Once upon a time, man lived in harmony with the land. There was no need to destroy, reshape, or control it. Every tree, stone, river, or animal was believed to have a soul.
Many nations across the globe believed in Animism where the lines between animal, human, and spirit were blurred. People and animals, at one time, could speak freely to one another and change form at will. This shaped their various spiritual practices when they gave thanks for the many blessings the earth offered freely. This reverence shaped their culture.
Obviously, the world has changed since the first peoples. In my writing, I rely heavily on Native American and Northern Pacific cultures and belief systems.
So, in my world building, creating a legend that spoke to this split from nature reverence to present day domination had to be addressed. Magical creatures and shapeshifters live in the human realm I’ve created. Their magic is hidden from human vision. For example, I have moon drop fairies living in the garden of one of my characters. When they giggle, they light up. A magical person will see the Moondrop Fairy. A human will see a firefly.
There is a veil between the two worlds. Many cultures believe the veil thins during Halloween, where spirits can walk in the human world. Why not a magical veil as well? But how did this veil come about?
It didn’t take too much effort for me to see that the reverence is a predominant issue. The first peoples respected and gave thanks, modern man reshapes and controls.
I created a legend for my stories that simply states, Mother Nature cast the veil between the realms to protect the earth and her magic. If humans were going to stop respecting the multitude of magic in the world, they would never see it again.
Now it’s your turn…
Will the veil between worlds ever be lifted?
Would you want that?
By the light of the full moon, a werewolf transforms. He shifts into an altered animal form.
Shape-shifters are intriguing characters. How cool would it be to see the world from an entirely different perspective? I often wonder if the thought process in human form differs in the shifted animal form.
Shifting is a common theme in folklore, mythology and fairy tales. Traditional shifters are werewolves. Everyone has heard of the werewolf and how they shift by the light of a full moon.
So when I began creating my shapeshifting characters I wanted a fresh and interesting approach. I wanted the trigger to be surprising and new. I also wanted it to be a surprise the other characters in my novel.
Everyone recognizes a full moon. If moonlight was going to be a trigger for one of my shape-shifting characters, I really had to do some research.
The moon returns to the same spot in the sky every 27.3 days, making a Tropical lunar month. However the moon’s phase (waxing or waning) doesn’t remain the same for two days.
Astronomical calendars can get pretty complicated with all the mathematical calculations. What stuck out for me is the fact that all the other star systems aren’t in the same spot in the sky, the universe in constantly in motion. Then I stumbled upon the Metonic Cycle of the Moon. I’d never heard of this before, so my characters hadn’t either!
The Metonic Cycle of the Moon is when the moon returns to the same EXACT point, (at the same longitude and against the same constellation) in the sky with the same phase. Talk about having all your ducks in a row. How long is a Metonic Cycle? 19 years.
Imagine 19 years in human form and then 19 years in a shifted animal form! Even better, what if the first 19 years were in animal form and the next in human form? That is one interesting character! I can’t wait for you to meet him.
Your turn, if your life was based on the Metonic Cycle, what would you shift into and how would that change your perspective of the world?
Welcome to my first Mythic Monday.
The best part of being a writer, for me, is world building. I love learning. I can spend hours researching folklore & mythology, cultures & customs from around the world and weave it into my stories. So every Monday I’m going to give you a glimpse into my story world.
In my first novel, my main character needed a mentor to the magical world. She’d forgotten magic. When she returns home, she has visions of her childhood imaginary friend, Mr. Tattertoes.
Mr. Tattertoes needed to be a guardian spirit, a magical creature that existed in the spiritual or ethereal realm. He would provide guidance, support and protection to my main character on her journey through the novel.
This is where the fun begins! Research. I want my magical creatures to be unique to literature and have a universal appeal. Talk about reaching for the stars. I like to dream big.
My research revealed that Native American cultures believe each person is born with a totem animal. A religious person has a guardian angel. Medieval Norse mythology claims that each person has a shadow spirit called a Fylgia (Fel-Gee-Ah). Three different names for the same guardian spirit? The only one that doesn’t have an animal form is the guardian angel and I want my character to be in an animal form.
Fylgia sounded like the best fit. I don’t think I’ve seen the creature’s name in a novel before. A Fylgia is a spiritual entity in animal form that has a huge impact on a person’s life. Their role is similar to a guardian angel, providing guidance, support and protection. They can also be bound to an anchoring point, such as a medallion or stone, which would provide me with the leeway to have him left behind as my character ‘grew up’ and forgot magic.
It’s pretty cool when hundreds of years of world belief systems cooperate with your writing!
So, let me ask you, if you had a Fylgia, what animal would it be?
Please forgive me for my lack of blogging these past few months, but I’ve fallen in love, with editing my novel. Of all my 2011 intentions, editing was the one that filled me with the most fear. I faced all the other intentions head on. I’m still making them a conscious part of my life. Polishing my stories, a very necessary tool for a writer, filled me with dread. Last year I faced the typing monster, this year, editing.
But first, let me back up and tell you how I fell in love.
The moment when it all coalesced was at Norwescon this April. I was nervous through the entire conference leading up to my feedback session with The Fairwood Writers Workshop. My appointment was on the last day of the conference. I was sure they would say, “Don’t quit your day job.” Which, of course, is too late, I write everyday, all day. Writing is my dream job.
The feedback session was held in a tower room of the Doubletree. It seemed fitting that I would meet my fear in a tower room, since I submitted a fairy tale fantasy.
Four published authors, of various genres, gathered around a conference table to discuss my writing. Each person got ten minutes of uninterrupted time to voice their feedback, ask questions, and make comments.
The first author told me to keep in mind that this wasn’t his genre. It was quite a shock to my system when he finished and I wasn’t boiling in anger or near tears from the pain. This continued around the table with the next author and then the next. I took notes. Wonderful detailed notes, questions about my world that I hadn’t considered, structure tweaks, and publisher information. Yes, publisher information, markets I should check out and submit my work. They each gave me written feedback as well that included notes in the margins and on the backs of my pages. Each one of them gave my story attention.
I left the session energized and eager to get back to work, extremely thankful that I wouldn’t need the box of tissue waiting for me in my car or the pint of ice cream in the freezer at home to console me. My feet hardly touched the ground as I went to my next 2 panel discussions. I was accepted as a writer. I was taken seriously by strangers. Yes, my novel needs polish, but the feedback was delivered in an uplifting way, and these four published strangers encouraged me to continue on this path.
I faced the editing fear. Next fear on my list, you guessed it, submitting it to agents and publishers.
My grams used to love to say that phrase when life was speeding by and that is exactly how the past few months have felt. Just as blurry as the photo above!
I finished up NaNo in November with a little over 180,000 words. It is the first time I’ve Nano’d two complete novel drafts. Then right around the corner, Norweson was waiting.
Norwescon is ‘The Northwest’s Premier Science Fiction and Fantasy Convention’. The Fairwood Writer’s Workshop is where you can enter an excerpt of your novel to be critiqued by professional writers during the April convention. The deadline was December 19th. The submission package must contain a cover letter, synopsis (1000 word limit), and an excerpt of your novel. I spent many sleepless nights writing and re-writing to submit the best possible example of my writing. It was emailed off and I’ve received confirmation that it was received. I hope and pray it is my very best work. Time will tell.
This past week I wrapped up the year for Eastside Author Chat, the writing group I organize. It is an amazing group of writers and I feel lucky to share the writing journey with them.
Only a handful of days left in 2010. In those days, a lunar eclipse, Christmas and New Years Eve. I have my 2011 goals sketched out and I will be solidifying them in the next few days.
I’m looking forward to the ‘Fire’ of 2011 and all the new writing experiences, (writing conventions, agents, synopsis writing, even rejection letters!) the year has waiting for me.
No, it isn’t some new alien tech speak. It stands for National Novel Writers Month.
For 30 exciting days in November, people around the world join in the common goal to write their own novel. The end goal is 50,000 words. They don’t even have to be perfect words. You could even write a story about glow in the dark lava sharks in a hollowed out volcano, just sit in the chair and put fingers to keys!
So, it is almost 3am on the first day of Nano. I just finished typing in my scenes and have 7,890 words.
I’m pretty pleased with my new story. As I was typing I realized my male lead needs a name change. In the rush and excitement of my first Nano event, I used the name James Clemens. I’ve been obsessed with the pacing of my favorite writer, James Rollins/ James Clemens and his name slipped into my story. A definite change! First thing in the morning, if I can sleep. The story is spinning in my mind 🙂
If you are curious about Nano, the web site is http://www.nanowrimo.org/.
Recently, I bared my soul to my writing group, and once again started the process of giving and receiving feedback. It is a tight-rope every writer navigates in the process towards publication.
I posted the opening scenes of my ‘Fairy-Tale’ on our group board and held my breath as the members read my story. Initially I created the story, to fill in some gaps for myself while I was world building. Every lost and mysterious world has myths and legends. Who hasn’t heard tales of Atlantis or Shangri-La? So my world, Chamoura, needed some myths and legends of its own.
Around the table at Starbucks, we took turns, reviewing what each of us had offered up. Eventually it was my Fairy-Tale’s turn for feedback and I did my best to sit back and take it all in. I lead this group so I didn’t want to be the cougar mama defending her cub. One member said he hated the main character and wished he had been murdered in the first scene. Someone else liked it. As I sat there listening to the lively conversation over the table, I actually surprised myself. These characters must have struck a chord for such a reaction. I wasn’t handed a list of typos and grammar issues with the ‘nice job’ and a ‘See you next time’ dismissal.
Just as I tell the other members of the group, my suggestions on your work are yours to do with as you wish. If they don’t work, then ignore them. And, I get that option as well. Did the feedback have validity even though it stung? Yes. Did my inner critic go on a tirade about what a lousy writer I am and I should quit? Nope. When I first started my inner critic’s voice was louder and had more emotional weight.
Today, I know that I can not please everyone that reads my work and I do not want to even try to do that. I have to remember that each reader comes to my story with their own filter they read through. That filter is their life experiences, beliefs, memories, and values. Each person is going to see my characters through that filter.
I find value in the feedback, all the feedback. It may sting, but it also pushes me to be a better writer than I was yesterday. All good writing is in the RE-Writing, and I am grateful I have people in my life, ready to offer me the slings and arrows that push my writing to be better!
Thanks to all of EAC for making me a better writer!!!
Last night I was consumed with creating a children’s story for my new writing group. It was so much fun, writing about newborn dragons and cherries popping in a bowl, I lost all track of time. My tea grew cold and eventually forgotten. It was only 2 inches away from my hands as I typed the story into word and prepared to mail it off. As soon as I hit send, my stomach went queasy. Perhaps one more polish was needed. The doubts crept back.
I got in my car this morning, turned on the radio, and the Cherry Poppin’ Daddies were singing. No more doubts. How coincidental is that? But is it really coincidental?
Things like this have been happening to me more and more.
I was in a friend’s car last Thursday, driving toward the market, and I noticed she had a post-it-note with the words, Serendipity, Synchronicity, Coincidence, listed right in front of my passenger seat. I thought back to the Kushtaka, Tahoma and my last blog post and smiled.
Then this morning, on Facebook, a friend posted a link to a news article that immediately took me to a story I wrote many years ago. The images in the article were so similar to my story creation I couldn’t ignore it. So many of these events seem to be happening around me.
Today I looked each of these words up in the dictionary.
Synchronicity is the experience of two or more events that are apparently causally unrelated occurring together in a meaningful manner. To count as synchronicity, the events should be unlikely to occur together by chance.
Serendipity is an aptitude for making desirable discoveries by accident. Good fortune; luck: synchronicity, the events should be unlikely to occur together.
Coincidence is something that happens by chance in a surprising or remarkable way. (and all Whovians know you never ignore a coincidence, there is no such thing! Sorry, I’ve been a Doctor Who fan for years.)
As I notice these events more and more occuring in my writing life, the seridipty seems to unfold with greater frequency and in more unusual ways, like the song in the car this morning.
When I pay attention to these moments, it feels like an acknowledgement from my guardian angel or muse or simply from the universe. Thanks for listening. You are moving in the right direction.
So, I’m asking you….are you listening?
Do writers have a ritual practice to prepare their minds for the creative process? Is there a magical ingredient that transitions them from daily life to writing time? Something special that will summon their muse?
Ritual defined by Webster’s dictionary means ‘any practice or pattern of behavior regularly performed in a set manner.’ Physicians prescribe a daily nighttime routine if you have trouble sleeping. Many religions use routine and ritual in their practices to symbolize respect and reverence.
What better way to invoke your muse than with respect and reverence.
In my writing life, I haven’t truly established a ritual for writing. I do prefer to create with a fabulous gel pen; you know the one that just feels ‘right’. But I found for me, each story is different and to invoke my muse, the ritual is also different.
I have been writing Tahoma’s story since this blog began. Research at the Duwamish longhouse told me that there was a mystical being at the bottom of Black River named Sky-Taw. I knew I wanted this creature in my story but I hadn’t figured out where this puzzle piece would fit. It was relegated to the back of my mind while I worked on a pencil sketch of Tahoma in human form, and I wrote dozens of scenes moving the plot line forward.
Last night, I went to Linda Zeppa’s intuitive writing class. I had planned on getting to know my villain with this meditation session. My muse had other plans. Linda began the session talking about the sun. The meditation began with a progressive relaxation, filling yourself with sun, putting your troubles in a box and crossing into a world filled with sunshine. My muse crossed me over the bridge to Black River filled with moonlight. She has a mind of her own! The starlight and moon beams danced on the ripples of the water and then swirled above the water coalescing into an iridescent human form with a face of a heron. Tahoma thought it resembled his mother’s face. And the creature asked “Are you lost little one?” It was more of an emotional experience than a visual, but I had instant access to Sky- Taw. I wrote as furiously as I could and when I returned home that night I laid out all the emotions in Tahoma’s heart. When he saw this creature, he was calm and at peace. It resembled his mother’s face and communicated with his mother’s voice. The creature wanted to care for the young shape-shifter and appeared in the image that comforted Tahoma in that moment.
I awoke today elated with my break through. While doing the laundry, the television was on in the background. Discovery channel had a program about an Alaskan triangle where planes have been lost, similar to the Bermuda Triangle. The last five minutes of the show, as I settled down to pay attention, they spoke of the Native American Tlingit’s belief in a creature called the Kushtaka. This land otter man can be malevolent or comfort a lost soul so they do not freeze to death. Through illusion, this creature can appear as a loved one. My jaw hit the floor. This is what I wrote about in my meditation session.
Was it synchronicity or reverence to my muse that led me in this direction? I’m not exactly sure, but it brings me back to my first blog post. Perhaps my writing ritual is to trust and have patience that the puzzle will come together when it is time.
The journey between what you once were and who you are now becoming is where the dance of life really takes place. Barbara Deangelis
My dream is for my characters to live and breathe on the page. They should be quirky, like the rest of the world. Setting is also an important character. It lives and breathes and speaks by awakening all the senses. Can it also have quirks?!
I started thinking about quirks after reading a post in Cyndi Briggs blog The Sophia Project. In her post, It’s July: Let Your Freak Flag Fly, Cyndi states, “I bet your odd self has it’s own ways of grabbing your attention, of reminding you that for all your trying, there’s a hint of crazy in you that craves some fresh air and freedom.”
This is exactly what a reader wants in a character. The hero that is tall, handsome and always says the right thing = boring. If the same hero fumbles and spills ketchup on his shirt every time he gets nervous, the reader feels a connection.
Can this be accomplished through setting as well? Can a setting be quirky and odd?
I’ve been exploring that concept as I write more of my discovery draft. The above photograph, courtesy of Mike Hamilton, is an aerial view of Black River in Renton. This is the place where Tahoma fell from his nest as a heron fledgling and shifted into human form. This alone does not make the place quirky. It is surrounded by the modern-day expansion of a business park, satellite dishes, and a train off in the distance. Something however, is keeping the spot protected. Is it the quirky magic of Black River?
One scene I was writing today has me considering the magic of this place. Tahoma is now in human form and setting off on his adventure. He looks down at his reflection in the Black River, the image reflected back is a heron fledgling. Could the quirk of this place be that your true essence is reflected in these waters? Could the fresh air and freedom in this magical place be a mirror reflecting your true image, not the mask people wear in our day-to-day life?
Magic lives and breathes here, if you slow down and take the time to notice it.