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.

New Beginnings

As a new year starts, new possibilities and challenges do as well, for us personally, and for Country. I spent the last two weeks pondering many things, letting go of many others, and setting up the stage for a new year, a new year in which no matter what goes around, I expect to keep up the faith as well as a positive outlook. I wrote some goals as well. During this time, I was able to take notice of a new visitor that has been coming around and staying for a while everyday. It is a gorgeous bird that I think it is a hawk or a falcon; I am not sure which one. I have been observing it almost daily and it seems to have established a morning and afternoon routine. Wanting to start the year in a positive note, here are some pictures of this lovely bird.

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

I have seen this bird around crows as well. It has been a joy to watch it hunt and eat from the ground as well, enjoy the warmth of the sun, and just perch for a while, until in a split of a second it takes fly again.

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

During the last couple of weeks, I spent time watching nature and its beauty in many forms. I needed to put aside and away all the negativity 2020 left in my memory, and I wanted to start the new year with a hopeful look and a grateful heart. I saw the miracle of nature, the hand of divine creation, the hand of God surrounding me, and it is all I needed to start the new year. May this new year be full of blessings for all of you.

A Holy Night

Nativity – Photo by M.A.D.

Christmas is just around the corner. My favorite time of the year. The reason for the season is the best part of it, the most sublime gift – Jesus Christ, King of kings. Most years, I try to write a poem for this blog during this time. I know 2020 has not been a kind year for anyone, but we should welcome the season in our hearts and be thankful that we are still around, and for many other blessings that whether we realize or not, have happened throughout this dreadful year.

A Holy Night

On a cold December night,

outside I stepped, to see the stars.

The moon shone bright,

the air was crisp.

My heart too sad to think of Him.

*

A tear I felt, and many more.

A cloud passed by

the moon it cloaked.

A heart too tired,

A heavy load.

*

Far in the sky, a light above.

A twinkling star,

Its light bestowed.

Far down below

my heart just stopped.

*

A voice I heard

deep in my heart.

“My child I am here.”

“Of you I think,

your heart I hear.”

*

The star I saw

Announced His love,

his gift bestowed.

Born is the King,

Jesus, pure love.

I will be back in January. I am very grateful for every reader and visitor of this blog, and I wish everyone a beautiful season and many blessings for 2021. Lets hang in there; this too shall pass.

A Taste of Childhood

If anything, this pandemic has made us more creative in other areas. For some, having time to kill (not trying to be insensitive here) has sparked creativity without limits. For me, it has made me reflect and ponder many areas of my life, and revisit many childhood memories. One of my favorites is when my grandmother used to set aside a day to make “frituras” (fritters), a type of Puerto Rican cuisine. It did not happen all the time, but when it did, we were filled with anticipation, taste anticipation that is, because these fritters were delicious. Having lived most of my life here, my exposure to these authentic fritters was limited. The closest in flavor was at a restaurant in Connecticut many decades ago. Over the weekend, I decided to try and recreate that feeling at least, because I wasn’t sure I would be able to recreate my grandmother’s fritters flavor just how she used to make them, heavenly and close to perfection. Of course, I would never beat my grandmother in the kitchen, but the sentiment was there and all I wanted to do was to capture the memories in a tangible and delicious form.

It took me three days to capture the feeling, and I don’t think I will be recapturing it anytime soon. These fritters take time to make, especially because everything is made from scratch. It also requires frying, and I don’t like to fry because it is a bit messy. I divided the task in three days, one kind of fritter per day. For my husband, who loves these, they were three days of pure bliss. It was a good feeling accompanied by the sweetest memories of my grandmother and childhood.

Day One

On day one, I started with the easiest kind to make – Rellenos de Papa, translated to Potato Balls filled with meat, usually ground beef, but you can fill these with any kind of meat, or chicken/turkey. I have to say that these came out pretty close in flavor and appearance. I am not going to include recipes on this blog post, but if anyone is interested in the recipe, you can leave a comment below and I will answer it. Here is what they looked like.

Rellenos de Papa (Potato Balls filled with ground beef)

Day Two

On the second day, I decided to make Pastelillos, roughly translated to a type of Beef Pattie. Again, you can use any type of meat or chicken/turkey filling, however the traditional way is to use ground beef with tiny pieces of potatoes mixed in as the filling. These took a bit longer to make because I made the round shells from scratch. If I want to be technical, these would be called Empanadillas, which is the same except that the color is white instead of yellow, and the shell is a bit thicker and dense. These came out delicious but nothing like my grandmother’s. Here is what they looked like.

A bit of the process. The key is the shell, which is round.
Pastelillos (Beef Patties).

Day Three

On the third day, I made Bacalaitos, translated to Codfish fritters. However, I have made these before because these are easy to make, and something that my grandmother made more often than the other two kinds for the same reason. I did not have codfish, so I used canned ham, just because I wanted to do these. If you get the seasonings right, you will not miss the codfish. These turned out very good and the seasoning was right. My grandmother used to serve these with bread, and so did I.

Bacalaitos (fritters)

And what does all this has to do with writing? Nothing and everything. Inspiration is fueled by letting your spirit delight in other things not related to writing. It is fueled by enjoyment, by taking the time to step out of the routine and clear your mind and heart. To pursue that which recharges the soul so later on you can recharge the pen, and to delight one’s mind in the pursue of happiness, which undeniably would make a better writer. On my second novel, Ramblings of the Spirit, one of the key characters (Olga Gartier) makes a very delicious meal (cornbread crab cakes and squash casserole), which Jeremy Sandbeck, an Anarth, loves and cannot have enough of it. Sometimes, food has its place in writing.

Diamonds in the Rain

Life is not always fair. Sometimes, we are presented with heavy blows and challenges so difficult or unfair that we may think we don’t have any strength left to deal with life. I know; I have been there myself a few times. It is on those tempestuous days when it is easier to go with the flow, walk with a clouded mind, because even thinking hurts (and forget about feeling, you can even go there), that we think less of ourselves. It is as we are punishing ourselves for life’s dealings and for not being the perfect hero we should be. We are fed a heroic image since our childhood, and when we cannot be even a third of that image, we think that we might be the biggest failures on the planet. Well, if anything, we are human, very human, and being human is not an excuse for stopping and letting people and situations use us as a punching bag, neither an excuse to be less. We must pause, yes, but to recharge, to ponder, to regain perspective, and to continue the journey, fair or unfair as it might seem. There is an adage that goes “Pick up the pieces and keep going,” or something along those lines. The “keep going” part is not the difficult part. The hard part is to “pick up the pieces.” When your life has been shattered in billion pieces, at one point, when you are bending as much and as long as you can to pick up those pieces, and each piece reflects back a part of you, you start counting them, and the task seems unsurmountable. That is why it might be easier to go at it one piece at a time, one step at a time, one day at a time, without counting, recounting, or even regretting what has already been recounted more than once. Life can present us with light showers, heavy storms, and even hurricanes, at any time. It is call living. So we are not the heroes we though we grew up to be? Then we must change suits, and suit up for the occasion, as best as we can under the circumstances. We cannot do it alone? Who said we had to do it alone? God is there at all times, whether we choose to see it or not, and Jesus is just waiting for us to call on him. We don’t have to go it alone if we don’t want to. We tend to be hard on ourselves, and less forgiving. We place so much pressure on ourselves, sometimes more than God puts on us. After all, He wants us to love Him, love one another, and welcome His son Jesus into our lives. That sounds less demanding to me than being Mr./Mrs. Perfect – Know it all – Super Performer Hero/Heroine that bleeds success when poked, and is unstoppable. Aspiring is beautiful, achieving is lovely and rewarding in its own way as well, but it is not the only important thing. Our soul is, and it is very easy to lose track of it in the storms of life.

We are all humans and life is not always fair; however, we can start seeing the diamonds in the rain, one by one. God put them there for a reason.

Diamonds in the rain. Photo by M.A.D.

The Turkey That Keeps On Giving

Thanksgiving day was not the same this year. I decided to cook a turkey just for the two of us, and a small traditional thanksgiving meal. I shared the meal with my neighbor, and saved a few leftovers for today, and to use in future cooking. One thing that I enjoy doing with the rest of the picked turkey (the parts that I will not use) is to place the entire pan outside for any critters to enjoy – cats, meat-eating birds and many other critters. Usually, by the next day, the pan is licked clean and the carcass gone or spread out in a few bones without any meat left. Then, we place it into a garbage bag to be disposed.

Today, I was able to capture a few vultures and crows joining in to enjoy the rest of the turkey. I took the pictures silently, from inside, through the window with a screen, so I would not scare them, hence why they are not perfect and a bit hazy, but I will share them anyhow.

This pan is empty now; all turkey juice gone as well as the turkey.
Not much left of that turkey.
Crows and Vulture join in.
It seems satisfied enough.
This one is standing on my neighbor’s roof. From a distance, and especially when they are all together, they look the same, but they are not. Look at the face and feathers, and the color of the legs and beak as well.

It is nice to know that all the turkey was used, and the outdoor critters enjoyed it as well.

Everyday Thanks

Thanksgiving will certainly be very different this year across the country. So much has changed for all of us. For me, it will be just my husband and I, and the cats, of course. Just a simple meal, and we plan to enjoy the day while relaxing and thinking about so many things we are grateful for. However, there are so many little things to be grateful for every single day. All we have to do is observe with intention, and we see miracles everywhere. I truly believe that, and moreover, I choose to believe that in this crazy time we are living. Yes, 2020 has been though for everybody, but it also has its blessings.

This morning was cold; it was 30 degrees outside. However, I spotted two beautiful miracles.

The “rose bush that could” has a few more roses. This was a little rose bush we rescued. It was covered in weeds, but it made it and grew to be beautiful. I see those last roses in a 30 degree morning as a thank you offering.
I even spotted a few buds ready to open.
This little forsythia bush (another rescue) keeps blooming. I noticed more flowers this morning, and more are ready to open. Another tiny miracle of nature.
Yesterday, I observed one of my favorite autumn moments that I look forward to every year. When most of the leaves have fallen, the sunrays filter through and it looks as if light is dancing through the woods, and parts of it become orange-red. It only lasts a few minutes, not much longer, but it truly is a magical moment.
During that brief time the tops of some trees are set on light-fire.
It is truly a beautiful sight that doesn’t last long and can only be appreciated during this time of the year.
And when the sun sets, and that brief moment of magic is gone for the day, I am thankful that tomorrow, I might get to see it again.

Even in the midst of worldwide sadness, a pandemic, unrest, and other less than perfect situations, we can still be grateful for the glimpses of blessings we have, no matter how simple or small we may think they are; but are they? May you and yours have a blessed Thanksgiving day, and for the rest of you who live in other countries where this day is not celebrated, may you find much to be thankful for every day of your lives.