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A Quest for Vision!

Visionary.

It’s a word that we’ve all heard bandied about from time to time, usually attached to some famous figure in history known for inventing something important that has changed the nation—or the world—in ways modern generations could not contemplate living without. Take Steve Jobs for example. Mr. Jobs is considered a true visionary. He’s the father of the modern personal computer, a device with which a life without would seem unimaginable in this modern world. Or consider Henry Ford, automotive tycoon. Mr. Ford certainly didn’t invent the automobile, but he did perfect the assembly line, bringing costs down, allowing for the common people to afford their very own car—and through employment in Ford’s factories, a stronger middle class arose.

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The Oxford American College Dictionary contains multiple definitions for this complex yet simple word. The definition I like best reads as stated: a person with original ideas about what the future will or could be like.

The Oxford could be very well be describing a writer. Writers, by nature, are visionaries. Writers, in the name of creativity, must envision worlds that do not exist, populated with people that are not real. But the above definition mentions only the future. What about the past? Can a writer be a visionary in regards to a time that has already faded? The answer is most certainly yes. We construct alternate accounts of real events—like making Abraham Lincoln into a vampire hunter. A program on an internet site’s streaming service poses a world in the 21 century seen through the lens of a Nazi victory in World War Two.

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But being a visionary, it runs deeper than merely being a creative writer—or musician or artist. In a sense, everybody is a writer. If you write emails or texts, you are a writer. Here’s where the differences come into play. Not everybody is an author. Writers are not all authors. There are those who write down their personal thoughts and experiences in the pages of diaries or journals, never intending any other living soul to pry. Authors, they have to be bold and brave. They write to be read. If the words we seek to share with others are not visionary, you can bet you’ll hear from those who invested the time in sentences we’ve strung together.

Diaries, texts, personal correspondences; these are not meant to entertain the reader.  These are merely there to convey a message or to act as reminder to the future self that, on this particular day, so-and-so made me angry or happy or sad.

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Authors, writing to be read, must envision their story from beginning to end—before the writing process begins. We must see what does not, at this juncture, exist anywhere in this world. This will almost certainly require research of some sort—unless you’re creating your own Middle Earth setting. Research itself requires vision.

In beginning my work on Jazz Baby, I needed a road map through the 1920s. I am just past the half-century mark, having drawn my first breath of life in 1967. I had nothing by way of personal experience to shade my notions of the America of 1925. And we can’t just assume, either. Assumption is an enemy of the visionary.

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As I started to dig into my research, scenes from my story began to construct themselves behind my eyes. Scraps of paper quickly filled with ideas found within the pages of an old U.S. history book; situations came to life while watching documentaries on PBS or The History Channel. They didn’t have radio in their cars until 1932—so scrap the scene where the characters are driving to New Orleans singing along to jazz tunes on the radio. So how do we fill that void? Dialogue! These characters are now forced to speak to one another, sharing hopes and fears, and in the process, introducing their deeper selves to those who would come to read the finished product. A visionary finds ways to stay on point when something like reality cuts in and says, um, that can’t be. We make it work. And we don’t just make it work; we use it for the profound or the poignant. Statements are made in those quiet moments between Emily Ann and Tanyon—statements that wouldn’t exist had I stuck a radio in that car.

Being visionary is about seeing what’s not there, seeing it in multiple views, and possessing the ability to determine the best view. It doesn’t work very well to write about characters of which we know little or nothing. Vision allows us to see these characters, to meet them, to discover the personalities behind mere words on a page. To the visionary writer, his or her characters truly come alive before they ever occupy space on the page.

The fact is anybody can write a story. But the visionary writes the sort of stories people will want to read. The really good ones build a following of readers just waiting for the next story to unfold. The best storytellers throughout history possessed vision. And it’s that vision that gives both the writer and the story life eternal. Those without vision, well, nobody recalls the stories they’ve told. Nobody remembers their names.

 

 

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Why in the World?

Have you ever pondered life’s deepest questions? Author J. Ajlouny has, and the results are hilarious!

J. Ajlouny, Author

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This variety of question have delighted and puzzled people for ages. They really have no answers, which is what makes them fun. So I thought it would be a good idea to jot the best of them down for anybody’s and everybody’s use. These are not copy-rightable, at least not in my opinion. Copyright law serves its purpose but in the age of the Internet it has lost its efficacy. And the difficulty o policing it has proven vey difficult indeed. Having said this, most of these “questions that have no answers” are original.  But I lay no claim to them. Back in the day I also invited some of my writer friends to contribute to this list and it was a bit of a mistake: once started they wouldn’t quit! I always intended to collect the best of these (I have far more than are listed here) but I…

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All Authors Blog Blitz

Greetings, readers! I am thrilled to be able to participate in this year’s All Authors Blog Blitz. I am grateful to Y. Correa for extending the invitation. Now let me introduce Dorinda Balchin, author of the historical novel Heronfield.

Dorinda Balchin

Heronfield by Dorinda Balchin

Tony Kemshall is a young man excited by the prospect of adventure when war is declared in 1939. When the German war machine invades France in early 1940, Tony goes to St Nazaire to be with his French grandmother until things become settled. As the British Expeditionary Force retreats Tony puts his grandmother on board ship for England, then sets out to seek action and adventure. But the realities of war are very different to his earlier romantic notions, and as Tony gets caught up in the retreat to Dunkirk he develops a deep hatred of the Germans. After experiencing stuka attacks on civilians and the evacuation of the beaches he determines to fight to avenge the deaths he has seen.

Tony speaks fluent French which, coupled with his intimate knowledge of the St Nazaire area, makes him an ideal recruit for the Special Operations Executive who are looking for people to fight behind enemy lines. The SOE ask him to work for them, to be a spy, and he readily agrees. The problem is, the life of a spy is secret, and he can tell no-one about his work. Tony’s father constantly compares him with his brother David, a fighter pilot and hero of the Battle of Britain, and can only see Tony’s cover job with the Ministry of Economic Warfare as a sign of cowardice. Sarah, the woman he loves, compares him to the brave soldiers she treats in hospital, and finds him wanting. As the war drags on over six long years Tony finds himself alienated from those he loves, and realises that this war will cost him far more than he ever imagined. With his relationships in England at an all-time low Tony clings to his new family, the group he puts together working with the French Resistance.

This novel tells the story of the war in Europe from many different perspectives – spy, fighter pilot, VAD nurse, Civil Defence worker, civilian, the French Resistance, American GI. The one thing they all have in common is a link to Heronfield, the country home of Tony’s family in peacetime which has been turned into a convalescent hospital for the duration of the war. It is their link with this place which enabled me to create such a diverse group of characters whose lives could be woven together in a realistic way, just as so many diverse characters really did come together during the long years of the Second World War.

Heronfield grew out of the kernel of a thought I had when reading about a soldier shot as a coward. What if he wasn’t a coward at all? What if he had to hide his true self for the good of his country? From that small seed Heronfield grew.

I have always had a passion for history, and wanted Heronfield to be as historically accurate as possible within the confines of my story. I spent years researching the key points – Dunkirk, the Battle of Britain, the bombing of Coventry, the work of the SOE in France, civilian life, D Day and beyond. The more I learnt, the easier it was for me to weave the stories of my characters into the timeline. For me a story needs to be character driven – Who are these people? How do they react? Why?  The Second World War was a time when ordinary people did extraordinary things. For me, as a historian, finding what is at the heart of these people, what makes them tick, is just as much what history is about as the politics and big battles.

In Heronfield, Tony is an idealist. He has great strength of character, is resourceful, intelligent and physically fit. He is immensely proud of the trust that his country places in him and shows great bravery under incredibly difficult circumstances, laying his life on the line in France to bring the war to an end as swiftly as possible. Yet, when in England, his life is full of frustration and anger as he watches another man with the woman he loves, unable to convince her that he is not the coward she thinks he is. Sarah wants to believe in him but finds it impossible when she sees men who are desperate to fight, and the injured from all parts of the globe. How can she love a man who sits behind a desk and does nothing? How can she care for him while he watches others die so that he can be safe? There is always a small voice inside Sarah telling her that she is wrong, that there is more to Tony than meets the eye, but after years of hurt she is faced with a choice between this man and a brave soldier who offers her love and honesty, something Tony seems incapable of. So, what should she do? As the war in Europe moves to its dramatic conclusion Sarah begins to realise that sometimes you should trust your heart, not your head. But sometimes that kind of knowledge comes to us too late.

I wrote the first draft of Heronfield when I was a ‘stay-at-home-Mum’ looking after my children. When they went to school and I returned to teaching there was no time to set aside for such a massive project, and so my manuscript sat on the shelf gathering dust until I gave up teaching and moved to India with my husband in 2008. We now live there, running a guesthouse, and I have found the time to write. Heronfield came back down from its shelf and was published in 2012. I have had some great feedback, a number of people have told me how they have learnt so much about the Second World War from reading Heronfield, which pleases the historian in me. But I also realise that people have only learnt a lot about the war in Western Europe. What about Eastern Europe? The Far East? North Africa? Over the last few months I have come to realise that Heronfield is only the first of a quartet of books which can give the same treatment to all the ‘Theatres of War’. When I have finished the novel I am currently working on I shall happily return to World War II, different characters, different stories, but still people to love and to hate and to journey with through one of the most destructive periods of man’s history.

The prestigious Historical Novel Society will be publishing a review of Heronfield in August 2014. Please do take the time to have a look when it is out! http://historicalnovelsociety.org/

Heronfield Cover

Dorinda’s website http://dorindabalchin.com/

Heronfield’s own webpage http://heronfield.wordpress.com/

Lulu print edition http://www.lulu.com/shop/dorinda-balchin/heronfield/paperback/product-21490087.html;jsessionid=4FE4A6D6DE52359D5F84F16B50A665C3

Amazon print and Kindle editions http://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=heronfield&sprefix=heron%2Cstripbooks

Other ebook formats: epub, mobi, pdf, rtf, lrf, pdb, txt http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/240504

Dorinda’s GoodReads Page can be found at http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7095663.Dorinda_Balchin