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.

Boxed In?

For many years I’ve tried to define my writing niche – my little genre box. The truth is that I don’t have one. For some reason, I cannot box myself in a particular genre. I cannot define myself as a (fill the blank) writer. When asked the question, I cannot say that I am a romance writer, a mystery writer … so I usually answer with “I am a fiction writer” or “I write fiction.” It is not that I won’t commit to a genre or that there is a lack of clarity. It is not that I cannot decide on one particular genre and stick with it, as many experts suggest. I have pondered my reasons for not going inside the box many times. The only answer I can come up with is that I want to be open to write the book that wants to be written.

I labeled my first published novel a paranormal romance for lack of a better genre definition, but truthfully, I don’t feel that I am a paranormal romance writer. The novels are more inspirational in nature than romantic, and they have a supernatural vibe. The current story I am working on – The Five-dollar Miracle – is an inspirational story and very different from my other books. One theme that seems to filter into my writing is that of the divine and the supernatural working together. It is the only thread that seems to give my writing a cohesive element. Other than that, I am open to any story that wants to be written.

So what am I? I guess that when forced to stick on a label, I will call myself an inspirational fiction writer but that feels a bit too boxy for me. Instead, I will let inspiration mold my pen and trace a path. Of course, this is irreverent to traditional publishing/writing and to the mighty pen gods, the omniscient powers that be. I am at peace with that.

What I Read

I’ve been asked before what kinds of books do I read, and my answer always comes as a surprise. I describe my reading as being all over the place. I read everything that peaks my interest. In my library, you will find positive thinking books, self-help, fiction, physics, science, religion, classic works, reference books, financial education, and even fairy tales. I don’t think I have a favorite genre or category; I read what seems interesting. The fiction category is very wide, and I prefer mysteries but will also read inspirational stories, as well as light hearted ones. I stay away from romances unless they are more infused with mystery, adventure, or the supernatural. I don’t like overly romantic novels, and certainly dislike explicit ones or erotica.

Over the past couple of years I’ve read a lot, mostly with the intention of going through the backlog of books that have piled up over the years, although I am always reading something. I like to read hardcopy. I tried to get used to e-format but could not. I found myself losing interest in what I was reading, and even not wanting to go back to the ebooks I had started reading. I honestly don’t know why this is, and if I have not embraced e-reading by now, it is not going to happen. I find that I have a short attention span for e-reading but I can sit with a book in my hands for hours. In the meantime, I am not buying any more books until I force myself to make a dent on my library shelves. Instead, I will keep a list of new books I want to read. Some books I will keep, some I will read a second time, and other books I will give away. I will keep antique tomes because they represent a collection I’ve started and would like to keep growing. I will keep any new editions of the classics.

I am also not a fan of audio books, unless it is in the self-help/positive thinking category. When I used to drive everyday to work, I listened to those, but not so much these days. These days I’d rather sit with a book and enjoy the feel and scent of its pages, the scent of a story.

One of my oldies

The Day I Almost Died

This is a short story that came to me this morning, and I decided to include it as today’s blog post. It is a bit grim but not so grim. Eventually, I would like to publish a few of my short stories in an anthology. I hope you enjoy this one.

It was a sunny day; I saw it cloudy. The silence was too loud inside my head. The stillness, a cloak for the raging waters of my soul. I glanced outside my window. The trees moved to the gentle breeze as a dance of death began inside my head. I could hear the deaf sound of loneliness; it had become my lullaby. Isolation became the clothes I wore daily. I searched the empty corridors of my heart over and over; I found nothing. It had morphed into an empty shell of despair, a chamber of hollow beats. There, I found nothing that would justify the next heartbeat.

A chilling breeze danced nearby; Death awaited. I could feel her mutable presence begging me to speed up the process. I was ready. How did it get to this moment? Did it matter? I didn’t require an answer. An answer made things complex. I heard the doorbell. I ignored it. It rang a second time, and a third, until it became noise. I placed the gun next to an empty picture frame. Somehow, I never got to place a picture in it. I counted twelve steps to the door. I opened it. I didn’t bother to bolt it anymore. I had no cares. I forced a smile. It almost hurt at the corners of my mouth. No one was at the other side to return my crooked smile. I looked around; no one was there. I stepped out on the front porch. No one was there.

I saw a splash of red fluttering to my left. A cardinal perched on the Forsythia bush surely made a nice contrast to the bright yellow buds. How did I never noticed that before? Something scurried up the old cedar tree. It was a squirrel, then came another, and they chased each other up and down the old cedar.

“That old cedar must have seen so much,” I mumbled.

I sat on the front steps. A crow marched unpretentiously on the horizon. It almost shimmered as the sun hit its feathers. I felt the warmth of the sun on my skin. How long had it been? A busy party of little brown birds scattered throughout the ground looking for food. A reddish wasp rested atop a chair, as if thawing from a frost or waking from a dream, its wings resting downward. The sun’s warmth felt good on my skin. Everywhere I looked I saw signs of life. Life was everywhere; I could see it if I cared to see it. I felt something fuzzy rubbing my leg in a rhythm.

“Where did you come from, lil’ fellow?”

The disheveled black kitten was skin and bones; I could count its ribs. It kept rubbing against my leg, and I could hear a faint purr becoming louder. It was so tiny. I picked it up and it nuzzled against my arm, then it nestled. I sat out there for a while. The kitten fell asleep in my arms, and I observed the rhythm of life around me.

“What am I going to do with you lil’ fellow? It looks like you will be needing me for a while, at least until you fatten and grow up a bit more.”

The crow restled with a worm until it came out of the ground. The squirrels moved on to another tree.

“What should I name you? Hum, let me think. Aha, you shall be called Rigor, but we’ll leave the mortis out; how is that?”

Rigor became my inseparable friend for the next 15 years. To all, he was a black cat; to me, he was life, and a constant reminder. During that time, I never found out who rang the doorbell.

My Obsession with Westerns

I don’t know how it started, but lately, I have been watching the old westerns. It has become an obsession. I cannot get enough of Bonanza, Wagon Train, and The Rifleman. I love the story line on these westerns, but also, I find myself mesmerized by the background in a scene – the furniture, décor, especially in La Ponderosa. Love that place. This has peak an interest in possibly exploring western novels. I have not read many western novels; in fact, I have only read one, which I enjoyed very much – The Last Hunt by Cliff Burns. I also love the cover.

Other than that, I have only read western comic books when I was a kid. One thing I remember, and that is my grandfather and I watching together western movies and series on TV when I was a child. It brings warm and happy memories.

There is something spellbinding about a western. Its uncomplicated simplicity and easy flow takes me along for the ride. It feels natural. It is like a fresh breath of air. Will I ever write a western? I don’t know. I would have to read plenty of them (and I mean plenty) before attempting such an adventure.

Millennials

The other day, I was thinking about previous generations, as well as historical novels. I am not sure what prompted the thought, however, it took me all the way to the Millennial generation.

Usually, there are many generations represented in a story. Writing characters that are defined by their generation is not an easy task. In memoirs, the generational gaps and influences are more easily identified and naturally present than in a work of fiction. Futuristic stories present a challenge when timelines cross, even when a futuristic novel is all made up as far as time, place, and life of the characters, in general. All this made me think about my generation as well as one generation that in my opinion, has been misrepresented – the Millennials.

I am from the later years of the Baby Boomer generation, one of the largest and most talked about generations in the USA. Baby Boomers have met their counterparts in the sense of a most talked about generation, and much has been said about Millennials. Unfortunately, not all positive, and many times disserving.

Millennials were born between 1981-1996. Many points of view describe Millennials in a negative way, from being lazy to overly sensitive, and many other labels in between. Many times, when I hear someone complaining about Millennials they are unknowingly referring to someone who is from a post millennial generation. It seems to me that Baby Boomers and Millennials tend to clash the most. I think Baby Boomers have a hard time passing the baton, especially, to a generation that likes to do things differently.

There are many things I love about Millennials. I love that Millennials are very creative. They seem to enjoy the process of finding new ways, especially when things that were done “the Baby Boomer way” do not work for them. Society has changed so much in the past few decades, and many of our societal rituals and processes have undergone dramatic changes, many times due to technological changes. What worked for Baby Boomers may not work as well for Millennials. Many of them might see our system as broken.

Millennials seem to operate more openly, in general. They seem to view their day as a whole. I find that my generation compartmentalized everything – work, home life, social life … . One of the biggest sins in the “work life” for my generation was to bring your personal life to work. Your personal issues were very private and should remain so. Millennials are not bothered by this, and they do not understand why an older person might be annoyed by this behavior. This wholesome and open approach to living engulfs many facets of the Millennial’s life. I love that they seem to find time to have fun while living. Baby Boomers scheduled fun for a more appropriate time – when they were set in life financially or on a well deserved vacation. Baby Boomers worked hard all their life, many times postponing the joys of living until the golden years. Of course, the times, challenges, and the economy were different those days, and this post only makes a general comparison between these two generations. It is not meant to be judgmental of any generation.

I love that Millennials see the world in a global way, less regional. We are one planet, and that makes sense to me. They love to travel and explore, and see traveling as a way of life, not as a vacation. This view makes them more open to other cultures. I love that Millennials seem to process information differently than previous generations. This fast and focused way might render them insensitive to previous generations sometimes; even labeled as having no good manners. I am not a scientist or in the medical field, but I have read that the brain constantly makes connections and those connections are based in part, on outside stimuli. We can all agree that things have changed a lot in the past few decades. I love that Millennials have a sense of humor, a bit different, and it might render them insensitive to previous generations as well.

Many Millennials are parents by now, others are starting careers, and in a way, one day they will become the Baby Boomers of future generations, and maybe then, we’ll understand each other better.

How do you represent a particular generation in your novel?

The State of a Nation

Yesterday, I found myself thinking about many things going on in this nation – political, moral, financial, social, ethnic … the list goes on. At first glance, it appears as a big mess going on in all directions. One particular issue I thought about was the new abortion law in New York, and the same issue and political mess in Virginia (USA). I’ve always been a very open minded person and one to consider many points of view before making up my mind. This is one issue that no matter how I look at it, I cannot understand or justify. How is it not a crime to end the life of a baby, especially at the point of delivery? How is it not immoral? We call the construction of a border wall immoral, but not the killing of a baby? How did we get here as a nation?

I was asking myself that when these words crossed my mind – “The state of a nation depends on the evolution of its people.” A sort of answer to my question. Then, I thought about these two words.

Nation – An aggregation of people organized under a single government. (American Heritage Dictionary) 

Evolution -A gradual process in which something changes, especially into a more complex form. (American Heritage Dictionary)

What have we evolved into? Our currency reads, In God we trust.

Genesis 1:27 – God created man in his image, in the divine image he created him; male and female he created them.

We have not understood the meaning of life.

 

The Story of Your Life

Photo by Maria Diaz

I believe we are open books, living stories. I believe that there is a book (the book of life) with our story and name in it, and we are free to fulfill that story or not (free will). Sometimes, it feels as if we are on track, everything goes so well and things flow accordingly. At other times, it feels as if every step we take is met by a struggle, a stumble, or a road block. Sometimes, it may feel as if one cannot move at all. Life block, I call it, similar to writer’s block.

The flow of life may not be smooth at times, but it is always constant. From the minute we open our eyes in the morning (or at night) we are making choices/decisions. From what to wear, eat for breakfast, or even if we will get up at all, get to work … to more complicated choices such as career, marriage, and many other issues. Every time we take a step forward (or backward) by deciding, whichever that might be, we are writing the story of our lives. However, it is not only about “me” because those choices/decisions cross over to other people’s lives. I may think that I am living “my life” but my story is intertwined with the story of others. It is happening right now, as I write this post. Someone out there will read it eventually, and will think about these words – our stories have crossed. “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” – Luke 6:31 Could not have said it better.

As writers, we love to make up stories; its is the air we breathe. However, the most important story we’ll ever write is our own.