Thursday, June 30, 2016

#FaithRaiderReads: Sarah Addison Allen

So, like I mentioned we have a new puppy and since we got her I have turned into a total scatter brain. She's a great puppy overall but she feels a little bit like the straw the broke the camel's back and send me from mildly overwhelmed into full-on crazy mom mode.

our new puppy Bonny

Anyway I'd been meaning to write more book recommendations but hadn't really gotten around to it. I think I was wanting to recommend a perfect book. But then a friend asked for a book recommendation and I remembered why I write these posts! I could write a blog-post-long text message responding to a text like that!! So here is another installment in (fiction) books I recommend.

Today I'm writing about all of the Sarah Addison Allen books I've read so far. Because her books are each a really fun, lighthearted read. I'm going to write about them in  approximately the same order I read them in.

my baby with two of his siblings at the Library!!

It was something my friend Corinne posted about on her Instagram and I thought I'd try. I read it in about 24 hours and immediately handed it to my daughter who read it in under 12. It is like the cotton candy of literature in the best of ways. It feels light and sweet and cozy with a twinge of magic around the edges. 

The story is about Bay, a teenager with the magical ability to know where everything belongs, including people. She works with her aunt who works magic into her cooking and barely gets along with her mother, who is a wizard of sorts with her scissors and comb down at the beauty salon. Bay knows that one of the popular boys at school belongs with her but they are not permitted to hang out together, so Bay kind of longs after him from a distance. There's also a con man and a candy store and a Halloween party and a magical tree. It is about the mystery of their mother's disappearance, and about the healing of hurting hearts. It is all really lovely and less whackadoodle that it sounds in this synopsis. I enjoyed it quite a lot.

Follows the story of Bay's mom & aunt when they were younger. I didn't enjoy it as much as First Frost, it is a bit cliche and more violent and has an abusive character. I'd call this closer to a PG-13 read. I thought that since I loved the characters in First Frost I would enjoy this story but I honestly didn't. 

I didn't love it as much as First Frost but I didn't dislike it as much as Garden Spells. It is about a young girl goes to live with the grandfather she didn't know existed until the death of her (single) mother. The main character walks into a town full of mysteries and secrets, where she starts to fall in love with the boy who has a Big Secret. She also has magical wallpaper that changes patterns by itself, so there's that. But it is a lovely story about love in many forms. 

preggo belly last summer when I read this book

This is one of my favorite books by Sarah Addison Allen but it is also the most cray-cray. It is about a magical alligator who lives at the lost lake. That part of the story is kind of unbelievable but the rest of the story makes up for it. It's about a woman (and her daughter) after the death of her husband. They've been living under the thumb of her mother in-law, but they decide to spend a week or so with her aunt before they move in with her. The place wakes her up, she helps her aunt, who is thinking about selling her property to the Big Bad Developer. It's about the other people who have been living there or coming every year for the last twenty years, the attractive handyman who is helping the aunt get things fixed up. It is such a beautiful story and I loved reading it, mostly in the bathtub while I was pregnant with my youngest.

This is a sweeping southern story, crossing about a hundred years, it's about the mystery of a big old house that is being renovated into a grand hotel, about the family that used to live there and the family that is renovating it and all of their family secrets. And of course a little romance is blossoming!

The Sugar Queen
I didn't finish this one - I had a ton of books checked out from the Library all at the same time, it is basically about a girl who is crazy for sugar and has a stash of sweets in her closet, or something like that. I didn't get into it. I guess I couldn't connect with the main character quickly enough. It seemed like a nice enough story and I'm sure I'll check it out of the library again at some time. 

All of these are (unless otherwise stated) pretty PG as far as violence and language, maybe stepping closer to a mild PG-13 in the romance department. If you are looking for a light fiction read any of these would be good. Let me know if you read any of these and what you think!

At some point this later year or early next I want to start sending a monthly email. I'm not 100% sure what it will be yet - maybe some kind of an online book club type thing? Definitely with book recommendations and helpful/interesting links. If you're interested sign up here. I plan to send out my first email this weekend - just to try things out - so sign up today. (You can unsubscribe at any time) To those of you who have already signed up I just wanted to say thank you! It makes me really happy that your trust me with access to your inbox. Look for something from me soon.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Draft vol 1.5

Ms. Mae & Lara sat at the table together, sipping on some ice cold lemonaid.They’d just finished washing up the dishes together, the mood was bright, the weather hot and sticky. Clara & Sophie were sprawled out on the floor, putting together a puzzle. Connor played with the cats, one of which he’d put to sleep across one of his legs. Lara & Ms. Mae sat for a moment in silence, watching them play.  “So how are the little angels doing?” Ms Mae always referred to Lara’s children as her “angels” which Lara found remarkable endearing or annoying demanding on how the day had been. “I think they’re doing well,” said Lara as she looked at them “really well” she repeated as her eyes lifted to meet Ms Mae’s “This place has been so good for all of us.” and it really had been.

The explosive outbursts that Lara had been coping with from one child or another had become a thing of the past and they really, truly seemed to be happy and thriving. Ms. Mae smiled, breaking into Lara’s thoughts  “Lara, you do realize that at some point you are going to have to make a choice, don’t you? Maybe not today, or tomorrow, or even next week, but soon.” Lara only sighed. “Are you going to register them for school here? Or will they return to the school that they attended last year? I don’t think the bus stops at my sister’s hotel. Summer is almost over. You’re going to have to make a choice, sooner or later.” 

Just then the screen door slammed and Matt walked in the back door. “Hello, dear.” Ms. Mae called out. “So, what are y’all talking about?” Matt kissed the top of his mother’s head and winked at Lara as he reached into the fridge for the pitcher of iced tea “I was just asking Lara if she would be registering her children in school here locally, or not.” Matt glowered at his mother, just a bit. Lara got the feeling that this had been a topic of conversation between the two of them and Matt had probably told his mother to leave it alone.  Lara’s heart swelled with love for this woman who had taken her in like a stray half-drowned cat and had practically treated her like family, who was now trying to give her some motherly advice. Matt kissed the top of his mother’s head again “Ma, don’t meddle.” he chided, half jokingly as he set his plate of food down on the table across from Lara, grinning. Lara smiled back. “Matthew, I will meddle. I am a mother, that’s what mothers do.” “Well, your mother’s right." said Lara laughingly "Living a day at a time is good and all, but you can’t really live like that, at least not with school-aged children. Eventually I’m going to have to face the music.” “Have you thought about finding a place around here?” asked Ms. Mae “the schools here are excellent and you’d be near enough to the beach you could go nearly every day if you really wanted to. Then you could visit me as often as you liked.” Lara hesitated Matt piped up casually “If you want, I’d be happy to show you a couple places in town.”  Lara’s eyes brightened. “I hadn’t even thought of that!” and suddenly a wave of relief washed over her. Matt & Ms. Mae smiled at each other. “That sounds really wonderful” Lara had to swallow hard to keep the tears back. Maybe she didn’t have to leave after all.

Lara’s mother, Betty-Jo Bryan swooped down from Atlanta, bringing Lara’s sister, Aimee, with her and a flutter and commotion of activity. Every day there were places to visit, things to do and it was all-consuming. Betty-Jo was in full-on Grandma mode and while she may or may not have had alternative motives, she made it very clear that she was here to spoil her grand-babies rotten. Leaving Lara barely time or space to breathe much less think. 

It was towards the begining of the second week of her mother’s visit, Lara was in her room, finally alone for a few minutes to work. It was a swelteringly hot night and in the middle of what had turned out to be one of the hottest weeks of the summer. Her mother and sister had taken the kids down to the pool for a before-bed swim after dark. Lara sat, wearing pajama shorts and a tank top, on the pull out sofa-bed eating cereal in front of the a/c unit. If her mother had suddenly returned Lara would have been certain to be on the receiving end of an extremely disapproving look. But they’d really only just left a few minutes ago so it was unlikely. In between bites Lara typed out notes on her laptop. Lara wanted to sketch out a few rough drafts to send to Marliegh, her editor. Suddenly the fan sputtered and slowed to a stop. Lara got up and checked to see if it had somehow inadvertently come unplugged. She turned it off, waited a few seconds, turned it back on again, fiddled with a few nobs and then she realized that she had absolutely no idea what she was doing. 

Lara picked up the room phone and pressed the button to speak to the front desk. Mrs G answered with her characteristically cheerful greeting “Sorry to bother you,” Lara began "but it seems our AC has given up the ghost.” “Oh dear,” said Mrs. G. sympathetically “no problem at all, Matt is here fixing the air in one of the other rooms, I’ll just send him right up when he’s through.” “Oh, wow. That’s really nice. I hope it’s not any inconvenience to - “ Mrs G cut her off ”oh, it’s the heat. Don’t you worry dear. these units blow left and right during a heat wave like this. He’ll be over in a jiffy and you’ll be good as new.” 

A few minutes later Matt knocked on Lara’s door. Mrs. G had told him who was was in room five-oh-seven and he was grinning like a teenager when Lara opened the door. Suddenly Lara wished she was wearing something a little nicer and had thought to pick up a bit, instead of finishing her cereal on the deck. She offered him a glass of water. These Floridians knew how to handle the heat like champs but Matt looked like he'd taken a quick swim on his way over. “Ma sure has missed you, at the farm” he said as Lara poured some water from a pitcher in the fridge into an ice filled glass. “My mom and sister have been visiting.” Lara replied “Yeah, Ma told me.” said Matt with a smile as Lara offered the glass. His fingers lightly brushing hers as she handed him the water, sending a tingle down Lara’s spine “I’d hoped to bring her over” said Lara looking away “but I haven’t had the chance, my mom loves to stay busy.” Lara realized she was headed over the fine line between small talk and babbling and decided to just stop before she said something really embarrassing. “Well now,” said Matt “let’s get that cold air runin’ again.” 

He quickly found, and resolved, the cause of the unit’s malfunction. Lara had rarely felt such a mix of relief and disappointment at the sound of cool air flowing into her room. “Well, now,” said Matt  "There you go.” “Thank you” said Lara. Matt was in no less of a hurry to leave than Lara was to have him go. Matt gathered what few tools he’d needed saying as he headed towards the door “so, anytime you want me to take you by those houses in town, just give me the word.” “Sure, yes, of course.” replied Lara “I’m sorry, I was meaning to set up sometime to do that. I’ve been kind of distracted, you know, with my mom and all.” “Yeah, sure. Of course.” said Matt kindly “Maybe you can bring your family to the farm for dinner.” Matt was at the door, looking back at Lara “I’d like that.” she said with a smile. “Okay, see you soon then.” said Matt and he heard out the door.

Not long after Clara, Sophie & Conner burst through the door, loud and excited, with their grandma and aunt close behind. Lara switched into baths and bedtime mode and before long the room was quiet again. Aimee was in the shower and Lara & her mother were folding up the day’s laundry. “So I was thinking” Lara's mother began “I think it would be best if we leave on Saturday. That will give us another four days here with you, you can pack up and come home with us, then.” She dropped the bomb on Lara casually but she watched her daughter carefully to see how she would take it. “I didn’t know you were expecting me to come home with you.” said Lara, timidly. “I was thinking of maybe staying longer.” 
“What? Another week? Surely not another month?”
“Actually I was thinking about maybe finding something, I don't know maybe  more permanent.” 
"Yes, you know, a little house somewhere nearby. Maybe in the next town over. Mrs. Garrard has a sister there - “
“How could you possibly even consider an idea as fanciful, as far fetched, as that? Think of your children.” and her tone was scolding more than pleading, “They need a stable home environment. You’ve had your little summer vacation. Don’t you think it’s time to get back to your life?”
“I have a life, mom.”
“Here? In a hotel? Practically living out of a suitcase? For months on end for what? What kind of a life do you intend to lead here? Hmm?" 
Lara’s eyes filled with tears. “I’m going for a walk” 
"Is this how you choose to face your problems? By running away from them?” her mother scolded
"I'll be back in a bit." said Lara and she shut the door behind her, trembling.

There was no way to win this argument with her mother. She was stubborn and usually saw things only from one point of view, her own. Lara could be equally stubborn, when she wanted to. She didn’t want to allow her mother to control her but suddenly everything about the last three months became unclear.  Something inside her, deep in her core, had begun to crumble. 

Over the next couple of days all Lara wanted to do was sleep, her body felt a hundred pounds heavier than the day before and her thoughts were all in a fog. What did she really want? Had she made a huge mistake coming here? Did she want to go back to the life she had before she came here? Did she want to start over here? What was best for the kids? To be here, where their mother was happy, or to be in her hometown where they’d have the support of family surrounding them? 

It was the uncertainty of it all that had undone her. Lara knew how to stand up and fight for what she wanted and she knew how to give way to her mother. The one thing she had no idea how to do was make up her mind. 

Lara took long walks on the beach by herself. She spoke less, exerted less effort, avoided making decisions, even trivial ones. Her mom and sister had almost completely taken over anyway, her sister was the fun aunt and their grandma gave the kids presents and took them places, and the kids were, for the moment, completely disinterested in their mother, and so Lara, simply sat on the sidelines, or sat, starting out in the ocean. Lost.
Matt sat in the office with his aunt, cooling down in the heat of Friday afternoon. He was helping her out with some last minute repairs. Matt found himself experiencing intense inner turmoil at the moment. Lara hadn't called him or his mother. His aunt had barely seen her, it was like she had dissappeared from their lives in an instant and Matt was pouting, slouched over his egg salad sandwich. "One minue she's planing on moving to town," he complained "promising to go house hunting with me, the next I'm completely invisible. Who does that?" 
"House hunting with you eh?" joked Mrs. G raising an eyebrow.
 "You know that's not what I meant." 
"Oh, or isn't it?" she laughed a little to herself and then sobered
"You know, her mother came to visit her, right?"
"and does she seem to be herself lately?"
"I don't know, Aunt G. I was right there I spoke to her, I waved, it was like I'd turned invisible, like she didn't even see me."
"Maybe she didn't " said Mrs. G matter of factly
"How could she have not seen me? I was right there."
"And how did she seem to you?"
"I don't know." Matt scratched the back of his neck "awe, come on now, Aunt G. Go ahead and say whatever it is you've got to say." 
"All I'm saying," said Mrs G gently, "is that if you left us you ma, well she and I would march right up to wherever it was you'd run off to and we would drag you back home, if need be. So now what do you think Lara's ma has been saying to her? Do you honestly think that poor woman could stand on her own against her own mother, calling her home? Think about if you were in her place."
"Do you think she'll leave?" Matt asked quietly, eyes on the floor
"No." said Mrs. G quickly "I think not. Rarely have I seen someone so in love with a place, so positively changed by living here, but you never know, really, what someone will do when they're depressed"
The word hung in the air between them.
"Depressed?" Matt asked
The two of them had seen enough depression to last a life time. Between Mr. G's PTSD and his own father's manic depressive disorder, not to mention his own season of darkness ater the death of his wife and their unborn son. "Maybe she just needs a friendly remnder of why she wants to stay." said his aunt.

Later that night Matt found himself at Lara's door for the second time in a week. The sun had set a couple hours ago and the night had cooled down considerably, Matt shivered slightly in the cool ocean breeze. He knocked and the door opened, an older woman standing in the doorway. Died brown hair, deepset eyes, tight strait lips. "Yes?" she asked, in a manner that was neither friendly nor fierce. 
"My names' Matt, er Matthew Bartlett and I just came by to speak to Lara" he said, feeling a bit like the boy with the baseball asking if his friend can come out and play catch. Lara's mother hesitated a moment. "She's out on the balcony at the moment. I'll go get her." "Oh, no ma'am, I'll just go out and sit with her a minute." He wasn't so much as asking permission so much as stating a fact and he walked past her easily. "All right then." she said as he walked through, she stared at him blankly, moving slightly to one side as he passed.

Matt stepped out onto the balcony where Lara sat, alone, staring out at he ocean, unseeing. Matt sat down in the empty chair next to hers. The night breeze blew cool, a welcome to the swealtering heat of the past few days. Matt sat there, listening to the crash of the ocean, the call of the last few birds and the symphony of crickets and frogs far below, looking at Lara, who seemed to have changed, like in the last three days she had aged. Yet somehow, she also looked like a little girl, unsure of herself.

Lara started lightly when she realized it was Matt sitting there in the chair beside her, their shoulders nearly touching. 
"Are you leaving?" Matt asked, he hated himself for always speaking so directly.
Lara turned her gaze back to the ocean.
"I don't know" Lara said, like it was an admission she did not like to make. 
He wanted to blurt out "Please don't" but he bit his lip and stayed quiet.
"I've been thinking a lot lately," Lara spoke softly "about what I really want to do with the rest of my life."
There was a pause like Lara din't know how to finish her thought
"And I just don't know."
Matt hesitated for a moment, trying to pull his most encuraging thougt from the jumble crashing around inside of him at this moment. 
"That's okay." he said 
"Is it?"
There was another long pause
"What do you think?" Lara sighed "Was I silly? Was it selfish of me to try to live here. What kind of a life is that?"
Matt wanted to reach across, to comfort her, to let her know it was okay, that she was going to be okay.
Matt put his hand on the armrest of the chair, his hand next to hers, nearly touching.
"I think you're one of the bravest women I've ever met." he said, quietly. simply.
Lara looked up into his face, tears in her eyes "Really?"
"But what do you think I should do?"
Matt took a deep breath. Eyes out to the ocean. Searching for the right words. Words that answered her question unselfishly.
"I think you should be happy again."
He could feel Lara's eyes on him but he kept his gaze fixed on the crash of the ocean waves on the shore. "Not just for a moment or even a day but happy, really, truly happy. And if that means that you live here or there, well, no one can answer that question but you."
Lara sat in silence. 
Happy? She had got a little taste of what that might feel like here, in the peace of this place, in the sunshine, at Aunt Mae's Farm with her garden and her cats, laughing with Matt in the evenings.
"But I don't know what to do." said Lara weakly
"That's okay," replied Matt reassuringly "I know you'll make a good decision,"
"You do? You don't think I'll screw it up?"
"Oh, I'm sure sometime or other you'll mess up" replied Matt laughingly, "but then, you'll see your mistake, learn from it and move on."
Lara smiled and laughed softly, almost to herself.
"Thank you" she said softly.
And they sat in silence, listening to the ocean.

The next day Lara's mother and sister left. 

And Matt felt like he could breathe again. 

Friday, June 17, 2016


We have been really busy with our new dog Bonnie. I named her after the character in Toy Story 3. They are both so friendly, sweet and cheerful. She's been a terrific addition to the family. Kids need a dog, some dogs need kids and Bonnie I think is one of them. She loves the constant attention and company. She is still a puppy but has been really easy to train so far!

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Draft vol 1.4

This is part four. You can find past posts if you look back at previous posts. 

Lara woke up on Moday morning to find an email from Marleigh, her editor. She was going to come for a visit tomorrow and she needed the web address for the hotel to make her reservation. She would be there for a late dinner, and she was bringing her camera. This was followed by multiple exclamation points. 

That day Lara and the kids spent extra time at the grocery store. One of the things Marleigh was good for was excellent conversation and an excellent bottle of wine and it was the unspoken contact within their relationship that Lara was a good listener and made a delicious meal, usually something along the lines of risotto and scallops. Lara had taken cooking classes a couple of years ago and had been a recipe contributor for a bit at the begining of her writing career where she met Marleigh. They had bonded over food but their friendship endured through good times and bad.

When Marliegh finally arrived the children had already eaten and been bathed and were watching a movie before bed. Marleigh swept in with a big black sunhat and a big bottle of wine. Marliegh was the embodyment of sophistication, a modern-day Audrey Hepburn (sans cigarettes). She was the sort of person who watched all of the best movies, had read every book worth reading and the person you texted to ask if black nail polish was still in, or had that gone out of style yet? 

Marleigh had fallen into the unlikely roll of Lara's best friend. Lara, though she loved her kids, was not one of those moms who seemed to be incapable of talking of nothing else and was one of the few people who, if asked to see a limited-release movie at the indie-theater in Atlanta would say yes and then could have an intellectualy stimulating conversation about it afterwards over a bowl of Pho, and while Marleigh had friends with whom she could go out for sushi with every day of the week, Lara was one of only a few friends and even fewer who lived nearby, who would eat curry with her. And so Lara and Marleigh were best friends. Marleigh had shopping friends and Lara had mommy-friends, or at least she did on Facebook, her list of In Real Life friends had dwindled to almost zero, but Marleigh and Lara were Best Friends. And when Lara's life fell apart Marleigh had remained her steadfast friend. Who brought over wine and comedies on DVD when Lara could not get out of bed. 

"I have missed you sooooooooo much!" gushed Marleigh taking off her hat and wrapping her arms around Lara. She smelled like a glossy magazine in the very best of ways. "So tell me everything. But after we eat. I'm starving. What did you make? But really, how are you?" Lara laughed. She had not even realied how much she had missed her friend until this moment.  Conner, Sophie & Clara all swarmed the kitchen with hugs and kisses and a dozen things that they wanted to tell her all at once. 

Dinner was on the table and the children had drifted back into the living room to watch the DVD Marleigh had brought for them. Connor was already more than half-asleep on the couch. "Ohh, this looks so good!!" Marleigh sighed with delight "your cooking is always so delicious.

Marleigh caught Lara up on all of the gossip she had missed, not that Lara had missed missing it. Apparently it was Big News that Lara had chosen to take a month-long vacation to no-one-knows-where Florida, even though 99% of their work was done via telecommuting. "The office was practically throbbing with the news." said Marleigh "I wish you could have been a fly on the wall above the proverbial water-cooler at the office. The girls had all kinds of theories for why you decided to stay so long. Someone Who Shall Remain Nameless was convinced you were experiencing a mental breakdown, Mindy said you'd met someone here and gave us the blow-by-blow of your imagined summer affair. It was quite scandalous. While Val created an elaborate theory based on the premise that you had actually been the victim of identity theft."

In the morning Lara took Marleigh around to see some of her favorite out of the way places around the city. Marleigh had already been up to have a run on the beach and had already had a lengthy conversation with the not-too-shabby-looking guy who worked the desk at night, whose name turned out to be Ethan.

Arm in arm Lara and Marleigh strolled along the sidewalk, Marleigh stopping to chat with people that Lara spent the last month merely smiling at. "This has got to be a piece." Marleigh said over lunch. Connor was kicking the wrought iron table at Lara's favorite pizza place and Sophie and Clara were squabbling. "Sure, that would be fantastic for this town's economy." said Lara trying to physically seperate her daughters. "You should write it." said Marleigh casually. Lara hadn't done a significant piece since Ian died. She'd mostly written top ten lists and inspiration pieces. Nothing that required a great deal of writing, yet still, the stuff that some of the bigger magazines thrived on to drive traffic to their site.  "Really?" asked Lara feeling a mix of excitement and terror. "Sure. We're running a larger piece on out of the way, off the beaten path type places, one of the girls is writing about someplace in the mountains that is just not coming together, I'll put your piece in that spot if it's as good as I think it will be." "Okay." replied Lara with a laugh. "Okay" said Marliegh "Now, let's go find a place where I can get some ice cream!" 

Lara noticed, yet again, as she sat eating a gelato with her children, and Marleigh stood at the counter chatting with the server, how the handsome single men around them seemed to just come out of the woodwoork for Marleigh, while Lara felt completely invisible.  "Can I taste yours, Mama?" asked Connor "Sure, baby" said Lara. It had simply become a fact of her life, you add a baby, you become invisible to the opposite sex. "Me too" chimed Sophia "I want some too!" "Here you go Ladybug,"  said Lara "can I have a taste of yours? Taste for taste?" Sophia held out her cone for her Mama to taste "Mmmmmm, that's tasty." Lara offered a taste of her gelato to her oldest. She sighed a bit, to herself. She felt so very un-sexy lately, practically androgynous. Lara felt like she ought to be jealous of Marleigh, with her great body and fantastic personality that attracted attention like moths to a flame, but she couldn't. She sometimes felt like she hid behind her children and felt safe in her invisibility. Lara wondrered if she was permanantly broken, if she would ever be that person again who wanted the attention of a man. Marleigh came to sit down next to Lara, who smiled and sighed again. 

Lara and Marleigh's conversations ebbed and flowed sprinkled with hysterical laughter. After dinner Lara carried her kids to bed, all of them being more or less half asleep already. Marleigh & Lara ate dessert on the patio, and fell into silence, lulled by the rythm of the ocean. Lara turned to Marleigh and asked "What do you think?" "About what, love?" asked Marleigh "About this, about my life here. Sometimes I think, maybe I really have gone off the deep end. Who does this? You know, In Real Life. It's not like I've gone off to Italy or India, but this is neither "normal" nor "dramatic" so what is it?" 
"It's your life.
"Yeah, but - " 
"No, really. It's your life. So who cares what anyone else says? No one is living your life but you. This, this is great. If it makes you happy. Who gets to say what is or isn't so-called "normal". Not me."

Next morning, Lara was sad to see her friend leave, but Marleigh had places to go, people to see, and deadlines to meet. Marleigh hugged Lara as she said goodbye "I'm happy for you, Lara. Don't ever let anyone take away from you what you found here." Lara smiled 
"Promise me." 
"I promise." said Lara and she hugged her friend again, and then Marleigh was swept away, like a beautiful shell dancing back towards the ocean, pulled by the undertow of a rising tide. 

Lara sat beside the pool, sketching outlines for a possible article. She felt keenly how rusty she was at this. She had pages and pages of ideas, outlines, sentences - all of it felt like total crap. She had done this once, she had written substantive work before... but she felt totally unsure of if she could do it again. 

Mrs. G sat down beside her with a basket of clean, folded towels. "Your friend seemed very nice." Mrs. G began
"Oh, she is. One of the most generous, intelligent, women I've ever been friends with."
"I hope she had a nice visit."
"Yes, I think she did. While she was here she asked me to write a piece for her magazine."
"Did she now?"
"Yes, just a small piece in a larger article on out of the way places to visit in the summer, it's sort of a last-minute assignment,"
"Out of the way places, eh? Well that, we most certainly are."
"Mrs. G - what would it mean to you to have your hotel featured in this article?"
"I mean, I'm trying to find my motivation, behind the piece, besides from how I feel about this city and your hotel, what about how you feel about this place?"
"This place. It was my starting over point. This was my decision to stop feeling sorry for myself and try to do something useful with my life. Mr. G had come back from Iraq, from Desert Storm, back in the 90s and he had come back in a bad way. They call it PTSD now but back then it didn't have a name, at least not one that I knew. My husband's body came back beat up but his heart had been broken. So there I was, childless, with a brokendown husband. Lost, depressed, feeling sorry for myself. So I came here, took out a loan, bought this place and worked hard. We were busy, almost more than I could hande. Full every summer, all summer long. I paid off that loan as fast as a body could, I learned everything I could, worked really really hard. Made a life for us.

Of course it's different now, this town has changed, but I didn't change with it. I think, every now and again, that I should give up, put this place up for sale and cut my losses. I've thought about moving further up to St. Augustine or to Jacksonville. I got a job offer to work in Hilton Head once, but you know, I just couldn't leave. This place was my second chance and I want to be here when this place gets it's second chance. Maybe that won't come. But if it does, I'll be ready for it."

Lara sat chatting with Marleigh on the phone the next day. "Lara, I am so mad at you right now." 
"What for?" 
"I am completely upset with you for two reasons, which I am prepared to discuss with you at length. Firstly: that you were capable of writing something like this but have only been giving me fluff for the last year and a half. I feel robbed, Lara. Robbed. Think of all of the pieces you could have worked on for me? But that is not all! oh no... that is only the tip of the iceburg. Lara, your piece was so good that I am now trying to cut space from everybody else's bits without being obvious about it. Ezra was so very proud of his piece he will practically murder me if I don't put his piece first, and in it's entirety, but all I want to run is yours. This place, it is just adorable! Your words are so poetic." "Marleigh, it's hardly poetic. This place speaks for itself." "No darling, no it doesn't. It needed you to speak for it. And you have done an excelllent job. It would be very pleased with you. Actually, if this piece does as well as I think it is going to they will pretty much make  be ready to make you the mayor." 
"Really? You really think this could help put Palm Beach back on the map?"
 "Most definitely." 

I try to publish the next bit of the story every Thursday night. I am so very aware that I've got a lot to learn, but I'm trying to practice my fiction writing. You have any suggestions for how I can improve my writing I am all ears. 

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Faith Raider Reads: The Fault in Our Stars

I am more myself when I have a book to read. And there will always be a tiny part of me that has gotten stuck at 17. I love reading, sharing books I've enjoyed and reading books that my friends have enjoyed. I had another book in mind to recommend to you today but that one is going to have to wait because I just finished watching the DVD of "The Fault in Our Stars" again and it has me re-living the experience of reading the book by John Green, so I couldn't help myself but to share it with you. The movie version is about as close as you get when it comes to transforming a book into a movie.

I read it in about two days (because, life) I dried my eyes and handed it to my oldest daughter, Beth who was in 7th grade at the time. She read it in less than 12 hours. We went to go see the movie together a few months later when it came out in theaters.

I have been known to shed a tear or two while I read (especially during my last pregnancy) but with this book I wept. It was so touching and so tragic. 

This is a perfect type book to take on a long car ride. I imagine it might make a good poolside book (I have six kids, I know nothing of luxurious poolside reading, but I do have an imagination, and in my imagination this seems really nice).  I dare you to take more than 24 hours to read it. 

In case you have been living under a rock somewhere for the last couple of years I'll give you a brief synopsis of the story - Hazel Grace has stage four cancer, her treatment is working and for now she's pretty stable but he feels like she is a grenade, about to go off, and that it is her duty to reduce the casualties. However that become difficult when she meets Augustus Waters at cancer patient support group. He believes in living a big life, one to be remembered and he refuses to let Hazel keep him away. 

Their love story is ordinary - text messages about their favorite books and supporting their friend as he looses his eyesight. Their love story is also extraordinary- visiting Amsterdam and touring the Anne Frank house. Their love story is tender and tragic and surprising. It reminded me of what it felt like to be in love when I was 17.

Content: Because offensive content is one of the things I am most worried about when I pick up a book, one of the things I want to do in these reviews is give an honest opinion/rating of the content. I'd call this a solid PG-13 there are f-bombs and other curse words throughout but not used heavily. Considering that these are modern, non-religious teenagers (with cancer!) facing life and death situations I felt like the language was appropriate. Not everyone will agree/appreciate that, so - fair warning. There are also teenagers talking about sexuality, making out, virginity and lack of it, and a scene where the main characters sleep together but the scene is not explicit or graphic. I was comfortable with my girls, who are advanced readers in middle school, reading it. But we talk pretty openly about all of the things that were in the book. Overall I felt like it was a good portrayal of modern teenagers and I really enjoyed the characters & story. Is it a piece of amazing literature? No. Is it a sweet piece of YA fiction? In my opinion, definitely yes. 

At some point this later year or early next I want to start sending a monthly email. I'm not 100% sure what it will be yet - maybe some kind of an online book club type thing? Definitely with book recommendations and helpful/interesting links. If you're interested sign up here. (You can unsubscribe at any time).