Classic Fiction of the Past Offer Lifelong Inspiration and Motivation

In the recent author profile by Steven McEvoy at Book Reviews and More and Catholic Dads Online, I was asked a few questions about my all-time favorite books.

  • If you could only recommend 10 books to a reader looking to be a well-rounded and whole person what books would you suggest?

I would offer up a variety of genres. Narrowing it down to 10, I’m pretty sure I’m going to forget some great books, but here goes- To begin with, and I hate to be cliché, but I have to suggest the Bible, beginning with the Gospels, C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia, The Great Divorce, and Mere Christianity, Milton’s Paradise Lost, J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, Sr. Helen Prejean’s Dead Man Walking, Henry James’ The Beast in the Jungle, and Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels.

  • Who were some of your favorite authors in your teen years who helped shape you?

I loved reading as a child and read a variety of genres, but the ones that had the most effect on me, as a person and a writer, were C.S. Lewis, Jane Austen, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Louisa May Alcott, Kenneth Grahame, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and The Brontë sisters.

Other titles I neglected to include in the interview were Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Johanna Spyri’s Heidi, and Lucy Maude Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables. I’m sure I’m still missing more great reads, but let’s move on.

In responding to these questions, I was reminded of how often I read as a child and how much I devoured each book. Little did I know back then that I’d build a deep connection with the classics.

You know a book’s great when it stays with you throughout your life.

These books were not only inspiring and motivating; they also challenged my subconscious-if not immediately then as a child, then at least in later years when I recalled them -when they were pertinent to a specific time or situation. I’m often prompted to think back on these novels from long ago. They were classics then, and have continued to maintain elite status, even as millions of new titles come on the market.

When I get the chance, I like to reread a favorite classic. It’s inspiring for me as an author. And it’s motivating as a reader. Chapters and scenes are randomly recalled throughout the pages of many. I just wish I was habituated to dog-earring and highlighting for future referencing and inspiration. Then again, a full reread is always worth the endeavor.

Lord, bless my words so that I glorify You in everything that I write.

Friends, feel free to share your favorite classics with me.

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Introducing My Upcoming Novel, “Freeing Tanner Rose” -The First in Kung-Fu Faith Series

Please excuse my lack of attention here on the site. I’ve been working on finishing up my next novel, Freeing Tanner Rose. It’s actually the beginning of a four-part Kung-Fu Faith series.

  • Fun fact- Freeing Tanner Rose was not originally written as the first in the series. I actually began writing one of the other books eight years ago and intended that to be the first. I began writing Tanner Rose three years ago, and decided that this story would be a better intro to the series.

With Freeing Tanner Rose, I’m at the point in the process where I’m trying to tie up loose ends, but keep finding reasons to move things around. Such last minute decisions are not always smart –although common in my writing style- but I’m confident that the final draft will likely benefit from it. The big problem is that changes mean more thorough readings and constant editing, and this process often drains the love I feel for any story. Once love is gone, it’s not completely lost, but I usually have to set the project aside and allow some space to grow between us. Just enough room to feel the loss.

I hope such space is not necessary during this revision. In order to ensure that and to avoid falling out of love, I’ve been splitting my novel writing time with cover design and novel description. I’ll post these as soon as I have them completed. Then once the final draft is complete, I’ll share the first chapter.

Freeing Tanner Rose is scheduled to release late fall of this year, God willing. I plan on keeping this schedule, but it’s more important that the finished product is perfect –or as perfect as I’ll allow it to be before forcing myself to let it go. To let go! Ugh. Another step I have a difficult time with.

Lord, bless my words so that I glorify You in everything that I write.

Why People-Watching Enhances Characterization in Fiction Writing

You’ll root for each child and for the Sunshine Ranch, while enjoying T.M. Gaouette’s rich prose and vivid descriptions.(writingstraight.com)

I love to people watch. I’ve done it for as long as I can remember. No matter where you are, you can people-watch -assuming there are people there, of course. And I believe it’s really helps me enhance character development in my fiction novel writing.

People-watching doesn’t involve staring at people to the point of discomfort, but rather watching them discretely and taking in the subtle details of natural behavior. It’s about witnessing how one interacts with another, within a group, and even alone. Every movement can be recorded for future use. Subtle details are as significant as the obvious, such as a narrowing of the eyebrow, a tilt of the head, and even a blank gaze. These are all valuable.

These gestures, expressions, and attitudes, when used appropriately, breathe life into a character.

People-watching is also an effective way of creating story-lines. Witnessing a couple sharing a meal in a restaurant, a family on a beach, or a person sitting alone can prompt many questions. Why are they here? What’re they talking about? How’s she feeling?

Then, we’re introduced to the other foster children, all with diverse issues: depression, sadness, loss, abuse, neglect. Their means of coping is uniquely crafted to each well-developed character. (writingstraight.com)

In my novel, The Destiny of Sunshine Ranch, I was pleased to note that many readers enjoyed my character development. And I believe that much of the credit goes to my habit of people-watching.

The characters are well developed and likable…I loved how Ms. Gaouette presented each child as unique, with his or her own defenses and coping mechanisms. (ourvillageisalittledifferent.com)

People-watching is a valuable tool, I feel. It introduces me to various types of characters, characteristics, and storylines. There’s truly nothing better than witnessing real life if your desire is to bring your characters to life in a novel.

Do you find that people-watching is a valuable tool for writing fiction ?

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Can Innocence, Purity, and God Prevail in a Highly Sexualized Era?

Sexy is in. Sex is prevalent. It’s in school, on the television, in the movie theaters, in books. Hot, half-naked boys and girls are everywhere, flaunting and flirting and getting it on.

Romance is attractive and sex is inevitable. At least, it seems that way to me. Look at teen fashion, and celebrities who wear practically nothing in an attempt to stay in the spotlight or grow within their industry.

Our innocent little girl celebs are resorting to sexualizing themselves so they don’t disappear behind the next young aspiring starlet that Disney picks up.

So how in the world can purity and innocence prevail in a highly sexual world where we’ve reached the point of no return?

Society has become so edgy and risqué, that nothings been left to the imagination. The physical body has been put on display for the world to ogle at. And morality is almost non-existent. Am I generalizing? Unjustly resorting to cynicism? Maybe…just a little. But one look at shows like Jersey Shore, Teen Mom, and Toddlers in Tiaras, and you can see what young teens are watching and assuming as real life.

And we are losing God along the way.

When it comes to fiction, teen girls want to read about finding passion in the arms of a young, handsome boy. That’s cool. Not basking and growing in the amazing love of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Who wants to read about teens who look beyond sex, when they can read about girls begging vampires for it, or college grads contracting themselves into bondage with sexual abusers? That’s more exciting, enticing, tempting.

Where’s the excitement in reading about Christian teens who don’t care about sex?  Teens who put sex where it belongs -in their future marriage- and deal with real issues that matter, like becoming better, kinder, stronger, hard working, honest people. Who wants to read about that? Who?

You?

Whether you do or not, I will continue to write about it, because God has placed that desire in my heart. It’s not the trend, it’s not sexy, but it gives me joy. For those of you who are interested, I pray you enjoy the stories I write to glorify Him.

Whether therefore you eat, or drink, or whatsoever you do, do all to the glory of God. (1 Corinthians 10:31)

Bless my words, Lord. So that I always glorify You in everything that I write.

I Can Do All Things Through Christ

Adversity is part of every life, whether in the past, the present, or in the future. The extent is subjective, and so is the response. I’ve written extensively on this subject on Project Inspired, because I’m an advocate for overcoming adversity, and doing so with the best help ever: the love of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Let’s not forget that Jesus died for all our sins. What an amazing gift. What an extraordinary sacrifice.  It’s one that’s hard to fathom for those who don’t come to know God. But if you believe in Him, then your faith helps you recognize this truth.

I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: everywhere and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me. (Philippians 4:12-13)

The Destiny of Sunshine Ranch introduces young foster children who’ve experienced a lot of adversity. One has dealt with loss, one with abuse, one with neglect, and then there’s Benedict. Benny is the character that most epitomizes the truth that anything can be achieved with the strength of God. Of course Benedict doesn’t have the faith. And so he struggles to find a place where he can feel complete.

I wrote this story for teens who feel lost in the darkness of depression. I wrote it for those who have an ache within them that refuses to dissipate. I wrote it for those boys and girls who are looking for relief. Because the answer is in God and His desire to free us all of our pain. I pray it reveals this truth.

I also wrote it for those teens who’ve already found their strength in God. The novel is a celebration for them, and a reminder. I pray it brings joy.

I’m not a preacher, and I don’t want to preach. But I do want to share with as many people as possible, the truth. Our Lord Jesus Christ is here for all of us. There is no pain, there is no struggle, there is no hurt that is bigger than Him. Let Him in and He will carry you through your struggles, and He will guide you to the light. But you have to have faith, a real faith, in Him and His amazing love for you. You can do all things through Christ, because He is your strength.

My desire is to share this truth in my novel, The Destiny of Sunshine Ranch.

I will keep pushing on Lord, because I know you have a plan for me.

Do you have a story to share about overcoming adversity with the strength of Christ?

My Cures for Defeating Writers Block

It’s a writer’s nightmare!

Writer’s block can be devastating for a fiction writer who doesn’t know how to fill the void.

But there are ways in which you can take advantage of writer’s block, at least until you’re ready to resume your manuscript.

  • Writer’s write, and even when the dreaded writer’s block sets in, you need to write. There doesn’t have to be a reason behind the words and you don’t have to stick to writing fiction. In fact, you can just write about how you’re feeling. Write about writer’s block. Why? This exercise will give you a reason to write. It also provides you with an outlet to communicate your emotions. Lastly, it’ll give you material for future projects.
  • Are you in the midst of a fiction novel and you just can’t move forward? Then jump to the good part. You know the part. It’s the scene that you play over and over in your head. It’s the reason why you’re writing the story. By jumping to the good part, you’re stimulating your outlook, and you’re making the story exciting again.
  • If you just can’t write, and no scene inspires you, then read. Reading is the next best thing to writing. Read back on your own work. Oftentimes, when you read your own work, you become inspired to write more. Or better still, you can use the opportunity to proofread and revise chapters.
  • In the event that reading your own work of fiction only depresses you, then read the work of your favorite author. This is often a great motivator because it reminds you of why you became a writer in the first place. It’s also a lesson in writing. When you read the work of your favorite authors, you’re often inspired by their writing and your desire to write like them -or in some cases, better than them- grows.
  • Do you have another fictional story in mind? Start writing it. The idea of having two manuscripts in the works may seem overwhelming, but it’s actually less stressful. It allows you to chop and change from one story to another when the mood strikes you. Your writer’s block is on one story, so just take a break from it. And rather than do nothing, work on the other story. Go back and forth as it suits you. Returning to a story after a period away often provides a fresh perspective.Read motivational stories from writers, such as Stephen King’s, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. This memoir recalls King’s successes and failures, in addition to tips and advice on writing. Reading inspirational stories by successful writers motivates you to keep writing, because you’re reminded that even the most successful authors were lost for words.

Writer’s block doesn’t have to feel like a moment of failure. But you shouldn’t waste it on non-writing projects. Doing so will only cause guilt. Whatever method you choose to defeat your writer’s block, stay focused and disciplined. Think of writer’s block as an opportunity to take a break from your current project and work on another story or maybe catch up on some reading. Whatever you decide, take advantage of writer’s block, use it wisely, and it could be just what you need to make your story of fiction a success.

Best and blessings to you all.

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