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…

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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

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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 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

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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

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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 

A ‘Workiversary’ Worth Noting

Work-Anniversary-Memes-10

Source: Google Images/dontgetserious.com

Well, I made it through another year without ending up dead or in jail. I call that a win.

Anniversaries have a funny way of creeping up on me. Over the years, I’ve paid little attention to the milestones in my life. Probably came from the fact that my parents barely celebrated our birthdays beyond a cake after dinner. No parties, no balloons, no star-spangled celebrations with friends and neighbors. I learned early on that my birthday and other events were treated equally with my parents’ nonchalance. Perhaps it was because they were too exhausted from working such long hours; down time was at the end of long, arduous days, rewarded with a pilsner glass of Budweiser before dinner (mom) or vegging in front of the TV (dad) until an early bedtime.

Stickin’ With It Ain’t My Thing… But It Is For Now

In a few days, I’ll mark my 6th ‘workiversary’ of Mestengo Books. Honestly, I’ve surprised myself, as I rarely stick with anything this long. It’s a form of adult-ing in which I rarely engage; I can blame ADD and an artistic slant for that. Once I’ve learned it or learned what I need from it, I’m gone, on to the next adventure/project/task/person/city. I have found a sense of comfort in having some regularity in my life, in having my blog/website. Even though most of you don’t comment or respond to questions I still feel like I’m sharing stories with willing listeners.

And for that, I thank you all for taking the ride with me these past 6 years.

I don’t know how much longer Mestengo Books will be around but I do know this: both your presence and your absence has bettered my writing and clarified my creative process. 

#happyanniversary #Mestengobooks #writerslife #blogging #storytelling #creativity #selfpublishing #writersdigest #writersofinstagram #authorsontwitter #fictionwriters #nonfictionwriters #writingcommunity #tuesdaytips

A Time for Storytelling and Rest

cherokee bonfire

Source: Google Images/visitcherokeenc.com

Winter is a special time, a time of quiet, a time of slowing down and doing more indoor activities like yoga, reading and writing. It’s also the time of year for storytelling in many traditions, especially for Indigenous Peoples. In the old days (and still, for many nations), it was a time marked by the first snowfall or the Winter solstice. Bands of tribes gathered together to share their stories and pass their histories on to the next generation.

Days of hunting and gathering food for winter stores were over; cold winds blew across the prairies and mountains and the days were shorter. What else was there to do? Stories both entertained and informed; they carried a people’s history with them wherever they went. Oral tradition is still revered today. Regardless of your ancestry, storytelling is alive and well in many cultures around the world and you would do well by touching base with yours. Storytelling long preceded the written word, which forced people to use their brains to retain an amazing amount of detail surrounding important events in their lives.

Do you and your family or friends gather for the purpose of sharing during the winter months? In these modern times, we’re busy working, running errands or are too tired. Storytelling traditions force us to slow down and take the time to LISTEN. When we allow ourselves to participate in this ancient form of socialization, we are energized and connected to something much larger than each of us.

Winter is also a time of rest though skiers and snowboarders might disagree. When was the last time you bundled up (assuming you don’t live in FL) and took a walk in the snow? It’s one of the quietest, most Zen experiences I’ve ever had. If you listen very carefully, you can even hear the snow fall.

This is the embodiment of winter: slow down, listen (to family, friends, your body), rest (to rejuvenate for the spring) and eat deeply nourishing meals (soups, stews).

Indigenous Peoples have had this down for eons and I think it’s time the rest of us catch up. Take some time out for yourself this winter. Rest (it may be four letters but it’s not a dirty word). Read. Write. Appreciate the shorter days and quiet moments. It is in these spaces where we can find peace and contentment to last us throughout the year.

#writers #wintersolstice #storytelling #restandrelaxation #authors #yogapractice #reading #writingcommunity #writersgottawrite 

Will The Real Rudolph Please Shine His Nose…

Rudolph book cover

Source: NPR/Rauner Special Collections Library/Dartmouth College

I came across this NPR story some time ago on an IG post. What is Christmas without Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer? How many of you know the real story of how he came about? Let me summarize…

The Real Story

It all began in 1939 (yes, that long ago and on the verge of WWII) when Montgomery Ward execs asked one of their ad men to come up with a story for MW’s children’s book, an annual holiday promotion. The ad man, Robert May, made a list of possible names before settling on Rudolph. So May, an aspiring novelist and known for his wit at parties, came up with a story of a reindeer underdog named Rudolph. His boss wasn’t very impressed but May, undaunted, went to a friend in MW’s art department to draw up some sketches to go with the story.

Names of Rudolph

Courtesy of NPR/Rauner Special Collections Library/Dartmouth College

Then something awful happened. May’s wife died of cancer. He was devastated but forged ahead, telling his boss that he “needed Rudolph now more than ever” after his boss offered to give the project to someone else. Rudolph was a big hit and copies sold around the country. But by now May was in deep financial straits from his wife’s medical bills and was trying support himself and his child on a copywriter’s salary.

The Big Hit

For reasons that remain unclear, the CEO of Montgomery Ward gave May the rights to Rudolph after WWII. May’s brother-in-law was a songwriter, so May enlisted him to write a jingle about Rudolph. Miraculously, it was loved and picked up by none other than the famous singing cowboy Gene Autry. As a result, Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer sold over 25 million copies and was later picked up by Rankin/Bass, who made the stop animation film we all adore (I watch it every year).

If you’re curious, you can follow this link to the whole story, including reading the original book/story that was changed oh-so-slightly for the Rankin/Bass film:

https://www.npr.org/2013/12/25/256579598/writing-rudolph-the-original-red-nosed-manuscript

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, to one and all. Stay safe and healthy and prosperous wishes for the New Year.

#Christmas #Rudolphtherednosedreindeer #RankinBass #Christmastime #holidayseason #RobertLMay #holidayclassic #fictionwriters

The Long and Short of It

alphabet2

Vintage Alphabet Source: Google Images/pixiepaperstore.com

Growing up before the Internet and a digital world, my generation learned much via “the old-fashioned way” – like cursive and script writing. I have vivid memories of the Roman alphabet in upper and lower case bordering the chalkboards of my grade school classrooms.

Sister Rose de Saint Marie taught our second-grade penmanship classes and she was a typical hard-nosed teacher/Catholic nun. I religiously (pun intended) practiced my penmanship at school and at home. (Which is why, all these decades later, I’m still complimented on my handwriting.) There were two classrooms for grades 1 through 8 and penmanship was taught daily at least until sixth or seventh grade in our Catholic grammar school. I even remember the paper we used: solid lines on the top and bottom for the upper and lower parts of the capital letters and dotted lines in the middle for the lower case letters. 

This morning, as I filled out my student loan recertification document, I realized that a pen in my hand felt a bit strange. I don’t like that. I spend less and less time writing longhand, whether in cursive or script, unless I’m leaving a note to myself on my desk. When I do pick up a pen, I hesitate for the briefest moment as I reach into my deepest memory bank for that familiar sensory memory. It’s as if I’m forgetting how to sign my name with the characteristic loops and artistic flairs that have long been my mark. Losing my longhand skills means, to me, losing a sense of myself.

We are losing the personal touch, the individual-ness of each human, becoming less so as AI infiltrates our lives. Google is the answer to EVERYTHING, it seems. Can’t spell a word? Google it. Not sure if it’s a verb or adverb? Google it. The internet has short-circuited our ability to learn via sensory memory (touch, taste, smell, etc.) and in the process something very personal, unique to each of us, is lost.

“When I do pick up a pen, I hesitate for the briefest moment as I reach into my deepest memory bank for that familiar sensory memory.”

J.K. Rowling wrote the Harry Potter books in longhand and still writes that way. Imagine the difficulty in maintaining the pace of your writing with what’s whizzing through your mind as the story unfolds. How many writers today are even willing to attempt such an undertaking? Still quite a few, thankfully.

“A friend of mine who’s a film director turned me on to the Blackwing 602. What I like is that it sharpens to a really fine point, and it’s got a great feel to it that I just can’t describe. It’s like when you taste a really good wine or a cognac: You know it’s good stuff.”

Andre Dubus III, author of Bluesman and House of Sand and Fog

For me, the Digital Age provides too many shortcuts, too many quick ways around learning what we need to learn. Forget working out a math problem with a pencil and paper; now Brainly will do it for you. But what is lost in the process? We lose the concept of critical thinking; how to get from point A to point B. Working out a problem, like writing in longhand, allows our brains and minds to problem-solve, which translates into many other areas of our lives as we grow. We can’t afford to lose it or I fear we’ll lose some of our humanity.

“A pen is a much more primitive instrument. You feel that the words are coming out of your body and then you dig the words into the page. Writing has always had that tactile quality for me. It’s a physical experience.”

Paul Auster, author (https://www.standoutbooks.com/writing-longhand/)

Writing longhand is a form of sensory memory and connects us to each word in a story and the story itself, as a whole. It fortifies memory and the ability to spell, to slow us down enough that we get the story on paper without too many revisions. We become more deeply engaged in our stories.

“Studies have shown that writing (and rewriting) information in longhand is one of the most effective ways to retain new information; this is apparently because writing the old-fashioned way stimulates a part of the brain called the reticular activating system, or the RAS.”

Fred Johnson, at https://www.standoutbooks.com/writing-longhand/ (and yes, he “Googled” this information)

Laptops may allow for the collection and storage of information – but on the laptop, not in our brains. Efficiency is nice but LEARNING and RETENTION are more important. So in the best interest of humanity – pick up a pen or pencil and have at it.

Deepen your writing, deepen yourself.

A quick post-script (11/4):

I was so enamored with the thought of getting back into longhand I purchased some sleek cedar-scented graphite pencils. What a joy to use! Brought back some nice childhood memories… and inspired me to write this little ode to pencils:

The Poetry of Pencil

Smooth charcoal, cedar scent

a cherished childhood of homework spent

writing and re-writing until perfection or corrections attained;

Mathematical problems, grammatical errors

erased with ease;

Sharpened stylus dulled with use,

scratching numbers and letter in columns and rows,

learning my ABCs and 2+2s.

#ABCs #handwriting #longhand #scriptandcursive #writinglonghand #writerswrite #pencilsandpens #charcoal #romanalphabet #sensorymemory #RAS #artificialintelligence #grammar #harrypotterbooks #authorswhowritelonghand