On the Writing Front

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Photo by M.A.D.

What is happening on the writing front? Not much these days. The state of our country, protests, the pandemic, and the political turmoil, have influenced my writing mode, and mood. My mind and heart have not been in the right place, and I have not been able to write my latest novel – The Girl Who Could Not Love – after the first five chapters. I feel as if I am not connecting with my novel, my writing, and my thoughts have been scattered. This presents a reality; I will not be able to meet my original deadline. If I do, it would be a miracle.

Many of you are going through similar writing experiences. It is called being human, and not a writing machine. Many of us draw from our inner emotions when we write. It is understandable that there might be a storm in the sea of emotions during this time. I am allowing myself the necessary time to work through this period. I am being creative in many other ways, which helps my state of mind and heart. I have decided to approach the writing of this novel in a different way.

Usually, I write the first draft by pen and paper. It is my preferred method. My thoughts flow freely, easily, and at times it feels as dictation. This is not working at this time. it is rare that I start a first draft on the computer, although my first novel, Moonlit Valley, was a combination of pen/paper and screen time. This time, I feel I need grounding, a way to slow down my feelings, so my mind can connect with the story. At this moment, it feels as if the story is somewhere out there, floating in the air (or my brain) and I cannot access it. All I know is that it is there, present, and waiting on me to find a way.

While I was planning my work the other day, I happened to glance at the old typewriter in front of me. I have not written on it for sometime, and it occurred to me that it could be the tool I need to write this story. It could slow down my thoughts enough that I might be able to listen to the story, and it may provide an audible rhythm, which could be beneficial in harnessing my focus. I am going to give it a try. Maybe it will be the bridge between me and the story.

If you are struggling with your writing due to the present worldwide (or local) climate, see if you can find a way to jumpstart your focus, but allow yourself enough time to work through your feelings/emotions.

Unexpected Visitor

If you visit this blog from time to time, you know that I love to watch birds and take pictures of them. After the cicadas arrived, I noticed that many birds left, including my beloved crows. Also, missing were the Blue Jays and the Cardinals. The cicadas are gone, and many birds are back. I also noticed the absence of the Katydids. I love their loud song during the night in the summer, and I have not heard or seen any. The number of insects around here seem to be low as well, day and night.

Since I moved here, I count myself lucky to have seen my first mixed flock as well as my first Snowy Owl (during the day) perched on a tree near the back woods. I don’t think Snowy Owls are supposed to be in Virginia, but I saw one last year. Sadly, I could not get my camera fast enough. By the time I went and retrieved it the owl was gone. The other day, I got a treat from nature. I saw my first large woodpecker. I have seen many on the small size range, but never one this size. I was able to grab my camera and take a few pictures, although not as many as I wanted to take. It also kept moving, pecking the wood, so its head came out blurry at times.

This is a picture of a smaller woodpecker that I took when I lived in Jersey.

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Photo by Maria Diaz

Here are the pictures I took a few days ago. These were taken from the inside through glass because I did not want to scare the bird. It was very hard to photograph because it kept moving all over. I feel I have to apologize for the quality, but at the same time I wanted to share this beautiful sighting with you.

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Photo by M.A.D.

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Photo by M.A.D.

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Photo by M.A.D.

I never know when I am due for a treat from nature, so now I keep the camera downstairs, and hanging from the coat rack.

 

 

My Common Thread, Good vs. Evil

A common thread in my novels is the theme of good vs. evil/the divine/angels/devil. This topic has fascinated me since I can remember. I don’t know if it has to do with my Catholic upbringing by a very strict grandmother or not, but the curiosity about this topic has always been present. I have regretted not studying theology instead; I think it would have been more purposeful. Aside from my Christian faith, I’ve asked myself, why this interest? Other than it responds to human nature – the search for a being bigger than ourselves, and by default the archenemy, the yin and yang/positive and negative, or the dichotomy of the natural world, I don’t have a straight answer.

At this point, I can comfortably write in this way, and I assume future works will continue to reflect this interest. It permeates heavily through Moonlit Valley, The Dinorah Chronicles trilogy, and in a different way in The Five-dollar Miracle. I have been open to know myself a bit more as a writer, and I don’t see myself writing without this underlying theme. I enjoy reading a variety of genres, which is why this question arises. I’ve heard this advice over and over – Find your niche. I guess I’ve found mine.

Just a Number

Independent writers abound these days; I am one of them. Many writers dream of being published the traditional way, being offered contracts, and other writers would consider the possibility. These days, many traditionally published writers are crossing over to independent publishing as well. It is a very active and evolving field right now. Indie books are lost in a vast ocean that becomes wider every minute. I can’t imagine what will be the future of independent publishing but one thing is for sure – evolution. I am glad for this evolution because it allowed me the opportunity to write and publish my works, a long-time dream. I don’t know how many books I will write in my lifetime, or how long I will live, neither does any writer. However, I have asked myself this question – ” How many books do I want to write before I die?” It seems a bit macabre but I have settled on a number that seems to feel right. It doesn’t have any significance other than it seems to be a number that represents a happy compromise (at least in my mind) between enough and not enough, in other words, a fulfilling number. That number for me is 30.

At my age, I would have to write a minimum of one book a year to reach that number, and that is assuming that I would live to reach my eighties or beyond, and be of sound mind. This realization changes my perspective, and as a result, thirty becomes just a number. Do you have an ideal number? How many books would you like to publish?

The Five-dollar Miracle Promo Cards

Over the years, I have made a habit of making promo cards when I publish a book. I don’t go overboard; I order 25-50 cards at a time, and when I am running low I order another set. It is something I do to promote my books. I am not active on social media, so this is a small way of doing something.  I keep them at hand, and when the opportunity arises I hand them out, sometimes inside a free copy of one of my novels. These are the ones for The Five-dollar Miracle. I think they came out nice.

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Photo by M.A.D.

It may not be something at large scale, but it is something I enjoy doing, and gets the word out in a more tangible and personal way. In any case, it serves as a free bookmark. There are many print services online that you can use and are cost efficient. They are also user friendly, and the many ways in which you can promote your work using various products is unlimited. It is something that authors can use to promote their work. Something to consider if you are not too busy or involved in social media.

Home Sweet Home

Today, I find myself wishing for spring, even summer, unusual for a winter lover. I yearn for the sounds and warmth of summer. It usually takes me about four to five years to acclimate well to a new place or new surroundings. It may seem a lot of time for many people, but for me to call a place home that seems to be right. Although I welcome change, I am a bit set on my ways and my memories. The concept of home has always been very important to me. I need my four walls, and I make sure they feel cozy and beautiful to me. My husband seems to adapt fairly fast, and I think it has to do with our upbringing. While I lived in the same house until I got married, he moved many times during his childhood.

I love the phrase Home Sweet Home, but I also admire people who travel and can feel at home in any place around the world. I can honestly say that I feel at home now, although I will always miss my beloved Jersey shore. This way of adaptation translates to other things in life for me, although at different time frames. When I start a new novel, there is a period of time in which I have not yet fully adapted to the story. The time varies with each novel. It takes me some time to acclimate/bond with the story. What I find is that I cannot rush this process; it happens naturally. Once I am in sync with it I feel at home. Then, I can “settle in” and “decorate” the place with my pen.

Home is where the heart is, the adage says, but I think the tic-toc of the heart determines when it becomes home.

There are No Coincidences

I believe that what we call coincidences are tiny miracles that intertwine in this life. Every writer, at one point, questions his/her path and the issue of why keep on writing, or what difference does it make? I’ve have asked that question; I asked that question to God. A few weeks ago I got my answer in the most unusual way.

A few weeks ago, something happened that changed my perspective as far as my writing goes. During that time, I had received a shipment of copies of my latest book – The Five-dollar Miracle, and the next day, I gifted the first copy. It was an impromptu offering. I was talking to that person and the books where next to me. A few days later, I had a casual conversation with that person and she mentioned the many similarities she encountered reading the story. She told me the book spoke to her, and many things she had taken to heart. She was going through many of the challenges the story presented, and so was her church. The pastor had died three months ago, and the congregation faced new challenges as well. What caught her eye and made her read further on was the first paragraph. She asked me how I came up with that date. I found the question unusual, and I told her it was a random date with no significance to me – the day I sat to write the story. For her, it was the day her husband died. I did not know her during that time. She mentioned that she was starting the five-dollar miracle.

Later on, I pondered all the events that had lead to that conversation and weaved my tiny miracle. By then, I had put my question to God out of mind. Only when I pondered these things I realized that my question had been answered. I don’t know if she will find something more in this story, but as far as I know the writing of it mattered, at least for her. As soon as I understood this, I thanked God for his love. I had a new perspective on writing.

As writers, we never know for whom we are writing the stories we create, but sometimes, we are blessed to have a glimpse. As far as I am concerned, The Five-dollar Miracle fulfilled its purpose, and I was able to find a new perspective in writing. If you have asked yourself the same question I asked, I hope this post helps you in some way.

THE FIVE-DOLLAR MIRACLE

“My name is Jonathan. My official name is Zadquiel. I prefer Jonathan. The story that I am about to tell you happened in Jasper Falls, a small town in the north of Virginia, USA. It was a small miracle, a five-dollar miracle that changed a stranger, a pastor, an entire congregation, and a whole country. I will take you to that day – July 29, 2016.” (excerpt from The Five-dollar Miracle)

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.