Lost Art of Second Chances, Quotes, Writing

World War II in Italy

Back again with more background information on The Lost Art of Second Chances. So, this story is a braided or dual narrative. We have Lucy and Jack’s story that takes place more or less in the present day. And we also follow Belladonna’s story starting from her childhood in pre-World War II Italy and coming forward to the present time.

As I’ve mentioned before, Jack and Lucy were my initial plan for this book as a second chance at love story. Instead, Belladonna just up and stole the show. I realized I needed to tell her story too and began researching Italy in the second World War. In school, I’d learned that Italy sided with Germany and Japan in the war but I never realized that Italy actually withdrew from the war in mid-1943. From that point forward, the Allies (mostly the British and the Americans) marched up the Italian mainland, fighting the Germans the entire way.

As the Germans retreated, through the remainder of 1943 and 1944, they occasionally attacked various towns. As I was developing Bella’s story, I heard CNN report on the story of San Pancrazio. On 29 June 1944, German soldiers attacked the tiny mountaintop village, killing 73 men and destroying the village. The horror of San Pancrazio became the basis for Belladonna’s fictional hometown, Angelo Ali, and Paolo’s story. Angelo Ali translates to Angel’s Wings, an appropriate name for a tiny hamlet in the clouds. Here is the CNN story.

Monuments Men Movie

Art and other priceless cultural treasures are often victims of war too. The Monuments Men, made famous by the recent George Clooney movie for their more well-known work in France, were also quite busy in Italy. Bella’s love interest, Paolo LaRosa, works with the Monuments Men. They meet when Paolo and the Monuments Men want to secrete art treasures in her hometown. Paolo himself did not exist, except in my imagination. But the Monuments Men did. The books I relied on to learn about their mission were (note that all links are Amazon Affiliate links):


Saving Italy

Saving Italy: The Race to Rescue a Nations Treasures from the Nazis  Robert M. Edsel.

Monuments Men

The Monuments Men by Robert M. Edsel


Rape of Europa

The Rape of Europa by Lynn H. Nicholas

Deane Keller, one of the real Monuments Men in Italy, provides the epigraph for The Lost Art of Second Chances, when he spoke about his WWII mission:

“Life is full of mysteries in which unfathomable forces produce mystical results.”

I thought that was the perfect quote to describe Lucy’s journey to solve the mystery of Belladonna and Paolo.

Lost Art of Second Chances, Photography

Visiting Massachusetts

This sailboat directly inspired the scene with Jack on Plum Island early in The Lost Art of Second Chances. He sees the sailboat and choses to take the chance to go to Italy with Lucy.
This sailboat directly inspired the scene with Jack on Plum Island early in The Lost Art of Second Chances. He sees the sailboat and chooses to take the chance to go to Italy with Lucy.


Last week, I talked a bit about the backstory of Lucy’s cat, Frank, from The Lost Art of Second Chances. This week, I thought I’d talk about Lucy and Jack’s (the heroine and hero of the present day story) hometown of Applebury, Massachusetts. After a quick consultation with my handy dandy Google maps, there, in fact, is no such place as Applebury, Massachusetts. It’s a fictionalized version of a place called Amesbury, a small town about an hour north of Boston.

As I have family and friends that live there, I’ve been many times, most recently in October 2011. Probably because I’d just been there, I chose to set my novel there, in the fall, when I started Nanowrimo 2011.

While we were there, we enjoyed a trip to Cider Hill Farms. How gorgeous are these pumpkins? And if you ever go, do not miss the hot cider donuts. Cider Hill Farms didn’t make it into the book, except as the name of Jack Hamilton’s single apartment building.

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We also visited nearby Newburyport several times during our visit and enjoyed a delicious seafood dinner there. Jack mentions that he has an office in Newburyport as well as in the city and is coming from court there that day in his first scene with Lucy. There is a district court there but I have never been there. I have been to their awesome fall festival and snapped these shots there.


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Later, when Jack wants to escape his unhappy and ill-fitting career as a lawyer, he goes for a walk on Plum Island. We had a wonderful time walking there at sunset. I’d just gotten my DSLR camera and my uncle (a professional photographer) taught me the basics of how to use it that day. So, here’s what Plum Island looks like at dusk.

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As you can see it’s a beautiful area of the country.  In next week’s blog, we are off to Italy…

Lost Art of Second Chances, Nanowrimo

Meet Frank from The Lost Art of Second Chances


The Lost Art of Second Chances is now in beta and should be coming to an e-reader near you in the next month. So, I thought I’d talk a little bit about that book, how it came to be, and share some research I did over the coming weeks here on the blog.

I’ve participated in National Novel Writing Month (Nanowrimo) on and off for probably the past decade. Nanowrimo is a writing challenge conducted every November. Participants attempt to write fifty thousand words in a month. Now, that’s basically routine for me but before, when I worked in the salt mines of my old day job (kidding, my former co-workers, just kidding), it was a major challenge.

Back in those days, I never pre-outlined or brainstormed a book. I just opened a blank page and started typing…only to stop about twenty thousand words in when I had no idea what I was doing. Nanowrimo 2011 was no different. I wanted to write a second chance at love story because it’s one of my favorite tropes. My uncle (and godfather) recently taught me to make summer sauce and so, I opened the story with the main character, Lucy, chatting away to her white cat as she made the sauce.


That scene, in a much revised form, appears in chapter two of The Lost Art of Second Chances. As I was writing along, Lucy’s grandmother, Belladonna, appeared whole cloth and promptly took over the whole scene (and book too). I’ll talk about Bella’s story in another future post.

Today, I wanted to talk about Frank. Lucy’s cat, unlike Bella, was not a wholesale invention of my imagination. Frank was based on my own beloved white cat.

Frank, the inspiration for Lucy's cat
Frank, the inspiration for Lucy’s cat

The Pilot and I found Frank, and his sister, Carolina, as tiny eight week old abandoned kittens on my father-in-law’s farm. They’d taken refuge in a dilapidated barn. Carolina found me first and crawled up my jean leg into my arms. Frank was the little white puffball that followed her around. I scooped them both up and turned to my husband and father-in-law, who were both astounded that I’d managed to catch not one feral cat, but two.

We brought them home and, after several courses of worm and flea treatments, and some remedial litter box training, they were both wonderful pets. When Frank was about two, our amazing vet found a heart murmur and recommended a cat cardiologist. Thinking it was nothing, we visited only to find out that Frank had a genetic heart condition called feline hypertropic cardiomyopathy. We began a five year round of daily heart pills (which he detested) and semi-annual visits to the cardiologist with the dreaded EKG gel.


We lost him the day before Fox’s first birthday, when Frank was just seven. Young for a cat. At midnight the night before, he did his sideways leap and ricochet routine off the front window and the living room furniture. At dawn, he had a stroke and was gone within an hour.

It’s been nearly six years and I still miss him. When I spent four months on bed rest during my pregnancy with Fox, Frank laid at my feet every day, watching over me like a little feline guardian angel. He was very loving and affectionate with everyone, nearly like a dog that way. And he had a funny way of trilling his meow, like he was rolling his Rs. He even had a little kiss spot on his forehead and would come sit on my lap until I gave him his kiss.

Note the kiss spot
Note the kiss spot

Though Frank’s time on earth was shorter than any of us would have hoped, the truth is that we usually outlive our furry companions. When they go to the rainbow bridge, they leave their little paw prints right across our hearts. Most animal lovers never forget their furry friends.

Many writers, myself included, love to immortalize their lost pets in print. So, all white cats will forever be Frank in my books, where they never have to leave for the rainbow bridge. And someday, I hope to get to see my little white fluff ball again. But not for a while yet…I’ve got more books to write.