seeing the beauty in the everyday, which can seem extraordinary. The Covid lockdown taught many that the small moments are the most precious. Mantras preaching entitlement abound but in reality you must EARN what you have (physically, emotionally, financially) and you’ll appreciate it more because you did. Ordinary, in this modern, over-ambitious, over-the-top-living, Kardashian-obsessed world, is possibly the perfect remedy.

“When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be. When I let go of what I have, I receive what I need.” 

Lao Tzu, from the Tao Te Ching

One can derive enormous pleasure from simple daily rituals. There’s a difference between living a ‘rich’ life and living an ‘enriched’ life – which have you chosen?

Keep It Simple

In my experience, artistic/creative people can be comfortable living a simple life. To focus on our art, our writing, on whatever gets us through each day is what matters most. Some may still strive for the limelight as it’s how artists can support themselves. Some strive to create and believe that the creating is what’s important, whether they support themselves with it or not. You have to choose which is best for yourself.

No matter what you choose, let it be extraordinary in the most ordinary way. That’s where true contentment lives.

#happiness #qi #simplelife #livesimply #laotzu #taoteching #writers #artists #creativity #chinesephilosophy #balancedlife #beextraordinary

I’ve Had It Up to Here So I’m Gonna Write About It

steph-up-to-here-1135x540

Source: Google Images/pinterest.com

As the saying goes (hence the title of this post), I’ve had up to HERE.

Enough Already

The war in Ukraine, Covid and its various affects on people and society (protests, “anti-vaxxers,” “vaxxers,” anti-maskers, fear-mongerers, lingering symptoms, community safety vs. individual rights, etc.), the lack of good paying jobs (despite what our government is crowing about, only low-paying retail/restaurant jobs are truly in abundance because nobody wants to work the crappy hours with rude customers who’ve been locked away in their homes for two years and have forgotten how to behave in public), the lack of affordable housing (having recently uprooted myself I’m experiencing this in a major way and it won’t resolve until I find a job where I earn what I’m worth which means I have to leave CA – and gladly, as I’ve already reserved my escape); the list goes on and on (as I could, trust me). I’m exhausted and frustrated with all of it.

Luckily, writing is a good outlet for those frustrations. 

So Tired…

Maybe it’s because I’m getting older that the world’s busy-ness gets to me more easily. Maybe it’s because I’m artistic and sensitive and need more quiet in my life. Maybe it’s because our species seems to find immeasurable joy in violence and destruction, even if it brings about our own annihilation.

Lately, I find myself searching for feel-good movies instead of my usual action-driven films. I’m tired of the good guy/bad guy stories that repeat over and over (as if real life reflects that because it doesn’t). Perhaps I’m searching for a sense of inner quiet not found in outer society. Searching for that inner serenity that so many seek yet few rarely find. And it’s getting harder and harder (e.g., when I was 9, the global population was at ONLY 4 billion; life was slower, quieter, less crowded; no wonder I pine for “the good old days” – there were fewer of us).

…But There is a Way

Again, this is where writing can provide that much-needed inner peace and balance. Writing can be cathartic; driven by imagination and/or real life, stories abound. As writers, we can choose to reflect society and current events; we can choose to tell historical pieces (fiction or not) that help put our current lives in perspective; we can choose to shoot for the moon in fantastical stories of heroism laden with strong characters; we can choose to share pain and sadness, our characters weeping, surviving and overcoming great obstacles. We can choose.

Writing for ourselves (even if we’re just venting) and our readers (to inform and entertain) is what we do and how we find inner peace.

#writerslife #writersguild #writersdigest #fiction #nonfiction #authorsoninstagram #authorsontwitter #thewritinglife #writerblogger # #meditation #writersblog #wednesdaywisdom #literature #peaceandserenity

Update-Upgrade-Uproot-Upshot-Upbeat

PhotoFunia-1647029531

It’s that time again, when I take a closer look at my website and SM accounts and make some UPDATES. I tweaked this site a bit; I altered of some of the fonts and colors because I got bored with the way it looked. An updated site can help improve traffic flow as well as make it more aesthetic. That’s smart marketing.

I’m going to UPDATE my Twitter and Instagram user profiles over the next week from writer.mestengo to writeratmestengobooks (if it’s not too long for a username). I feel the new moniker speaks more clearly to who I am (writer) and where I’m located (mestengo books). Often it can take time to see when something as simple as a username needs to be updated for better results. More smart marketing.

I’m looking to UPGRADE Mestengo Books to a different layout, something more modern and up-to-date. I can’t seem to find a workable layout I like with both photos and text for my posts in WordPress, so I will consider the option of moving the site. Again, that’s smart marketing for writers if it brings in more readership and increases the readability of pages and posts.

At the end of this month, I will once again UPROOT myself. My current living situation has run its course. Due mainly to COVID, the cost of living on one’s own has become exorbitant and places to find are more scarce. Many of us are forced to share our living spaces to make life more cost-effective but not necessarily less stressful. I find that, as I get older (senior status now), living alone provides more satisfaction and peaceful solitude. I thoroughly love having a private space away from the rest of the world where I can do as I please, when I please, without explaining to anyone why or for how long. I paint more, I write more, I create more when I have that space to call my own.

Writers are solitary by nature. Do you find that living with others affects your writing? Positively or negatively? The UPSHOT for me is that I’m far more creative in my own space. Being cramped into a room in someone else’s house can be difficult, for a number of reasons. Perhaps that other person’s energy is not compatible and the feel of the house is stifling (like my current situation that I’m finally escaping). That can affect anyone’s creativity.

I remain UPBEAT, however, in my quest for that personal space that allows me to FLOURISH.

#fridayfunfacts #writingfiction #writingnonfiction #writersdigest #sololiving #amwriting #writerslife #fridayreads #followfriday #lovetowrite #lovetoread #writersofinstagram #writersontwitter #mustread #selfpublishing #bloggerlife #bookworm #bloggersgetsocial #instagram #twitter #goodreads

Can David Beat Goliath? FCRA Case Against Google Dismissed

David and Goliath

Source: Google Images/zacharyfruhling.com

I published a post on March 10, 2021 on data mining and our loss of privacy in this digital world. In that post, I mentioned a lawsuit filed by attorney Matthew Sandofsky against the mega-giant Google. In January of 2021, Matthew filed the lawsuit claiming that Google and similar companies “violate the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) because employers and landlords can use the search engine to learn about a potential employee or tenant.” In the post, I wrote:

“I don’t know if his lawsuit has any teeth but I’m very curious what the District Court will decide. “

Toothless After All

Turns out the lawsuit didn’t have any teeth. On Tuesday, July 13, 2021 in the U.S. District Court of Massachusetts (Boston), the case was dismissed:

“Sandofsky v. Google LLC, Civil Action No. 21-10052-FDS, 5 (D. Mass. Jul. 13, 2021) (“The complaint does not contain sufficient allegations of a FCRA violation to survive a motion to dismiss. Crucially, it contains no information providing a plausible basis that Google actually is a consumer reporting agency. Instead, it merely asserts, in conclusory terms, that “[i]n as much as [Google] returns search results on consumers not generally the subject of publicity, [Google] is a credit reporting agency under [the] FCRA.” (Am. Compl. ¶ 9). It therefore does not plead sufficient “factual content” for the FCRA claim to be plausible on its face. See Iqbal556 U.S. at 678. Rather, it “merely recite[s] the language of the [FCRA] in an attempt to come within the confines of the FCRA, or stretch the statutory language beyond its intended purpose,” and therefore must be dismissed. In re Sony Networks & Customer Data SecBreach Litig., 996 F. Supp. 2d 942, 1011 (S.D. Cal. 2014).”)”

(for full reading of the dismissal, click here)

Too bad. I was kind of rooting for the guy – hoping David would once again beat Goliath.

But Matthew aint givin’ up.

Takin’ One More Shot

He filed an appeal on August 23, 2021. Having read most of the dismissal, I’m not sure he’s got any chance of righting this perceived wrong. Sure, it’d be great to bring a Goliath like Google to its knees for some long-needed reckoning. I’m not hopeful it will happen any time soon. Can’t blame the guy for trying, though. Maybe the negative press will lead to something better down the road.

Sometimes all it takes is one unlikely hero…

Sandofsky v. Google LLC, Civil Action No. 21-10052-FDS, 6-7 (D. Mass. Jul. 13, 2021) (“In any event, the complaint does not sufficiently allege that Google provides the information “for the purpose of furnishing consumer reports to third parties.” 15 U.S.C. § 1681a(f). While it does not appear that the First Circuit has addressed the question, at least three other Courts of Appeals have concluded that the FCRA mandates that an entity must have the specific intent that the information it furnishes be a consumer report in order to qualify as a consumer reporting agency.”)”

“Sandofsky v. Google LLC, Civil Action No. 21-10052-FDS, 8 (D. Mass. Jul. 13, 2021) (“There is no allegation that the “employers, landlords[,] and others” who allegedly obtain consumer information from searches are charged a fee for obtaining that information. Simply making money—from advertisers or other sources—is not enough.”

“Accordingly, defendant’s motion to dismiss the FCRA claim will be granted.”)”

#Google #lawsuits #USdistrictcourts #Massachusetts #Boston #FCRA #saturdaystories #thedigitallife #datamining #consumerreports 

Whether the Weather is Important to Your Novel

First draft of book cover for Rescue on White Thunder

Today I read an interesting post from a fellow writer/author about using weather in our stories (thanks for the inspiration, Damyanti). That got me to thinking… about how every story needs atmosphere (figuratively and literally) and how weather can define a plot or reveal something about a character. And oddly enough, after reading Damyanti’s post and a couple articles on this subject, I realize that I don’t pay all that much attention to weather in some novels and I’m not sure why. (But now I will thanks to that post!)

“The setting of a story informs the mood, the attitude of the characters, and the presentation of the themes. One of the most important elements of the setting is the weather. In literature, weather plays many roles such as a plot device, a way to set the atmosphere, a symbol for cleansing or misery, and much more.”

Hannah Aster, Weather in Literature: Rain Is Never Just Rain, at https://www.shortform.com/blog/weather-in-literature/

My personal favorite is fire. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been transfixed by fire. It has a hypnotic quality about it whether it’s coming from your fireplace or blazing through a forest. I’m not a pyromaniac; I simply enjoy and respect fire for its beauty, danger and power as one of nature’s indomitable forces. Which is why I made it a running theme throughout both of my fiction novels (1 unpublished, 1 unfinished):

“Braddock and his team reached a grove of pine interspersed with hemlock and western red cedar above the trees burning to the southeast and dug as if their lives depended on it (because it did). The ground was still a bit hard from a cold winter and the digging was arduous. Fires spread quickly over a fresh, loose layer of humus covering the solid ground. Tree trunks caught fire one after the other as flames overran the surrounding brush and now-dead timbers toppled from last year’s big storm. The crackling roar of the fire amplified and they had to shout to hear each other. Braddock knew they would soon be forced to move to higher ground. Some of the firebreaks held but winds were increasing in strength and velocity, propelling fresh embers to other areas. More trees and small brush ignited, creating walls of flames that nearly licked the upper branches of the tall pines.”

– Rescue on White Thunder, 2012 (currently unpublished)

Fire in a story is a powerful motivator as it can often connote a life or death scenario: 

“Unaware of the situation below, Braddock scanned the perimeter. Flames were everywhere, from the pine needles and grass on the ground, to the upper branches of the trees. He hadn’t fought fires in a long time; but it’s something one never forgets, he reminded himself as he struggled to figure a way out. He had to find Annie – it was the one thing that drove him to do what he did next. He choked on the smoke so he grabbed a bandana from his pocket, poured water on it, and held it over his nose and mouth. Pockets of blackened earth began to appear as the fires burned the forest floor clear and Braddock saw their opportunity: a narrow stretch of burned over ground leading upwards between two patches still ablaze. 

He looked down at Smoke, “Think we can do this, boy?” 

Smoke looked at the tight space between the towers of flames; he winced and tried to wag his tail in support.”

– Rescue on White Thunder, 2012 (currently unpublished)

Just following this last quote from my first novel, another character (the second protagonist) used the smoke from the fire to hide in as he snuck up on antagonists. Like two birds with one stone, eh? Using a force like fire in a story ratchets up the action. It can make heroes out of likely or unlikely characters. Fire speaks to one’s primal fear of being trapped in a blaze (in a house, in the woods, etc.) and brings readers to the edges of their seats.

Weather, in short, can be the tie that binds a story together and bring it to an exciting or unexpected conclusion.

#thursdaytips #writingtips #writersdigest #authorsoninstagram #fires #wildfires #fridayfuntips #saturdaystories #fictionnovel #writingfiction #hotshots #firefighters #mountainrescue #howtobuildaplot #literati #mestengobooks