On Writing – From Best Friend to Nemesis

A best friend turned to nemesis is a common occurrence in story telling. The evolution of a main character’s archenemy is something that doesn’t happen instantaneously. It has been brewing through time, and is usually preceded by an unfortunate event that most likely involves directly or indirectly, the other best friend (usually a main character). When writing the deterioration of this relationship, the history/background of the two characters is important, but mostly, the actual interaction between them is. Whether this unraveling occurs due to a supernatural or perfectly natural event, the relationship and interaction between the two (or more) characters cannot remain the same. Writing has to reflect that.

In The Dinorah Chronicles, Hael, an embodiment of evil via supernatural origins, is Dinorah Sandbeck’s nemesis. When a supernatural event is the cause for the “turning of the coat,” the vilifying of the other character seems a bit less complex and left to the imagination of the writer. When natural/human issues are involved, the vilifying becomes a bit more humanized, thus exploring the psyche of both characters, hopefully without risking to bore the reader. I think that too much detail/drama that is prolonged in the natural deterioration of the relationship between both characters becomes boring; at least for me as a reader, it is. Whether natural or supernatural, this vilification process has to evolve over time, have a history, and a clear motive throughout the story, which is developed and supported mostly via dialog and prose, sometimes even description, and through other secondary characters.

Throughout a series, the archenemy can remain the same, be a different character(s), or even be reborn into a different physical vessel that embodies the original evil essence. Sometimes, this nemesis can be a duality, a part of the main character, one that is awakened through a devastating psychological, physical event, or a combination, that leaves a permanent mark in the character’s persona. The important aspect on this friend/nemesis evolution is that there is a thread that the reader can easily follow throughout the story or series.

I hope you enjoyed this post. Feel free to add your take on this topic.

Fixing an Old Farmhouse – Future Projects

We had a pretty heavy three-day ice storm, and I am so grateful that we did not lose power, and also grateful that we did not have any trees damaging our home. I also feel for the people that are without heat in this type of cold weather. We are expecting another storm by tomorrow, and that will add to the damage we had, which was nothing compared to other people. The amount of ice was so heavy on the trees that I could hear the tump tump tump every time one fell. Many of our trees lost a considerable amount of heavy branches, including the one near the house, my beloved old cedar tree, which is as old as the farmhouse is, or older. This storm put into perspective the need to remove two more trees that are too close for comfort, although I truly hate to see them go. This of course will be expensive because they are old giants. One of them lost most of its branches, a few of them hitting the porch at the corner but thankfully, only leaving a slight dent on the old roof, which is over 100 years.

With most of its branches gone, at least the weight of this old cedar has shifted away from the farmhouse. (Photo by M.A.D.)
Many of its branches are still hanging ready to fall. For now, we will avoid walking underneath. Another reason why we have decided to add it to the list of trees that unfortunately will have to go. (Photo by M.A.D.)
Another old giant that have been added to the list is this tree, about the same height.
(Photo by M.A.D.)
This smaller branches missed the tin can. Although smaller compared to the other branches, these are still heavy. I saw pieces of broken branches that fell with force buried into the ground about three inches or so. Imagine if that hits one’s head. One of nature’s teachings. (Photo by M.A.D.)
This is one of my favorite trees. Not sure if eventually, it will have to go; I hope not. Time will tell. For now, it is healthy, and it is a very young tree. It was half its size when we bought the farmhouse. (Photo by M.A.D.)
Our friend came around when the ice started to melt on Sunday. (Photo by M.A.D.)
Other little ones came out as well. (Photo by M.A.D.)
It amazes me how these little ones can handle the ice. (Photo by M.A.D.)
It was a beautiful sight. (Photo by M.A.D.)
When the ice started melting, it sounded like waterfalls, like heavy rain, and every time a chunk of ice slid and hit the metal roof, it was like thunder and lightning. (Photo by M.A.D.)
Sometimes, beauty is found in the least expected places. (Photo by M.A.D.)
Even on a frozen flag (Photo by M.A.D.)
Colors become more vibrant. (Photo by M.A.D.)
“Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap, or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” Mathew 6:26 (Photo by M.A.D.)

The list of chores keeps growing around here. For now, the way to tackle these coming up projects will be one at a time, little by little, and all in due time. I will share some of them here. Hope you enjoyed this post.

On Writing Prophecy

All tips I share on this blog are based on my experience, on what I have learned in my journey as a writer. I understand that every writer has her/his own road to take, own style, writing goals, work ethic … so what I share here is based on my perception, as far as my pathway takes me. When I wrote The Dinorah Chronicles, I did not plan to include a prophet in the series. This character appeared unexpected, and pretty much wrote itself – a child named Jenna Callaway, who was confused and scared about the gift of prophecy. Jenna did not know she had this gift. Dinorah Sandbeck, the main character in the series, helps her develop her gift, and eventually, the last prophecy comes through Jenna in the last book- Sunrise Souls. At first, Jenna wrote (in Latin) the words that she heard in her mind, without understanding the meaning. She kept it a secret, until she met Dinorah in book 2 of the chronicles. She delivers as few prophecies throughout books 2 and 3 (The Book of Sharon/Sunrise Souls).

Other than thinking that the wording/content should sound ancient/old, I did not have any other guidelines on how to write these prophecies. I relied on the deep connection that I felt with the story and the character throughout the series, and this is how these prophecies came about. These wrote themselves, and by that I mean that the flow of the words through the pen was smooth, not forced or over developed by a thought process. Here is a short excerpt of Jenna’s first prophecy. It is about a page long, and the rest of it can be found on The Book of Sharon on page 95.

“Write; write these words so the lost can find them, for they are searching in the days when love is scarce and the ego consumes the spirit. Do not think that I have abandoned thee, for when the heart searches, the soul is ready to receive. I am close to every soul of my creation. I do not cry with the vane, but with the humble, the seeker of truth, and the pure in spirit. When they cry, I console. Their path I make soft, their days I turn bright; not even the stars can equal in light. For the light I give is of the spirit, and the love I pour covers their scars. The heart I console, the mind I heal, the spirit I refresh.” (The Dinorah Chronicles – The Book of Sharon)

As a writer, I wish I could tell you more on writing prophecies for a story, but I did not follow any specific guidelines or writing rules, other than feeling connected to the story and letting the pen flow freely, as it wished. In my experience, there has to be a connection when writing a story, otherwise the story does not flow, feels forced, and sometimes, I cannot write even a word if I feel the connection is missing. There are many ways in which you can connect with your story, and as personal and varied as writing is for you – writing everyday or when you feel it is the best time of day, clearing your mind before you write, whether that is exercising, taking a walk in nature ,,, relaxing, or anything that feeds your inspiration. In my case, I love to observe nature, and I always say a short prayer before I write. Whatever fuels your pen, and makes you closer to your story. Sometimes, it is just simplicity in our lives.

The Book of Sharon (Book 2 The Dinorah Chronicles) is available in eBook and paperback via Amazon.

Fixing an Old Farmhouse – Shelving

Previously, on the Fixing and Old Farmhouse series of posts (Fixing an Old Farmhouse – The Kitchen), I mentioned that I had planned to find an old French buffet and place it where the microwave and bread box were located temporarily, on top of a long table my husband made. Because these items are accessed on a daily basis and were to low to reach, I figured that a narrow French buffet or narrow cabinet would serve the purpose, and look beautiful. Later on, I realized that although it would give me more storage that I don’t need, the placement of the cabinet would overwhelm the space, and make the kitchen look too crowded. I am not a fan of traditional cabinets, especially the top parts, so when we fixed up the kitchen, I used shelving on top, and a few cabinets with a butcher block top, along with an antique French buffet that we placed in the coffee and prep area. We like the look of natural wood, especially when it ages and takes on a darker patina. After consulting with my other half, we decided that a shelf would be a better fit for the space, moreover, because we used these items too often.

When looking at wood at our closest hardware center, the prices for wood seemed to be all over the place, that is, for a nice piece of sturdy wood plank. The least expensive were too thin (1/4 inch) or short, and either pine, being the least expensive, followed by poplar, oak … I was ready to settle for poplar when I spotted a bundle of oak risers nearby. They were the perfect length and thickness, but much better, these had the rounded front already, unlike the planks of wood. To add to the perfect finding, it was the right length, no need for cutting anything at all. Price was about two dollars more than the poplar plank that we would have to cut, sand, and prep.

Next, we selected the brackets. This part was easy because right away I spotted two copper tinted brackets that matched the copper motif throughout the kitchen. We love an old world/vintage/rustic style. The installation was a breeze – no need to cut anything, just install at the right height, and it was done. The shelf allowed for placing the two chair stools under it, converting it (if needed in the future) into a floating desk or space for extra sitting. It also allowed for a lighter feel as opposed to using a cabinet. Cost came about under $50, a fraction of what a French buffet or cabinet would have cost. Here are a few pictures, and I hope you enjoy reading about this farmhouse project.

View of the area before.
Copper brackets.
The area now.
Completed project.

On Writing Anarths and Other Celestial Beings

When I think of heaven, I think of blue and white (Photo by M.A.D.)

When I set out to write Moonlit Valley, I didn’t know it would take me to a highly organized, supernatural world that operated on Earth through many beings, one kind called Anarths. Anarths are celestial beings who take human form in order to fulfill their assigned duty on Earth. They do not age, possess strength and speed abilities, are capable of traveling between realms in less than milliseconds, and possess enhanced senses, hence why human emotions overwhelm them. They are sentinels of Earth and they monitor and protect key humans who are important in human evolution according to a divine plan. They are not angels, and are a few ranks below.

Writing Anarths presented a challenge – they were not humans but they had to act human-like. However, for the sake of these characters in the story, they had to be written in a distinctive way, that is, aside from their supernatural qualities. They also could not resemble each other or act like clones; they owned their personality on Earth. They experienced emotions, so they could not behave like robots or android-like. They had to present a soul-like side, even that they didn’t have souls. Description/descriptive behavior and characteristics were good to a certain point, so I relied on dialog to achieve this.

Another challenge that presented itself later on, when these characters made it to The Dinorah Chronicles, which had a story time lapse of 20 plus years forward, was the need to evolve them along with the humans they interacted previously, but because they didn’t age, they could not be “totally present” in some parts of the story. They had to act more human-like across the whole series/story and throughout the years, but also develop a familiarity with certain key human characters in the story. All this had to be reflected in the dialog throughout the trilogy. Because they had blended well with humans, they had acquire certain personality and behavior patterns that had to be reflected in the trilogy. Simply, they could not have remained the same. One way to achieve this was to make them sort of “break a few rules” but without sacrificing their righteousness. Their personalities and behavior throughout the series had to evolve without being to evident, because after all, they had a divine makeup, and a divine purpose/duty, which had to remain untouched by me (the writer). An example of this is prohibited and brief, but necessary, negotiations with a neutral element of The Other Side in order to obtain information that would advance the cause.

A simple example of the use of dialog in the early stages of an Anarth who has been assigned on Earth but has not spent enough time or develop many human relationships yet, would be something like this:

Human dialog“Hey, why are you not going?” or roughly “Hey, why aren’t you going?”

An Anarth would say it like this – “What is the reason for you not attending?” or “Does your intended absence has a purpose?” or “Is there a purpose to your absence?” There are many ways to construct the sentence, many variations, but all intending a certain degree of order.

Another simple example.

Human “Do you want lunch?”

Anarth“Are you in need of nourishment?”

An Anarth in the early stages of human contact would not say “can’t” instead, he/she would say “can not.” As relationships become stronger, the dialog evolves, thus becoming more relaxed. The darker (evil) the character, the more impersonal and less “caring” the dialog became. Writing these characters was fun and I learned much from their interaction and evolution throughout the story as I wrote them.

Moonlit Valley and The Dinorah Chronicles are available via Amazon in eBook and paperback.

When No Face Equals All Faces

What if your main character did not have a face but had them all? When I wrote The Five-dollar Miracle I took a risk, and unusual approach – I did not describe the main character physically, instead, I described every character in the story, except Pastor Neil Beckham. However, I had a clear purpose for doing this. I wanted the main character to appeal to every reader, this due to the nature of the story. To be able to get away with a faceless main character, I made sure to focus on the character’s personality, psyche, emotions, and personal history. In this way, the physical attributes took a secondary place and were able to disappear, blend with the story, thus becoming less important. By describing every other character, their stories became alive as well, however, always strongly linked to the main character. Every other character in the story became a support for this faceless main character. In this way, the reader could imagine him in his own way, and tailor him to his/her own reading experience, but mostly because The Five-dollar Miracle is an inspirational story. Because of the nature of the story, I was able to get away with it, however, this approach would not have worked for any other of my novels. Three readers who enjoyed the story very much, did not even realized that there was no description, and each person imagined him in a very different way. I took a risk taking that route, however, in order to do that, the rest of the characters became an important part on this decision, So far, it seems to have worked out.

THE FIVE-DOLLAR MIRACLE is available via Amazon in eBook and paperback formats.

A Few Visitors

December and January have not been as cold and I have been observing more birds than usual around here, so I take it as a sign that it will be a mild winter. The forsythia is in full bloom, all covered in yellow flowers that did not shriveled with the frost and ice we had or the light snow that never stuck on the ground. The rose bush still has some buds and even a few flowers. Temperatures at night have been in the mid 20s and during the day in the 40s and 50s, with the occasional 30s in the mix. Not bad at all. The birds have been a very welcomed sight that has help me cope with all the sadness and craziness that is going around in our country. My faith has been an anchor, but watching these little ones go on and about with their day and routine has been a pleasure. Nature, as always, has given more than expected, and I have tried to find beauty in everything that surrounds me. I will share a few images with you, and I hope that these bring you joy as well.

The magic of an icy day. (Photo by M.A.D.)
Golden sunsets (Photo by M.A.D.)
The glow of a beautiful moon (Photo by M.A.D.)
The colors of a brand new day (Photo by M.A.D.)
The beauty of a chimney on a cold day (Photo by M.A.D.)
An old light post in the early hours (Photo by M.A.D.)
A gorgeous December moon (Photo by M.A.D.)
A kitty cat sunbathing (Photo by M.A.D.)
Our latest visitor in the early hours (Photo by M.A.D.)
Nothing says December and January like a beautiful Cardinal (Photo by M.A.D.)
The gorgeous orange of a Robin Photo by M.A.D.)
The cutest of them all. Noticed the green grass? Another sign of a mild winter? (Photo by M.A.D.)
Another cutie (Photo by M.A.D.)
A delicious meal for this little one (Photo by M.A.D.)
Ornamental grass seeds are yummy too (Photo by M.A.D.)
An unexpected punch of color (Photo by M.A.D.)
The word adorable (Photo by M.A.D.)
Taking a break from wood pecking (Photo by M.A.D.)
Can you find me? (Photo By M.A.D.)
Wearing a petticoat (Photo by M.A.D.)
Without words (Photo by M.A.D.)
First time seeing this one around (Photo by M.A.D.)
Unexpected (Photo by M.A.D)
These berries are favored by many birds (Photo by M.A.D.)
Blending with nature (Photo by M.A.D.)
The beginning of another day (Photo by M.A.D.)

I hope you enjoyed these, and that looking at them brought you a bit of joy. The hand of God is everywhere if we care to look.

Placing Yourself Inside the Scene

Sometimes, a writer must enter a scene that he/she is writing. By that I mean that the writer must place himself/herself inside the scene and next to the character in order to engage all the senses and see/hear/taste/feel what the character is experiencing at that moment. It has been my experience that when I jump inside the scene with the character (mentally of course) it helps me write the scene better, not only describe it better, but give it life. By experiencing the scene along with the character(s) it becomes more than watching it unfold, the senses become engaged at once, thus resulting in more vivid writing. I don’t follow this process with every scene I write (that would be too draining), only the ones that seem to have more movement or require a higher perception/involvement of the senses. Usually it is an important scene, a climatic scene that will result in greater change in the novel. It could be a battle, but it could also be a scene with less physical action but in which a higher level of the senses is needed. An example of this is the scene in the church parking lot in Moonlit Valley (chapter – The Battle). In this scene Rose is being attacked by The Other Side, a supernatural realm of evil. Rose is in between the physical/material and supernatural realms when this is happening, and no one can see this happening except the Anarths, her protectors. Although most of the chapter is very sensory engaging, here is a very short excerpt to give you an idea.

“I saw a shadow get near me. A blast of light took it out and left only a heavy smoke that seemed raggedy; the smell was the worst I had experienced. I saw the same happening all around. At one point, I wanted to vomit; I could not take the smell of putrefaction, decay, and sulfur surrounding me.”

Here is another example, same scene.

“I tried to run but I froze in place, unable to move a limb. I was cold, surrounded by a heavy mist of grayish color. A putrefaction smell made me nauseated. Figures were forming out of the mist, several of them approaching me, surrounding me in a circle, a circle of death.”

This is just a brief example of a scene in which I had to place myself next to the character (Rose) to understand her experience. As writers, we are used to hearing the phrase, “Show, don’t tell” as a magic recipe for better writing. There is some truth to it, but I think there is more to showing and not telling. There needs to be a balance between the two, and sometimes a writer needs to jump in.

MOONLIT VALLEY is available via Amazon.