How To Be The Hero Of Your Own Story – Part One

hero

Want to know the BEST ADVICE I’ve ever received as a writer AND as a human being?

Here it is:

Hero Of Story 2

Be the hero of your own story! Yes! For me that means living my life by all the same principles and doctrines I hold for my protagonists like:

  • Never giving up when the going gets tough.
  • Meeting every challenge with integrity, ingenuity, and creativity.
  • Saying yes to the adventure of life and helping the people I meet along the way as much as I can.
  • It means being fiercely loyal to my true friends, being there for them no matter what, and never giving up on them when it seems all hope is lost.
  • Using my head alongside my heart and never losing site of my dreams and goals, and always remembering why I set out on this glorious journey in the first place.
  • Being open to synchronicity, serendipity and the infinite realm of possibilities.
  • Using my intuition and trusting my gut even when everyone else thinks I’m crazy.
  • It means achieving what I set out to accomplish, but also giving myself permission to alter my course and change my mind if what I thought I set out to do turns into something else.
  • Tending to the needs of my soul, in addition to the needs of mind and body.
  • Having the courage to be who I am, even if that makes me a freak, a geek, or an alien from another planet.
  • Setting my intention to wake up every morning with gratitude and a positive attitude, and look for the good in every situation.
  • It means be brave, be strong, be honest, be compassionate, be patient …not only with others but also with myself.
  • AND it means that if I fall short in my ability to achieve any of these fine attributes on any given day, that I allow myself to be human, forgive myself for my mistakes, regroup if I need to, and then say “onward!”

Getting this advice, this grand challenge—to be the hero of my own story—had such an impact on me that I spent an entire year investigating what makes a hero, determined to uncover those distinct characteristics common to all (or at least most) of our heroes today.

So I researched heroes in their myriad forms (film, books, television, comic books, and of course, some of my real life heroes as well), to chronicle the various personality traits and attributes that make up this rare breed of human.

What I found changed me. I knew if I wanted to be the hero of my own story, I had to find a way to embody these qualities and live my life in an entirely new way. The transformation is still in progress, of course, but it is a worthy adventure.

So for the next few weeks, I will be sharing what I have learned about becoming extraordinary in our everyday lives and the little changes we can render along the way that will make a big difference.

See you soon. Part Two is coming up the next week.

Elayne G. James

Author of The LightBridge Legacy Series

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Whose life is it anyway?

Vintage Reflection

Have you ever met someone who had your life? The life you knew you were meant to live? Someone you meet purely by chance and strike up a conversation with to pass the time in line or at a luncheon. And in this conversation you learn this other person is living the life you should have had all along, but didn’t. You realize that somewhere along the way you turned left instead of right and ended up where you are, on the other side of the table sipping tea from the wrong cup.

I listened to this woman tell me about her life, living every dream I’ve ever had, being everything I’ve ever wanted to be, even looking exactly how I always wanted to look, and by the end of the conversation I didn’t recognize myself anymore. I couldn’t fathom how I got here, and how she got there. I looked at my life—a good life—but all I could see was how wrong everything turned out . . . all my stupid mistakes, all the bad decisions I made to lead me away from my path . . . and there, right in front of me, was the woman I would have become if only . . . if only . . . if only.

What’s worse? I liked her. She was wonderful, beautiful, graceful, kind, generous, and immensely happy. So I’m denied even the chance to be envious. How can I begrudge her the life she has so obviously deserved, and I so obviously never earned?

Yet it is mine and I walk away knowing why I do not have it . . . because she does.

Where do I go from here? Knowing someone else has my life? And tell me, whose life do I have? Will someone meet me on the road someday and say,

“You! You’re the one.

You

Have

My

Life.”

___________________________________

What is this?

Okay, so I have a folder that’s been on the desktop of every computer I’ve ever owned. I call it the Bottom Drawer. It’s where I throw all the bits and pieces of writing that pour out of my brain unattached to any story or project. The file has become quite fat over the years. I decided to go spelunking to see what I might find. I’ll be digging into this “bottom drawer” of mine for time to time, to see what I might share, grab-bag-style. This one is probably 25 or so years old transferred here exactly how it was originally written, formatting and all. Just thought it was kind of odd and interesting.

My First Stradivarius

1

Written on National “Inspire Your Heart with Art” Day.

I had no idea there was such a thing as National “Inspire Your Heart with Art” Day, but I like the notion and have been stirred to share an occurrence in my life where someone’s art not only inspired but also healed my heart in unexpected ways.

As many of you know, I was a professional theatrical lighting designer for 24 years. It was how I made my living in my late 20s and throughout my 30s and 40s. I loved nearly every minute of it, and had some amazing experiences along the way, many of them etched in my memory for all time. What follows is one of my more transformative experiences.

I was in the lighting booth working on cues for an upcoming show. A 64 piece orchestra was rehearsing on stage. One of my favorite things to do in the theatre was to work while being serenaded by a live orchestra. Nothing quite like it! As a matter of fact, most of The LightBridge Legacy was written in the theatre duringorchestra rehearsals, and the down time we had while waiting for show trucks to arrive. I also wrote a lot after hours, when the stage was dark and the air had a wonderfully eerie stillness to it, but the most dynamic scenes in the book were written to live orchestral music!

At the end of the rehearsal, the members of the orchestra made their way to the green room to rest before their performance that same night. The crew left to procure pizza for dinner.

So I stayed in the light booth and continue to work.

The stage was still. The lights were off. Only the fly-loft fluorescents, hanging 75 feet above, remained on for safety. I was content to work in solitude and silence. It gave me a chance to catch up to my thoughts.

Because I was to be the only staff member there for an hour or two (while everyone lunched), and since a thick glass window stood between myself and the rest of the theatre, the soundman left the hanging microphones up so that I could hear the goings-on down on the stage and surrounding areas.

Out of the silence, I heard the faintest of footsteps, and a demure voice said, “Hello up there? Can you hear me in the booth?” Her words came to me via a small speaker on the wall.

I looked up from my work and peered through the glass at a woman that would have barely come to my shoulder if we were standing side by side. I nodded, for I could hear her but she could not hear me.

“I just acquired a new violin,” she said, “and I would like to practice a bit with it before tonight’s performance. Would that be alright?”

It happened a lot. The soloists often requested extra time on stage when the others went on break. It was not that they necessarily needed the practice; it was their chance to check the acoustics, to get a feel for the house and prepare themselves mentally.

I smiled, nodded again, and went back to my notes.

It only took a moment.

Most days I would just continue to work, happy to be serenaded once again, but not this time. I knew instantly that something was different.

I looked up and for a minute or two I just watched her play, standing alone, center stage, a few feet from the edge. The melody was unfamiliar. I knew she played not something memorized and precise, but something wild and untamed… something from the very depths of her being. And I was moved to the very depths of mine.

There was an ineffable quality to this music. It spoke to me like no other. And by this time in my life I had heard a thousand orchestras play and a thousand soloists perform and among them, hundreds of violin solos.

This was something else. Something more. Something special. I had no idea how or why, but I felt the summons in my soul.

I put down my work, stood, and as she continued to play, I quietly made my way out to the auditorium. I chose a seat in the center of the house, aligned with where she stood on stage, about 50 rows back. The audience lights were off. She did not see me or know that I was there. She did not know that she played to my soul.

I sat, transfixed. For how long, I couldn’t say. I lost all concept of time. At a certain point, I closed my eyes without realizing it. I began to soar the heavens. The beauty of this woman’s music was so exquisite, it was painful to conceive of the requisite silence if ever she were to stop. A beauty that reached so deep in me I began to weep. This woman and her violin moved me in ways that I had not thought possible. I felt for those few moments that life was more beautiful than we, as mere mortals could ever fathom, and that music was an art form so pure, so perfect, that to experience it in such a way meant I would be changed forever.

She played on as I wept.

When finally she stopped, I caught my breath. I couldn’t speak. I couldn’t breathe.

In the resulting silence, she heard me softly crying. She peered out into the sea of empty chairs and, squinting, finally saw me there and realized she had an audience. An audience of one. “Oh, I’m sorry,” she said. “I didn’t know anyone was there.” She quickly returned the violin to its case.

“That,” I said, attempting to regain my composure, “was the most beautiful thing I have ever heard.” My voice was shaking.

She smiled and said, “That was a Stradivarius.”

I gasped. Never before had I been in the presence of such musical mastery, delivered through an instrument so ancient and elusive, it carries a power and presence that is felt mind, body, and soul.

I remember standing for the first time before a painting by Rembrandt. I became lost in the play of light and shadow, the life of each brushstroke. I became lost in time. For an instant it was as if I were there, watching him paint his masterpiece. His vivid essence remained, even centuries after he put brush to canvas. I stood there forgetting to breathe for a moment.

This was like that but amplified a hundred times. And when it was over, I longed to return to such perfection and purpose. I had been granted, through this woman’s instrument, and her ability to let music speak its purest expression through her, an immeasurable gift.

That night, after the performance had ended and everyone had gone home, I sat alone in the dark theatre again, in the same seat where I had sat listening to a woman play the violin with her whole heart—listening with my whole heart—hoping to engrave the experience onto the marble of my memory.

Absent of the heightened experience of performers, crew, and the energy of the audience, a theatre still holds a lingering presence—an energy signature that gets imprinted on the place. It is palpable, almost visceral.

Like an infinite echo, it leaves an indelible impression. And the echo of that Stradivarius will forever reverberate in me, weaving its enduring essence, whispering to my heart of hearts, “You have been touched by something special, and will never again be the same.”

In honor of Inspire Your Heart with Art Day.

Thank you for allowing me to share this part of my life with you.

Elayne G. James

Ani Jasper Speaks for Herself…

An Introduction from Ani Jasper (WARNING: Spoiler Alert-Book One)

 Ani Jasper Book 1a

I asked one of my characters, Ani Jasper, from The LightBridge Legacy, to introduce herself.

Here is what she said:

“You know how sometimes when you’re asleep you can’t tell if you’re dreaming or not because everything feels so completely real? Well, that’s how it feels to be me. I never know if what I’m experiencing is real or not. But I think I’m slowly figuring out that it’s ALL real, and that is the scariest thing I can think of. See, if it’s all real, then I am in some deep dark shades of trouble with all kinds of bad mixed in.

I’m Anani Jasper. People call me Ani. Not Annie. Ahh-nee. I’m a girl, I’m almost fourteen, I’m an amateur geologist and a magical apprentice. I live in New York City, but I still consider the Mojave Desert my real home. I’m technically an only child because I lost my twin brother the day we were born, but if you want to know a secret, the truth is, I didn’t really lose him because we are still together. Two souls. One body. Weird I know. But kinda cool at the same time. It’s called Zielfah which means “double soul,” and because of it, I’m next in line for some fierce magical mojo I didn’t ask for. Oh and get this… because I am the appointed heir apparent, I have some equally fierce enemies that want me permanently deleted in the worst way. Mom and Dad don’t know. Nobody knows. No one would believe me anyway.

So I live my life as if everything is normal…whatever that is. Mom’s an anthropologist and Dad owns a rock and gem shop. I can tell you anything you want to know about all sorts of stones (including their magical properties–but don’t tell my dad that. He doesn’t believe in magic). My godfather, Kahetay is a Navajo shaman and has some pretty cool skills of his own. He’s the one who first taught me about magic. And then there’s Sophie, my um… I guess you could call her my mentor… she’s a wise-woman… a magical practitioner and a good friend. She knows about my “future memories”—these strange visions I have where I go into the future and remember things that haven’t happened yet. That’s how I found out my mom’s in trouble. She’s gone missing on expedition in the Amazon jungle and it’s up to me to save her.

Have you ever had to do the thing that scares you the most? That’s what I have to do. And in order to do it, I have to “embrace my magical destiny,” whatever that is, but that’s how Xephero puts it. Xephero is the master of the LightBridge, the most powerful magical object in the world, and he has chosen me as the next in line to be the keeper of that magic. All I know is if I do it I can save my mom because if I don’t she’s gonna die. It means doing things I never thought I’d do, wrong things, dangerous things, but you would too if it meant saving the person you loved most in the whole world. You never know what you are capable of until you are forced to face the unfathomable.

Welcome to my world.”

The Spark of New Inspiration

Secret-Ref -Dragonbond 4c-300dpi

Above is what I call an Imagery Character Study. Whenever I begin a new story, I put together one of these graphic “collages.” I scour the net for images that remind me of my characters and the objects that surround them. In the first glimmering sparks of inspiration and story creation, this is a wholly enjoyable task. Watching my characters and the world they live in “come to life” before my eyes is exciting. It brings their personalities into focus like nothing else can. And down the line, when I’m trying to complete a book after years of work, these images can offer some much-needed inspiration, bringing back the spark of new beginnings and the feeling of “falling in love,” for that is what it’s like to begin a new story. 

                       

Today is January 15th 2016, the first day of my new commitment to blog more. It also happens to be Annual “Appreciate a Dragon Day” (no lie) and in honor of this momentous occasion I have chosen to let a little “secret” out of its proverbial bag.
This week I took an unexpected break from my LightBridge duties—working on getting the second (revised) print edition of The LightBridge Legacy, Book One: THE SECRET HALF (formally Destiny’s Call) ready for my publisher, followed closely by the release of LightBridge Book Two: THE HIDDEN GATES which is in its final edit.
But since my laptop was in the shop this week, I had a chance to work on my notes for a shiny new story idea that’s been calling to me.  The beginning of every story for me takes the form of handwritten notes on scraps of paper, stickies, paper napkins, just about anything I can get my hands on. Next, I begin organizing these bits and pieces–which sometimes number in the hundreds–into some semblance of an order and paste them into notebooks. Yeah, I know, very low tech. I don’t switch to the computer until I start writing the story itself. This time, it was for a new story idea that has ignited my imagination, my dreams, and passion for writing.
I’m calling this new series The Dragonbond Books.
What are the Dragonbond books about? Here is the quick overview…

An infant boy is left on the steps of a 200-year-old library and raised by the head librarian who lives in a basement apartment below the stacks. On his ninth birthday, the boy learns he is the last remaining descendant of an ancient lineage called The Dragonbond Tribe and can, therefore, speak to and bond with dragons. 

Along with this new information about his family history, he receives a mysterious package said to be from his parents, left behind with the bassinet he was found in. In this ornate wooden box, he finds three items… an ancient book written in an undecipherable language, a handmade leather & feather quill, and a “rock” that, three months later… yep, you guessed it,  hatches into a baby dragon.

I’ve always wanted to write a dragon story. I’ve been waiting a very long time for the right tale (dragon tail) to emerge and finally, it has bubbled up to the surface from the depths of the creative inner well. I can’t wait to start writing! But I have promised myself I will finish The LightBridge Legacy first!
 
Onward! It’s going to be a very good year!
 
Elayne G. James

Sharing The Circle of Light Ceremony for a Reverent Christmas

Mojave Christmas

A Sacred Christmas in the Mojave Desert

Living fifty miles from any semblance of a town and a hundred miles from any shopping mall, and having very little money to spend on presents, the Jaspers created their own holiday traditions far removed from those of modern society.

A glimpse of Christmas at the Jaspers:

Having no family of his own, Kahetay, Ani’s Navajo shaman godfather, spends every Christmas with the Jaspers and brings to their holiday a sense of reverence they cherish.

It is called the Circle of Light Ceremony.

At midnight on Christmas Eve, the family gathers in a circle, sitting cross-legged on the floor, each with an unlit candle. The room is dim, lit only by the warm glow of the tree lights. There are no presents under the tree, just four ornately embellished boxes with slits at the top just large enough for folded pieces of paper to enter.

Kahetay lights the first candle and says, “With this flame I heal the wounded hearts of the world.” He then leans to Ani and with his candle, lights hers and says, “With this gift of light I offer the love and light of my heart to connect all who share this circle.”

As Ani’s flame is lit, she says, “With this flame I bring the world to peace, to this one pure and beautiful moment of peace, so that they may know what it is to be at peace and will seek it in their lives forevermore.” As she leans to her mother and light’s her unlit candle she says, “With this gift of light, I offer wholeness, to bind us with a deep knowing that no matter what we search for we are already complete.”

As Mrs. Jasper’s candle is lit, she says, “With this flame I bring the world laughter, so that they may know joy and embrace joy in their lives a little more every day.” As she leans to her husband and light’s his unlit candle she says, “With this gift of light, I offer the spirit of discovery, to bind us with a sense of becoming all that we are meant to be.”

As Mr. Jasper’s candle is lit, he says, “With this flame I bring the world belonging, so that all may know they are loved.” He leans forward and lights the large candle that waits, unlit, in the center of the circle and says, “With this gift of light, I offer safety and warmth, to bind us in the knowledge that home is not just where we live together, but what we share with each other.”

To complete the circle, Kahetay chants a blessing of winter, of light and love. And as all the candles are finally lit, and the room is filled with firelight, they open the beautiful boxes that are waiting under the tree. In each box are little pieces of paper. For the seven days before Christmas, each member of the family writes a message or a blessing or a wish for everyone, whether it be humorous or heartfelt, and places it in the other family member’s boxes.

Still sitting on the floor in a circle they take turns sharing their gifts from the heart, reading the messages aloud, laughing, crying and hugging as the love between them grows as bright as the flames of their candles. 

When the sharing is complete, they enjoy a sumptuous meal together that they all helped to prepare. Christmas eve is Ani’s favorite day of the year.

From my family to yours…

I wish you a wonderful holiday filled with light, laughter and love,

Elayne James

Author’s Note: Ani, the Jaspers, and Kahetay are characters in The LightBridge Legacy series.

Paying Attention to a Simple Moment Can Bring Vast Rewards

Timeline Master2

The greatest lessons in life sometimes come from the most unexpected places. One late afternoon, on a warm spring day, I sat with a friend of mine on a cliff in Palos Verdes, gazing out at the Pacific blue. Waiting for the sun to set, we sat in silence, feeling our separate worlds merge.

O   U   T       O   F       S   T   I   L   L   N   E   S   S

Out of the stillness my friend plucked a stone from the ground, pointed to a short wooden post about twenty feet away and said, “What do you want to bet I can hit that post?” I thought for a moment, eyeing the target and decided to bet against it. He threw the rock and missed. I laughed and flashed him a victorious smile. He smiled back just as triumphantly and then picked up another rock. I looked at him and said, “Wait a minute. You didn’t tell me you were going to keep trying.”  He gave me an incredulous look. “Did you really think I was going to give up after just one shot?” I thought about that for a moment. For my friend, quitting after only one attempt was inconceivable. “Well then,” I said, “I want to change my bet.”

I knew that if he had made up his mind to keep trying until he hit the post, there was a much greater chance he would succeed. I went from being fairly sure he would fail—given the size of the rock, the distance of the target and the rigorous winds on the cliff—to being almost positive he would succeed, and all it took was knowing that he wouldn’t give up until he accomplished his goal. 

From where I sat, the odds seemed to magically change the instant he picked up that second stone, and his steadfast determination made the logistics of the situation less of a determining factor in the outcome.

This simple exchange resounded in my mind for many days after, sinking into my psyche and eventually lodging firmly in the personal constellation of experiences that inform my philosophy on life.

A      S   I   N   G   L   E       M   O   M   E   N   T  

That single moment in time has been an ongoing source of strength and courage for me throughout the years and I draw on the experience every time I face a challenge with seemingly insurmountable odds or feel my belief in my dreams slipping away. Knowing that everything changes if you simply refuse to give up changes everything. And whenever I meet someone who faces a similar challenge I tell them this story. I have had many come back to me years later to say that, simple as it is, that little story changed their lives.

If you have a dream and those around you continually remind you the odds of success are slim, just smile and pick up another stone. Eventually, if you never give up, you will hit your target and those around you will change their tune… they might even say they “knew it all along.”

 S   T   A   Y        T   H   E       C   O   U   R   S   E

We all need reminders periodically, to reaffirm our future goals and keep on track with our core life dreams, especially in these challenging times. One way to remind yourself is to go searching for what I call a Dream Stone. Find a small round stone, without too much weight—one that fits perfectly in your closed palm—perhaps down by a river or the ocean, where the water has smoothed all its edges away, and carry it in your pocket whenever you need to be reminded of how the odds change when you make a commitment to “stay the course.” Let it remind you to keep moving forward, even if it means taking only tiny steps toward your goal (every step counts no matter how small). Let it remind you to believe in yourself and know that you will persevere against any and all odds. And when you come across people who share their dreams with you and then tell you the chances of that dream coming true are slim, you might be inspired to take the stone out of your pocket and share this story.

PS: Just in case you were wondering, my friend did eventually hit the pole with a notably larger rock and 23 subsequent attempts (yes, I counted). :~}

Elayne G James — Author of The LightBridge Series [www.LightBridgeLegacy.com]