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.

The Five-Dollar Miracle – On Writing a Hymn

Writing The Five-dollar Miracle was a different and exciting experience. It presented a set of new writing challenges, and took me out of my writing mold at the time. One of the challenges was writing a church hymn and a brief sermon for one of the chapters. Having no previous experience other than my writing, it gave me the opportunity to stretch the pen and to be open to receive and let the pen flow along with inspiration.

As a writer, I am open to inspiration at any time, and to different stories, even when that means stepping out of genre and running with a different type of story. I wouldn’t like to be encapsulated in a specific genre, and I understand that goes against traditional rules. Inspiration rules my pen, not genre. I will share the hymn Miracles Abound on this post.

Miracles Abound

Miracles abound,

everywhere I see.

Angels of the Lord

casting blessings here.

Hard at work in our heart,

pouring joy and love.

God has sent His thousands,

carrying blessings from above.

THE FIVE-DOLLAR MIRACLE – The inspirational story of how a small miracle, a five-dollar miracle, changed a stranger, a pastor, a congregation, and an entire country.
Available via Amazon.

I hope you enjoyed this post, and may miracles and blessings abound in your home.

Secondary Themes

When I wrote The Five-dollar Miracle, I recognized the main theme as being faith, and much like the story I am currently writing – The Girl Who Could Not Love – the story developed as I wrote, with no preconceived ideas or outlines. However, as I wrote, the main theme became obvious. Usually, one expects a story to follow or develop around a main theme, and a few secondary themes appear throughout, but mostly, the main theme carries the story to the end. With The Five-dollar Miracle, I was a bit surprised at how many secondary themes I could identify once I finished writing it. It was never intended this way, but all these themes had a strong link with the main one (faith), and helped carry it, propelled it, which of course worked out well for the story. Some of these topics are:

Loss – different types, especially the loss of a loved one.

Financial ruin

Addiction

Righteousness – as a judgemental trait

The spirit of cooperation/generosity/kindness

Respect thy neighbor – accepting differences

Serendipity

I enjoyed writing The Five-dollar Miracle, and it was a welcomed change of pace, as well as refreshing. I am excited about my next novel, and can’t wait to finish it. From my point of view as a writer, it is presenting its challenges, something I welcome, while at the same time, I am hoping that the story flows well, and that by the end, I make peace with it.

Stories That Will Not Make It Into Books

I have always been a dreamer. I have very detailed, sometimes long, vivid dreams. Sometimes, these dreams are stories from start to end. Many times, I write these down. The format is a short version in a 3×5 card that will trigger the memory of the whole dream. One of these stories left an impression on me, and I intend to make it a novel. My dreams are all over the place, from past experiences to present, featuring people I know to complete strangers, and even fall into the category of fantasy or sci-fi dreams. Many of these, I write and ponder on them later on, while trying to find a significant meaning or common thread to the bizarre dreams. These usually play like a movie, whether I am inside the dream or an observer.

I have heard of writers turning dreams into books. As writers, we draw inspiration from everything around. Most of my dream stories will not make it into novels. I will give you a couple of examples, although in a very brief format. One of these is about a couple who must fight for their unusual love. They meet when she is about to become his parent’s meal. His family is one of many modern cannibal tribes who live in secrecy, and come from a long line of families whose traditions date back centuries. To get their meals they put together fancy high society dinners at hotels, and many of their young and tender guests are seduced by these free and fancy invites. There is always a topic, charitable cause, and of course, the chosen people are taken to a special room, where they will disappear and become the meal, eventually. The protagonists meet in such a scenario, and he experiences love at first sight. He takes her by the hand and runs while exiting via an elevator. After that, they must face persecution by his family and the other tribes.

Now, as weird as that sounds, I assure you that I have all my faculties, and by now, you understand why this bizarre story will not make it into one of my books. Another example of these dream-stories features a colony of vampires. It takes place in the 13th century and starts when the vamps raid a small village and take a few people, including the protagonist (Amielle), to their underground castle, hidden away from plain sight. Of course, they will become a food supply. I am seeing a common thread here (food). Should I eat more? The male protagonist, a nobleman in love with the village girl who has been taken, is on a quest to rescue her. King vamp (Baldemiere) is smitten with her and decides to spare her, but she must surrender her will to him in order to become his queen, which the current lady queen does not take well, and eventually, she leads the male protagonist (Antoine) and his soldiers to the hidden castle via underground tunnels that cross various villages, hence how each village is attacked at random. Now the sad ending – Our lady protagonist unknowingly has fallen in love with king vamp and has to make the choice of sacrificing her beloved nobleman and his soldiers thus becoming a vampire queen.

These are two examples of bizarre and graphic dreams of mine that will not make it into books. In the first story, I do not know their names, in the second story I do. Although I find them a bit interesting as dreams, and would not be difficult to write because they are full detailed stories, these do not call me as a writer, and do not fit my writing style at present. I say at present because I don’t now what the future holds or if I will ever be interested in writing in this category. I remembered a comment from an author who I cannot recall right now, and he said that you cannot make every dream idea you have into a book. This was many years ago, and I did not fully understand the whole meaning at that time; however, I understand it now. As you grow as a writer, not only does your style evolves and you become aware of it, but also, your ability or desire to follow a “path” (for lack of a better word), thus becoming more selective in a conscious way.

Unsolicited Advice

The other day, I thought about how blessed we are now, at this time. Writers are able to realize their writing dreams thanks to the amazing technology available, much of it at low cost. These are blessed times for writers, whether you write via an independent publishing venue, a blog, social media, or other method. I am very grateful for this. When I was younger I wanted to publish my work independently, but it would have cost so much money, hence why many of us set the dream aside until adulthood. No other generation had the opportunity we have today. However, for me, this also presented the challenge of sorting through all the information/methods available, and keeping up with it all (an impossible task). Everyday, there is more information, technology, venues available so trying to understand it all is plain silly.

Much time went into sorting things out, especially, when the gates of publishing were opened. Reviewing my experience made me think about what advice would I offer myself back then. I thought about it and if I was to put it in once sentence it would be – Find your way. Realizing that “just because everyone is doing something one way, doesn’t necessarily mean that I have to” was not easy, especially in those early days. People tend to follow patterns/trends in new territory; it is human nature, and hence why things go viral. We are social mamals whether we realize it or not. When a new venture/technology or other, is in the early stages we tend to follow and take notes in order to learn. That is a good thing but it could also be confusing, even frustrating, more so when something that “has been proven” to work for other people does not work for you. In hindsight, my advice to myself at that time would have been to slow down and treat information as just that, not as a bible for writers or written in stone. Information serves the only purpose of presenting alternatives, being an aid in learning.

If you are just at the beginning of your writing journey, you will need to learn, and tons of information is available. It is a blessing, however, during your learning/study process you will doubt yourself when that information might not match your reality or expectations. That is all fine. Sort through it, pick up what applies to you as a writer, and keep on moving. Find and do what feels right for you. Find your way.