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.

 


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/


Interview on “Today’s Tease” Blog

I’m being interviewed today on Authors Tease Readings blog.  Stop by and find out where I’d go for a week and with whom if no one would find out…


Awesome Authors–Lynne Cantwell

My guest today on Awesome Authors is the inimitable Lynne Cantwell. Lynne’s a fellow minion from Indies Unlimited and writes urban fantasy. Her latest works are The Pipe Woman Chronicles 5-book series and I

Lynne Cantwell

Lynne Cantwell

have to say that even though urban fantasy isn’t my go-to genre, I thoroughly enjoyed Seized, the first book in the series. So much so that I’ve downloaded the rest and plan to read them soon. Here’s her bio:

Lynne Cantwell grew up on the shores of Lake Michigan. She worked as a broadcast journalist for many years; she has written for CNN, the late lamented Mutual/NBC Radio News, and a bunch of radio and TV news outlets you have probably never heard of, including a defunct wire service called Zapnews. In addition to writing fantasy, Lynne is a contributing author at Indies Unlimited. Her vast overeducation includes a journalism degree from Indiana University, a master’s degree in fiction writing from Johns Hopkins University, and a paralegal certificate. She currently lives near Washington, DC.

D: Welcome, Lynne! Thanks for stopping by. Please tell us a little about yourself.

L: Thanks for having me, D.V.! Umm, let’s see, fun facts to know and tell: I’ve got two twentysomething daughters, one of whom writes fanfiction and has more fans than I do. Howard Dean once called me from a humvee in the middle of a Vermont ice storm. But my most recent claim to fame is that I’ve been to all 50 states in the U.S.; I nailed the last one, Alaska, in May.

D: That’s fantastic! Congratulations 🙂 You’ve just completed the Pipe Woman Chronicles. Could you tell us the idea behind this five-book series? Is there an underlying theme?

L: Maybe the underlying theme is respect. I have a lot of trouble personally with the knee-jerk Good vs. Evil dichotomy that is ingrained in Western thought. I think a lot of the world’s problems would be easier to solve if we didn’t keep demonizing people whose appearance and/or beliefs are different from our own. So I deliberately didn’t put any characters into the series who personify Evil; everybody’s got a credible reason for doing what they do. And there are no perfectly Good characters, either; sometimes even the gods screw up. Yet the gods, unlike humans, all respect one another.

Seized--Book 1

Seized–Book 1

D: Why did you decide to write urban fantasy?

L: Back in 2011, when I was casting about for a plot for National Novel Writing Month, a friend who was into urban fantasy began passing along her used paperbacks to me. After I read a number of books in the genre, I decided to try my hand at writing my own. Little did I know what I was getting myself into!

D: When did you realize you wanted to be an author?

L: Hmm. Define “author.” I mean, I’ve always thought of myself as a writer. I wrote my first book when I was in the second grade (not that I’d advise anyone to read it!). And over the years, I tried, off and on, to get an agent or sell my short stories. But getting a novel published has always been on my bucket list.

D: Why did you choose indie publishing instead of going the traditional route?

L: My first novel, The Maidens’ War, was published in 2010 by a small press called Calderwood Books. When I had SwanSong ready to go, Calderwood had not yet started listing its books on Amazon, which was a marketplace I very much wanted to be in. So I figured out how to do it myself, and I enjoyed it so much that I’ve been an indie ever since.

D: What are you working on now?

L: I’m just starting to work on a trilogy that will be set in the same fictional universe as the Pipe Woman Chronicles. It will take place about ten years after the end of Annealed, mostly with new characters.

D: Another great set of books to read 🙂 Where do you see yourself (and indie publishing) in five years?

L: Last year, I put myself on a seven-year plan: I’ll be eligible for early retirement in 2019, but I can quit sooner if I get to the point where I’m supporting myself with my book sales. Fingers crossed!

As for the future of indie publishing, it’s hard to tell where we’re headed. The marketplace has such a Wild West feeling to it right now. I think big trad publishers are doing their best to implode, whether they realize it or not; the question is whether Amazon will continue to support indies, and whether someone else will come along to encourage them to keep doing it. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not an Amazon hater – not by a long shot. But it would be comforting to have another company that treats indies as well as Amazon does, both to give them some competition, and to give us somewhere else to go if the Zon decides to go in a different direction.

Fissured--Book 2

Fissured–Book 2

D: What’s your favorite genre to read?

L: Fantasy. I’m pretty much over the sword-and-sorcery and coming-of-age stuff, though. My favorite author is Stephen R. Donaldson, and I’m eagerly awaiting the release of the tenth and final book in his Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever this fall. I also enjoyed Steven Erickson’s Malazan Book of the Fallen series. And I love Graham Joyce, whose books seem to tread a fine line between fantasy and psychological horror.

Tapped--Book 3

Tapped–Book 3

D: If you could time-travel (backward or forward) where would you go and why?

L: I’ve always been intrigued by the medieval period and the Renaissance – everything from the clothing to the music. But I wouldn’t want to live there forever. With my luck, if I got stuck there, I’d be scrubbing pots in the scullery instead of sewing fine seams with the ladies.

D: What do you do when you’re not writing?

L: Other than the day job? I read, I knit, and I spend way too much time on Facebook. Sometimes I remember to go to bed.

D: Do you have any advice for new writers?

Gravid--Book 4

Gravid–Book 4

L: Stick at it! Keep writing. Then let your work sit for a few weeks, and go back and edit it. When you think you’re ready to publish, get yourself an editor – or at least some beta readers who know something about grammar, spelling, and story development, and will be honest with you about your work. In other words, when your mother tells you your book is terrific, don’t just take her word for it. Oh, and visit Indies Unlimited, where you’ll find a wealth of good advice for indie authors. (I had to get the plug in, or the Evil Mastermind would short me on gruel. You know how he gets.)

D: LOL. Yes, yes I do. Thanks again for stopping by, Lynne.

(Lynne’s information and buy links for the books are below the excerpt.)


Excerpt from Seized: Book One of the Pipe Woman Chronicles by Lynne Cantwell:

Shannon lived in a triplex north of Sloan’s Lake, only ten minutes or so from my loft in LoDo (the nickname for Denver’s trendy, if I do say so myself, Lower Downtown neighborhood). It was a Wednesday night so traffic should have been light, but the bars were closing and the crowd was clogging up the streets. Working my ginger Nissan Cube free of LoDo at last, I pulled up behind a car that was sitting at a stop sign…and sitting…and sitting. No traffic was coming in either direction that I could see, and my earlier ebullient mood was evaporating by the second. Finally, in frustration, I cried out, “Just go, already!”

The car ahead leaped into the intersection. A horn blared as another car shot into my range of vision from the left, narrowly missing the first car. As the driver on the cross street flew by, still honking, the other driver rocked to a halt on the other side of the intersection and just sat there.

I realized my hand was covering my mouth. I pulled it away with an effort and sat for a moment, glancing between the flaring brake lights across the road and my hands trembling on the steering wheel. Finally, the other car’s brake lights went out and he, or she, drove away. Slowly and carefully, I did the same.

Shannon met me at the door, her grin dissolving into a look of concern. She snatched the cookies as if she was afraid I would drop them, then took my coat and steered me to the wicker loveseat. An opened novel sat, flipped over, on the coffee table, atop a pile of papers. She removed the aluminum foil covering the cookies and set chamomile teabags to steep in two mugs with a matching Navajo design. Then, finally, she said, “What happened?”

I told her. About the other driver, and about the settlements.

As I talked, my brain began clicking things into place. It wasn’t just that I was getting really good at my job – it was too easy. People were far too suggestible around me. The client had told Perry that I had a magic touch. That he couldn’t help agreeing with everything I said.

I could tell someone to get out of my way at an intersection, even if it put that person in danger.

“Something weird is going on,” I finished, rather lamely.

“Yes, it is,” Shannon agreed.

END EXCERPT

Purchase the Pipe Woman Chronicles:

Annealed--Book 5

Annealed–Book 5

Seized: http://www.amazon.com/Seized-Pipe-Woman-Chronicles-ebook/dp/B007MGRCBU
Fissured: http://www.amazon.com/Fissured-Pipe-Woman-Chronicles-ebook/dp/B008ZDE6JU
Tapped: http://www.amazon.com/Tapped-Pipe-Woman-Chronicles-ebook/dp/B00AGPBOYK/
Gravid: http://www.amazon.com/Gravid-Pipe-Woman-Chronicles-ebook/dp/B00BX4AO9E/
Annealed: http://www.amazon.com/Annealed-Pipe-Woman-Chronicles-ebook/dp/B00CVZVHJ0/

Amazon author page: https://www.amazon.com/author/lynnecantwell
Calderwood Books author page: http://www.calderwoodbooks.com/#/lynne-cantwell/4526227421
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/696603.Lynne_Cantwell
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Lynne-Cantwell/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/LynneCantwell
Blog: http://hearth-myth.blogspot.com


Word of Mouth

Here’s a link to Kathryn Rusch’s great blog on how to sell  self-pubbed books.  I’m taking her advice and working with a great cover designer for the next Kate Jones thriller. Stay tuned!

 

http://kriswrites.com/2013/05/22/the-business-rusch-word-of-mouth/


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