Ghostly Lines

I guess this post is inspired by the change in weather and the crisp air …

Photo by M.A.D.

As a writer, I am attuned to inspiration, and it can come from anywhere, anytime, anyplace. An overheard conversation between strangers, a dream, headlines, a person, and sometimes, as lines that pop up in my mind out of nowhere. I call these ghostly lines because these have no context or previous reference, just appear. It may be a phrase, one word, a brief image that suddenly comes, or a banner of words. If there is pen and paper nearby, I immediately make a notation; if not, I make a point to remember as best as I can. Sometimes I do, sometimes I do not. I keep these words or images filed in a little green box for future use. I figure, this came to me for a reason.

For example, once a brief image of a well-dressed young woman from another era suddenly appeared in my mind, and she was saying to someone, “Even the poor have gardens.” I briefly wrote the scene and the line and filed it in my green box. This time, I was in my car, my husband was driving, so I was able to take out a notebook I keep inside my bag and wrote it down. It didn’t make sense at the moment.

Do not ignore your random thoughts and ideas. Those may come suddenly and without reason. Write those because you might be able to use them one day. These might inspire a story, a chapter, or even the ending of a story, you never know. Take these ideas for what they are – useful random bits and pieces of inspiration. Never underestimate the power of your pen.

Writer, Don’t Take your Words for Granted

Photo by M.A.D.

Most people I have talked with seem to misunderstand what a writer does. Either they think that words are cheap a dozen or that writing a story is easy. A common suggestion is, “Why don’t you write about this or that?” As writers, we tend to draw inspiration from many places, but inspiration is all it is. The original idea must mean something, entice the pen, allure us, arouse our curiosity in order to proceed into the crafting of a story. Sometimes, we agonize over a character, a chapter, or even a single word. Although these suggestions might be well intended, I compare it to asking a farmer how many acres he/she has; you just don’t go there. It is like me asking you how much money is in your bank account.

For some, writing a book is all about money, for others, about fame and recognition, but for a true story lover, it is about everything. That might be hard to explain. If you have ever had an encounter with writer’s block, you know how soul-sucking it is, and how debilitating it is to the mind of a writer. A torment that ink and paper cannot cure. Only the return of the missing word can alleviate the tormented heart and soul of the afflicted writer. There is no time or expectation, only hope and desire. It is a mystery of mysteries, a black hole that consumes words, pen, and writer, for time does not exist anymore, only days without words, empty pages, a crusty dried pen, and innumerable cups of coffee. Days come and go blending into one another, a timeless punishment by the muse who refuses to sprinkle the miraculous ink that will cure the ailment. Until one day … And until then, making peace with writer’s block is a sensible solution.

What are the Signs?

Signs are everywhere, that is, if we take the time to see and listen. Have you ever heard someone say, “Signs of the times?” It refers to characteristics of a particular era or present time, or even alluding to certain events that are expected to happen, such as “end times” or other. Signs could also be warnings given to us from above before something is about to happen or we are about to make the wrong decision. Different from clues, which take us forward, from one to the next and so on, in order to reveal something or truth, signs serve more as a beacon, a warning just on time.

I have had signs before something is about to happen. For example, on one occasion, I gave a ride to a coworker who was sabotaging me at work, unbeknownst to me. A small glass blown angel that I had hanging from my backing-up mirror, suddenly broke in pieces and fell just as this person sat in the car. I could not explain why and how it happened because it was well secured with a sturdy chain, and the chain remained intact, not broken. Although I found the incident unusual at that time, I ignored it. It was a warning from above, which I understood later on.

In writing, sometimes we use signs and clues when creating a story. Mystery thrillers are a good example. However, one should separate one from the other. Clues take you to a destination, signs warn you about it. Many people refer to these as one and the same, but I view these as different in purpose. I made use of clues in my novel Moonlit Valley, as the main character Rose Carrigan follows a path that reveals the truth. I made use of signs also, such as a warning given to her by Black Hawk, one of her protectors. Signs and clues are sparingly used throughout my novels, which deal with the topics of the Divine and the supernatural. As a writer, I try not to center the story solely on clues and signs. I think these should enhance the story not become it.

Now, if we could only see a butterfly on top of the bird, we could make up a story.

On Writing – Birthright, Destiny, and Free Will

Birthright – A right or privilege to which a person is entitled by birth.

Destiny – The seemingly preordained or inevitable course of events.

Free Will – The power or discretion to choose.

(American Heritage Dictionary)

These are topics/ideas that are common in many novels, whether paranormal, historical fiction or other. The Dinorah Chronicles trilogy presents the idea of birthright as central to the series from denial to acceptance to fulfillment. At first glance, these three concepts might appear different or even contradictory to each other, however, these fuel each other, and in the end, the character chooses (free will) to fulfill a birthright and/or what might be viewed as destiny. A birthright might be given but a destiny is chosen by the exercise of free will, whether that birthright is fulfilled or not. In the end, the character finds “self” or grows into the pursuit of knowledge.

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

On Writing – The Demise of Self For the Good of All

Most heroes accept their calling, even when they might hesitate at first. They choose to follow their purpose. Their purpose eventually becomes their identity, and if that purpose fails, ceases to exist, even momentarily, the hero/main character loses her/his identity. When the purpose , the calling, the birthright becomes the goal/the existence, it becomes more important than the hero or anyone else, and it usually translates (ironically) in the denial of self, the neglect of loved ones, all for the good of humanity – the ultimate goal. Just like a fire, it consumes the hero’s soul, and takes over everything around her/him quickly. Sometimes the hero finds balance, sometimes not; however, most likely, the hero finds the self along the way.

Photo by M.A.D.

On Writing – Resurrecting a Character

Sometimes, it happens that a character is brought back, whether from the dead, or back in a series. When resurrecting a character there is always motive, a purpose, and that motive has to be clear, defined, and essential to the story, otherwise, it might not make sense or have an impact in the story.

Why bring back what was once gone if there is no agenda? It is a risky maneuver for the writer, one that can upset readers more than the demise itself. Of course, for fans of the long gone soul, it is a heavenly gift, like breathing life into the pages once more. For the writer, a necessary duty, a risky endeavor, a solemn event.

Photo by M.A.D.

On Writing – Secondary/Tertiary Characters

Heroes are applauded. Main characters are beloved. Secondary/tertiary characters move the plot. Without these characters there is no story. They are the ones who carry the load, chapter to chapter, the bearers of good and bad news, and in truth, heroes and main characters are nothing without them. They support the main character throughout. Have you ever liked a secondary character more than the main? Are tertiary characters disposable? Do they serve a purpose, fill a hole, and are forgotten after their purpose is fulfilled? Are they neglected characters, in a sense? I don’t think so. Inside every tertiary character, however short lived, there is motive, truth, and purpose. It is that last piece of the puzzle, the one that completes the whole picture. Their existence is brief but not without meaning. After all, they appeared in the writer’s mind for a reason. Even if they are quickly out of mind and out of sight, they became part of a chain of events that if broken, disturbs the scene/story.

In these characters defense, they work for their keep, and unlike main characters/heroes, they are not handed a crown from the beginning.

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.