Tuesday, May 31, 2011

New York, Day 3

Photos: menu from Lombardi's, America's oldest pizzeria, construction at the World Trade Center, and aboard the Staten Island Ferry.

LOL about Mary Kay's comment. Yes, though I'd been to New York many times before, I'd never really played "tourist" before. So I had a ball.

On Thursday, our third day, Terri and I decided to take one of those double-decker bus tours through the city. This was a hop-on, hop off tour where you can get off to investigate if you spot something interesting . . . and there are lots of things to spot in New York. If we go back (and I hope we do), I'd love to spend some time in the many museums along "Museum Mile," on the east side of Central Park. But I digress.

On that first bus tour, we toured the downtown area. We got off near "Little Italy" and ate a pizza in America's oldest pizzaria. :-) Delicious!

The spot that most interested us was the World Trade Center--first, because it is the sight of the in-progress Freedom Tower, built on the spot where the original twin towers stood, and second, because it's home to Century 21, a fabulous discount store. As it happens, Century 21 was too big and overwhelming to do any serious shopping, so we spent most of our time walking around the Freedom Tower construction site. Terri had the *brilliant* idea that we could go into the Millennium Hilton, a hotel right next to the site, and perhaps find a spot to over the fence and actually look at the construction. So we did, and we were fortunate enough to find a restaurant that allowed us to order two diet Cokes and sit and watch the building process.

It was so overwhelming to sit there and look at the tiny American flags fluttering atop the balls on the cranes . . . to imagine that cloud of dust and debris as people fled from the site back in 2001. We talked about our memories of that day, of how powerless and horror-struck we were. And we were heartened to see the people passing below, most of them with video cameras or cameras in hand, recording the site. Very sobering.

After leaving the World Trade Center, we got on the bus and hopped back off at the site for the Staten Island Ferry. Mary Kay, you'll be pleased to know that the ferry is now FREE for anyone who wants to go to Staten Island (or who wants a free ride past the Statue of Liberty). We had great, wind-blown fun as we rode past the island and back again.

That night we took the night bus tour of Brooklyn and other spots . . . and were delighted to finally call it a day. :-)


Monday, May 30, 2011

New York, Day 2

Our second day in New York was actually devoted to work. Terri and I both planned to visit BEA, which is the BIG bookseller's convention, so we hopped into a taxi and rode over to the Javits Center, where the convention was held. I met the publicist for Howard, who was kind enough to meet me with my badge (no gets into the convention without one), while Terri went off to a meeting with her agent.

If you've ever been to any type of large trade convention, I'm sure the experience is similar. Booth after booth of book publishers of every ilk--e book publishers, traditional book publishers, subsidy book publishers (you pay them to publish your work). A few celebrities sprinkled here and there through the mix, as anyone with a name seems to want to write a book (or hire a ghost to do it) these days. After wandering the floor for about half an hour, I went and got my diet Coke and sat at a table to read the trade publication. Among all the celebrity books, one in particular caught my eye: THINK: STRAIGHT TALK FOR WOMEN TO STAY SMART IN A DUMBED-DOWN WORLD.

Lisa Bloom (Author)

Ah--I think I need to read a copy. Why is it that today's women are smarter than ever, but if you put a group in a room, we end up talking about liposuction and weight problems? Hmmm.

After leaving BEA, Terri and I taxied down to the Southport Pier to see the BODY exhibit. I'd seen it before, in St. Pete or Tampa, but enjoyed seeing it again.

And after the pier, we rode the subway (always an adventure for us suburbanites) up to Lincoln Center, where we were going to the matinee for WAR HORSE. (Watch the trailer at this link.)

Words simply cannot do justice to this extraordinary play. I was two chapters into the slender book (kept trying to read in public places--not a good idea, because I kept crying), and during the play I practically sobbed. The theatre was a huge horse shoe shape, which allowed us to be only a few feet from the action. As I watched the play, I was able to look across the stage to see the audience on the other side of the theater--and there was barely a dry eye in sight. A wonderful, horrible play about love and war and family and the sensitivity of animals. If it comes to your area, you must see it, and if you're heading to New York, this one belongs at the top of your "to see" list. Trust me.

After the play, feeling rather wiped out, we ate dinner in the area and rode the subway home. We always managed to find the right subway, but we frequently popped up on the wrong street, and ended up walking several blocks to return to our hotel. So we finally made it back to our room, thoroughly spent.

An inspiring day. Oh, to write something as moving and true as War Horse . . .


Sunday, May 29, 2011

New York Travelogue, Day 1

This will be an abbreviated travelogue, as a minute-by-minute replay would probably bore you to tears--we spent a lot of time walking. But even as Terri and I were driving out of town and on our way to the airport, we kept seeing things we wanted to see and do.

After checking into our room, the first thing we did was look for some place to eat lunch. A friend of mine had told me about a diner called "Fluffy's"--and though I doubted we could find it, I promised to look for it.

The concierge sent us to Seventh Avenue, and as we turned a corner, we walked a bit and there it was--Fluffy's! So we ate lunch there. And let me warn you--the DESSERTS in these diners deserve to be in all caps. They are HUGE. I got a kick out of simply ogling them.

After lunch, both Terri and I said we'd never had a tour of Central Park, so as we walked toward it, we were accosted by a nice guy on a bike taxi who offered us a tour. Why not? (One of the nice things about Terri is that she's up for anything, as am I, usually. So we hopped in the bucket seat of his bike and away we went for a tour of the huge park.

Our guide was from the former Soviet republic of Georgia--nice young man. These pics are from that tour. Lots of familiar scenes from movies--Enchanted, Kramer vs. Kramer, You've Got Mail, and many more. We recognized many of these places without being prompted.

After our tour of central park, we got on the subway to try to go . . . . I forget where. But a group of traveling Mexican musicians hopped on, played us a song, and then passed the hat for donations. And here I thought they were doing it simply for joy . . . sometimes I am way too naive.


Saturday, May 28, 2011

Checking in from the Big Apple

No, I haven't fallen off the face of the earth. I've been in New York for the past four days, briefly attending BEA (the American booksellers' convention) and then being a tourist with my friend Terrri Blackstock. We did all the tourist things we'd never done before--we took a bike tour (someone else pedaled) around Central Park, we took a tour bus around the city, we went to the top of the Empire State Building, and we took the Staten Island Ferry to ride past the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. And we ATE--New York pizza, New York Cheesecake, New York deli foods. And we also walked miles and miles, learned how to navigate the subway (thank the Lord for iPhone apps), and we shopped a wee bit--honestly, only a little bit. :-)

The hubby and I are going back to NYC during December, so now I'll know my way around a little better and I know what I still need to see--a lot! I want to go to the museums and the zoo and so much more . . .

I'll post some pictures once I have a chance to get home and unload everything. Until then . . . if I can (beat) make it there, I'll make it (beat) anywhere . . . (or bus driver played that a LOT.)


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Pet Penguin

I've seen many unusual pets . . . but this one beats them all!



Monday, May 23, 2011

The New Standard for Marriage Proposals

Talk about raising the bar! It just leapt a mile higher with this young man's effort.


Sunday, May 22, 2011

Interspecies Play

Fascinating! A cat and an owl are best buds . . . .

So why can't all people get along?


Saturday, May 21, 2011

I'm so inspired by this inspirational grandma!

Who said modern dance is only for the young and limber? I love this Japanese grandmother! Go, granny, go!


Friday, May 20, 2011

Been on a moving sidewalk lately?

I'm in a lot of airports, and I generally like the moving sidewalks. But if I'd seen this, I think I'd LOVE them. :-)


Thursday, May 19, 2011

Adopt a kitten

You know I love dogs . . . I love cats, too, but am even more allergic to cats than dogs. I hope this little commercial will convince some one to go out and give a kitty a new home . . .


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

My Dog's Debut on Regis and Kelly

Photo: Justus and Ike the Pug

Had to take both dogs to the vet for their annual check-ups yesterday. While that's an ordeal in itself, the good news is that they're doing well for two older, big dogs.

And I've been waxing nostalgic.

My hubby and I went out to dinner Saturday night and talked about Justus. Mastiffs in general have a lovely gentle disposition--Sadie, our first, wasn't properly socialized as a pup and when we got her at four months, it was pretty much too late to do much about it. She loved our family, but to avoid stress all the way around, we let her stay in the kitchen when company came over.

But back to Justus. Back in November 2001, I was on the treadmill during LIVE WITH REGIS AND KELLY and I heard they were having "dog week." On Friday, they were going to feature the smallest dog and the Guiness World Record dog, a mastiff named Hercules.

Well, I thought it might be fun to fax in a photo of Justus and my son . . . and maybe, just maybe, they'd hold it up to the camera at some point during the week. So I printed out a photo of Jussy and my son, and wrote this really stupid letter that went something like this:

I don't know how big Hercules is these days, but our Justus is 275 pounds and he's wonderful.

I faxed the letter to the show and forgot about it. But the very next day I got a phone call from the producer--they wanted me to 1) go to the vet and have Jussy's weight verified and 2) if he really was as big as I said, they wanted us to fly to New York to be on the show.

"But he won't fit in a crate," I told them.

"Not to worry," the producer said. "We'll buy him a ticket so he can ride with you in the cabin."

Long story short--we juggled our schedules to fly Jussy to Manhattan. Yep, ON the plane. My husband kept saying we were crazy, but I said it was the chance of a lifetime and we had to take it. People asked if I was going to be on the show to talk about my books--I saw no, I was going for my DOG.

The trip took place in early November, and everyone was still suffering the effects of 9/11/2001. People were still jittery in airports, and the security lines were looooong. Anyway, Justus charmed (and calmed) everyone in the airport. He walked straight through the lines and patiently stood around while people petted and kissed him and asked us 100 times how much he ate and how much he weighed. When Jussy grew tired, he'd never snap or growl, he'd just sort of turn away like he needed a break.

We were picked up at the airport in a cargo van (not a good idea, because we were bounced around like tin cans--me and the dog in the back), so I told the Regis folks that a car would be better. So, after spending the night at the Mayflower Hotel across from Central Park (Hey, a dog has to have some place to go!), we were picked up in a stretch limo and driven to the show.

In the green room, we met Hercules and his owner, and another mastiff named Moose--they brought in a ringer! If you'd like to see the actual (edited) video, just keep reading.

Now--Gelman had rigged up this teeter-totter thing that looked a little flimsy. So we did a dress rehearsal, and Jussy hopped up on the contraption just fine, but when it MOVED, he decided he didn't like it. So in the actual broadcast, of course, he REFUSED to get on the thing. I was holding out bagels and assorted foods I'd filched from the green room, but Justus was having none of that teeter totter. My hubby was at the rear, pushing with all his might, but it's not an easy thing to move a mastiff that doesn't want to move. Then Hercules' owner stepped in and hefted the big boy up on the scale.

Cutting to the punch line: Justus was declared America's SECOND largest dog. (And, for the record, he was not obese. Just big.)

I had a speaking engagement to (literally) run to, so I took off while hubby, Regis, and Justus posed for pictures. In the airport on the way home, hubby and Justus gave autographs and posed for more pictures. Joan Rivers even walked by and said she'd seen them on the show.

After the show, Jussy enjoyed about a week of celebrity. He was on the local news and made appearances in the schools, but one appearance was especially memorable. We took him to a class of handicapped students, many of whom were blind or otherwise visually impaired. And Justus stood there, patiently, while these kids patted him from nose to tail. He was so patient and gentle with them.

I miss him . . . and I wish I could be as patient. Sometimes animals can be models for us, no?
Hug your dog today!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Our Share It With a Sister Winners!


Yesterday I asked my friend Terri Blackstock to select the winners for our "Share It With a Sister Contest." She gave me numbers, and I counted through all the entries until I reached those numbers, so here are our winners!

Grand prize: Sabine Galvan!

First Place winners:

Grace Mullaney
Nancy Fuller
Cassandra Mohr
Anita vander Elst
Loretta Oakes

Thanks to everyone for sharing their sister photos with all of us! You are all such lovely ladies!


Monday, May 16, 2011

Dining with Joy!

I am happy, happy (considering that I've been on a cooking/baking kick lately) to welcome my friend Rachel Hauck who will tell us about her new book, Dining with Joy.

And now, heeeeeeeere's Rachel!

Thanks for having me today!

I’m no genius in the kitchen, but my heroine, Joy Ballard, finds herself doing a job she can’t do for all the right reasons. She’s a cooking show host who can’t cook!

When I started this book, that premise got a good laugh from those who heard it. Then, I’d ask, “But what’s that story about?”

The person would shrug. “I don’t know.”

“Yeah, me neither.”

I had to ask a lot of questions about what a woman hosts a cooking show when she can’t so much as fry eggs. I didn’t want an insincere, lying heroine. She’s not a manipulator or conniver.

Joy simply found herself filling a job she was asked to do – by her father. She was great in front of the camera. Just not behind the stove.

Not long ago, I stood on stage at church with my worship team praying before the service started. Head back, eyes close, I said in my heart, “Lord, help us. You have to help me. I’m so weak in leading worship. I cannot do it without You.”

While I’m a decent singer, and I can lead the people to worship Jesus, I’m not a musician. I’m not one who can skillfully bring the band and the worship sound together. And until I found myself with a “starting over” band, I never realized how gaping this weakness was for me.

A few days later, I was thinking of all the great worship leaders, singers and musicians. Of great writers. And I just felt weak and inadequate in the two main callings of my life.

Again, I went to the Lord. “Why can’t You find a good worship leader for church? Why can’t you help me be a more successful writer? I see people who are good at what they do, succeeding.”

This is what He said to me. “… most people won’t give me their weaknesses.”

I was stopped cold. I understood that a lot of times God invites us on a journey to participate with Him in some aspect of our lives or others, but because we are not good at that thing, or because we are weak with fear or shame or whatever, we say no.

It’s in our weaknesses His strength is manifest. God is not looking for mighty men and women, He’s looking for weak men and women in which HE can show His might.

Don’t misunderstand, God loves excellence, skill and devotion. While leading worship practices, I have to be excellent as I can be to bring the team and songs together.

I’ll never have a recording or national ministry as a worship leader, but for our little church in Florida, I’m God’s girl. For now.

That, in some ways, is Joy’s journey. She said yes to her father’s desire.

Can we say “Yes?” to our Father’s desire for us? Offer Him all of our strengths AND weaknesses? He’s more than willing to overcome.

In my story, Joy’s secret is revealed and takes a pretty good tumble, but love is waiting to catch her. In the form of cowboy chef and hero, Luke Redmond.

Sigh… Love wins.

One of the things Joy discovers along the way is her father’s banana bread recipe. It’s delish!

Here it is:

Charles Ballard’s Banana Bread

From Connie Spangler

1 3/4 cups flour

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar

1t. baking soda

1/2t. salt

1/2t. cinnamon

2 eggs

3 mashed ripe bananas

1/2 cup oil (I use canola)

1/4 cup plus 1 T. buttermilk

1t. vanilla

1/2 cup choc. chips

1/2 cup p.butter chips

In a large bowl stir together flour, sugars, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. In another bowl, combine eggs, bananas, oil, buttermilk and vanilla. Add to flour mixture, stirring just until moistened. Fold in chips. Pour into a greased 9-in. x 3-in. loaf pan. Bake at 325 for 1 hour and 20 minutes or until it tests done. Cool on a rack 10 minutes before removing from pan.

Tips for baking banana bread:

DON'T over mix the batter, just until moistened. Banana bread is always best if after its cooled to wrap up and serve the next day.


Rachel lives in central Florida with her husband and writes books from the second floor of what she calls her “turret tower.” A gift from the Lord. Besides “Dining with Joy,” Rachel has written fourteen other novels. Also out is “Softly and Tenderly” which Rachel wrote with country artist, Sara Evans.

Visit her web site at www.rachelhauck.com

Kind of makes you hungry, doesn't it? Happy baking!


P.S. Tomorrow we announce the winners of the SHARE IT WITH A SISTER contest, so be SURE to stop by!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

THIS is the definitive charge for a novelist . . .

Such a good quote, just had to share it:

“The great novels we get in the future are not going to be those that the public thinks it wants, or those that critics demand. They are going to be the kind of novels that interest the novelist. And the novels that interest the novelist are those that have not already been written. They are those that put the greatest demands on him, that require him to operate at the maximum of his intelligence and his talents, and to be true to the particularities of his own vocation.” –Flannery O’Connor, Mystery and Manners.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Happy Anniversary!

Happy 31st anniversary to my dear hubby today! I'm flying home!


Wednesday, May 11, 2011

It's Coming! Glen Eyrie, that is!

One of my favorite workshops is coming in June! I'm re-running this blog post because we want to get the word out, AND I need to state that our conference covers fiction and nonfiction--my track will have an emphasis on nonfiction, but all the teachers can address issues in both types of writing. Sometimes we get too much in the "conference mindset" and expect teachers to address just one topic, but this is a fluid, not static, program, so we can and will talk about anything you want to discuss!

Hope to see you in June!


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

A new trailer for my WIP

Someone asked the other day about my work-in-progress and if I had done a trailer for it yet. So, without further ado, here it is! Enjoy!

P.S. I'll be in North Carolina this week, teaching at the Blue Ridge Christian Writers' Conference. Hope to see some of you there!


Monday, May 09, 2011

Another crop of lovely sisters! Don't forget our contest!

Don't forget our contest--and some of you ought to be able to have your picture taken with a copy of INSINCERITY! That's worth multiple entries!


Sunday, May 08, 2011

Happy Mother's Day

Gotta love Anita!


Saturday, May 07, 2011

A modern Helen Keller

This is an incredible story . . . and if you know someone with an autistic child, please pass the link on. Fascinating, and another reminder that every soul has worth, every soul is priceless.

HT to Michael Garnier for sharing this link. :-)


Friday, May 06, 2011

BOM: Questions and Answers

Photo: my Mom, Aunt Irene, and cousin Ginger on St. Simons--at the sea, naturally!

Time for your questions!

Linda asked about the "train story"--that one has been placed on a back burner. My editor didn't care for it, so it obviously needs some major tweaks. So I'm going to set it aside for a few months and revisit it again. Going back to the drawing board, as they say. Sometimes we have to do that . . .

Miriam asked:Well, you might want to save this for Q&A day -- how did you handle it when the three sisters talked all at the same time? Especially when they might not agree on how to handle a situation.

The writing rule is "one viewpoint character per SCENE." So when I'm writing a scene with all three sisters involved in it (and there are many scenes like that), I have to choose ONE sister and place the scene in HER head. So she will be judging the others' thoughts, she will be reacting, but all I will be able to show of the other sisters is their facial expressions, voices, and actions. This is actually kind of fun, because a lot of time the viewpoint character completely misunderstands or misinterprets the expressions, voices, and actions of the other characters. :-)

Linda asked:Have your sisters read the book and what was their response? (Because sisters can be our biggest fans and our worst critics!)
One of my sisters doesn't read much, and the other, I think, was afraid that people would think she WAS Penny because they did have a few similarities. But I kept assuring her that she's NOT Penny, and no one who knew her would think that. It's fiction, after all. That's why I RARELY base any character on real people. Funny, but often people don't recognize characteristics at all, and other times they think I've based something on them when that was the last thing on my mind . . .

Crystal wrote:I am curious about keeping the two pov straight; it's what I'm struggling with myself. Could you please give a bit more detail on that process? Thanks!
As I mentioned above, the writer must confine herself to one character's point of view per scene. So when you're in that person's head, whether it's first person or third, you can only relate what she's thinking, feeling, seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling, sensing, and remembering. If you REALLY want to create an intimate experience, you should only use vocabulary that is the character's vocabulary, particularly if you're writing a lot of interior monologue. And when you're writing your character's thoughts, since we're in her brain, YOU DON'T NEED ITALICS. (One of my pet peeves). Using italics for thoughts is an outmoded, awkward, hard to read practice that deserves to be kicked to the curb. Use POV instead--put us in a character's head, and simply write what she's thinking.

Bev wrote: On a similar subject, my critique group has been wondering if there is a good resource for specific steps in peer critique, so we get the best bang for our voluntary buck. Any advice?
To be honest, Bev, I've never belonged to a critique group, so I'm a fish out of water here. (Or a dog in water, I suppose). I have been in some one-night critique sessions at conferences, and I've seen that YOU can definitely set the tone for the entire meeting. Start off with lots of positive things, and then gently make suggestions. If you're like me, the first thing you see is what needs fixing, but you can't hit people over the head with that; it's too discouraging. Remember: FIRST DO NO HARM. (Works for writers AND doctors). THEN PRAISE WHAT IS GOOD. Then suggest what could use improvement, and DEMONSTRATE how to improve.
People who criticize without offering an answer or a solution are just blowing hot air. :-)

Well . . . okay. I think that sums up our Q&A session. :-) Don't forget the "share it with a sister" contest--details are on my web page. The big drawing is May 15, so it's not too late to enter every day!


Thursday, May 05, 2011

BOM: The Editing

Photo: St. Simons is famous for its marshes.

I'll be honest--I'm always a wee bit nervous when an editor tells me she's hiring a freelancer to be my editor--especially if I've never worked with that editor before. Some editors are marvelous; others make you want to tear your hair out.

(The ones who make me want to rip out my hair are the ones who change things not for a viable reason, but because of their own personal preference. Hey! Whose name is on the cover?) But honestly, I haven't run into many editors who frustrate me to that extent.

Anyway--my editor at Howard told me she was hiring Traci DePree to be my editor. Now I know Traci as an excellent writer, and she's a lovely person. But I'd never had her as an editor, so I held my breath and sent her the manuscript.

And . . . (drum roll)--she did a WONDERFUL job. A good editor obeys the maxim of "first, do no harm," and then they make the manuscript BETTER, which is exactly what Traci did. You see, by the time a writer has gone through a manuscript six or seven times, she develops blind spots, so you desperately need a pair of "fresh eyes" to evaluate your copy. And Traci did a great job of helping me tighten my prose, plus she genuinely liked the story. (I suppose an editor who didn't like your book could easily work on it, but it certainly helps if the editor understands your characters and has sympathy for them--and you.)

All that to say this: the editing was a painless affair, with no histrionics or panic attacks. I can't wait to have Traci edit my next book. :-)

Tomorrow: Q&A, so if you have any questions, please leave them in the comments below!


Wednesday, May 04, 2011

BOM: The Writing

Photo: Yes, St. Simons is a real island off the coast of Georgia. It has a light house and expensive real estate, as you might imagine.

The writing was a bit of a challenge for me because I am by nature a plot-oriented person. I usually get the idea for a fabulous, twisty plot first, and populate it with characters second.

But in this story, the plot was fairly simple: three sisters meet together over a holiday weekend to clean out their late grandmother's beach house. It's what the characters are doing and thinking and being that makes the story matter.

I also chose to write the story in three different first person viewpoints: each sister tells her own story in her own voice. We accomplished this by using different fonts for the different sisters, plus I worked hard to make sure each sister's voice remained her own. For instance, only one sister had been to college, so all the fancy vocabulary words had to be confined to her scenes. One sister was fairly dreamy, so her language was more metaphorical, and the other sister was very down to earth with a wry sense of humor, so her language was different, too. In one draft, I went through the book working on all the "Ginger" scenes, then all the "Penny" scenes, then all the "Rosemary" scenes. (I'm doing the same thing now with my WIP). Doing those separate-voice drafts helped me make the three voices unique.

And finally, in writing the character-driven story, I had to be willing to be surprised by what my characters revealed about themselves--talk about expecting the unexpected! I found that each had deep secrets she only revealed through much patience and prodding. :-)

Hope you enjoy the story!


Tomorrow: the editing

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

BOM: The Research

Researching family was fun--and simply a matter of getting people together. So since my mom and her sisters love St. Simons Island, I rented a beach house for the week (the house in the photo), and invited my mom, my aunt Irene (in the photo), and my cousin Ginger. (And no, the "Ginger" in the book has nothing to do with my Cousin Ginger.)

We spent a few days trippin' over the island and just curled up on the sofa, talking. It was fun, and by the time we got home, I had lots of material for the book.

PS--there's a lovely front porch swing on this porch--in fact, this house served as the model for Grandma's house as I was writing. It was perfect!


Tomorrow: the writing

Monday, May 02, 2011

BOM: How the Idea Germinated

The idea for THE FINE ART OF INSINCERITY was originally titled, "The Grandma Gene," and it was inspired by my grandma, naturally. My grandmother married five times, she liked flirting, she liked to sing, and in many ways she was quite child-like (I think I have the same quality, to a degree). But lest you think she was a Jezebel or a heart-breaker, you have to understand the time she grew up in--she was poor, she had only the barest of educations because she had to drop out and work out in the fields to help support her family, and she married young. She worked hard, she raised four daughters, and she really did call all of us grandkids into her room and assure us that she loved us best.

I love sitting around with "the aunts" and listening to them tell stories about their youth and my grandmother. And so I took many of the very real elements in my grandmother's life and spun them into a story . . . and waited several years to write it up. :-)

Tomorrow: the research.


Sunday, May 01, 2011

Book of the Month: The Fine Art of Insincerity

It's been a long time since we had a book-of-the-month, but we're back in business! Over the next week, we'll be walking through the idea, the writing, the research, etc., so I hope you enjoy it!


The Fine Art of Insincerity

Three Southern sisters with nine marriages between them — and more looming on the horizon – travel to St. Simons Island to empty their late grandmother’s house. Ginger, the eldest, wonders if she’s the only one who hasn’t inherited what their family calls “the Grandma Gene”— the tendency to enjoy the casualness of courtship more than the intimacy of marriage. Could it be that her sisters are fated to serially marry, just like their seven-times wed grandmother, Lillian Irene Harper Winslow Goldstein Carey James Bobrinski Gordon George? It takes a “girls only” weekend, closing up Grandma’s memory-filled beach cottage for the last time, for the sisters to unpack their family baggage, examine their relationship DNA, and discover the true legacy their much-marrying grandmother left behind.

The Fine Art of Insincerity is a stunning masterpiece. I was pulled into the lives of Ginger, Pennyroyal and Rosemary--sisters touched by tragedy, coping in their own ways. So real, so powerful. Pull out the tissues! This one will make you cry, laugh, and smile. I recommend it highly. --Traci DePree, author of The Lake Emily series

“Only Angela Hunt could write a relationship novel that’s a page-turner! As one of three sisters, I can promise you this: Ginger, Penny, and Rose Lawrence ring very true indeed. Their flaws and strengths make them different, yet their shared experiences and tender feelings make them family. From one crisis to the next, the Lawrence sisters are pulled apart, then knit back together, taking me right along with them. I worried about Ginger one moment, then Penny, and always Rose—a sure sign of a good novel, engaging both mind and heart. Come spend the weekend in coastal Georgia with three women who clean house in more ways than one!”

Liz Curtis Higgs, best-selling author of Here Burns My Candle





“You can’t tell your sisters,” my grandmother once told me, “what I’m about to tell you.”

I listened, eyes big, heart open wide.

“Of all my grandchildren—” her hands spread as if to encompass a crowd infinitely larger than myself and my two siblings—“you’re my favorite.”

Then her arms enfolded me and I breathed in the scents of Shalimar and talcum powder as my face pressed the crepey softness of her cheek.

My grandmother married seven times, but not until I hit age ten or eleven did I realize that her accomplishment wasn’t necessarily praiseworthy. When Grandmother’s last husband died on her eighty-third birthday, she mentioned the possibility of marrying again, but I put my foot down and told her no more weddings. I suspect my edict suited her fine, because Grandmom always liked flirting better than marrying.

Later, one of the nurses at the home mentioned that my grandmother exhibited a charming personality quirk—“Perpetual Childhood Disorder,” she called it. PCD, all too common among elderly patients with dementia.

But Grandmother didn’t have dementia, and she had exhibited symptoms of PCD all her life. Though I didn’t know how to describe it in my younger years, I used to consider it a really fine quality.

During the summers when Daddy shipped me and my sisters off to Grandmom’s house, she used to wait until Rose and Penny were absorbed in their games, then she would call me into the blue bedroom upstairs. Sometimes she’d let me sort through the glass beaded “earbobs” in her jewelry box. Sometimes she’d sing to me. Sometimes she’d pull her lace-trimmed hanky from her pocketbook, fold it in half twice, and tell me the story of the well-dressed woman who sat on a bench and fell over backward. Then she’d flip her folded hankie and gleefully lift the woman’s skirt and petticoat, exposing two beribboned legs.

No matter how large her audience, the woman knew how to entertain.

I perched on the edge of the big iron bed and listened to her songs and stories, her earbobs clipped to the tender lobes of my ears, enduring the painful pinch because Grandmother said a woman had to suffer before she could be beautiful. Before I pulled off the torturous earbobs and left the room, she would draw me close and swear that out of all the girls in the world, I was the one she loved most.

Not until years later did I learn that she drew my sisters aside in the same way. I suppose she wanted to make sure we motherless girls knew we were treasured. But in those moments, I always felt truly special.

And for far too long, I believed her.

© 2012 by Angela Hunt, used by permission. Do not reprint without permission. For more information, visit www.angelahuntbooks.com

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