Fiction Fragment Fridays: Heat

FFF

Continuing on with my series of drabbles today. A reminder that if anyone would like to use any of these drabbles as a prompt, feel free but please thank me by giving a shout-out to the blog if you post the results anywhere. To check out past drabbles click on the “Categories” drop-down on my sidebar and select “Drabbles”.

For today’s drabble I thought I’d take a break from all the creepy, scary, and just plain weird stuff that I usually go in for, and try out some good old fashioned romance.

—–

Eric’s fingers trailed along the back of Sylvia’s hand. The light touch sent shivers down her spine.

“You’re gorgeous,” Eric said. “You know that, right?”

Sylvia began to shake her head, but the movement was cut short as Eric pulled her close and leaned down to press his lips to hers. The kiss was exactly as she’d imagined it would be. Her whole body flushed as she leaned her chest into his and wrapped her arms around his neck.

A long, wonderful moment later, they pulled apart. Sylvia looked up, a powerful burn in her stomach.

“Your place or mine?”

Blogging 101, Day Twenty-Nine: Plan the Next Thirty

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It humors me that I should be writing about this particular topic at this particular time. Did you know that at this moment you are reading words that were written over thirty days ago? Yes, at this precise moment (over thirty days in the past), I was planning out over a month’s worth of blog posts to give myself some breathing room for other projects and goals.

Planning is super important if you want to keep your blog regularly updated and your brain functioning stress-free. Therefore, today’s assignment is to sketch out an editorial calendar to cover your next thirty days of blogging.

One of the best things I’ve done for myself in a while was to buy a little personal organizer notebook to help keep track of my blog scheduling. It helps so much to have a visual of what I’ve got planned, or to keep notes on ideas that I have for future posts. I can’t tell you how confused I would be trying to plan stuff ahead of time without being able to easily visualize what I’ve already done and what is left to do.

So do yourself a favor: grab an organizer, a calendar, or find a smartphone app that you like, and get planning. You’ll thank yourself later, I promise.

Farewell, Nanny. Love You Forever.

Yesterday, as I was sitting in the Halifax airport waiting to get home, my mother contacted me to let me know that they were all at the hospital with my grandmother and it didn’t look good. I hoped that I would be able to get home and to the hospital in time, but only about a half an hour later my father contacted me to let me know that she was gone. My last grandparent, Katherine Gillis, had passed away.

I’m full of memories of my Nanny Gillis, who took care of my cousins and I for years whenever our parents were working or busy. In my childhood I spent as much time at her house as I did at my own. Even when I was in school I would go to her house every day for lunch, and during the summers I would ride my bike there on a daily basis. Now that she’s gone, I find myself remembering all kinds of little things about our time together.

I remember she would read to me all the time from books of nursery rhymes and short stories. We would snuggle up in her armchair and read about the Three Little Kittens and Winken, Blinken, and Nod. She’d read the same books over and over to me no matter how many times I asked.

I remember sitting at the kitchen table with her while we ate crackers slathered with liverwurst and mustard. She may have been the only person in the world who could get me to try something with the word “liver” in the name.

I remember laying on her living room floor and writing my stories – some of the first things I ever really wrote – and having her ask to read them. She’d go through the notebook pages with a smile on her face and tell me how talented I was. She always insisted that I should be a journalist when I grew up.

I remember I used to have this slinky, gold-colored belt that had a little bit of heft to it. Once, when she was sleeping on the couch at our cabin, I got it in my head to toss the belt onto her. She woke up immediately, thinking the belt was a snake, and shrieked like a banshee while I laughed maniacally. She wasn’t impressed, but she laughed about it later.

I remember the look on her face whenever she caught my cousin Tommy and I eating sugar right out of the bowl. She’d act like she was disappointed in us, but I noticed that she never ever moved the sugar bowl.

I remember she was always trying to teach me how to swim, even though I was terribly difficult and scared. She’d put her hands under my belly and hold me up so that I could kick and move my arms without sinking. I never did learn how to swim properly because I was too terrified, but no one put as much energy into trying to teach me as my Nanny did.

I remember she would get so worried about things my cousins and I did as kids, like climbing trees and practicing “Power Rangers” moves on each other, but she’d laugh all the same when one of us did something foolish.

I remember her getting my cousins and I to collect rhubarb from a nearby yard so that she could bake treats with it.

I remember her taking the time to painstakingly weave my long hair into an absolutely perfect french braid. She’d make it so evenly, and pull it so tight, that I could have worn it that way for days without ever having to touch it up.

I remember she would always give my cousins and I her spare change so that we could run down to the nearby store and stock ourselves full of candy.

Most of all, I remember that when my cousins and I were around it was all about us. Feeding us, playing with us, doting on us, taking us to the cabin, taking us swimming… She was the quintessential grandmother whose life was all about her grandchildren, and as time went on she came to love her great-grandchildren just as much.

She will be deeply missed, but I will always have my memories of her, and I will hang on to them for the reset of my life.

Goodbye, Nanny. I’ll love you forever.

Nannie&PoppybetterTraceylevels

Blogging 101, Day Twenty-Eight: Create a New Feature

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Regular posting (three days a week, five days a week, or whatever you choose) is very important to maintaining readership because people won’t stick around your blog if there’s extended periods of nothing new for them to read. A helpful trick to help achieve this is to have a “feature” on your blog – that is, something that you do every week so that people keep coming back to check it out.

Today’s assignment is to develop a regular feature for your blog.

An example of a feature would be my would be my “Fiction Fragment Friday’s”. Every Friday I post an excerpt, short story, or drabble of fiction writing of my own design. It gives readers who enjoy my writing something to look forward to each week.

Another example would be Jay D Archer’s “What Will You Write?” challenges. Readers look forward to seeing what the next prompt will be, participating in the challenge, and returning later to see who won and what the other participants have written. The key is that it keeps people coming back for more.

So think about your blog, your readers, and try to work out something that you can feature on a regular basis. Your stats page will thank you.

Surviving Journalism in the 21st Century

Be honest: these days not a day goes by that at least one person you know doesn’t make a fool of themselves by forwarding completely BS news stories via Facebook, Twitter, or some other public forum. It’s not just that people are gullible (although that’s definitely part of it). No, the main problem is that journalism has gone to the dogs as information sharing has only gotten easier and faster. Fake news pops up more often than real news, so of course people are going to get caught in the tidal wave of stupidity. Cracked.com has had a series going strong for weeks now that is entirely about what idiotic stories fooled the world this week. It’s almost impossible not to be that fool ever now and then, because there are just so many opportunities!

Although, if you fell for this one I'm going to have to ask you to leave the Internet now...

Although, if you fell for this one I’m going to have to ask you to leave the Internet now…

So how can you take steps to make sure that you look like a fool less often than your friends and family? Here’s a couple of tips:

Before you get caught up in a story, check the source.

I could scarcely count the number of times that I’ve seen people get all worked up over a news story that was actually a self-admitted joke. A big example is anything published by “The Daily Currant“. The Currant, much like The Onion, is a joke website that presents itself as the “news”. It is completely satirical and tells you so all over its website, so there is no need to get worked up over anything they publish; it’s all fake and just for fun.

So tip number one is to be aware that sites like this one are commonplace, and you should check to make sure that what you’re looking at isn’t a joke before you get yourself all emotionally invested.

Even if the source looks good, consider that THEY may have been fooled.

One of the biggest problems with journalism these days is that it moves too fast. The Internet has made it possible for people on opposite sides of the planet to share information in the blink of an eye, so if reputable news sites want to keep up they have to cut out nasty little time-suckers…like fact-checking.

For big news companies it has become a much easier route to simply apologize later for getting something wrong than to be the only site not reporting the story because they’re busy trying to establish whether or not it’s for real. On an all-too-often basis huge, reputable companies such as The Huffington Post and the New York Times are publishing complete BS because from a business standpoint they can’t afford to allow their fact-checkers the time to confirm the story.

So keep this in mind: even the most reputable companies make mistakes, and these days they make them more and more often.

Remember that there are an AMAZING number of liars out there.

Let’s get one thing straight: the Internet is an amazing repository of information, but it is also an enormous, digital trash heep.

I could post an article on this blog tomorrow that claims that chewing gum gives you cancer. Most people would look at it and assume that I’d lost my mind, but if I made the post professional-looking enough, with “sources” and quotes from “doctors”, a few people would believe it, or at least consider that maybe it might actually be true. And because of the knee-jerk, zero-fact-checking reaction that we’ve already talked about, it just takes the right person to stumble across my false report and decide to gamble on it.

Any schmuck can make something up and post it on the internet, and there are many, many schmucks out there doing just that. So many so that it becomes outrageously difficult to discern the truth amongst the sea of crap, particularly for people who are focused on getting the newest, shiniest news out ASAP!


So, okay, let’s say that you’ve been smart. You made sure that the story is being reported by a real news company, that enough time has passed for fact-checkers to officially okay the story, and that the original source material for the story’s claims is reputable. The story therefore must be true, right? Think again.

Consider, just for a moment, that news companies LIE. Or perhaps not lie outright, but definitely twist the truth. No, I’m not a conspiracy theorist or anything. I just understand that the news is a business, just like any other, and they’re going to do whatever it takes to do what businesses care about most: make money.

Make no mistake, if Pepsi or Coke paid the news to say that cola cures cancer, they would find a way to twist the lie into a believable story. There might be about thirty degrees of separation between them, but if money is on the line they will find a way to link one cola ingredient to the stimulation of a certain set of cells in the body that are linked to some obscure theory that may possibly, someday, after LOADS more study and research, lead to some kind of new (untested and unproven) cancer treatment. And then they will take that tiny thread of a link and they will report it under the 72-pt font heading: “Suffering from Cancer? Drink More Cola!” Because that’s what businesses (and remember, the news companies are just business like any other) do: they find a way to make you have an emotional response that subsequently leads you to react exactly as they want you to.


What it all comes down to – what I’m encouraging you to do – is to be doubtful, and use your own brain. Don’t accept something as truth just because a friend shared it on Facebook, or it appeared on The Huffington Post’s website, or on the 5 o’clock news. Take a step back, think about what you’re reading or watching or being told, do the extra research if necessary, and make sure that you are confident about the reality of the story before you spread the flame further. It’s not easy to think critically all the time, especially with the vast quantity of information being thrown at us virtually non-stop, and we’re all bound to make mistakes from time to time. But if we’d all make just a little bit of an effort to do our own fact-checking, maybe we could slow down the tidal wave of misinformation and pure BS that is washing over the land and drowning us all.

You don’t want to drown in your own foolishness, right? Right.

Help Keep an Inspirational Message Alive

Three days ago I wrote a post about my cousin, Ryan Gillis, a drug-addict-turned-inspiration who recently passed away in a car accident, and you all responded in a huge way. Not only did my usual blog followers drop by to give their condolences, but over 14,000 people showed up in total on that one day, coming from all over in search of information on Ryan. I also watched the visitor stats for Ryan’s “Love Life” video skyrocket, and I have to say that I couldn’t have been more thankful to see that Ryan’s message is being spread even in the wake of his death.

Today, because you’ve all been so wonderful and supportive, I want to share a couple of plans that are going on in Ryan’s name that some of you may wish to support.

First, Ryan’s family has opened a fund to raise money to help further some of Ryan’s loves in life. Ryan had been sponsoring a sweet little girl in Africa, so some of the money will go to continuing her sponsorship. Additional funds will be donated to N.A, A.A families, Yoga Halifax and Yellow Dog Studios, which were all so important to Ryan. There is no minimum amount on a donation, so if you’re interested you can donate whatever you want. Click the photo of Ryan and his sweet little angel below to go to the donation page:

ryan2

If you can’t donate you may wish to participate in a video tribute to Ryan’s memory. Jay LeFrense, Ryan’s friend and professional videographer, is heading the project. He’s looking for as many people as possible to take a short video of themselves (just a few seconds) saying “Love Life” and telling where you’re from. (So, for instance, I would say, “Love Life, from Cape Breton”.) The videos will be collected by Jay from now until approximately Sunday, September 1st, and will be combined together to show just how far Ryan’s message has spread. If you’d like to take part in this video tribute, please upload your videos to the following Dropbox: http://dbinbox.com/lovelife

Finally, if you can’t donate and you don’t feel comfortable being part of the video, I ask simply for this: please share Ryan’s message. The video below – the same one I shared on Wednesday – was made so that he could share his story with the world and show people that no matter how far you fall, it’s always possible to climb back up again. So please share this video in whichever way you can so that the world can see it, and always remember: “LOVE LIFE!”

Fiction Fragment Fridays: The Bus

FFF

How would you like another drabble today? Yeah, you know you want one. As a side note, I’d like to mention that if anyone would like to use any of my drabbles as a prompt, feel free! I only ask that if you post the result anywhere you give a shout-out to my blog. And if you’d like to check out previous drabbles, use the “Categories” drop-down on my sidebar and choose “Drabbles”.

The following drabble came to me as a result of a desperate attempt to get some sleep on the bus to and from work, and the weird little snippets of dreams that ensued.


I knew something was wrong when I realized that the bus wasn’t moving. We hadn’t been driving for more than ten minutes; I was sure of it because I hadn’t even managed to drift off yet. I opened my eyes.

The bus was completely empty – even the driver and her backpack were missing – and it was stopped in the middle of a dark highway that seemed to go on for miles in either direction.

Tentative, I leaned forward into the aisle and called, “Hello?”

And from right behind my ear, too close to be possible, came the reply: “Hello, sweetie.”