Om Namah Shivaya: Creation Through Destruction

This afternoon, Bill at The Bookcast was asking me about All That Is Necessary, and I had to point out that I’d written the first draft of the book set entirely in 1991. It didn’t work like that. (Kyrie had to force her way through it.) So I ended up scrapping large portions of the draft to create an entirely new story, one set mostly present-day, with less than a dozen 1991 interludes.

The story is stronger and more compelling for it.

Often, that’s what we need to do with our writing and our life. We have to tear down what exists, even if it’s perfectly serviceable, to make room for something new to blossom. Kyrie and I were talking about that some over the weekend, as she prepares to go back to school more than 20 years after graduating from college. Beyond that, she could be relocating just a couple of years after she finally moved “home.” It’s scary, but the degree will open doors for her dream that she can’t attain any other way. She just has to tear down a lot of her existing life to do it.

Sometimes, these changes are our choice. We consciously decide to make a change, to take that leap of faith. Other times, circumstances decide for us. I did my yoga teacher training at a time when I wasn’t sure newspapers and journalism jobs would be around in a year or two. I needed a Plan B. That process opened my heart and mind. It’s where I first encountered the Om Namah Shivaya mantra.

Shiva is the Destroyer in Indian mythology. I was fortunate enough to see a number of historical depictions of Shiva on Saturday at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in a small special exhibit. Shiva is always depicted covered in ash, a metaphor, I suppose, for the destruction that accompanies his role in our lives. And yet, the translation of Om Namah Shivaya is quite different. This call to Shiva translates many ways, but my favorite is “We celebrate the dance of energy that is creation.”

We call to the Destroyer to celebrate creation. We do so because often the only way we can make space to create something new is to destroy what’s there. In 2009, that philosophy helped me come to terms with the possible destruction of newsrooms and journalism. I came to accept, even embrace, that if I was laid off, it was just the opportunity to open the door to a new path, whatever that would be.

I kept my job, and I’m still there, still enjoying it. But my decisions during those uncertain months took me down paths of self-discovery through yoga and brought me back to writing fiction, something I’d abandoned a few years earlier. It wasn’t the last time I would rely on Om Namah Shivaya as a guiding principle. Even today I think about life’s possibilities and recognize that to open myself to something new, I might have to give up a place where I’m comfortable. Moving out of our comfort zones and balancing on the edge is both terrifying and liberating — sometimes even at the same time. By nature, we often play it safe and err on the side of inertia. We’re not willing to destroy to make space for a new creation. But when we take that leap of faith, when we step out into the abyss without knowing where our next footstep will land, we make room for the next stage in our lives to blossom and grow.

Valentine’s Day Blog Hop

Cam Jansen. Encyclopedia Brown. Trixie Belden. The Hardy Boys. Agatha Christie. Sara Paretsky. Emma Lathan.

But never Dick Francis. (There’s a reason for that.)

I’m a mystery reader. Have been since I first picked up a book. For years, that was all I read unless I was assigned to something else in school. And then my best friend in college handed me one of Nora Roberts’ MacGregor books. “You’ll like it,” he said.

He was right. I liked it. I read my way through those books, then started reading more of her work. I dipped into other romances along the way, but they didn’t hold my interest. Nora Roberts did. First, I fell in love with her characters. With her series romances, such as the MacGregors, and her trilogies — more than I can name — I found that what I had always loved about mysteries was as much the series format as the mystery itself. That’s why Dick Francis never became a habit. I wanted to see the characters again, and he rarely does that.

Roberts showed me that characters we love can recur in a genre that’s not a mystery. I loved seeing how two characters at such odds with each other could find a connection, then step aside and let a new pair take the spotlight in the next book. While I can think of a few I wasn’t crazy about, I can’t tell you a favorite. Sometimes I like the hint of sorcery in the Three Sisters trilogy or the Key trilogy. Other times I’m in the mood for the Garden trilogy, with Roz as one of my favorite female characters.

You can’t help falling for the characters Roberts creates, and then rooting for them to realize they have what I’ve dubbed complementary baggage. She weaves in quests and mysteries, laced with enough danger to keep me turning pages long into the night. I still consider mysteries to be my primary genre for reading, but Roberts has hooked me on her characters, and thus, her books. Now, which one will make the perfect Valentine’s Day evening read…

Liked this post? Keep hopping around the Valentine’s Day Blog Hop to learn others’ favorite romantic reads.

Digging Into Exeter’s Past

Thanks to a kick in the pants from James Scott Bell in today’s Kill Zone, I went back through some of my Exeter short stories in progress and realized I was a lot further along than I thought with a short story/novella about Dan and Chris when they first meet. I added another 2,500+ words today to the story, and I’m hoping to have a rough draft done by Wednesday for Kyrie and Maggie to look at. (For new readers, Kyrie’s my editor and Maggie’s the other half of my critique group.) My goal is to release the story as an ebook only within the next month. If you prefer paperback, you’ll get your chance down the line. Both shorts I’m working on this month eventually will appear in the next Stories From Exeter collection: The Way We Were.

If you’ve finished All That Is Necessary and cursed the ending (I’ve heard from a few of you already, obviously), you’ll be glad to know that my travel time to Indy this week was mostly spent brainstorming how the various threads of the plots will fit together. I even surprised myself by finding out a piece of information about one character I had only partially known. 🙂 Whether you’ll find out that information in Book 2  or not is still an open question. It’s either a Book 2 or a Book 4 reveal, depending on where it has the most impact.

A couple of characters from the first Stories From Exeter collection who skipped All That Is Necessary reappear in Book 2, and we’ll get more information about that reveal at the end of ATIN as the story plays out. (If you were surprised by the revelation at the end the first time you read ATIN, keep an eye out for the hints you missed when you re-read. You might even pick up on some clues about  what could be coming in the next book.

Just a reminder: I’ll be signing books and hopefully meeting lots of new Exeter readers at Sacred Circle in downtown Staunton on Saturday morning from 10 a.m. to noon. If you live close enough to the Valley to make the trip, please come by. Carey has a wonderful store and we’ll have plenty of both of my books available. If you need extra incentive, Historic Staunton Foundation has its Winter Wine Festival just around the corner in the Stonewall Jackson Hotel from noon to 6 p.m. for just $20 ($15 in advance).


Author Interview: I’m At Unexpected Paths

unexpected pathsAuthor Maggie Duncan is hosting me over at her blog for an interview about All That Is Necessary and the Exeter series in general. As befitting a former editor, she asks tough questions.

Duncan is the author of Spy Flash, a collection of Rory’s Story Cube Challenge entries, as well as Fences and Blood Vengeance. All three are short-story collections.