Monthly Archives: April 2010

The Liberty Belle Hour Welcomes David Ratowitz Tonight

In this photo: Liberty Belle Hour host Daria DiGiovanni, Connor Lanser, Ellen Snyder and Steven Rosenblum.

I am pleased and excited to interview conservative Republican candidate from Cook County, Illinois (yes, you read that correctly!), David Ratowitz, on The Liberty Belle Hour tonight. A successful entrepreneur, US Army veteran and activist, Ratowitz has vowed to restore integrity, fiscal responsibility and respect for individual liberty to the United States Congress. A while back, Steve Rosenblum and I interviewed him on Conservative Republican Forum, and found him to be a welcome addition to an impressive list of grassroots candidates in 2010.

As a special treat for both the audience and me, dear friend and fellow activist Ellen Snyder (who met Ratowitz in person at CPAC this past February), will be guest co-hosting. Just go to the Home Page of WAFS-TV at 7 p.m., and you will see us on your computer screen, where you’ll also note a live chat room. We also welcome your calls at (561) 228-4020.

Please join us tonight at 7 p.m. Eastern!

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Creating Ken, Part One

In my last post, I mentioned that although most of my Water Signs characters are inspired by and/or based upon real people I’ve known or met in my lifetime, at some point during the writing process, they took on rich, full identities that extended far and beyond their initial conceptions. Nowhere is this more evident than in the case of my two protagonists, Ken (based on a man I met in my 20s at the Jersey Shore) and Madeline (based on me, and named for my grandmother and mother).

For the purposes of this particular entry, I want to focus on Ken as an example of how to incorporate some of the qualities, mannerisms and attributes of a real person into a fictional counterpart. To minimize confusion while simultaneously honoring copyright laws, I will use “Ken” when referring to the flesh-and-blood man, and Ken when referring to the character that turns Maddy’s world upside-down in the novel.

Briefly, I met “Ken” when I was a young, somewhat naive woman of 25 (I know for some the “naive” part might be hard to fathom given the age, but I assure you, dear readers, it is the truth). Although I come from a loving, supportive and at times, rambunctious family that encouraged me to go for my dreams and believe in myself, I possessed stubborn, lingering insecurities over being “too fat”, “not good enough” and even “undesirable”, thanks to the normal slings and arrows of childhood and adolescence. Children and teenagers can be very unforgiving of things like an extra few pounds, especially teenage high school boys. Being  a sensitive Pisces sort didn’t help either, as I tended to internalize unpleasantness to the point where I would completely overlook reality.

Therefore, even after losing weight and becoming an attractive twenty-something, I still clung to an old, worn-out image of myself that no amount of positive feedback on any of my attributes could break. For example, I’ve been blessed with great skin, mostly due to the luck of the gene pool. But no matter how many times someone would genuinely compliment me on it, it was hard to absorb the truth in what they were articulating; in my mind, paying a compliment — sincere as it might be — was simply something people did to be nice. This tendency only got worse when my first boyfriend, immortalized in the book as “Jake Winston”, continually criticized me for everything from my hairstyle to the way I looked in a bathing suit.

Needless to say, outside of my dad, brothers, other relatives and a few close family friends, I regarded men suspiciously. They seemed to be people who inflicted a lot of emotional pain, interested in only one thing (for which you had to have the “perfect” face and body to qualify). The summer I met “Ken”, I’d just endured a pretty traumatic break-up with “Jake” and was still reeling from the hurtful things he’d said and done, not to mention the cowardly way in which he’d ended our relationship over the phone.

“Ken” — who was so full of life and energy — completely blew me away. The night we unexpectedly ended up together at a dance club in Somers Point (yes, Chapter One is pretty faithful to reality) after my girlfriend “Carmen” (whose character is written exactly as I remember her) trotted off with another female friend and their two Iranian paramours, I amazed myself with my own words and actions — not the least of which was announcing my intention to hang out with “Ken”, rather than go home at 10 p.m. (the thought of being alone in a crowded dance club was tantamount to torture).

After all, he’d bought a long-stemmed rose initially for my exotic friend, not me, when we were  shaking our booties on the dance floor to some high-energy tunes. I remember laughing with her as we moved to the beat, then — as if out of nowhere — seeing this hand in front of her, bearing the delicate red flower with the red devil attached to its stem. I visually traced the path from stem, to bloom to arm, until I finally noticed a tall, muscular, blond guy with a great smile nodding at her. She accepted the gesture, and as they began to dance, I headed back to our cocktail table, half-laughing to myself (knowing her date for the evening was set to arrive any moment), half-annoyed (she already had a date; why couldn’t some cute guy buy me a rose for change?).

So in the parking lot moments later, in the wake of his clearly expressed irritation at “Carmen” (if you already had a date, you damn well should have told me!), it was as if someone else spoke through me when I suddenly 1) complimented him for bringing along an extra shirt, which we’d all just witnessed him change into; and 2) announced in no uncertain terms that I would not be a “fifth wheel”, but would instead “stay here and hang out with Ken” for the night. It’s a testament to my pathetic sense of self-worth at the time that I immediately followed that by asking if it was alright with him, and then breathed a huge sigh of relief when he agreed to the arrangement.

But from that point on, “Ken” was a charming, attentive companion, once I demanded (in a another surprising move) that either he stop complaining about my friend or I was “outta here”! And when he reacted with amusement, instead of annoyance, it intrigued me. In the instant he took my hand and playfully announced, “Then let’s dance!” I knew the rest of the night would be memorable. I didn’t bank on ever seeing him again, mistrusting his obvious interest in me, thanks mainly to the baggage I was still carrying around. And yet, true to his promise, he showed up at the beach the very next day, much to my amazement and my family’s entertainment (Chapter Two humorously recounts the event in vivid detail).

So how does Ken differ from “Ken” and vice-versa?

In the beginning at least, “Ken” like his alter-ego, was incredibly complimentary, affectionate and respectful. He was also the first (and so far, only) guy to marvel at the small size of my hands. When we’d socialized together that night at the club, I remember him picking up one of my hands and kissing it, apparently fascinated. He’d often tell me how beautiful I was, and there were many occasions when I’d catch him staring at me (which of course, made me nervous since I still didn’t see myself that way).

Both men are Pisces, although I changed the birthdays, giving characters Ken and Madeline a shared birthday of March 7, in honor of my late grandmother’s birthday. My real birthday is March 14, but I thought it would be fun to add to the “star-crossed” appeal of the love story by bringing my characters into the world on the exact day, month and year. Thus, “Ken” and Daria are both Pisces, albeit about two-weeks or so apart, whereas Ken and Madeline not only share the same Zodiac, but also the same time of arrival on the earthly plane of existence.

Other similarities between “Ken” and Ken: US Navy service, working-class upbringing, Catholic schooling, close relationship with mom, difficult relationship with dad, desire for a better life, trailblazers in their families, passionate, patriotic, well-groomed, athletic, good dancers, fun-loving, smart, handsome, insecure at times, sensitive to a fault on occasion, hard-working, ambitious, strong, family-oriented and in possession of an ingrained sense of duty, honor and responsibility.

Both men hurt Madeline (and me) deeply, purposely and unintentionally, depending upon the circumstance. Both men confessed to “not wanting to live in sin anymore” as at least one motivation for marriage, and admitted (with obvious resignation) to “turning into my father after all”. Both wanted to have their cake and eat it, too in terms of retaining a friendship with Maddy/me after withholding the truth about their commitment to another woman.

Perhaps due to the fact that I am working on a sequel, the differences between fact and fiction have become more pronounced. As Ken develops and expands as a character in Sea To Shining Sea, he gets further and further away from his initial inspiration — a process that began somewhere in the middle of Water Signs. Quite possibly, this occurred somewhere around Chapter 30 or so, when the book started to dramatically transform from a fusion of fact and fiction, into purely fictional territory.

I’ll discuss this in greater detail in the next post.

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Tuesday Night Ramblings

I will be back to regular book blogging soon. This has been a very hectic time, between starting a new, long-term writing contract for an internationally known tech company (through a third-party vendor), learning their systems and processes, and attending various trainings via my new company laptop, I’ve had little opportunity to share more insights on the writing process. There is so much more I want to explain about the means through which Ken and Madeline came into being as Water Signs’ two main characters, along with some important plot points, but  it will have to wait until a few personal housekeeping items are also taken care of. Thankfully, by the end of the week, everything will be handled and I can breathe a sigh of relief.

Ah, the life of a political activist, blogger, editor, speaker, internet host and now, content proposal writer!

Inevitably, a few crucial elements get lost in the mix, like keeping up with the birthdays of family and friends, properly filing away paperwork and cleaning house — all of which I’ve been diligently rectifying, while I also plan for another road trip, this time to Nashville, where my twin niece and nephew are graduating high school.

Where does the time go?

I was at the hospital the day they were born nearly 18 years ago, (an event that provides plenty of dramatic fodder for a future novel, complete with premature deliveries and a near-tragic outcome for one baby ) and it hardly seems possible.

As a much younger woman, I used to laugh when relatives and/or family friends would remark, “I can’t believe you’re (fill in the blank — 18, 21, 25)! I remember when you were a cute little baby.” Guess it’s time for a new generation to be on the receiving end of such nostalgic observations. In any case, I am thrilled to be able to make the trip and am looking forward to a much-desired family reunion of sorts.

Funny, but the graduates do appear in my novel as “Ava” and “Tommy”, adorable infants in 1992 when the story opens, and Sweet 16 adolescents by the time it ends. In Chapter 35, I include all of my 10 nieces and nephews in an engagement barbecue scene that reunites many of the characters. For my oldest brother’s girls, I chose to use their real names — Alexa, Julianna and Sophia — since they are all such distinctive, sweet and outgoing personalities; I couldn’t imagine calling them anything other than the beautiful names bestowed on them by their parents. As for the remaining boys, ironically, my real-life nephew Mark’s (my oldest brother’s eldest child) character became “Greg”, which is the actual name of one of my sister’s boys. Thus the character based on Greg became “Mark”, while his older brother Chris retained his real name in fiction.

Whew! It was tough to incorporate so many characters, but there was no way I could overlook anyone without hurting someone’s feelings. What can I say, that’s the life of a writer who also has a large, close family!

Anyway, most family members and friends got a kick out of being immortalized in fiction, although I am not quite sure about at least a few living, breathing character-inspirations (one of whom happens to be a protagonist). And I may never know, which is fine with me. No matter how the actual humans feel about their fictional character portrayals, I do hope all of them realize that characters do take on a distinct personality and life of their own during the creative process. That while you as an author begin with a real person in mind, it’s just that — a starting point. By the time you’ve composed 435 oftentimes humorous, oftentimes heart-wrenching pages, your characters have more than come into their own as “people”, so to speak.

I will delve into this in more detail in a future post when I am feeling much more alert, beginning with Ken Lockheart, who by the time I was done writing, had gone far beyond his real-life counterpart in many critical ways. Partly because I had to outright invent outcomes (the reality of which are, to this day, unknown to me), and partly because I purposely wanted the Ken character to be larger than life, he bears little resemblance (other than his US Navy service, some physical traits and a few personality quirks/mannerisms) to the guy who inspired him.

In fact, recent events have seemed to confirm that the memory is a very subjective phenomenon. Let’s just say, I am forever grateful for the sudden, unexpected rush of nostalgia that put an end to my selective amnesia and enabled me to finally become the novelist I’d always dreamed of being. In that sense, it doesn’t really matter how inauthentic or overly romantic my remembrances of this person might’ve been — they served their purpose. And as lovely as a few phone conversations in the not-too-distant past might’ve also been, perhaps they too, were just a mirage.

Sometimes in the moment, we sincerely believe the things we say, or maybe we say them simply because we think it’s what the caller on the other end of the line wants to hear. Was he doing either when he affirmed my observation about the one New Year’s Eve we’d spent together? Or when he noted how alike we both are? I’ll never know, although I choose to believe the former.

Having never been one of those opportunistic, chameleon-like humans who can alter their emotions to fit the circumstance, I am stuck with an ingrained habit of authenticity and honesty. I just don’t have it in me to pretend I feel something I don’t.  And whether the caller on the other end of my line during those few fairly recent telephone interactions truly meant the things he said, or simply possesses the ability to feign raw emotion to serve whatever unknown purpose, I am grateful for the opportunity to clear out the past.  In the final analysis, I have gained a new career not only as a novelist, but as a blogger, political commentator and internet radio host; a fairly wide readership, thanks to social media; the respect of my peers; and the satisfaction of having accomplished a cherished childhood dream.

And it’s only getting better from here.

More to come in another post.

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Creative Content, Insightful Editing

I am a freelance writer, editor and blogger with a passion for helping others express themselves eloquently and effectively.  Whether you’re an author seeking to prepare your manuscript for the publishing world, a business-owner looking  for powerful website content or an organization desiring a compelling feature story, I can assist you in crafting enticing copy that best represents your message and professional image.

Please take a moment to explore my blog for samples of my work, client testimonials and a price list. And to learn more about my creative skills, visit my book site, Water Signs: A Story of Love and Renewal, where you can read a synopsis and preview five chapters of my debut novel.

Thank you for your consideration; I look forward to working with you!

Daria

Front Cover of Water Signs

P.S. You can also find me on Blog Talk Radio, where I co-host Conservative Republican Forum with Steven Rosenblum, and frequently appear as a guest on several others.  The Liberty Belle Hour with Daria DiGiovanni debuted on wafs-tv on January 7, 2010, and broadcasts every Thursday from 7-8 p.m. Eastern.

Additionally, my commentary is featured on Smart Girl Nation, TemerityParcbench, and BrowardNETOnline, among others.

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Tea Party in Paradise

I had the honor and pleasure of being asked to speak at the Martin County, Florida Tea Party in Hobe Sound on April 15, marking a new milestone in my political activism. I’d never given a speech of this type before, designed to energize and inspire a crowd, but the good folks of the county just to the north of mine were warm, welcoming and most of all, fired up and ready for “change”.

According to TCPalm News, the event drew a crowd of more than 500, who came out to show their support for freedom, strong national defense and individual liberty. Connor Lanser, South Florida’s 14 year-old political superstar, also gave a rousing speech, along with several others.

I want to gratefully acknowledge my friend and fellow Parcbench writer Don Smith for his input and assistance, particularly in reference to the Samuel Adams quote at the end. I am hoping to find video of all the day’s speeches, but thought I’d post my full remarks in the meantime:

Thank you Shona, Cindy and Gloria for the opportunity to speak today. It’s great to be surrounded by so many patriots here in Martin County. I hope you guys don’t mind, but since I am not a professional speaker, I brought along my teleprompter (in a tribute to Sarah Palin, I held up my palm, on which I’d scrawled a few topics I’d planned to cover). Oh, and just in case that fails, I also have my back-up teleprompter (here I held up a small notebook, in which I’d scribbled the entire speech).

Side Note: thank goodness, the crowd laughed at both jokes!

You know, it has been an incredibly trying 15 months for those of us who love our freedom, and are actually paying attention to Washington D.C.’s assault on everything we hold dear. It seems everyday the radicals in charge find yet another way to attack and weaken the Judeo-Christian principles on which the greatest nation on Earth – the United States of America – was founded. For all of us who’ve been watching and fighting back, it has felt like a never-ending nightmare.

But there’s also an upside to all of this, at least for me. And that is, having the opportunity to connect with so many like-minded Americans, not just here in Florida, but all around the country.

Today, I want to single out a few of them, starting with Edward Lynch and his team. Ed is a man of integrity who would’ve made an excellent representative for the voters of Florida District 19, had they chosen to send him to D.C. To Ed, Jessica, Tim, Steve (referring to fellow PB contributor Steven Rosenblum), Ellen, Lisa and all of the Lynch for Congress volunteers, thank you so much for all of your hard work and dedication. We are very proud of you!

Steve Rosenblum is also my co-host on Conservative Republican Forum on Blog Talk Radio, and it has been my pleasure working with him over the past year. On both Conservative Republican Forum and my own show, The Liberty Belle Hour on WAFS-TV, I’ve had the privilege to interview people who represent the very best of America – from Florida’s grassroots candidates like Robert Lowry, Corey Poitier, Colonel Allen West, Bernard Sansaricq and Marco Rubio to Illinois’ David Ratowitz and Iowa’s Steve Rathje.

While I cannot possibly single them all out by name, I can report that with so many great patriots running, we will have much to celebrate come November, 2010. And speaking of the best of America, let’s have a round of applause for the honorable men and women of the United States Military, both veterans and those actively serving. We love you and support you!

The other silver lining in an otherwise devastating year and a half is being reminded of exactly why my grandparents immigrated LEGALLY to this great republic so many years ago. They came in search of freedom, not government handouts. They embraced the language and culture of their new homeland. They instilled a love of America in their children. They worked hard. And when a neighbor or family member fell on hard times, they believed it was their duty to help them back up on their feet – not Washington D.C.!

I am blessed to have so many shining examples of the American Dream in my family. My mom is very proud of the fact that her father, my grandfather, Raffaele Cauterucci, who came here at the age of eight with his widowed mother and two brothers not knowing the language, eventually graduated from Temple University School of Pharmacy in Philadelphia in 1919 – a time when such accomplishments were nearly unheard of for immigrants. She’s also very proud of the fact that her dad was always a staunch conservative Republican who rejected FDR’s big-government statism and ran his own corner drugstore for many years in Germantown, Philadelphia.

My dad – affectionately known as “Dr. Al” around the blogosphere – grew up the son of a humble tailor. But he had a big dream of becoming a surgeon. And in spite of his economic circumstances, he pursued that dream with passion, working several jobs to get through high school, college and medical school – always with an attitude of gratitude for the country that made it possible for an immigrant’s son. He didn’t whine about how unfair it all was; he was thankful for the opportunities afforded him as a citizen of the USA.

My parents passed along the same love of country to my four siblings and me. My mom has always been an activist, which explains why I am standing here before you today. Growing up, she’d take me along to the polls where she’d be handing out literature and persuading her fellow citizens to vote for the right people. For years, she served as a committeewoman in our township, and hosted countless gatherings at our home in support of freedom-loving candidates.

And everyone assembled here now is here because we love our freedom and are willing to fight for it. We will never submit to tyranny. We are NOT racists; we are people from all walks of life who believe in the promise of America.

So  I have a message for a popular Fox News host – someone I am sure you are all familiar with – who recently stated and I quote:

“Most Americans are not ideologues. They are just folks who want a fair system and a noble country.”

Well Mr. O’Reilly, I’ve got a message for you: We ARE most Americans. And yes, we ARE ideologues. Our ideology is the United States Constitution, and our heroes are those noble men who conceived of a country that would recognize every individual’s God-given right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness! And just like our Founders, we will do everything in our power to preserve the greatest nation on Earth – the United States of America.

I’d like to end with a quote from one of my favorite ideologues, Samuel Adams:

“Let us awaken then, and evince a different spirit – a spirit that shall encourage them to persevere in this glorious struggle, until their rights and liberties shall be established on a rock. We have proclaimed to the world our determination to die free men, rather than to live as slaves. We have appealed to heaven for the justice of our cause, and in heaven we have God’s providence in sustaining us. In the gloomy period of adversity, we have had our cloud by day and our pillar by night. We have been reduced to distress and the arm of Omnipotence has raised us up. Let us still rely in humble confidence in Him who is mighty to save. Good tidings will soon arrive. We shall never be abandoned by Heaven while we act worthy of its aid and protection.”

In the spirit of Samuel Adams, I say, let’s not be despondent, but look to our Founding Fathers for inspiration while we continue to emulate their example. God bless all of you, and God bless the United States of America.

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Liberty Belle is Whistling

My friend and fellow Parcbench contributor, Don Smith, my go-to guy for speech-writing and other career-related advice, posted an in-depth article with me today on the Parcbench site. Taking a slight break from politics, my interviewer focused mainly on my existing novel, Water Signs: A Story of Love and Renewal and my forthcoming (before the summer is over, I am determined) novel Sea To Shining Sea.

I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to discuss my first work of fiction, which incorporates many cultural themes in the context of a star-crossed love story. Given the frenzied pace of the necessary — and oftentimes disheartening — political activism of the past 15 months, it sure was nice to take a few moments to share my thoughts on fiction, self-publishing and the role of the writer in the age of social media. Here’s an excerpt:

QUESTION: It seems to me also that we do live in a world where anger, revenge or gloominess wins the day. “Water Signs” seems the opposite of that. There is a level of hope running through it. Without sounding like something syrupy, do you believe in hope?

DARIA DIGIOVANNI: There’s a fantastical element to the book that allows for a bit of “escapism”, even as the characters endure some pretty tough emotional traumas.

As I mentioned, it is loosely autobiographical, so I can tell you without a doubt I firmly believe in hope, faith and belief in a Higher Power, which I refer to as God. These are the things that have helped me emerge victoriously — along with the love and support and family and friends — from the sometimes overwhelming difficulties I’ve faced in my own life, including panic and anxiety disorder.

Madeline’s experience with this emotional problem in the book mirrors mine exactly. And the ultimate value in finally overcoming it for both Madeline and me, is ‘Wow, if I can conquer that, I can conquer just about anything’, with a little help from above, of course.

I’ve gotten positive feedback from countless readers suffering from this same malady in which they thank me for giving them hope that they too, can get over it.

Click over to the site to read the entire thing and, if you are so inclined, post a comment or two. While you’re there, check out all of the excellent posts. It’s greatly appreciated by Kellen, Michael, Sid and the entire crew of Parcbench writers, who are among the most talented, thoughtful and creative people I’ve been associated with.

In a delightfully serendipitous fashion, today also happened to be the day I was invited back onto Jerry Weber’s wonderful Blog Talk Radio show, The Catholic Revolver, specifically to discuss Water Signs. In my first appearance, Jerry and I had delved almost exclusively into the political realm and — since I could blab for hours about the relentless assault on our freedoms — we ran out of time for Ken, Maddy and the rest of the cast of characters who populate my 435-page drama.

My host and I related the book to the social and moral issues of the day, including abortion, which will figure prominently in my sequel. No live callers during today’s broadcast; however, I received a lot of positive feedback on Facebook regarding the interview. Jerry is a fabulous host who seems to naturally transition from one topic to the next, with a knack for making his guests feel very valued and welcome. I can’t wait to be back on his show sometime in June!

Audio at the link: The Catholic Revolver with Jerry Weber

Finally, I want to take a moment to commend Glenn Gallas, conservative Republican congressional candidate from Arkansas CD-4. Last night, I interviewed Glenn on The Liberty Belle Hour, along with Steve Rosenblum (my co-host on Conservative Republican Forum) who recently announced his candidacy for Florida State House in District 89.  This morning, Glenn actually called to thank me for the interview — a first in my nearly 15 months of internet talk radio hosting. Needless to say, I was very impressed by his follow-up and good manners, and will be praying for his success in the May 18 special election. If you’d like to learn more about Glenn, please visit his site and if you like what you see, consider making a donation to his campaign. As soon as Steve has his site up and running, I will post a link here too.

Between starting a new writing contract on Monday for a prominent, international technology company, interviewing some great guests on WAFS-TV, being the subject of a written interview and the exclusive guest on an up-and-coming BTR show, Liberty Belle is whistling a happy tune this Friday, for sure!

UPDATE: Steve’s site is up and running. Check out Elect Rosenblum.

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