I've been on Facebook for a couple of years now as an author. There are many features I don't use on the site, but I navigate it pretty well. My use of Facebook got bumped up exponentially last week, however, when one of the authors I'm working with on Booktrope celebrated the release of her book and I took part in her online release party. Her name is Jennifer Sivic and she's the first of several author's I'm working with who are launching their novels through Booktrope. It's very exciting being part of a publishing team. Jennifer did all the creative work...and I just formatted it for her. I made sure her i's were dotted, her t's crossed and her chapter headings positioned just so. Being an author myself, I know the thrill she felt when it went live and it was a lot of fun to be alongside her. Jen's a sweetheart...and she has an extensive online presence. I knew this about her before Leaving Eva was released, but I was absolutely blown away by the power of it the following day.
It started out innocently enough. I woke up on Monday ready to be productive. We've been sick in our house and I had every hope that we'd get the week started and get caught up on all of the things we were behind on, like school work for the kids, reading, editing and writing for myself. As much as I wanted to seize the day, it just wasn't there. And then I realized why. It was April 20th, which would have been the day we celebrated my grandmother's 91st birthday. Celebration wasn't really in the cards, though, because we lost Mimi almost two years ago...and I miss her so much it actually hurts sometimes.
I'm big on Instagram...but I do it privately. It's the one bit of social media I reserve for close friends and family. I knew the rest of Mimi's family were missing her more than usual on her birthday, too, so I posted this photo of her.
My picture is a copy of the original, and there is no date to tell me exactly when it was taken, but I think she was somewhere between sixteen and eighteen years old. As I stared at this photo, I got more and more sad thinking about all of the big things that are happening right now, or things that will be happening in the very near future that Mimi won't be a part of. It devastated me...and it made me miss her more than ever.
Then I decided that if Mimi were here, I'd be celebrating...and it became very clear to me that I should still be celebrating. The last thing she would want is for me to feel sad and lonely, so I stopped. She would want me to celebrate, so that's exactly what I did.
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Here is the synopsis for my novel, Alabama Skye:
When tragedy befalls Cheney McGillivray, she leaves her beloved home on Scotland’s Isle of Skye and arrives unannounced on her sister Meara’s doorstep in Kelby, Alabama. With her she brings a plan not only for her own future but also for that of her niece.
Greer, fresh out of culinary school and two months pregnant, takes the advice of her grandmother Sarah, and agrees to a partnership with her aunt. Together they transform Sarah’s historic home into a proper Scottish B & B right in the heart of southern America.
Both women realize the time to face their pasts has arrived as they prepare for the opening weekend of Gannon’s Glen. Debilitating nightmares make it difficult for Cheney to hide from the painful secret she thought she’d left in Scotland, and a hurricane sweeps in more than stormy weather for Greer when damage to his childhood home brings her high school sweetheart and their unresolved relationship back into town. Although they are nearly strangers separated by a forty year age gap, Cheney and Greer learn to lean on one another as they come to terms with their lives and realize the possibilities of their futures.
Alabama Skye is a story about the strength of four generations of women who discover that the ones who stand by you and carry you through both good times and bad are the ones you call family.
Sarah was inspired by Mimi. They are not the same people, but Mimi is who I thought of as I wrote Sarah. Sarah, like Mimi, suffers from Alzheimer's. Here is a passage I wrote about Greer's struggle as she watches her grandmother's decline due to the disease.
Greer sighed. “It was a bad day.” Jolly’s arms tightened around her. She could feel his chin as he rested it on top of her head and she felt a sting flare up behind her eyes.
“You’ve heard it before but I’m gonna tell it to you again, and I doubt this will the last time I’ll say it. Your Grandmama has always been the smartest, the prettiest and the sassiest woman I’ve ever known. Feisty, she was, oh, Lord the woman was feisty. And wonderful. Oh, so wonderful.”
Greer shut her eyes and buried her face into Jolly’s skinny chest. She breathed deep the scent of tobacco, could sense the slight tang of licorice that clung to the weave of his shirt and felt the hot sun beat down on her back.
“Now you listen to me, girlie, and listen to me good. You knew her before this disease, this damn thief started comin’ around time and again to take away little bits of what’s always been the best in her. You have to hold onto who she was, who she still is on her good days and always believe that what’s left inside her remembers just how much she loves you even when she can’t tell you so.”
His words took away the last bit of resolve Greer had and the tears came to dot Jolly’s shirt front. He let her cry, his eyes following the slow moving traffic on the street and his hands patting Greer’s back as she sobbed.
Mimi never got to read Alabama Skye, but I think she would have liked it. It was published just a little over a year after she passed away, but the book is dedicated to her. For a while, I was stumped as to how I was going to celebrate her memory.
And then it came to me.
I posted this on my Facebook page:
***** CONTEST! ***** ENTER TO WIN! *****
If you read my latest novel, Alabama Skye, you were introduced to Sarah Guthrie Gannon. What you might not know is that this remarkable woman was inspired by my grandmother, who I affectionately named Mimi when I was two years old. Like Mimi, Sarah suffers from Alzheimer's. I lost Mimi almost two years ago to the disease. Today would have been her 91st birthday. Here's to Mimi, and to the beautiful Sarah whom she inspired.
In honor of Mimi, I'm giving away one signed paperback copy of Alabama Skye. To enter, post a special memory you share with your grandmother. Contest ends at 10 pm mountain time. Good luck!
With it, I posted that beautiful picture of Mimi as a teenager. I got a lot of comments on it. Family that knew her thanked me for posting it. They shared their thoughts about her. Most hit the like button. One of my writer friends even mentioned the fact that Mimi looked like a Hollywood film star. But no one seemed to want to participate in the contest.
Remember me telling you about my fellow author, Jennifer Sivic? (There was a point to that...and I thank you if you've hung in there while I've slowly made my way to it.) Well, she kindly posted the contest on her Facebook page...and that's when things got really crazy.
Before it was all said and done, the post reached almost 2,500 people, and so many of them shared stories with me about their grandmothers. Some of them were very sad, but most of them reaffirmed the wonderful magic that sometimes exists between grandmother and child. The comments made me cry...they were so personal, and they made me miss Mimi so very, very much. But most of all, they made me incredibly happy. As I read them, I was celebrating the relationship I always shared with Mimi. It was amazing.
This is what I posted at the end of the contest:
***** CONTEST WINNERS ANNOUNCEMENT!!!! *****
Yep...I said winners. Plural. I couldn't pick just one! In addition to the signed paperpack copy of Alabama Skye, I am also giving away three e-books. You all were too wonderful and shared so many great stories...I couldn't narrow it down to just one winner. My post on author Jennifer Sivec's page reached 2,477 people...and so many of you commented. Thank you all for participating! Mimi would have loved this. :)
And it's true. I have no doubt that she would have.