Eight years ago today, I brought my son home from the hospital. Here’s one of my favorite shots of that day.
Seven years later (one year ago today), I hit the “publish” button on my first novel, Forever a Bridesmaid, and rushed out the door to take my son to swim class. Later that night, just before midnight, I got to see my listing come up. One of the biggest thrills of my life.
In this first year of publishing, I published a total of 10 books (3 full-length novels and 7 novellas). In addition to that, I’ve got one boxed set, three audiobooks, and, just this week, agreed to have Forever a Bridesmaid translated into Spanish.
Thanks to the support of my wonderful readers, I won a contract with my second novel, The Lost Art of Second Chances, and officially became a hybrid author. I am the luckiest author in the world.
In the next year, I’ve got five more Cupid’s Coffeeshop novellas, two novellas in two different anthology boxed sets, the final novel in my Bridesmaid’s trilogy, several more boxed sets, and audiobooks to come. It’s going to be a busy year. Stick around for the ride!
Happy Summer! Fox is out of school for the summer. Hard to believe he’s not a kindergartener anymore. I borrowed this meme about summer from my friend Mary’s blog,Passionate Perseverance. She started the blog to document her life with her severely disabled daughter, also named Courtney. Her story is amazing (have Kleenex ready if you read it!) and she’s always an inspiration to me.
Here are my Answer Me This answers for Summertime…
#1 – Any big plans for the summer?
Mostly, I’m going to be spending summer with my favorite guy, Fox. He is going to camp on and off all summer. In between, we’re going to do crafts, go to the pool, and participate in the local library’s summer reading challenge. To that end, if anyone has any suggestions for keeping an almost 7 year old amused, let me know in the comments. I need all the help I can get.
I’m also in the final stages of two books, Forever a Bridesmaid, and The Lost Art of Second Chances while starting to draft Once a Bridesmaid. I need a time turner.
And we’re planning to go to the Outer Banks in July and Myrtle Beach in August. Should be a fun, full summer.
#2 – What is the strangest thing you believed as a child?
I went to 13 years of Catholic school. I totally bought into the Jesus and the saints are watching your every move deal. #3 – What is you favorite amusement park ride?
Any roller coaster. Anytime, baby! My favorite coaster ever is the Alpengeist in Busch Gardens in Williamsburg.
No, not since I was three and fell asleep in my stroller at Disney World.
#6 – What is your favorite smell?
All the lavender. LOVE that one. But I’m a lotions and potions kinda girl so I love lots of different ones. My all time favorite lotion is satsuma from the Body Shop. So bright and clean and happy. And I also love their new green tea line.
That’s it for this week. Tag, you’re it! Your turn to answer the questions….
As I discussed in last week’s post, in The Lost Art of Second Chances, Bella leaves Italy and ends up in Boston, Massachusetts to raise her family. Partly, this was to mesh with Lucy’s story, which I’d already set in upstate Massachusetts.
In the book, Jack references a family tradition of Bella taking Lucy to buy a special dress and to lunch at Filene’s. Though the store doesn’t exist any longer, Filene’s was a department store in Boston’s Downtown Crossing area.
Because Filene’s placed their markdowns on the bottom floor, they helped coin the term “bargain basement.” Perhaps the most famous of their bargains was the semiannual “running of the brides” when wedding gowns went on sale.
Filenes also had a famous clock that became a common meeting place for shoppers, hence the phrase “Meet me at the clock.” My mother often reminisces about the lunches she’d enjoy after meeting her girlfriends under the clock and working up an appetite hunting for bargains in the basement.
Sadly, the store filed for bankruptcy and shuttered for good several years ago. The Downtown Crossing store was leveled soon after. So, no more meetings under the clock or running of the brides, except in my novel, The Lost Art of Second Chances.
Time again to visit some research for The Lost Art of Second Chances. Once Bella leaves Italy, she establishes herself in America. Specifically, she lives in a suburb outside of Boston. In one key scene in the book, Bella and her family enjoy an outing to Revere Beach.
Revere Beach is about four miles north of Boston. Established in 1895, the beach quickly became popular, especially with immigrants to the area. After a thirty year decline, revitalization efforts in the mid-1990s, along with a sand sculpting competition and festival provided a resurgence to the area.
My mother is from Massachusetts and we still have family there so we often visit. I’ve been to Revere Beach many times. But I’ve heard my mother’s stories about it even more often. Riding the roller coasters (the Cyclone is still famed–my mother still won’t ride a roller coaster after riding that one in her youth) and eating Kelly’s roast beef sandwiches. So, when I needed a beach setting for my scene, I thought of Revere.
Bella’s scene there is set in the mid-1950s. So, obviously, it was a bit different than it is today. An excellent article about the historical sites on the beach can be found here.
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.
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):
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.
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.
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.
As you can see it’s a beautiful area of the country. In next week’s blog, we are off to Italy…
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.
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.
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.
I’m not doing National Novel Writing Month (Nanowrimo) this year and it’s such an odd experience for me. Usually, in November, I’m putting everything in my life on hold to hit that 50K word count.
This year, I’m not participating for a couple of reasons.
1) We’re going on a long awaited family vacation and I didn’t want to impact that. Plus, getting ready for said vacation takes up a lot of time. I now understand my father, also an entrepreneur, always complaining about the ramp down and ramp up time before vacation when we were kids.
2) It falls at the wrong time in my process. I’m more focused on editing than drafting right now. I’m editing Welcoming the Muse and The Lost Art of Second Chances. The drafting I’m doing now is on shorter fanfic pieces for the holidays so I wouldn’t hit (and wouldn’t want to hit) 50K on them.
3) Now that I write full-time, Nano is not a challenge. I wrote 68K in November in fiction and more than that in fanfic and blog posts. It’s just another day’s work.
That said, I do love Nano. I love the energy and optimism around it. Of course, by now, mid-way in week two, that’s faded to bitter hatred but that’s normal, that’s just drafting. Nanowrimo taught me a lot and I’m grateful. Next year, I’ll be saddling up with you all. But, until then, kids, have fun storming the castle! 🙂