Tag Archives: Writing

Destiny?

Alphonse Mucha - Fate

Alphonse Mucha – Fate

Lately, I’ve been thinking about destiny (or fate, if you prefer) and what it’s meant in my life. Imagine my delight when I read not one, but two blog posts this morning regarding being in the right place at the right time and seizing the opportunity presented. I imagine destiny is part what you make it, part blind chance. But there’s a small voice inside of me that whispers of mystery and magic and refuses to cave in to total and precise logic.

And really, what fun would that be?

Now, of course there’s an obvious explanation to that train and it goes something like, “Well, she writes fiction–what do you expect?” But it goes far deeper, I think. (Maybe it’s because I saw the movie Lucy last night, but I’m in a hella philosophical mood today…)

John Atkinson Grimshaw - Spirit of the Night

John Atkinson Grimshaw

Long ago, people believed in magic, in forces beyond what they could see, and ascribed what they couldn’t explain to gods and goddesses, faeries and other supernatural beings. Or, in the case of Feng Shui, to the effect of energy, or chi, on space and time. Along came scientific inquiry and religion, both advocating that theirs was the only way, blowing the shit out of centuries of beliefs (although, in many [most?] instances religion jacked the original festivals and belief systems, modifying them for their own use. Science just rolled its collective eyes and ignored these belief systems, assigning the moniker of superstition to the practice.)

But centuries of belief in forces beyond ourselves created that still, small voice in each of us and is represented in the modern world by our little quirks: like the writer who lights a candle every time she sits down to her computer; or the pitcher who circles the plate three times before throwing the ball (I’m sure you can come up with more, but you get my drift). Many of us pray, others meditate–all trying to connect with something outside (inside?) ourselves. Some people prefer to call this voice God, some call it by a different name. Some don’t believe in anything other than themselves (which in itself is a belief system). I’ve yet to meet a person who doesn’t believe something. So, for the sake of argument, can we admit human beings are defined (at least somewhat) by their beliefs?

Okay, now that we’ve got that established. Where was I? Oh yeah, destiny.

Personally, I believe in destiny, or fate, or whatever you want to call it. I also believe in science. And stuff we can’t see or explain (I simply label that “energy”). What I don’t believe is that there’s only one way of looking at the world, one narrative. The universe is far too ginormous to hobble it with one true explanation. To me, it’s like saying my friend who takes belly dancing lessons is only that: a person who belly dances–when she’s so much more. Why limit our thinking?

Especially when it comes to the universe.

When Fate DecidesSo I choose to believe in destiny. But I also choose to believe destiny likes a little help now and then. Like putting yourself in the way of the freight train of fate. In regard to writing, maybe you’re not where you ultimately want to be at the moment. I’m convinced that if you act like you’ve already achieved/received what you want, put yourself in the way of success, meet others in the industry, network, believe in yourself and persist, eventually you’re going to get it. “It” may surprise you, though. The universe is so much more intelligent than we could ever imagine…

Case in point: I never would have met my husband Mark if it weren’t for putting myself in the way of the destiny train. Several times. Until it took. Back when I was in senior high, I came out to Washington State to visit my sister and she tried to get me to transfer to a local high school. I didn’t, but if I had, I’m pretty sure I would have met Mark then rather than 18 years later, when I went white water rafting with the same outfit he did. Back then he worked as a chef and owned a French restaurant in the same town where my sister lived. He often ate at the cafe  where she worked. They even remember each other, vaguely. The really weird thing? Back home, I was dating a guy who was the spitting image of Mark at the time. Years later, I showed my mother Mark’s old passport and she asked why I still had my ex-boyfriend’s I.D. Seriously, they could’ve been twins. Over time, we’ve compared timelines and events and have found many, many instances where we could have/should have met, even though we lived in different states or even countries.

What I’m trying to get at, (and this is quite a ramble, sorry) is that I believe there are forces at work that we know nothing about, and to be aware of what you put out there in thought and action. And never give up. Especially if you have a dream, whatever it may be.

Some day, you just might find yourself in the path of destiny.

 

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Happy Writers

2010 - A year plenty of HopesI just ran across this golden oldie by former literary agent-turned author, Nathan Bransford, on the Ten Commandments for the Happy Writer and thought I’d share. He’s hit the nail on the head, IMO.

Happy Saturday!


Quote for the Day

Painting time“If you hear a voice within you say ‘you cannot paint,’ then by all means paint and that voice will be silenced.”

~ Vincent Van Gogh


Fantastic Review for Yucatan Dead

Fireworks designOkay, so here’s something that happened yesterday that was extra super cool: I got word that the MIDWEST BOOK REVIEW gave YUCATAN DEAD a really great review. Talk about awesome. Up until now I’d never received a book review that had the words “very highly recommended” and “block-buster” in the same sentence 🙂

MBR is a well-respected book reviewer that supports small presses and self-published writers. In their words, “Midwest Book Review is an organization committed to promoting literacy, library usage, and small press publishing.” And, they don’t charge for reviews (unless you want to send them an e-copy).

Reviews are important to writers. They can make or break a book, believe me. So, if you have a favorite author whose books you love, go ahead and leave a review on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iBookstore, Goodreads, or Shelfari, wherever you have an account. And, if you’re at a loss as to what to write, just say that you liked/loved the book. I guarantee the author will be glad you did.

Here’s the review (the link is below):

“A smoothly woven story of suspense, “Yucatan Dead” clearly demonstrates author D. V. Berkom’s mastery of her literary craft in creating memorable characters and an unrelenting thriller of a tension filled novel. “Yucatan Dead” is the stuff of which block-buster movies are made and a very highly recommended, entertaining addition to personal reading lists and community library Mystery/Suspense collections.”

Link to Midwest Book Review’s review of Yucatan Dead  (The review for YD is the fourth one down)


Readers Want to Know…Yucatan Peninsula

Lately, I’ve gotten emails from readers asking how I came up with some of the scenes in Yucatan Dead and thought it would be fun to post the photographs that inspired them from my latest trip to Mexico. I’ve found actually traveling and researching a specific area and noting the sights, sounds, smells, and general feel of a place works wonders on my imagination and lends more credibility to the scenes.

Ek Balam

At the ruins of Ek’ Balam– a true Indiana Jones moment…

Before I left on the trip I’d been writing what I thought was going to be a mystery with my character, Kate Jones. This trip was supposed to be for researching a future novel. But Mexico changed all that.

And, as I’ve learned, you don’t argue with Mexico.

So, my mystery turned into a full-on thriller about the ruthless drug cartels that have destabilized so much of that country. Since I’m a novelist and basically lie for a living, I made up a group of off the grid commandos working deep in the jungle, fighting the cartels. Little did I know at the time, but groups of locals had steadily begun taking up arms against the cartels. Some of these groups have been backed/trained by the CIA and/or the DEA, as well as the Mexican government. Some continue to operate clandestinely. Many are now being hunted by the cartels, and the number of people from several ‘hot’ areas in Mexico who are requesting asylum in the United States has skyrocketed. Although there are still several places deemed by the State Department as safe to travel in Mexico, obviously, there are some areas you should avoid. Driving through Sonora and Sinaloa in an old jeep in the middle of a scathing hot September would be one of them 🙂

El Castillo

El Castillo at Chichen Itza

Back to the trip: in the book, I gave one of the drug cartels Kate ends up fighting against the name of El Castillo, which is the name of one of the main structures at the archaeological site of Chichen Itza. Visitors are no longer allowed to climb the pyramid after someone fell to their death a few years back, but it’s still mighty impressive to look at.

There’s a scene where Kate stumbles upon an undiscovered Maya site (of which there are said to be hundreds in Mexico and Guatemala) which had a cenote, or fresh water spring hidden beneath decades of jungle growth.

photo of jungle

It’s a jungle out there…

If you look closely, you’ll see an ancient wall underneath all that vegetation…

photo of hacienda

Hacienda

While inland, I stayed at a historic hacienda built on top of an ancient Maya site by the Spaniards in 1523. These Spaniards went so far as to use the stones of a Maya temple for its walls (the hacienda is now run as an eco-tourism resort managed by Maya). In Yucatan Dead, Kate is kidnapped and taken to a hacienda deep in the jungle to meet her nemesis, Roberto Salazar. The description of the place grew from my experience while at the hacienda, and my jumping off point was the entrance (note the brick wall–these were ancient Maya building materials, most likely from the temple that had stood there centuries before).

Hands-down, my favorite places were the ancient Maya archaeological sites of Ek’ Balam and Coba (Chichen Itza and Tulum were pretty fantastic, too, but sooo crowded, it was hard to get a good feel for them). The showdown between Kate and Salazar takes place at a fictitious Maya site that I based on a combination of them all. Here’s a bird’s-eye view of Ek’ Balam, one of the most recently discovered sites on the peninsula (yes, those are my hiking shoes):

photo of Ek' Balam

The ruins at Ek’ Balam

The next picture is where I got the idea for the entrance to the temple at the top of the pyramid. This is called the Temple of the Jaguar, and is located on the tallest pyramid at the site. You can still climb this structure as well as the rest of the buildings, although I’m not sure how long that will be true. More and more people are discovering the site and the impact of all those tourists on the ancient structures is growing.

Photo of Temple of the Jaguar

Temple of the Jaguar (Ek’ Balam)

Roughly translated, Ek’ Balam means black jaguar, or bright star jaguar, and the big cat figures prominently in Yucatan Dead. In the photo above, the teeth along the bottom form the lower jaw, depicting the open mouth of a jaguar.

photo of carved jaguar

Carving of a jaguar

There are carvings of winged beings, some sculpted with a distinctly smaller arm, allowing for the Maya belief that people born with physical differences had special powers.

picture of winged beings at ek' balam

Nohoc Mul

Nohoc Mul

This picture is of the pyramid at Coba, which you can still climb (as of 2013). It’s the tallest pyramid on the peninsula (138 feet) and when you’re at the top you can see dozens of mounds in the distance that are thought to be undiscovered ancient Maya sites. The view from the top is fantastic, to say the least, and was one of the high points of the trip.

A structure with a small room sits at the top of the pyramid, with a carving on the outside depicting the Descending God, an upside down dude with a helmet. He’s also referred to as the Honey God, since honey was one of Coba’s main trade products. No one really knows who or what he represents, but that’s their best guess.

An interesting tidbit: many of these sites are connected by what are called sacbes, or raised paved roads (usually white since they were/are covered in limestone and stucco). One of them runs from Coba all the way to the coast and many were used as trade routes between communities.

The Observatory at Chichen Itza

The Observatory at Chichen Itza

Another structure referred to in the showdown scene in Yucatan Dead resembles the Observatory at Chichen Itza, which is thought to have been used by the Maya for studying the cosmos.

And, of course what pictorial essay about Mexico would be complete without the obligatory Caribbean beach shot?

photo of beach at Tulum

Beach at Tulum

The Yucatan Peninsula was one of the most intriguing places I’ve been to and I plan to re-visit the area. It’s relatively safe, although you still need to be on the lookout for the ubiquitous gas station pumping scams and slow-moving farm machinery. Cartel violence has been reported just outside of Cancun, but is miniscule compared to other places in Mexico so don’t worry unnecessarily about going. Victims are generally related to the cartels in some way, either by being in the business or knowing someone in the business. Don’t take stupid chances like walking alone at night, or going into a dangerous area alone (just like when you go anywhere new). Otherwise, the Mexican people are warm and welcoming folks, and will treat you well if you treat them the same. Mexico is a fabulous country to visit and has many, many faces. I guarantee if you keep an open mind, you’ll enjoy what it has to offer.

Author sitting next to Hacienda arch


Everything You Thought You Knew About Creativity Is Wrong

Everything You Thought You Knew About Creativity Is Wrong.

Interesting article on creativity.


Improve your book’s discoverability

Reading glasses resting on an open bookhttp://selfpublishingadvice.org/blog/how-to-increase-the-discoverability-of-your-self-published-books-choose-the-right-kdp-categories/


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