Sandstorm

I have never been in a sandstorm, and I would never want to be caught on one; except in this one. From time to time, I write a review on a book that I enjoyed in a special way or that I find mesmerizing, unique, or out of the ordinary. I don’t write many reviews, although I enjoy many books. I compare the reading of The Star of Bethlehem by Patrick Moore to a sandstorm.

A sandstorm is made of many grains of sand and travels fast, windsweeping everything on its path. On its own, a grain of sand is not much (although I find it fascinating) but many particles of sand together at once, being carried by a wind force is significant. Well, this book is like that. It is written by an astronomer, Sir Patrick Moore. The topic is the phenomenon of the star of Bethlehem viewed and presented from the point of view of the author, a well experienced astronomer. When I got this book the topic fascinated me but because it was immersed in theories and scientific information/data I assumed I would become restless at one point while reading it, not bored just restless. I could not have been more wrong. I do not know how he manages to do this (as a writer) but he took so many grains of information related to the possible astronomical phenomena that would explain the star of Bethlehem and weaved it into an interesting, well-written, reader friendly, comfortably paced book that swept me like a sandstorm. It kept me reading. At the end, he presents his theory/opinion. The information presented dates back to records/accounts from around 7 BC-1 BC mostly, or around the possible date/period of Christ’s birth. I was pleasantly surprised that I could not put this book down. This because although I love these topics, numbers and scientific data presented hardcore might not capture my interest sometimes. I think that I was delighted by this book and very impressed by how it was written. What a great read. In it, Sir Patrick Moore presents possible candidates for the phenomenon of the star of Bethlehem – a star, planet, comet, nova, supernova … and goes back to the “records” of the time.

Although I have always viewed the topic of the star of Bethlehem from a faith point of view, and still do, I found this book very informative, interesting, and fun to read. It kept me reading, and I was pleased. A sandstorm of a book.

Everyday Miracles

We usually think of a miracle as something unusual, out of the ordinary, of divine origin or intervention, and outside of our human ability. Miracles come in all sizes, but all miracles have a big impact. In my last story – The Five-dollar Miracle – what starts as a small one-time miracle ends up having a large scale impact. We view miracles as something divine, however, miracles happen in our earthly realm. The human element has to be present, and usually on the recipient side, although the giving side – the instrument – experiences the miracle as well. If we chose to see miracles in our everyday living, life would taste sweeter.

Sometimes, synchronicity is a series of tiny miracles. Coincidences in our favor are small miracles too. Just think of all those instances in your life when you have said, “Wow, I got lucky,” or “A little bit more and it would have …” (fill the blank). I believe that each one of us have experienced a miracle (big or small) at one point in our lives. I have experienced many in my life. One of them, I will share with you on this post.

Many (many) years ago, I had come out of work, and I had to cross a bridge as part of my 45 minutes or so commute. On my drive home, I felt this nagging voice in my head urging me to go to my favorite clothing store, which was on the way. I was tired and wanted to get home right away but the nagging voice kept insisting so much that I ended up going to the store. It was more like a nagging thought that originated outside of me, not audible. I parked my car and said to myself, “what am I doing here? I don’t want to be here; I’m tired.” But once more, the nagging thought pressed on suggesting I go inside and look around. I went inside the store and quickly looked around, and because I was not in the mood to browse, I decided to head out. When I reached the glass door, I could see my car, and next to it, I saw this enormous muscular man who was just standing by the driver side. It was twilight already and I felt intimidated by his presence, so I pretended to browse some more, not thinking much more of the large man outside. I ended up spending almost an hour at the store, and of course, did not buy anything. Tired, I decided to go to my car. I looked around and the enormous man was nowhere to be seen. I went inside my car and went home. The next day, as soon as she arrived, my boss asked me if I was alright. I answered, “Yes, why do you ask?” She said that there had been a very bad accident at the bridge around the same time I went home, so she thought I was caught in the mess. I searched the news and the accident had happen around 5:45 pm, at the same time I would have been crossing the bridge on a regular day. Then, I understood my miracle, and related it to her – the insisting/nagging thought that took me to the store, and the enormous man standing next to my car when I was about to leave.

I believe that my Guardian Angel was nudging my thoughts. I believe I saw my Guardian Angel that day.

Stories That Will Not Make It Into Books

I have always been a dreamer. I have very detailed, sometimes long, vivid dreams. Sometimes, these dreams are stories from start to end. Many times, I write these down. The format is a short version in a 3×5 card that will trigger the memory of the whole dream. One of these stories left an impression on me, and I intend to make it a novel. My dreams are all over the place, from past experiences to present, featuring people I know to complete strangers, and even fall into the category of fantasy or sci-fi dreams. Many of these, I write and ponder on them later on, while trying to find a significant meaning or common thread to the bizarre dreams. These usually play like a movie, whether I am inside the dream or an observer.

I have heard of writers turning dreams into books. As writers, we draw inspiration from everything around. Most of my dream stories will not make it into novels. I will give you a couple of examples, although in a very brief format. One of these is about a couple who must fight for their unusual love. They meet when she is about to become his parent’s meal. His family is one of many modern cannibal tribes who live in secrecy, and come from a long line of families whose traditions date back centuries. To get their meals they put together fancy high society dinners at hotels, and many of their young and tender guests are seduced by these free and fancy invites. There is always a topic, charitable cause, and of course, the chosen people are taken to a special room, where they will disappear and become the meal, eventually. The protagonists meet in such a scenario, and he experiences love at first sight. He takes her by the hand and runs while exiting via an elevator. After that, they must face persecution by his family and the other tribes.

Now, as weird as that sounds, I assure you that I have all my faculties, and by now, you understand why this bizarre story will not make it into one of my books. Another example of these dream-stories features a colony of vampires. It takes place in the 13th century and starts when the vamps raid a small village and take a few people, including the protagonist (Amielle), to their underground castle, hidden away from plain sight. Of course, they will become a food supply. I am seeing a common thread here (food). Should I eat more? The male protagonist, a nobleman in love with the village girl who has been taken, is on a quest to rescue her. King vamp (Baldemiere) is smitten with her and decides to spare her, but she must surrender her will to him in order to become his queen, which the current lady queen does not take well, and eventually, she leads the male protagonist (Antoine) and his soldiers to the hidden castle via underground tunnels that cross various villages, hence how each village is attacked at random. Now the sad ending – Our lady protagonist unknowingly has fallen in love with king vamp and has to make the choice of sacrificing her beloved nobleman and his soldiers thus becoming a vampire queen.

These are two examples of bizarre and graphic dreams of mine that will not make it into books. In the first story, I do not know their names, in the second story I do. Although I find them a bit interesting as dreams, and would not be difficult to write because they are full detailed stories, these do not call me as a writer, and do not fit my writing style at present. I say at present because I don’t now what the future holds or if I will ever be interested in writing in this category. I remembered a comment from an author who I cannot recall right now, and he said that you cannot make every dream idea you have into a book. This was many years ago, and I did not fully understand the whole meaning at that time; however, I understand it now. As you grow as a writer, not only does your style evolves and you become aware of it, but also, your ability or desire to follow a “path” (for lack of a better word), thus becoming more selective in a conscious way.

Unsolicited Advice

The other day, I thought about how blessed we are now, at this time. Writers are able to realize their writing dreams thanks to the amazing technology available, much of it at low cost. These are blessed times for writers, whether you write via an independent publishing venue, a blog, social media, or other method. I am very grateful for this. When I was younger I wanted to publish my work independently, but it would have cost so much money, hence why many of us set the dream aside until adulthood. No other generation had the opportunity we have today. However, for me, this also presented the challenge of sorting through all the information/methods available, and keeping up with it all (an impossible task). Everyday, there is more information, technology, venues available so trying to understand it all is plain silly.

Much time went into sorting things out, especially, when the gates of publishing were opened. Reviewing my experience made me think about what advice would I offer myself back then. I thought about it and if I was to put it in once sentence it would be – Find your way. Realizing that “just because everyone is doing something one way, doesn’t necessarily mean that I have to” was not easy, especially in those early days. People tend to follow patterns/trends in new territory; it is human nature, and hence why things go viral. We are social mamals whether we realize it or not. When a new venture/technology or other, is in the early stages we tend to follow and take notes in order to learn. That is a good thing but it could also be confusing, even frustrating, more so when something that “has been proven” to work for other people does not work for you. In hindsight, my advice to myself at that time would have been to slow down and treat information as just that, not as a bible for writers or written in stone. Information serves the only purpose of presenting alternatives, being an aid in learning.

If you are just at the beginning of your writing journey, you will need to learn, and tons of information is available. It is a blessing, however, during your learning/study process you will doubt yourself when that information might not match your reality or expectations. That is all fine. Sort through it, pick up what applies to you as a writer, and keep on moving. Find and do what feels right for you. Find your way.

My Next Novel

My plans were to continue where I left off before writing The Five-dollar Miracle; however, in the final rounds of writing this story, another title kept crossing my mind on several occasions to the point of captivating my full attention. I understood that this is the story I must write next – The Girl Who Could Not Love – and I will put aside the story I was about to continue, once more. And once more, I will trust the process and write, although right now all I have is a title and the main character’s name – Amalee Stonehart (yes, she named herself).

I will be working on developing this story (or it me) for the remainder of the year, and I have no idea what it will be about or where it will take me. It seems that this one also will not follow the style of my previous works. We will see. As a writer, I am open to inspiration and try not to box myself in, whether genre or style. I am excited to see where this litte adventure will take me this time.

Right now, I have several stories in the back burner, as well as future plans for a book of poems (will not dare call it a poetry book) and a compilation of short stories. These will have to wait, at least another couple of years, for what I can tell. I would love to continue where I left off soon, as I do really want to write this story that has been patient enough with me, and put aside a couple of times. I am not sure of its title, which is ironic, but I do have a short outline, mostly chapter ideas, and ending. I never knew that writing could be so unpredictable for me, on the contrary, I thought of it as very predictable, planned, and structured. As far as the remainder of the year, it will be dedicated to my next novel – The Girl Who Could Not Love. Wish me well.

The Five-dollar Miracle

The Five-dollar Miracle is my latest story. It is the story of how a small miracle – a five-dollar miracle – changes a stranger, a pastor, a congregation and a whole country. It all starts when Pastor Neil Beckham receives a five-dollar bill inside a sky blue envelope from a stranger. It is a novelette, and quite different from my previous works. It has an inspirational tone, and a comfortable pace. It is reader friendly. It presents the themes of faith, loss, and triumph.

I enjoyed writing this story as it was something different and light as far as style and development of the story. However, it presented some challenges I did not expect, from technical (computer) issues to writing challenges, unexpected requirements such as writing a hymn, and a sermon. This story presented itself as a nagging title inside my head, and that is all I had. I set aside the story I was planning to write, and I had no idea of who the characters where going to be, what point of view, or anything at all. I just wrote, and somehow, the story emerged. Although it is short when compared to my other works, it reads at a comfortable pace.

This novelette has a more human tone. My other novels deal with the topics of redemption and the supernatural. Secondary themes such as acceptance, forgiveness, grief, and judgement are present in the story through characters situations. These intertwined stories appear unannounced /unplanned weaving these topics into the main (faith).

Overall, it has been an enjoyable experience as a writer, and it taught me to listen and trust the process. Why this story? It was the story that wanted to be written. The Five-dollar Miracle is available in print and e-book through Amazon. The hardcopy can be found here and e-book here.

The Five-dollar Miracle

I will be working on my next novel – The Girl Who Could Not Love – for the rest of the year.

My Favorite Character

I have been working on finishing my next book, and have taken a break, which for some reason, I need to do after finishing a story. I am waiting for the proof, and if everything seems right, The Five-dollar Miracle will see the light soon.

While I was on this break, I began to ponder about this new story, and how different it is from my previous novels. I thought about my previous works, and I wondered if my writing is evolving on to another level and even a different style. Of course, I don’t have the answer to that question. I write the book that wants to be written, the one that screams at me the loudest, and that only means that I have to set aside my plans to write the story I thought I would write next. While thinking about my previous books, I realized that my favorite character wasn’t necessary the main character.

As writers, we craft characters, and I believe that characters craft us as well. When writing a novel, we create these imaginary beings to tell a story, but many times those characters reveal themselves to us; they show up. Sometimes, they even write themselves by refusing our pen, our ideas of who they are to become. One of the main characters in Moonlit Valley refused to be written the way I first envisioned him. Jeremy Sandbeck fought my pen from the start. Eventually, I let him be. Initially, I had envisioned him as a methodical, reserved, soft spoken intellectual young man who wore glasses, but he fought me to become quite the opposite. As I wrote him on the first novel and later series, he developed much more, and grew into what he needed to be. Although character development and evolution is expected in a series, this taught me to listen to my characters. In this case, he knew what was best for the story. My original view of him would not have worked as well.

By now, you might be thinking that Jeremy Sandbeck is my favorite character; he is not. My favorite character was introduced in Moonlit Valley, and was intended as a necessary secondary, even tertiary character. Originally, he was not intended by me to make it through the entire story, maybe a couple of chapters. Instead, he stayed through Moonlit Valley, and made it into The Dinorah Chronicles series. It surprised me. His name is Cole Angelou. Although he did not fight my pen as Jeremy Sandbeck did, he grew on me and slowly evolved into a much needed and important figure in the main character’s life. He became a life line.

Cole Angelou is an Anarth. Anarths are highly evolved celestial beings who take human form to fulfill a duty on Earth. Anarths do not age. They posses strength and speed abilities, psychic powers, as well as being capable of traveling between realms in milliseconds. Their senses are heightened and human emotions overwhelm them. Their duty is to live on Earth as sentinels. They monitor and protect key humans who are important in human evolution, and ensure that blue prints are being executed according to the divine plan. They are not angels, and are a few ranks below.

Cole Angelou is the voice of reason, cool, collected, and reserved. He doesn’t interfere in your business unless asked or when necessary, that is without infringing on free will. He is cautious, does not trust easily, and respects hierarchy. One thing I enjoyed when writing this character was to see him get out of his comfort zone and even break a few rules (all for a good reason/purpose).

If I had to question how he ended up staying throughout the series, and beyond my original plan for him, I would say that he did not fight my pen, and he let me write him. However, he creeped in slowly, evolving as the story developed, to the point of becoming crucial, needed, important to it. Did Cole Angelou trick me? I don’t know but he became my favorite character.

Little Green Box

Previously, I shared a bit about my writing habits, as well as some things I like to have in place, which make my work enjoyable. For me, writing is a passion but it is also my occupation, so I treat it seriously, with respect, the same way I would approach any other job. Organization is an important part of it; however, I do it to my liking, and do what seems to work well for me. Ideas come to me at any moment and with disregard of time of day. Inspiration is everywhere and I don’t know when or what will spark an idea that might make it in a future novel. If I don’t write these ideas when they happen I forget them. If the idea comes through a dream, I write it as soon as I wake up. I keep pen and paper inside the night table. If during the waking hours, there’s pen and paper all over the house. If it happens while I am on an errand, I carry a small idea notebook in my handbag.

After an idea is captured, I will look it over and decide if it is worth keeping. I write/organize it in an index card, with any other related thoughts or details that will surface, and then, I file it in a green metal box. I visit this box when I am considering a new story, and sometimes, when a current story might trigger a memory of an idea in that box that I might include in the current work. The index cards are alphabetized, and I keep month tabs as well, for easy retrieval, and to include any ideas that surface in a particular month. This method has work well for many years. I understand that it is not for everyone, especially if you favor electronic methods/software for organizing your work. So far, I keep enjoying it and will keep using it. What methods help you organize your writing?

Little green box

Slowing Down to the Speed of My Pen

Throughout the years, I have discovered what works for me as far as my writing routine and process, as well as likes and dislikes. I think that it is important for a writer to feel comfortable in the process, at home and at peace with your pen. I would like to share some of the things that have become my constants when writing. As time goes by, you will attune to your pen speed.

I have a better disposition for writing in the morning.

I cannot write in my pajamas. I must be dressed and ready, and only after breakfast will I write.

I write a first draft by hand, old school, with paper and pencil. Later on, I will type it, either by chapters as I finish them, or I will wait until the entire manuscript is done and type it. I prefer to write in pencil. I have a collection of vintage pencils for that purpose.

I must print the manuscript for revisions; I don’t like to read and revise from the computer screen.

Many times, the title comes up first before the story is written. Sometimes, the end presents itself first, whether as an image, and idea, or a single line.

I don’t outline. Side notes develop as I write. I consider that my raw outline.

I cannot force the story. It flows freely, and sometimes it surprises me. By that I mean that something unplanned reveals itself, something I had not thought about the story.

I prefer traditional methods of organizing my notes/work than electronic methods – rolodex (some of you might be too young to know what that is), metal box for index cards, and many other things. I tried electronic devices and methods but lost interest. The magic was simply not there for me. I still use a planner or an old ledger to organize my work for the day.

I go through three revisions before a final edit. I must take at least a day or two off (not looking at the manuscript) between revisions.

I can only focus on writing one story at a time; I give it my all. I admire people who can write more than one story at a time.

After I finish a story, I must take time off before starting another. Emotionally, I feel drained a bit. I need time to recharge.

I have learned to listen to my characters and not impose the pen on them.

I have learned to slow down to the speed of my pen and the flow of the story. I will not rush it. Also, I have eliminated the word prolific from my writing process. I dedicate as much time as the story needs; however, I have deadlines in place for my own benefit.

Sometimes, I place an inspirational prop (related to the story) nearby. For Moonlit Valley it was a vintage Shirley Temple doll. For the story I am writing now (The Five-dollar Miracle) it is a sky blue envelope.

My favorite character is not necessarily the main character.

When revising, I need to read aloud, sentence by sentence. It helps me determine how reader friendly the pace is. Sometimes, I may need to rehearse a line.

I don’t find weird anymore if I cry when writing a scene or if I talk with a character; it is all for the story.

Before starting a chapter, I like to say a short prayer. It helps me center.

I learned to accept that sometimes, I must put aside the story I want to write next and write the one that speaks louder (the nagger).

I write better in an organized/neat environment. Out in nature works well too.

I must have a thesaurus and a dictionary next to me when I revise. Sometimes the first or second word I chose is not the best one to use.

I feel my best when I write or when I create something.

These are just a few of the constants that have developed over time. I have tried other methods but this seems to work well for me. What seems to work for you? What are the things you would not change in your writing process.

I wish to share a few pictures of my beloved writing tools. I understand that these might not work for many people, but I love these and they make me happy, and these enhance my writing environment as well. As you write, over time, you will develop your writing nest, an environment in which you feel at peace and at home – your writing sanctuary.

This old ledger serves as my planner at the moment.

Rolodex and metal green box where I keep ideas for future novels. The old golden box serves as storage for clips, tacks…

Vintage pencils

Because one cannot have too many vintage pens and pencils. They make me happy. The metal object next to the pencils is a stapler, and it still works.

Old sharpener, a necessity.
Inspirational prop
A little bit of my writing space.
My mantra.

The Four Sides of Truth

For the longest time, I have been hearing about how there are two sides to a story/situation/incident, and for the longest time I have never seen it that way. Perception is only one part of it. I think there are four earthly sides to the truth, and I say earthly because other dimensions/realms such as the divine/supernatural or space might alter that number, but that is another topic. However, since we all live on Earth let’s stick with the earthly realm for the purpose of this post.

Mostly, we are aware of the two sides of an argument or any situation – two points of view. As an example, two people are arguing about an incident represent those two points of view, and we usually assume that one is correct and the other is not – all in search of the truth in a situation. I believe there are four sides to truth in any situation. These are, Individual/group #1 side/point of view, Individual/group #2 side/point of view, The observer/witness #3 side/point of view, and #4 the raw incident (what truly happened without perception).

We process information in different ways, and our perception is influenced by many factors – culture, upbringing, beliefs, financial status, religion … and many more. This applies to #1,#2, and even #3 the witness/observer who only observes part of the interaction between #1 and #2, but lacks information or background prior an incident, so the witness relies on what he/she observes only. This three sides are influenced by the above mentioned factors. Side #4 – the raw incident – is closest to the truth. To illustrate this I will give a simple example involving three neighbors and a dog. Neighbor #2 happens to see Neighbor # 1 dog running loose earlier. Neighbor #3 is taking a walk and sees the dog running, and coming from neighbor #2 house. Neighbor # 2 steps outside and sees that his recently planted garden has been partially dug out. He goes to Neighbor #1 home and tells him how upset he is about the dog ruining his beautiful garden. A light argument erupts, and Neighbor #3 listens from his front yard. Neighbor #3 (the witness) assumes that because he saw the dog coming out of Neighbor #2 front yard the dog did it. Both neighbors, #2 and #3 think they know what happened. However, the truth (the raw incident as it is) is that Neighbor #2 garden has a mole problem. The little critters ruined the garden. In this example, all three people involved are far away from the truth, which has nothing to do with the dog, that by the way, happens to have a very clean nose and paws, but no one noticed.

As writers, we have the advantage of knowing the truth in our story (although sometimes, a twist we did not expect to write surprises us), and we are witness in a sense, however, omniscient when writing the story. We write from all sides.