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Thoughts From the Heart of TWB, Wordrow, and Steemhouse Publishing

I thought about making this post from @thewritersblock account, since it’s relevant to our Fundition updates and might even get more views. But I didn’t, because I’m speaking for myself here, not for @GMuxx or other members of The Writers’ Block. I have so many thoughts about the things happening lately that my head spins.

I come from fairly humble beginnings. I never had a real “leg up” when it came to establishing education or career. I didn’t know the “right” people, and my family was blue collar, Southern American. I wasn’t exposed to culture, never traveled more than one or two states from my home until I was nearly grown. I didn’t read the classics, didn’t take piano. In my world, in those years, graduating from high school and going straight to work meant success just as much as being accepted into an Ivy League school. That’s just how things were.

Despite not being schooled in the background of classical anything, I had a love for the creative arts that time and hardship never destroyed. So when, as an adult, I began writing in earnest and ultimately published novels people seemed to want to read, it was a turning point for me. I did pursue some college education and thrived in that environment. At the same time, I was perfectly at home in ragged jeans and tee-shirts stained with mud and other animal by-products as I worked with horses, and then dogs once my heath declined to a point my poor reflexes made horsemanship unsafe. I never quite figured out which me was the “real” me, until I finally realized both of them are.

Last year I took on co-administration of The Writers’ Block alongside GMuxx, and soon after became CEO of Steemhouse Publishing. Serving in an executive function was never high on my list of priorities at any point in my life until I found myself here on Steem, doing these things. It should not be a surprise to anyone when I say I often feel out of my depth. Quite frequently, I am. But I can’t let that discourage or intimidate me. The vision we have as a team within TWB is far too precious to let die just because I’m afraid to step forward into new territory.

That being said, I’ve always hoped for a team of dreamers with enough real-world skill to come together and make the vision come to life. My determination alone won’t make our triangle of publishing innovation work. Last night, several of our workshop participants left the topic of our discussion and began brainstorming ideas about how to take Wordrow, Steemhouse, and TWB to the next level. Because of my reputation of being heavy-handed on the reins, I’m sure it took some courage for these folks to speak up. It’s courage I appreciate and admire, and courage that I want leading this business venture into the next generation of publishing and literary media.

I don’t want to run this business by myself. I don’t need to micromanage. But as past experience has shown, management teams left untended too long seem to get ideas of their own about undermining the leadership. It’s a balance, one GMuxx and I have yet to find. However, the brilliant minds coming onto our radar at TWB are just as precious as the vision I mentioned earlier. They are the future of this project, and I want to see what they make of it.

“Re-branding.” “Long-term viability.” “First-mover advantage.” “Coherent editorial line.” These are terms finding their way into my conversations lately, spoken by people who clearly “get” the vision GMuxx and I have fought so hard to keep alive. These are individuals we want on TWB team. What can we offer? What does any startup offer? Stake in final product. We don’t want employees. We want partners. We want people willing to invest time and talent with the end goal of real financial security for everyone involved.

I won’t mention names in this post, but last night’s impromptu meeting was exactly what I needed to remind me why we’re doing all of this even when Steem is below forty cents. That doesn’t matter. Not to our long-term plans. But it also underscored the fact that we’ll never succeed without the input of these brilliant minds, not that I would even want to take this journey without them.

To sum up the whole point of this post, let me just say to all the folks who are considering taking a role in this game-changing initiative—please know your input is infinitely valuable and deeply appreciated. The future is ours. We just have reach high enough to grab it.

 

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So That’s What a Passport Smells Like

Today, for the first time in my life, I purchased airline tickets. I took a helicopter tour in Gatlinburg once, but I’ve never flown in a plane. And wouldn’t you know it? My first trip on the wing will be international. In September, I’m flying to Toronto for the Steem Creators Conference and SMT Summit. This requires a passport. So also for the first time in my life, I applied for one.

I received it just over a week after I applied. This surprised me. Yes, I’d expedited it, but still. That was fast. My photo is horrific. But I can be identified by it, so I guess it serves its purpose.

I’m a little embarrassed to admit how much time I spent sniffing this passport of mine. It smells like ink and new plastic, with a bit of paper essence thrown in for good measure.I like the stiffness of the pages and texture of the ID portion. Most of all, I like how important it feels. I have a passport! More to the point, I have a need for a passport. I never in my wildest dreams thought I’d be traveling out of the country. Steem has impacted my life in some very unexpected ways. 

These trips I’m planning–to Toronto and then to Krakow, Poland for Steemfest–will be fun, but they’re not for pleasure. These are no vacations. This is business. As part of Steem witness team @noblewitness, much of the networking and public relations falls on the shoulders of @GMuxx and me. Not that other team members aren’t capable, but their wheelhouse is tech. I’m honored and humbled to be able to speak for us in Canada and Poland.

I’m also co-admin of a large and active writing group on Discord. We’ve seen a great need for a front-end interface to the blockchain that showcases the very best talent in the Steemiverse. This, combined with our plans to launch the first crypto-backed publishing house in the mainstream industry, drew the attention of a skilled and innovative developer who will help us achieve these goals.

As visible as these projects are, it would be ill-advised to shirk the responsibility of sharing our ideas with investors and potential users of our site. So I’m going. Though part of me feels unprepared to stand before hundreds of people and explain how we’re doing our part to revolutionize the Web, I appreciate the fact that at this moment, our team is the sole proprietor of a startup that could change small press forever. I’m committed enough to overcome my fear of flying, board a jet, and travel to places I swore I’d never go. Purchasing those airline tickets was a rite of passage for me. Receiving the passport marked the end of an era and the beginning of a journey I never thought I’d take. A year from now, I hope I can look back on this pivotal moment in time and remember how my ragged passport smelled when it was new. I may never see this kind of opportunity again. 


 

Last Day in Gatlinburg

I lost a whole day in Gatlinburg to lupus. It started catching up with me Saturday evening, and by Sunday, I was wiped out. I slept almost twenty-four hours as my body fought a fresh bout of inflammation, able to stay upright only briefly before getting dizzy and developing an erratic heartbeat. @Jayna flew home that morning and nearly everyone else left as well. @SirCork, @GMuxx, @Catherine813, and my husband @sk43 weren’t about to let one minute go to waste, though. They took off touring the town, played with the sharks at Ripley’s Aquarium, and ended up shutting down the Hard Rock Cafe that night. You can read more about their adventures HERE, in this post by GMuxx.

We started Monday morning off right with a hearty breakfast at IHOP in Pigeon Forge, the one at the south end of the strip near Dollywood Lane. I just can’t say enough good things about the service we received there. We were traveling with dogs, mine and SirCork’s, and the heat was unbearable. We left both cars running with the AC on full blast, but needed a seat near a window facing the side lot where we’d parked. Hostess Kelley was a credit to her profession and the entire IHOP chain that morning in making sure we found the best booth. IHOP execs, if you stumble across this blog, I hope you’ll take the time to contact management at that store and tell them how much we appreciated Kelley’s friendly smile and helpful attitude.
From there, our dwindling crew split up again. SirCork faced a very long drive back to Richmond, VA, so he left from IHOP headed home. Muxxy’s flight wasn’t until later that afternoon, so we took the long way to Knoxville by way of the Roaring Fork Motor Trail. By now it had started to rain, so we weren’t sure how many features on that scenic loop we’d get to see. As luck would have it, we were able to stop at a few of the old home sites and do a little exploring.

This wasn’t my first trip around that scenic loop. My favorite homeplace by far is the Bales cabin that sits near a particularly breathtaking stretch of the Roaring Fork River. The cabin was occupied by Ephraim and Minerva Bales as recently as 1930. The home, barn, corn crib, and hog shed still stand, as well as the rock wall that faces the original roadway between the house and the river.

I would live there today if I could. I love everything about that piece of land. The river, though–my goodness. It is the perfect place to play, bathe, wash clothes, and imagine fiercely romantic historical fiction that I may very well write some day. I would love to know what became of that family. Growing up there had to be every child’s dream.

Above is the image and text from a marker mounted near the Bales cabin parking area. Below is a photo of Ephraim Bales standing in the doorway of this cabin, and below that, a photo of GMuxx standing in the very same doorway. These people must have been tiny. Yes, GMuxx is tall, but the difference is striking. It really makes you think about human evolution, and the role healthcare, diet, and possibly hormones in our food actually plays in our development.

Here is a photo of the original roadway that ran between the house and the barn, which you can see through the leaves at the center right of the photo. The cabin is situated out of frame directly left, several yards from the rock wall. The Motor Trail and parking area is in what once was the Bales family back yard.

Here’s a better view of the rock wall.

And a look further down the original roadway running parallel to the river.

The old hog shed, still sturdy and solid enough to house one of those hardheaded beasts. (Yes, I’ve owned a pig. I know of which I speak.)

Below, you can see what it looks like to lose one of your BFFs to your husband. LOL

When all was said and done, this was one of the most enjoyable and certainly the most productive trip I’ve ever taken. These folks made great company and I would have happily spent another week or five with them if I could have. Sadly,. though, time for Muxxy’s departure drew nigh. We got him to the airport in time to sort a minor kerfluffle with his ticket, and then he was off, past the sign at the Knoxville airport that read “ticketed passengers only.”

I did develop a sudden case of “allergies” and get all weepy-eyed. Yes I did. No point telling a fib about that. Muxxy has been my friend and Writers Block co-conspirator for a year now. He’s just as awesome in person as he is online, and the fact that my husband likes him as much as I do only cemented the idea that some families are just meant to be connected. I got to meet Muxxy’s lovely other half Kim by video chat, and I can’t wait to meet her in person.

Presently, I got a text from Muxxy that showed his plane at the gate, and then one of the pilot whose hands he’d be in all the way to Dulles. Time passed, and I received a selfie of Muxx sitting in a very cramped-looking passenger section. This made me happy that the flight would be a relatively brief one. Far too soon, cell phones had to be switched off and seatbelts fastened. Catherine813 and I trotted outside to a spot where we could see part of the runway, and waved goodbye as the jet lifted off and disappeared into the blue Tennessee sky.

 




Bear Spotting — The Writers’ Block Goes to Cade’s Cove

What happens when a bunch of folks from The Writers’ Block head to the Smoky Mountains in tourist mode? Keep reading. I’ll tell you. 

I’m late making this post, since everyone else who went to Cade’s Cove with us that day has already shared their stories and photographs. In my own defense, we came back inundated with work trying to catch everyone up on how the meeting with @instructor2121 had gone, and where @thewritersblock is headed next. Below, you see @sk43 animatedly discussing something technical with instructor2121, who looks on from the far end of the sofa. Conversations haven’t slowed down much since. It has been a really busy week.

But here I am now, typing away. Looking at all these photos and video clips, I’m transported right back to Gatlinburg, where so many good things started. Saturday morning, June 23rd, we were already amped after our meeting with @instructor2121. Then lo and behold–a wild Enginewitty appeared.

He’d brought his good friend Abi along, and they decided to hang out with us after the meeting. A “light” lunch at Golden Corral turned into further shop talk about @sircork’s “Triangle,” not to mention the fact it was @GMuxx’s first American buffet experience–a study in caloric excess.

We also got to witness Muxxy’s first brush with American subculture as a group of oddly-dressed ___________ walked into the restaurant. Feel free to fill in the blank – I’m not going to because I don’t want to offend, and this surely would. Regardless of complete political incorrectness, I managed to catch his reaction on video and it is priceless. You just can’t help yourself around Muxxy–you’re gonna laugh. Guaranteed.

We headed out to Cade’s Cove, about an hour’s drive from Gatlinburg. Cade’s Cove is a National Park that preserves not only the natural beauty of the land, but the animals and the historical sites located on those acres. It’s an eleven-mile one-way loop, and we took two cars. Sircork and Gmuxx rode together, while sk43 chauffeured the rest of us, who were @jayna, @enginewitty, @abigale, @catherine813, and me. 

In the photo below, you see several TWB guys standing around looking important. Left to right: GMuxx, Sk43, Sircork, and Enginewitty.  Notice the camera in Sk43’s hand You’ll see in a minute why he was reeeeally glad he had that with him.We hadn’t made it halfway around the loop when we started seeing some interesting wildlife on the move. Storm clouds on the horizon probably had something to do with that; wild turkey and deer were looking for a place to bed down from the rain. At one point, GMuxx saw his first wild American bear, which prompted us to all stop and pile out of our cars like the tourists we actually were. GMuxx got a nice long shot of the bear, which appeared to be a juvenile frolicking in a patch of blackberry bramble. Completely without his permission, I’ve shared Muxxy’s photo that he took of this little bear as we watched from afar. He might allow me to leave the photo in place here, though, since if you click it, it will take you to the post he made about the Cade’s Cove trip.

Muxxy’s Bear

Here we all are looking at the little bear as he played. Left to right: Catherine813, GMuxx, Abi (with binoculars,) Enginewitty (on the car,) me, and Sk43. 

Bear Spotting

The picture above is Enginewitty and Sircork watching the Bear. Click the photo to read Enginewitty’s post about this day. He has a cool meme contest going that features one of the photos you’ll see below.

From there, we closed in on the halfway point of the loop, and to our delight a magnificent coyote darted from the cover of tall grass carrying a meal in its mouth – either a small rabbit or a bird. There was no time to ready a camera. But the split-second pose the coyote struck just before bolting between cars to vanish in the tall brush across the road would have been the photo of a lifetime, had one of us been able to capture it.

Not far from that spot, on a straight stretch of road with overhanging tree branches and a tall embankment on the right, I saw movement. Something black. Something close.

“Bear!” I shouted.

Sk43 (who is my husband, in case you didn’t catch that part) said, “Where?”

I pointed past his nose to the bear, who had made a ninety degree turn and was now walking parallel to our car, on the ridge above us, so close he could have jumped onto the hood without much effort. “Right freaking there!”

Scott (sk43) was halfway out of the car before he remembered he was wearing a seatbelt. He scrambled with the belt, finally remembered to put the car in park, threw his cell phone somewhere down on the road while Enginewitty in the seat behind him was beating the window: “Open the door! Let me out!” (Child locks. What can I say.) Scott freed Enginewitty, and there went everybody pouring out of the vehicle except me. I figured somebody would need to drive us all to the hospital pretty shortly.

Behind us, GMuxx was also leaping from the car as if he didn’t carry a cane. They converged in the road, safely away from the bear, until …

…the bear changed direction again.

Enginewitty, bless his heart, was oblivious. He was checking his phone, looking at the photos he’d already taken of the bear, and Catherine was looking at him, because he’d probably just said something that almost got him slapped, based on her expression. Scott was the only one in that moment who actually realized the park rule about staying so many feet away from wildlife was about to be violated in a spectacular way.

The bear came straight down the embankment and passed directly behind Sircork’s car. There are probably more pictures of that bear floating around on Steemit right now than there are Haejin diagram thingies.

The photo below was taken by Scott just before the bear headed down the embankment. Click to read his post about it.

Scott’s Bear

We had a good time at Cade’s Cove. It was a day I’ll never forget. Great things accomplished, great friendships, great way to spend an afternoon. We were wiped out afterward, though. My little dog Abercrombie took full advantage of Catherine snuggles all the way back to Gatlinburg.

 

It All Started in Gatlinburg

For weeks, Writers’ Block folk have been abuzz about Gatlinburg. Our first “official” meetup and presentation of the new toolkit on our horizon would happen there, and most of us who were planning to go were so excited we couldn’t sleep for days beforehand.

This was an extra-big-deal for @GMuxx, who bought tickets for an international flight to bring him from England to the States on his first trip outside of Europe. Anyone who knows Muxxy and me knows our collaboration has hit the year mark roughly coinciding with our Steemiversaries, and that our meeting face to face would be a tremendous milestone for The Writers’ Block. I’m happy to report that all these months of online chatting have indeed turned into an “IRL” friendship that expanded to include even my husband, @sk43. He’s as charmed by Brave Sir Muxxy as I am and I have to admit, watching them pal around together in Gatlinburg was one of the happier times in my life to date.

We had a tremendous amount of fun. From Wednesday to the following Monday, the very different worlds of more than a dozen Writers Block members all converged at one tiny dot on the map, a cabin in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, that seemed to have been custom made for our meetup. The sense of family was overwhelming. The sense of accomplishment, mindblowing.

Rick Miller, known on Steemit as @instructor2121, is a developer with a two-year history of working with the Steem blockchain. I met him in Nashville at another meetup back in May, and one conversation led to another until we discovered a commonality between the needs of The Writers’ Block and the functions of his new blockchain interface. Turns out, Rick had already built the very tool our Block leaders had decided we need, but could probably never develop. He showed his beta work to @anarcho-andrei and me in Nashville, and this past weekend, showed it to Writers’ Block leadership. The tools Rick can set us up with have the potential to take our community to the next level not only on the blockchain, but with real-world publishing. Expect an announcement post from @thewritersblock soon with more details.

In a nutshell, I can tell you that TWB will be launching our own front end for the blockchain, a site that is inexorably bound to the existing Steem universe but customizable for our specific needs. We’ve discussed solutions for the issue of visibility, hatched ideas about making quality content the first thing readers see when they connect with the blockchain through our site, and have come up with a blueprint that we believe has the potential to change not only the way cryptocurrency is utilized in the mainstream, but the face of independent publishing across the board.

Do we have a mountain of work ahead of us? You bet we do. Are there challenges? Better believe there are. But some of the brightest minds on the Steem blockchain are standing behind our project. We’re going to make this happen, and we’ll be sharing the process with you step by step as this dream comes to life.

As far as the trip itself went, our daily internet habits followed us into the wilderness of Tennessee. Above, left to right, you can see Muxxy, @jayna, and me all Steeming and Discording as usual on our little devices. See how happy we all look? We were in our natural habitat as long as we had technology close at hand.

We were definitely covered in the tech department when it came time for our official meeting with Rick. @jonknight did us proud with his ability to understand our next step, and it was nice seeing him in action when it came to discussing the nuts and bolts that will make our new front end work.

@sircork had his eye on potential problems we might have with the new front end. He also had his eye on this Orange County Choppers bike at the Hard Rock Cafe in Pigeon Forge. Nice one, that bike. Think we’ll ever see a day when OCC builds a custom bike for Steemhouse Publishing? Does OCC even still build bikes?

Jayna cooked wonderful meals for us. She kept us flush with eats and drinks and I desperately miss her morning scrambles. I felt guilty over how much time she spent in the kitchen compared to how much time I didn’t spend in the kitchen. She and I got to talk, though, at length, about the issues TWB is facing with the feedback queues, and how it’s affecting the editors. Her ideas for solutions very closely mirror some of the ideas we’ve bounced around in leadership meetings lately. Things have to change. And change they will. We’ve established a seven-day holding pattern for the status quo, which will give us time to sort the information that Rick needs. After that, TWB will start moving toward a new focus that utilizes the Writers Workout and Chicago-Style Workshops more heavily than peer to peer review.


@anarcho-andrei ran the stream that we hoped would give all Block members a chance to participate in the meeting Saturday morning. Sound quality was awful, though it was no fault of Andrei’s. We did the best we could. Huge thanks to Andrei for his work with the equipment. Also, he was kind enough to bring @ladymaharet with him. Just as Muxxy flew in from England and Jayna flew down from Minnesota, Chelsea (ladymaharet) flew from Canada to meet Andrei at the Atlanta airport. She is also a member of the Block and has art skills we hope to employ in the realm of book cover design. Her talent is extraordinary.

@enginewitty, pictured above with Abercrombie, is a member of the Block, a Steem witness, and founder of The Alliance. This was the second time I enjoyed a meetup with Witty and I happen to think he’s just awesome. He certainly brings a spark! He also brought Abi, a close family friend who spend some quality time with Corky’s dogs. Abi fit right in to our little group and if she isn’t careful, we’ll assimilate her right into The Writers’ Block. You’re welcome to join us any time, Abi!

Now, let me tell you about the photo of Muxxy that you see below. There he sits in the car we rented, with my dog Paige on his lap asleep. You have to know Paige to fully appreciate this, but she never sits on anyone’s lap the first day she meets them. In fact, she will barely sit on @catherine813 ‘s lap, and Catherine sees her almost every day. Yet Paige took right to Muxxy, not only sitting on his lap, but sleeping on his lap. I suspect she may have recognized his voice from hearing it broadcast all over the house when we’re on chat or he’s in a radio show. Whatever the case, this is my favorite photo of Muxxy from the entire trip. This picture says it all.


At the end of the day, this meetup was a fantastic experience.I have much more to post in the days to come, with plenty of pictures and video to