My Favorite Character

I have been working on finishing my next book, and have taken a break, which for some reason, I need to do after finishing a story. I am waiting for the proof, and if everything seems right, The Five-dollar Miracle will see the light soon.

While I was on this break, I began to ponder about this new story, and how different it is from my previous novels. I thought about my previous works, and I wondered if my writing is evolving on to another level and even a different style. Of course, I don’t have the answer to that question. I write the book that wants to be written, the one that screams at me the loudest, and that only means that I have to set aside my plans to write the story I thought I would write next. While thinking about my previous books, I realized that my favorite character wasn’t necessary the main character.

As writers, we craft characters, and I believe that characters craft us as well. When writing a novel, we create these imaginary beings to tell a story, but many times those characters reveal themselves to us; they show up. Sometimes, they even write themselves by refusing our pen, our ideas of who they are to become. One of the main characters in Moonlit Valley refused to be written the way I first envisioned him. Jeremy Sandbeck fought my pen from the start. Eventually, I let him be. Initially, I had envisioned him as a methodical, reserved, soft spoken intellectual young man who wore glasses, but he fought me to become quite the opposite. As I wrote him on the first novel and later series, he developed much more, and grew into what he needed to be. Although character development and evolution is expected in a series, this taught me to listen to my characters. In this case, he knew what was best for the story. My original view of him would not have worked as well.

By now, you might be thinking that Jeremy Sandbeck is my favorite character; he is not. My favorite character was introduced in Moonlit Valley, and was intended as a necessary secondary, even tertiary character. Originally, he was not intended by me to make it through the entire story, maybe a couple of chapters. Instead, he stayed through Moonlit Valley, and made it into The Dinorah Chronicles series. It surprised me. His name is Cole Angelou. Although he did not fight my pen as Jeremy Sandbeck did, he grew on me and slowly evolved into a much needed and important figure in the main character’s life. He became a life line.

Cole Angelou is an Anarth. Anarths are highly evolved celestial beings who take human form to fulfill a duty on Earth. Anarths do not age. They posses strength and speed abilities, psychic powers, as well as being capable of traveling between realms in milliseconds. Their senses are heightened and human emotions overwhelm them. Their duty is to live on Earth as sentinels. They monitor and protect key humans who are important in human evolution, and ensure that blue prints are being executed according to the divine plan. They are not angels, and are a few ranks below.

Cole Angelou is the voice of reason, cool, collected, and reserved. He doesn’t interfere in your business unless asked or when necessary, that is without infringing on free will. He is cautious, does not trust easily, and respects hierarchy. One thing I enjoyed when writing this character was to see him get out of his comfort zone and even break a few rules (all for a good reason/purpose).

If I had to question how he ended up staying throughout the series, and beyond my original plan for him, I would say that he did not fight my pen, and he let me write him. However, he creeped in slowly, evolving as the story developed, to the point of becoming crucial, needed, important to it. Did Cole Angelou trick me? I don’t know but he became my favorite character.

To Know, and Know Well

“Write what you know.” I’ve heard this advice many times, and have to admit that I did not realize the depth of it until the other day when I was thinking about the past decade, when a lot of changes took place in my life. Previously, I thought that it referred to field of study, work, expertise, and current/past endeavors, the intellectual and methodology areas, for most part. Rarely did I think of all the emotional impact that living brings to writing. Aside from memoirs, DIY/expert books, educational, and self-help books, where the emotional and factual views are strong, other genres seemed to me a bit more “creative and imaginative” as well as less constrained and more freely approachable.

As writers, many of us are observers and draw much inspiration from our environment and practically anything that crosses our path. However, we tend to forget where we have been in life, emotionally, and tend to dismiss our feelings in those life situations as past. This information is permanently attached/stored in us, and ready to be used as inspiration on our next novel. It will serve us when describing a situation , a similar place, a character that is feeling something we already experienced.
Yes, we have all experienced life in different ways, at many levels. Have you ever been wronged in some way, betrayed, tricked, taken for granted? Ever suffered the loss of a loved one? Have you ever been through so much that it hurts to remember? Have you been so happy, in love, elated, and/or experienced the most sublime of moments in your life? Have life been good to you? Then you can describe with vivid intent how your characters feel in similar situations, making them as human and real as you can. You are writing what you know, and know well. The rest is up to your creativity, passion, and imagination. For writing what you know goes beyond expertise, it transcend your intellectual knowledge of the physical, it duels in you, forever.

A book can be inspirational, educational, entertaining, instructional, helpful, and so many other things, but it can also be a healing tool for the reader as well as it’s author.

More Than One Hat

Fiction writers wear many hats. We wear a costume everyday. When we create a story, we create worlds, and people in those worlds, characters to whom we give life through challenges and the emotions we try to convey through them. Sometimes, readers might mistake a character for its writer or believe that the writer shares its attributes. Although I believe that there is a bit of the writer in between the lines, fictional characters are fiction. We rely on our mind, imagination, observation, and life experience to give life to our characters, but many times, we rely on research, on learning a particular subject to present a character and a story in a better light. Depending on our writing style, we might become poets, song writers, prophets, and even preachers. I have done a little bit of those jobs when writing my books. I’ve written a poem, a prophecy, and pages of an imaginary book, as I did in The Book of Sharon and in Sunrise Souls, books two and three of The Dinorah Chronicles trilogy. I’ve written riddles on Moonlit Valley, and a song in Sunrise Souls. On my work in progress – The Five-dollar Miracle, I had to write an entire sermon.

My point is, we sometimes have to become our characters and see the world through their eyes for a little while, to be able to write the story. Sometimes, the writing feels effortless, and at other times, it is more challenging, but always with levels of engagement. We are separate from our characters but we step inside their world, their minds, and their feelings/emotions to be able to convey a story to the readers as best as we can. In that regard, we wear many hats. We become the heroine, the villain, the priest, the prophet, and even an inanimate object, such as a book of prophecies and teachings.

I write stories, I create worlds, I give life to characters and become one with them, and then, disengage. I put on a costume everyday. I write fiction and love it.

 

 

Inevitable

How did you fall into writing? The inevitable question. I’ve been asked the question many times. Other times, followed by, “I never knew you were into that?”

How do you answer it? I fell into a pile of books while going downstairs half asleep. No seriously, have you thought of the moment when you became interested in writing? Not when you felt “a writer,” because that moment might never come. The usual answer people give is, “I’ve written since I can remember.”  If I go back in time, I can see a child who read everything she got her hands on, a child who amassed a large quantity of pens and pencils, a child who thought that a typewriter was the greatest invention on the planet, and also loved the scent of new notebooks and old books (I still do). I also see a child who followed members of the family, while holding a notebook and pen, and wrote in it everything they did. I see a child who kept diaries, and then, burned them. How many stories do I have from my early years, my teenage years, and the years until I decided to become a writer? None. Not even one. Why? For some inexplicable reason, I had a habit; I burned everything I wrote or broke it into tiny pieces. I never kept one story. It puzzles me today. Although I had the desire to become a writer, I never pursued it. I went into many different careers, pretty much anything that I fancied at the time, but always kept that secret desire well-kept inside me. I had an image of writers that didn’t fit who I thought I was. I saw writers as old people with money. Where did that image came from? I don’t know.

Well, to answer the question – How did I fall into writing? When I resigned from my last job, I felt a strong urge to write, and I did. Almost as a long-lost calling, too loud to keep ignoring. At that same job, in one of our meetings my former boss asked an exercise question to start the meeting. It was, “If you were not here, what would you rather be doing; what is your ideal job?” Each one of us was urged to answer, and we did. Some of us answered honestly, including her, who’d rather be a detective. I answered, “I see myself writing at a cottage near the sea.” Of course, I got the weird looks, but not from her. She said, “I can see you doing exactly that.” Going back to that memory, I think that was the moment when I fell into writing.

What’s Next?

What’s next? It seems to be the perpetual question. It is our human nature to want to keep on going, do better, achieve, evolve … . It seems that as soon as something is achieved, another goal appears in the mind, as if there was no time to enjoy the prize and celebrate the achievement. Whether you are an overachiever or not, the desire presents itself, sometimes as a burning fire to the next level, or as discontent with the present. We forget about the sweetness of the now, and about enjoying the fruits of our hard labor.

As a writer, I focus on the story at hand; however, other stories are brewing or are waiting to be written. It is tempting to hear the plea and to attempt to start writing them, although I have found that I can only write one story at a time, unlike other authors. Instead, I dismiss it and concentrate on the current story, blocking everything else. If a new idea crosses my mind, I jot it down for later consideration, when the timing is right. I don’t succumb to the urge of developing it further.

To each story I pledge my undivided attention, until it is written, edited, and published. Not until then, do I consider my next story. That is another process, which I will write about on a future post – how to select which story to write next. At the moment my focus is in editing The Five-dollar Miracle, and hopefully publish it by the end of this year.

I would like to hear about your writing process and experience – do you write one story at a time or do you split your effort into several?

Writer’s Self Doubt

Am I good enough? It is the question that haunts our minds at one point or another, and if you have written for some time, you know what I mean. You might have 4,5,6 … 15 books under your belt, and that moment of weakness can take your breath away, and with it, chisel a bit of confidence. If you let it, it will keep chiseling until it creates a masterpiece of doubt, and at its worst, of fear. It is at that moment of balancing the writer-self with the ego when one wonders (or wanders), and even dares to question if it all makes sense. If you have been there (or are there), it is normal. Artists, whether writers, painters, sculptors … and any human that is passionate about something, passionate enough to doubt that is, will go through this act of balancing. The image of a circus clown crossed my mind.

Am I good enough? The only way to answer this is to keep going and find out. This is not the time to stop and wonder, but to keep pressing the dream, and regain your breath. At each breath of the pen, the air clears out, and with it any hints of fear that might try to creep up in the writer’s soul. After all, we are in a game of souls, and the mind chooses the setting, and the words flow.

Am I good enough? You’ll never know unless you press on.

 

*Sunrise Souls update – I am in the last revision phase, and almost ready for publication. This one has taken my breath away.

A Dreamer

I dream more books that I can write. I am a dreamer in every sense of the word. Today I wrote the last chapter of Sunrise Souls, the end of the trilogy – The Dinorah Chronicles. It took longer than anticipated, moving the December 2014 deadline to March 2015, and going past that deadline to the last week of April, today. This is the first draft, and now the hard work starts – rewriting, editing, and going through several drafts until it is ready for publication. I am very happy, and the last chapters have been written while I am going through excruciating lower back pain, taking breaks here and there, as the chair feels like a torture device, and my bed turned into a nail bed. Hey, it is all good.

The cover has been finalized, and I even ordered promo cards. Originally, I had a deadline of May 2015 for publication, pending for now, of course, due the amount of work that needs to be done. The experience of writing the last book in the trilogy was a bit different. I felt the pressure of the ending, as I became more critical of my writing. In addition, my health was challenged last year, my mood declined, and it added to the anxiety of meeting my expectations. Thinking of every roadblock I encountered, I don’t think that I performed too badly, as far as having the first draft ready today. I am grateful for that.

My next novel is waiting for me, and I think that I’ll put trilogies aside for a while. I have several novels waiting to be written, but I am letting the one that speaks louder to me become my next project. It is a process that I’ve learned to recognize as it filters to mind during my day, and captures my thoughts in the evening, sometimes making its way into my dreams. It demands to be written, thus muting the voice of the other possible novels.

I’ll share my progress here, and for now, here is a lovely picture of the first draft of Sunrise Souls.

SUNRISE SOULS

First draft – Sunrise Souls. Photo by M.A.D.

 

I Cannot Predict the Future – My Best is Yet to Come

I CANNOT PREDICT THE FUTURE – MY BEST IS YET TO COME.

This post is on attitude. If you can predict the future with one hundred percent accuracy, please do not keep reading.

I tend to ponder my future, and my future as a writer. Writing makes me happy. However, creativity needs nourishment, and many times, this nourishment comes in the form of results. If you are a writer, you know exactly what I mean. You also know that writing is not easy, and takes much work, effort, and faith. Sometimes, you might feel as if you are writing just for yourself, but results come in many forms – the comment of a reader, a good review, the praise of an unlikely reader, sales … you name it. That doesn’t necessarily translate into confidence and the assurance that one’s work is worthy of being in print. Again I tell you, if you are a writer, you know what I mean.

A few months ago, I dared ask a question to someone who has read my books (and is not related to me or a close friend – hence why I asked). I asked,”From 1 to 5, what do you rate my work so far, me as a writer?” She thought about it, and I became nervous because there were other clients at ear-distance in her office. Silently, I cursed myself for asking; now I was not sure if I could take her answer, because I knew that she would answer truthfully. A few seconds went by, then she looked at me in the eye and said, “Four, I give you a 4.” Immediately, a weight lifted from my heart, and I exhale relief. I said, “Four, that is good, very good.” If she had rated a 5, then I would have been disappointed, and suspicious. I know that there is ample room for becoming the best writer I can be, and I have to grow much more, hence why I was hoping for any number under 5, but at the same time, nervous about anything under. Reviews of one’s books are one thing, and subjective to the taste of readers, but my question went above a specific novel, and this is why I hesitated after I asked. It was the first time I had ask anyone this, and probably the last.

The other day I was conversing with my nephew, a sage for his young age. We talked about life from one’s age perspective. It was a good conversation, and later on it made me ponder about my future, and my future as a writer, as well as some plans and goals, but overall, I thought about my image of a writer’s life, and how it compared to the image of writer-self, now and in the future. It was an interesting exercise that gave me deep insight and exposed me. In the end, it didn’t matter much to me, except knowing that I cannot predict the future, and my best is yet to come, but only if I keep giving my best NOW.

When Indie Publishing is Not For You

Thanks to the way technology has developed in the last few years, and the companies that made use of it to broaden the publishing arena, independent publishing is now more effective and affordable. Writers who are serious about their work and are in it for the long run have embraced independent (indie) publishing with excitement and gratefulness. Other people have jumped in looking to make a quick buck, soon to discover that it is not possible or easy, and have left the arena. Many use indie publishing as a way to “be discovered” by the traditional industry in the hopes of obtaining a contract. Some authors who have published via traditional channels have decided to join in and publish independently, while others may consider the movement a heresy. Exciting times for writers, no doubt about it. However, choosing you path to publishing is a very important and personal issue and you must inform yourself, weigh both sides of the industry, and do what is right for you according to your standards – working style, time, work ethics, and future goals; money has little to do with it in the beginning, and a lot later on. The same reason why the traditional industry has not embraced it, and is a bit nervous. Royalties – the forbidden word.

As promising as it sounds, indie publishing is not for the faint of heart; independent authors who have published way before technology reached this capacity know this well. They are the unseen precursors, the ghosts behind the curtain. Many so-called overnight successes have worked at the craft for 15 years or more. Others have been rejected by traditional publishing a lifetime, for not writing what the publishing industry was looking for at the time. These last group found their readers by publishing independently, after many years of rejection and hard work; these too, are called overnight successes.

When is indie publishing wrong for you? It requires a very personal answer, but in general, if you are not willing to work hard, be patient, and grow with the industry as it continues to develop (this is just the beginning) indie publishing might not suit you. In addition, if you are looking for quick money, crave instant recognition, and are not willing to learn, then indie publishing might not be for you. If you feel strongly about pursuing your writing career via the traditional publishing guidelines, independent publishing is not for you. If you are not willing to work long solitary hours at your desk, educate yourself and observe the trends, while working hard to present a decent product to your readers thus honoring their time with the best book you can write, then, indie publishing is definitely not for you.

Writer’s Predicament – WWTT?

WWTT?What would they think?

At one point in our writing we will ask ourselves that question. It comes from the concern that readers will associate what is written with our personality and think that we are it. Some readers will, some will not. That is a chance that the writer will have to weigh, and decide. I think that the work speaks of the writer, however, it does not define him/her.

As writers we decide how far we want to go with our writing, and how true to it we want to be. As an example – If I am writing a murder scene, you bet that I am going to be as descriptive and gross as I can be with the pen to capture the scene and translate it into a visual picture to readers. If I am writing about the killer, I will want to get as deep into his/her psychological persona as I can, to give the character life. Does that make me a psycho or a murderer? I don’t think so. Then, why do we hesitate to write? Out of concern – WWTT?  It is the predicament that stops the pen, the mind, the Muse.

Fiction writers have the “peace of mind” (do they?) that readers will take their works as fiction, but sometimes interpretation goes beyond, and the lines become a bit blurred, not so much for the author but for the readers. A latest example of this is the book Fifty Shades of Grey by E L James. A fiction novel that stirred so much controversy and continues to do so with its movie incarnation. I have not read the book but you would have to live under a rock not to know what is going on with it, that is, if you are an active reader or movie lover. J K Rowling had to deal with the witchcraft criticism of her Harry Potter series, and I am sure that you can think of many other examples.

In the end, a writer decides how far to go with the pen, and how important WWTT is to him/her. To be or not to be, that is the question – Shakespeare.