In Between the Lines – Destiny

Destiny is a very strong theme in my novels, in many levels, earth-bound, personal to the characters, and even as spiritual duty. Destiny is a word that we use in casual conversation; many times, whether we believe in destiny as a preordained course of events or fate, or not. If we don’t believe in the strict definition of destiny or in predestination, we may tend to believe in purpose, and seek the purpose of our lives, “that thing” that we were born to do here on Earth. Purpose is a more digestible word for many. As humans, we crave meaning, and we tend to attach meaning to things/life/events and that meaning is given a layer of sentiment and feeling. It is our nature, whether we tend to analyze these things with our brain or not, we end up doing it. In short, we need a reason to wake up in the morning and keep going; we need purpose. If we don’t have it, we search for it, a lifetime, if necessary. If we never find it, in our deathbed we might say that we missed our purpose in life. Many turn to depression and wither away because they don’t find purpose in their lives. Tragic.

Destiny or purpose – that thing that you must do before you leave Earth – may or not, prevent you from living your life in the now, depending on how you approach its meaning. I think that if we live in the now and are grateful for the moment, while listening to it, our purpose becomes inevitable and unavoidable. It stops being in the future, distant (by our perception) and weaves itself in our daily lives, moment by moment. Somehow, balance is restored between the material being and the spiritual being that is us, and with nature and everything that surrounds us – we become one with the universe, with all that is, whether you call it God, the Universe, or Science. Is there purpose or destiny in that? Maybe or maybe not, or maybe it is intelligent design, or the way that was meant to be? Maybe it is us, our own nature and the nature of things, of it all. Who knows, and will we figure it out? Does it matter that much? It seems to matter; otherwise, we wouldn’t be searching eternally. Without it we feel as feathers floating in the wind, aimlessly, and taken away by life’s current, and without meaningful act. However, we forget that life in itself is purpose.

Photo by MAD

Photo by MAD

 

Note – I will be away from this blog for a week – see you soon 🙂

 

 

 

In Between the Lines – Duty

Duty – An act or a course of action that one should or must do. A moral obligation. A task assigned to or demanded of one. – American Heritage Dictionary

 

Duty is another main theme in my novels. Ramblings of the Spirit may be summarized (thematic) with this line – When destiny must fight to meet love, duty stands in the way.

As the above definition suggests, many times our duty goes beyond a task that is demanded of us, crossing into moral territory, and guided by the weight of our beliefs. It transcends the material into the spiritual, and it is then, when duty is bound by the material but being called into action by a higher or spiritual belief or value system that conflict is born. What a person (or a character) does to solve this internal conflict and find balance (or not) determines not only the course of action, but future events. It is then that true heroes emerge, and the embodiment of duty becomes reality.

Many times, duty and sacrifice go hand in hand; other times, duty goes beyond sacrifice, reaching the realms of an ideal that becomes more important than the sacrifice itself. The sacrifice becomes a vessel, a vehicle to fulfill duty. Understanding how our mind works through these scenarios, while relating it to the material and spiritual perspectives, will help us create more complex characters that become more real and human as the story progresses.

In short, we might have never been in the character’s shoes, but that does not prevent us as writers, to embrace the character’s psyche or transcend into their spiritual realm/value system. As writers, it is our duty.

 

 

 

In Between the Lines

Photo of vintage jewelry box by M.A.D.

Photo of vintage jewelry box by M.A.D.

 

How many themes can you identify in your novels? I asked myself that question, and decided to start a series of posts, each one about a primary or secondary theme that I have identified as predominant in my novels. I will start with a primary theme – Love.

Throughout all my novels, Love seems to permeate the lines, whether it is romantic love, parental love, love of God, love of a friend … however, it seems to be linked to duty, almost in a duty vs. love or love vs. duty way. To complicate things more, Destiny is mixed in between those two. Now, why is that? I am not going to analyze my author’s psyche in this post; however, I will write about Love.

The topic of Love puzzles me. Why do we love? How far will we go for love? What would I do or not do out of love? What changes the love I feel for someone into something else, or is it that love leaves the heart and another feeling takes its place? Is love circumstantial or unchangeable? Why everything seems to hover or spin around love? Why loving seems so easy or so hard at times? What is the ultimate definition of love, and according to what or whom? – and so many other questions that make Love something to ponder seriously. I even started a one year study about Love in 2009, but got distracted, and restarted it on 2013 and got distracted again, and I hope that I get to finish it sometime.

The more I ponder, the more I realize how powerful this feeling is, and how it is capable of altering reality. It is also complicated, maybe because humanity makes it so. Take as an example the mother or father who gives her/his life to save a drowning son or even the stranger that does the same. Heroic acts of love. But also, take as an example the woman who murders her ex-lover claiming that she did it out of love, because love hurt so much – a crime of passion. One can argue that true love does not hurt another being, but in the mind of that woman, does she know the difference between the love she felt for her man when they were together and the love she still feels now that they are apart? How does the mind process this Love, or is it processing the pain of loving? Is love a feeling or a chemical/nerve reaction in the brain? We say we feel love in our hearts, but are we able to isolate the area in the brain? Certainly food for thought.

And I could probably write thousands of words about this topic, and never fully understand the true power of Love, and that is not even adding the spiritual side of Love to this post – God’s love. For now, I am happy to let you ponder about it. Feel free to comment.

 

 

Tools of the Trade

I just glanced at the right corner of this blog, and the realization that I have roughly 8 months to write my next novel, Sunrise Souls, hit me. Where did time go? My goal is to write the first draft by December 31st. So far, I have just a few ideas fluttering in my head, and nothing in writing – should I panic?

There is an issue, a challenge, with Sunrise Souls, and that is that part of it, will take place in Rome, Italy. The issue? I have never been to Rome nor will I be able to take a trip there soon. As you can see, this story will take a bit of research time, via internet, and using a blessing of a tool for writers – Google Earth. Yes, lots of Google Earth time. I will have to make the best use of it, as needed, to be able to convey a measure of credibility to the story, even that it is a work of fiction. Aside from that, it will be up to my imagination and inspiration – and the clock keeps ticking.

I am not crazy about outlines, but I think that for this one, most likely, I will have to put something together, a short one, just to create a bit of structure to facilitate the flow of ideas. I think that I will do most of my research at the beginning, and that will help create the right atmosphere for inspiration, and will help situate my mood and mind. Later on, I will research as needed, depending where the story leads. I am excited about this challenge.

We are living in exciting times for writers; the internet opened many opportunities for research, as well as making the task easier. Imagine the same challenge in the old days, when there was no internet or tools like Google, YouTube …

Feel free to share your research ideas and tips.

Novel or Novella?

I have been immersed in the editing process of The Book of Sharon for the past couple of months. I have changed, cut, rewrite, added, pondered, ignored, and have been guilty of neglecting this blog a bit (mea culpa). In the process, I reviewed my writing habits, and what is truly important to me as a writer. I found that I needed to eliminate a few things, and strengthen others, so I could use my writing time more efficiently – in short, editing leaked from the story to my life.

I discovered that I need to tend a bit more to my author website, as well as this blog (the venues I love most), but I also discovered that I do not want to Tweet, but will continue to enjoy meeting people on Facebook, so I closed my Tweeter account. I thought about other issues that were clogging my brain, such as joining Goodreads, Shelfari, and other sites that I have pondered about too much for too long, and concluded that I don’t want to join now, despite all the advice I’ve heard for indie authors to join as many venues and be everywhere to gain exposure. I felt that I needed to get back in touch with the writer in me, and keep up the activities that I enjoy most while ignoring every sound advice out there for indie authors. At one point, it seemed overwhelming. I discovered that the only few venues I wanted to keep up at this time were Inkspeare, my website, and Facebook. I decided to offer my books through Amazon/Createspace only at this time. And while that may seem extreme, it is what I need to do to get in touch with the writer again. Finally, I gave  myself permission to accept that I do not have to follow all the trends, and understand that it is okay (however it plays out). I’d rather do more of the few activities I love, than do less in tons of other venues/activities, so I adjusted my focus.

After I sorted all this out and emptied my scattered brain, I realized that I had to make a decision about The Book of Sharon, and that is to publish it as a novella, which suited best the story, and not follow the earlier pattern of my other books, which are novels. I listened to my gut, and decided to make it a novella. It will be available through Amazon and Createspace in a few days. In the meantime, I will give you a peak at the cover.

 

THE BOOK OF SHARON

THE BOOK OF SHARON

Dinorah Sandbeck, half-Human/half-Anarth, has been chosen to deliver a message, one entrusted to her by birthright. However, she must not reveal her Anarth ancestry. The pages contained in the ancient tome may alter the path of the human race.

 

The Book of Sharon follows a different style from the other two novels, and it was a bit of a challenge to write because it included Dinorah Sandbeck’s (main character and a writer/librarian) book, as well as pages from her old tome – an ancient book that guides her and that she must protect, but those had to be weaved in the story – the story I wrote. So there are three main components to this book, as well as three voices throughout – Dinorah’s, the ancient tome, and me. Think of it as a book inside a book inside a book. To help the flow of it, as well as the tone, I felt that making it a novella suited best the style. I am happy with the decision.

Food for thought – As an independent author, how do you cope with all the advice offered and the new trends developing? 

 

Discovering Themes in Your Novels – A Healing Process

I remember watching best-selling author Kate DiCamillo on an interview on YouTube, and something she said stuck with me. I don’t remember the exact words but it was about how sometimes in a more personal level, a novel is a healing process for the writer. At first glance, it may seem as a regular story but later, there might be symbolism in it that only the author will understand and recognize as personal issues that in a way, are healing/addressed through the story, whether past or present issues.

I thought about my novels and went in search of a deeper understanding. At first glance, the stories appear as pure creativity, and unrelated – just an inspired story. However, once I got beyond the written lines, a whole world of symbolism appeared in front of me. I understood what DiCamillo meant. I discovered healing through those pages, and much more. There was a part of me inside the story that only I could understand, and totally oblivious/secret to a reader. I am not saying that every novel I (or you) write will have encrypted meaning and be a healing vessel, but it is possible that somewhere along the line, it may happen. The mind is amazing and it finds a way.

If you are a writer, go back to one of your early stories and look at it beyond the written lines, go on a discovery mission, and pay attention at what comes to mind. It may surprise you and delight you as well. We write for ourselves as much as we write for the readers.

Time Lapse in Writing

Time is one of the trickiest subjects when writing a story. Not only does your world has to be convincing enough when writing fiction, the pass of time is something to keep in mind throughout the story. Depending on your story, you will have to keep track of the days that had gone by naturally, as the characters go about their lives – days, years, age, technology changes … It doesn’t matter if you are writing historical fiction or a modern romance, the pass of time is something to be aware of and keep track. If the protagonist went to work on Monday, and went to sleep that same day, but was meeting with someone on Wednesday, it would be unnatural to wake her up and take her to meet that person – where did Tuesday go? Another example is aging characters appropriately if the story demands it, as well as characters dealing with issues that are age related. In a series, time becomes tricky, and something to watch out for, as in the case of many years going by in the story, from the first book to the second book. You will have to age characters, but also technology in many cases. In addition, some people might not be able to come back because naturally they would be dead. I will use one of my novels as an example, and something I caught “on time” when writing it. It had to do with the pass of time – more than 20 years – and the mention of an aged character in the second book. In the first book, the character retained the title of Mayor, and referred to as Mayor Degan many times. In the second book, I caught myself referring to him as Mayor Degan, when he was at least 20 years older (no problem there, he was aged appropriately), however impossible to be retaining the title for that long. In my mind, the writer’s mind, he was still Mayor Degan, however I had to call him now by his name – Blake Degan. He was not even a character that interacted much throughout the story, but was a necessary one. Time affected even this character.

Supernatural characters might be able to play with time, but it still has to be mentioned in some way, as part of their condition, otherwise it might confuse the reader. Maybe they don’t age, or they can make themselves age according to time … somehow, the writer has to make this known to the reader.

Technology is another issue, not only in the topic of time, but on location as well. As an example, if internet connection is being used as part of the story, it is obvious that the internet speed is different in New York City than in a remote country location. These small details might not seem important, but they are.

The phrase “Time will tell” comes to mind.

Photo by M.A.D.

Photo by M.A.D.

 

 

After the Series – What Now?

What now? or What’s next? These are questions that I will answer after I write the last book of The Dinorah Chronicles series. At the moment, I’m ready to start the third re-write of The Book of Sharon, book 2 of the trilogy. If I’m lucky, I’ll have the first draft of Sunrise Souls ready by the end of the year (9 months left). What have I learned?

Moonlit Valley inspired the writing of The Dinorah Chronicles. I never intended to write a series, but it developed as a natural process, so I let it be. I have found that writing a series gives me a bit of comfort in the sense that I am navigating known territory, as opposed to writing a new story. However, I have to admit that I enjoy the process of writing a single story more than writing a series. I never say never, but I think that in the future, I will focus on single stories rather than writing a series (unless I’m inspired otherwise). This took me to ask, What’s next? The answer is not as simple as I thought.

As an indie author, I have the flexibility to do pretty much what I desire. I don’t have contracts to fulfill, or lined up books/deadlines, or commitments abroad. The deadlines are the ones I imposed on myself. My commitment is to the story and to the reader. When I asked myself – What’s next? – I understood that many roads were right in front of me, and the one I take is not so clear yet. Why?

The writing industry changed so much in the last few years, and as an independent author, I need to balance my energy and efforts. It means that I do all the work, and any assistance hired is tied to funds available (if any). Also, it means that it does not make sense to follow trends if I don’t love the process. So naturally, my attention will hover around those projects that I am ready for and will enjoy. These days, the speed of publishing and everything else that surrounds it has multiplied, and indie authors are bombarded with many choices and possible projects that they might feel obligated to undertake to follow the developing industry and current trends – podcasts, audio book, channels, speaking/teaching engagements, the translation of their books, and many other endeavors. I admire indie authors who have the energy and focus to have many of those endeavors developing at once; I called them the Super Indies. They are an inspiration.

All the above considered, I sat down with pen and paper at hand, and thought hard about where I am on my journey, and tried to answer the question (now). I felt that my next natural step (after finishing the series)  would be to write a new single story, and focus on the Spanish translation of my first book, and possibly the series. Any other components of marketing books, gaining exposure, or other writing-related projects will be assigned secondary status (as far as focus and effort). This is a prelude, a peek, an early answer to my question, but of course, it all may change. What’s important is that I challenged myself to think about it and took a glance at the possibilities. It also helped me measure my level of readiness according to where I am on my journey. It was worth considering.

As an indie author, how do you feel about balancing current trends and your own journey?

photo by Maria Antonia Diaz

photo by Maria Antonia Diaz

 

On Faith and Writing

When I read poetry I notice one thing, the poem is sad/dark, almost as if it bleeds through the page, or on the other hand, it celebrates life, is an exaltation of nature or love, or whatever the subject seems to be, therefore transmitting a peaceful or joyful vibe through the page. It seems as if a tormented soul or a happy one wrote the lines, although that is not necessarily true.

Ernest Hemingway once said,”There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” Maybe he was right, but what comes out of your veins? What do you bleed? I have found that for me, inspiration may come from nowhere, unexpected, and sometimes, it is directly influenced by my mood. I’ve noticed that when my faith dwindles, so does my writing. It is when my faith is up that I do my best writing, whether I may be going through a difficult situation or not. By faith I don’t mean religion, but my disposition to believe and trust. That said, I can predict when my motivation will suffer, and when my writing will lack. How to prevent this?

The answer is not so much to prevent, because life is full of ups and downs – it is human life’s nature. Instead, maintaining a conscious positive and high disposition (with effort and despite the circumstances) is what seems to help. I must keep up a high level of trust and frequency to support the flow of my writing, otherwise, it becomes forced, superficial, and dense. So my writing seems to be tied to my faith.

“I learned never to empty the well of my writing, but always to stop when there was still something there in the deep part of the well, and let it refill at night from the springs that fed it.” Ernest Hemingway

Heartless Dissection Ready

I hope I didn’t scare you with the title of this post. Almost a month has gone by since I put aside the first draft of The Book of Sharon. The time away is necessary for what comes next – a heartless dissection of it, and I’m ready.

As writers, we pour our heart and soul into our work, then the time comes to forget about it, followed by a cold stare before we are ready to slash it into pieces – heartless and purposely, not an easy thing to do but necessary. From this dismemberment a second draft is assembled. The process goes on until the story is as ready as it can be.

During this time, emotions run wild – from doubt, insecurity, uncertainty, and not wanting to let go, to perfectionism, pride, fear, doubt again, restlessness, exhilaration, incessant questioning … all of it culminating in exhaustion, and all of it necessary. Sounds painful and not too enticing, but it is what writers subject themselves to repeteadly, and beyond scrupulous consideration, and all for the love of the story.

A love affair with words, a crime of passion?

 

My next victim.

First draft of The Book of Sharon

First draft of The Book of Sharon