Tag Archives: Writing

Sunday Inspiration

“Seize the day. Pray for grace from God’s hand, then nothing will stand in your way.”

I discovered this wonderful song thanks to my friend Sabrina, who included it as part of a collection of inspirational music she’d burned onto CDs for Christmas gifts last year. Just like daily prayer time, listening to motivating music helps keep me focused, strong and firm in my beliefs, and in the accomplishment of my dreams.  No matter what may be going on around me, especially things I cannot control, I do know I am fulfilling God’s purpose for me by using the gifts He’s given me — the ability to write, speak and communicate effectively.

Writing professionally has been the only thing I’ve ever really wanted to do from the time I was old enough to tell everyone around me, but it’s also one of those “impractical” career choices — much like acting or singing — that through which few find meaningful success. No, it wasn’t my parents who warned me about that; quite the opposite. They encouraged my dreams, particularly with every A+ essay, book report or teacher conference in which my budding skills were highly praised. And when it was time to go to high school, I was assigned to Advanced Placement (AP) English classes, where my love for reading and writing was expertly guided along by some fabulous teachers, including Mrs. Fenning (RIP).

Truth be told, I was the one who killed my dream before even giving it a chance to materialize. Instead of listening to my own God-given guidance and heeding the encouragement of family, I decided it would be just too hard to make a go of it as an aspiring journalist, opinion writer and novelist. But even while I spent many years working hard and trying to adjust to various corporate positions with varying degrees of compatibility to my skills set, I kept up with my handwritten journals. And especially during the “Ken” and early-Florida-years phase, I wrote copiously in lovely, hard-cover books with floral designs, which ended up being an invaluable resource when I finally sat down to write Water Signs some 14 years later.

Writing is also therapy, and I am convinced that — along with everything else I did — including the successful session I eventually took with the “remote viewer”, it played a significant role in ridding me of panic and anxiety disorder forever. Unsurprisingly, as I look back on that experience, I can also see how suppressing my real career goals and rejecting my life’s purpose also contributed to the emotional disorder, along with the deep-seated matters of the heart. (I will devote a post soon exclusively to panic and anxiety disorder, in the hope it will be helpful to others who may struggling with this formidable problem).

When the phenomenon known as the internet came along, and with it blogs, print-on-demand and social media in the 2.0 phase, I saw that as my opportunity to finally go for it, professionally speaking. This amazing technology has made it possible to showcase my work to an unlimited audience, network with people all around the world, connect with like-minded individuals, and via sites like You Tube, enhance every entry with an appropriate song or video.

At last, I achieved my childhood dream of writing a novel, and was able to publishing without having to grovel to a literary agent, or cope with one rejection letter after another. I could write exactly what I wanted, and present my work directly to my audience — no dream-killing gatekeeper required.

I was even able to expand into other areas previously not thought of, such as talk radio hosting, which has enhanced my political activism, commentary, blogging and novel-writing.

Speaking of which, here’s the link to last night’s Conservative Republican ForumThe Liberty Belle Hour is currently on hiatus while I search for a new home.

Have a great Sunday and seize the day!

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Tuesday Ramblings

Funny how old rock songs have taken on new meaning. This is one of many songs that keep me inspired and energized in the fight for freedom and the realization of my goals.

Got a late start in blogging today, thanks to hours of work on my sequel and on my exciting writing project with Kevin Price and our team of talented patriots. Nothing soothes the soul for a writer and concerned American citizen quite like putting thoughts to paper (or more accurately, thoughts to keyboard to screen).

Unlike Water Signs, the writing process for Sea To Shining Sea has been long, drawn-out and quite challenging. Whereas the first book evolved out of a steady (sometimes relentless) stream of consciousness, the second is coming into being through deliberate creative license, by taking public events (Tea Parties, congressional elections, FISA Act) and making them very personal for my characters. As with my debut novel, it has been fun to witness the evolution of my characters who’ve grown considerably into their own “people”.

I mentioned in a previous post that while Ken and Maddy were originally conceived as representations of real-life, flesh-and-blood human beings, as the the Water Signs plot developed they came into their own as characters, going way beyond their initial conceptions. This is in no way a slight to either myself or the guy I once knew. It simply means that reality is a great starting point, but not necessarily enough for compelling fiction. The same holds true for many of the minor characters, although I did my best to remain as true to their real-life inspirations as possible.

The writing process is a funny thing. Last night, while struggling to wrap up Chapter Five (a few more sections to go), I wound up going in a completely different direction than I’d originally intended. At first I was a little frustrated, but now I see how the things I’ve written fit in so much more easily and more effectively support my overall objective — which is to set the stage for future events via foreshadowing. This time around, Sabrina Anthony is my “psychic” character, however in a Christian mystic/prophet sort of way. A new character, Sabrina is named for a writer-friend of mine, and will literally be a lifesaver — along with her husband Ed — for both Ken and Madeline.

In Chapter Five, Sabrina hints to the reader via a one-on-one conversation with Ken, that perhaps the telecom merger he’s been so diligently working on is not meant to come to fruition — that God might have a higher purpose in mind for him. Being a sensitive (not to mention, successful) artist and devout Christian, Sabrina remains very subtle, though we get the distinct impression that she knows much more than she’s actually admitting. Fully aware of the intense pressure Ken is under, she realizes the importance of understatement; declaring boldly her knowledge of the impending failure of her intense, corporate-minded friend’s ultimate career goal would not exactly endear her to her husband’s Navy buddy, nor lessen the pain for him when it does actually implode. (Later when he decides to run for office, Ken will reflect back upon this conversation and realize Sabrina’s wisdom)

During this same conversation, we also learn of Sabrina’s negative experience with Erin at Ken’s first wedding — a distasteful event that left such a bad impression, both Ed and Sabrina purposely chose to skip out on the second one, assuming Ken had made another disastrous choice. For that reason, she confesses to Ken, guilt compelled her to respond positively to his call for help and thus, offer her home and her husband’s professional medical care to the scared, pregnant Madeline, who has had a terrible experience with the Canadian health care system.

Fun Side Note: I chose Vancouver as the setting for Ken’s business deal, and Seattle as the home of his old Navy buddy Ed for a few reasons, including geography. Since the book is titled, Sea To Shining Sea, I had to figure out a way to get my characters from Atlantic to Pacific. Further, I worked for Washington Mutual Bank in marketing, community relations and recruiting capacities for several years and had made many excursions to Seattle for business reasons.

As I’ve also noted previously, the old saying “write what you know” is a valid one. Since I’ve seen Mount Ranier, the Cascade Mountains, the Space Needle and other well-known attractions up close, describing them is easy. And while I regret I’ve never been to Vancouver, several of my co-workers on many of those trips did venture to the beautiful Canadian city, and filled me in on their experiences. And what I could not recall, I relied on the internet to fill in. I hope the result is an accurate portrayal, but perhaps my Canadian friends will let me know how well I did when the book is finished. 🙂

Well, I guess it’s time to get back to editing essays for the forthcoming liberty devotional!

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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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