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 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.)

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.

Placing Yourself Inside the Scene

Sometimes, a writer must enter a scene that he/she is writing. By that I mean that the writer must place himself/herself inside the scene and next to the character in order to engage all the senses and see/hear/taste/feel what the character is experiencing at that moment. It has been my experience that when I jump inside the scene with the character (mentally of course) it helps me write the scene better, not only describe it better, but give it life. By experiencing the scene along with the character(s) it becomes more than watching it unfold, the senses become engaged at once, thus resulting in more vivid writing. I don’t follow this process with every scene I write (that would be too draining), only the ones that seem to have more movement or require a higher perception/involvement of the senses. Usually it is an important scene, a climatic scene that will result in greater change in the novel. It could be a battle, but it could also be a scene with less physical action but in which a higher level of the senses is needed. An example of this is the scene in the church parking lot in Moonlit Valley (chapter – The Battle). In this scene Rose is being attacked by The Other Side, a supernatural realm of evil. Rose is in between the physical/material and supernatural realms when this is happening, and no one can see this happening except the Anarths, her protectors. Although most of the chapter is very sensory engaging, here is a very short excerpt to give you an idea.

“I saw a shadow get near me. A blast of light took it out and left only a heavy smoke that seemed raggedy; the smell was the worst I had experienced. I saw the same happening all around. At one point, I wanted to vomit; I could not take the smell of putrefaction, decay, and sulfur surrounding me.”

Here is another example, same scene.

“I tried to run but I froze in place, unable to move a limb. I was cold, surrounded by a heavy mist of grayish color. A putrefaction smell made me nauseated. Figures were forming out of the mist, several of them approaching me, surrounding me in a circle, a circle of death.”

This is just a brief example of a scene in which I had to place myself next to the character (Rose) to understand her experience. As writers, we are used to hearing the phrase, “Show, don’t tell” as a magic recipe for better writing. There is some truth to it, but I think there is more to showing and not telling. There needs to be a balance between the two, and sometimes a writer needs to jump in.

MOONLIT VALLEY is available via Amazon.