resort at Cozumel, Mexico
Books, Travel, Writing

Writing My Way to the Island of Cozumel

resort at Cozumel, Mexico
Dolphinaris Cozumel Island Mexico, photo by Susanne Davidson, flickr.com

 

I’m feeling optimistic for a better month on this first day of August. Maybe by day 31 it will be a different story, but for today I’ll take optimism.

July was a rough month for a lot of people and for the nation. Some people unplugged, some dug in, some lamented and others did all three. I’m somewhere in between, with a sprinkling of ‘counting my blessings’.  

During the last two weeks, I’ve read numerous blogs and I’m surprised how some writers can put out daily posts. Most of my writing has been confined to revising a work in progress, completing a short story for submission to an anthology, and reworking my query for Brenda Drake’s next #PitchWars2016.* And in between that, organizing our writer’s group retreat for October. I’m exhausted.

My work in progress is about a young woman who works at a botanica, or herb remedy shop, and concocts a ‘love potion’ that goes awry. Parts of the novel take place in Oaxaca, Mexico. I haven’t been there but I’m seriously considering taking a trip, especially after researching the pyramids and the city itself. I’ve added several pins to my Pinterest storyboard.

I’m working feverishly to get through another round of revisions so I can relax on a trip to Cozumel, an island off the Yucatan peninsula in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo. I love that name, Quintana Roo. I understand that Joan Didion gave her daughter that name.

The sea beckons, although I can’t swim. Maybe they have adult floaties so I can pretend to snorkel at the reefs and see the giant turtles. Or I can sit on the beach with a fish taco and a drink.

I plan to climb the pyramids of Tulum and explore the San Gervasio Mayan Archaeological site, although this particular pyramid looks eerie.

Tulum Pyramid, photo by K. Bauscardt on flickr.com
Tulum Pyramid, photo by K. Bauscardt on flickr.com

For sure, I’ll take the two books I’m reading, “Pierced By The Sun,” by Laura Esquivel. It’s very different than “Like Water For Chocolate.” The other novel is by Helena Maria Viramontes, “Moths and Other Stories.” I’ve read two of the author’s other books and find her writing visceral and engaging. Not anything I’d expect from a Cornell University professor. 

And in the evening, I’ll put on my dressy sandals and dance to the light of the moon (or the overhead lights, whichever comes first).

So after this short post, I’m back to re-writing so that in a couple of weeks I can enjoy this view:

Cozumel sunset, photo by Cristopher Gonzalez
Cozumel sunset, photo by Cristopher Gonzalez

 

*If you’re a writer of Middle Grade to Adult fiction, this pitch opportunity may be for you.

See you at the end of the month. Be well. 

 

 

Inspiration, Nature

A Beautiful Garden of Monarch Butterflies

Welcome, June. I’m enjoying the longer days, slightly warmer weather, and the discoveries in my new garden.

The two milkweed plants in the backyard attracted Monarch butterflies which I enjoyed watching last month as they danced above the blossoms and ducked into the leaves.

After pulling a few weeds, I stopped to admire the Milkweed’s orange-red blossoms, and there she/he was, munching away on a leaf. A gorgeous plump caterpillar.

milkweed plant with caterpillar on leaf
Milkweed with Caterpillar-photo by M.AlvaradoFrazier

In the past few years, I’ve looked for Monarchs in the eucalyptus trees in the next city where they gather during their southern migration from Mexico but I’ve never seen the beginning of their life cycle until now.

Milkweed is the only plant a Monarch butterfly will breed and deposit eggs. Those eggs are now caterpillars and some energetic ones made their way ten feet away and began their next stage on my patio. This one is underneath a patio chair, already in the J stage where it will attach itself with a silk thread. In a couple of days, I’ll gently move the chair into an area where someone won’t sit on it.

monarch caterpillar on patio chair
Monarch caterpillar in the J stage-photo by MAlvaradoFrazier

On Memorial Day, we sat around the patio table and discovered another tiny treasure. Seems like the caterpillar journey wasn’t solitary. Another little guy/gal attached itself to a steel leg at the bottom of the table. At first, I didn’t know what this was until I remembered my friend, Dani, who said Monarch’s have beautiful chrysalis (cocoons). Well, this little jewel is jade green with dots of gold on its rim.

Monarch chrysalis on patio table
Monarch chrysalis- photo by M.AlvaradoFrazier

Dramatic changes take place inside the chrysalis. There are things we can’t see but know are happening. Just like life. Metamorphosis is occurring and with the process, I gain inspiration and hope.

In a few more days another Monarch will be born, fly over to the milkweed, get nourishment and return to Mexico.

Latina, Latino culture, Mexican traditions, NaNoWriMo, NaNoWriMo Music, Strong Women, Writing

Butt in Chair, Hands on Keys for 30 Days of #NaNoWriMo

I Wrote 50,000+ words in 30 days and lived.
I Wrote 50,000+ words in 30 days and lived.

 

Like thousands of other writers across the globe, I did a BICHOK (Butt In Chair, Hands On Keys) for 30 days.

Instead of being a complete pantser (writing by the seat of my pantalones), as I have in the past, I did a half and half of pantser and plotter. Like having one leg into my jeans.

The plotter part consisted of character exploration by journaling, creation of a Pinterest storyboard, and created a logline and premise for the story.

After 30 days, I have a story in a first draft mess which finishes around the 3/4 point. Which means I’ll need 15,000-20,000 more words to complete this New Adult story. 

What helped me to write faster was what I learned in a free online workshop from the University of Iowa’s How Writer’s Write Fiction Course. This is a combination of video, reading, and quizzes, which you can take for credit or no credit.

If you take the course for credit there are writing assignments and peer reviews. A certificate of completion is available for $50 if you meet all the requirements. The course is well worth your time.

An exercise I found helpful to start my NaNo writing was to ask my characters questions and write the answers out in longhand in my journal:

1-Who am I?

2- Who do I love? Who or what do I hate?

3-What do I want the most?

4-Who or what do I fear?

My story has three generations of Mexican American women so I needed to explore all of them through these questions.

There are hundreds of character sketch templates available, but I found that these questions opened my mind up to think about emotional issues, not just physical characteristics.

I used most of the answers in the character exploration to type onto my first pages. (Yes, I counted the words for NaNo). This was helpful so I could re-read what I wrote and stay in character.

The other motivator I used, for the first time, was music. Since the main character has just gone through a broken engagement at 22 years old (many moons past for me) I listened to music from Lana Del Rey and Adele.

One of the locations in the novel is Oaxaca, Mexico where the main character visits a curandera (traditional Mexican healer). I selected some indigenous music to help me when I wrote scenes about walking the pyramids of Monte Albán and listened to music by Lila Downs for cafe scenes.

Singer/Musician/Songwriter Lila Downs, born in Oaxaca, Mexico
Singer/Musician/Songwriter Lila Downs, born in Oaxaca, Mexico

I wish I had printed out my Pinterest storyboard since I found myself going back to the photos every time I sat down to write (distracting and time-consuming). The colors, people, foods, and objects helped to center me as I wrote.

For NaNoWriMo 2015, as for any of my next novels, preparation is the key: premise, concept, logline for the story. Explore the characters through journaling. Listen to music for help to create the setting. Create a storyboard of interesting colorful photos to stimulate the eye. And find a consistent time to BICHOK.

Share your writing tips. So how did you NaNo this year?