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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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Talking books and such

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Here’s the deal. I write stories. Sometimes. When there’s a free moment between being a waitress for my kids and folding laundry and watching OC marathons on the Pop channel. I do it because I love it. And I’ve done it for a really long time. When I was a young thing, I’d read the latest Babysitter Club book and then sit down and immediately write my own sequel. (Sorry, Ann M. Martin. That’s what fan fiction looked like in the 80s.)  My best friend and I started writing our own series together in the sixth grade, called The Hawaii Twins. When we studied WWII in high school, I wrote a novel about swing kids who were trying to escape the Nazis. I love stories. Movies. Theater. Music. Anything that tells a good story.

During great times in my life, I’d write. During difficult times in my life, I’d write. I went off to college and in my Liberty University dorm room (which was in no way as cool as the dorm rooms are now), when Leah, then Courtney, then Laurie (year after year of roommates) would take off to class or to hang out with friends, I’d turn on Caedmon’s Call (or Matchbox Twenty or Dave Matthews or Rich Mullins or Christmas music or whatever) and I’d write.

But even before those fun college days . . . a story came to me. I spent a year at a school in Longview a very long time ago. It was a difficult year for me, to be honest. But it’s where I met Amber. And Joy. And Krisha. And Lois. And Micah. And Charisa. And Mary Jane. And Karissa. And Wes. And Paul. And Erika and Efrain. And Leticia. And Dairisha and Blanca and Melissa and Rachel and Sharon and Tim and Miss Michelle and SO many more awesome people. And in that tiny little dorm room that I shared with FIVE other girls, I started writing a story about seven friends. Seven twenty-somethings who are in and out of each other’s lives. Who love each other like family.

Over the years I’ve written and rewritten that story. Reinvented certain characters. I’d go back to it when I had the urge. The story, the characters had been there for me when I’d needed an outlet, when I’d needed to feel creative, when I’d needed solace. I didn’t want to give up on them. The bottom line-it was a story in my heart that still wanted to be told.

So, while I was pregnant with Lily, I pulled up a blank document and decided to start fresh. I’d write it all over again, the way I’d want to tell it right now. So I did. And I loved every minute and I cried at times. It’s hard to describe how I feel about this novel, because it’s been part of me for so long. It’s who I was then, and it’s who I am now.

And I’m ABSOLUTELY thrilled to tell you that it will be published, and as of now, will most likely be released at the beginning of next summer (I’ve just signed the contract so I still need to dive into the editing and rewriting process, and books, you know, take a super long time.) I’ll keep you posted on the process. I cannot wait to share this story with you, loveys. I just know that when I finally see it in print, I’ll bawl and howl and laugh and jump up and down like a crazy person.

Can’t. Wait.

Just a thought. Having the heart of a writer means that there are stories inside of you that you need to tell. Some, you will write and they’ll stay in a drawer or on your laptop for forever (and if you pull them out and take a look, you’ll think, Yeah, that needs to stay hidden in this drawer!) I’ve written stories that will never see the light of day. They were and are stepping stones, learning opportunities, practice and so on. And for some of us, it takes a very long time to get any traction with our writing. Doors close. Opportunities seem to dry up. We get discouraged. I think this happens to 90 percent of writers. (Some people are super lucky and everything always works out. I am not one of those people.) Sometimes, things happen when we’re not expecting it. We’re busy living life and loving our people and working hard. And sometimes we need to take initiative and make things happen, or at least try. Start that business. Indie-publish that novel. Save up for that trip.

By the time my novel will be published, it will have been nearly twenty years since those characters first showed up in my mind. (Crazy, I know. Now I feel super old.) But you know, there doesn’t have to be an expiration date on our dreams and goals. Life changes and we change and our hopes change. Good things can happen. Go after it, lovey.

My new editor sent me an email, telling me why she connects to the story and how excited she is for us to work on this project together. I couldn’t stop smiling after reading that email. It’s been a long road, but there’s an end in sight and a story to be told.

Coming soon, Loveys. Good things.

 

P.S. In the meantime, my sister is doing a giveaway of my novel Looks Like Love!  Go here to try to win a copy!  https://giveaway.amazon.com/p/ce50accb2abfd39b/?ref_=tsm_4_tw_p_ln-l

Also, follow my author page on Facebook to keep up with the publishing process as I go along! https://www.facebook.com/authorBrandyBruce/

 

 

 

 

 

More excitement!

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So, hop over to Mick Silva’s blog for my latest interview! Mick and I have been friends for a really long time and he’s one of the best editors I know–and just an all-around fantastic guy. Doing the interview was lots of fun. So stop by and join the discussion!

http://www.yourwritersgroup.com/mywritersgroup/2011/01/interview-with-authoreditor-brandy-bruce.html