Archive for May, 2014

In Between the Lines – The Paranormal

Paranormal – Beyond the range of normal experience or scientific explanationAmerican Heritage Dictionary.

Humanity seems to be fascinated with the paranormal. It is the juice of many Hollywood movies. We cannot get enough of it. Whether we approach the topic with curiosity, fear, passion, or skepticism, we are drawn to the unknown because we seek to make sense of it. The paranormal is another theme present in my novels, and a topic that I love to research.

We are complex beings who live in a material world and make sense of it through our brain and senses, but seem to entertain a spiritual side or at least try to make sense of spirit, whether we are religious or not. It has been since the beginning of our species. Whether we choose to blur or highlight the line between spirituality and science, the issue is more our curiosity to find out more, to study it, to learn. It is our curiosity to learn that makes us human, whether we set out to prove or disprove the paranormal or make sense of our physical/material world.

History is full of examples, some gruesome, of our species trying to make sense of our surroundings – cave paintings, rituals, altars, religious persecution, witch huntings, signs on the sky … All of if represents to some degree our interpretation of an event, paranormal or not, in our search/attempt for an explanation or for power.

To a person in medieval times, a hologram would have represented the paranormal or the work of spirits or the devil; to us, and in the context of today’s culture and technology, it is merely an image produced and meant for entertainment or artistic expression. Our mind and culture has evolved to create and make sense of it. We have an explanation for it. If today, we were to present a holographic image to a remote culture that is removed from technology, the people might interpret it as paranormal or of spiritual origin because they cannot explain it through their present technology, knowledge, and experience. Something to ponder. Is the paranormal the absence of knowledge?

 

 

 

 

Making Sense of the Indie Movement

We are living in exciting times for independent writers, musicians, artists … and it is so thanks to the technological developments and new venues of communication. Therefore, the independent (indie) movement was bound to gain new heights. I say new heights because indies have been around for long. It is because these changes and ease of publishing (almost at no upfront cost) that the indie movement flourished the way it has, and will continue. The publishing industry has been jolted, and this is just the early stages. It is not clear what will happen next, but for now, the doors are open and independent writers may share their work openly and become as creative as they dare. Daring times!

However, every time there is a revolution, people tend to make sense of the process, share experiences, groups are born, and in the hopes of giving cohesiveness to the experience, sets of rules appear, “ways of doing things the new way,” and leaders, preachers, and experts emerge. It is all a normal process and it is meant to grow and move along the revolution. However, as indies we should beware of a tendency – that the revolution does not morph into tradition, rendering the movement powerless. This is where our responsibility as independent writers stands. Each one of us must learn, consume, and study the movement, the fruits of it, to decide our role in it. Just because trends show up does not mean that it is a “one size fits all” kind of deal. On the contrary, it is the opposite to the indie movement.

To an aspiring writer who wants to publish independently, it is like a huge treasure box full of many tools, advice, do’s and don’ts, experiences … but it is also very confusing, and if the person does not continue to educate herself/himself and becomes a follower, it all may backfire and become overwhelming none the least, and even uninspiring. I am convinced the indie evolution will continue, and I think we have taken baby steps so far – there is more to come. This is why my approach to all this is one of learning and observing while doing. It is my way of making sense of the indie movement. How?

For once, before deciding to become and independent author, I learned as much as I could about it, compared it to what information was available about traditional publishing, and then, examined my personal criteria – values, work ethic, working style, expectations, and goals. Over some time, I was not sure of what path to follow, and I had not submitted work to agents, which made my decision solely based on the above mentioned personal criteria. Once I deeply thought of these things that were very important to me, and considered all the information I gathered, the decision became obvious and clear to me – I wanted to become and indie author. Then I took the steps. However, because all the changes occurring in the publishing industry and all the new information available, new faces rising, leaders, preachers … I will not deny that as exciting as it was, the experience was also overwhelming and exhausting. And this is when I decided to stop following advice, and instead treat each available piece of information and experience  as precious, be grateful for it, study it, evaluate it against my personal criteria, and look inside myself and embrace only the advice and information/methods/”to do’s” and so much more … that were aligned and in balance with my personal criteria, while developing my own style. This is how I embrace independent publishing.

It is just the beginning, and I think that over the next few years we will be amazed at what is to come, and many will be inside the process, outside of it, while others will be it. Daring times!

 

 

 

The Book of Sharon Excerpt

Here’s a short excerpt from The Book of Sharon – book 2 of The Dinorah Chronicles – that I wanted to share with you. I hope you enjoy it. If you’d like you can read the first two chapters on Amazon here. Just click look inside.

This excerpt is from Chapter 3 – A Letter to the Lost. It is an excerpt from Dinorah’s book, as she is inspired to reveal the ancient tome’s secrets, without revealing her ancestry or the actual book. Her book is called The Book of Sharon. I wrote The Book of Sharon as if it was a book inside a book inside a book. A bit different but I am happy with the effort.

Chapter 3 – A Letter to the Lost (excerpt)

Dear Child,

     Know that what you are asking has been done long time ago. All I ask of you is that you do what you know you have to do, in your heart. It is the plan inside you; you created it, and the spirit knows more than the flesh. The spirit knows the nourishment the flesh needs. Follow your heart wherever it leads you, and know that I am here. If you hold back you will not prosper – right now, you are holding back.”

 

And here is my demanding assistant (more like boss) Chanti, making sure that the shift runs smoothly.

Photo by M.A.D.

Photo by M.A.D.

 

 

In Between the Lines – Trust

Trust – Firm reliance; confident belief; faith; hope. (American Heritage Dictionary)

Here is one of several definitions that the dictionary gives for the word trust, and the one that I will use for the purpose of this post. Trust is another theme in my novels, and one that I find the cornerstone of everyday living – how we interact with our environment and people around us. We trust systems, people, routines … It goes from an external dimension to a personal and inner dimension to a spiritual one. When we lose trust (in whatever) our balance is shaken, and so is our reliance, confidence, beliefs, faith, and hope. Our feelings hurt. The issue is that once we lose trust in someone or something, it is very hard to recover. It takes change for us to consider trusting again, and as far as people go, many times the only thing that will make someone trust again is the presence of Love. In a way, Trust encompasses the above mentioned conditions; however, Love supersedes all.

In today’s society, it seems that trust has almost ceased to exist. We pay attention to conspiracy theories, and many people delight on these. Whether these theories are true or not is not the issue. It is how you process and internalize the information that you receive every day that will determine your level of trust – external, internal, and spiritual. Pay attention to your “trust process” and see how your balance is being affected. I will use myself as an example. When I start watching more television or increase watching the news, I immediately feel a direct effect on my balance. I like to be informed but I find that if I am going to listen to the news or watch television, I have to place a conscious filter before doing so, otherwise this simple activity may end up influencing the way I feel, and if I pay too much attention to negative news, so does my level of trust. This is just a simple exercise on a very mundane level, but a good example to illustrate.

We use Shakespeare’s line very often – To be or not to be, that is the question – but many times, the To Be depends on our level of trust, externally, internally, and spiritually. The question might be to trust or not to trust.

Photo by M.A.D.

Photo by M.A.D.

 

 

In Between the Lines – Good vs. Evil

The topic of Good vs. Evil fascinates me. Since I was a child, this idea has evolved being shaped by my upbringing, religion, stories that my grandmother told, urban legends, books, Hollywood movies … in short, by how my mind made sense of all this, and how it interpreted it in the material and spiritual. Although good and evil might seem as black and white, I suspect that there are many shades of gray in between, and our human nature battles in the midst, making sense of it all. If anything, we deserve credit for that. This theme is present in my novels as well.

As a species we thrive in the material contributing to the good and bad on this planet. As spiritual beings we strive to do better. Whether you believe or not in the concept of good vs. evil, of God and the Devil, yin and yang, polarities … or however you want to explain this duality or antithesis, the reality is that we all get sucked in by its allure and fascination, even if you practice atheism – engaging in a hot topic. Good vs. Evil captures the human mind since the beginning of the Homo Sapiens (wise man) or Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, if you prefer that version.

According to one of the most influential books in history, Adam and Eve were seduced by evil, and disobeyed God. But before this, Lucifer had become the devil, and taken a few fallen angels with him. Cain ( son of Adam and Eve) had a bit to do with evil as well. And this is where the concept of evil gets interesting and were shades of gray start painting shades of humanity. When we think of Cain, immediately, we process in our minds (if you know the story or read it in the Bible) that his sin was the act of killing his brother Abel. Yes this was a horrible offense, and so far the first murder in the Bible, since mankind was born. However, the book of Genesis tells a more interesting story – what happened before the murder. What was it?

This is what the book of Genesis tells us about the sin before the sin (in short). This is from the New International Version.

Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. 3 In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. 4 And Abel also brought an offering—fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, 5 but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.

6 Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? 7 If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.” (Genesis 4: 3-7)

 

It seems that Cain got upset and jealous of Abel because God liked Abel’s offering better than his. Why this? Upon reading this passage it shows that Abel offered God the fat portions from the first-born of the flock, in other words, the best of the best. While Cain gave “some of the fruits of the soil” or in other words, a good-enough offering, but not the best of the best. And this is what God saw, and I guess that he read both brothers hearts in the offerings, and why he liked one offering better than the other.  This made Cain angry and jealous of his brother, but God, being God and all, gave him a warning of things to come, if he continued with this attitude (If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.” ). This is profound. When I read this, I saw Cain’s sin issue in respect to his brother, in a new light, and it made me think of the layers of depth in the concept of good vs. evil. These few verses have so much to chew on, but it was this prelude to Cain’s sin of murder that fascinated me the most. Then, I thought – Why did Cain give a mediocre offering? What was going through his mind? It was this thinking that started it all. Then, I came up with a possible explanation. Since Cain worked the land very hard to yield some crops, must likely he knew that his goodies were hard to come by and with much effort (after all, this wasn’t Eden anymore and he had to work for it) therefore, he gave “some.” In other words, he was being stingy with the one who gave and made all – his God. Again, this is so profound because it reveals another layer. In venturing to read Cain’s thought and personality, I think that he had a trust issue. He lacked Trust. Cain was not so sure that God would provide for him, therefore, he was a bit stingy with his offering, and this was in my opinion, Cain’s first offense. He did not trust his Creator and he did not show his trust/love in his offering like Abel did. This attitude was the catalyst that opened the gates that caused Abel’s blood to flow by his hand.

Pondering the shades between Good and Evil may help us to write better and deeper characters, and to craft a story that would give the reader more layers to peel. As writers, we should not be stingy with our offering to the reader, and always try to give the best of the best, according to our ability.

 

Next In Between the Lines topic – Trust

The Blue Lily Society

I am back to posting. Thank you to all of you who visited the blog during this past weeks. I am always grateful. For today’s post, I want to feature The Blue Lily Society, a ladies club mentioned in my novels. I made the BLS up. When writing about this group, the name just came to me, and I just named it. It wasn’t until I researched the symbolism of the lily flower in many cultures throughout history that I was pleasantly surprised at how fitting the name was, and how it tied perfectly with the story. Almost eerie, because when I named the group, its purpose had not evolved in the story, and I had not researched the various meanings of the lily flower.

Depending on the culture, the meaning varies, but overall, it alludes to spirituality and the love of God or the sacred. In christianity, it is tied to the Virgin Mary, and many other saints and angels (Gabriel). Therefore, what seemed to me a lovely name for this ladies club, ended up having a strong symbolism throughout the story, and not planned, at least by the conscious mind.

Although I don’t think that there are blue lilies in nature, except for the blue Calla Lily and the Lotus also called Blue Lily or Sacred Lily, the general meaning applies to these, even in Greek mythology referring to the White Madonna Lily that sprouted from the milk of Hera. Hera was the Queen of the Gods. In Christianity, Virgin Mary would be the Madonna. In other ancient cultures, it is associated with deity, purity, the soul, and other meanings. Today, depending on the color, the lily flower represents friendship, purity, prosperity, wealth, devotion, humility …

A few weeks ago, I came across a piece of vintage jewelry that immediately reminded me of The Blue Lily Society in my novels. It is a vintage brooch from France. As soon as I saw it I thought, “this would be something the ladies of The Blue Lily Society would wear at their meetings. I ended up buying it as inspiration for my novels. Here is a picture of the brooch.

Photo by M.A.D.

Photo by M.A.D.

 

The color blue, the shield, the cross, and the Lily flower relate to the Blue Lily Society in my novels. How awesome and serendipitous is that?

 

In Between the Lines – Destiny

Destiny is a very strong theme in my novels, in many levels, earth-bound, personal to the characters, and even as spiritual duty. Destiny is a word that we use in casual conversation; many times, whether we believe in destiny as a preordained course of events or fate, or not. If we don’t believe in the strict definition of destiny or in predestination, we may tend to believe in purpose, and seek the purpose of our lives, “that thing” that we were born to do here on Earth. Purpose is a more digestible word for many. As humans, we crave meaning, and we tend to attach meaning to things/life/events and that meaning is given a layer of sentiment and feeling. It is our nature, whether we tend to analyze these things with our brain or not, we end up doing it. In short, we need a reason to wake up in the morning and keep going; we need purpose. If we don’t have it, we search for it, a lifetime, if necessary. If we never find it, in our deathbed we might say that we missed our purpose in life. Many turn to depression and wither away because they don’t find purpose in their lives. Tragic.

Destiny or purpose – that thing that you must do before you leave Earth – may or not, prevent you from living your life in the now, depending on how you approach its meaning. I think that if we live in the now and are grateful for the moment, while listening to it, our purpose becomes inevitable and unavoidable. It stops being in the future, distant (by our perception) and weaves itself in our daily lives, moment by moment. Somehow, balance is restored between the material being and the spiritual being that is us, and with nature and everything that surrounds us – we become one with the universe, with all that is, whether you call it God, the Universe, or Science. Is there purpose or destiny in that? Maybe or maybe not, or maybe it is intelligent design, or the way that was meant to be? Maybe it is us, our own nature and the nature of things, of it all. Who knows, and will we figure it out? Does it matter that much? It seems to matter; otherwise, we wouldn’t be searching eternally. Without it we feel as feathers floating in the wind, aimlessly, and taken away by life’s current, and without meaningful act. However, we forget that life in itself is purpose.

Photo by MAD

Photo by MAD

 

Note – I will be away from this blog for a week – see you soon 🙂