Winter Blog Hop, Day 7 – Love’s in the Cards with Becky Lower, & a Giveaway!

Becky Lower visits again today with a post about where she got the idea for her new Christmas novella, Love’s in the Cards, which releases today from The Wild Rose Press. Happy book birthday, Becky! Scroll down to the bottom for a special giveaway from me and Becky. 

perf5.000x8.000.inddPeople often ask writers where they get their story ideas. I can’t speak for all authors, but for me, it can be something as common as a billboard or as intimate as an overhead whispered conversation. In the case of my latest Christmas novella, it was definitely a memory that had been tugging at me for a while. Since kindergarten, in fact.

Who would have thought an obnoxious little boy who liked to use the soles of my shoes at nap time as a canvas would be the inspiration for Love’s in the Cards? His favorite crayon was purple and my mother would get so angry each time he’d go overboard and mess up my sparkling white shoes. That little boy went on to become a high school art teacher and inspired many of his students to be creative. So Delbert, wherever you are, thank you so much for the spark of creativity you’ve provided to me. But in order to incorporate Del’s childish shenanigans into a story, I needed the proper setting. Fortunately, I worked in a Hallmark store part-time for a year while living in Virginia. It was a sweet little card and gift shop and each Christmas season, the door was flanked by a pair of six-foot tall plastic nutcrackers. Later, when I moved to Ohio, I turned that retail experience into a job as a merchandiser for the biggest greeting card company in Ohio, where I learned all about lines of cards featuring famous people or artists. Love’s in the Cards combines Delbert’s story with my greeting card experiences.

Love’s in the Cards

Penny Beedle’s outlook on Christmas, as her favorite holiday, was destroyed by a messy breakup years earlier and a botched wedding last year—both on Christmas Eve. But since she and her sister now own a greeting card store, and the holidays are their crazy selling season, she has to put on a happy face.

Del Madison has loved Penny since kindergarten. Commissioned by a big greeting card company for a line of Christmas and Valentine’s cards, he has to emerge from behind his alter ego and unveil himself to the public. He chooses Penny Beedle’s shop for the big reveal. If he plays his cards right, he just might gain Penny as part of his life.

Excerpt:

Penny sighed softly. Abbey made sense. They had to do everything possible to compete with the other shops, all chasing the same tourist dollars. Even if doing so meant having six-foot-tall nutcrackers flanking the door for the next six weeks. Penny’s eyes smarted with sudden tears, but she blinked them away quickly, telling herself the moisture merely came from a reaction to the cold weather. “I think we need new names for these boys, especially after last year’s debacle. I now have two reasons to despise the season.”

As she wiggled her nutcracker to his final position on one side of the entrance to their shop, Abbey grunted. “This is our make-or-break season, so your attitude has to shape up, Penny. I had hoped a year would give you enough time to get over last Christmas’s aborted wedding.”

Penny jerked her big statue a bit too hard to the left before she squared him with the frame. She bit her lip at the chastisement as she glanced at Abbey. Anyone could tell they were from the same family, with their dark hair, blue eyes, and slender builds. Often, they were mistaken for twins, even though Abbey had been born two years earlier. The only noticeable difference was Penny could sing in key, but Abbey had a tin ear.

“Even though I’m over both Max and Ricky, their betrayals still hurt. And the fact they both screwed up my Christmases makes me hate the season.”

“Well, if getting your head back on straight this year means we rename Hans and Gunther, let’s do so. What’d you have in mind?”

Penny squinted up at the lifelike plastic statues towering over them. “I don’t mind Hans, but I’ll name mine Solo, since that’s what I am.”

Abbey grinned and wrapped an arm around Penny. “Well then, may the force be with us as we head into our peak season. The weather’s finally turned cold, perfect for putting folks into the holiday gift-buying mood. Let’s get inside. I’ve got something exciting to show you.”

You can find Love’s in the Cards at Amazon.

48988_1025007027_4423_nAbout Becky: Amazon best-selling author Becky Lower has traveled the country looking for great settings for her novels. She loves to write about two people finding each other and falling in love, amid the backdrop of a great setting, be it on a covered wagon headed west or in present day small town America.  Historical and contemporary romances are her specialty. Becky is a PAN member of RWA and is a member of the Historic and Contemporary RWA chapters. She has a degree in English and Journalism from Bowling Green State University, and lives in an eclectic college town in Ohio with her puppy-mill rescue dog, Mary. She loves to hear from her readers at beckylowerauthor@gmail.com. Visit her website at www.beckylowerauthor.com.

And finally, enter here for a chance to win a fabulous Maine-themed gift box Becky and put together to celebrate our new releases, both set in Maine. In addition to the items pictured, Becky is offering a copy of Love’s in the Cards!

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The Rusticators

My next book takes place in a fictional town in Maine, near Bar Harbor. Set in 1871, it precedes the “gilded age” experienced in many American cities–my hometown among them–but by then the wanderings of America’s wealthy elite were already being felt in Maine.  As I was doing research for the book, I made some discoveries.

In the 1850s, Frederic Edwin Church, a second generation member of the Hudson River School of painters, visited Mount Desert Island, on which rests Bar Harbor (officially known as “Eden” until 1918) and its fictional neighbor.

Frederic Edwin Church, Twilight in the Wilderness, 1860. Cleveland Museum of Art. (Photograph taken by author.)

Frederic Edwin Church, Twilight in the Wilderness, 1860. Cleveland Museum of Art. (Photo taken by author.)

His paintings, as well as those of  his peers, captivated America’s wealthy denizens of the south, and they began to visit Maine in significant numbers. In 1890, W.H. Sherman, in his Sherman’s Bar Harbor Guide, Business Directory, and Reference Book, writes the following “bird’s-eye” description of the area:

A beautiful, landlocked bay stretching away into the distance and losing itself in numerous coves and inlets, amid purple hills and green, wooded shores, its waters now washing the feet of weather-worn precipices and anon breaking softly on glistening sand and pebbles. Studded over the surface of this bay are bright emerald islands, rich in foliage, stately landmarks of the ages. As the summer sun shines brightly on this panorama of sea and mountain, one can imagine himself in the home of the lotus eaters, so enticingly does it seem to invite to repose.

On one side of this beautiful bay is an island, an island rich in all the wonders and beauties of nature. Majestic mountains rear their bold summits toward the sky, and sheltered valleys lie nestling at their base. Lovely lakes abound, reflecting in their pellucid depths an endless vista of mountain and forest. Brooks, with shady pools where the trout love to hide, flow gently through its vales or leap, foaming, from rock to rock in their headlong course to the sea. Mountain, forest and lake scenery meet the eye in every direction, while the rock-bound shores and lofty cliffs form a picturesque frontier to this island paradise.

Winslow Homer, <emEarly Morning After a Storm at Sea</em>, 1900-1903. Cleveland Museum of Art. (Photo taken by author.)

Winslow Homer, Early Morning After a Storm at Sea, 1900-1903. Cleveland Museum of Art. (Photo taken by author.)

 

Travel by land was difficult–trains only went as far as Portland–so the best way to reach Mount Desert Island was by steamship from Boston, which had its own hardships.  Because the journey was arduous, visitors tended to stay for a month or more.

These “rusticators,” as they were known by the locals, initially stayed in hotels–in 1855 a New York lawyer named Charles Tracy brought 27 people, including Frederic Church, to stay in a village tavern. He kept a diary about his experiences, which was published, including illustrations by Frederic Church, by the Mount Desert Island Historical Society in 1997. (There are used copies available on Amazon, ranging in price from $5 to $285. Seriously.)

After a few summers, however, the visitors grew weary of rusticating, and began to build “cottages,” ornate structures with 20-30 or more rooms. The “Golden Age” of Bar Harbor and surrounding towns began in earnest around 1880. At its height, the season featured lavish parties nearly every day of the week. According to the Mount Desert Island Historical Society, “Some ‘cottagers’ actually hired teams of local workers who would move, largely by hand, fully grown oak, maple and elm trees to different locations on the lawn each year, much like one would rearrange furniture or change the composition of a flower garden!”

 

The locals did reap benefits from these eccentric summer visitors. They provided jobs year round, and John D. Rockefeller financed 57 miles of gravel roads and 17 hand-carved granite stone bridges on Mount Desert Island, and donated one-third of the land which became Acadia National Park, the first national park east of the Mississippi River. He convinced many of his friends to donate land as well. Another summer visitor, George Dorr, charted and created many of the trails in the park.

The Golden Age hit its decline with the creation of the federal income tax, as well as the Depression and World War II. But the death knell was struck in October 1947, when Mount Desert Island suffered a massive forest fire. The fire swept through “Millionaire’s Row” on Frenchman’s Bay, destroying 67 palatial summer estates and ultimately burning 17,188 acres, 10,000 of which were in Acadia National Park.

Sources:
*Cleveland Museum of Art
*http://www.barharborhistorical.org/bhhistory.html
*http://mountdesertisland.net/heritage.html
*http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frederic_Edwin_Church
*W.H. Sherman, Sherman’s Bar Harbor Guide, Business Directory, and Reference Book, 1890. Available on GoogleBooks.
*Photos of cottages from “Cottages of Mount Desert Island,” http://research.mdihistory.org/MDIcottageshome.htm
*http://www.discover-acadia.com/acadia-national-park-history.html
*http://www.acadiamagic.com/carriage-roads.htm
*http://maineanencyclopedia.com/mount-desert-fire/

 

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