Fate

Inspiration: Fate

I have always believed that things happen for a reason. Some people might call it fate, others serendipity. Maybe even luck. I accept things as they were meant to be or not.

In January, I began preparing a selection of Solidity for submission to a writer’s workshop at an event called MisCon, which is Montana’s largest “Comic Con” type event. I have had my eye on this event for years and grudgingly missed the year that George R. R. Martin attended as a guest speaker accompanied by the Iron Throne. Last year, Terry Brooks attended as a speaker. I had to miss that one too.  This year, Jim Butcher is the author feature. I haven’t read his books, though I know a lot of people that highly recommend them. Regardless, I am looking forward to finally sitting in on a panel by a New York Times best selling author.

But that is besides the point. When the first of the year hit, I decided that I was going to MisCon this year, no matter what. To enter the writing workshop, you have to submit a piece of writing for evaluation. I set to work refining my favorite 10 pages of Solidity to date. Not a week after making that decision, I received an email from The Scholastic Art and Writing Awards Alumni Council. They were sponsoring a writing residency in New York City, and I just happened to meet the requirements for submission. Having already started a 10 page writing sample, I adjusted my focus to reflect the expectations for the residency, which I had to apply for. Who wouldn’t want a week of distraction free writing in a nice, historic hotel in the middle of New York City? From the beginning, I imagined my chances were fairly slim for acceptance. After all, they were only taking two writers and they had decades worth of writing alumni from their awards program eligible for submission.

I am an obsessive planner. Once I decided I was going to submit, I started researching details – just in case. The dates of the residency turned out to coincide with the week of vacation I had already reserved earlier in the month. How handy was that? I checked one box on the list of Fate-related circumstances. Then I looked at plane tickets to NYC. I have a dear friend who lives in Maryland whom I have been planning to visit this year. Knowing that, I started checking plane tickets to the east coast before Christmas and no matter what dates I looked at, tickets were sitting between $400 and $600. I figured NYC wouldn’t be much different. Turns out, plane tickets for that exact week were only $250, round trip. I checked another box on the circumstance list. Add up the fact that I already had a 10 page submission in the works, the fact that I am a Writing Award alumni, and the fact that I have never done a residency before (which pushed me up on the list for consideration), three more checks made their way onto the list.

At this point, I was feeling pretty good. Everything pointed to the idea that I at least had to try, and I submitted my proposal a week ahead of the deadline. A problem I struggle with on a daily basis is that I hate waiting. I am an instant gratification type of person. Once the waiting stage sets in, I obsess over possibilities, potential, plans – pretty much anything that in some way can pertain to the idea of whatever thing I am obsessing about. I end up searching for a lot of distractions. One such thing came in the mail about a week later – an autographed copy of the newest album just released by my favorite band, Avantasia. Not only are they my favorite band, but they serve as a partial muse for Better to Pretend, inspiring the band that main character Jenna obsesses over. I follow the band on social media, and accompanying the release of the new album, they announced a world tour – something that is rare for this band. For something to do, I looked it up knowing I wouldn’t be able to make it to any of the concerts as they most definitely wouldn’t be coming anywhere close to Montana. My hunch was right. They had two shows in the USA: one in NYC, the other in Los Angeles. Then, I looked at the dates.

Considering I have resigned myself to the idea I will NEVER see them live, what were the chances they would be performing somewhere I had the slightest chance of being? I figured nonexistent. Turns out they were going to be in New York City the literal day I would fly in should I be accepted for the residency. I am not going to lie. I had a minor (okay, major) freak out session. Add about 20 checks to the fate circumstance list for good measure. At this point, waiting for news on the residency became almost painful – especially since the deadline for submission was still a few days away. I waited and waited and waited and weighed my options.

I started seriously considering going to NYC regardless of the residency. Doing so would be my first official solo travel venture. Solo travel is something I have always wanted to do, and something I have continually put off for any number or reasons (excuses). I had also figured my first solo trip would be over seas, particularly to Scotland and a town pretty close in size to my hometown in Montana. It seemed like the logical step. Now, I was considering my first solo venture to Manhattan, where the island is home to more people than live in the entire state of Montana. Somehow, it seemed infinitely more intimidating.

More waiting. More obsessing. More driving myself and those around me crazy. The deadline finally passed. It was only a matter of time. I did something I never do – I checked my horoscope. If I do look at a horoscope, it is because it happens to be there, say on the sidebar of the Yahoo homepage. Sometimes they are vaguely fitting, most of the time they are way off. They are never specific. I looked at the February horoscope. It started with that day, which had nothing remotely relevant. The weekly look wasn’t any better. I flipped over to the overview for the entire month.

As the month begins, it’ll soon become clear to you that a writing project…will take up the majority of your time and energy. Fortunately, this is something you not only want to do, but it’s something you’re talented at doing…

…There’s no doubt you’re working on something significant. Perhaps that book you’ve always wanted to write is finally ready to come out of you. Go for it!…

…Expect an honor, award or other type of recognition… You’ll feel validated…

Reasonably, I kind of lost my shit.

I stewed on this for a few days, then I did something else I never do. I bought a one-way plane ticket, two nights in a hotel room, and a concert ticket. By this point I was pretty sure the universe was trying to tell me something. Everything I did seemed to point to me being in New York City that specific week in April. My stress level multiplied by about a thousand. The planner in me could barely handle not having a finite plan. I waited some more.

.

.

.

I didn’t get the residency.

By the time I found out, I had mostly decided that it wasn’t going to happen. And I was okay with it. I really, really wanted to be accepted. It was an incredible opportunity. But as much as I wanted it, it didn’t matter. I am going to New York City. The planner in me rejoiced as I booked the remainder of my trip.

I still believe that things happen for a reason. The series of events that lead me to booking that first plane ticket were the only reason I did it. The domino effect of fate, or serendipity or whatever you want to call it made me take a leap that I have been putting off for ages. Had the residency not come up, I wouldn’t have looked at plane tickets to New York. I wouldn’t have cared about the Avantasia world tour, because I knew they wouldn’t be anywhere I could get to easily. I never would have spent a week scouring over Solidity for 10 pages of perfection that in the end led to revelations about the story. You get the idea. I really do believe this was meant to be.

You can tell yourself a million times how much you want something. You can dream about it, talk about it, write about it, and obsess about it for days, months or even years. The fact of the matter is, if all you ever do is talk about it, it is never going to happen. You can’t make something happen unless you commit to it.

Writing has always been my dream – my passion. I have had successes. I have had validation that it is something I am meant to do. However, if you look at the reality of it, I have been calling myself a writer for years and I have yet to finish one of my three novels. The only thing I have completed since I was a freshman in college was a poem. I always have an excuse: I don’t have time; I am too busy; I am too tired. I want to travel, but I don’t have the money. I want to see the world but I am afraid to do it alone. There has always been one reason or another that something doesn’t happen. And I have nobody to blame but myself. That is kind of a hard pill to swallow. As much as I want to put the blame somewhere else, the only thing really stopping me is myself.

In two weeks, I am going to New York City. I am going to spend a week visiting locations that are relevant to Solidity. I am going to spend a week focusing on my writing and photography. I am going to see my favorite band by myself – a nearly once in a lifetime opportunity. I can’t say that I won’t lose track of my writing again when I get home and go months without putting words to a page. It might be a few years before I am able to take another solo adventure. The thing is, now I know I can do it. I am capable of taking a leap of faith. No more excuses.

“One day you will wake up and there won’t be any more time to do the things you’ve always wanted. Do it now.” ~ Paulo Coelho

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What’s in a Name?

The holidays sneaked up on me this year, and with them a seemingly never-ending list of to-do’s. Much to my dismay, writing of any kind took a backseat to life. While I still managed to sneak in a few sentences here and there on Better to Pretend and continue to struggle with my work on a new piece, Solidity, not much for progress was made. Save a minor epiphany.

In a very vague nutshell, Solidity is a story about a ghost named Owen and a human named Jera and the relationship they build with one another. You can read the whole blurb here if you want. The idea for this story came from a single verse in a song I have heard a thousand times that has nothing to do with this story what-so-ever. For some reason, as I pulled up to a stop light while that song was playing, I tuned in just long enough and Solidity was born. Stories are funny that way. They are also funny in the way that sometimes they just won’t leave you alone. Not for two seconds.

I wrote the blurb for Solidity shortly after the idea came to me and while I scrambled to prepare a proposal for a flash-residency opportunity. I originally intended the story to be written from the Owen’s perspective. It is very much his story and I wanted it to be his story alone – for many reasons, primarily of which was the idea of writing from a ghost’s perspective. I thought that was a pretty awesome idea… until I tried to write it. I have fought and fought with this piece and have written the start of probably six drafts that have all ended up in the trash. That is discouraging, to say the least. But still, the story persisted in my mind.

Eventually, I started thinking about Solidity from Jera’s perspective. She needed a back story and she needed a reason to come to the manor that Owen haunts. At one point, I considered writing from both Jera’s perspective and Owen’s… and shied away from it over and over again because I have read very few stories where I enjoyed two or more perspectives. And I was not confident in my ability to do it (little secret: I’m still not…). Then, one morning amidst the holiday season chaos when I finally had a few minutes to spend some time writing, I tried it.

And magic happened. Jera’s voice came to life.

I knew as soon as I had written the first two pages that Jera’s voice was going to be important to this story. I didn’t realize just how very important until I had an experience with another writer.While the exchange didn’t turn out as I had hoped, in the end I experienced and important revelation about Solidity and Jera’s character. The simple admission of doubt by the other writer about my choice of the name Jera confirmed that this is a story I have to write.

Firstly, you have to understand that I have a thing about names. Once I find a character’s name, it is pretty well set in stone. And it is one of the first things that I define in my stories. If at any point I do feel that the name is lacking, I change it, but that very rarely happens. I also have a name collection: pages and pages of names that have struck a chord with me over the years. While I used to spend hours looking through name books, now I just turn to my day job. I do a LOT of shipping. And it is very hands on, so I see a LOT of names. Jera came about from one of the labels either right before or right after Solidity began forming in my mind. I had no doubt that Jera would be my female lead.

After the comment about that choice and a reference to how it might be strange to pronounce for readers (I had never even considered this to be an issue… Even if it wasn’t pronounced just right in my reader’s head, it is still only a four-letter word and you would probably be close. It’s not like some of the names you see in fantasy novels that have three parts broken up with apostrophes and dashes and letters next to each other that don’t really make any sense…. just try and pronounce some of those! But, I suppose if you are wondering and just to clear up any confusion, Jera is pronounced Jair-ah – in my mind at least). Anyway, I Googled the name, just to see what came up.

Save two random results at the top of the page, the rest directed me to websites about viking runes. Turns out that Jera (pronounced in old Norse as Yehr-ah… so basically a ‘Y’ sound instead of a ‘J’ sound) was not only the rune for the letter J, but is most commonly believed to symbolize “harvest” or “year.” According to a Wiki article, it is a type of butterfly, which weirdly enough is also relevant.

https://i2.wp.com/runesecrets.com/img/jera-100x100.gifThe Elder Furthark rune Jera.

So, Jera’s name is a runic symbol. Not a big deal, right?  Except, I already knew that and had entirely forgotten. As research for another story I spent a good deal of time studying viking runes, particularly the set that contained the above symbol for Jera. The thing that struck me, however, as I read about this rune, was how entirely fitting it was for this story. Like, scary relevant. As in, it could not be more perfect.

There is no way to describe this other than serendipity.

Some phrases and notes that have been attributed to the rune Jera:

  • The only constant is change.
  • This too shall pass.
  • When you are at your lowest, you can only go up.
  • Time waits for no one.
  • Being at the same time permanence and transience.
  • An unstoppable energy – gradual but unrelenting, unhurried but persistent, indifferent to human influence… (This point translated to the idea of fate in my mind.)

Solidity is a piece about time and change. About two characters who are brought together by fate and who bring out the best in each other as well as the desire to change and evolve. Owen is trapped by time – stuck as a ghost for 99 years and unwilling to evolve. Jera is at a low point in her life and on the cusp of taking her future into her own hands. Both characters have decisions to make and are up against time.

The rune Jera symbolizes the harvest. When I first think of a harvest, I think of farms. But what is a harvest? You plant a seed. You water it. You watch it grow. And then, when the time is right, you collect the product. A harvest is a cycle. It begins in one place, grows, completes and starts anew. Isn’t life itself a harvest? It may be a long term one, but how often have your heard the phrase: the cycle of life. That is the grander picture, but what about the smaller moments. Childhood. Teenage years. Young adult years. Each is a cycle of its own within the greater harvest of life.

I could go on and on about the interpretations of the Jera rune, but that is really besides the point. And this post is already long. The biggest thing for me, was as I looked further and further into this coincidence, the more I knew that it was right. It is right for my characters, for this story, and even for myself.

I titled this post, “What’s in a name?” You may recognize this from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juilet.

What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.

It is true, that Jera’s name could be changed. She could be Julie, Jennifer, Amanda or Ruth. But sometimes there is so much to a name, that its relevence can not be denied. Jera and the idea behind it as a symbol and what that symbol can mean has become a profound image in my mind, not only in the sense of Solidity and Jera and Owen’s characters, but in its relevance to my own life.

I will leave you with the my final interpretation of Jera.

Keep moving toward a goal, no matter what. Don’t give up and accept the hardships as part of the journey. Continue to dream and evolve. When you are at your lowest, you can only go up.