In Retrospect

I have done a bit of soul searching. In retrospect, a lot has happened in the past 7 years, including my decision to publish independently. Time goes by quickly. There are so many things I’ve learned that to sum it all in one post is not easy, but what I can do is write about a few things I learned in the process, and how important these became in my decision to continue on this path.

I have narrowed it to four points that represent the most challenging elements during that time.

Timing – I had to learn to recognize my own timing and honor it. This was not easy for me. As a person who likes clarity, does not tolerate drama too well, and likes things straight and to the point, I have to say that timing translated into being patient with myself, allowing the time I needed to learn much of the craft and some of the technology attached to it, as well as weed out information while learning to recognize the pertinent information and disregard the rest. Impatience and rush/speed did not have a place in this process, as it was one of discovery and education. The bulk of it happened in the first two years, and it was frustrating at times. I needed to know many things about the writing process but also discover what was right for me, my working style, my pace, my ethics, and what I wanted from it all. And as we all know, the learning process never ends, but I could figure out where I was headed as far as publishing venues and method. Independent publishing was the right venue for me, as far as fitting my personality, work ethic, and writing goals. For me, timing was one of the most important elements during this process.

Commitment – Once I had an idea of the process, had gone through much of the raw learning steps, and mentally dealt with the immensity of the amoutnt of information that was being put out there by other indie writers (which was all over the place and in a broad spectrum), I was able to make a commitment to myself with some clarity as far as what I wanted. During this time I found it very challenging to not fall prey of the publishing frenzy that everyone seemed to have at one point – to publish volume at a fast pace, inundating Amazon and other venues with electronic books. I had to shake off the feelings of “being behind” and replace them with my own sense of what felt right for me, and at what pace. Once I understood what I wanted out of it, and made a long term commitment that had no monetary value attached to it, it became easier to deal with those feelings of “being behind.” The commitment did not come right away but as a result of going through the timing and education process.

The Others – Not minding the Others. The Others refers to what other people thought about my decision to write and publish independently. From views that were as narrow as the eye of a needle to more aceptable views and opinions, many times not solicited, I had to learn that all of it was inconsequential for me. Questionable motives, hurtful comments, and very ortodox views about the craft, had to mean absolutely nothing to me as far as entertaining them in my mind. The Others had no say as far as I was concerned. Learning to deal with the negative during this process determined the next element – Trust.

Trust – Trust is an ongoing issue when it comes to my writing. Not only do I have to trust my internal process and the pen, but also, the inner me has to let the writer out. If you tend to be demanding of yourself, and a bit hard on yourself as well, like I am many times, then trust doesn’t come easy. If by nature you are a trusting person, I think it will flow a bit easier, but if you are not, trusting may present a challenge when it comes to writing, as well as any other endeavor. Trusting the process, trusting yourself, and trusting God, comes all wrapped in a package that you unwrap many times, over and over. I view trust as the most challenging element on this journey, mostly because it determined if I was to take the plunge or not. Trust also refers to keep the commitment when results do not match expectation, and goes hand in hand with faith. Faith is defined as confident belief, trust, conviction, loyalty, allegiance, and also, as the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1).

Trust is an ongoing element. In retrospect, in the past years these elements have been present in my life and most influential as far as my writing journey. As far as summing it all up to this point, I identify those elements as the most important ones in my experience so far. I hope that if you are starting on your journey as a writer, this post offers a bit of help or at least some clarity. Of course, each journey is unique.

Country Blues

If you watch the news, you are probably aware of the turmoil in this country. Sometimes, I feel as if the core of its foundation is trembling. I have to admit that the state of its affairs has overwhelmed me and even influence my mood and disposition. I don’t know if it is my perception but seems to me as if everything we have believed in, honored, and even taken from granted in this country is being tested in many levels.

I understand that for change to happen there has to be turmoil first; what is hidden must come to light and be known in order to facilitate change and growth. There can’t be a future without a past, and the only pathway to it is the present. With a heavy heart and love for country these words I wrote.

Country Blues

Red, white and blue

stripes, colors, liberty and woes.

Inside my heart the colors run

Red, white and blue, a patriot’s blood.

Feeling the blues

the eagle soars

deep within me

its wings so broad.

With every flap I feel its pain

looking for justice, hope, not disdain.

A nation ready to overcome

A people ready, in God we trust.

Red, white, and blue

the eagle soars anew.

Faith, liberty, justice, for one and all.

A people ready to honor God.

Photo by Maria Diaz

Crossroads

Happy New Year to all!

As a new year starts, many times, we feel a sense of renewal, a chance to do over or start fresh. Sometimes, it feels as if we can erase the past year and welcome a brand new life. It is the start of new goals, the opportunity to encourage new ventures and new dreams. The first few weeks of the new year we either follow our plans/goals or we settle back into our old routine. However, a new year is still a new year, and comes full of opportunities, and that is great in itself.

I have to admit that this is the first year that I can recall feeling a bit disconnected and at a crossroads. My old self would have had pages of goals and projects waiting to be implemented. The woman writing this post has not written one goal down for this year. It is puzzling to me because I have always been an organized planner/doer. Starting a new year goal-uninspired as if staring at a blank slate is a bit alien to me. Soul searching has not rendered anything new worth implementing this year. Other than reassessing my endeavors and publishing the novel I have been working on for quite a while, I got nothing. Although this is unsettling and a bit of a nuisance, I have to admit that the novelty is sparking my curiosity and I truly long to know where all this is headed. This mystery translates into the feeling of being in front of an imaginary line, and not knowing how to step over it or cross it. For me, this is unusual. It brings on a bit of expectancy and confusion as well, and curiosity. One thing presents true in my mind, and that is my writing – the only sure thing right now.

In the real world I have tons of work to do – home projects, chores, and other duties. Long term goals are “fuzzy” right now, well, more like invisible. In other words, the pond is well stocked but the fisherman is taking a nap. The well is full but the pump is malfunctioning. The inkwell is not dry but the pen is missing.

May this year bring you joys as well as mystery, and if uncertainty shows up, may you embrace it as a path towards renewal. To be continued…

Inkspeare

Photo by Maria Diaz

A Holiday Wish

Many times, we take things for granted; I mean, the little blessings in life. Things such as the first snow, the first bud we see at the start of spring, the first colorful leaf one sees on the floor, the sounds of nature … so many beautiful things. We also live on a planet full of people, full of souls with dreams, full of good people and not-so-good people. However, we are all on this beautiful planet. The other day, I was reflecting about the evil in this world, and how a human being can personify it. Then I got thinking, what could possibly happen to a person to become that way – a living personification of evil. I thought, at least once during a lifetime that person must have had one dream, one dream of goodness. What happened? Immediately, a thought came to mind. When we stop counting blessings, even the tiniest ones, our heart becomes heavy. Our eyes are placed away from the blessings each day brings, and wander looking for what is missing. We go from a state of gratitude and plenty to one of ungratefulness, frustration, and misery. The soul starts lacking, and the pathway becomes dark. This thought did not give me an explanation of why people turn to evil deeds, but it gave me an understanding of how easily one can go from a state of joy and plenty to one of misery and lack.

It is December, a season to celebrate joy, a season of giving, and one of receiving as well. One to wish Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas, one to dream about the new year, and wish others a happy and healthy one. A season to look back and reflect about trials and blessings, and one to give thanks as well. I truly want to wish you all a beautiful and meaningful season, and a new year full of blessings, but mostly, I want to thank each one of you for being part of my world, for every comment, like, and read, because I don’t want to take those for granted – they are part of my blessings.

To you all Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. Thank you. To all, my love.

Shining Stars

It was the night before Christmas 

and I stepped outside to see

a sky showing all its glory

a firmament all lit.

*

A silence as no other

whispered its peace to me

The blessings of the season

filling the air I breathe.

*

As I looked to the heavens

a star shone bright above

the love of Jesus my savior, I thought

filling my heart with his love.

*

Then one by one the stars shone bright

each one with a special light.

A voice I heard inside my heart

A whisper of love so bright.

*

These are the souls of mankind 

born pure, of evil none

like stars shining above

to each, a special light bestowed.

*

It was the night before Christmas

I stepped outside to see.

I saw the love of God

for every human being.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When Reality Does Not Match Idyllic Expectations

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Crow on a foggy morning Photo by M.A.D.

The shiny crow

One nature’s note

The lovely sound

Of Autumn’s song.

 

We start to dream when we are children. We imagine fantastic worlds, magical places, dream  of toys, and in general, anything seems possible and attainable. As we grow up, we learn that things are not always as we imagined or hoped. We learn disappointment when we don’t get the toy we expected, or pain and sadness when a beloved pet dies. Other children learn these lessons on a more somber note, the death of a parent or friend, hunger, or abuse. Every person experiences life in a different way at a different level. However, we manage to keep on dreaming throughout adulthood, and many, up to the time of death.

We have idyllic expectations in life, and many times we are lucky enough to live many of those dreams. Sometimes what we have imagined, what we have carefully crafted in our minds, does not match the accomplished/realized dream. It is a total let down, another disappointment in life, and almost as if we never learned those childhood lessons. It is the theme of many stories. Writers experience disappointment when books do not sell as well as expected or hoped. In anything in life there are ups and downs, and those are necessary for growth, to take us to the next level through a natural flow. It is called living.

When I moved from New Jersey to Virginia (USA), I moved from the city to the country. I had idyllic expectations of what country living would be like, romanticized ideas as well – green pastures, grazing cows, rolling hills, fresh air, cozy winters … I can go on and on. Little did I know that the first year I would encounter a cloud of migrating lady bugs look-alike japanese beetles in our area, landing everywhere and looking for shelter before winter. These would arrive in waves throughout the day for weeks. At the same time, a large amount of alien bugs (alien to me that is) known as stink bugs was trying to do the same, look for shelter before winter. Autumn, my favorite time of the year had turned into a nightmare. I was not used to these insects nor was I used to these clouds in number, or any other type, as I had lived pretty much insect free for most of my life, being bugged by an ocassional spider or a lonely wasp. Mosquitoes were my only nuisance as I lived near the water. I was afraid to go outside during the “arrivals” and soon I learned to time their peak hours. Luckily their presence lasted less than a month, that is, until next season. Winter became my favorite time of the year. Cold weather meant no bugs. Spring became a bug fest as well, and for the first time I realized that there were so many, oh so many, insects I had never seen. Never did I experience so many types of wasps flying at once. Soon my closest neighbors became used to my screaming fits, and the occasional sight of a mad woman running through the field being followed by a giant wasp.

The idyllic expectations about country living gave way to reality. I told my friend that living in the country seemed to be more work than living in the city. Awareness became important as well. The other day I was heading out the back door to pick up my mail, and as I stepped down only two steps, a leaping deer crossed in front of me followed by another one, a very close call. Farm dogs were running after them, and being terrified, they were flying for their lives. I was so lucky; one more step and there would have been an unfortunate encounter with nature. I have seen the damage deer can cause to cars. On another occasion what I thought was a piece of black rubber left behind was a black snake.

The point to all this rambling is that at one point, when reality does not match idyllic expectations, we get to decide how we are going to set our focus, and that will determine the degree of “happiness or disappointment” as well as our next step in life. Do we focus on the less  than perfect image or do we start seeing the rest of the picture? So many other beautiful and interesting things can be found in it. I am starting to enjoy Autumn once more. Every day I see something different, from colorful and weird mushrooms to even four-leaf clovers. I have found four so far.

I always try to relate every blog post to the topic of writing. Maybe books are not selling as expected, and you are thinking about quitting writing, even when you love it so much. You are a story-teller and writing is like the air you breathe. Maybe you can adjust your focus away from profitability or recognition, and see the beauty in finding words to tell a story that has been sleeping in your imagination. The story that will be shared with the world, whether it makes you money or not. After all, if you love telling stories so much, and these stories have become alive inside the pages of a book, it only takes one reader to make them real. The purpose has been met. When reality does not match idyllic expectations move your eyes away and place them back on another spot.

 

Let’s Talk About Love

If I was to answer the question – What is the meaning of life? – I would answer it with one word, Love. Love is a main theme in my novels. I truly think that we are here to practice love, experience love, see love, give love, and eventually, become Love; all to be closer to our Creator. When I think about this, each one of us is a Love story in this universe. I think that animals and all nature exist as a portal to Love, so we don’t feel so removed from it. To truly love is not easy, but it is our deepest nature. Although some people might describe me as a loving person, in general, I think love doesn’t come easy to me. I’m a bit reserved and I don’t trust easily. I sincerely admire people who do, and seem to be heartily open to anyone. Some people seem to love so easily. I have to admit that through the years, after experiencing life – backstabbing, lies, people trying to use me, and seeing how humans turn against each other for the most frivolous and materialistic reasons, my trust diminished and my love is cautious.

One easy way to fall out of love a bit at a time is to watch the news everyday. It truly discourages any hope and faith we might have left, as far as the human race. Sometimes, it feels as if “the bad guys are winning,” to put it in simple words. Sometimes, love feels far away; other times, I wake up feeling as if the whole world hurts inside me. On other days, I wake up feeling the deepest love towards this planet and the people in it. It is puzzling to me. However I might feel in a particular day, one thing is very clear to me, and that is that Love is all there is, the universal truth, language, and reason. That, in itself, is reason enough to understand a bit of my existence. Love might or might not come easy to me or you, but we know that it is the purest expression, and something to cherish as  well as to give away. If I could only say one prayer to my Creator it would be – Let me be love.

My next novel, which title I have not decide on yet, deals exclusively with the theme of love. I leave you with a few lines of poetry I wrote after thinking about this.

Where is the Love?

 

North, South, East, West

In search of love,

the Earth I swept.

*

Nothing I found, empty my quest

buried my heart,

deep in my chest.

*

To God I asked, feeling unrest

How can I love,

when there’s none left?

*

His voice I heard, Love in itself.

You did not see,

you only searched.

*

Didn’t you see Love everywhere?

Amongst the thorns, a flower bloomed

Asleep the seed under the moon?

*

For you, a bird sang,

the night gently cried,

diamonds for you, the morning dew.

*

The sun, the moon

the sea, the stars, 

and the beat of your heart.

*

The song of creation, man, woman, and child

The seed deeply grows,

in everyone’s heart.

*

The newly born

A mother’s smile,

The hungry eating from another’s hand.

*

The tired old man on his death-bed sang,

the homecoming song,

ready to depart.

*

A man and his wife rebuilding a life,

A pastor at dawn,

Praying for his flock.

*

Infinite prayers from Earth fly above,

night and day I receive this love.

If you care to see, my child, you will see only Love.

 

When Crows Sing

I love crows. There is something different and genuine about those birds, unpretentious almost. I love their song, a sound that many people dislike, calling it a screech. Some might view crows as pesky, noisy, and not very graceful, in comparison to other birds. I enjoy watching them and it seems that we have many around this area. The area is classified as a bird sanctuary which I didn’t know when I moved here. It is a happy coincidence because the area where I used to live before was also classified as such. I saw many different types of birds which I enjoyed immensely. One of my favorite paintings is Krahe, from a German artist named Rudi Hurzlmeir. It depicts a crow wearing boots and walking through a plowed field. I don’t own a copy of this painting yet but one day  I will order one online because every time I look at a picture of it I smile, and that is a good thing.

A crow’s song also makes me smile. I guess if we look for it we can find beauty everywhere. The adage – Beauty is in the eye of the beholder – says it well. In challenging times, it is very difficult to find beauty, but sometimes, finding one thing that is beautiful amongst all the ugliness that might surround us in trying times is the only way to get through. In dark times, a tiny ray of sunlight filtering in might be the only thing to focus on, the only beautiful thing to get us through. Darkness can only give way to light. When the crow sings, it might offer one beautiful note.

The View From Where I Stand

This morning I was writing at my desk, located on the second floor of the old farmhouse where I live, and I happened to look outside the window; I needed to rest my eyes. I love the view of trees from that standpoint; it feels as if I am inside a tree house. If you are familiar with the layout of the very old farmhouses (over 108 years) the upstairs almost has that barn feeling, the very low ceiling and the continuous bedrooms separated by one entry way. When heading upstairs I immediately land on the first bedroom, no landing or hallway. I love that feature, although impractical. The view from where I stand offers me peace and serenity, and for that I’m grateful.

There was a time when the view wasn’t as serene, and I mean it metaphorically. It was a challenging time, the most challenging so far, and I knew it could break me or make me. The days felt longer than they were, but as with any trying time, the view started changing and things got better and better; it is the nature of the test. Although I might have not liked the view (of the situation) from where I stood, I knew that God had my hand, and it was all temporary. Looking back, I understand many things I did not see before, and I can understand the view at the time as well.

Many times, life puts in front of us a view that is not what we hope for nor what we want at the time, but believe me, there is always a reason. Even when we want to close our eyes, the best thing we can do is keep them wide open and observe the situation/the process. The more we see, the more we confront, the better it is, and the process moves along as it should. It is part of going through the many “views of life.” It is all temporary.

Peanut Butter and Jelly

Who doesn’t like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches? I love them. I have them for lunch many times. Something quick, easy, and filling. Some people like to cut out the bread corners. I cut out the side corners but like the top corner; it is like a door to delight. Sometimes, I eat the end corner; sometimes I do not. Why am I writing about peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and cutting the corners?

Sometimes, people like to cut corners. They like the quick and easy route. I have found that some people would like to cut corners when it comes to writing or publishing a book. They want to cut corners to enjoy the filling right away. I understand the excitement of publishing your first book; it is like nothing else. People who want to cut corners and jump right away are just excited enough. Sometimes, people expect to know in only one conversation everything that it took me years to learn. If I say something along the lines of “educate yourself on as much as you can about the writing process and publishing business,” it might be misinterpreted as an unwillingness to pass on the information. On the contrary, the intention is of meaning well enough to care. It took me years of research and study on my own to learn as much as I could on the topic before attempting to self publish. I had to make sure that I understood the current trends, technology, as well as to what type of publishing suited my personality, work ethic, and style. I only sent out one query, and as soon as I sent it I knew that I didn’t really wanted to pursue traditional publishing. It was then, after learning some more, that I decided to publish my first novel independently.

It is to the aspiring writer best interest to learn much about the craft, to know herself/himself well enough to know how to choose the best writing path. Industry, genre, writing methods, technology, trends, websites, publishing industry methods … all plays a role in the deciding factor. Many times, writing is approached with money signs in mind – “How much money will I make, and how quickly?” Again, cutting corners. No one can guarantee that you will make money writing. Some writers do well soon enough, while others do not do as well or it takes more than 10 years of hard work to see any financial pay off.

The internet opened a new world as far as writing is concerned. It opened the flood gates and brought opportunity to those who were not able to afford the steep price of self publishing back then. It has allowed me to publish my novels, and accomplish my dream of writing. For that I am grateful. However, when I entered into this beautiful and exciting world I did it with knowledge and sure of what my next step would be, as far as publishing my work. People assume that x amount of books published equals money. That is not necessarily true. They might even change tunes (even with you) when they realize that the bulk of the peanut butter and jelly is at the center of the sandwich. Cutting corners might get one quicker to the center but something will be missing – the knowledge to get there, and keep on going.

I treat writing like any other course of study and post education. Whether you do it on your own or by pursuing a degree from college as many others have done, the important factor is that you obtain the knowledge you need to pursue your writing career clearly. Knowledge is to your advantage always. If in it for the long run, the more prepared you are the better.

Whispering Trees

When I moved to the old farmhouse I had already come up with a name for it; I called it Mill Creek Little Trees. The name came to me after thinking of all the little pine trees that grew freely on the property when I first saw it – abandoned, dilapidated, and covered in wild vines and overgrown trees and bushes. In just a few years, and by the time we moved in, they had grown very large and beautiful. I am glad we let them be. Not long ago I was walking outside, and a gentle breeze made its way through the trees. It caught my attention because it seemed as if the trees were whispering, as if nature was having a soft conversation. I felt at peace. It occurred to me that a better name would have been Whispering Pines. I have loved pine trees since I was a child, any type of pine tree. It is synonym of joy, at least for me.

I am convinced that nature’s purpose is to provide peace, joy, solace, and inspiration when humans need it most. It is balance to our lives, and we naturally gravitate to it. Even in the busiest cities, people find a way to commune with nature, whether it is by visiting a park, placing a few potted plants on a window sill, or enjoying the company of a pet. Nature is a stabilizer to our human chaos. It gives us life, literally. We are part of nature but we tend to feel separate from it, as observers. I’ve asked myself if that is just human perception because when I observe animals they seem to flow with the rest of nature, and at peace with it. Our species must harness, conquer, possess, and subdue, and for some reason, it doesn’t feel as a natural flow as with other species; it seems forceful in some way.

The theme of human redemption appears on my novels and I am considering a novel with a stronger approach to the duality of our human nature. Not so much about good vs evil but more about the ambivalence of our fragile/strong soul. I am not a hundred percent sure yet but it seems more likely the more I think about it. For now it is just an idea, a whispering thought.