The Most Influential Figure in My Life Made It to My Books, and I Didn’t Know It.

Most of us can think of someone who has been the most influential person in our lives, whether as a child or an adult. For me, that person was my grandmother. I was raised by my grandmother. She was a strong woman, a Christian woman full of faith, a hardcore Catholic who spoke in tongues and prayed the rosary everyday. A woman filled with the Holy Spirit every single day of her life. She also had a strong character, and authority. To me, it seemed as she was always in control, no matter what was going around her. Her faith sustained her. She was compassionate, but never weak. When she spoke her mind, she just did, but never offended anyone. She had poise, presence, and good manners – good manners were very important to her. She was known in our small neighborhood, and was always eager to help in what she could. She never denied a glass of water (or coffee) to a stranger that would stop at our house. I never heard her complain about anything, but heard her sing throughout the day. She was frugal, but never in generosity. She also had a softer side, which she let out from time to time. Her word was law. She was a warrior.

It wasn’t until I had finished writing The Dinorah Chronicles trilogy that I realized one day how much Olga Gartier (the leader of The Blue Lily Society, the protectors of Dinorah Sandbeck) reminded me of my grandmother. I had drawn so much from my grandmother’s character to create Olga Gartier. The physical part was unlike my grandmother, the opposite, but her character was were I could clearly see her. It was a pleasant discovery, joyful. I even dedicated to her, in memory, the first book of the trilogy – Ramblings of the Spirit.

I have never met anyone like her in all my years, and she remains in my heart, memories, and somehow, inside the pages of my books.

This Old Farmhouse – My Take on the Journey So Far

About ten years ago, my husband and I bought an abandoned old farmhouse that was dilapidated and almost buried under a morass of overgrown bushes, grass, and trees. It wasn’t until five years ago that we moved into it. It took some money, time, and a lot of work to make it livable, and there are many areas that still need to be addressed, mainly exterior work. It has been hard work, and I mean, real hard work. Because we did not count with a large budget, we had to do most of the work ourselves (about 95%), just the two of us. We continue to work together in some outdoor projects, slowly, as the budget allows.

Will we do it again? Although a simple question that requires a yes or no answer, I find myself unable to answer it in such way simply because it has been quite a journey. A journey full of bittersweet moments – great moments, exhausting moments, unnerving moments, proud moments, and moments of faith as well. We both have learned so much – about ourselves, about working together and our working styles, about new skills, about the house, about appreciation and gratefulness, about our limits and disposition, and much more; but mostly, about trusting the Lord in our everyday lives. This is why a simple yes or no answer does not suffice.

In the practical sense, a bigger budget would have made things easier and faster – hiring people, easier/better materials and tools, and overall contracting out the hard work areas, and only dealing with the fun tasks. Ideally. However, we would have not experienced and learned as much, grown with the project, and appreciate it as much. It was hard work, but also fun. We would have done some things in a different way, but other things in the same way we did. Overall, I think the experience built up character, but also faith. In that sense, it is a step up from where we started. The long and hard working hours improved our physical stamina but also our mind; the overall experience, our souls. We will continue to work together on this old farmhouse and will share some projects here.

So going back to the yes or no question – will we do it again? I will answer the question for myself, but I think my husband feels the same way about it. The hard work was physically taxing but the overall experience was worth it. If you would like to take a look at the progress so far, please check out the “Fixing an Old Farmhouse” series of posts on this blog.

Yes.

Photo by M.A.D.
Photo by M.A.D.

A Great Eagle’s Prayer

Photo by M.A.D.

I have not been able to write a poem in so long. As I watched the evening news yesterday, this one came to me, as a prayer for our nation.

A Great Eagle’s Prayer

Through the dark clouds

an eagle soars

A ray of light

its wings restores.

Following the sun

wings spread, sublime it soars

Higher and higher its climb

for land and freedom implores.

High in the sky Great Eagle sees

darkness is gone, freedom restored

For God has seen its bloody wings

flapping in prayer, closer to heaven.

High in the sky Eagle can see

the fragile land that lies beneath

Its vision keen, its wings are strong

in God it trusts, its heart has healed.

Stronger than ever the Eagle stands

in Faith, in Freedom, in Holy Land

For it has conquered darkness of soul

the serpent crushed, in God it trusts.

When Others Don’t Understand What You Do

This is a light humor post, but one that will resonate with many writers who have gone through similar situations. It is written in the spirit of encouraging new and aspiring writers, as well as the veterans in the field whose work have not been found or given recognition. Consider this scenario, very common.

“What do you do?”

“I’m a writer.”

“Hum, a car dealership writer, an underwriter?” (Fill the blank on this one)

“No, I write books.”

“Oh …” (followed by a blank stare)

For most people, unless you last name is King or you live at a coastal mansion, you are not a real writer. You are “playing writer” or are going through a phase. In their minds, Writing books = $$$, and a real writer is supposed to have status of some kind. You become one when you achieve this. If not, why do it? Sometimes, we entertain those same thoughts and feelings; you know what I mean. It seems to go deeper than that.

I would like to share a funny story, a conversation I had along those lines. About two years ago, a nearby neighbor had someone fixing her roof. She knew the person since he was a kid. He was starting his roofing business and she needed a new roof, so it was a perfect match. I was at her home when he arrived for that day, and since I had some questions about metal roofs, we began a casual conversation which centered on the type of roof for my 1910 farmhouse, which has an old style construction (beams) and an original stone foundation. The weight of a new roof on the structure was my main concern. After a few exchanges, he asked me what I did for a living. I told him that I was a writer, without going into much detail. Immediately, he shared that he always wanted to write a book and that he knew someone who worked at a local radio station “BUT” she was a “REAL” writer. (Imagine my polite smile). I asked him, “Really, and how many books does she have under her belt?” He answered that she had written a book sometime ago. I smiled, but could not help myself and said, “Oh, just one? I am in my sixth, and it doesn’t get any easier.” I thanked him, waved a goodbye, and walked home. Now we know who will not get my business when it is time for a new roof. I will hire a real roofer.

This is a perfect example of how writers are viewed based on status, which usually equals money in the mind of many people. Which brings another issue – fame before talent. These days, if you are a celebrity a publisher is ready and waiting, and your celebrity name/status precedes your book. You can write about anything and it will be published, promoted, and praised, because in most minds, celebrities can be writers. Ask a Cover Girl model what she thinks about that.

At another level, the sting is more bothersome when it comes from someone closer, who is viewed as a line of support, such a family or a close friend. A friend related to me how annoyed and hurt she was when her mother became very excited about someone’s first book, a person she barely knew, but not hers (many) because her books did not sell much. OUCH!

When I published my first novel, I was excited and proud of myself. I had prepared and waited years for this. I gifted a copy to someone I truly thought would be happy for me, and whom I knew for over 30 years, and for whom I had been there always as needed. Her response baffled me. She threw the book on top of the dinning table and said, “I won’t be reading it; I don’t have time for that.” I was shocked. I did not have a quick comeback for that one. It is different when it doesn’t come from a stranger.

People had asked, “Do you make any money?” or “How much money do you make doing that?” One of my favorites is, “Oh, you should write a book about this or that; I bet it will make money.” We know it doesn’t work like that, and for most of us, it is not even about the money. I am sure you have many similar stories as well. My point to all this? Many people don’t understand what writers do or why we do it. In truth, it is not about how many books, or how much money you make … it is about perception, people’s values, and about what it is important to them, ultimately the reason why they don’t understand what you do. Hence why you should be above it all, don’t give it two thoughts, and keep on doing “your thing.” When people don’t understand what you do, it is inconsequential as long as you know why you do it. Never judge a book by its cover?