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 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.

On Writing – From Best Friend to Nemesis

A best friend turned to nemesis is a common occurrence in story telling. The evolution of a main character’s archenemy is something that doesn’t happen instantaneously. It has been brewing through time, and is usually preceded by an unfortunate event that most likely involves directly or indirectly, the other best friend (usually a main character). When writing the deterioration of this relationship, the history/background of the two characters is important, but mostly, the actual interaction between them is. Whether this unraveling occurs due to a supernatural or perfectly natural event, the relationship and interaction between the two (or more) characters cannot remain the same. Writing has to reflect that.

In The Dinorah Chronicles, Hael, an embodiment of evil via supernatural origins, is Dinorah Sandbeck’s nemesis. When a supernatural event is the cause for the “turning of the coat,” the vilifying of the other character seems a bit less complex and left to the imagination of the writer. When natural/human issues are involved, the vilifying becomes a bit more humanized, thus exploring the psyche of both characters, hopefully without risking to bore the reader. I think that too much detail/drama that is prolonged in the natural deterioration of the relationship between both characters becomes boring; at least for me as a reader, it is. Whether natural or supernatural, this vilification process has to evolve over time, have a history, and a clear motive throughout the story, which is developed and supported mostly via dialog and prose, sometimes even description, and through other secondary characters.

Throughout a series, the archenemy can remain the same, be a different character(s), or even be reborn into a different physical vessel that embodies the original evil essence. Sometimes, this nemesis can be a duality, a part of the main character, one that is awakened through a devastating psychological, physical event, or a combination, that leaves a permanent mark in the character’s persona. The important aspect on this friend/nemesis evolution is that there is a thread that the reader can easily follow throughout the story or series.

I hope you enjoyed this post. Feel free to add your take on this topic.

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.

On Writing Anarths and Other Celestial Beings

When I think of heaven, I think of blue and white (Photo by M.A.D.)

When I set out to write Moonlit Valley, I didn’t know it would take me to a highly organized, supernatural world that operated on Earth through many beings, one kind called Anarths. Anarths are celestial beings who take human form in order to fulfill their assigned duty on Earth. They do not age, possess strength and speed abilities, are capable of traveling between realms in less than milliseconds, and possess enhanced senses, hence why human emotions overwhelm them. They are sentinels of Earth and they monitor and protect key humans who are important in human evolution according to a divine plan. They are not angels, and are a few ranks below.

Writing Anarths presented a challenge – they were not humans but they had to act human-like. However, for the sake of these characters in the story, they had to be written in a distinctive way, that is, aside from their supernatural qualities. They also could not resemble each other or act like clones; they owned their personality on Earth. They experienced emotions, so they could not behave like robots or android-like. They had to present a soul-like side, even that they didn’t have souls. Description/descriptive behavior and characteristics were good to a certain point, so I relied on dialog to achieve this.

Another challenge that presented itself later on, when these characters made it to The Dinorah Chronicles, which had a story time lapse of 20 plus years forward, was the need to evolve them along with the humans they interacted previously, but because they didn’t age, they could not be “totally present” in some parts of the story. They had to act more human-like across the whole series/story and throughout the years, but also develop a familiarity with certain key human characters in the story. All this had to be reflected in the dialog throughout the trilogy. Because they had blended well with humans, they had acquire certain personality and behavior patterns that had to be reflected in the trilogy. Simply, they could not have remained the same. One way to achieve this was to make them sort of “break a few rules” but without sacrificing their righteousness. Their personalities and behavior throughout the series had to evolve without being to evident, because after all, they had a divine makeup, and a divine purpose/duty, which had to remain untouched by me (the writer). An example of this is prohibited and brief, but necessary, negotiations with a neutral element of The Other Side in order to obtain information that would advance the cause.

A simple example of the use of dialog in the early stages of an Anarth who has been assigned on Earth but has not spent enough time or develop many human relationships yet, would be something like this:

Human dialog“Hey, why are you not going?” or roughly “Hey, why aren’t you going?”

An Anarth would say it like this – “What is the reason for you not attending?” or “Does your intended absence has a purpose?” or “Is there a purpose to your absence?” There are many ways to construct the sentence, many variations, but all intending a certain degree of order.

Another simple example.

Human “Do you want lunch?”

Anarth“Are you in need of nourishment?”

An Anarth in the early stages of human contact would not say “can’t” instead, he/she would say “can not.” As relationships become stronger, the dialog evolves, thus becoming more relaxed. The darker (evil) the character, the more impersonal and less “caring” the dialog became. Writing these characters was fun and I learned much from their interaction and evolution throughout the story as I wrote them.

Moonlit Valley and The Dinorah Chronicles are available via Amazon in eBook and paperback.

After the Storm

Last week, we had tropical storm Zeta pass by our county. Our area received strong winds and lots of rain. At one point, I became a bit worried about the roof. Will it hold? Immediately, a favorite Bible verse came to mind. It is one I have written on a blackboard in the kitchen.

2 Timothy 1:7

Having experienced hurricanes Irene and Sandy when I lived in Jersey, both late fall big storms, I realized that my worries were valid, however, a bit out of proportion. Our minds play games when we feel vulnerable. We all experience many seasons in life, some more challenging than others, but through it all we survive, learn, and become stronger. Although fear is a normal human emotion, if we let it take root in our lives it will prevent growth and development.

As writers, we attempt to portray our characters as real and believable as we can. Even super heroes experience fear and face it. That is the moment when transition happens, followed by growth and development. Characters evolve through the progression of the story; they don’t remain the same. They grow and continue to evolve whether that evolution ends up being positive or negative. A character may experience fear and learn, grow from it as it conquers it, or become paralyzed and eventually, destroyed by it. The important issue here is that characters don’t remain the same, at the same level throughout the story unless the writer has a specific goal and determines so; however, with purpose.

Sometimes, fear comes from not understanding something or from denial, and many times, denial comes from fear, thus perpetuating a circle. Whatever the outcome, a character will advance the plot. Dinorah Sandbeck, the main character on The Dinorah Chronicles trilogy, resisted her birthright in part because of denial and fear of the unknown. Once she gave in to knowledge and acceptance, she was able to embrace her purpose and ultimately become. However, you can see this transition happening and evolving throughout the trilogy. At the end, she becomes what she was meant for, and fulfills her birthright. The Dinorah Chronicles is available in paperback and eBook formats via Amazon.

We face many storms during our lifetime, some stronger than others, but ultimately, the human spirit holds on and goes on with the help of God. When the winds stopped I expected to see a mess outside, and thought that the few flowers that were left in the garden would be gone for good. Yesterday, I spotted this through my window, and I thought, it is never too late neither hopeless.

After the storm roses. Their color is so rich and beautiful.

The Damsels of Cain

In The Dinorah Chronicles trilogy, evil is personified via an organized well-funded group named The Damsels of Cain. The Damsels of Cain is a female-run organization spread all over the world, and its male disciples are under female leadership. Males wear a mark in the left wrist, while woman wear it in the right wrist – a black tulip inside a pentacle. Their main leader is Dana Ringold. The Damsels of Cain are led by evil. Their purpose is to recruit young females to establish as many chapters throughout the planet. They congregate in secret temples all over the world, where they initiate new members, baiting them with the allure of riches and power. Their main objective is to target influential men in various organizations (science, politics, technology …) to eventually obtain unified political power on the planet. Once they have achieve this, evil can reign on Earth.

The Blue Lily Society is the counterpart to this group. It is a society established centuries ago with the sole purpose of serving good and protect key individuals. They pose as ladies social clubs to maintain anonymity. They raised Dinorah Sandbeck, the main character, and the one who leads the decoding of a new Earth and the awakening of the Sunrise Souls. Together, and along with divine intervention, they must prevent the rise of evil.

For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind. Isaiah 65:17

If interested, you can find The Dinorah Chronicles trilogy on Amazon in eBook and paperback formats.

RAMBLINGS OF THE SPIRIT
THE BOOK OF SHARON
SUNRISE SOULS

Sunrise Souls Serendipity

Sunrise Souls is the last book in The Dinorah Chronicles trilogy. This post is about a happy coincidence that happened one day at an antiques market. Serendipity?

Sunrise Souls is set in Rignano Garganico, Italy. Rignano Garganico is a southern little town in the Province of Foggia, Italy. It is a jewel, a little secret that sits atop a mountain, and rich in history, as it dates back to medieval times. When I imagined the setting of this book, I had in mind a picture of where I wanted Dinorah Sandbeck to be located for her last adventure. I knew it had to be in Italy, but preferably not near the Vatican, as this location plays a part in the story. I had a strong mental image, but had no idea where to find this place; so I armed myself with Google Earth, and asked, “If I was Dinorah Sandbeck, where would I go?” Immediately, I felt a pull to the area, and started my search nearby, and soon enough, I found myself navigating the streets of Rignano Garganico. It was a magical and serendipitous moment; it was the image I had in mind, and more. So I dedicated time to research as much as I could, although I didn’t find much information, but what I found was enough to give me a background on this enchanting place. Here is a small excerpt from Sunrise Souls.

The southern little town in the province of Foggia sat atop a mountain, as if it was the entrance to heaven. The crisp white clouds were reminiscent of watching angels, only to be forgotten by the observer when the valleys bellow revealed a majestic panorama. At first, I was intrigued by it, but now, I was enchanted. Rignano Garganico was growing in my heart. (The Dinorah Chronicles – Sunrise Souls)

I love old things. I also like religious art; I find it intriguing as well as beautiful, whether it is a painting or a statue, or even a piece of old jewelry. The detail is gorgeous in many of these pieces. When I lived in New Jersey, I used to visit antique markets/shops from time to time. One day, I was browsing the items one seller had to offer, an older Hungarian man I had bought from before. He was a pleasant man, calm, very polite, and always with a smile on his face. As I kept browsing, I noticed he went to look for something. He came back with a beautiful statue and smiling he said, “This one is for you, a gift.” I said thank you and offered to pay for it but he insisted it was a gift. So I thanked him again, and conversed with him a bit before paying for other items, and then I left. Later on, I realized I had forgotten to ask him about the religious statue, so I researched as much as I could about it. One of the searches took me to Rignano Garganico. I became excited; “What are the odds?” I thought. I was writing a novel that was taking place in that same place, a place not widely known. I found out that it is a statue of Saint Roche (San Rocco), patron of Rignano Garganico, Italy (Saint day is August 16). I did not know what to think; it was a beautiful coincidence. Perplexity, awe, amazement, these words describe best what I felt when I came across the information. It was the last time I saw the old man. I did not get the chance to visit him once more, and I moved to Virginia. One question hovers in my mind until this day – how did he know, or did he?

Here is a picture of this beautiful gift. Even with its chipped parts, there is beauty on this piece, and I love the detail and the colors, which the picture does not show well.

Saint Roche vintage statue.

The beautiful old statue sits in my office, on a bookshelf, a pleasant reminder of the mysteries of life, and it serves as inspiration when the inkwell seems a bit dry.