Friday, July 27, 2012

And the Winner Is . . . .

Hi Anne Fans!


I could pull a Ryan Seacrest and draw out the suspense, but Rafflecopter spun the wheel and the winner of the 

$50 Red Lobster Certificate is ANNE S!  

OK, do you think there was a bit of divine intervention from St. Anne  on that since an Anne won? 

Anyway, I hope you all had  a great time joining in on the festivities on the way to the launch of St. Anne's Day.  I know I did.

Even more importantly, I hope you enjoy reading St. Anne's Day.  


Please remember to post your reviews on Amazon or Smashwords when you are finished with it.   The way Amazon works is the more favorable reviews that a book has the higher that book rises in Amazon's rankings.  Amazon then suggests the books with the highest rankings to people searching for books.  

Also, if you liked St. Anne's Day, please tell your friends and relatives.  In survey after survery, word-of-mouth is reported as the way most readers discover books.  

I will be in touch and the paperback version should be available shortly.


Once again,  thanks and remember:  

When it's St. Anne's Day, it's your day too!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Happy St. Anne's Day Everyone!

Well, it's finally July 26, St. Anne's Day!


I hope you enjoyed our journey to this big day and to the launch of the book. 


A big thank you to all of you who have helped me along the way from critique partners, beta readers to friends, family and neighbors.  The reviews are starting to roll in, and they've been terrific!  Thank God and St. Anne! 

Now let's get the party started!

In France, especially the Brittany region, they whoop it up on St. Anne's Day, making special foods like Creme Sainte-Anne and Gateau Sainte-Anne.   


I found a really great website called CatholicCuisine.com, which gives recipes appropriate for many of the Saints' Feast Days and Church Holidays.  The site also features some very interesting cookbooks.   When you get a chance, check their site out.


If we could party together in person, I would serve you this--their fabulous creation:  Creme Sainte-Anne. 

Crème Sainte-Anne (St. Anne's Cream) 

1/2 c. sugar 
2 Tbsp. water 
1 Tbsp. butter, unsalted 
1/4 c. macaroons, crushed 
1 1/14 c. milk 
1 egg 
3 egg yolks 

Butter 4 ramekins. Put half the sugar in a pan and moisten with 2 tablespoons water. Bring to a boil and cook to amber caramel. 

Pour the caramel into 4 ramekins, to make a thin layer in each, and allow to set. (I don't think I cooked the sugar quite long enough since it never turned to a caramel color -- next time I think I may try cooking it longer or reduce the water. Any suggestions??) 

Place a thin slice of butter on the caramel in each ramekin and sprinkle each with the chopped macaroons. Heat the milk to the simmering point. Whisk the egg, egg yolks and remaining sugar until creamy. Beat in the hot milk and pour into the prepared ramekins. The macaroons will float to the top. 

 Stand the ramekins in a tray of simmering water that comes halfway up their sides. Bake in a moderate oven at 325°F (160°C) for 20 to 25 minutes until set. Allow to cool, loosen edges and turn out onto a plate. (I baked mine for 28 minutes and it could have still used a few more minutes... I am sure this varies depending on your oven, but mine usually tends to bake hotter/ quicker so you may need to increase the baking time.) 

Serves 4. 

Also, in France they celebrate St. Anne's Day by eating seafood because Brittany is a peninsular region on the northwestern coast of the country.  That is why the grand prize is a $50 Gift Certificate to Red Lobster. If you can't go to France to get your lobster, I thought this is the next best thing!  

Be sure to enter the Sweepstakes before the deadline.  Tomorrow the lucky winner will be announced.  Good luck, Anne Fans! 

Finally, it wouldn't be a party unless everyone got some swell swag to take home.  Therefore, I'm offering St. Anne's Day for FREE until July 28.  

All you need do is go to Smashwords by clicking here.  Enter this code at checkout:  BC74F to get your FREE copy!

Unfortunately, Amazon Kindle does not permit authors to offer their books for free.  However, they do have a downloadable Kindle app on the site that you can install on your laptop, phone, etc. that allows you to read St. Anne's Day from Smashwords.  The paperback will be available very soon too.  I'll be sure to let you know when. 

Please remind your friends to get their copy before the price reverts back to $2.99.  All I ask is if you liked the book, to please post a review about it on Amazon or Smashwords and to spread the word that St. Anne's Day is available.  Word of mouth is the best publicity!

If you didn't like the book, then I'm asking you to invoke the Thumper Rule from Bambi:  If you can't say somethin' nice, don't say nothin' at all! ; )

Please sign up for my emails so that I can keep you up-to-date on the lastest news.  Also feel free to email me with any comments or questions.

Happy St. Anne's Day!

Enjoy the book!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Day 8 - St. Anne's Day Soiree VIP Book Launch

Hello Anne Fans!


I guess I could say Happy St. Anne's Day Eve, as the Feast of St. Anne is tomorrow, and that is the day when the novel opens.   To get you into the mood for the big day tomorrow, I thought I'd post the scene in the novel where Anne is introduced to her new patient, Peg McMaster, who begins scheming to bring Anne and her playboy son together:


“It’s Anne. Anne Lyons,” she said softly as she moved closer to the old woman, gently touching her spindly arm. “I’m going to help you to get back on your feet.” 

Mrs. McMaster’s face brightened and her skin, which had been pale while sleeping, now pinked. “What day is it?” Her lips were dry and stuck to her teeth as she spoke. Pushing with her hands and elbows, she struggled to sit up. 

“It’s Friday,” Mac said as he held her shoulder to the mattress. “Hold still, let me raise the bed.” 

Anne noticed that he was not wearing a wedding ring. 

Mrs. McMaster licked her lips as the head of the bed slowly rose. “No, I mean, what’s the date?”

“July 26,” Anne said. “Would you like some water, Mrs. McMaster?” 

“Yes, Honey.” 

Anne moved to the other side of the bed and grabbed the pitcher from the nightstand. She shook it. “Is this fresh?” 

“Yes,” Mac said. “Went down to the banks of the Allegheny River this morning and filled it up myself.” 

Mrs. McMaster waved a hand at her son as she scrutinized Anne. “He’s a wise guy. Ignore him. Did you say your name was Anne?” 

“Yes, Anne Lyons.” 

“Irish?” 

Anne poured her some water and helped her to drink. “Nearly all, except for one German grandparent.” 

“That explains the hard-headedness,” Mac muttered. 

Anne shot him a withering look across the bed. 

Mrs. McMaster smacked her lips and handed the glass back to Anne. “You’re such a pretty little thing with that red hair. I knew you had to be Irish.” She looked up at her son. “Isn’t she pretty?” 

He patted his mother’s hand. “I’ve got eyes, Peg.” 

Anne felt the heat begin in her chest, rise up her neck, spreading across her cheeks. This was going to be a challenge working here. 

“Where are my glasses?” Mrs. McMaster asked. 

Anne laughed. “You might not think I’m that pretty after you put them on.” 

“She’ll think you’re doubly so.” Mac winked. 

 Anne felt her heart speed up. As he located the trifocals on the nightstand and held them up to the light to check if they needed to be cleaned, Anne took the opportunity to study him more closely. She judged him to be six feet tall. He had the perfect bone structure of a model—well-formed nose, firm jaw—but the small scar on his chin gave his face enough ruggedness to keep him from appearing pretty. His green golf shirt and pleated khakis hugged a toned body. The brighter light of his mother’s room, made the contrast of his dark hair and shocking blue eyes more distinct. And more handsome. Why did he have to be such a jerk?

Out of the corner of his eye, Mac caught her staring at him and smiled. Anne quickly looked back at her patient.

“Do you believe it?” Mrs. McMaster said, her eyes looking three times their size behind the thick lenses. “What luck! I’m feeling better already.” 

“Why’s that?” Mac asked. “Because you’re back home with me?” 

Mrs. McMaster rolled her eyes. “July 26—it’s the feast of St. Anne.” She folded her hands contentedly. “They send me a beautiful Irish nurse named Anne on St. Anne’s feast day. It’s a sign.” 

Mac rolled his eyes. “Be forewarned. My mother has a saint for every day, every circumstance, and every occasion.” 

Anne wondered if Mrs. McMaster had a saint who could change his personality. Then she remembered there already was one—St. Jude, the patron saint of hopeless causes. 

“Don’t laugh.” The old woman glared up at her son. “When I was a young girl, I’d say the prayer, ‘Dear St. Anne, get me a man as fast as you can.’ The nuns at school taught us that so we’d get dates for the dances. It worked. St. Anne found me my Martin.” 

“Wasn’t St. Anne demoted by the Pope, like St. Christopher?” Mac said. 

“You’re going to roast in hell,” his mother warned. 

***

I hope you enjoyed that excerpt and are now in the mood to party tomorrow!  See you blog side on ST. ANNE'S DAY!!!


Day 7 - St. Anne's Day Soiree VIP Book Launch Party

Hi Anne Fans!

We are closing in on the end of our lead-up to the big event, St. Anne's Day, on July 26, when the celebration really begins.

Today, we are going to concentrate on the name Anne.    

The name Anne is Hebrew for "grace" or "favor."  It is derived from the name Hannah and has been popular for centuries. 

According to the website ThinkBabyNames.com, there are nearly 100 variations on the name from around the world.

Aine, Ana, Anabel, Anci, Anechka, Anelie, Anet, Anett, Anette, Anh, Ania, Anica, Anika, Aniko, Anissa, Anita, Anitra, Anjanette, Anka, Anke, Anki, Anne, Anna, Annabel, Annabella, Annabelle, Annaelle, Annalisa, Anneke, Annelle, Annelore, Annetta, Annette, Anni, Annice, Annick, Annie, Annimae, Annina, Annis, Annise, Annora, Annus, Annuska, Anny, Anona, Anouche, Anouk, Anoushka, Anouska, Antje, Anushka, Anuska, Anya, Anyoushka, Anyshka, Anyu, Asya, Ayn, Hajna, Hana, Hanja, Hanka, Hanny, Nan, Nana, Nance, Nancee, Nancey, Nanci, Nancie, Nancy, Nanete, Nanette, Nanette, Nanice, Nanine, Nanni, Nannie, Nanny, Nanon, Nanor, Neti, Nettia, Nettie, Netty, Nina, Ninette, Ninon, Ninor, Ninoshka, Nita, Nona, Nonie, Oni and Onie.

From 1900 to 1970, it was consistently ranked in the top 100 for girls' names.  In 2011, it was ranked the 593rd most popular name.

How many people do you know named Anne?   I think today it is more popular as a middle name.  Off hand, I can think of Lily Tomlin's Edith Anne & The Beach Boys' song Barbara Anne

They have a variation that is a blend of Anne and Janice--Annice. 

Can you think up a new variant?  If you do, maybe we can tweet it so that the people in Hollywood might see it and stop naming their babies such strange names!

Don't forget to enter the SWEEPSTAKES before it is too late!

P.S. Did you see that the British Open was held at Royal Lytham & St. Annes on the West Coast of England?

Monday, July 23, 2012

Day 6 - St. Anne's Day Soiree VIP Book Launch

Hi Anne Fans!

I hope you had a lovely weekend.  And thankfully, my computer recovered!

Several years ago for my 25th Wedding Anniversary, my husband and I had the opportunity to travel through Europe.  It was an amazing adventure, and we were very fortunate to be able to visit Paris.  This was during The Da Vinci Code craze.  Let me tell you, the Parisians did not relish the attention Dan Brown's book foisted upon them.  Several tour guides at the beginning of their narrations before anyone in our group could even ask if something they had read in the book was true, stated flat out:  The Da Vinci Code is not true.    







The Eiffel Tower at Night

Not to get all Dan Brown on you, but I wanted to tell you about St. Anne's connection to France.  The things we know about St. Anne have been handed down through the centuries and are based on the non-biblical Protoevangelium of James, which was written in the second century.   According to tradition, Joachim, Anne's husband, was a well-respected man, but sadly, he and Anne were childless.  Anne, prayed for a baby, and God blessed her with Mary.  Anne was so grateful, she dedicated her child to God when Mary was very young.  Hence, all those paintings of Anne presenting Mary in the Temple. 

Now, here's where what is known about St. Anne starts to veer off into Dan Brown territory.  There are some legends that state that Mary Magdalene brought St. Anne's remains with her to Apt, France, in the first century when Jerusalem fell.  Her relics were supposedly buried there in the church and then lost.  However, 800 years later Charlemagne found them.  From that time on, France has had a special bond with St. Anne. 





Charlemagne's Coronation as painted by Raphael 1516-1517


The origin of the St. Anne prayer, which features prominently in St.Anne's Day, is as equally as sketchy as the details of St. Anne's life.  No one knows for sure where it came from, but thank goodness Dan Brown didn't know about it, or he may have beaten me to the punch and used it as the subject of one of his novels.  Though I doubt Anne would have had much interest in the Fibonacci sequence or Peg would have put up with his shenanigans!

Don't forget to enter the sweepstakes and invite your friends.  The festivities will soon be concluding.  So don't miss out.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Day 5 - St. Anne's Day Soiree VIP Launch Party

Happy Sunday, Anne Fans!

Since it is Sunday, and you may be heading to your church today, I thought I'd share with you some of the St. Anne churches from around the world.


This church, St. Anne's in Jerusalem is supposed to be where it all began.  It is located near the Via Dolorosa, or the way of the cross,  and is believed to have been built over a grotto that was supposed to commemorate the site where St. Anne was born.  It was built in 1138 and is administered bye the White Fathers, and although located in Jerusalem, it belongs to France, as it was presented to Napoleon III after the Crimean Wars.

This church dedicated to St. Anne is a bit more ornate.  It is Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupre in Quebec, Canada.  It reminds me of Notre Dame in Paris.


 
In the novel, Peg is one of the main characters, and she shares many of the traits of my two grandmothers and great-grandmother.  And if my memory serves me correctly, my great-grandmother traveled to this shrine when I was a little girl.

As you will learn in tomorrow's blog, St. Anne and France go together like crepes and fromage.  Sainte-Anne d'Auray is a major pilgrimage site in the Brittany region of France.  This large basilica was built in the mid-nineteenth century to honor St. Anne who is the patroness of Brittany. 


There are numerous churches named after St. Anne around the world.  Is there a St. Anne's church in your area?  I know there is one where I live.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Day 4 St. Anne's Day Soiree-VIP Book Launch

Hi Anne Fans!

Well, of course, nothing goes as planned in life!  Yesterday, my new laptop died on me.  I'm hoping it will miraculously heal itself.  I will have to look up the patron saint of technology and offer up a few prayers.  So I'm limping along with my husband's laptop at the worst possible time--in the middle of a book launch!

Yesterday, we went a bit lowbrow with trivia.  Today, we are going to get a bit artsy with some masterpieces dealing with St. Anne.


This is probably the most famous of all depictions of St. Anne.  It was painted in 1498 by Leonardo da Vinci and is entitled The Virgin and Child with St. Anne.  What is unusual about the painting is that Mary is seated on her mother's lap.  It is housed in the Louvre in Paris, and a controversy was recently ignited over it, because it seems the art restorers cleaned it--and some experts feel that they have cleaned it too well, making the colors more vibrant to their taste. I guess you can be too clean!


 This painting is entitled St. Anne leading the Virgin in the Temple.  It was painted by Jacques Stella in 1640 and is based on the traditional story that Mary was dedicated in the temple at a young age.  We will explore the lore, legends and traditions surrounding St. Anne in another posting.  Stella, a French artist, so impressed King Louis XIII, that the king named him pientre de roi (painter of the king) and allowed him to live in the Louvre.  Good thing he was gone before that whole da Vinci code murder!  

Caravaggio is one of my all-time favorite painters because he uses the contrast of light and dark so masterfully and paints so realistically, which at times got him into a bit of trouble.


He painted this in 1606 and many were startled that he depicted St. Anne as old and wrinkly, the Blessed Mother with ample breasts, and Jesus, full-Monty and uncircumcised.  Nevertheless, I think it is a beautiful painting, especially the depiction of Jesus crushing the snake, which symbolizes Him conquering sin and evil.

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of renderings by artists of St. Anne.  Click here to see some of them. 

As always, invite your friends to the party and be sure to enter the sweepstakes.  Also, say a prayer that my laptop recovers.  

Friday, July 20, 2012

Day 3-St. Anne's Day Soiree VIP Launch Party

Hi Anne Fans!

I hope you are enjoying the lead-up to the launch of St. Anne's Day.  Today we are going to test your knowledge with All About Anne Trivia.  Below are 20 questions about Annes.  The answers are at the bottom--but don't peek!

Let me know how many you get.  Also, be sure to enter the Sweepstakes to the right, and don't forget to invite your friends to join in on our fun!

All About Anne Trivia


1.  This Annie often exclaimed “Leapin’ Lizards!” but she had a dog named Sandy.

2.   Annie’s Song was written by this Mile High Mountain Man.

3.  This Anne was a writer as well, but what were the names of her two more famous
      writing sisters?

4.  Though this Queen might think it quite fine, most people regard this plant named for her
     as  a weed.

5.  These two Anne’s lost their heads over Henry VIII.


I'm Henry the Eighth, I am!




6.  Like Anne in St. Anne’s Day, this Anne had red hair, but she lived on Prince Edward
     Island.

7.  This Anne’s diary made her famous.

8.  This pistol-packing Anne’s real name was Phoebe Ann Moses.

9.  This Anne wrote A Gift from the Sea.

10.  This city in Michigan is named for the spouse of one of the city’s founding fathers.

11.  Which Canadian singer had a hit with Snowbird?.

12.  Together with her sister, Nancy Wilson, this Ann formed which rock group?

13. This Annie gave us Sweet Dreams.

14.  This acting Anne shares the same last name as Mr. Drysdale’ secretary.



Hello, Chief!





15.  In addition to having Anne as her first name, she has three additional first names—
      Elizabeth, Alice and Louise.

16.  This Annie worked miracles with Helen Keller.



She made granny glasses cool before John Lennon!


17.  This Annie’s yummy treats put a twist on food court snacks.

18.  Alvy Singer fell in love with this Annie in what 1977 hit movie?

19.  This Anne spent a lot of time interviewing vampires.

20.  This Anne played Mrs. Robinson and was nominated for an Academy Award



Invest in plastics!




Answer:

1.  Little Orphan Annie;  2.   John Denver;  3.  Charlotte & Emily Bronte; 4. Queen Anne’s lace; 5.  Anne Boleyn & Anne of Cleves;  6.  Anne Shirley (Anne of Green Gables); 7.  Anne Frank; 8.  Annie Oakley;  9.  Anne Morrow Lindbergh; 10.  Ann Arbor;  11.  Anne Murray; 12.  Heart; 13.  Annie Lennox; 14.  Hathaway; 15.  Anne, Princess Royal, daughter of Queen Elizabeth II; 16.  Annie Sullivan; 17.  Auntie Anne’s Pretzels; 18.  Annie Hall;  19.  Anne Rice;  20.  Anne Bancroft

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Day 2 St. Anne's Day VIP Soiree

Hi again, Anne Fans!

You may be wondering where the idea came from for St. Anne's Day.  One of those sparks of inspiration is the St. Anne prayer:

Dear St. Anne, get me a man as fast as you can.  

I attended an all-girls, Catholic high school.  The spring of my senior year in high school had the prom looming on the horizon.  Now, some schools allow people to attend the prom without dates, but back then, no one would have thought to go to the prom stag.  It would have been too embarrassing to admit that you couldn't snag a date. I was lucky; I had a boyfriend at the time.  (Well, not really--he was a real nut)  But at least I had a date, but there were several girls in my class, who didn't.

If you attended an all-girls school, you know that eligible, brothers, cousins, and male friends were rounded up as dates.  My poor brother, Tim, and cousin Rich were corralled several times by girls I knew who needed dates.  No eligible male was safe. 

However, as we were approaching the deadline for buying prom tickets, there were still some girls that needed dates.  Our Social Studies teacher, Sister Jane Frances, heard us trying to come up with dates for the other girls one day before class and like cupid in a veil, came to the rescue. 

"Say the St. Anne prayer, girls.  She'll find you dates," sister said. 

None of us had ever heard of the prayer before.  So she taught us that little rhyming prayer, and every day before class we said it in unison. 

And guess what?  It worked.  There was not one girl in the class (there were only 56 of us) that I know of that didn't get a date that wanted one. 

Now, I don't know if the St. Anne prayer is an officially sanctioned one, but it worked a miracle for my class, and I've always remembered it. 

I think many people today would love to find the right person, but I think it has become increasingly harder.    Maybe St. Anne is the answer. 

Let me know if you have ever heard of the prayer before.

Also, don't forget to enter the raffle!


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Day 1 of the St. Anne's Day Soiree

Hi Anne Fans and welcome to the VIP St. Anne's Day Soiree!

 When it's St. Anne's Day, it's your day too!

Until the actual St. Anne's Day on July 26, we will be having fun with all things "Anne."  Before you leave the site, make sure to go to the right and enter the sweepstakes to win the $50 Gift Certificate to Red Lobster, which will be drawn by Rafflecopter at the conclusion of the festivities.

In addition, on July 26, you will be able to download the digital version for FREE of St. Anne's Day in celebration of this great day and the book's official launch.  Because "When it's St. Anne's Day, it's your day too!" 

So check back every day and make sure you sign up for my newsletter so I can keep you up-to-date on the latest happenings.

If you are a romance novelist, you know that one of the elements of a romance novel is the "cute meet," when the main characters meet for the first time.  It is supposed to be memorable and unique.  In case you haven't yet read St. Anne's Day, I won't give away the details of what happens when our heroine, Anne, meets her match--but it's not violin music and rainbows.

I enjoy hearing how people met their mates in real life.  I met my husband through a blind date.  However, the craziest "cute meet" I have ever heard was told to me by my boss when I was working at Westinghouse more than 20 years ago.

My boss was in college at the time and her roommate had a blind date that evening. Unfortunately, the roommate got a tampon stuck inside her (didn't know that could happen--something new to worry about) so my boss took the roommate to the ER where a handsome young doctor extracted the tampon.  They made it back home in time for the date.  When the bell rang and my boss opened the door, she nearly fell over.  Standing in the doorway was the young doctor from the ER, who had just removed the tampon!  She said her roommate just about died when she came around the corner and saw him standing there.

Needless to say, the roommate and the doctor married within the year!

Do you have a "cute meet" story, either yours or someone you know, that you'd like to share?  Please post in the comments.  

P.S.  Don't forget to invite a friend who you think would enjoy our party.    

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Worst of Times


No vacation goes unpunished. ~Karl Hakkarainen



It’s vacation season, a time most of us look toward with longing.  As much as I like vacation, I must admit that at times they can be like a Dickens’ novel:  the best of times, the worst of times.  






Greetings from the Griswolds!





I’ve had my share of bad vacation experiences.  The earliest dud I remember occurred when I was about nine.  We were camping at Shawnee State Park near Bedford, when I sat up suddenly in the middle of the night in the tent and promptly vomited on my seven-year-old brother.  Not surprisingly, he began to cry.  While my mother fumbled in the dark with a lantern to clean up the messy sleeping bags and find him clean clothes, he got sick too.  All that I remember is lying on a picnic table the next morning with my brother.  He was clad in my mother’s stretch pants that came up to his arm pits because he had no unsoiled clothes left while my dad and mom took down the tent.  On the ride home, we had to take turns lying down in the station wagon and vomiting into a bucket—that’s a Kodak moment I’d like to forget. 

The summer I was first married, we went to the Outer Banks with my family.  I was having a great time until Tuesday when I began to feel a bit creepy.  When I spiked a high fever later that evening, we headed for the doctor's.  We had to drive to secluded Collington Island—think setting for the Swamp People show.  After navigating through abandoned cars and Spanish moss, we found the doctor who diagnosed strep throat. I spent the rest of the week on the couch while everyone enjoyed the glorious beach weather. My only source of entertainment was the Democratic National Convention, which was on all three of the channels we received on the portable TV in the cottage.  Fun times, that was. 



Swamp People

The following April my husband and I thought it would be fun to take Amtrak to Washington, D.C., for the Cherry Blossom Festival.  Traveling by train conjured up romantic images of The Orient Express, but that was quickly dispelled  A trip that takes five hours by car took nine by train.  But the scenery must have been gorgeous, one would think.  Unfortunately, no.  Train tracks do not run in the most scenic areas of towns.  We got a nine-hour tour of every slum and depressed town between Pittsburgh and D.C. 

Amtrak???





 It rained the whole time we were there, knocking off all the cherry blossoms.  I had purchased new jeans for the trip, and because we were so wet, the dye bled and stained my legs. To top off my tour of the nation’s capitol as a Smurf, I came down with the flu on the way home.  Nothing like sitting for nine hours on a train with fever and chills and returning to a lovely Pittsburgh greeting of a late-April snow storm. Of course, we had no coats.  


I was a surly Smurf!


Vacation accommodations are always a gamble.  The year my mom booked a cottage for us right on the lake in Sandusky, Ohio, when we went to Cedar Point sounded ideal on paper.  Yes, we were right on the lake--next to a drawbridge that went up and down all night with clanging and boats tooting horns.  It reminded me of that scene in Annie Hall where Woody Allen’s character as a child lived under the Coney Island roller coaster. 

Alvy Singer as a child in Annie Hall.


Through the years, we’ve had bats in our cottage, skunks under our camper, and have been evacuated twice for impending hurricanes headed for the Outer Banks. 

While those vacation disasters were unpleasant, it’s not every holiday mishap that induces nightmares for years to come.  The pièce de résistance of vacation catastrophes that holds a special place in my family lore, even today, is our fateful trip to Skyline Drive, in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia.  I was probably 10 and, once again, we were in our tent, and to make things really pleasant, it was, you guessed it, raining.  In fact, the days we were there, the area set records for rainfall. 




Raining again!





 During one brief respite from the deluge, we--my parents and my three siblings and I--emerged from our tent to take a walk.  My little sister’s shoes got wet, so as my mom headed back to the tent to get her a different pair, we saw people pointing.  We were heading right toward a black bear.   


My nemesis





Our legs turned into wheels like those of the Road Runner, and you never saw six people run and cram into a station wagon so fast.  Terrified, we kids refused to leave the car.  My dad thought we were nuts, but we wouldn’t let him sleep that night in the tent either.  After an uncomfortable night of six people sleeping in the back of a Ford LTD, we packed up and headed to a safer Pennsylvania campground.  




Feet don't fail me now!


The saying goes A Bad Day of Vacation is Better than a Good Day at Work—I don’t know about that--I’ve never had nightmares from work.   


This originally appeared in the July Issue of Northern Connection magazine.

Monday, July 9, 2012

I'm Back & Stuffed with New Experiences (and Biscuits)

Happy Height of Summer Readers!

I spent the last 11 days on my "South Bound Saurez" (I know it's spelled soiree), but I'm referring to the Led Zeppelin song, which they apparently misspelled the title when they wrote it.



First, Ed, Corey, and I headed to DC to pick up my son, Chris, and then we embarked for Augusta, Georgia, to visit his twin sister, Cait & hubby, Jordan.  It's the first time since Christmas that we've all been together. 

Hammond's Ferry, SC, where I walked along the Savannah River.  I have pillar envy!


At Evans Town Center Park--We look pretty fresh in 105 degree temps.

Accompanying us on this journey was HEAT!  We escaped DC before the derecho--did you even know these existed?--struck Washington.  Temps in Augusta reached 107, but we weathered it pretty well.  We exercised early in the morning, (kayaking, walking--foot still hurts, so no running) and when we were out later in the day, we were at the beach.  We hit Charleston (love that place) and then Myrtle Beach last Monday and Tuesday.  Barefoot Landing was so crowded, it looked like Times Square in the evening. 

The beach was beautiful, although we all prefer staying in a beach house rather than a hotel when at the shore.  The water was just the right temp--no having to gather up the courage to plunge under the surf.  That's the way I like it.

On the 4th, we headed back to Cait's house, where Jordan did yeoman's duty grilling hot dogs and hamburgers.  The heat got to him a bit; it must have been like grilling in hell!  We intended to go to Atlanta on Thursday, but it was too hot and we were too sick of being in the car so we hung out at the house, watched The Godfather I & II and ate out (again.)  Also, we played with our favorite furry grandchildren--Penny, my Welsh Corgi granddaughter, and Bruno, my mini-Dachshund grandson.

Bruno's "All Along the Watchtower" pose.


Penny's fur coat is not appropriate Southern apparel in this heat!




We expanded our culinary horizons this vacation, indulging in Southern specialties like grits, turnip greens, black eyed peas, and Corey's new favorite Palmetto cheese spread!  I think I'm having biscuit withdrawal.  As expected the Georgia peaches lived up to their hype, and Caitlin made a scrumptious peach cobbler for dessert on the 4th of July.

Although I'm in the midst of getting my first novel, St. Anne's Day, on the market, (look for info on that soon) I did try to limit working on vacation.  While it seemed like I was doing very little that was constructive with regard to writing, I was actually doing "writerly" things.  





I believe a writer benefits by every once in a while taking a break from writing to replenish the creative well.  Traveling; eating new foods; trying new activities; meeting new people; hearing different accents, idioms and manners of speaking; all help the writer to avoid the dreaded writer's block. 

In fact, while I was on vacation, I came up with the seeds for two more novels.  Now all I need is the time to write them--that and maybe a few biscuits!