Things I’m Loving Lately.

“All the secrets in the world worth knowing are hiding in plain sight.”
~Clay Jannon, via Robin Sloane in Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore

Hi, friends! I’m popping in from Revision Land – started the third round of edits on Watercolors this week and am somehow still enjoying the process immensely! – to say hello and see what everyone’s up to. Can we talk about the fact that it’s already mid-August? I seriously don’t understand how that’s possible. Where has the summer gone? It always seems to fly by, but this year … I don’t know, I feel like it should still be June. I wish we could slow down time, but since that’s not a possibility, I hope you all are taking a moment to enjoy these hazy, lazy (or often not-so-lazy) days and the warm sunshine. Here are a few things I’ve been loving lately:

– A weekend getaway to Lancaster, PA. We went to see the show Ballroom With a Twist, which featured performances from Dancing with the Stars, So You Think You Can Dance, and American Idol finalists. It was such a great combination – featuring one of my favorite SYTYCDers from all the seasons! – and was so fun to see the routines in person.

Ballroom With a Twist

– The duck pond at the hotel where we stayed. There were dozens of ducks in and around the water. How adorable are these babies?

Baby ducks

– The summer scents from Bath & Body Works. Honolulu Sun, Cool Coconut Surf, and Hello Sunshine are my new favorites and will have me dreaming of the beach even when the weather turns cool.

– The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. I don’t watch regularly – I’m usually asleep by the time it comes on – but I had the chance to go to a taping of the show last week and had a blast. It was so cool to see all the behind-the-scenes details and to experience such a unique kind of energy. Helen Mirren was my favorite of the guests. Added bonus: we got off the subway directly below the Simon & Schuster building and got to walk through the lobby on our way outside. This writing and reading fanatic was most excited.

Jimmy Fallon tickets

– Wawa’s banana cream smoothie. They have so many good flavors, but this one just might be the most delicious. It’s fruity and sweet, the perfect summer treat.

– Winning at miniature golf not once, but twice, and getting two holes-in-one in the same game. For someone who almost always loses, this was a pretty awesome triumph. I may or may not have done a victory dance.

Mini golf

– Animal rescue and adoption centers. I’ve been thinking about adopting a bunny for awhile now and have fallen in love with some on the centers’ websites. Hopefully I’ll get to make a furry friend part of the family soon.

– Flowers like this. The world is so pretty when its colors are bold and bright.

Flowers

– Unique, original stories. I just finished MR. PENUMBRA’S 24 HOUR BOOKSTORE and really enjoyed it. It’s different from the kinds of books I normally read, but different is good sometimes.

– Working on this book baby of mine. I so love seeing it grow with each round of revisions – and shrink, too! The final draft of this will end up being my shortest ever, and for anyone who knows the way I write, you’ll understand why I’m so proud of that.

What are you all loving lately?

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Kismet.


“If we would see the color of our future, we must look for it in our present; if we would gaze on the star of our destiny, we must look for it in our hearts.”
~Canon Farrart

YOU GUYS. I’m currently on vacation down at the shore, and you won’t believe what I found nestled on a back shelf in a shop — a message in a bottle kit! It even has a map of the ocean currents and customized notepaper to slip inside. I had to buy it for my writing desk, and I included some sea glass, too, since that also plays a role in my book. A message in a bottle for my novel about a message in a bottle — what are the chances? Gotta love kismet.

bottle

Living in the Pages.


“The ocean stirs the heart, inspires the imagination and brings eternal joy to the soul.”
~Wyland

When I first started the planning stage for SANDS OF TIME (Have I mentioned its title on here yet? That was actually the first piece of the puzzle this time!), I knew there needed to be four different settings, two of which were seaside. Because Charlotte’s story takes place in 1957, a time period I had to research extensively, I decided that I should keep it close to home. Of course the area was different in the 50s than it is today, but several of the hallmarks still remain the same, and it seemed like a good choice to bring that sense of familiarity into a storyline which featured so many other unknowns. Atlantic City became home for Charlotte and Nolan, and the writing process became even more exciting for me. I loved getting to build chapters around the Jersey shore. It has been somewhere very special to me for as long as I can remember, and weaving its charm into the book only increased that.

And so, when I spent seven lovely days in New Jersey this past week, I soaked up the significance even more than usual.

There’s Fralinger’s, where Charlotte works (granted, this is the Ocean City store instead of AC, but close enough):

Fralinger's

There’s the Ocean City Music Pier, where Nolan takes her for a surprise birthday celebration:

OCMP

OCMP2

Most special of all, there’s Ventnor. It is, truly, my favorite place in all the world. I spent time there every summer until I was fourteen and some of my most lovely memories have been woven there. It’s been over fifteen years now since my grandparents sold their condo, but we still try to go back for an evening or two each summer. Walking on that boardwalk again, seeing the fishing pier, breathing in the salty sea air that I swear is unique in that town, different from every other coastal community … it is home for me. It’s also directly next to Atlantic City, so when Charlotte and Nolan moved, it was the perfect spot for them to go. The entire last chapter of my book is set in Ventnor, and so being back there again last week was even more meaningful. This might sound ridiculous, but in a way, it felt like I was living in the pages of my manuscript.

Ventnor1

Ventnor2

Ventnor3

AC

My favorite restaurant, and the place where Charlotte, Nolan, Remi, and Eli have dinner:

Ventnor4

Why yes, I am totally that person who writes her book’s acronym in the sand in the exact spot where a scene takes place:

SOT

I couldn’t stop picturing my characters: Charlotte and Nolan strolling the boardwalk, Remi and Eli taking in the sights of the Jersey shore for the first time, Charlotte and Remi sitting on the beach as they write a message of their own, write a story of their own. It took a place I already adore and made it even more magical. Something similar happens to Remi in the book – she moves to Nantucket after reading about it as a child and falling in love with its beauty – and it was such fun to write her experience of watching the words spin to life around her. That’s what this was like for me.

A few more non-book related pictures:

DSC03499

OC1

Supermoon over the ocean = Super awesome.

OC5

OC6

OC7

What’s your all-time favorite place? And fellow writers, have you ever set a book in that spot?

Road Trip.


“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.”
~St. Augustine

I mentioned last week that, even in the midst of my writing frenzy, I’ve been finding time each day to squeeze in a couple chapters of Claire Cook’s TIME FLIES. Not only do I relate to the main character’s fear of driving on highways (I am totally that person who will go an hour out of the way if it means avoiding the interstate) and love of anything shore-related, but I also adore the idea of two friends going on a road trip to their high school reunion. It reminds me of a road trip I took with my friend Sara back in 2009, a two-week journey full of sightseeing, disobedient GPS navigators, and, above all, wonderful memories. Nearly four years later, I still think about it often and it never fails to make me smile from ear-to-ear.

roadtrip

Charleston (WV), Nashville, Atlanta, Charleston (SC), Savannah, Charlotte, Charlottesville.

I’d never been farther south than Virginia prior to this trip, so getting to experience places in Tennessee, Georgia, and the Carolinas was a treat. I fell in love with Atlanta within fifteen seconds of setting foot on its soil – so much so that I proceeded to set three novels in the city – and could have spent weeks soaking up the unique magic in Nashville. Within two weeks, we visited spots like the Country Music Hall of Fame, the Georgia Aquarium, CNN, Stone Mountain Park, the Kangaroo Conservation Center, Amicalola Falls, Rainbow Row, Folly Beach, Monticello, and UVA. We saw Music Row, walked through Centennial Olympic Park, ate cupcakes on the edge of a fountain, took a riverboat cruise, found the most fabulous little pancake house, drove along Blue Ridge Parkway and took in its breathtaking views, and more. We met up with friends, spending hours with some and days with others. We nearly got attacked by a snake at Magnolia Plantation, we fought with an automated ticketing machine that never worked, we circled the adorable town of Marietta forever looking for a place to watch July Fourth fireworks, we mispronounced the name of Demonbreun Street for an entire day until my friend Karly finally asked someone to help. We had an amazing, incredible, buoys-you-up-with-joy, unforgettable time.

And so I must thank Claire for inspiring another trip down memory lane. As Melanie and BJ travel along on their journey, I’ve been getting to relive mine. I’d love to visit the south again someday soon – I always say that if Atlanta wasn’t so far away, I’d move there in a heartbeat – and, similarly, I’d love to explore other parts of the country, too. One day … :)

Anyone else ever taken a road trip? Where did you go? What was your favorite part?