Friday, May 31, 2013

Traveling Along the Windmills of My Mind

If I could go anywhere, where would it be?

The question for me would not necessarily be WHERE. True, there are places I yearn to visit, but those take a second place to the HOW.
I have always loved traveling around with my husband in an open, unplanned way—more like jumping in the car (camper, plane) and let’s see what happens. Although it is harder to do this for all places or when  traveling far from home, we always try to leave enough open spaces in any plans for the ‘magic’ to happen; the unexpected, the chance encounters, the surprises.
I like trusting the universe to bring what is needed, that the best will come—or at the very least, what I need to learn. Sometimes I get back what I need in unpleasant ways, showing me the state my head is in—it being a reflection of where I am at the moment—a wake-up call. So if you don’t like surprises, it is probably not for you. If you are not sure where your ‘head is at,’ it may not be something you want to try.
It is definitely an intuitive way to travel. You are trusting to be led by your intuition and if you haven’t honed your intuition, it may not be something to suddenly try. It is how I traveled when I found the inspiration for my novel, Dance the Dream Awake.
I imagine that some street people who choose to live on the street are in that state of mind a lot and it may be the reason they don’t want the responsibility of a house, car, job; responsibilities that modern society brings with it. The experience of living in the present is a ‘high.’ Or, it can be a smack up-side-the head if you are out of balance in your life.
When it works in positive ways, it is exhilarating. You meet people who open you to something new. That could be a fresh perspective, information to help you further your journey, a gift from the universe, a unique place to visit you would not have found on your own, etc.
Backpacking is also like this, but I have always been a car person. I love my car (not the vehicle, but the mode of travel) although campers can be wonderful as well. The whole camper community is a lovely way to be as well as to travel.
To travel in this open way, you do not go from Point A to Point B to Point C. Instead you wander from Point A to stops along the way that may lead you down side roads, detours or unexpected sightseeing stops you had not planned, meeting people you might not have imagined, and then on to Point B or maybe skip B to detour through another series of place to Point C. And so on.
We traveled around the country in a converted school bus in the 60’s, following a caravan of busses around the country to listen to a ‘new age’ guru who spoke at major universities around the country. I gained more wisdom in those months than I could have learned my whole life. Everything was accelerated. It was not all good experiences, but the bad experiences taught me things I needed to learn very quickly—through reverse learning, i.e., I learned what I did not want for the rest of my life. But the good experiences were priceless. I saw the beauty in people; the giving, selflessness that exists everywhere in this country. From the coasts, to the heartland of America, to the ghettos of Washington, D.C. there are good, loving people who are willing to give you the shirt off their back to help you from the little that they themselves may have.
There was:
The Hawaiian singer on Kauai that touched our hearts and we touched hers—that when we left she cried. The same with a Tahitian dancer we met on a different trip.
The young couple in Oklahoma that took us into their home to share an evening with friends in conversation that was exhilarating, loving and unforgettable. 
The old guide at the ruins of Coba that the other guides looked down upon for his poverty and lack of book-learned information, but from which we gleaned information that was handed down by word of mouth, showing us different leaves used for teas and herbal remedies, who my husband gave his shirt to because he sensed the man needed it (a sturdy shirt for a working man in the heat of Mexico’s interior) but did so on the QT because my husband sensed the other guides would criticize him if they knew, but whose gratitude was evident. It is not always about what we can receive but about what we can give and share.
So, yes, there are places I would love to see, but if I never get to them I can still travel by car and gain the more important gift of travel—meeting new people that add value to life, and learn things I might not have otherwise learned.

Have you ever traveled like that?

Visit these fellow writers who are also writing about: If you could travel anywhere, where would you go?
Kim Moser Griffin
Siri Paulsen
Ellen Gregory
Liv Rancourt
Janice Hall Heck
Nikki McCormack

Friday, May 24, 2013

Mistress of Synchronicity

Part II – Story Richness (& More)

have been faced with synchronicity lately—when coincidental occurrence of events happen with seemingly unrelated occurrences that become related, or are related in some way. This post is another incidence of synchronicity. (as was last week’s story)

Back story
Several writer friends agreed to all post on the same theme on Friday of last week. I was late getting word of it and had already posted Part 1 on story richness. Then I got the word and put the additional themed of post,  our favorite artup on Saturday.

This week’s theme is: a book that we can read again and again and still enjoy. Normally I would wait on Part 2 of my former post, but I already had it written and it ties directly into this week’s theme so I decided to combine them. 

Coincidence or synchronicity? Keep reading.

Part II on story richness

The synchronistic part of today’s story starts back when I planned and began writing the original post two weeks ago. I took a break half way through writing the post and set it aside to read an article by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni in the March/April issue of Writer’s Digest.

Her article gave me deeper insight into the issue of going deeper for more richness—by bringing in details that tantalize the reader’s imagination. She said, “…a single protagonist alone could not express all the reactions one could have to this world within-a-world, filled with traditions and secrets.”

Her quote popped off the page for me because it directly applies to the story I am currently writing about ancient Japan during a very specific time in history that existed like a jewel in a box, all set off by itself; the Heian era of 980 A.D. Japan with its many ‘traditions and secrets’. (Out of this era came the ‘pillow books’ written by the high ranking court women about the sexual liaisons, the gossip and intrigues of the wealthy members of court. )

The other thing Chitra said was to get inside of your antagonist’s skin and understand the motivations. It is too easy to create stick figures for our characters and then slap on motivations. We may think we know them, but do we really have it down on the written page? Do our motivations (as we step inside their skin) seem logical and acceptable (just as a serial killer’s logic and reasons makes perfect sense to him, as crazy as it may be to others)?

The most important writing information came toward the end of Chitra’s article when she said we need to ‘use . . . our secret expertise.’ We all have our specialties, those things that we ‘know,’ that are natural and easy for us. I don’t think we need to force a novel out. It should flow out through the vehicle of what we know. That doesn’t mean we know everything, only that we have a certain feel for it. With the current book I’m writing that meant the love of past cultures, indigenous people, the ‘feel’ of ancient Japan and of past-life possibilities.

Sometimes our writing needs to breathe, like opening a bottle of wine. You have to let it become what it fully wants to become. A tiny seed of inspiration from the original novel I was writing exploded into a whole other story that took over and had to be written first:


My writing plan was for past life information to be included in the novel I was writing as the past-life love story; the back story for my two characters, but it got too big.

So, then I had to cut it out and write it separately as a novella. But then it became a small novel, and is now quickly moving into a bigger, fuller novel. It will be greater in scope than I originally planned.

It started as a small detail and if I hadn’t been flexible, I might have simply dumped the idea when it got too big and unwieldy. I would not have thought to expand on it, except my critique partners kept asking me questions about it, forcing me to go deeper, until one of them finally said, “I like this story better than the main story.”

Here’s where the synchronicity begins:

I started this post before I read Chitra’s article cited above. I expanded my post to reflect what she had to say. Then I finished reading her article and found out what novel she had written (before my writer friends decided on the theme for today's post).

Years ago I read The Mistress of Spices, an atmospheric, enchanting story that so impressed me by the exotic richness of it that I never forgot it—one of the few I have reread and listened to on tape as well—although I had forgotten the author’s name (not one easily remembered for the Western ear) until I read her article and saw the name of her first novel.  

The writer who inspired this original post (that the themed post interrupted) is the writer of the book I put forward to you today as the book I have read again and again

The author of that beloved story is Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni whose first novel was The Mistress of Spices.

Remember I had started this post two weeks ago, then learned of the book she had written, before my writer friends picked this blog theme of a favorite book that I have re-read and enjoyed each time. 

Chalk that up to synchronicity.

P.S. While looking for the cover picture, I found that there is also a movie (2005) about it.

Have you had synchronistic experiences?

Read what other writers who are joining the Friday fun have written about a book they can read again and again without getting bored:

Linda Adams 

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Dance Me to the End of Love

Dance Me to the End of Love

Isn't that a great title? It is the name of a painting by Jack Vettriano. I was looking through my Pinterest board of Art to find a subject for the art theme a group of writers are sharing this weekend for posting on their blogs. As happens on Pinterest, I went to other people's boards for the perfect painting and found this painting that floored me. 

This image is exactly like a dream I had when I was a very young child. Who knows but it might have inspired my writing because in the dream, a couple exactly like this were my parents. They were sending me to another incarnation on earth but without them. I began crying because they were leaving me to be born while they danced away, assuring me everything would be all right and they would return for me after a while.


I never forgot that dream, nor that feeling of them leaving me and the sadness. What do I write? About past lives, reincarnation, emotions and obligations left over from previous lives. And what is the name of my first novel coming out next month about this? Dance the Dream Awake.

The Painting:

What striking coincidences have you had?

Other writers who are joining the fun:

Rabia Gale ~ Writers at Play
Siri Paulson ~ Everyday Enchantments
Ellen Gregory ~ To Beyond and Back
Linda Adams ~ Soldier, Story Teller
Margaret Miller ~ Marmalade and Roses
Tami Clayton ~ Taking Tea in the Kasbah
What inspires you?

Friday, May 17, 2013

Wooden Nickels or Gold?

I just finished a new novel.

Again—the same one.

When I finally got the plot down, I thought, ‘I’m finished. Yeah! Now I’ll just go in and layer in more richness and I will be there.’ Did that, now I’m finished.


This could be the point at which self-published authors get themselves into hot water when they stop and publish, and fail to get their best work out. Novels take so much more to be really good than to simply slam down a story, fill in with a bit of depth and publish.

When I decided to write this present story, I knew I needed a critique group. To find the right one is absolutely essential, or at least some very good beta readers (same thing, no?) You must have outside trained eyes to tell you where you are missing the mark, because in your head you see it so clearly, and yet you might not have all of that down on the page and won’t know that until someone tells you—hopefully not after you are published.

Or, maybe you have too much down on that page, a regurgitation of all the details that should have remained in the back story and come out in the action and dialogue of the characters.

Or, you are so in love with your own words and can’t see that all those lovely phrases are slowing the story down and should be axed. Most readers will skip them anyway to get to the story—if they are patient. If not, well you might have lost a reader—many readers.

Other eyes are needed for perspective.

So, I went through this whole story with my group. It started out as a sequel to my first novel to be published in June (Dance the Dream Awake), but instead, eked its way out of that sequel (yet to be finished) into a stand-alone of the past life of two main characters in my first, and next, book. It gets complicated because I write about past lives.

Now at the end, when I thought it was ‘finished,’ the richness has to be drawn out—the criticism being focused on the details that I left out to get the story down. But I see it all so clearly in my head, why can’t you? 

Uh, you forgot to put that on the page. 

(Probably because I tend to write short (short story writer for many years)—focused on the facts—quick and dirty.)

I was flattered by one of my critique partners who is so taken with my story, she left off concentrating on her own work to give me ideas for mine (you know who you are JoAnne).

So, what to do? I need to go yet deeper—live under each character’s skin and see what they see, feel what they feel, hear what they hear in that special world that informs their whole existence. The characters need to emerge from their place on the drawing board and worm their way into the reader’s imagination so they will become unforgettable. They are begging for a fairy god-mother’s touch to awaken them like Pinocchio.

I know this. Did I do this? Not as thoroughly as I thought. Not until I got to the last two chapters and ‘finished’ did the avalanche of loving critique hit me and wash over me. Only then could everyone in the group see that they wanted more and I hadn’t fully delivered—yet. They want more richness, more details to engage them—like that ATT commercial of the little girl being questioned in the classroom: 

Have you given your story all it should have? Or do your readers want more?

. . . to be continued next blog post. . . . (It will not be as long a wait as this post was. Without boring you with details, life got in the way for several weeks there—sorry.)

Do you have a critique group or beta readers that help push you for more?

Do you overwrite or underwrite (like me)?

What is your process to be sure you have given your story all it requires?

P.S. I’ve been working on a website, and finally caved and put up a simpler one than the original I attempted. I still don’t have it finished but I threw up my hands and told myself, it is what it is—for now! (Critique of it much appreciated if you have suggestions.)