Saturday, July 13, 2013

Six Generations of Motherhood



Today I celebrate my mother's birth.  She would have been 72 years young.  Winifred Lois Bedin Daugs (in the middle...no hat) was the finest example of motherhood I have known.  And anyone who knew her said the same. Although she did not grow up in a large family (she had one brother), she always had an innate love for children.  Motherhood was her greatest satisfaction and joy.  She gave birth to and raised seven daughters and two sons!  (I am third oldest, pictured in the middle of my two older sisters.) Winnie, as she was called, was raised by her grandmother (on the left) because during her growing-up years her parents were alcoholics, and not always emotionally or physically available. Mom's grandmother was her best friend.  Her mom (on the right) operated a beauty salon out of their home and worked long hours.

My mother was a remarkable woman.  I never heard her raise her voice--ever!  I never heard her swear or curse--ever!  She taught her children the value of hard work, integrity, commitment, responsibility, organization and loyalty.  But she also encouraged us to explore our own interests and to pursue our own dreams.  She had a witty sense of humor though did not flaunt it.  She was highly intelligent and earned a nursing degree after she bore all nine children; she received the highest academic honors in her class, though most of whom were thirty years younger than she. Mother was musical and artistic in many ways, though she was content to watch her children develop their own talents more than she had the opportunity to do so herself.  Mom was the epitome of compassion.  She not only cared for her own family but often assisted other families who needed help, support, money, a home-cooked meal, clothing (home-sewn!), a listening ear, or a shoulder to cry on.  In all honesty, she was a Saint. To me, she was a 'Mother Teresa' in her own corner of the world--quiet, dignified, devoted, strong, and a woman of faith.  I truly 'owe all that I am to my angel mother'.

The photo below was taken this past Mother's Day.  I have three sons and two daughters-in-law.  This is my daughter-in-law, Annie, and my granddaughters, Emma and Charlotte.  Looking at the two photos I am awestruck at the Circle of Life and the generations of mothers who influence our lives for good. When Emma was about three years old, I was reading her a picture book about a little girl and her mother.  At the end of the story we had the following conversation:

"Grandma, what is your mother's name?"

"Well, Emma, my mother died before you were born, but her name is Winifred."

With an astonished look and great enthusiasm, Emma said, "Oh!  I remember her!"

"You do?" I asked, equally astonished.

"Yes! She was my best friend!"

"Really?" I was still in utter amazement. "What did she tell you, Emma?"

"Oh, she told me about Jesus and how much He loves me."  Then Emma hugged me and smiled a smile I will always remember. And I can still hear her little voice and see the look on her face when my granddaughter, Emma, told me about my mother, Winnie.

First a daughter, then a mother, now a grandmother, I hope I will honor always honor motherhood the way my mother did.  And the way she still does.





















Monday, May 20, 2013

Suffering in Silence with S.M.B!



Here are the top-10, most honest, reasons why it's been months since I've posted on facebook, my blog, linkedIn, twitter or any other social media forums that, as a published author, I'm "supposed" to do daily:

1. I dread it!
2. It frightens me!
3. I don't understand it!
4. I feel vulnerable!
5. I feel foolish for my ignorance and guilty for my lack of interest in it!
6. I've been completely overwhelmed with the demands of publishing, promotion and public relations since the launch of both the book and the academy!
7. If I miss a day I fear I've permanently sabotaged any and all previous posts, so why bother?
8. I'd rather sulk about my inability to afford a social-network manager to do it, than to take the time to actually do it!
9. I'd rather eat liver and sardine soup!
10. I suffer from "Social Media Block"!

"Social Media Block" (my own term) is the opposite of an obsession with social media, or an addiction to it, or even Social Media Anxiety Disorder which is when people's lives revolve around participating in social media to the point that they can't really function in real life situations or connect with real people, which is what those with SMB prefer to do.  Authors occasionally suffer from "writer's block"which is when they draw a blank, their creativity is squelched, they're stuck, and no words come to them, so they sit motionless at the computer whenever they attempt to write. This can last for a few hours, days, weeks, or even years.  This is not my problem.  However, the joy-in-the-journey on the road-to-being-a-well-known-author may be forever buried under my fears if I don't snap out of it!

Suddenly I can relate to the character, Bob, in the film "What About Bob?" and I realize I simply must muster up my courage and be satisfied with "baby steps".  And accept the fact that some days (or months) it's perfectly reasonable to expect to take three tiny steps forward and one little hop back.  But as long as the steps forward are more consistent than the hops backward, I'll get there.  Wherever "there" is!  Remember, it's not the destination, but the journey. There goes the well-intentioned, menacing voice in my head again.  Ramble....ramble...ramble!  Just be done with this post!  It doesn't matter if anyone on the entire planet reads it!  Today it only matters that I write it and post it.

Tomorrow I'll take another step.


Friday, March 1, 2013

"Stelladaur: Finding Tir Na Nog" Launched Today!



A number of people have asked me, "What happens on Launch Day?" Basically, it's the official day that "Stelladaur: Finding Tir Na Nog" is available to the world!  Other than lunch at the Cheesecake Factory with my sister, a walk on the beach, and a beautiful bouquet of flowers delivered to my door, it was a workday as usual.  There is, after all, much to be done for the opening of The Stelladaur Academy later in the month.

Many people have asked numerous questions about where the book can be purchased.  Here's a brief Q/A review to clear up a few things:

Q:  Where can I purchase the book?
A:  On my author website at www.stelladaur.com
      1.  PB and HC through Amazon
      2.  PB and HC through Danforth Book Distributors (DBD)
      3.  Ebooks through Amazon for Kindle
      4.  Ebook with KOBO (Glitch on the site....my web designer has not fixed the link yet...should have it up on Monday.  But here it is if you want to order KOBO now: http://www.kobobooks.com/search/search.html?q=%22Stelladaur%3A+Finding+Tir+Na+Nog%22
      5.  PDF through Gumroad

Q:  Can I go directly to Amazon, DBD, KOBO or Gumroad?
A:  Yes.

Q:  What is Gumroad?
A:  A purchasing hub for artists and authors to sell their creative works without giving 70-80% of the profits to Amazon, BN and other wholesalers.  For the same retail price of the paperback, you receive a READ-ONLY PDF of the novel to download to your computer.  Not quite the same as a Kindle or KOBO or PUBIT, but still works.  Plus, $1.00 for each sale of a PDF goes directly to The Stelladaur Academy for scholarships for youth!!

Q:  How much does the author make on the book?
A:  As an Indie Publisher and debut novelist, it's been a bit of a rude awakening to realize how very little authors make on their books.  As a matter of fact, after paying Amazon (or other wholesalers), or the bookstore who buys it at 55% off retail, printing, shipping, and distributor costs....well, the truth is...NOTHING!  All my costs are set by the industry.  The profit margin comes in when the demand for the book warrants a larger print run.  Larger quantity print run means less cost per book for the publisher....which gets me back to one of the reasons I chose to Indie Publish through "Fireglass Publishing".

Q:  Can I purchase books from the author?
A:  Yes.  Email me directly at info@fireglasspublishing.com.  Books directly from Fireglass Publishing are signed by the author. :)

Q:  Why does Amazon not have the updated cover on the site?  And why does it say, "books will ship in 1-2 months?"
A:  Amazon has ordered books from my distributor (DBD) but they have not received them in their warehouse yet.  Once the warehouse receives the shipment of consignment books (to fill orders as they come in), their system will automatically update the cover image and replace the availability to say, "Available NOW!"  Should be by this time next week.

Q:  Why is Barnes and Noble, and their PUBIT Ebook not offered on your site, or at BN.com?
A:  It will be.  Their account processing for authors takes longer.  Should be available online with BN next week.

Q:  Will the PB and HC be available in local or chain stores?
A:  Retailers order books from distributors when enough customers ask for the book.  If you want the book in stores, ask the store to carry it!  The book is listed with all wholesalers and any brick-and-mortar book store will be able to order it for their customers.  Typically, the book will arrive to them in 1-3 days.  My publicist has pitched Barnes and Noble to carry the book but since I am a first-time author and indie-publisher, they likely will not carry it on the shelf until there is a demand.

How's that for "Publishing 101"?  I hope it helps to answer your questions about where to find the book.  Please feel free to email me at fiction@slwhyte.com anytime.

Thank you so much for joining me on the 29 Day Count Down, and for all your support and encouragement.

I hope you enjoy reading "Stelladaur: Finding Tir Na Nog".





Thursday, February 28, 2013

Final Day Before Launch! The Dress Rehearsal



As a vocalist and live theatre performer, I've survived countless dress rehearsals.  Typically they don't go well.  Lighting issues, missing props, forgotten lines, technical glitches, production challenges and a myriad of unexpected obstacles. Yet inevitably a not-so-great dress rehearsal is a sure sign for a fabulous opening night.  If this is a metaphor for an author's final day before the launch of her debut novel, then I'm ready for tomorrow!  Today was a terrible day.  Disappointments, delays, and discouraging news.  But that's the publishing business and the realities of launching a debut novel.  That's life sometimes.  But the show must go on and so will the book launch!  Lights....camera...action! Tomorrow I bring you "Stelladaur: Finding Tir Na Nog"!
 

2 Days till Launch!

I've been working almost around the clock to get everything in place for the book and academy launch in two days.  Actually, since it's past midnight, this post is technically going out with only ONE DAY till Launch!  But I'll post again later in the day.  Yes, I'm excited!  But I'm more exhausted!  As author-publisher-publicist-and president-and-founder of an online educational company, I have discovered that writing the book is by far the easiest part.  Oh, to have time to finish Book Two of The Stelladaur Series: Fading Heart!  Just thinking about it feels like a mini vacation.  Alas, the only thing that will come close to a vacation right now is going to bed before 2:00 a.m... and so I shall.  Right now.  No more work.  Not this yesterday.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

3 Days till Launch: My Alphabet for Authors



Sometimes it’s a good idea to look at old things in a new way.  Nothing in my Alphabet for Authors is new information but hopefully it will spark your creative juices.


A - Affirm aloud: “I am a writer!”
There’s a fine line between affirming who you are and what you do.  This affirmation comes when you   clearly know and feel the difference between the two. Then, when you say, “I am a writer” the ego is out of the way.

B - Browse your local bookstore.
There’s nothing quite like perusing the aisles of a bookstore.  I especially love small, independent bookstores—the kind with creaky wooden floors, bookshelves that fold open to reveal hidden storage spaces, and comfy over-stuffed chairs.

C - Create something new today.
Creativity is only limited by one’s imagination.  Excellent writers understand the importance of creativity in everything they do.

D - Delete at least one sentence from each page of your manuscript.
This simple exercise is a powerful way to begin editing.  Read each sentence with the following questions in mind:  Does this sentence move the story along?  Is it vital to the scene?  Does it have a definite purpose?  If the answer is ‘no’ to any of these questions, strike the sentence.
   
E – Embrace Editing and do it AGAIN!
Embracing the editing process means you open your eyes, heart and mind wide to recognize how unpolished your manuscript may be.  My first novel was edited dozens and dozens of times.

F - Finish a chapter.
No matter what, just get it done!  Then work on making the ending of each chapter, and the beginning of the next chapter, seamless yet purposeful.

G - Give yourself permission to write.
Put everything else on hold and do what you love to do.  Say ‘no’ to the endless list of other demands, both self-imposed and otherwise. C’mon…you know want to!

H – Hook 
Make sure your one sentence elevator pitch grabs the attention of anyone who hears it.  The jacket blurb (short synopsis printed on the back of your book) absolutely must pull the reader in.  Writing a pitch, blurb and synopsis requires many revisions to get it just right.

I -  Imagination and Intrigue Invite Interesting characters.
All interesting characters have a certain quality that makes them believably intriguing.  Interview your characters; spend time with them.  When you listen, they’ll tell you all kinds of things.

J - Jeff Herman's Guide to Book Publishers, Editors, and Literary Agents: check it out.
     http://jeffherman.com

K - Keep at it!
Authors in today’s market must be resilient, dedicated, and just keep at it.  The best antidote for the tough times is to write.  Write.  Write.  Write.
     
L - Literary Marketplace: Subscribe today.
The world’s largest and most complete database of the book publishing industry.
      http://literarymarketplace.com
     
M - Memorize your pitch…then practice it.
Here’s the rundown on mastering your pitch.  Write it.  Rewrite it. Rewrite it.  Rewrite it. Memorize    it. Practice it until it doesn’t sound like you’re reciting it from memory.  Practice. Practice.  Practice.  Above all else, remember to relax, breathe, and if at all possible, smile when introducing yourself to an agent. Remember, they are people, too.
     
N - News: Read online newspapers.
Reading about what’s going on in your local community, the country, and the world, provides an endless source of character and plot ideas.  Certainly there are other ways to gather ideas for stories, but don’t discount the news—besides, someday your novel may be the next big headline!

O - Open a favorite book you haven't read in years and read it again.
There’s nothing quite like rereading one of your favorites.  It’s sort of like biting into fine chocolate.  Delectably yummy!

P - Publisher's Weekly: subscribe today.
This online publication provides valuable information on international news related to the book publishing and book selling industries.  www.publishersweekly.com

Q - Query
After you’ve researched, written, edited, and submitted, remember this:  A perfect query letter does NOT equal representation!  There are far too many factors in the equation.  Don’t let the word “query” cause you unnecessary grief or angst.  Accept the fact that it’s just part of the process.

R - Respect your agent's and editor's time...respect your own time.
Don’t be needy, clingy or demanding of your agent or editor.  Do be professional, patient and respectful.  Set boundaries in your life and relationships so others respect your writing time, and so they don’t become needy, clingy or demanding of you.

S - Synopsis: Condense it.
A synopsis is a brief summary.  ‘Brief’ means concise, succinct, or with few words.  ‘Summary’ means comprehensive.  Hence, when you write a synopsis for your novel use as few words as possible and only as comprehensive as is necessary.  A synopsis in a query letter should only be one paragraph, unless an agent’s submission guidelines specifies otherwise.

T - Trust your inner voice.
Write from your heart.  Edit from your head.  Not an easy thing to do.  Creativity is the language of our own inner voice.  It’s not a language you can learn from a blog post, in a class, or from anyone else.  You’re the teacher and the creator.  Once you know that, then you’ll trust your inner voice and live from your heart.  The writing will come from that place.
     
U - Understand why you write and you will better understand yourself.
I write so the unexpected magical things in life come alive.  In myself.  In my life.  On the page.  It’s that simple.  Why do you write?  

V - Viewpoint: Reread or rewrite your manuscript from a different viewpoint.
Point of View isn’t just about who is telling the story.  It’s also about considering each of your characters’ viewpoints—their emotions, feelings, responses, etc.—in such a way that you actually write their story from their own point of view.  Know your characters better than anyone else does.

W - Writer's Conference: Research options and sign up for one today.
I go to a writer’s conferences with an open mind, ready to absorb information and learn about craft, industry and myself.    

X - eXpect results equal to your efforts, skill, determination, talent, and perseverance.
One of the keys to success as an author is to make sure your expectations are high enough to continually reach outside your comfort zone, but realistic in relation to your present strengths and weaknesses.  When it comes right down to it, you have to make it happen. So expect your best. Then trust it’s enough.

Y - YES! The word you will be shouting the day your book is published!

Z - Zany: Do something silly every day!
If you feel like you’re in a rut, you are.  Get up and do something out of the ordinary.  This creates positive energy.  Writer’s block comes from blocked creativity, which comes from blocked, or negative energy.  Be Z-A-N-Y and Zap Away Negative Yuck!


Monday, February 25, 2013

4 Days till Launch! - Giftedness in Youth




Typically the term “giftedness” is used to describe one having a special talent or ability, or having exceptionally high intelligence.  Another definition is having or showing natural talent or aptitude.  At first glance, we tend to associate giftedness with outstanding academic abilities, or prodigy-level musicians and artists.  However, if we look more closely at the definitions, giftedness encompasses much more and is likely a quality found in most children, and some adults.

If an individual has a particular talent, he or she has a specific ability to do something, which perhaps someone else may not: sing, dance, paint, design, write, perform in sports, etc.  Or a person may excel in a specific subject at school, like math or science, which may then qualify him or her to participate in a “gifted and talented program”.  Similarly, aptitude refers to either a person’s capability to do something, or his or her intelligence.  One’s capability can be an innate or acquired capacity. 

For example, many children are capable of learning basic math skills at a young age, but children with an innate aptitude for math would likely be able to calculate sums in their head, understand or create their own story problems, and grasp more complex number concepts long before they reach kindergarten. 

My oldest son is gifted in this way.  At age four he understood and could complete hand-written long division problems.  He also introduced me to the Fibonacci sequence!  I think he first heard about it on a PBS special.  I must admit, when he asked me to explain the Fibonacci sequence to him, I simply said, “The fibbo-what?”

“You know, Mom, the numbers you add together to get the next number.”  I remember just staring at him and shrugging my shoulders, but he continued.  “It’s like adding zero plus one to equal one.  Then one plus one equals two.  Then two plus one equals three.”  He lost me long before 21 + 34 = 55.  I had no idea how he could calculate those numbers, much less repeat the word Fibonacci!  Some 25 years later, I have to do a Google search on the Fibonacci sequence to remind myself what it is, and to acquire the capacity to calculate it.  But not my son, his aptitude for math is innate.

Since aptitude also refers to intelligence, we must also explore that word, if we are to truly understand giftedness in children.  The dictionary defines intelligence as an aptitude for grasping truths, relationships, facts and meanings; or discernment.  It’s interesting that this series of words is used to describe intelligence when we consider that to discern something we perceive by sight, sense or intellect.  Perceiving something tangible by sight is explainable, but what if the thing a child perceives is a formless truth?  What if a child simply knows something inside him self or her self but doesn’t know how to explain it, or even what it means?  Using his or her innate intelligence how is this talent, ability, aptitude, or capacity to perceive validated?  Most often, it is not.

Innate intuitiveness, often coupled with an acute ability for imagination, is a type of giftedness most people are born with.  Even when still in the womb, babies can easily perceive or sense the mother’s emotions and feelings. A baby that does not yet have the ability to communicate with words can simply perceive or sense something is amiss, and he or she will respond accordingly by fussing, crying or tensing up.  Parents or teachers sometimes say a child is so smart that “nothing gets past the child.”  This likely has more to do with innate discernment—or the gift of intuitiveness—than it does with I.Q. 

Unfortunately, somewhere between infancy and adolescence, most children let go of intuitiveness because our society does not place value on this ability.  Imagination is traded for visible, tangible facts.  Insight and discernment are discarded for more acceptable forms of achievement.  Thus, highly intuitive and sensitive young people can easily get lost among the crowd of the academically driven and rewarded mainstream.

At The Stelladaur Academy, imagination and intuitiveness are recognized and honored as viable measures of giftedness.  The mission of The Stelladaur Academy is to provide an online campus where young people discover the value of imagination and intuitiveness in the pursuit of knowledge, creative renewal, and compassionate living.  The main resource for the curriculum is my young adult transformational fantasy titled “Stelladaur:Finding Tir Na Nog”.  I coined the phrase “YA Transformational Fantasy” to convey the message that a book only makes a significant difference when the one reading it does so with the intent to be that difference.  The Academy helps kids rediscover their own innate gifts and talents, as they come to understand it is they who make the difference in our world.

The Stelladuar Academy officially opens with the launch of the novel on March 1, 2013.


Saturday, February 23, 2013

7 Days till Launch: Meet the Guardian of Nature



It was a sunny early spring day today and I took a much needed break from my desk to rake leaves and sticks from my flowers beds.  Alas!  I discovered crocuses and lilies in bloom!  Poor things buried under all that dead debris.  As I dug in the dirt and pulled up overgrown ground cover, I thought about Jaida, one of my favorite characters Stelladaur: Finding Tir Na Nog.  Here is a brief excerpt from Chapter 19 to introduce you to this intriguing character.

                                                           * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


Reilly opened his mouth to speak but gulped for breath as a mighty gust of wind overtook them. They turned towards the wind and saw streaks of bright green—a jet stream from something that had whipped by too fast for them to see. Then another whoosh of tremendous force blew past them in long streaks of green from the other direction. From behind them, someone spoke.

“I am called Jaida.” It was a female voice, gentle and calm.

Reilly and Norah faced the creature and dropped their jaws, still surprised by the continual unexpectedness in the realms unknown to them before.

“I am the Guardian of Nature,” she said, her long hair flowing with green threads of shimmering seaweed. “It is my purpose to protect the spirit of all living things.” Fastened to uneven sections of her hair by green stems were flowers of many colors and varieties. Like strings of randomly twinkling lights, the blossoms transformed continuously into other flowers and buds. Jaida’s two arms were moss-covered branches, and her hands were multi-pointed maple leaves. Though her shoulders were bare, her upper torso was covered in iridescent green scales, which blended into the feathered lower portion of her body. Reilly could not tell whether the scales and feathers were part of her body or her clothing. Tied about her neck was a flowing cloak, a collage of green leaves, which trailed behind her like an elaborate bridal train gathered about her in a sweeping fashion on the ground. Exquisitely camouflaged throughout the cloak—yet still appearing in their natural color- ings—were small animals, birds, insects and reptiles, some poking their heads up slightly as if to see who Jaida was speaking to.

“This is Nebo,” said Jaida, nodding to a bald eagle perched on her right shoulder. The bird’s white head towered above Jaida. “He is the Guide of Wisdom, whose influence flows endlessly through all living things.” The eagle blinked slowly as he, too, nodded to Reilly and Norah.  They returned the greeting with a slight bow.

“Reilly, because you have an innate ability to listen to the spirits of other living things, your visit to Gwidon is primarily a reminder to you of what you already know within yourself,” said Jaida, her
scaly green breast rising as she spoke. “Norah, you, too, will learn from these same Spirits of Nature. They will aid you both in the healing of your souls and will offer simple treasures of delight, as you allow them. This is the purpose of Nature.”

Reilly and Norah listened carefully, glancing occasionally at the creatures peering up at them from Jaida’s cloak. Nebo continued to blink slowly and nod slightly ....

... Jaida’s own two eyes glistened like emeralds and her green fuzzy lips—reminding Reilly of a plant called Rabbit Ears that grew in his front yard—twitched at the corners.... Jaida scrunched her delicate nose until it took the form of a conch shell ... 

“Green reflects respect for life in all forms. It brings endless growth and fertility, creating perfect balance through the Spirits of Nature. When Nature’s spirit is disrupted or harmed in any way, all other forms suffer as well. Most human beings are unaware of their power to create a peaceful balance with life.” Jaida looked adoringly at the creatures nodding beneath her skirt. “Those who listen to the Spirits of Nature are more enlightened in their ability to create this balance.”

“Can you repeat that?” Norah asked. “I don’t know if I can remember all of that.”

“You need only remember the feeling. Nature will remind you of all else.” 


                                                      * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Friday, February 22, 2013

8 Days till Launch: New Cover Image for Stelladaur




Hard copy and paperback copies are now in my hands!  One week from today and they will be available for purchase!  Check out the new cover image with the titles done in embossed silver and blue foil.  I love it!!!  The image you've seen before was only for the Advance Reader Copies which were printed on a digital press and did not have this special treatment.  And because of the layering process required for embossing, the printer doesn't actually have an image of the cover, only images of the layers.  So I had to wait until I had the book in hand, and then have the book professionally photographed before it could be uploaded to any websites.  So here it is!  And wait till you see the full jacket for the paperback.  The artist, Konohiki Place is amazing!



Thursday, February 21, 2013

9 Days till Launch: Praise for Stelladaur

"Captivating, inspiring, creative and insightful are a few words to describe Stelladaur: Finding Tir Na Nog by S.L. Whyte.  This fable teaches important lessons about the power of love and the meaning of life.  I highly recommend it.  You're going to love it."  - Dr. Joe Rubino, Author of The Legend of the Light-Bearers, and The Seven Blessings.  

Thank you, Dr. Rubino for your thoughtful review.  I am honored and grateful.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

10 Days till Launch: FREE Book Promo!


My publicist is offering a FREE book promo for Stelladaur: Finding Tir Na Nog.  Check it out at LibraryThing through February 25th and register for your FREE signed, paperback copy TODAY!

I will be offering FREE ebooks soon on my SL Whyte Facebook Author page!  Stay tuned!









Tuesday, February 19, 2013

11 Days till Launch: How to Find the Right Name for Your Characters

One of the really exciting things about writing a novel is meeting interesting characters.  There are more than 50 named characters in Stelladaur: Finding Tir Na Nog, most who I did not know before they appeared in the story.  I get to know them better as I write because it is, after all, their story, not mine.  My story is in the writing of it.  Sometimes as I write I can almost hear a character say, "No, that's wrong! It didn't happen that way,"or "I wouldn't say it like that," or "That's not how I feel about it!"  A character might tell me right then and there what to write, but sometimes I have to pause for a few days or longer and really think about that character.  Ask a lot of questions.  Listen.  Wonder.  A good writer does not reveal everything he or she knows about the characters.  And an excellent writer knows exactly what needs to be revealed.

Finding the right name for characters is also important.  I typically do a lot of research to make sure each character is given a name with meaning appropriate to his or her personality, especially for main characters.  Sometimes a name comes to me quite unexpectedly, which usually means it is the right name.  This happened for the character named Charlotte Louise McKinnley.  She enters the story at a critical point in the plot as a person from the past.  I stopped writing to see if she'd tell me her name.  Within a minute, her name rang in my ears clear as a bell.  A few days later I suddenly realized my deceased great-aunt and my grandmother were both named Charlotte.  They passed away before I was an adult and I had always called them by their married name, so it didn't occur to me that I would me naming this character after either of them, or in their honor.  But here's something else almost "Zen-like".  One of my granddaughters, who was born after the book was written but before my son or daughter-in-law read it, is named Charlotte!  And neither of them knew then about my great-aunt or grandmother who were given the same name.  Some things are just meant to be.

Sometimes I intentionally name minor characters after someone I know....just for fun.  Most of the characters in Stelladaur: Finding Tir Na Nog are named specifically for their meaning.  Check out the Meet the Characters link on my author website for a sneak peek introduction to each one of them.

Monday, February 18, 2013

12 Days till Launch: Do You Need an Excellent Editor for Your Book?

If your manuscript is ready for editing I highly recommend my editor, Jill Ronsley at SUN Editing & Book Design.  Jill provides editing, interior book design, typesetting, book cover design, and eBook conversion and formatting services.  Jill's expertise and professionalism is exceptional!  She is thorough, prompt, and detail-oriented.  She works directly with publishers, printers and other team members for your book or project.  Her website also provides valuable information and resources for indie publishing and book formatting.  Jill has the unique ability to interact with her clients in a warm, encouraging and gracious manner.  Jill is currently working with me on Book 2 of The Stelladaur Series, Fading Heart.  It is my pleasure to introduce Jill Ronsley, founder of SUN Editing & Book Design.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

13 Days till Launch: Time Warp




It’s 5:00 a.m. and I’ve been awake for three hours. Not typical for me, but then again, not entirely out-of-the-ordinary.  Sometimes I just can’t turn my brain off and sleep eludes me.  After imploring any and all relaxation techniques that have previously worked, but for some reason today prove futile, I decided to stop fighting the urge to stay snuggled under the fleece sheets, and staggered to find my computer at the kitchen table where I left it late last night.  Or was that today then?  It feels like I’m in different world at this time of the morning.  Must be a time warp thing, sort of an out-of-body experience—I even see blindingly white lights, apparently which come with such cosmic events.  Somehow I bring myself to adjust the brightness icon on my Mac and realize I’m still here.

I’m not a physicist but I believe time-travel is a real phenomenon.  It must be the thing on my brain that won’t turn off because as I read over the first paragraph of this blog post, I have an eerie feeling what I’ve written has already happened.  It’s different than déjà vu—more like I’m stuck somewhere I’d rather not be, or perhaps I don’t really belong.  And I have this longing to be back in bed, with my body wrapped around my husband.  Why can’t I bring myself to get there?

It’s even weirder if I analyze this from a literary perspective.  Consider the connections between the words and phrases I’ve typed thus far:  awake, hours, out-of-the-ordinary, sleep, eludes, relaxation, past, stop, stay, night, today, different world, time, morning, time warp, out-of-body experience, cosmic, time-travel, phenomenon, already happened, déjà vu, stuck somewhere, body.  I had no conscious intention of making these word associations.  These are the words that were in my brain—or said another way, where my brain was.  A person is not his or her brain but is the brain where he or she is? If our brain goes to a particular place (i.e. we dream, daydream, or imagination we are there), then once we figure out how to get the rest of our body to that same place, will we actually be there?  Could this be the definition of time travel? 

Quantum physicists agree time travel is possible and define it similarly.  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/16/is-time-travel-real_n_1429953.html Science has proven that our subconscious brain cannot distinguish between real and imaginary.  Spiritual practitioners of varied disciplines have explored the plausibility of the body’s ability to dematerialize and then manifest itself in another location, time or realm.  Paramahansa Yogananda has experienced this on more than one occasion. (“Autobiography of a Yogi”) Current-day parlance such as “creative and mental visualization techniques” describes such methods as the means of achieving health, vitality, and abundance.  

I believe them all.  Here is the simple reason why: After living on this planet for a mere half-century, I still know very little in comparison to my brain’s capacity to know and understand more.  This much I do know: In order to truly learn and gain knowledge and wisdom, we must be willing to consider that whatever the conscious mind deems impossible, may actually be possible.  Stated in the reverse, that which the subconscious mind can conceive is a complete and entire possibility.  And I dare say, a probability! 

The finite simply cannot conceive the infinite.  The human brain will not allow it, though the brain likely has the capacity to do so.  Only not here.  Not now.  Not with our limited five senses in this three-dimensional world.  When man begins to think he knows more than the Power by which all life and light is created and maintained, he thwarts his ability to truly understand that which is yet unknown to man.  This of course refers to the spiritual application, but also to our human physical ability to do so.

It’s difficult to explain the irony of being here one second and gone the next, when in any given second our brain is usually firing and misfiring ten zillion (or so) thoughts, ideas, and functions within that second.  If our heart stops beating for more than a relatively few seconds, or perhaps minutes, our body dies.  However, in those rare moments when our brain stops thinking, but we are still completely awake and conscious, our body remains wherever it is at that moment.  Yet we feel we are only observing life without words to define it.  It is as if everything literally stops.  There is no motion.  You can’t feel yourself breathe.  You have no thoughts.  But you awkwardly try to comprehend it.  You try to stretch your brain—again without thinking any words—in an attempt to understand.  Suddenly you feel like you might disappear into a wormhole, or a warp or wedge in time.  Then you have this strange understanding that you exist.  But you have no words to explain it.  Right before the words come back to your brain, you shake your head vigorously, so your brain can start the process of thinking again.  This is the body’s build-in coping mechanism to protect the brain from going mad when it isn’t yet capable of receiving more knowledge of the infinite nature of our existence.

This understanding of infinite existence is the point at which there is no time.  Everything just is.  There are no boundaries.  And for that moment, you are in an endless dimension.  You may find yourself thinking: If only my whole body could squeeze through that warp!  Still, the finite mind cannot comprehend it or find the words to describe it.  We call it “time travel”, and we explore all our understanding and resources to supposedly discover (un-cover) something that already exists.  Although we cannot explain it, see it, put words to it, or experience it in a way others will accept or understand, this does not mean it is impossible or that it doesn’t exist.  Furthermore, the fact that our intellect has capacities far beyond its current ability to process knowledge or understanding, suggests that time travel—and other unexplainable phenomenon—does exist.  Otherwise, we are indeed ignorant and naïve.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

14 Days till Launch: Seeing Past the Bubble



As promised in yesterday's post, here is a short excerpt from Stelladaur: Finding Tir Na Nog, Chapter 13 titled, "Awareness".   Reilly is in a parallel world talking with a creature named Porfino, whose third eye, a purple jewel centered between his other two eyes, mesmerizes Reilly and he begins to question where he is and what he wants.
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Porfino took a step forward and gazed with his azurite eye at Reilly’s Stelladaur, creating a ray of indigo light between the two of them. Suddenly, Reilly felt something wrap around him. He reached out but his finger bumped into an invisible wall. At his touch, the wall lit up in an iridescent indigo light like a giant soap bubble, reflecting rainbow colors from the sunlight. But the bubble did not pop when he touched it. Instead, it made an ahhm sound, like a meditating Tibetan monk. Both the light from the bubble and the tonal frequency lasted only a few seconds after Reilly touched it. With intention, he touched it again and the bubble lit up, accompanied by the single chant. Then he placed his entire palm on the invisible wall and it lit up much brighter, making his hand radiate in a purple glow. The ahhm continued in a series of prolonged notes.

Reilly wondered if it was a game, like one of the imagination games of Jolka. But the sensation was different in this experience, so he wasn’t sure.

“No, it is not a game.”

Of course, Reilly thought, if Fiala could read my mind, I should have guessed Porfino could, too.

“What is it?” Reilly asked as he touched the bubble again with his palm.

“It is not named,” Porfino said, “but it represents the awareness in all you experience and all that you are.” The bubble reflected in his middle eye.

“You mean like understanding why something is the way it is?”

“No, simply being aware that it is.”

“I don’t understand.” 

“Before you touched the screen of the bubble—which is not really what it is, but I only give it a label so you can identify it—you did not know it was there. However, it was always there. You were just unaware of its existence. Is it now necessary for you to understand it, to know that it is?”

“I guess not.” 

“It is only necessary that you are aware of its existence.” 

Reilly scowled, confused. 

“How do you know it is there?” Porfino probed. 

“I can see it when I touch it.” 

“Yes, but what if you did not have eyes to see? Would that mean it did not exist?” 

“No.”

“How would you know it exists?”

“I can hear it.” 

“Yes, but what if you did not have ears to hear? Would that mean it did not exist?” 

“No.”

“Then how do you know it exists?”

Reilly thought before answering. “Well ... something sort of wrapped around me. It’s hard to explain. But it felt protective, not restrictive.”

“Why do you think you so quickly forgot the feeling that first told you of its existence?”

Reilly thought again before responding. “I don’t know. Maybe because I just wanted to see if it was really there, so I reached out to try and touch it.”

“You thought your eyes or your ears would be a better guide than your feelings to tell you of its existence.”

“Yeah, I suppose so.” Reilly’s voice had gained an introspective tone.

“Feelings are an indicator that awareness is awakening within. When you learn to trust your feelings you will begin to recognize yourself.”

“You mean I will know what I want?” 

“No, you will know you.” Reilly raised his eyebrows. 

“Awareness is the space between what you think you know and what actually is. Some people catch glimpses of this power. However, it is not awareness of self that brings this realization, but attention to the awareness.”

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Porfino gives us more than enough to consider for today.  

Friday, February 15, 2013

15 Days till Launch: I Hate to Pop Your Bubble, but...




Every person lives in his or her own bubble, either by choice, ignorance or default.  This occurs more often than not.  Sometimes we intentionally get inside our bubble to seek protection, attempt to hide from our self or others, to calm down, and even to seek enjoyment.  But we soon discover that despite our best attempts, we don’t really want to stay inside our bubble all the time.  Fortunately, the bubble invariably pops when we least expect it to.  Unfortunately, we then tend to simply find another bubble to inhabit.

The bubble appears to be real.  It is, after all, our bubble and we created it, so of course we believe it is real.  The bubble allows us to see everything as we want.  We can justify our actions, judge others, gluttonously feed our egos from an endless buffet of poisons, procrastinate with ease, and nurse our self-imposed wounds with warped biofeedback mechanisms.  We even insist others must get inside our bubble, so they can see things from our perspective.  However, we tend to forget that the walls of our bubble are tinted.  The tint inhibits each of our senses from functioning at highest capacity.  We see what we want to see.  Hear what we want to hear.  Express our emotions without regard to anyone else’s feelings.  Ironically, without tint, our bubble would be clear and we could float along happily without the need for a bubble to begin with.

Bubbles have no particular shape, size or age.  Babies depend entirely upon others to understand and respond to them from inside the baby’s bubble.  As parents, we do this willingly because we know the baby can’t express in words what he or she is experiencing, so we patiently learn the language of their bubble.  By the time the child is two years old, we wonder why he or she is so stubborn and is determined to have things his or her own way.  Suddenly our bubbles collide.  This is good because it allows us to evaluate our own limits and boundaries, and helps us teach our child to do the same.  However, as the child grows into adolescence we may start to feel like we’re in the middle of a bubble war.  (Or is it a war inside a bubble?)  Parents sometimes use the “I-hate-to-pop-your-bubble, but” card in a feeble attempt to explain something to their teenager, which the parent thinks is vital for their child to know.  And the parent often screams this information, opinion, or point of view from inside his or her own bubble, wondering why the message won’t get through the thick, tinted walls of the child’s bubble.  (Or is it from the dense walls of the parents’ bubble?)  While it’s true a teenagers’ bubble can be difficult to penetrate, perhaps if the parent simply began peeling the tint away—to help clear the child’s vision—there wouldn’t be so many exploding bubbles leaving a spray of misunderstanding, disconnect, disrespect and judgment.  It takes time, patience, and consistent and genuine expressions of love and acceptance to clear the tinted walls of a teenager’s bubble.  Or anyone else’s for that matter.

It’s also important to allow others to pop our bubble.  This benefits us more than it does them.  It gives us an opportunity to experience something beyond the confines of our own tinted walls, and it increases our capacity, intellect and understanding.   It’s a weird phenomenon, but each time we experience life outside our bubble—even if only for brief moments—the walls of our bubble become thinner and more transparent.  With thinner walls our heart becomes more permeable and our soul also more transparent.  We discover that life outside our bubble offers abundant rewards—and a whole new world to explore.

Tomorrow I'll post an awesome scene from Chapter 13 of Stelladaur: Finding Tir Na Nog, where Reilly unexpectedly finds himself inside an actual invisible bubble.  Stayed tuned....you're going to love it!


Thursday, February 14, 2013

16 Days till Launch: The Deepest Kind of Love


Probably the first thing that comes to mind on Valentine's Day is romantic love and all it's splendor and delight.  But for countless reasons, this is not necessarily the kind of love everyone wants to celebrate, or has the opportunity to do so, on this day.  Love comes in many forms, languages, expressions, feelings, and tokens.  However, there is a universal love which, if embodied, transcends all.  A scene from "Stelladaur: Finding Tir Na Nog" is worth considering.

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"What would break the spell?" Reilly peered at Eilam.

"Only one thing can break the spell of all evil."  Eilam's green eyes looked deeply into Reilly's. "Love."

Reilly grimaced.  "You mean like romance and fairy tale stuff?"

"No.  This would require the deepest kind of love, that of compassion and forgiveness--the very essence of love."

"Oh."

"The people of the town would need to feel compassion for the Griffin and forgive him for his lies, unkindnesses and greed.  Whenever anyone harbored ill will towards the beast or said he'd got what he deserved, the spell increased and the evil grew stronger and stronger in the gargoyle. It became more and more difficult for the people to forgive--and love--not only the beast, but each other, as well.  This, too, made the evil increase.  But the people didn't know this--not even the magistrate or his daughter did.  Only Malie the Magician understood it."  Eilam took another sip of tea.

"But how could the people learn to love such a horrible creature if Malie didn't tell them how to do it?" Reilly asked.

"It was up to each of them to search his or her own heart."

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On this Valentine's Day instead of chocolates, flowers, trinkets and baubles, give the gift of the deepest kind of love:  compassion and forgiveness.