Tag Archives: Romance

Maddy’s Men: A Comparison and Contrast

I’ve noted in other posts the dire cultural consequences we’re currently dealing with as a direct result of the so-called sexual revolution and women’s liberation of the 1960s. In a two-part column entitled Cyberspace and the Single (Conservative) Girl, which appeared on Parcbench, The Republican Temple and Palin Drone, I explored the ramifications of the “turbulent” decade for traditional women like me, based on a real-life experience with a guy I’d met online last year.

Sadly, for those of us who were raised to actually demand respect from men, believe in the joys of sex within the confines of a marital — or at the very least — an exclusive, committed relationship, and appreciate such antiquated courtesies like a man holding open a door, picking up the tab for a meal or offering his seat on a bus, dating in the contemporary world is daunting at best, and depressing at worst.

While the men who engage in bad behavior are by no means unaccountable, their confusion is certainly understandable. Women who claimed to speak for their entire gender — people like Gloria Steinem, Jane Fonda and Betty Freidan — made it crystal clear through their activism that “girl power” meant having meaningless sex with multiple partners, procuring abortion on demand for any ol’ reason (no matter how dubious), diminishing the important role of fathers in the lives of children, condemning all acts of war regardless of the facts, and overall zealously subscribing to the gospel of liberalism.

Never mind that that female pioneers like Susan B. Anthony were staunchly pro-life and pro-family, with a focus on holding men accountable to their crucial roles as husband, father and family provider.

Having been raised in a traditional home with parents who fall somewhere in-between the Greatest Generation and the Baby Boomers, I am eternally grateful for my upbringing and for my first-hand observation of what it means to have a loving, respectful marriage and household. Unfortunately, it also meant that I was in for a very rude awakening when it was time to participate in the dating rituals of the late 20th and early 21st Centuries.

Without rehashing the Evolution of Water Signs here, I will just note that when the flood of memories initiated an almost out-of-control stream of consciousness that demanded the creation of a novel, I realized just how dramatically different my experience with the real-life Ken had been from just about every other guy I’d ever dated. Therefore, I purposely included many of them as fictional characters, for the purpose of setting up a contrast to the Ken character, and to assist (no matter how painfully) in Madeline’s personal growth and spiritual development.

So let’s take a look at them in-depth, shall we:

Jake Winston – Jake is modeled after a guy I’d dated after college, my first “long-term” boyfriend. Although in reality, this relationship lasted about a year-and-a-half, in the book I changed that to two years. More than any other non-Ken suitor, Jake is also an embodiment of the novel’s theme of forgiveness, and the sole non-Ken suitor with any real redeeming qualities. Like his flesh-and-blood counterpart, he is overly and cruelly critical at times of Madeline’s appearance, as well as her family’s cherished customs, including getting dressed up for holidays. Thanks to Jake, Maddy’s insecurities have been intensified to the point where it’s all but impossible for her to trust in Ken’s sincerity during their first go-around. But to his great credit, this character (like the real man) eventually undertakes a self-imposed, spiritual housecleaning, prompting him to call Madeline out-of-the-blue to genuinely seek her forgiveness years later. Although there’s no desire on her part to reignite that relationship, she truly appreciates and respects his courage in taking such a bold action, and offers her complete absolution.

Gary Snyder – Gary is also inspired by a real-life character I met while conducting outside sales calls for an employment agency in suburban Philadelphia. Like so many I’ve encountered, he committed the ol’ bum’s rush, apparently noticing (and liking) me as I gave my best sales pitch to the receptionist at the insurance company whose business I’d been seeking. Although I saw him pass by briefly, I’d hardly given him a second thought — that is until I received an unexpected delivery of white roses upon my return to the office.  Actually, that’s how it went down for Maddy in the book; in real life, it was quite a comedy of errors as he’d inadvertently sent the flowers to the wrong woman. However, for both Madeline and me, the rest of the story is the same: after a few good dates where we’d seemed to connect well, we made plans to meet up at the Jersey Shore. But when I showed up at his rental in Ocean City as agreed upon, he couldn’t get rid of me fast enough. And that was the extent of my interaction with Gary “white roses” Snyder (and yes, I did change his name for the book).

Jim Russo –  Ah Jim, bless his heart, another high-powered businessman I unknowingly attracted during yet another outside sales call when his friendly, gate-keeper receptionist took my card and promised to call if they ever had a need for a temp. And just like me, Maddy follows up with him the next week with a promotional gift. That leads to the flirtatious Jim asking her out, initiating series of lunch-only dates and cutesy faxes to her office but curiously, no after-hours get-togethers. In the book, a suspicious Maddy finally gets to the bottom of it via Jim’s receptionist, who informs her that he not only has a serious girlfriend, he’s about to get married; in real-life, I never did get a straight answer out of the guy and thus, ran as far away as I could. Real name changed for the novel, although most everything else is true to life, including the upscale lunch at the famous Duling-Kurtz House. And yes, my sister-in-law (Vanessa in the book) was very impressed by his choice of venue, though not so much his behavior.

Mark Donnelly – Next to Jake, Mark is probably the most significant non-Ken suitor. In a slight departure from real life, this character is the very first guy Maddy dates in South Florida (in real life, I’d gone out with a quite a few guys, though nothing serious, before meeting him) — right around the time Ken breaks her heart by announcing his engagement to Erin. Physically, Mark shares many of Ken’s characteristics: six-foot, masculine build; blue eyes; sandy blond hair; and an irresistible smile. These similarities prompt her to project many of her true love’s qualities onto him. Like Ken, he’s also quite charming and initially, very persistent in his pursuit. And just as it went down with the others, Maddy is tending to her own affairs, participating in  a business networking function where she unknowingly catches Mark’s wandering eye. True to reality, when he calls her at the office to ask her out a few days later, she cannot for the life of her remember even meeting him, in spite of the fact she’d written him a follow-up note.

Like the others, Mark also comes on strong, then abruptly disappears, although the circumstances are a bit more complicated. In contrast to the other suitors, he’s the first divorced man with children that Madeline dates, causing a great deal of sexual tension, thanks to the intense, mutual attraction they share. And while it’s safe to say he’s quite curious about Madeline’s moral virtue, unlike Ken it’s not something he respects or is willing to deal with for any extended amount of time. This is after all, South Florida, and if Maddy thought other women were way ahead of her up north, it was about one-hundred-thousand times worse in paradise — where pretty girls are not only a dime-a-dozen, they’re more than willing to put out  for a successful guy with the means to afford fancy cars, boats and designer clothes.

Mark’s penchant for breaking engagements and loving-and-leaving-’em is regrettably an accurate reflection of the actual person. And although this character’s time in Maddy’s life is short, it is pivotal in her character development, serving as another descriptive example of the conflict between normal, human desire and ingrained morality — but this time in a scenario lacking in any genuine feeling on the guy’s part. To Mark, Maddy is just another attractive girl in a sea of hotties. In fact, their 10-year age difference, coupled with Madeline’s  innocence and insecurities, leads him to view her as a “babe in the woods”, not a serious contender for a real relationship.  Yes, his name has been changed. And yes, Chapter 23 is — well — an embarrassing, albeit instructive, experience straight out of real life. Enough said.

Well, this post has gone on a bit longer than intended and I still haven’t discussed the characters of Ray Smith and Tag Russell. To be continued.

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Back to Book Blogging: Thoughts on Chapter 34

Or, as my lovable “smartass” writer-friend Don calls it, Chapter Fornication. He kids of course, being one of the book’s staunchest fans as well as someone who understands the novel’s underlying themes and ultimate championing of traditional values. Having been raised with similar values as an Evangelical Christian, Don (like so many other readers) relates to the struggles my characters endure while endeavoring to honor their upbringing. And though just about everyone who’s provided feedback on Water Signs expresses their delight at finally meeting fictional characters who share their world-view and experiences — while simultaneously appreciating the (ahem!) celebration of God-given desires in the context of a committed relationship — I wanted to post a few of my own thoughts on the evolution of Chapter 34, the scene in which Ken and Maddy finally consummate their star-crossed, 16-year relationship.

As an author, it was a bit of a challenge to unapologetically champion the worthiness of my characters’ ingrained moral and spiritual beliefs, while at the same time sympathetically present the challenges that inevitably arise when putting these mores into practice in the contemporary world.  The last thing I wanted was for readers to misinterpret Maddy’s internal conflict between her desire to be with Ken in the Biblical sense and her unfailing belief that such carnal knowledge must not be revealed until marriage vows were taken in front of God and witnesses as some sort of parental “repression” based on the teachings of the “patriarchal” Catholic Church.

Not only do I stand by the values with which I was raised, I am eternally grateful to have been brought up in a traditional home, with a mother and a father who cared about imparting morality to their children, in addition to love, discipline and an appreciation for the United States. Part of my motivation for writing the book was to counteract the negative influences of a pop-culture gone crazy, and to appeal to an audience I instinctively knew was hungry for a story that would reflect their own experiences.

Nowhere in pop culture (except perhaps in Christian literature) had I seen an honest, respectful portrayal of the clash between normal human longings and Godly virtue. In most cases — whether in daytime soap operas (as anyone who remembers the early 80s character of Annie Logan on General Hospital can attest) or in a Lifetime movie (We Were The Mulvaneys, for example) — Christians who strive to live up to their moral foundations are presented as victims of an out-of-touch, oppressive religion whose time has long since passed.

So my challenge in penning Water Signs was to paint a sympathetic portrayal of characters with human flaws and weaknesses while also honoring their Christian sense of morality. Yes, the values imposed by God in The Ten Commandments and espoused by Jesus and the apostles in the New Testament are more often than not difficult to adhere to on this earthly plane — which is a validation of their inherent worthiness, not a scathing rebuke of their irrelevance. If anything, the current state of our culture should be a glaring example of the dire consequences of trashing the principles that helped shape America into a strong and prosperous nation.

I’ve noted previously that my novel is about the journey, not the outcome. Thus, in the Prologue, readers discover right away that — no matter what happens over the next 435 pages — Ken and Madeline eventually get married “at the end of a long, arduous and oftentimes broken road”.

When writing about their long-awaited physical union that took place only after they’d fully reacquainted on a spiritual, emotional and mental level, I debated a few important points: Should the consummation take place following Maddy’s acceptance of Ken’s marriage proposal, or after they finally say “I do”? How descriptive should it be? Is it even necessary to write such a scene in the first place?

Ultimately, I came to the conclusion that my readers deserved some sort of reward for suffering through 16 years of the moral struggles, miscommunication and heartbreak that characterized the relationship between the novel’s two main characters. Further, since 1.) Ken and Madeline are into their early 40s by the time they find their way back to each other; 2.) They take some time to reconnect in every other way before even getting physical; and 3.) Readers already know they end up as husband and wife, I decided to cap off a romantic proposal scene with an even more romantic consummation scene.

Thus, Ken remains patient until the very end, even as passionate desire rages on internally, spurred on by the knowledge that the one he’s loved for so long has declared her intention to surrender to her new fiancé as they embrace in the Penthouse among soft candlelight and fragrant roses. He’s also cognizant of the fact that in spite of tremendous personal growth, Maddy’s still has a few lingering insecurities:

“Hey!” he spoke in a comforting, yet firm tone. When she still didn’t look up, he cupped her chin in his hands and brought them face to face again. “Madeline, you are the most beautiful woman in the entire world to me. Everything about you is exquisite. Don’t you see that? Don’t you see what you do to me?”

Ken goes on to place her hand upon his rapidly beating heart, as if to prove his sincerity. Thus assured, Madeline finally allows the desires of her heart, soul and body to take over, secure in his unconditional love and commitment.

Even in describing the events that follow, I did my best to keep the scene more romantic than sexual, more tasteful than explicit. We’re all adults who understand what it means to give yourself fully to the one you love; there was no need to degenerate into Harlequin romance territory. Water Signs is not a romance novel in the sense that some meaningless,  marginal plot exists simply to break the monotony between one descriptive, bodice-ripping episode after another. Rather, it is a tale of first love and second chances, and of becoming better people as a direct result of hardship and tribulation.  In Water Signs, sex is the icing on the cake, a long-anticipated end to a literal and metaphysical journey.

That said, it was tough to reconcile the fact that, once I’d written the chapter, it would be read by people who know me, most notable among them, family members (Hi, Mom!). And as I’ve mentioned in Fun Facts about Water Signs, the Chapter 34 that made the cut is slightly different from the original version. I’d decided to remove one paragraph and a few lines of dialogue after coming to the conclusion that what is implied can be much more effective than what is actually stated. Suffice it to say, even in the final version, we understand that Maddy’s love for Ken and desire to please him is a thousand times stronger than her previous insecurities and inhibitions. She knows he loves her unconditionally, just as she loves him. And in Chapter 34, she tells him so in word and action.

Coming Soon: More thoughts on the writing process.

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The Mother Characters in Water Signs

In honor of Mother’s Day weekend, I dedicate this post to an analysis of the moms in Water Signs, Monica Rose and Paula Lockheart.

The character of Monica is based on my own mother, for whom I am more grateful to God with every passing day. The older I get, the more I realize how rare and precious it is to have had the experience of growing up with a mother who was dedicated to her children’s emotional needs, educational success, spiritual foundation and moral upbringing. While there is no perfect human and certainly no perfect mother (as is evident in my novel), my siblings and I never had to doubt her love and dedication.

This is a remarkable woman who, at the age of 28, gave birth to a baby with Down syndrome (her second child) and in response to highly suspect and astonishingly cruel medical advice (i.e. put the “stigma” in an institution), promptly ordered the attending physician to “stay away from me and stay away from my baby”.  Then with her characteristic strength and determination, she devoted herself (with the support of her husband and family) to Ralph’s development, tenacious in her desire to see him reach his full potential. She also had the faith and courage to give birth to three more children — my sister Carolyn, my brother Paul and me, ultimately raising all five of us (brother Mark is the first-born) with the same amount of love, care and attention.

Paula Lockheart in the novel is based on a woman I’ve never actually met, but knew about through her son. Based on my remembrances of conversations we’d had, I created her be to be the warm, supportive and loving parental presence in Ken’s life — and a counterbalance to the aloofness of his father (although their relationship is renewed by novel’s end).

Ken and Madeline’s mothers are both strong influences in their lives, possibly due to that fact they they are the “babies” of their families, though in Ken’s case, much of that also stems from his innate passion for life, and his willingness to do whatever necessary to create a new and different existence for himself than the one laid out for him by his father and pursued obediently by his three older brothers.

When the story opens, we learn that two of the adult Rose children — Greg and Lori — are simultaneously leaving the nest to start their own families, following in the footsteps of youngest son Damian, who’d already taken a wife and settled into another state. Madeline has just been through a horrific break-up with a guy, and has relied on the ones closest to her for strength and comfort to work through the stages of grief.

As a mother, Monica wants nothing more than for her offspring to find happiness with the right spouses, yet at the same time she experiences the bittersweet reality of the children to whom she’s dedicated her life, leaving the nest. And when her “baby” Maddy appears to be moving too quickly with the new man who has entered the picture, it’s almost too much to bear. Yes, she wants her daughter to be happy. And no, she doesn’t want to let go just yet. So while outwardly, Ken’s lack of a college degree is the initial objection she expresses to her daughter’s suitor, deep within, the real struggle has to do with the acceptance of a new phase of life — one that involves adjusting to a home with fewer offspring occupants.

This is the portrayal I attempted to make when basing Monica on my own mother. Some have stated their intense dislike for the character, at least after reading that portion of the book, but my intention was not to place blame or hold onto resentment. Was my mom wrong to pressure me to end things based on such an inconsequential criteria? Yes. But it’s not that simple. While I couldn’t grasp it at the time, years later, I understood her motivations. She’d watched me over the years experience all kinds of hurts — from mean kids in grade school who teased me about my weight to stupid teen-aged boys in high school who were, well, stupid teen-aged boys.

My mother silently witnessed my first boyfriend says things like, “Yes, you do look kind of bloated today,” and prayed hard for the relationship to mercifully end. She never interfered, but would often tell me I was worthy of so much more than he was capable of offering. And the protective “Mama Bear” in her often stated in no uncertain terms, her utter disgust with the man known as Jake in the novel. So it’s only natural she’d want to shield me from further pain.

[Perhaps looking back, my mother’s intuition was also telling her that something wasn’t quite right with this new guy; perhaps she sensed he would eventually break my heart. Who knows? Even after everything that’s transpired, I still question his motives and wonder about his sincerity, although I prefer to believe that, in the moment at least, he meant the things he said].

But just as with Monica and Maddy, in the aftermath of my initial break-up with “Ken”, my mom also saw my downward spiral. Unlike in the book where Maddy at least has a full-time job to keep her busy, at the time I couldn’t seem to get any career traction and had been doing temp work as a result of a challenging economy. Having “Ken” in my life was a breath of fresh air, as he always made me feel good about myself and seemed to think that everything I did was wonderful. Once that was gone, I’d temporarily lost my own zest for living. So just like Maddy, the activities that previously had given me joy, i.e. dancing, had completely lost their appeal. And like the character based on me, I accepted my mother’s genuine, heartfelt apology.

As for Ken, Paula remains the one person he can turn to when he needs advice and a comforting presence. While she prays for father and son to eventually mend their differences, Paula manages to walk the line between being a good mother to her son and a supportive wife to her husband. She’s able to see both sides of the coin, though she thoroughly admires and respects her son for making the difficult choice to join the Navy and forge new territory in the Lockheart family. When Ken is torn between the two women he loves, she never tells him what to do; only listens and promises to be there for him whenever he needs her. And when father and son at last come to a new understanding and embark upon a revitalized relationship, it’s her fondest wish come true.

I will delve more into the motherly relationships in terms of the theme of reconciliation in another post, but will end by noting that as an author, in order for your characters to experience a joyous renewal of their relationships, you must take them through some of the lows of human behavior. Otherwise, what’s the point? When I borrowed from real life in retelling the story of my mother’s influence on my relationship with “Ken”, it was not done to hurt her, nor to tell the world I had a bad mother. Rather, it was created as a testament to the power of love, understanding and forgiveness.

There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t thank God for my mother, the one person who has always loved me unconditionally. I am also incredibly thankful for her continued good health and presence in my life. I know how blessed I am, and I thank her from the bottom of my heart for being a woman of faith and character, a worthy role-model and most of all, an endless source of emotional support through all of life’s ups and downs. Happy Mother’s Day, Mom!

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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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Coming Soon: A New Book Review of Water Signs

I was very excited tonight to receive a call from a good Facebook friend and contact, a prominent voice on talk radio and contributor on Fox’s Strategy Room. I’ll reserve disclosure of his identity until he reads the book and (hopefully) likes it, but I’ve been a frequent guest on his excellent radio program over the past several months. Needless to say, the first task on my To-Do List for tomorrow morning is to get a signed copy of Water Signs in the mail!

If all goes well, I’ll be invited back on his show for the sole purpose of discussing my novel and its many themes. Stay tuned! Oh, and the next installment on turning fact into fiction is coming soon. 🙂

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Water Signs Earns Book of the Week Award!

I had the wonderful opportunity to create a three-minute blurb for Water Signs, as part of a fiction competition for an exciting Blog Talk Radio show called Blurb! Hosted by Sally and Dr. Kent, this creative, entertaining program airs select blurbs submitted by aspiring authors, alternating genres (fiction, nonfiction, etc) every week. The hosts then comment live after playing each blurb for their listening audience, before ultimately selecting a winner for “Book of the Week.” I am thrilled to announce that Water Signs: A Story of Love and Renewal is their choice for this week’s honor!

Thank you so much Sally and Dr. Kent. And for those of you who love to read, I highly recommend listening their innovative BTR show, which airs every Wednesday evening at 9 p.m.

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