Thursday, November 8, 2018

Remembering with Celebration

I lost my mother a few years ago. It wasn't sudden. She'd been sick for a while, but it was devastating nonetheless  and I think of her every day.  So much so that I often avoid even talking about her because of the immediate ache in my throat.

This year, her birthday fell on Dia de los Muertos and I thought that maybe going to the festival with my family would help me to think of her in a different light. Not one of loss or sadness, but with happiness and hope. I hadn't celebrated this way since I was a very young child and visiting my Nana (grandma) in Texas.

The idea came to me because I've been working on a new series and the main character is Mexican like me. She works with her entire family, cousins and all, on a daily basis. So all of the craziness, fighting, eating and celebrating  is very personal to me. It is what I grew up with and what I reach back to for comfort. 

My community is in southern California and so there is a huge Dia de los Muertos festival near me. There are processions with people dressed as Aztec warriors or as the calacas and calaveras (skeletons and skulls) dressed in formal wear, as well as various depictions of death.  All of it done in festive bright colors with flowers and smiles. 

Ofrenda note I left for my mother.
Lost loved ones are depicted as happy, dancing, and having fun. Often we make and eat their favorite meals, listen to their favorite songs, and talk about happy memories with each other as we remember those we lost.
My mother loved dancing cumbias or Columbian dances. So I was determined to get out on the dance floor and dance with my family. We had a blast.
The real emotional part was in the park. Away from the dancing, food, music, and laughter there is a path that leads into a dark park lit by hundreds of candles on tables.

Traditionally people will set out 'ofrendas' or offerings which are photographs, favorite objects, foods, and drink that remind them of those they lost. Some of the tables were amazing with strung lights, handmade tissue flowers, cutout banners, painted sugar skulls or candies, etc.

I do not do an altar or offerings. Its not part of my own family's tradition. But I did leave a note to my mother on the community offering table. I told her that I miss her and that we are all doing well.

This year I think that celebrating my mother's life and thinking about her surrounded by family and laughter was really what I needed. I came away from it all with a smile on my face and great times to remember with my own children.

I want to incorporate more of my family's traditions and customs into my writing.  I hope that it gives others a nudge to explore their own heritage with their family.

I think this will be a new family tradition for us.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

WIPjoy Wrap Up - What I Learned

Day 15: Genre of Art That Best Describes Your WIP
As you all know, I took part in #WIPjoy this month. It is a Twitter event that celebrates your Work In Progress and helps authors to connect and encourage one another.
Aside from the social aspect, the part of the fun of the event is that I find most helpful is that it forces me to look at my story from angles I wouldn't necessarily see otherwise.  The amazing Bethany Jennings @simmeringmind  and S.D. Grimm at


did a flat out awesome job at coming up with the daily prompts.
Some of my favorite ones included other types of art that best describes your story. So for Veridian's main character, tech hunter, Elara Savoya, I used the future noir graphic arts.
Day 29: Fall, food, festivities, and family.

We were also asked to share our writing playlist which was a lot of fun. If you'd like to check it out, its on Spotify here: Veridian Playlist
But it was the more personal questions that really served to help me solidify my main character in my head. 
There was  a question about what my main character's loved about fall.
Or what childhood dreams she had that will never come true...that was a really hard one!
It made me think about her outside of the story...outside of the high stakes drama. What was she like at home?
Day 23: Elara dreamt of the stars.
She loves her family. They drive each other crazy because they work together in the tech recovery game.
I realized they may fight a lot...but they fight best together.
Graphics and playlists aside, I feel like I learned a lot more about my characters and story through this event. 
Overall I feel pretty excited to head into next month's craziness of NaNoWriMo. 
If you are taking part in the race to 50K add me as a buddy. I'm under Raquel Byrnes on the site.
As a reader, do you like to see more than the books? Do songs, art, and other fun stuff get you excited for the story? 
I'm off to plot for #NaNoWriMo. Wish me luck and see you soon!

Sunday, October 28, 2018

To 50K and BEYOND!

If you follow me on social media, you know that I have committed to undertaking the National Novel Writing Month challenge of writing 50,000 words in 30 days. That was not a typo... fifty THOUSAND words in thirty DAYS.
I've done this before and it was painful and frustrating and exactly what I needed to kickstart myself into writing the trilogy I had been researching for literally months.
#WIPjoy Day 1 - Visual of your Work in Progress
So here we are again and I have spent a lot of time talking about, researching, plotting, and agonizing over my current book.  Its a work in progress (WIP)  in that I have been working on it...just not writing it. That is something I hope to remedy with #NaNoWriMo this year.
I did an entire month of #WIPjoy which I love because it makes you think about and explain aspects of your characters and novel you may not have delved into otherwise. I find the quarterly Twitter event quite helpful and encourage you to take part in the winter. Its great fun and you meet a lot of other authors which is always a good thing.
I'm working on a scifi mystery. It takes place in the near future where Elara Savoya, a tech hunter is dragged into a high stakes international plot that will put the space race and ultimately man's place among the stars in jeopardy. So yes...I'm raring to go on this one.

One of the intimidating things about #NaNoWriMo is that it takes place during the holiday season. For those who take part in NaNoWriMo and who also live in the United States, that means Thanksgiving. A huge family dinner with tons of prep and cleanup and time spent socializing. Great for the soul...not so great for the word count.
As a fix, Christen E Krumm has proposed a BACKWARDS NaNoWriMo. This involves frontloading your wordcount per day so that as you start to inch towards the holidays, your required words per day to stay on target goes down.  
This method has you go gangbusters while you're still all excited and hyped up on Halloween candy and gives you a break as you head towards Christmas decorating, shopping, partying, etc.  Here's a helpful writing plan from Christen's site.
Backwards NaNoWriMo Plan
I think I'm going to give this a try. Anything to get my first draft done before the new year. I'm hoping to hit a few conferences and I'd love to have a working draft to pitch or talk to editors about. 
What about you? 
Are you thinking of doing #NaNoWriMo this year?  If so...add me on your buddy list (Raquel Byrnes) and I'll do the same. Just leave your user name in the comments.  Happy writing!