an odd collection of tales about learning to do the impossible

Archive for the ‘Flickers of Fortune: favorite posts’ Category

If I’d only known then …

It occurred to me today, while listening to a woman describe to us how she sold her first novel to HarperCollins, that much of what writers crave to know is “what do you know now, that you wish you’d known then.” We give this advice, and we ask it of others, almost endlessly…

I can’t go back in time, any more than I can see the future, no matter how often I write about characters who can. Would I have written better books if I’d only known then what I know now? Of course I would. Hell, I’d have lived a whole better life with that kind of knowledge.

Read more at If I’d only known then …

Ah, the stock market …

Or, this positive exuberance could be no more than the enthusiasm of a classroom full of misbehaved children who have just figured out that their substitute teacher is an idiot. Oh boy. Are we going to have fun today.

Or maybe it’s a combination of all three. What do you think?

Read more at Ah, the stock market …

When the future becomes the past

To the right is one of the many iterations of the d4 cover that was not used. This one featured a wave inspired by the excerpt below, but although the wave lasted in my memory, the cover didn’t make the final cut.

It was the most likely and the least messy alternative. As she realized that, it became a near certainty, and then the wave of time washed over the moment and the soon-to-happen became the now and it then it became the past.

I like the lightening bolts and clouds, but the eye in the sky was a bit much. Jen at Mother Spider and I struggled with this cover almost as much as we did with the cover for z2.

Read more at When the future becomes the past.

A better word than loyalty?

There is the runner in a race who pauses to help another up. There are the first responders charging into a burning building and the social worker who stays after hours to see that a few more will get what they need. There are the soldiers who serve, and the elderly who look out for the others in a retirement facility. There is anyone who stops their own pursuit of happiness long enough to tend to the greater good.

I’m not talking about compassion or empathy. Those are important and wonderful, but they are a one-on-one phenomena. I’m trying to describe a sense of duty or honor that transcends a single interaction or one other person.  At various times I’ve called it concern, responsibility, duty, honor and loyalty. I know that it involves ministering to, caring for, serving and protecting all who need it. It’s about doing what needs to be done.

I realize that what I’m trying to describe is not a fun concept, but it is one that matters. We all know in our hearts that there is a time to do what’s right for everyone, not just you.

Read more at A better word than loyalty?

(For more thoughts on words we need, see A better word than peace?, A better word than joy?, A better word than hope? and A better word than courage?)

When in doubt ….

On Sept. 26, 1983, Soviet computers reported the launch of five Minuteman missiles, according to the New York Times. There were only minutes to counterattack before they would strike Soviet cities. The man who was in charge that day was skeptical, partly because the attack seemed too small. So he alerted his superiors to a false alarm. He later recalled it as a 50-50 decision.

He had made the right choice.  It would be discovered that a Soviet satellite had misinterpreted the sun’s reflection off clouds.

Read more about September 26 at When in doubt ….

Come on humans, we can do this!

It might have to do with my life long addiction to science fiction. I’m scared of nuclear annihilation and being replaced by cockroaches. Or by human-eating alien plants. Have you ever seen “Little Shop of Horrors?” If you’re prone to paranoia about what is going to replace you, I do not recommend it.

Me, I’m afraid of having the human race replaced by antibiotic-resistant bacteria. And have you seen the latest “Planet of the Apes” movie? No matter how bad the script is, you can still worry about being replaced by sentient animals. Then of course, there are always zombies and vampires, and don’t even get me started on artificial intelligence. Am I only one in the world who took the Terminator movies seriously? Or Ex Machina?

Read more at Replacing me with …

(Read more about my trip to Kenya at Smiling my way across Kenya, Still a Sunrise?Like Eating Crab and  Happy Peace Day, Chinese Person in Tent Number 59)

Believe in Tomorrow

Politically, it is my observation that the GOP tends more towards short term thinking, and the current administration takes this even further. Jobs today. Money today. Battles won today. And these are not bad things.

I, and those with whom I share my politics, tend to look more towards tomorrow. Funding quality education for all yields a happy and capable workforce. Universal health care yields a healthier one. Peace negotiations and developing understanding yield a region that stays at peace, ideally at least. I’m more willing to sacrifice now for a better tomorrow, in my own life and in the choices I would make for society. It is one of my core values.

We need both sorts of thinking to survive and thrive.

Read more at Believe in Tomorrow.

(For more Wonder Woman inspired thoughts, see Top Requirement for a Superhero, Believe, It’s About What You Believe, and I believe in appreciating those who protect us. All of them.)

And that’s the way it was, June 18, 1972

I spent the summer of 1972 checking groceries, making out with my high school boyfriend, and trying my first marijuana. At the time, I needed both the money and the worldly experience because come September, I was off to study journalism in the big city of Chicago.

Image result for 1972Even though I was going to be too young to vote, I also spent that summer following politics. I’d met Nixon the previous year and felt a visceral dislike for him. I’d become increasingly opposed to the Vietnam war. I was a geeky high school debater with a lot of opinions, and less of them favored the GOP each day. Oh, and I loved spy novels.

So on June 18, when I heard about a break-in at the Democratic National Headquarters, of course I was intrigued. Over the next two years I would become enthralled by the enfolding story.

Read more at And that’s the way it was, June 18, 1972.

(For more segments about June days from long ago, see That’s the Way It Was June 10, 1947, June 15, 1984, June 28, 1888, and June 30, 1940.)

As Far Away Places Edge Closer

Is a shrinking world a good thing? We now feel the pain of distant events in new ways. The sorrow they cause is difficult, the increased desire to help is laudable. I was searching for a video of a song to convey that feeling, to stand in contrast to the various videos of “Far Away Places” that I posted on my other blogs.

I found this instead and realized that it was perfect. Maybe that’s because it’s about the way the world could be. Or maybe, it’s about the way it really is and we just tend to forget.

Read the full post at As Far Away Places Edge Closer  and for more thoughts on Far Away Places see Those Far Away Places Could Be Next Door, Leaving a Light Footprint in a Far Away Place, Caring About Far Away Places and The Courage to Embrace Those Far Away Places.

Cease worrying when you can, and write about what you know.

What I am is a worrier, among other things, and I know in my heart that it is tied to my story-telling abilities. If you want a mind that makes up exciting scenarios from everyday events, well then, you get a mind that sees exploding cars, intricate scams and paranoid plots around every corner.

Read more at Cease worrying when you can and write about what you know.

(Images shown are from the various victory images used at the World of Solitaire# website. They add an extra bit of fun to the game.)

(For a companion piece to this post, see Worry about those you love and write about what you know.)

Did we just witness the dawn of …. ?

I suspect that you and I have have lived through times that changed the world in large ways, but it takes years to see the effects, especially in an age with cable news shouting about the significance of everything every minute of every day. But someone like my character Ariel would know right away, finding herself overcome with dizziness as the probabilities shifted heavily one way or another.

Read the entire post at Did we just witness the dawn of America’s four party system?

Solitaire and Nuclear War

10371641_sI’m thinking about how wars start and how peace is made, how markets crash or don’t, how criminal activity succeeds or is uncovered, and how alliances are forged or broken. How many if-that-little-thing-hadn’t-happened components are there to any major world event? I’m thinking there are a lot of them, most of which we never know.

Read more at Solitaire and Nuclear War.

Should I hope for calm or cheer on the storm?

crystal-ballI wrote a book about prescience, the ability to see into the future and understand the true likelihood that an event will or won’t occur. Constructing the plot of d4 forced me to spend quite a bit of time considering how such an ability could work.  What’s more, several of my characters were attempting to use their prescient skills to make money in the stock market, so I ended up learning quite a bit more about Mr. Dow Jones and all his friends, too.

Read more at Should I hope for calm or cheer on the storm?

The Magic of the Solstice

sunsetYou probably can tell that I’m fascinated by the seasons, just as I’m fascinated by pretty much everything else about our amazing planet. If you find such things interesting, check out a wonderful site called Time and Date where you can get a wide variety of information about observing the heavens from various places here on earth. I used the website as I wrote d4, researching the movement of the sun in both Greenland and Iceland as it affected my characters and my story.

Read this entire post on my d4 blog at The Magic of the Solstice

That’s Why You Make the Trip

img_3402Cinnamon on oranges and cumin on boiled eggs. The inside of a walled city so confusing that it has spawned an entire cottage industry devoted to directing lost tourists. Surfer towns painted in hippie colors and seaside resorts caught in a 50’s time warp as they offer hospitality to a smattering of elderly Europeans.

None of this is what I expected when I came to Morocco.

This is a blog about predicting the future, and over the past few days I’ve been thinking a lot about the unexpected.

Read the entire post on my d4 blog at That’s Why You Make the Trip.

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Is it over yet?

On October 25 I wrote a post about the upcoming election on my d4 blog. I said

Yes, many of us aren’t going to be completely happy about everything. That doesn’t mean we should not weigh in on the real choices before us. And yes, roughly half of us are going to have to work hard to understand what in the world the other half was thinking. I remain hopeful that everyone, myself included, is capable of making that important effort and moving forward.

stressedLooking back, I know that when I wrote those words I was confident the election was going to turn out differently. It didn’t. Now I’m having to give a lot of thought to what one should accept and what one should fight. Two competing things I’ve read recently stick in my mind.

Not all Trump voters are racist, but they were willing to vote for a racist. Not all Trump voters are sexist, but they were willing to vote for a sexist. ByTamara Draut / BillMoyers.com

and

“Three things in human life are important. The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. And the third is to be kind.” Henry James

Perhaps you, like me, are trying to figure out where these two ideas intersect. If you’d like more food for thought, please check out the my entire Oct. 25 post at Is it over yet?  You’ll also find a link to a fun video of one of my favorite songs ever (“The Dog Days are Over” by Florence and the Machine) and learn a little about how the election stressed out the entire nation (and maybe still is.)

 

And That’s Why They Play the Game

riverWe’ve been on the road nearly two weeks now and in a macro sense the vacation has gone as planned.  You know, we’ve shown up where we were supposed to be, when we were supposed to be there. No glitches. But that’s sort of like the Red Sox showing up to play their games, isn’t it? Yes, being there is essential, but it is the other stuff that makes it interesting.

Read the entire on my d4 blog at And That’s Why They Play the Game.

Bulletproof

Why so much love for this song? It’s always hard to say why you like something. I’m a “words” person when it comes to music, and the lyrics are just so clever. You’ve met this guy. You know this lady. You’ve seen the dynamics. But it’s more than that. The very concept of being bulletproof appeals to something deep within. It doesn’t just mean being immune to his manipulations. It also means not being afraid of icy ski slopes or catty store clerks or traveling alone. The lyrics speak to me about being stronger; for the next presentation at work, for the next nasty book review, for the next thing that strikes fear into me whatever it is.

Read the entire post on my d4 blog at Bulletproof.

Of baseball, tennis and predatory lending

umpireHe got me thinking. There are two ways to approach any competition. One is to take every advantage that you can. Soccer players writhing in imagined pain hoping to inflict a foul on the other team are an extreme example of this. In this world, the savvy player tries to play everyone, and get away with everything possible. The only goal is to win.

The other approach is cooperative only in the sense that one of the goals is to get the calls right. Players believe that points should be scored and games won with good rules that are fairly applied.

What do you think happens most often in a close competition between a team or person taking the first approach and one taking the second? Yes, you’re right. I believe we call it “nice guys finish last.”

Read the entire post on my d4 blog at Of baseball, tennis and predatory lending.”

Words we need

You’ve no27-Courage-22ticed a lot of things we don’t have a word for. And, if you play word games like I do, you’ve also noticed a lot of reasonable letter combinations that don’t make a word. I mean, I get that wiqxm isn’t going to be in the dictionary. But what about lete? or dife? These would make excellent words. Why isn’t anyone working to pair these two needs together?

Well, it turns out that there are people who are.

Read the entire post on my d4 blog at Words we need.

“The Big Short”: a review and a look at modern investing

BS3In 2007 I took over managing all the money my husband and I had saved over our lifetime, even though I knew nothing about investing. Most of the money was in a 401K plan with my employer. I got laid off, was damned sure I didn’t want to keep that company’s stock, and so I had to do something else with it. We’d already had bad experiences with professionals too busy to answer the questions of folks with our meager level of savings, and twice we’d been directed into investments clearly not in our own best interest.  There wasn’t going to be a third time. Not when everything we had was on the table.

So I spent the rest of 2007 figuring out how to buy stocks myself and, hopefully, how do it well. The jargon was overwhelming and the websites intimidating and the calls from other people who wanted to handle my money for me were relentless. I think it was the tenacity of those who wanted to get their hands on my savings that pushed me to persevere.  I mean, if they were all that eager to do this, it couldn’t be that good for me, right? Then, well…..

I guess you all heard about what happened to the economy in 2008, didn’t you?

Read the rest of the story on my d4 blog at “The Big Short”: a review and a look at modern investing.

The future is coming?

flying carYou find the future in the oddest places. I mean if you are like me and have been reading science fiction for decades, you probably go along feeling like nothing has really changed all that much compared to the future you read about. Yes, yes, our cell phones can do all kinds of cool things but where are the Jetson cars and colonies on the moon and cute talking robots and all those other things that the future was supposed to bring?

And then, blat, along comes a piece of that science fiction that has turned real, and you find out about it in a place you least expected it.

Read the entire post on by blog about the future at Kill free meat: the future is coming?

Coincidence? I think not.

coincidence“I don’t believe in coincidence.” Hard-boiled detectives say it, new age psychics say it, and conspiracy fans whisper it while glancing behind them. My own philosophy tends towards the interconnections of things, so I echo the thought too. No where in my life is the strange interrelationship of information more apparent than when I do research for my books.

Read the entire post on my d4 blog at Coincidence? I think not.

Prepare for the worst?

evolver 1But another voice in my head speaks up, and it is less anxious to please.

“You don’t just worry,” it says. “You prepare. You plan ahead. Those fantasy scenes you love to invent allow you to try on various scenarios and practice problem solving before it is crucial to your survival.”

“You mean I’m not a day dreamer and chronic worrier?”

“You probably are that too,” my monkey mind concedes.

Read about the entire battle on my d4 blog at Prepare for the worst?

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