I Crossed the Wishing Bridge


DSC00891.JPG

In the district of Barranco, there is a bridge called el puente de los suspiros.

According to legend, if you can hold your breath while crossing it, you get one wish. Some people say it only counts the first time you cross it; at any rate, I didn’t know of this belief until a few weeks ago, after crossing it for the first time.

Today we visited that bridge, and I found myself in a situation worthy of a plot bunny. I was falling behind, losing sight of the rest of my party (it’s crowded in Barranco; a lot of tourists go there.) So I was sprinting across this bridge, trying not to crash into anyone, when a man shows up in front of me holding a green bracelet.

I didn’t see his face, because the moment was so quick. “To make a wish,” he said. “It’s an outward sign.” (Roughly translated—he’d spoken in Spanish.)

And I said a very firm no—but I didn’t do it out of a rude refusal to make a wish. I said it a bit harshly because I was looking for the crowd I’d come with, and he’d gotten in my way. Scanning the crowd for my mom and brother, I hurried past him.

At once I felt a twinge of regret. The bracelet would have been nice, I thought, even if the wishing part is only a legend. So once I found my party, I turned and tried to look for the guy giving out bracelets—but there was no one on that bridge giving away bracelets, or even selling them.

goldenllamas.jpg

I’m not terribly superstitious, but my heart did sink a little. I’m not sure if it’s because I probably sounded a little upset, or I really wanted a handmade bracelet, or I really thought for a moment I would have a wish granted.

But I’m going to live with that what if moment forever. I could have a bracelet. I could have made a wish—after all, I’d been crossing a “magic bridge” and the legend is hundreds of years old.

You may not believe in wishes either, and the regret is likely to pass. But I wanted to share my story, because it’s one of those times you do cross paths with magic—or walk through a legend—a split-second where your yes or no will haunt you, even if the situation seems trivial.

This bridge is beautiful. Behind us, a young man played his cello to make some money. Barranco is a place full of murals and artists, art fairs and tourists from all over the world. It’s so colorful and vibrant; I can say it’s my favorite place in Lima so far.

Maybe the third time I visit the bridge, I’ll run into another chance to take the pretty bracelet and make a wish at the magic bridge. For now, I take the memories—the adventure—and pictures of a beautiful place full of art and culture.

The Book Inspired by Peru


15909520_722403131255863_1511383165_n

It took a few weeks, but I was right: a new environment will inspire you with dozens of ideas. My idea for a book set in new territory has finally come to me!

When we first arrived in Peru back in December, I knew it would happen. Perhaps I would meet a person who wanted to be a character, or hear of a historical event that needed to be written, or describe a beautiful street.

Now I have a new book waiting its turn to be written. It’s still in the brainstorming stage, but it’s different from my other work, inspired by the sights, smells, and sounds of the busy Peruvian streets. I’ve been writing quick descriptions of every place I go so I can use them as reference when the time comes to write.

I don’t know yet if the story is going to be set in Lima or in a fictional place similar to it. I have a “filler” character name so I can build a backstory for the MC, but that name is likely to change. I don’t know much about the setting—what time of the year will it be? Winter or summer? How detailed do I want to be? Will I mix in Peruvian folklore to give it more personality?

This is the time for taking notes, character building, and seeing. Meanwhile, I’m finishing up the first draft of Allie’s third adventure (it’s currently at 44k, and it’s going to be the longest book in the series so far.) I also write short stories when I have the time, because I’m planning to put together an anthology (it’ll keep the plot bunnies happy.)

Back in December I decided 2017 would be a year for writing new material. Rather than scrambling to edit and publish new work, I’m going to spend the next twelve months practicing the craft, improving my prose and developing ideas. If something happens and I realize I have a manuscript ready later on, perhaps I’ll think of releasing it.

However, my fingers itch to increase the word count every day—I write 2,000 words before bedtime, and it may not seem like much at first, but look at my manuscript now! 44k!

16216263_732394746923368_894402599_n

The book set in “Lima” is going to take some time. Since there is research involved, I don’t think I’ll be able to throw out 2,000 words every night—not if I want them to be good words. It’s fantasy, but not everything is going to be just made up. I want to stay as true as possible to my experiences and memories walking the streets myself.

I can’t even tell you what it’s going to be about yet—only that it is original and outside of my comfort zone. It’s going to be a challenge.

A visit to the Museum of Peruvian Literature doubled my motivation for this. I don’t have illusions of my work making it into this museum, but it helped me gain perspective. I will read Peruvian literature, study their folklore, pay attention to the people—I still have time.

I will work hard this year to produce a piece that’ll do justice to this wonderful adventure I’m living. I hope you will enjoy it!

Being a Traveling Pantser


DSCN9349.JPGI will always be a pantser, no matter where in the world I’m writing.

I had a loose outline for the third book of my series. I even made index cards by taking a notebook and cutting its pages into rectangles – I guess it’s easier for me to use index cards that aren’t real and not be afraid I’m wasting money?

Anyway, it’s a good thing I didn’t spend money on index cards, because the outline I made on these makeshift cards turned out to be a waste. I’m 20k into the first draft, and it’s nothing like I’d planned. At least for the Fallen Faery Tales, I will always be a pantser.

The story is coming along so easily! Words are spilling onto the page (or into the document) and I’m resisting the urge to edit, meaning I make faster progress. I think it’s the different location that keeps my Muse busy, making her feel generous.

dscn9350I’ve been trying to start a bullet journal, and though it isn’t pretty (certainly not Pinterest worthy!) my favorite feature is a writing goal tracker. At the end of the day, I fill in a box with the daily word count goal. I keep the goal small, just 2k a day, and have been able to fill in all of the little boxes since January 1. I hope to finish a new draft by the end of January, and if it winds up longer than the first two books, I’ll still be filling in little boxes come February.

When I’m not writing, I’m reading (The Count of Monte Cristo is quite a feat!) or enjoying the Peruvian summer (if it’s not too hot to enjoy.) We’ve gone to the beach and seen different parts of the city. All this helps with my projects.

Travel is a great for any artist. If you can get somewhere new, just for a little while, do it. Your story will thank you, your Muse will love you, and even if you don’t write during the vacation, there’ll be plenty of material to work with at home!

I Resolve to Know Myself


 

15870907_10211630293371749_723899830_n
That’s Inca Kola – the best soda ever. You should try it.

When you leave home and go far from your comfort zone, you make room for God to work wonders in your life. Not that He couldn’t work wonders if you stayed home–but it’s  more fun for you if you go where He leads.

What have I learned so far?

  • You are never finished learning about a different culture–the customs, ways people live. To know life in another country, you have to live it. Thankfully I’ve been here enough time to learn a great deal, and will be here a while longer.
  • In a different setting, you learn about yourself as a character. When you’re placed in situations you’d never imagined, an interesting thing happens: you grow as a person. You make progress on your Hero’s Journey.
  • This year I celebrated Christmas in Peru, so I learned that the Lord’s birthday isn’t limited to white Christmases and trees full of lights. It’s celebrated differently all over the world, but no matter where you are, the holy day is beautiful.

I will keep my updates brief. First, on the topic of writing. January 1 is the day I started work on the third book of my series, which has not yet been titled. Being in the place where the first book was inspired, I’m confident that the third installment will be full of magic and life. The story and characters have become oddly alert, as if knowing this is where they first became.

And on reading, I’ve decided not to do the Goodreads challenge this year, focusing instead on becoming familiar with classic literature. That doesn’t mean I won’t read a new book if it seems like it’ll be good. It just means that I’m not putting pressure on myself to speed-read anything for the sake of a number.

I’m learning to crochet! I made a unicorn a couple of weeks ago, and now I’m going to learn to make dolls. My next project is to crochet a mermaid; it’s really exciting to see your work take shape. I’d been meaning to learn a new hobby for a long time now, and it is also doing much to help me learn about myself as a person.

My only resolution for 2017 was to live more and find out who I am as a person. What’s yours? Do you have any awesome plans?

Being an Introverted Traveler


DSC00620.JPG

I was not made for noise. I know I haven’t been designed to cope with the sounds of a big city. I’m an introvert; by now I’ve accepted the “proper care of introverts,” and I will tell people when something is too much–if I need quiet time–if I’m overwhelmed. Aside: The more people tell me to stop being an introvert, the more proud of it I am. The world needs introverts, too.

But this trip has been different.

There’s a way of hearing that doesn’t involve using the ears. In the weeks since our visit to Peru (which isn’t even close to ending) I’ve learned much by sitting at the window as an introvert and listening to the sounds of the city quietly. I’ve learned about Lima, about home, about myself and God. I’ve learned about limitations (there are none) and turned 23 with a deeper sense of knowledge about who I am.

This trip is helping me see things in a different light, and though I’ll still be an introvert–though I will still need quiet time with my journal and the Lord–the minutes I spend listening and watching, those are moments when my soul absorbs colors I’d never known existed.

Travel is not a waste of time. It’s scary, but it’s worth it, and you learn so much.

It can be tiring. You will spend some nights longing for your library of a bedroom (sometimes I do) and you’ll long for a white Christmas (because it doesn’t snow here) and you can be unnerved by all the faces everywhere when you go out for a walk.

I’m not perfect. It’s taken me a little while to adjust to a new place, but slowly, surely, it’s wrapping around me like a blanket. My inner adventurer is surfacing, and I am so glad to be here. When I return home, it’ll be with many dear memories, lessons learned, a journal full of reflections.

What are the limits if we can fly to other countries, speak to people far away, improve at a different language–soar above the clouds, gaze at the restless ocean, feel the wind play with your hair–but most of all, learn who you are?

I’m learning who I am. My blog has been dead because of this. I can’t wait to tell you the stories I’ve heard and been a part of. I was reluctant to travel and leave my comfort zone, but now I encourage you to do it if you get the chance.

Even if you’re tired and groggy, dragging your feet into the plane–you might be thinking of what you won’t have for a while, but some part of you will be fixed on the gain of the journey. Focus on that. Most of all, be yourself. That’s the best way to experience an adventure to the fullest.

I hope you’re having a beautiful Christmas–whether it’s white, or one by the beach!

-Mariella

On Mermaid Tales & Short Stories


dissonanceeditcollage

I may have completed edits for Serenade (which I still expect to release sometime in October,) but that doesn’t mean I’ve stepped away from these characters and their adventures.

It has been a fun week of world-building and character profiling. My personal copy of Dissonance is currently full of sticky notes! They were placed to mark facts I would like to expand on in future books. The first book focused more on characters than setting, leaving plenty of room for creativity in future installments.

In the process of taking notes for backstory and character personalities, I accidentally worked out a rough outline for Book 3. I have always wanted to write a world involving mermaids, and can finally get to that when I work on Allie’s next adventure. With the help of some friends, I have worked out some of mermaid culture, and it’s more complex than I had anticipated.

It would seem backstory is a lot easier to work on than a blurb for Serenade. I will try to have it ready this weekend, though; in the past I have been very good at procrastinating, but want to change that. There will never be a blurb if I don’t sit to type it up.

Another habit I’ve been working on is writing a little every day; a lot of that random fiction has been shared on this blog. It’s a way to control plot bunnies and make sure my Muse doesn’t get bored. Short stories are an interesting new form of writing; I look forward to practicing and getting better. I’ve been reading collections of short stories, starting with a book of Mark Twain’s work, and for Halloween I’m going to try Lovecraft.

How have your stories been treating you? Do you have a specific method for world-building? Do you work on detailed character profiles?

I would love to hear your advice!

Writing Update: On Short Novels


I’m taking another break from editing Serenade, and thought this an appropriate time for an update. I get so caught up in the editing process that I forget to tell people how I’m doing.

I’ve learned many things since editing began, but perhaps the biggest lesson is that my books tend to be short. It’s been a cause of frustration, since I’ve always thought books should be longer as the series progresses (looking at Harry Potter as an example.)

It means I fell into the comparison trap. If the Fallen Faery Tale series winds up being a collection of short, well-written books, I’ll be happy. Future readers will be happy, too!

I’ve spent a lot of time worrying about what to do for my word count to increase. Whenever I focus on my book length, the story quality decreases. Not only that, I stop enjoying  the storytelling process.

diss1

What should I do? I’m going to let the story be. I can’t make a tale longer than it wants to be. It takes away from the magic of writing! Besides, some of the best books written are short.

I’ve created a rule I’m struggling to follow: I’ll only worry about writing the amount of words required to tell a good story. It is not my goal to write a long story, but a good one.

Don’t get me wrong—long books are wonderful, too. I just haven’t come up with a plot that could comfortably stretch into one. There are some plot bunnies whispering “it’ll be me!” but I’m refusing to look at them yet, as they would become distractions.

My goal right now is to release Serenade. I’ve been working hard, which is why my blog lost momentum in the last two weeks. It’s all for a good cause.

Until Serenade is ready, why not give Dissonance a try? Find it here!

The Start of Serenade Beta


Well, guys–it’s begun.

Earlier this year I completed a draft of Serenade coherent enough to show other people, but since it’s still a little rusty, it’s time to enter the beta reading phase. What is beta reading? It means I find people I trust who are willing to give me some of their time in order to help make Serenade the best it can be.

This is a frightening phase for the writer. I’m second-guessing every scene I wrote and was proud of; I’m afraid the characters are unrealistic or that the entire storyline will come off as a joke. When I slip into moments of such panic, I have to remind myself that beta readers are here to help mend any such errors. I have to trust that they’ll help make this book into a diamond.

It hasn’t been a year since I published Dissonance, and already I am weaving together the next adventure for my beloved characters. Serenade still won’t be out for a while (and there’s the possibility of a title change by the time all this is finished.) Using the notes my beta readers take, I’ll be working on it again in the autumn and arranging for publication in the winter.

I remember when four years ago I wanted nothing but to be an author. Now I am, and it never really gets easier, but with friends to help and support me–as well as the lovely reviews I get, even honest ones!–it’s totally worth it.

While beta readers tackle Serenade, I’m working on a few other projects, including my next blog serial expected to launch in the summer, and musehollow–a collection of shorter fiction. I want to learn to write good stories, short stories, and poetry. Yesterday I published the first musehollow tale here!

I’m living the dream–even the editing, the work, is part of the dream. Thanks for being with me through all of this, and I can’t wait until you can read Serenade too!

 

“my blood is a mix of coffee & tea”


coffee1circle

Recently I spoke to a friend about writing, specifically poetry. A couple of verses I wrote came to mind, verses I feel define me:

my blood is a mix of coffee & tea
and words from authors long dead

I wondered, how much of me is made of the words of authors long dead? Where do their voices end so mine can begin?

The question hit me because I’ve been trying my hand at poetry. Perhaps this is a case of Poet’s Block (a new phenomena to me) but when I try tapping into my deepest emotions–I rarely find words.

It’s easier for me to write poems about quarrels with my muse. I’m a creative being, but I don’t have secrets to spin poetry from–it’s all about writing, arguing with the elusive muse. I wonder if somehow I’ve set myself aside.

tearound

How do I absorb every book I read without canceling myself out? I’d already set this year aside as one for self-reflection; I know a writer is a thousand people in one, but it feels like I’ve made my own voice less audible.

It’s why I’ve gone back to keeping a journal. The root of the problem might be that I hadn’t kept a journal for the entirety of 2015. Journals help us keep in touch with our inner selves.

I know there’s a person in me aside from the books I write, because I encounter her in my old journals.

A writer might be a thousand people in one, but there’s still the soul who types the story. Things we read and experience shape a unique voice. In a bizarre way, I’m eager to find out what I have to say.

How can we use our unique voices if we don’t know what they sound like? There’s no problem living by truths taught in books–that’s what they’re for, and one of the reasons they’re beautiful!–but. As people, we are unique and have new truths to tell.

Keep a journal–you’ll learn so much about yourself, and years later will be glad you made the effort!

coffee2round

wordstorms


Write.

A very important word. I should put it on a sticky note on my computer to remind me to write. But I shouldn’t need a reminder–I mean, that’s what I do, right? Right?

It’s been literally years since I’ve kept a personal journal consistently (meaning I wrote at least one entry per month.) For some reason I can’t think of anything to write when I sit down with a fancy leather journal. It’s all about the novels; I suppose that’s normal, since some of the writer goes into the characters.

The thing is, I consider myself a thinker. If I set an alarm on my phone to let me know it was time to look at words closely…write something related to my own life…but then, that can’t be forced.

Can it?

After all, writing is hard to achieve without habits.

And if I were to write down a fraction of the epiphanies that go on in my head when I stare at the wall overthinking, maybe I could figure out why these topics are so important to me.

My New Year’s Resolution for this coming year is to find my voice again–my voice–to set an alarm, a reminder, and look away from the novel for a while so I can transfer the storm of words in my head onto paper. Maybe even a blog post. Perhaps some words only come out if they know they’ll have an audience. Perhaps I need the Publish button to feel it was worth writing the wordstorm, worth sorting out these questions and ideas and epiphanies.

I can keep a journal of sorts on here. I need you, readers, to keep me going. Even if you don’t comment, knowing I have an audience might help settle this ever restless, loud Muse…maybe sometimes you could comment and opine, or remind me via tweetspam to keep blogging.

My blog theme this year is the sky and the universe because that reminds me of the infinite supply of ideas we have. Sometimes we choose Writer’s Block, because there is really so much to write about…so much. Look at the sky next time you get Writer’s Block and pick a star. Then close your eyes and choose an idea and grasp onto it, stick to it, follow it everywhere. Really, there’s no stopping you…only fear can keep you blocked for too long.

2016’s goal is pay attention to wordstorms.

There’s always something to say.