Home is where the ocean is.


“There’s nothing more beautiful than the way the ocean refuses to stop kissing the shoreline, no matter how many times it’s sent away.”
~Sarah Kay

How is it September already? Seriously … it is beyond my comprehension. Between having to skip our annual vacation at the shore in June and then spending the whole summer working on revisions for my book, it kind of seems like the season just slipped right on by without giving me a chance to soak it up. That’s why I was so especially grateful to have a week in Ocean City at the end of August. I’d been yearning for it like words can’t express – the feel of sunshine warming my face, the sound of the wooden boardwalk planks beneath my sneakers, the smell of the salty ocean air surrounding my soul, the sight of endless turquoise as I swam in the pool – and it felt particularly special this time. It was all the little bubbles of magic the seashore always sends fizzing up around me, but it was more than that, too. It was gratitude for the chance to be there when we thought it wouldn’t be possible at all this year. It was a celebration of sorts, a chance to breathe out, relax, and drink in the inspiration. I timed it so that my first round of edits was finished two days before we left, and though it felt incredibly strange not to be hanging out in Melina and Bradley’s world, it was also a much needed break from working so hard. Here are some of the sights that surrounded me:

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Where did you go on vacation this year? Share a picture with me!

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Show & Tell.


“This world is but a canvas to our imagination.”
~Henry David Thoreau

Ocean

One of my favorite parts of the three week break I took between finishing the first draft of WATERCOLORS earlier this month and starting its revisions today? A mini getaway to the shore. It may have been cool and windy, but still, there is no place like a coastal one. Home is where the ocean is (and dolphins, too, if you look closely on the left side of this picture!).

Cape May fountain

Maybe I’m just easily amused, but it never fails to make me smile when I stumble upon something that reminds me of my characters. When I found this fountain in Cape May, I not only tossed in a penny for myself, but also one for Eden. Here’s to wishes-come-true.

Ship

This ship off the shore of Cape May Point is made of concrete and sunk into the sea after being used during World War I. Apparently seagulls like to use it as a perching spot now?

Mom & Me

Proof that appearances can be deceiving: it looks like a warm spring day, right? You’d never guess that it was so cold we all sat on the beach with fall coats, hoods, and gloves. Ridiculous to plant ourselves there when the windchill was in the forties? Ridiculous that we’re even having windchills like that at the end of April? Sure, but like I always say … I’d rather be freezing at the shore than warm somewhere else.

Megan & Me

Have I ever told y’all about what reignited my passion for creative writing? What took me out of journalism’s sphere and brought me back into the circle that first illuminated my world when I was in eighth grade? In many ways, I will always be grateful to this woman for that. Megan Ward. She played Kate on General Hospital, and, from the first day she graced the screen, lit up the show with her acting prowess. Her character became half of one of my all-time favorite couples on the show and their beautiful love story inspired me to try my hand at fanfiction, which I’d never written before. It was, truly, like magic. I wrote thousands of pages over the following two and a half years and just felt myself fill up with this love, this joy, for creative writing. I didn’t even realize how much I’d missed it until I had it again. It’s been almost seven years now since that time, and I’ve penned six books. That’s crazy to me, but also crazily cool. So getting to visit with Megan again yesterday? Seeing her smile as she exclaimed “you made it!” to me? Talking with her for such a long time, thanking her for introducing me to incredible people who will be lifelong friends and for reigniting that writing spark? Hearing her quip that she wants to get credit in my book acknowledgements one day? Spending time with someone who treats us like friends, who was as genuinely happy to see us again as we were to see her? Knowing that she remembers me and still has the Walk of Fame gift my friend Amanda and I made her? It was beyond special. I talk a lot about how wonderful the General Hospital cast is, and they all are, but there are some that go the extra mile, go above and beyond, and Megan is one of them. She is a gem. I miss her on the show all the time and am so very grateful to have had the chance to see her this weekend. It’s a day I’ll always treasure.

Kari & Me

As an added bonus, I got to meet another actress who used to be on GH, Kari Wuhrer. She is also super sweet and lovely to chat with!

Now – give me a show or tell (or both!) about what’s going on with you lately!

Wordless Wednesday: Lately.


“Listen to your whisper and let it be your guide.”
~Anonymous

M&G with General Hospital's Tyler Christopher and John J. York

M&G with General Hospital’s Tyler Christopher and John J. York!

"Sandy Castle" in Point Pleasant, to raise money for Hurricane Sandy relief

“Sandy Castle” in Point Pleasant, to raise money for Hurricane Sandy relief.

Such lovely weather to welcome fall!

Such a lovely start to fall!

Quack, quack, quack

Why hello there, friend.

My mom surprised me with a plaque that has the quote which inspired SOT.  Love, love, love.

My mom surprised me with a plaque that has the quote which inspired SOT. Love, love, love.

What’s up with y’all lately?

Thirty.


“Our birthdays are feathers in the broad wing of time.”
~Jean Paul

birthday cake

I’m not gonna lie: even with the lessons learned last year on my birthday, I still wasn’t especially looking forward to this one. Thirty. There’s no denying that it’s a milestone, a birthday that somehow feels bigger than the others. And that should be good. It should be a celebration, not a critique – but, as with most things, that’s easier said than done. Entering a new decade always feels like a marker of sorts. How can it not? And so I let myself reflect: on the things I’ve accomplished, on the things I’ve yet to achieve, on the path I’ve travelled thus far and how different it is from the one I once imagined I’d take. Are there things I’d change if given the chance? Of course. But my friend Karly said something last week that has stuck with me and really helped my mindset to do an about-face: that none of us are ever “where we thought we’d be” at any given point. How true is that? Nobody’s plans pan out exactly as they hoped. That’s simply not how life works.

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So, instead of focusing on the things I’m not happy with, I made a conscious decision to do the opposite. No, I’m not a published author yet, but I’ve written five books and savored the experience each time. I don’t have an agent yet, but the feedback I’ve gotten from people who have read the novels, especially SOT, has touched my heart and made it soar. I’m not working in journalism, where I used to picture myself, but that’s because I’ve found a greater love, a deeper passion. I’m not married yet, I don’t have kids yet, but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen in the future. There have been a few eye-opening experiences lately when it comes to different people in my life, and though they were difficult to process at the time, I see now that I’m better off for it. Tough times occur so we can appreciate the lovely ones. People disappoint and hurt us so we can appreciate those who are always there, always supportive. Dreams take a long time to come true so we can appreciate the journey, as well as the destination.

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That’s where my thoughts are now. Instead of seeing thirty as a roadblock, I’m choosing to see it as an open road with limitless possibilities. I had a marvelous weekend celebrating – dinner with friends on Friday, family on Saturday, and a trip to the shore Monday through Wednesday. I spent my actual birthday in Atlantic City, where Charlotte and Nolan’s half of SOT is set, and oh my gosh, it was so fun – and so special! – to visit all the places they call home. Steel Pier, Fralinger’s, the Atlantic City Beach Patrol headquarters … it was, truly, like living in their world, and it just made me very happy, very thankful, very hopeful. I even found a picture-perfect miniature conch shell right by the lifeguard stand in Atlantic City. It’s going in the ‘message in a bottle’ on my desk so it’ll officially hold a piece of AC inside. So … I don’t know what thirty has in store, but of this I am sure: I’m looking forward to it and am blessed to have some wonderful people along for the ride.

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Here’s hoping for many wishes-come-true for all of us.

Kismet.


“If we would see the color of our future, we must look for it in our present; if we would gaze on the star of our destiny, we must look for it in our hearts.”
~Canon Farrart

YOU GUYS. I’m currently on vacation down at the shore, and you won’t believe what I found nestled on a back shelf in a shop — a message in a bottle kit! It even has a map of the ocean currents and customized notepaper to slip inside. I had to buy it for my writing desk, and I included some sea glass, too, since that also plays a role in my book. A message in a bottle for my novel about a message in a bottle — what are the chances? Gotta love kismet.

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Six.


“When you write a book, you spend day after day scanning and identifying the trees. When you’re done, you have to step back and look at the forest.”
~Stephen King

If you heard a squeal of happiness yesterday at approximately 10:30AM Eastern time – or perhaps it was more of a cheer – chances are it was coming from Pennsylvania. From the general vicinity of my desk. From my mouth. Because that’s when I reached those always bittersweet words: THE END. When I first wrote them back in June, I was misty-eyed. When I reaffirmed them yesterday, I was smiling from ear-to-ear. My major round of revisions? FINISHED. And the icing on the cake? I came in more than 2500 words below my goal. That makes for one very excited writer. The final chapter of this book was my favorite thing to write, ever, and even though I was so ready to wrap up edits by the point I reached it, yesterday’s work was still a joy. That’s what this manuscript will forever represent to me: pure, unfettered, unequivocal joy. I’m taking a week-long break while we head to the shore for vacation, but to be sure, it won’t be far from my thoughts or heart.

And now (this is a complete non-sequitur, but I must post this quickly so I can finish packing), a “six things” meme, which I was tagged for by the wonderful Megan.

1. What is your favorite movie quote and why?
Is it cheating if I choose a quote from the film adaptation of a book? I positively adore the following, from The Help: “Go to New York, Ms. Skeeter. Go find your life.” Skeeter is one of my all-time favorite characters. The way she stands up to societal stereotypes, the way she breaks down walls through her writing and through her determination … it’s an inspiration. She tells the stories she can’t not tell, and she reminds all of us writers to never, ever give up. We must find our lives. We must create them.

2. It’s back to school time. What was the best year you had in school? What made it so great?
You know, I’m really not sure if I can pinpoint a single year. I honestly enjoyed so many of them. Junior year in high school was an incredible amount of work, but I loved my AP English Lit and American History classes. I learned more in that English course than in any other. I adored my senior year in high school because of all the extracurriculars I was part of, especially being on the steering committee for our school’s Involvement Day (where regular classes were cancelled, a plethora of speakers came to speak to students about a variety of causes and volunteer organizations, and everyone got to choose which sessions they attended) and acting as student coordinator for the district’s media symposium (even if it meant giving a speech in front of over a hundred people – talk about nervous!). Going further back, I loved sixth grade – candlelight hour, creating “bare books” with the first graders, watching Voyage of the Mimi, and more – and going forward, I also loved my senior year in college.

3. Is there special something you do every day (journal, Skype someone, take a walk, etc)? What is it?
Write, write, write. That was a shocker of an answer, huh? I also go for a long walk when the weather is cooperative. And, um, does playing Candy Crush count?

4. How do you get blog ideas?
Well, obviously a lot of my posts revolve around writing – sometimes they’re updates on my own process, sometimes they’re reactions to things I’ve seen or read elsewhere. Beyond that, I try to balance it out with other topics and generally just write whatever I’m inspired to discuss.

5. Has anybody famous ever followed or mentioned you on twitter or another social media site?
Yes! Several General Hospital actors and actresses have responded to comments – they are amazing at being in touch with the fans – as well as some of my favorites from American Idol. There are also some fabulous authors who followed me back and who I chat with – so fun! And then there’s Kristin Chenoweth, who answered me twice within the span of a day. To say I was excited is a gigantic understatement.

6. Describe your perfect Sunday.
Writing, reading, walking, and watching a handful of old I Love Lucy episodes … unless we’re talking about a summer Sunday, which would also include swimming and take place seaside.

Your turn: answer one (or more) of the questions in the comments, please!

Living in the Pages.


“The ocean stirs the heart, inspires the imagination and brings eternal joy to the soul.”
~Wyland

When I first started the planning stage for SANDS OF TIME (Have I mentioned its title on here yet? That was actually the first piece of the puzzle this time!), I knew there needed to be four different settings, two of which were seaside. Because Charlotte’s story takes place in 1957, a time period I had to research extensively, I decided that I should keep it close to home. Of course the area was different in the 50s than it is today, but several of the hallmarks still remain the same, and it seemed like a good choice to bring that sense of familiarity into a storyline which featured so many other unknowns. Atlantic City became home for Charlotte and Nolan, and the writing process became even more exciting for me. I loved getting to build chapters around the Jersey shore. It has been somewhere very special to me for as long as I can remember, and weaving its charm into the book only increased that.

And so, when I spent seven lovely days in New Jersey this past week, I soaked up the significance even more than usual.

There’s Fralinger’s, where Charlotte works (granted, this is the Ocean City store instead of AC, but close enough):

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There’s the Ocean City Music Pier, where Nolan takes her for a surprise birthday celebration:

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Most special of all, there’s Ventnor. It is, truly, my favorite place in all the world. I spent time there every summer until I was fourteen and some of my most lovely memories have been woven there. It’s been over fifteen years now since my grandparents sold their condo, but we still try to go back for an evening or two each summer. Walking on that boardwalk again, seeing the fishing pier, breathing in the salty sea air that I swear is unique in that town, different from every other coastal community … it is home for me. It’s also directly next to Atlantic City, so when Charlotte and Nolan moved, it was the perfect spot for them to go. The entire last chapter of my book is set in Ventnor, and so being back there again last week was even more meaningful. This might sound ridiculous, but in a way, it felt like I was living in the pages of my manuscript.

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My favorite restaurant, and the place where Charlotte, Nolan, Remi, and Eli have dinner:

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Why yes, I am totally that person who writes her book’s acronym in the sand in the exact spot where a scene takes place:

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I couldn’t stop picturing my characters: Charlotte and Nolan strolling the boardwalk, Remi and Eli taking in the sights of the Jersey shore for the first time, Charlotte and Remi sitting on the beach as they write a message of their own, write a story of their own. It took a place I already adore and made it even more magical. Something similar happens to Remi in the book – she moves to Nantucket after reading about it as a child and falling in love with its beauty – and it was such fun to write her experience of watching the words spin to life around her. That’s what this was like for me.

A few more non-book related pictures:

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Supermoon over the ocean = Super awesome.

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What’s your all-time favorite place? And fellow writers, have you ever set a book in that spot?