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 – 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 – My Experience So Far

From time to time, I like to go back and think about my writing journey and how I feel about it so far. Although I have always written, since I can remember, it wasn’t until the conditions were in my favor that I was able to become an independent author; technology made it possible. In the early days and childhood, stories became broken pieces of paper, maybe because of my mistaken perception, the mystery that surrounded famous writers, and the extreme cost of publishing a book in those days, along with my dislike of pursuing traditional publishing. Although independent publishing has always been looked down in ways more than one, it seems that the idea has become more accepted, and even veterans in the field, traditionally published writers, have embraced it. For me, it has been the realization of a long lost dream, and hopefully, the delight of a lifetime. It has entailed much learning, but also growth. It has been elating as well as confusing at times. For me, the decision to publish independently was as daunting as baring one’s soul to the world, but also a natural one, that is in the sense that I always knew that traditional publishing was not for me. However, before committing, I made sure to learn as much as I could about both venues. That is something that has always been consistent with me – the willingness to study/learn both sides of something before committing to one. This time was not different, although I knew where my heart belonged.

I admire authors who were indies before it was even “a thing.” Back 30-40 plus years ago, it wasn’t as accepted or technologically viable as it is today. Maybe why I don’t take it for granted. It took real guts to be an independent author, and much more work and money. In my view, those writers had a reverence and respect for the craft, way different. As for me, I am so grateful for the times.

Writing for the masses has never been appealing to me, or following the latest trends in writing. In that sense, traditional publishing would have been as jail time. I love to write the story that knocks at my door, the one that begs to be written. Writing for money has never been an important goal, so in that sense, it has not been a disappointment. Delighting a reader, inspiring another, is more appealing these days. Making a decent living at it would only be counted as a blessing.

The future is too short or long, no one knows for sure, so I am very happy writing one story at a time while ignoring numbers; although, for some mysterious reason, thirty books in a lifetime sounds appealing to me, not sure why. However, that number is not a goal, just appealing. Overall, it has been an enjoyable, meaningful, soulful experience that I hope to be able to do for many years to come. When I started on this journey, at the same time, I was experiencing what I would call the most challenging period in my life so far, and also changing an entire lifestyle. Today, while reminiscing, I can say that it has been a good and satisfying journey.

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.

Synergy in Writing

The other day, I saw a commercial for one of the latest James Patterson novels. It is known that Mr. Patterson coauthors many of his books. This prolific author is a good example of the power of two for a common goal. In other words, there is strength in many. Although he has been criticized for this approach, it seems to have worked very well. The novels are under his well-known name (and in smaller lettering the co-author) and coauthoring has not diminish his author presence, maybe because he built a strong name before coauthoring. In this case, the other author has benefited as well, if not more. What might have not worked as well by oneself is made possible by a joint effort. Two purposes meet and unify under one common goal benefiting both parties. I saw this a lot when I was in Real Estate. Two agents would partner, and enter into a beneficial and profitable relationship. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it did not.

I think it takes a strong and confident personality to enter into this type of arrangement. After all, authors are very protective of their name and the work under that name. Profitability might make things easier and more enticing. In this case, I think it is genius. It increases image/credibility as a team effort, helps time management, and provides other benefits such as more ground covered, support and encouragement, as well as safety. For many of these partnerships it was a win-win situation. How do you view co-authoring?

Unrelated – When life gives you hard sugar, make a sculpture.

Sugar Cat
From cat to dog. Unfortunately, from dog to duck crumbled. But that was the purpose.

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?

The Right to Create Responsibly

These days, phrases and words like cultural appropriation, woke, and many other, are common in our vocabulary. We hear them in social media, the news … These concepts have become “a thing” and many are using them and are “finger-ready” to point it at the first sign of such heresy. The self-righteous mob found a new quest, and with it the holy grail of the times, the “woke” got up and chanted a new song of mob shaming. Just because we are so perfect and spotless, right? The taste of new blood becomes an obsession in social media, and in mainstream media as well. It has migrated into writing, with the latest censoring of old books, the shaming of “old culture”, and the removal of many from social media and the shelves. How will it all play out in the end? It is a question I ask myself. Will we become better people? Will we become better communicators and writers/creatives? Will we sensor ourselves, diluting the words as much as we can so we are not perceived as offensive? What about the writers who are in the historical fiction genre? How will they write a scene that has accurate historical influences in wording because it might be perceived as offensive? Will writers avoid certain ethnicities in their novels for fear of being misunderstood? Will writers of crime thrillers be accused of “inspiring” or “inciting” a crime if an unstable person decides to recreate that particular crime? Will authors be censored, arrested, and prosecuted? Will writing and every form of creativity become “illegal” in the future?

I ask myself those questions and many more. I don’t think I am too crazy and far off. Lone gone are the days when you and I could disagree on something, have a conversation about it, have an opinion, and express it freely without being chastised. We must respect one another by learning to listen to one another all over again, by learning to find common ground even when we disagree on many things, and by understanding that we are more alike than we think we are. As writers, I think that we should strive to write the best story we can write without being disrespectful while being true to the story and history, in the case of historical fiction based on facts. As humans, we are less than perfect, and I believe that most of us try to be as decent as we can, and strive to do better each day. When we look at another as a reflection of ourselves, most likely we end up seeing ourselves in that person in some way or another.

We are more alike than we care to admit (photo by M.A.D.)