Flash Fiction, Love in an Instant, Writing

Flash Fiction-Love in an Instant: Hotel Hunk

The journey seemed endless as the miles on the highway ticked by slowly.  Too slowly.  My iPod blurted all too familiar tunes, Pandora acted squirrley, singing aloud and off key bored me.  Another mile.  And another.

Google Maps finally announced my exit from the Interstate and I knew the hotel was only a few feet away.  “Your destination is on the right.”  Sweeter words were never uttered.  

I parked my car and slowly walked to the lobby, hoping the kinks would work their way out of my knees in a moment. Too long in one position in the seat took its toll on my body in more ways than I cared to recount.

Check in seemed endless and no I don’t need two keys. The room is just up the stairs and no, we don’t have an elevator, sounded in my ear.  Eight hours on the road and now, I have to lug a suitcase up a flight of stairs.  I sighed and steeled myself for the task.

Trunk open and suitcase on the ground beside me.  I grabbed the laptop bag, my small toiletries case, my purse and my wits.  Ready.  I silently blessed the woman who invented a suitcase with the handle and wheels.  It had to be a woman because the solution is incredibly practical. Like pantyhose.  Like hair dryers.

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Photo by Karen Pope

“Let me get the door for you.”  Southern twang from the right.  I turned and looked into the bluest eyes I had ever seen.  He wore inevitable cowboy boots, jeans that molded themselves to his skin, a t-shirt that announced his love of ZZ Top and a perfect smile.  Teeth straight and white as a movie star’s.  Brown hair long enough to show the curls at the end.  And six foot four.  Perfect in every way.

“Why didn’t I meet you twenty years ago?  Or thirty?”  I wonder.

He pulled the door to the lobby open and allowed me to enter.  The door closed and he grabbed my suitcase handle.  “Let me get that for you.  Where to, Ma’am?”  Don’t you just love Southern hospitality?

“Room 204.”

“That’s just at the top of the stairs.”  He pushed the handle into the suitcase and picked it up, not bothering with the wheels.  Up the steps, two at a time and I doggedly followed, trying to keep the agony of sore knees from showing on my face.

He put the suitcase in front of the door, and raised the handle up so I could pull the case into the room.  “Room 204, as ordered.”  His smile brightened the entire floor.  He turned and stepped toward the stairs, again.

“Thank you, very much,”  I managed to say before he descended.

“No problem.  Anytime, Ma’am.”  

And he vanished down the stairs returning to the errand my arrival interrupted. Random act of kindness?  Likely I reminded him of his mother.  Or his grandmother.  Whatever the case, I will remember that bright smile and those blue eyes for a very long time.

Flash Fiction, Love in an Instant, Writing

Flash Fiction: Love in an instant: At the Copa

Everyday, the same nothingness happened on the long commute home.  Two hours in my car, stuck in traffic, boredom abounds.  Inch by inch, I forge ahead, trying to make the twenty-three mile journey to my haven of solitude.  Twenty- three miles in two hours. Progress stops.

Horns, motors, exhaust fumes.  My car starts to overheat in the summer sun, so I turn off the AC and open the windows.  Nothing moves.  Angry faces stare at me out of their car windows as if the gridlock is my fault.  Sweat tickles my face.

I have a CD of my favorite songs playing quietly so as not to disturb the neighbors in their equally dismal commute. But, that song starts playing and I reach over to turn up the volume just a little.  And a little more.  At the chorus, I sing along with Barry Manilow.  “At the Copa.  Copacabana.  The hottest spot north of Havana…”  

Next to my car, the man in the red Ford F150 smiles and his head bobs in rhythm. His window is open to the elements, too. Blond hair matted with sweat and gray tank stuck to his chest, he starts singing. Hot wind brings in the smell of cigarette smoke and rum.

“At the Copa.  Copacabana.  Music and passion were always the fashion at the Copa.  She fell in love.”  Barry, Red Truck Man and me sing in complete harmony.

We three sing Lola’s story into life:  “His name is Rico.  He wore a diamond.  He was escorted to his chair, he saw Lola dancing there. And when she finished.  He called her over.  But, Rico went a bit too far. Tony sailed across the bar. And then the punches flew and chairs were smashed in two. There was blood and a single gunshot, but just who shot who? At the Copa…”

The musical bridge played and Red Truck Man and I cha-chaed in our cars.  Red gave me a spin and pulled me in close.  Our bodies move in perfect synchronicity. No longer stuck in gridlock, Red and me flew to the Copa to dance the hot Florida night away. One, two, cha cha cha.

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Photo by Allef Vinicius on Unsplash

Barry, Red and me start singing right on cue.  “Her name is Lola…” all the way to the end of the song when we sing, “Don’t fall in love.”  It’s too late Barry and Red.  I already fell in love with both of you.

The traffic starts to move forward and Red releases me from our dance.  

For the duration of a song, my wish for the world worked.  Everyone knows the words to the song.  Everyone knows the steps to the dance.  The guy always gets the girl and everyone lives happily ever after. Just like a Fifties’ musical.  Just the way I really want to the world to be.

Blog Entries, Writing

Why Your Content Should Pack an Emotional Punch

When you’re writing content online, you can write it in such a way that it sounds very factual and impersonal. Or, you can write in a way that really packs an emotional punch.

By and large, most small publishers will do better with the latter approach. Of course, if you’re starting a website like Wikipedia or WebMD you’ll probably want to take on a professional tone. However, if you’re a smaller website looking to gain traction, you’ll want to aim to engage your reader’s emotions.

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Photo by Aman Shrivastava on Unsplash

Why?

It Makes People Remember You

People browse dozens if not hundreds of websites every day. Most websites fail to draw their readers in emotionally.

How many websites do you visit each day that gets you to laugh, gets you to feel touched or gets you to get angry about something? How often do you feel like a website is talking directly to you and your problems and that they understand where you’re coming from?

These kinds of websites stand out. There’s a reason why YouTube videos of shocking clips, funny clips or touching clips tend to get passed around a lot. They make people feel something, and that’s memorable.

It Gets You More Links

Content that evokes a lot of emotion tends to get linked to a lot more. Naturally, people are a lot more likely to want to share or endorse something that really got them riled up.

It gets more shares on Facebook and gets more retweets. In other words, it has a higher chance of getting passed around immediately, but also has much stronger long-term potential.

Develop a Stronger Reader Relationship

Finally, emotional content will help you build a much stronger bond with your readers.

People reading your content will feel like they can relate with you, as opposed to feeling that you’re just an objective website on the internet.

This translates to people coming back more often, to a more lively community around your blog or business and finally to more loyal buyers and customers.

As an added benefit, people will also want to partner with you more. If they can tell you’re really passionate about something or that you have a way of being able to move an audience, they’re likely to want to invite you to speak at their events, do teleseminars for their audience and in general open up their customer base to you.

There are many benefits to creating content with an emotional punch rather than just factual information. Adding a dose of personality is great for just about any small to medium sized business. Unless you’re trying to build an encyclopedia-type site, try to make your website as emotionally engaging as possible.

Flash Fiction, Writing

Flash Fiction: Hazel and the Dog Man: Love in an Instant

I felt lonely.  I felt depressed.  I felt dejected.  The sun shone brightly, but I wished for rain to hit my face so I could hide the tears that never fell, anyway.  The tangible man left me alone, again, like he always did. He didn’t understand my grind.

Then, a sliver of hope announced itself, quietly.  In the afternoon.

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Photo by Matt Briney on Unsplash

 

He walked along the concrete sidewalk beside the Bay and a small leashed dog trotted obediently alongside.  He walked with a dancer’s grace and an athlete’s control.  His flip-flops slapped against his heels and a breeze rustled the palm tree that separated us.  He strolled with the vitality of youth because he couldn’t be old enough to shave, yet, could he?

Beige board shorts, and a black tank top.  Sun-bleached hair.  Ray-Bans.  Tanned skin. The dog wore a fluffy white coat in the summer breeze.  

The man caught me watching him.

I felt bold.  “He’s so cute.  What’s his name?”  I asked, pointing down at the dog.  

Her name is Hazel.  My girlfriend’s dog.  She has a thing for Watership Down. I don’t know.”  His voice drifted off.  He had no idea the significance of Hazel’s name.

Hazel’s paws touched my knee and I squatted down to her level.  I rubbed her cottony head and the tiny pink tongue touched my fingers. So expectant and so deserving in the same instant.  Her dark eyes scrutinized me and she smiled.

“What breed is she?” I asked.  Not quite a poodle.

“Bichon Frise.  I don’t know.”  

I talked to the dog.  “Hello, Hazel.  You are a sweet puppy!”  Her tailed waved.

She glanced quickly at the man on the other end of the tether that held them together.  Expectation crossed her face. I scratched under her chin and the tail waved far more vigorously.  The man reached down and unclipped the leash.  He pulled a blue ball from his pocket and he sailed it into the air.  “Get it, Hazel,”  and white fur was off a second later, tires screeching on the start line.

The ball bounced once and Hazel jumped up to catch it.  She ran back to the man, ball in her teeth, laughing as only a dog can.  Her tail wagged furiously, eager for another run.  The man threw the ball, again.  Hazel caught it before it hit the ground.

“She’ll do that all day.  I don’t know.,”  he said.  

Hazel dropped the ball at my feet and I picked up the slimy toy and tossed it as far as I could.  Twice, three times, I threw the ball.  The man grew restless.  I gave him the ball and he scooped the little dog up in his arms, spun around to return the way he came.

I hope I see Hazel, again.  I smiled watching her fluffy tail wag as the man carried her away, no more thoughts of rain clouding my day.

Ready for more Flash Fiction:

The Road Construction Worker:  Love in an Instant

 

Blog Entries, Writing

Why Content is Still King

Long before the internet was invented, the defining axiom in print was that “content is king.” Today, where online content dominates print content, many of the world’s top SEO and web marketing experts still say that “content is king.”

Why is this the case? That even after decades, no matter the medium, content is still the crux of good marketing?

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Photo by Michał Parzuchowski on Unsplash

It’s What Builds Loyalty

Businesses aren’t built on first-time visitors. Companies like the Wall Street Journal don’t make most of their money from people picking up their papers for the first time.

They make money from people who’ve read their content and then decided it was good enough that they either want to purchase again or subscribe to a subscription. If the business had to get a new customer every time in order to get paid, they’d all have gone under by now.

Yet many online publications approach their business that way. Instead of focusing on repeat visitors, they focus on optimizing for search engines so they get more new customers.

At the end of the day, however, the really famous and successful blogs like Huffington Post or TechCrunch ultimately still get most of their traffic from repeat visitors. Yes, search engines love them – but their businesses would be a fraction of what they are today if they didn’t have great content.

The Evolution of Search Engines

For many years Google and other search engines have worked towards making their search results pull up better and better results. They want people who search on their engines to find the best content possible in relationship to what they’re looking for.

As search engines get smarter, marketers who focus primarily on marketing tactics rather than actual content will die away.

Google has proven this repeatedly by continually downgrading the importance of low-quality links and upgrading the importance of usage statistics and other metrics to actually measure the content of a website.

If you build your website around great content while having a decent understanding of basic SEO, your site will flourish. If you put all your attention on SEO and don’t pay much attention to your content, you’ll always be trying to stay one step ahead of the search engines.

The Ability to Sell High Ticket Items

A low quality content website might be able to sell $0.20 clicks via AdSense. But a high quality website could sell $5,000 DVD sets by the hundreds.

Having great quality content allows you to build a relationship with your readers. That relationship allows you to sell any number of things to your readers. From high end items to recurring memberships to one on one coaching, it all starts from having high quality content.

In the long run, only content that really helps people is going to succeed. Content that doesn’t do so is likely to get downgraded more and more as time passes.

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Writing

7 Passionate Ideas for Passionate Writing

I am a passionate writer.  That doesn’t mean that I write passionate stories, but rather I write passionately.  And what that means is I treat writing like a job.  True, it is a job I love doing and true, I would rather write than work at (something)Mart.  Passion is the critical element in writing.

Karen Writes' Writing Desk

If I write something bad, which happens more often than I care to think about, I have options:  I can delete it, I can put in that “terrible idea” file and maybe use it at a later time, or I can leave it on my desktop to percolate, marinate, season, age like fine wine or sharp cheese.  Maybe after a few days, I will find it is not such a terrible idea after all.

For me writing often reflects the mood I am in at that particular moment.  Like everyone, I have days that are dark and gloomy as the weather during a winter storm or as bright and sunny as the first of spring.  So, if I am gloomy today and I am trying to write a happy scene, it will not work very well.  I wait until the sun comes out, then I write something happy.  That’s not to say that I won’t write on that gloomy day.  I simply write a gloomy scene or spend time writing a reflective journal post.

I have learned recently that holding myself back while writing will never result in good writing.  What I will achieve is superficial and one dimensional.  To have passion in my writing, I have to get emotionally involved with my characters or my topic and not worry about what the neighbors think.  I have to stop writing what others want to read, because whatever I write will appeal to only one person in a thousand.  The other 999 will not be interested, anyway.

Now, for the advice portion of this post:

  1. Strive to be a passionate writer. Dig deep and find the passion that is there, anyway.
  2. Don’t write for an individual, either real or imagined. Find what’s in that deepest part of your heart and write about it.
  3. Don’t let a day go by without writing something, be it a journal entry, or a chapter in a novel that will later get deleted. Write something.  Every day.
  4. Write about the things inside. If it is emotional to you, it will be emotional to someone else.
  5. Use your favorite method to write, whether it is a #2 pencil and a scrap of paper rummaged from the trash pile or (my personal favorite) a keyboard. I prefer the keyboard because I type fast and fairly accurately, so I can get these random ideas down more quickly.  Also, I have began audio recordings while driving in my car or making breakfast.
  6. Write using your own voice. It makes you unique.  In that way, you will stand out from the crowd.  You’ve heard it before.  There is only one you, so don’t try to be someone else.
  7. Read something every day. Reading is an excellent method for improving your own writing because you are learning about sentence structure, plot lines, information that can be used in a story or article at a later day.  Much of what you are learning is on a subliminal, but reading is beneficial to every writer.

Writing 500 words a day doesn’t take that long to do.  Stephen King recommends writing 1000 words a day, although he writes 2000 a day.   But, I am no Stephen King nor am I trying to be him.  Most days, I write more than 500 words.  All I had to do was to turn off the TV (or Netflix or Amazon) and write.  I put down my computer games and then write.  I make time for writing.  I don’t wait for inspiration.  I start writing and then inspiration just happens.

I write passionately.

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Writing

How to Write: Put Your Fingers on the Keyboard and WRITE

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IBM Selectric Ball
To write something a person has to put pen to paper or, in my case, fingers to keyboard.
I type fast, having learned how to keyboard while in high school.  At that time, I never dreamed I would own a computer.  My big dream was an IBM Selectric–an electric typewriter with a ball instead of keys that got jammed together when I typed too fast.  After years of practice, I can keyboard almost as fast as I think.  Definitely as fast as I can talk.
The ability to type rapidly enables me to get my thoughts in front of me without losing them as new thoughts are processed.

I set aside time to write on my calendar.

By scheduling my time, I know I am going to sit down in front of the keyboard and create something.  That doesn’t mean I sit down to absolutely no idea of what to write.  I always have a general idea of which direction I am going.  I think about my stories or blog articles a lot before I actually show up at the keyboard.  I make notes in my iPhone if something particularly meaty occurs to me.

I don’t always type something meaningful or enlightening.  Often, it is just weird ramblings or several paragraphs in my novel that I can later delete.

The Delete Key

The main key to my writing is my delete key.  I know some writers disagree with that and treat every word they write as if they were chiseled onto a stone table.  For a while, I did, too.  I saved every word instead of deleting until I had a folder chock-a-block full of deleted paragraphs, phrases and chapters.

Delete Key
My DELETE Key

I NEVER went back in to re-read them.  Finally, I stopped saving everything and just delete, delete, delete.  Eventually, after two years of sitting idle and unopened, I deleted my deleted paragraphs folder.

 

I love the process of editing what I write.  How many times have I ran across something in someone else’s novel I am reading that just screams for an edit?  It is almost disappointing to me when what I have written reaches that point where no further editing is necessary.   In fact, the way I start writing when I am working on a novel is to read what I wrote the previous two or three days, edit while reading and then, I allow the ideas flow to add new content.  By the time I reach the end of the first draft, it is a nearly perfectly edited piece.

Let It Rest

Then, I let it rest for several days or even weeks before reading again and checking for additional edits needed.  I have at this point, chucked an entire body of work.  I have rearranged chapters, I have eliminated chapters.  I have even eliminated characters.  Then, I let it rest again.  And so forth until I am satisfied with the end product.
Working from an outline tends to limit my creativity.
I normally write on the fly, having a general idea of where I want the story to go.  It is like flying an airplane by dead reckoning.  I can pinpoint the landing as I get closer to my destination.
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Write on the fly
Writing

Changing Your Mindset will Help You Build Your Tribe

What is a Tribe?  Simply put, it is a group of people who follow you because what you have to say resonates with them.  And to build a tribe, you have to be willing to change your mindset. alexis-brown-82988Photo by Alexis Brown on Unsplash

Changing your mindset sounds easy, right?  Truth is, people are their own worse enemies.  I know I am.  What I mean is, I wanted to be a writer for the wrong reasons.  I was looking for validation that I am a good writer.  I wanted to be adored.  I wanted people to stop me on the street and ask for my autograph.  It never occurred to me that I write because I must write.

Once I realized the obvious, I knew being a writer who writes is the most important thing to me. I am a writer and have been since I was a child. I am a writer!  What I have to say matters.  aaron-burden-64849Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Changing my mindset became important to me.  Not focusing on HOW MANY are reading what I write, but focusing on doing the best writing of my life.  For ten years (or longer) my goal with writing was feedback from others.  And guess what?  Feedback was slow in coming or non-existent.  Even my kids do not read what I write.  My friends do not read what I write, except for 140 character Twitter messages.  Jesus even said in the Bible at John 4:44,  “Jesus himself, however, bore witness that a prophet has no honor in his own homeland.” (New World Translation 2013 Revision)

Once you know the why of your writing, your mind is freed to write everything–blog posts such as this one, articles, stories, novels.  I write because I must write.