On Writing – The Weak Spot

Every hero has a nemesis, external or internal (the self). In a story, a hero/main character will most likely, have a weak spot, usually the real conflict going on for that character. That weak spot directly or indirectly affects how the character deals with the outside conflict and relationships around him, the immediate world, and archenemy. That same weak spot becomes a door for the enemy/evil, a portal to the main character’s disturbed soul and vulnerability. It is not until the character/hero deals with that weak spot (even when it remains for life) that he/she is able to conquer the evil that torments. Sometimes, the weak spot is related or rooted to an early trauma. The process seems to be the same for the archenemy, but in this case, the denial of the issue (usually) becomes fuel to an evil side; for the hero, weakness but also the door to greatness and strength.

In The Dinorah Chronicles, Dinorah’s non acceptance of her birthright and destiny at the beginning, is rooted on her perception of abandonment by her parents during childhood. It also becomes the source of her strength and power later on. Whether the weak spot remains with the character or is resolved eventually, it is always a source, a vehicle, and a tool that can be used for good or evil.

The Dinorah Chronicles trilogy is available through Amazon in eBook and paperback format.

Divinity in Writing

The Divine is a main topic in my novels, maybe because it has always interested me. The concept of good vs. evil is fascinating. In my novels, the main characters align with good to fight against evil in a supernatural way. The evil side becomes real but not humanized; it remains what it is, and there is a clear line between the counterparts. I have noticed a trend in stories, whether in book, tv, or movie format, and that is that in most cases, the divine tends to become less divine progressively, and leans more to the evil side, whether cooperating with evil for the sake of good (which makes no sense) or to achieve a common goal as in the adage “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”.

This vilification of the divine or decline of divinity converts it into evil, thus ceasing to exist as divinity. It seems to be used for more drama in a story, especially, when restoration follows, making for a “better divinity.” This concept is flawed, for obvious reasons. When writing Moonlit Valley and The Dinorah Chronicles, I did not take that route. To avoid the obvious, characters with a strong divine personality/essence such as Cole Angelou, a righteous Anarth, and Olga Gartier, a righteous Human, served as “stop signs.” When interaction between good and evil was necessary, not as collaboration but investigation, a neutral party (the Xeres) served as a bridge; however, neutrality is always questionable. The point, not crossing the line thus diminishing divinity in the series – the line remains strong and so its definition. Being the trends in writing/movies/tv … the opposite, this was important to the story, and something I do not regret as a writer.

As trends to diminish/dilute the divine concept seem to become more popular, keeping an “intact divinity” in a story becomes a step aside, if not challenging, when writing these types of stories. Sometimes, running with the crowd is not the answer, and stepping aside is perfectly fine.

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

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

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

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

When Others Don’t Understand What You Do

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

“What do you do?”

“I’m a writer.”

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

“No, I write books.”

“Oh …” (followed by a blank stare)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Intermittent Writing

No one expected last year, and certainly, this year is already showing up as challenging in many ways for this country. It has affected people in many different ways and aspects of their lives. No one the same. This post is about an update on my latest novel, The Girl Who Could Not Love. What’s up with my novel? The quick answer is nothing is up. I have had to put it aside for a while, after periods of long intermittent writing. The past year has affected my writing in ways that I did not expect, after all, as a writer I enjoyed solitude, and it helped my writing in the past. However, I find myself with a dry inkwell and no desire to tackle my current novel, something very unusual for me. Everything that last year brought, which hasn’t changed much this year, played a number on my “little psyche” thus affecting my writing disposition. I have been busy with many other projects, but not with what I consider my most important and precious endeavor (it is to me). If you have been able to finish a novel during the past year until now, I congratulate you, and please, give yourself a pat in the back, because I know it has not been an easy task. God bless you. You are a Warrior Writer.

So what now? This post serves (me) as an outlet, a source of release, a sort of permission, a passing ritual, and an acknowledgement to myself – the writer – that it is fine to feel this way, that is is ok to put the guilt feelings of a writer aside, and to pick up that novel again sometime in the future, when the writer has healed the soul. For now, all previous self-imposed deadlines are released, and each day will be received and acknowledged with a grateful heart.

Totally unrelated – Find the bird in this picture.

Can you find the bird? (Photo by M.A.D.)

On Writing Prophecy

All tips I share on this blog are based on my experience, on what I have learned in my journey as a writer. I understand that every writer has her/his own road to take, own style, writing goals, work ethic … so what I share here is based on my perception, as far as my pathway takes me. When I wrote The Dinorah Chronicles, I did not plan to include a prophet in the series. This character appeared unexpected, and pretty much wrote itself – a child named Jenna Callaway, who was confused and scared about the gift of prophecy. Jenna did not know she had this gift. Dinorah Sandbeck, the main character in the series, helps her develop her gift, and eventually, the last prophecy comes through Jenna in the last book- Sunrise Souls. At first, Jenna wrote (in Latin) the words that she heard in her mind, without understanding the meaning. She kept it a secret, until she met Dinorah in book 2 of the chronicles. She delivers as few prophecies throughout books 2 and 3 (The Book of Sharon/Sunrise Souls).

Other than thinking that the wording/content should sound ancient/old, I did not have any other guidelines on how to write these prophecies. I relied on the deep connection that I felt with the story and the character throughout the series, and this is how these prophecies came about. These wrote themselves, and by that I mean that the flow of the words through the pen was smooth, not forced or over developed by a thought process. Here is a short excerpt of Jenna’s first prophecy. It is about a page long, and the rest of it can be found on The Book of Sharon on page 95.

“Write; write these words so the lost can find them, for they are searching in the days when love is scarce and the ego consumes the spirit. Do not think that I have abandoned thee, for when the heart searches, the soul is ready to receive. I am close to every soul of my creation. I do not cry with the vane, but with the humble, the seeker of truth, and the pure in spirit. When they cry, I console. Their path I make soft, their days I turn bright; not even the stars can equal in light. For the light I give is of the spirit, and the love I pour covers their scars. The heart I console, the mind I heal, the spirit I refresh.” (The Dinorah Chronicles – The Book of Sharon)

As a writer, I wish I could tell you more on writing prophecies for a story, but I did not follow any specific guidelines or writing rules, other than feeling connected to the story and letting the pen flow freely, as it wished. In my experience, there has to be a connection when writing a story, otherwise the story does not flow, feels forced, and sometimes, I cannot write even a word if I feel the connection is missing. There are many ways in which you can connect with your story, and as personal and varied as writing is for you – writing everyday or when you feel it is the best time of day, clearing your mind before you write, whether that is exercising, taking a walk in nature ,,, relaxing, or anything that feeds your inspiration. In my case, I love to observe nature, and I always say a short prayer before I write. Whatever fuels your pen, and makes you closer to your story. Sometimes, it is just simplicity in our lives.

The Book of Sharon (Book 2 The Dinorah Chronicles) is available in eBook and paperback via Amazon.

The Dinorah Chronicles – Ramblings of the Spirit (Book 1)

RAMBLINGS OF THE SPIRIT

Ramblings of the Spirit is the first book in The Dinorah Chronicles trilogy. It is the introduction of the main character, Dinorah Sandbeck, half-Human, half Anarth. It is also the door to the trilogy, presenting her origins, her life so far, her birthright, and her quest. It is set 19 years after Moonlit Valley, the novel that inspired the chronicles.

When I wrote Ramblings of the Spirit, I was not sure where I was headed with the story. I knew it was about the main character’s quest, however, there was no outline, as it is usually the case when I start a novel. This novel introduces Dinorah’s secret world, her birthright, as well as her personal battle between self, love, and duty.

When I wrote Moonlit Valley, I did not intend to spin off a trilogy from it but it happened that way. It was not planned, although it seemed a natural development once I started to write Ramblings of the Spirit. Dinorah’s first struggles with her birthright begin to be defined on this first book. It is reflected on this passage, a message for Dinorah at the time she did not understand her quest.

“Your heart is troubled, your mind seeks truth, your soul aches for it, but you are afraid to look for the answers. Why do you ask then, if you will not search deep enough for the truth to reveal itself? I give you freedom to follow your path, the path created for your soul, or to take your own road-turn. There your freedom rests, in the moment when your realize the difference and start your journey. Are you willing to sacrifice your own perception for the journey that will take you to the perfect place? Your human form limits your perception, but the soul knows the path, and you can perceive your soul’s whispering. I guide you; it is up to you to search deeper into your soul and hear the whisperings, the roadmap to your becoming. Only when you know that, will you be free, and there will be no stone in your path, or rope on your hands that will prevent your spirit from being free. Know that you, only you, can do this, and that is where freedom lives.”

Writing this novel was exciting as it was the first book in the trilogy, and I was discovering this new world along with the main character. I would be lying if I don’t admit it was thrilling, from a writer’s point of view. I admire authors who mainly write series because it is not an easy endeavor. There are many elements to consider between books – time lapse, aging and progression of characters, dropping and creation of characters, and so many other elements important for the progression of the central story which is weaved throughout the series, and of course, each book is a separate story in itself. I think a single story is easier to develop than a series.

The last book in the trilogy is called Sunrise Souls, and it is the culmination of Dinorah’s quest, and the fulfillment of it. Throughout the trilogy, Dinorah has to confront evil in its different forms, from subtle to scary. For those who might be interested, all my books are found on Amazon in paperback and e-book formats. There is a direct link on the Novels tab of this blog.

Secondary Themes

When I wrote The Five-dollar Miracle, I recognized the main theme as being faith, and much like the story I am currently writing – The Girl Who Could Not Love – the story developed as I wrote, with no preconceived ideas or outlines. However, as I wrote, the main theme became obvious. Usually, one expects a story to follow or develop around a main theme, and a few secondary themes appear throughout, but mostly, the main theme carries the story to the end. With The Five-dollar Miracle, I was a bit surprised at how many secondary themes I could identify once I finished writing it. It was never intended this way, but all these themes had a strong link with the main one (faith), and helped carry it, propelled it, which of course worked out well for the story. Some of these topics are:

Loss – different types, especially the loss of a loved one.

Financial ruin

Addiction

Righteousness – as a judgemental trait

The spirit of cooperation/generosity/kindness

Respect thy neighbor – accepting differences

Serendipity

I enjoyed writing The Five-dollar Miracle, and it was a welcomed change of pace, as well as refreshing. I am excited about my next novel, and can’t wait to finish it. From my point of view as a writer, it is presenting its challenges, something I welcome, while at the same time, I am hoping that the story flows well, and that by the end, I make peace with it.

New Novel Update

I am currently writing The Girl Who Could Not Love. I am only a few chapters in, and it already seems as if this story will present its challenges. Not so much about writing it, but instead, on the road it is taking me so far. It is one that is new to me, and one which I am not comfortable with as it deals with the main character’s state of mind/heart/soul from the get go. I had no intention to take that route but I will trust the process and be open to it. I have sensed a resistance to write it, and I am wondering why. At the same time, I feel a sense of discovery and excitement mixed with apprehension. For the sake of writing this story and of being faithful to the process, I have decided to put aside my reserves and continue on the journey, as far and deep as the pen wants to take me.

I wish I could tell you more about it but I am discovering it as I write. For the first time I find myself at the mercy of my pen, and I am willing to follow it in faith, if not blindly.

Faith – A confident belief; trust. Loyalty; allegiance. (American Heritage Dictionary)

Medieval Social Times

Times have changed in the last few decades, or have they? With the advantages and perils that the internet brought to our society, what looks to me like an extreme righteous mentality seems to dominate social media. This strict social conscience – a righteous mob – seems eager to point a finger and to burn the victim/person right away. It seems to feed itself, and the power of the mob creates martyrs of social media when guilt is assumed without giving the person the benefit of the doubt, a chance to present truth or facts that will point to redemption/innocence. Sometimes it seems as it is not even about the cause, but of how I ( the me, me, me) fit into it and can also participate in the latest crucifixion.

Why am I bringing this up? Well, as writers we develop characters and we try to portray them as credible and real as the pen allows. This only means that we make use of language, imagery, certain types of words – historical and period appropriate, popular and unpopular views, and even cliches, which might be necessary to create the story’s “environment” in order to tell it as best we can. How does this forced mentality, this “medieval” social mob hysteria affects writers today? Are we faithful to our story without letting the pressure of the times bind the pen, or do we quietly censor it? Do we exercise its free will or are we cautious about being perceived as the personification of our words? How do we separate character from writer without giving in to the righteous mob inquisition? It seems to me that sometimes, people cannot separate one from theother, and this might present a challenge for writers.

Will these medieval social times have an influence on future writers, their minds, and by default the pen? Will stories become diluted? Diluted enough to be politically correct? Historical fiction writers are presented with a challenge. It has been said that books, whether fiction or not, speak of the times when these were written, of the social conditions and atmosphere of the time. It permeates throughout the pages of a book, and many times, it remains alive between the lines.