According to Wikipedia, ‘a superhero is a type of heroic character possessing extraordinary talents, supernatural phenomena, or superhuman powers and is dedicated to a moral goal or protecting the public.’ Sounds like a writer to me!
Join me as another one of these unsung superheroes invites into their personal ‘batcave’.
If you were to write the ‘origin’s episode’ of your writing what would be the most important scenes? What did your early efforts look like? Are they still around to be used as bribes and blackmail material?
The original inspiration to write historical fiction about ancient Mayas came from a pilgrimage to India; to see Satya Sai Baba, a Hindu master. The most important scenes would be when a fellow pilgrim showed me how to communicate with the master through my consciousness, and when the master “visited” me during the night to introduce my Maya priestess teacher. She then came during my meditations to provide information and vivid imagery upon which I built scenes for my Maya novels. She became the protagonist of my first novel, her name is Yalucha.
My early efforts were sketchy, and needed development. I used meditation to “download” data that helped expand and enrich the stories. I also spent hours studying Maya civilization. These early writings are not, thankfully, still around for blackmail. They were stored on an old computer that no longer exists. It was rather amazing, however, how well-developed the chapters were once I got into regular writing. Although I review my writing and make edits, the bulk of the material doesn’t undergo major changes.
Another critical origin’s scene is about the hours of research necessary to write authentic historical fiction about an ancient civilization such as the Mayas. I’ve done years of study: archeological, anthropological, epigraphic, political, etc. to develop a sound foundation of knowledge. I’ve traveled extensively in Mexico, Belize, and Guatemala to visit Maya sites and experience the dramatic vistas of stone cities in tropical jungles with soaring pyramids and vast palace complexes. While on site, I “commune with the stones” and gather inspiration from the topography and natural world. I lived in Merida, Mexico for five years and studied with Maya elders, daykeepers, and shamans; I apprenticed with an Itza Maya elder and became a Maya Solar Initiate and Fire Woman in the Itza Maya tradition. This gives me insight into indigenous views and spiritual practices; I could not write about Maya cosmology and spirituality without such training.
All superheroes have their mild-mannered secret identity, what is yours? I promise we won’t tell.
My mild-mannered identity is an intellectual university professor who is hard to ruffle and takes all views into perspective. Underneath lays the vivid imagination, passions, and furies that drive stories and propel me to write dramatic and romantic historical fiction. My super powers come from the mystical domain, where I tap into a current of creativity far beyond my own imagination. I really don’t have a secret lair; my office is shared with my husband and the TV. But, you could say another of my superpowers is an uncanny ability to concentrate, to block out distractions (for example, my husband is watching a WWII movie now, just background noise to me.)
Who are your partners in crime? What are their superpowers?
My foremost ally is my husband David, who is unerringly supportive of my writing. He does some beta reading, and discusses plot ideas with me. He’s also a great web researcher, and I can send him off on any quest for information that’s needed. He helps with technical things, being a computer expert. Other partners include my writer’s group, four great women authors who critique and bolster each other. Their super powers derive from their basic goodness and honesty, and their skills and experiences as writers and publishers. My beta readers are invaluable partners in crime, providing early feedback for changes and corrections. I’m in the process of shifting to a “street team” that brings beta readers into the writing process before the book is finished. They get the treat of helping shape the story as it emerges, and receiving special materials about characters and background
Having too many interests in life is actually my nemesis. I get distracted by other activities, most of which I enjoy, and commitments I make to people and groups. This leads to putting off writing, and interrupts my flow. I like taking vacations and wine tasting, neither of which really helps with writing, except as inspirational moments for ideas.
My goal at present is to complete Book 4 of the Mayan queens series, Mists of Palenque. The looming super-villain is our upcoming trip to Europe in October. I’m aiming to finish the manuscript before we leave, though the professional editing and publication process will continue after our return. Can I vanquish it? This remains to be seen and calls for some serious self-discipline and preserving my writing time. I’ll have to give up some fun activities.
Important lessons and memorable experiences
Probably the most important lesson I learned about writing is to ALWAYS get professional editing. I’ve had books read by 4-5 beta readers, who caught many errors, but not enough. One book has been re-published three times because of spelling and grammatical errors—and I thought I had a good command of English. Another big lesson was handling negative reviews without being crushed and intimidated. Now I take useful criticism that is well-founded and learn from it, while disregarding spurious reviews such as “I hated this book and could not read past the first chapter.”
Most memorable experiences have been making connections with readers who really relate to my stories and are profoundly affected by them. I hope to link with a wide community of historical fiction readers who love ancient worlds, and are eager to delve into the little-explored world of the ancient Mayas. Winning awards for my writing is another high point.
What would I do differently and what change? Probably not much. I’ve learned the importance of keeping a detailed time line, though it’s something did it from the start. I re-check historical facts constantly while writing. I keep reading relevant books and following Maya research. What I would change, if I could, is separating the marketing from the writing. Because I’m writing a 4-book series, I’m involved in marketing earlier ones while writing later ones. This gets complicated and competes for my time and focus. Actually, I’d just like to clone myself into a writer and a marketer.
Best writing (or otherwise) advice
Write what drives your passion is the best advice. If you cannot maintain that intense involvement with the project, the characters and setting and history, you won’t keep up the work. Said another way, do what you love. You’ve got to love historical fiction and your time period.
Tell us about your new book.
I’m currently working on The Prophetic Mayan Queen: K’inuuw Mat of Palenque. This is Book 4 in the “Mists of Palenque” series, the stories of four great Mayan queens who shaped their people’s destinies. You need this book because it draws all the threads together from the three previous queen’s lives, and brings the story lines to conclusion. It unfolds the mysteries of modern-day archeologist Francesca’s ties to the Bahlam lineage of Palenque. It reveals how the last queen, wife of famous ruler Pakal’s fourth son, continues the Bahlam dynasty and preserves the Maya’s hidden knowledge for future generations. Readers who have kept up with the series are waiting eagerly for the conclusion; those who haven’t read the first three books can treat themselves to “dessert first” and then go back to savor everything building to the finale.
What’s in store in my future
In addition to finishing Book 4 (anticipated publication spring 2017), my big project is getting the Mayan queens series into print book form. Presently they are in ebook format. Book 1 is set for release in November 2016; I’m currently working on Book 2 for a spring 2017 release and Book 3 for a fall 2017 release. The last book will follow in print as quickly as my stamina and my publisher’s processes will permit. After that, perhaps the far horizon holds a change of pace in my writing about the ancient Mayas. I’ve played around with a mystery-adventure series set around the 1920’s with two savvy and sassy “liberated” women, New York writers and reporters bitten by the Maya bug, who journey into the Maya lands and get caught up in solving tomb robberies and murders. Who knows—quien sabe?
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