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Lovely and talented Lee tagged me for the Writing Process Blog Hop. I’m a weird one to ask, since I spent seven years not writing and only got back to it THIS year. But I just pubbed two stories on Amazon to get my mind into the “this is both art and a business” mindset, and now I do some writing and plotting and revising and editing pretty consistently. So, here goes…

Who are you?

Anyone who knows me knows that five things categorize me above others: I’m Christian; I adore books; I’m crazy about my husband; I’m pretty reclusive; and I’m sickly. The last item enhances the penultimate trait: having health issues feeds my urban hermit ways.

I’ve been introverted and bookish at least since I was eight. I can’t remember well before that. I do remember exhausting my mom and sisters with wanting to hear another story, another story, and another before bedtime.  I was a bookworm since I could make out sentences–a girl locked in her room reading, a girl off in the library reading, a girl scribbling poems and stories in her notebook, then taking a break for more reading. I was reading Shakespeare out loud when I was nine. I knew just about every Greek myth and character by heart by the time I was twelve. (Don’t ask me to remember them now.)

Oh, and I have long, naturally curly hair. 😀

I’m also Cuban-American, so part of my identity is that of being a straddler of cultures, of not being exactly this or that, but both. (It is no surprise, then, that one of my characters has the ability to straddle worlds in fantasy/supernatural fashion.)  I enjoy reading many, many genres, but I love speculative fiction, poetry, and books on art and theological/Christian matters.

I probably wrote my first intentional story when I was nine. I don’t remember the exact age, but I think it was fourth grade, so about nine seems right. I had made up a myth to explain why stars were of various sizes and so twinkly. It had dwarf type creatures and Aphrodite’s giant diamond and Hephaestus’ anger and that huge gem shattering, with the fragments ending up as stars in the sky. I won my first creative writing contest when I was eleven. I’ve won various contests since, for stories and poetry. So, I’ve been into the creative side of words most of my life.

I edited at DRAGONS, KNIGHTS & ANGELS and at MINDFLIGHTS, both speculative fiction/poetry webzines, both welcoming of Christian elements in literature, both now defunct and scrubbed from the web, sadly. I wish those pages could have stayed up for wanderers to happen upon. Because I wanted to support the Christian SF community, I sponsored both writing and art contests while editing. I can’t afford to do that now, but it was part of me nurturing that community. I and some CSF writing pals also became founders/early participants of a website and blog tour to discuss and promote Christian speculative fiction. They are still active (though I am not really active with either, except in sporadic ways.) You can visit SPECULATIVE FAITH and The Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy Blog Tour to see what they are up to.

What are you working on?

I am vigorously working on thinking of this as a business and driving myself to stop puttering around with the arts and act as a woman who has a daily job as an indie writer, not just someone who can write on whims and inspiration. And I’m working on not getting discouraged when what I spit out on the page doesn’t match the brilliance in my imagination.

Oh, did you mean in terms of writing? :::sly grin:::

Short fiction for Amazon’s short read categories and an urban fantasy novel, that’s what is on my plate right now.

The short fiction has been my entry to self-publishing. I figured it would be less stressful and taxing to practice formats and cover creation with short stories already dozing on my hard drive.

I have published two to Amazon so far: one on July 30th and the second on July 31st. Against advice, I chose to publish under my nickname, a mononym: Mirtika. It sometimes feels silly, but I think it’s easier to remember than Mirta Ana Schultz or M.A. Schultz or Mir Schultz. Or even what I was gonna go with: Mir Rojo.

And it looks cuter.

It may be a bad decision, but I went with it. Yes, please visit me on Amazon: Mirtika’s Author Page

I’m revising a third short story, a futuristic one, right now—extensively. It’s already twice its original length. The first two were science fiction and older stories I had published elsewhere. The third is an old futuristic story that was less story and more vignette, never published, and didn’t deserve to be. It was too short and had too little characterization.  I’m fleshing it out into a story that communicates the idea of the gospel and conversion in a–I hope–not annoying way. I may not do the concept justice at all, but I’ll try.

Yesterday, I wrote 11 pages of a totally new one. Also SF. That one set in Miami.

The current novel WIP is Christian urban fantasy with a multicultural cast. A Latina heroine. An Asian angel. Something of everything fey. Just yesterday I was trying to figure out how to make it a series—not a standalone—since series seems to fare better for indie authors. Argh.

 

How does your work differ from others in its genre? 

It takes faith seriously, not as something to mock or something peripheral, like decoration. Faith is part of characters’ lives and affects people and events. I also have been told I have a distinctive voice. I guess that’s great. I hope so. Let me know if y’all think so. 😀

 

Why do you write what you do?

Because it’s what I like to read.

My first big passions for story were fairy tales and I have never recovered from the addiction. If it has wondrous or magical elements, it’s something up my alley. I was also planning to study science when I was younger (was accepted into the Bronx High School of Science, but then we moved to Miami, so there went that.) Reading DUNE and BRAVE NEW WORLD when I was 16 made me a sci-fi lover.

I also like romance. Blame that on JANE EYRE, a novel I’ve read a dozen times or more since I was nine.

As I wrote on my Amazon’s Author Page, my fave science fiction novel—reread it nearly a dozen times—is DUNE. My favorite fantasy novel is THE CURSE OF CHALION. Both take faith seriously. The former has a Messiah figure. The second has one of the most amazing depictions of deity working through humans to accomplish divine will that I’ve ever read. Even JANE EYRE has moral and religious aspects.

Faith matters to me in my daily life, even with how very screwed up and neurotic I am. I talk to God when I wake up and through the day. I like when stories add the spiritual, even if the main character is not an adherent, maybe it’s a secondary character with this belief system. And I like it when the story depicts both good and bad effects from the use and misuse of faith. This is real life to me. And when 3/4th of Americans identify as Christian, and other numbers identify as Jewish, Muslim, Hindi, Buddhist, Native faiths, Zoroastrian, etc, to have books where no character is ever affected by some kind of faith seems weird and unrealistic.

Moving on: I like the short story form more than all others. I prefer lyric poetry to longer or epic works. There’s something special about a form you can experience in in its totality in a briefer time span than a novel, just, BOOM, it’s all digested in an hour or less.

As I said, I guess I write what I enjoy: Works that have a believing heart, some romance, and flawed or damaged people seeking healing or redemption or a way to make things right they’ve made wrong. Or to find out who they are in the cosmic scheme of things.  I am drawn to outcasts, misfits, and weirdos. Or those brought down low who now must rise up and bloom. (See The Staff and Sword trilogy by Patrick Carr for one of those with strong Christian allusions.)

I’m trying to write with more action, to make my people more active. My characters have tended to be very introspective, like me. My story that won the ACFW contest years ago for the SF category had an isolated/misfit character, a damaged loner. “Voices from the Void” has a misfit who only speaks ONE LINE of dialogue in the whole short tale of 13 or so pages, though everyone else is chattering. The family in “Waiting for Appa” is shunned, so the protagonist is often alone on the mount where they homesteaded. The story that two CBA houses requested (never finished, never sent) had a whole houseful of misfits and people so displaced from life that they literally fell out of this plane and into another dimension.

I like people who don’t fit in—either due to personality or due to a special power or due to a rebellion against the established order or due to a particular creed or goal that marks them as “other.” The ones who are troublesome or troubled. I like characters that somehow come to connect with God and His plans specifically laid out for them (not general group ideals). And if they have supernatural powers or gifts or face something really weird or terrifying or wondrous, be it true love or aliens or fallen angels or chimera, all the better.

How does your writing process work?

HAHAHAHAHAH! Oh, sorry. The term “process” just killed me.

I am pretty chaotic.

Or used to be. I’m now just part-chaotic.

Naw, really, this is changing. I have been working diligently for a couple weeks now. That’s a big change from 7 years of just NOT doing, NOT creating, except for editing and blog posts and FB updates and jotting down sketches, notes, story ideas, and the occasional aborted attempt at a story or novel.

Putting the stories up on Amazon changed my perspective. Literally overnight.  Let me try to encapsulate my day’s “writer’s process”:

  1. Wake up with an urge to create. The gray cells start processing story ideas. I spend an hour just lying there in the dim light and soft sheets and work out the ideas that popped up either the day before or as I woke up. I consider imagery, plot complications, work out who these people are for whom I only have slight concepts or only a slim premise, or I examine the sentence fragment of story that flashes in my head or snippet of dialogue I hear in my mental ear. I think best horizontally. When I get stuck on a story while writing, I stop and go lie down.
  2. Scribble a to-do list for the day. I think about whether I have to edit something, revise something, work out a new idea on paper, make a storyboard. I may even work a bit on longer term scheduling or planning, such as when I want my next upload, who might be good to beta for me when I have a finished long project. Who did I forget to do a review for (Matt, I have not forgotten.)
  3. Browse public domain art or DeviantArt.com for images that might spark a story idea and for images that I might freely use for covers. Sometimes, a piece of art gives me a story idea—and then I jot those down and email the ideas and links to myself.
  4. Stay up to date on publishing business matters by reading some blogs and news articles and Facebook updates.
  5. Read on the craft of writing: on blogs, articles, or from books.
  6. Read in my genre to inspire me.
  7. I stop when my eyes are blurry, as I’m middle-aged and they get tired fast.

 

This process is rather new, but parts of it are just how I always functioned. I seem to get ideas most often when I’m in bed, waking or dozing off. I took 7 years off from writing, which meant that this process sort of froze up. Part of that was depression (severe, clinical, sometimes suicidal). Part of that was a huge life project that took all my focus. But a lot was feeling—totally, helplessly, despairingly– as if I could not write. Just blocked.

I did a 180 this year.

Now, I’ve got a timetable. It’s a little scary, but it’s part of the “business plan.” Start Date. Stages. End Date. Date to get feedback. Date to publish. I’m sure it will all go awry, but at least I’m trying.

(This is why I think short stories and poems work better for me. I can finish them in a brief period and revision is easier and I can have a product in a reasonable amount of time.)

Now, I want to finish so badly it’s no joke. I want to finish so that I can publish. Then I want to finish more so that I can publish more.

See what I mean about actually uploading a story to Amazon changing my brain? It was this switch that flipped.

I recommend this to anyone who has been playing at writing. Dithering. Self-publish something—anything—an essay, a how-to, a short story, a “chapbook” of poetry. Just to have it there, for sale. See if that kicks you into a different perspective.

The desire to publish now is a gnawing thing like it wasn’t before. Not to be validated by a publisher or editor. No: to publish and toss my words out there onto the cybershelves, to sink or swim. It’s the reader who validates (if they find you, by golly). I don’t want to do synopses. I don’t want to query. I don’t want to pitch. I just want to write, fix, publish, write more. As the book says: Write. Publish. Repeat.

It’s a bit of a fire that got ignited. I always liked that Desert Fathers story that encouraged one to “become fire.” I think that applies to more than the spiritual life. It’s part of the creative life.

It’s kinda nice to feel like this after the dark night of the writing soul

Short term: I want to have the next story done for uploading before mid-August and another by end of the month, along with a few chapters’ progress on the urban fantasy.

I’m an indie author now. I have lots of work to do.
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I have tagged Johne Cook and Jessica Tescher Thomas to join the Writing Process Blog Hop. Please check in with them later in the week to see what these two cool folks have to say about their writing processes. Both have worn (or still wear) not just the writer’s beret, but the editorial and publishing hats. One of my poems will be featured in an upcoming issue of Jessica’s publication, COMMON ODDITIES.

If you made it this far, pat yourself on the back and nice refreshing beverage. 😀

Be well and be aflame!

If you like science fiction and faith elements, try out my stories. 

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