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Category Archives: Family life

Stories of Our Lives: Origins of The Last Summer

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Confession, loveys: I watched Days of Our Lives back in high school, and college, and I loved it. (The school I went to had half days on Fridays, so I’d watch every Friday and get caught up on the week.) Stefano DiMera, Sami and Carrie and Austin, Marlena and John–all of it. And at the beginning, I remember the intro saying, Like sands through the hourglass, so are the days of our lives. Later in college, I swapped Days for General Hospital and watched that through the rest of college–coming home at lunch and turning it on–and I dragged Jeff into the story during our first few years of marriage. No regrets. Those were good times. Jeff may not admit it, but he was just as hooked on finding out if Carly and Sonny would make it as I was.

The days of our lives really do go fast. And they tell a story. Our stories.

The Last Summer Front Cover

We’re five days out from the release of The Last Summer. (Eek! I’m SO excited!) I told you that I wrote the first draft of this twenty years ago, my first year of college. In fact, I still have the original spiral notebook.

Here’s a cool story, lovey. It’s just incredible to me.

After I’d written this last draft and sent it off to editors and publishers and finally heard back that it was going to be published–I realized something. In that first spiral notebook, I’d written the story of seven friends who love each other like family. The story has reshaped since then, but the plot has remained the same. The friends have remained true to their characters, but names changed over the years as I rewrote the story. In that spiral notebook are the original names that I came up with when I was eighteen years old.

Three of those names are Ashton, Lillian, and Everett.

My three children are named Ashtyn, Lillian, and Lincoln Everett.

The crazy thing is that this story never even came into my mind during my pregnancies. I was twenty-eight when I was pregnant for the first time. Ten years and a long way from the eighteen year old girl who’d gone away to college.

When I was pregnant with Ashtyn, my first child, I sometimes scribbled names on a notepad (usually during staff meetings!). Someone suggested Ashton to me, but at that time, it looked a bit masculine to me. I scribbled the name over and over on a notepad, and suddenly wrote Ashtyn, and it clicked. I loved it. Lillian never changed, I’ve always loved it. And I’ve loved the name Everett since I saw the movie With Honors way back in the 90s.

When I first realized that the names I came up with as a teenager are the names of my children–I’m not kidding when I say it sent chills over me. The truth that those names have been in my heart–in me–since I was just a girl . . . And have stayed with me for all these years, and have been passed on to the most important people in my life . . . without me even realizing it–well, I guess it’s just the connecting of all the days of my life.

Ashtyn and Lily and Lincoln Everett were always meant to be. They were always part of me. From years ago when I was a girl myself, spilling out a story that would hold pieces of me forever. (Before I even met Jeff!)

It makes me cry.

Their names were there–at the shaping of a story, at the shaping of my life. Little hints of who I would be and the children who would make my life wonderful. And I didn’t realize it, but it all came together.

I’ve been asked before about how I write my stories, lovey. For me, it’s just like that. They come together. A bit mysterious. The story unfolds and you see the connections later–and then you get it.

And I cry.

Our stories are being pieced together like puzzles–at the end you see the picture and you smile and you realize, Oh, that went there. Oh, right, of course that fit there. I see it now.

Loveys . . . stories–fictional and real–are amazing. They’ve been shaping me since I was a young thing. They’ve captivated me.

And this story I’m about to share with you–it’s a piece of the story of my life.

I’ll treasure it forever.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Six Weeks from The Last Summer

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I cannot believe we’re six weeks out from the launch of The Last Summer! How is this even possible?! It’s actually already available for pre-order on Amazon. The publisher is working on the cover. Final corrections are being made to the proofs. And this is feeling really real, y’all.

I’m scared.

I was putting together a list of early readers this weekend, and the thought of people actually READING this story started to give me a little anxiety. Remember, these characters first came to me when I was 18 years old. A lifetime ago. They’ve been living in my head all this time. Now their story is finished and about to be available for people. I think nerves are just part of the process.

Nerves and excitement. I’m thinking of a book launch party and other fun, book-release things and excitement is part of all that. I’ve loved every book I’ve written–of course I have. You pour yourself into the writing and spend hours upon hours with your characters.  But this book, lovey. This book.

It’s just different.

I love it in a nostalgic, memory-filled, roots kind of way. Because I remember forming these characters on the bottom of a bunk bed while living in a dorm room with five other girls, one of whom has already gone to heaven, which breaks my heart. We were just young girls then.

And then I remember re-writing it, living with Leah in dorm 23. Then Courtney and Kat. Dave Matthews or Matchbox Twenty on the radio. And then in our apartment while living with Laurie. Staying up late in my room, typing away on this same story.

Then becoming an intern for a publishing company and letting Mick and Kathy read it, getting feedback and feeling terrified as real, grown-up editors read my writing. Working on it while sitting with Samantha Krieger in one of the houses I was staying in during our internship. I think back on that and smile, thinking that’s what it looks like when you’re writer-friends. Come over, and bring your laptop, and we’ll sit together and type!

Then taking a break from it and writing Looks Like Love. Time passed during those years and life changed and I became an editor and lived out my dream job. Babies came. Then I wrote Table for Two, then Second Chance Café, then Recipe for Love. All while editing the books of so many others.

And finally, while pregnant with my third baby, I decided to start with a blank page, and rewrite this novel (in first person this time, which I loved while working on Looks Like Love).

So as Lily grew inside me, I wrote, for the last time, Sara’s story, The Last Summer.

And now, we’re six weeks out from release date.

But in my heart, we’re twenty years in. And I could just about cry.

So I’m scared and excited and happy and relieved and ready. I could use your help, loveys, to get the word out about this story. I hope to do a cover reveal in the next few weeks. And you can see the hashtag in the photo above. Once the book is out, I’d be so thankful to see readers with it, and please include that hashtag. Please leave reviews–you don’t even know how invaluable that is for authors. Share the book announcement on your pages. Contact me with any questions about how you can help! brandybrucewrites@gmail.com.

It’s nearly time. The COUNTDOWN is beginning.

Oh gosh. I’m so happy!

 

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Chocolat and Other Delicious Things!

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Loveys, it’s almost book club time again! Which I’m thrilled about because the last month has had all kinds of unexpected issues (illness for one) and I feel like I have hardly been a part of humanity! I had all of these great intentions about being super social this year, and then one thing after another has happened, and basically my only social interaction lately has been with Jeff and my three children. SO, fingers crossed nothing else happens, and book club goes as planned next week.

Book club this month is Joanne Harris’s delightful novel Chocolat. I was immediately on board with this since I LOVED the movie so much. I was surprised by how much they changed from book to film–but the more I thought about it, the more I felt that the changes were good changes. They held to the themes while making the story something that worked perfectly in movie form. (This made me think of Julie and Julia. In that case, I loved the movie so much, but when I read the book, I didn’t connect with the author. The book just didn’t move me in any way.) When it came to Chocolat, I ended up loving the book and the movie. (Confession: I liked some of the characters from the movie better, but I liked getting to know Vianne in a deeper way.)

I was also reminded that I’m sort of obsessed with food. I really enjoyed the food/dessert aspects of this novel. I wish I could go to a chocolaterie in France! (This is also why I loved the movie.) I also enjoyed the mystic elements of this book. Whenever there are mystic elements in this kind of story, you end up wondering about how much is meant to be real or imagined, or perhaps the line between reality and otherworldly is intentionally blurry. I like the feeling I get when I read something that makes even the everyday seem like an adventure. The characters involved in the small town–mysterious, sympathetic, frustrating. The wind for Vianne, will it move her again and sweep her away to a new place?

So I get to host book club at my house this month and I’m thinking chocolate is in order. Maybe fondue? Maybe chocolate martinis? Maybe both? Jeff bought me a bottle of chocolate wine because he loves me, so we’ll try that. I’m feeling desperate for grown-up conversation, and book club is the perfect remedy. The only thing better than reading about food in books is drinking wine while talking about food in books!

P.S. I’ve been finishing up the final touches on my compilation book The Romano Family Collection. This compilation project is made up of my three Heartsong Presents novels, Table for Two, Second Chance Café, and Recipe for Love. I am so excited to have those available again! As I’ve been going through proofs, I can see again how much I enjoy food in fiction. Leo’s Lobster Magnifico, Isabella’s Corn Chowder, Alison’s Breakfast Casserole, Jeremy’s Bread Pudding–really, this girl likes to eat. In the Romano Family Collection, there’s a bonus short story called A Southern Belle Road Trip. I’m really thrilled for readers to get this glimpse into Ashley’s life (she’s a character from Table for Two!) It’s just a short story, but I managed to squeeze food scenes in regardless. And there’s a bonus recipe included! The Kindle version should be up and running soon, and I’m hoping the print version will be available within the next two weeks. Stay tuned for an update and possibly a giveaway!

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Lincoln Everett Bruce Has Arrived

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Our little guy has arrived! Yay! We are so thrilled. Despite the fact that we felt sure he would come early, our due date of August 26th came and went without any action. We were scheduled to be induced on the 29th, but I was really hopeful the baby would come on his own. My mom and I walked and walked on Friday, the 26th, hoping that might help things move along. We were all so anxious and ready for Lincoln to arrive.

I woke up about 2:15 Sunday morning and realized that my water had broken. Okay, this is really happening, I thought. I was having contractions as Jeff and I drove to the hospital. We were admitted at about 3:00 in the morning. Lincoln was born at 9:13 am on August 28th. He was 8 lbs and 13 oz! Much bigger than we expected. 🙂 He’s absolutely gorgeous and we’re crazy about him.

Ashtyn met him that night and her reaction to him was just adorable. She kissed him and wanted to hold him. So sweet.  I can’t believe we’re now a family of four! Wow! Jeff and I feel so very blessed.

Counting Down

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Hello friends! Well, we’re less than three weeks out from baby’s due date, and honestly, I don’t think we’re going to make it till then. I have a feeling this little guy is going to show up early. I keep wondering, Will today be the day? While I still have a lot to do before he arrives, I’m okay with the idea of Lincoln coming early. I’m just so excited to meet him! 🙂 We’ve had the baby shower, the nursery is finally ready–I think most of the important stuff is taken care of. There’s still the terror of delivery, of course. For me, that’s not going anywhere until it’s over. My boss asked me if I’ve reached that point where I’m just ready to have the baby. In some ways, I guess. But in other ways–how can you be ready to be traumatized? Some of you moms are out there smiling, thinking, It’ll be fine. It’s not that bad. I tell myself that on a regular basis. All I know is that somehow this little swimmer inside of me has to get from point A to point B. I’ve survived it once; I know I will again. That doesn’t seem to help make it less scary for me, for some reason. I try not to think about it too much. I concentrate more on how great it will be once I have Lincoln in my arms. That’s the part that I’m looking forward to.

As you know, we had my sister Laura out here with us for two weeks, which was just so much fun. She took pregnancy pictures for us while she was visiting. She did this before we had Ashtyn, too. So the picture you’re seeing up top is one that Laura took. Speaking of Ashtyn, she’s turning 3 soon. I cannot believe I have a 3-year-old daughter! Time is going by so fast. I started reading Karen Kingsbury’s book Leaving recently, and so much of the beginning is about the parents being nostalgic for when their kids were young, and I can see myself feeling that way. I’m starting to understand how time seems to triple in speed when you have kids. We went to a BBQ yesterday with a bunch of friends we first met through a small group we were a part of a few years back. When we all met, I think there was only one baby in the group. Sitting yesterday with all the girls, I just looked out over the backyard at the kids running all over the place. And two of us are currently pregnant again. I think if we tallied up all the kids, we’re close to 10 now. It’s like a daycare center when we’re all together! It seems like so long ago when we first met. It’s hard to remember what it was like back then, pre-kids. I think the most hilarious moment we had yesterday was realizing that one of the little girls has taken to calling her parents “Ma” and “Pa.” They’ve been watching one of the Little House on the Prairie seasons and the little girl is totally into it, and now calls Mel and Jason Ma and Pa. Hearing her yell out, “Ma!” was just so cute and hilarious. (I think her parents are hoping this is just a short phase. 🙂 ) 

One of my friends and fellow bloggers (who just recently had her second baby) wrote a great post a while back about the parenting things she wants to do differently this second time around. Her post really made me think about what I will do differently. Here’s something about me, though: I can hardly remember what I did when it comes to those early months with Ash. I try to write things down or I’ll definitely forget. So I’ve forgotten tons. But there are a few things Jeff and I feel sure about: 1) We’re not going to let Lincoln have a pacifier until he’s 3 (like Ashtyn). After the first few months, once we’re past the fear of SIDS, we’re taking away the paci. 2) I’m going to try breastfeeding and if it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work; and there you have it. 3) Again, we’re going to do this parenting thing at our own pace and enjoy it as much as we can. And 4) I’m going to remind myself to always tell pregnant women that they look wonderful and encourage them rather than make them feel even more enormous. 

So, we’re at that point where baby could literally come any time. I’ll keep you posted!  

 

Losing Things and Building a Library

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So, you know that feeling of losing something? A few weeks ago we were cleaning out the garage for a garage sale and I stumbled across an old photo that I thought was lost forever. I was beyond happy to find it.

Then I lost it again.

Unbelievable, I know. I’ve been berating myself for days and trying like mad to remember what I did with it, but to no avail. It’s gone again. I had it for a few minutes, and now it’s gone again. How is that even possible? I’ve searched high and low and it’s absolutely nowhere to be found. I’d come to terms with this fact a really long time ago, when I realized it was gone forever. But then I had this spark of unexpected happiness when I saw it again. And for the life of me, I can’t remember what I did with it. I was in the middle of going through stuff for the garage sale . . . and what else can I say? I have no idea where it went. I’m trying to let go of the frustration, but obviously–I’m still frustrated.

I try not to usually let things like this get to me. Most things are replaceable. A DVD gets scratched–you can buy a new one. You spill something on a favorite book–Amazon is there for you. I once lost one of my favorite sandals at a writers conference. I got home and unpacked and only had one sandal. Very devastating, but I got over it. But this was a really old picture that wasn’t saved on the computer. Not the worst thing in the world, but certainly not replaceable.

So what things can you live without and what things are absolutely irreplaceable? People are irreplaceable, obviously. And in some cases (stuff like old photos), things are irreplaceable. Family heirlooms are irreplaceable. I have a special tea set from my grandmother that is absolutely precious to me. It’s irreplaceable. But mostly, when I think of irreplaceable things in my life–I think of people.

Still, it irks me to no end that I found that photo and then lost it again. Seriously. Annoying. Today I told myself that I have to let this go. I was fine for years, when it was lost before. I’ll be fine without it again. But do you understand that horrible feeling of having lost something? It can make you crazy. All right, moving on.

Today was a sister day. Sara and I went to lunch (I was craving queso like you wouldn’t believe), then we went shopping. Then I came home and finally got to watch that movie about JK Rowling on Lifetime. I’m telling you, JK Rowling’s fairytale story is just inspiring for any writer. I am so inspired by her. Sara and I were book shopping today and talking about building up our personal libraries. Ever since Jeff and I moved into our new house, I’ve been trying to fill these great bookshelves in our office. But I ended up taking out a lot of books that I have that don’t mean anything to me. I decided that I want a library that has books that are special to me, or that I feel are important or helpful for me to have. So I currently have a box of books for Goodwill. Meanwhile, I’m working on this library of mine. I borrow most books I read from the library, but there are some books that I really think I need to have for my own library. So–if you were doing the same thing, tell me, what books would be must-haves for your library? I really want to know. Here are just a few of the books that will be staying on my bookshelves: Harry Potter series, Twilight series, Christy Miller series, Glenbrooke series, The O’Malley series, Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre, The Scarlet Pimpernel, Great Expectations, When Heaven is Silent, No Wonder They Call Him Savior, Anne of Green Gables, lots of books by Ann Rinaldi, Traveling Mercies, A Family Apart, Charlotte’s Web, Woe Is I, Uglies, If I Stay, Chateau of Echoes, The Shunning, The Little Prince, What to Expect When You’re Expecting–that’s just the beginning. I’m still working on it.It’s an ongoing project, and I have to tell you, I seriously like this project. 🙂 Buying books? Yes, please.

The Boy Who Lived: A review of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

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Ah, the wonder that is Harry Potter. Can it be over? Really? Is this possible? So last night at midnight I was sitting with Sara and Nemo in a movie theater, grinning as everyone cheered as Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 began. Excitement filled the (rather hot) room. (Apparently the air conditioning was on the fritz. Seriously, people, I think they should have planned for the hundreds of movie-goers who were flooding the theater last night. Air conditioning is a must.) I was eating junior mints and sour-patch kids and the moment was perfect. I do have to tell you, though, I think I may have been the only pregnant woman there. My Harry Potter T-shirt was stretched over my belly. When Sara first walked up to me in the lobby, I asked her, “Tell me truth. Does this shirt make me look fat?” 🙂

So, the movie was great. I really liked it. I think, however, for someone who loved the books as much as I did, I’m always going to wish they stayed closer to the original storyline. I can understand small things changing for clarity and pacing (like deleting the part about Ariana, and Ollivander knowing about the Deathly Hallows, and the Ravenclaw ghost telling Harry where the diadem was instead of him figuring it out on his own, and Ron and Hermione kissing in the Chamber of Secrets instead of when he mentions the house elves–who were never mentioned at all)–all those changes flowed well and probably were necessary for timing. Still, there are things I missed. The pacing was super fast and that was cool, but I wish we could have had a few more snippets of moments with Hagrid, Remus and Tonks, Ginny, and Mr. Weasley. Also, Fred’s death is a huge moment in the book and we only see him after the fact in the movie. I wish they had shown that scene. Luna and Neville don’t end up together in the book, so I wasn’t sure what the purpose was in going in that direction. I also wish they’d stayed closer to the book when it came to Neville killing Nagini (the hat and the flames and all that) and showing more of Lily and Snape when they were in high school instead of them as children and then jumping to Lily being with James. I missed Harry and Voldemort fighting in front of a huge audience, and Harry having that opportunity to explain more to Voldemort about why he was the true master of the elder wand. I missed Harry going to see Dumbledore’s portrait afterward and that rather light-hearted moment at the very end of the book where Harry’s just happy it’s over and tired and hoping Kreacher will bring him a sandwich. Also, I never feel like they do Harry and Ron’s relationship justice. He’s always hugging Hermione and having these heartfelt moments with her, but, truly, Ron is his best friend and like family to him, so I wish they’d have made that just as evident and strong as they did Harry and Hermione’s friendship. I felt that way about the last movie as well. 

So–there were some departures from the book I wasn’t crazy about–on the other hand, there were moments I thought were great. Like the Gringotts section at the beginning and Hermione pretending to be Bellatrix. All of that was so fun and so well done. The dragon escaping was very cool. The wizard fights and the wizards protecting Hogwarts were super fun to see. It was nice to have a few moments of Professor McGonagall taking charge–she’s awesome. I loved Harry’s reaction to first seeing Ginny back at Hogwarts–just adorable. The fight between Mrs. Weasley and Bellatrix. Snape’s death was done very well–he’s just such an incredible character.The King’s Cross Station scene felt a bit rushed to me, but I was so glad to see Dumbledore again. I loved the final scene with Harry talking to his son. So sweet. 

It’s just such an amazing series. Really. J.K. Rowling is basically a genius. She created such memorable characters and such an incredible story. I know I can’t wait until the day that Ashtyn’s old enough for us to read the books together. I think this series will join the classics. And while I was sad that this was the final movie, so it’s over in a way–I’m still super excited to plan a trip to the Wizarding World and to go through the series all over again with my own children. So to me–it’s like the way you might feel about books like Anne of Green Gables or the Wizard of Oz. They’re never really over. That world and those characters are always there, available for you to escape to for a little while. And Harry Potter is just like that. Always sitting comfortably on my bookshelf, ready whenever I need a little magic.