Memorial Day in a Small Town

Memorial Day is one of the days each year that I actively miss New England. Most days, if you ask, I’ll agree that I miss living there, that even after 10 years in Virginia it’s still only home, not Home the way Massachusetts will always be. But there are a few days that it’s impossible to forget, and Memorial Day has always been one of them.

Today, all the Scout troops, veterans groups and school bands in towns all across Massachusetts are lining up for the annual Memorial Day parade. I marched in my first in first grade, with my Brownie troop. My last was 2002, the same year I moved to Virginia, when I was helping with the high school marching band. Every year was the same.

1995 Memorial Day paradeWe would line up in the parking lots of the original Town Hall, then the senior center, now the town museum; and the original high school, then the municipal building, now home to the town planning and engineering departments. The parade would head down the street to the railroad bridge, then turn to go through downtown on Main Street, past the post office. The college was the first stop: Words to remember the fallen, laying of wreaths, a 21-gun salute and Taps by the high school band. Silence throughout, remembering those who gave their lives.

The parade would pass Continue reading

Guest Interview: Terri Giuliano Long on In Leah’s Wake

When I first picked up In Leah’s Wake, it was because I’d gotten to know author Terri Guiliano Long on Twitter. But it was her wonderful writing that kept me from putting the book down before it was done. She spins a wonderful, heartbreaking tale of a family spiraling out of control. And today, she’s taken a few minutes to answer some questions about the books and her characters.

Announcing the In Leah’s Wake Social Media Whirlwind Tour!

As part of this special promotional extravaganza sponsored by Novel Publicity, the price of the In Leah’s Wake eBook edition has dropped to just 99 cents this week.

What’s more, by purchasing this fantastic book at an incredibly low price, you can enter to win many awesome prizes, including Amazon gift cards of up to $500 in amount and 5 autographed copies of the book. Be sure to enter before the end of the day on Friday, December 16th, so you don’t miss out.

To Win the Prizes

  1. Purchase your copy of In Leah’s Wake for just 99 cents on Amazon or Barnes & Noble
  2. Fill-out the form on Novel Publicity to enter for the prizes
  3. Visit today’s featured event; you may win an autographed copy of the book or a $50 gift card!
  4. BONUS: If you leave a comment on this blog post, you have another chance at $100!

…And I can win too!

Over 100 bloggers are participating in this gigantic event, and there are plenty of prizes for us too. The blogger who receives the most votes in the traffic-breaker poll will win a $100 gift card as well. So when you visit Novel Publicity’s site to fill-out the contest entry form, don’t forget to say that I referred you, so I can get a point in the poll.

The Featured Events include:

Monday, Radio Interview with Novel Publicity! We’re kicking-off on the Novel Publicity Free Advice blog. We interviewed Terri on our radio show Sunday night and have embedded the full podcast and blogged about its highlights. Give it a listen and then leave a comment on the blog post. This is a great chance to get to know more about this inspiring and friendly author. One commenter will win an autographed copy of In Leah’s Wake. Don’t forget to enter for the other contest prizes while you’re over there!

Tuesday, Twitter sharing contest! A tweet is tiny, only 140 characters. But on Tuesday, it could win you $50. Send the following tweet across the twittersphere, and you just may win a $50 Amazon gift card. An autographed copy of In Leah’s Wake is also up for grabs. The winner will be announced Wednesday morning. Here’s the tweet: In Leah’s Wake has taken the publishing world by storm. Get the book for just 99 cents http://ow.ly/7WP5H #whirlwind

Wednesday, Google+ sharing contest! Yup, there’s yet another awesome opportunity Continue reading

Even More Exeter

Now that I’ve come up for air after the first round of revisions on my first Exeter novel, All That Is Necessary, I have time to tackle a few other projects I’ve wanted to do. And yes, that means you might be seeing some more Story Cubes Challenge entries soon. But beyond that, you’ll get to learn more about the Exeter residents during the next several weeks. CJ, who started as a reporter at the Exeter Ledger 20-odd years ago and is now editor, will be interviewing several of his fellow residents so you can get to know them better. I’ll also have a Places In Exeter page where you can learn more about the various locations — such as O’Learys Market — that show up in the stories.

If you have requests for either people or places you want to see, leave a note in comments or email me at jenniecoughlin28@gmail.com. The interviews will post on Mondays and the Place posts will go up on Thursdays, starting next week.

Oh, and there’s another Exeter surprise coming in February. If you want to be among the first to know, sign up for my mailing list on the right. You’ll also get release information about All That Is Necessary as we get closer to its release date.

Review: In Leah’s Wake by Terri Giuliano Long

In Leah's WakeIn Leah’s Wake by Terri Giuliano Long
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Terri Giuliano Long’s debut novel bodes well for her future as a writer. In Leah’s Wake is a well-crafted tale told by characters with distinct voices. As the Tyler family members find life falling apart, you can see all the places where a different decision could have changed the trajectory, if only the characters could step outside their own head and see the big picture.

As a Massachusetts native, I recognized her fictional Cortland right away — she grounds her world with so many realistic details that I found myself trying to picture where it was on the map. Those same details make her characters breathe and her words sing on the page. In Leah’s Wake has a fast-paced plot that won’t let you put it down, yet the depth of character and voice to rival any literary novel out there. The combination of the two makes for an unforgettable read. I’ve already recommended this to several friends, and I’m looking forward to having time to re-read it.

View all my reviews

Downtown — the heart of small towns

I spent the weekend at RPM cycling instructor training, fortunately at my own gym. It was nice not to have to travel. But some other folks did, including one guy from Pennsylvania. He turned it into a longer trip and was asking us for recommendations for restaurants and things to do.

Another instructor’s first suggestion was to avoid the chains — take advantage of all the great local places we have to eat. Which we do, and which he’s planning on. All the places we recommended were downtown, though he was staying out by the highway. That’s because Staunton’s downtown is what separates it from other small towns. It’s revitalized in the past 15 years, and turned into the heart of the community in many ways.

Meanwhile, my mom had mentioned in an e-mail that she and my dad were spending part of the weekend at an event in my hometown’s downtown. Franklin’s downtown doesn’t have the attractions of Staunton’s — it’s tough to top the only replica of Shakespeare’s first playhouse and its associated performances — but during the past couple of years, the downtown merchants have tried to make it more of a destination.My college town was the only place I’ve lived that had a downtown that has been vital all along, and part of that was the proximity of the college and associated foot traffic.

If you look at what the National Trust for Historic Preservation is doing, downtowns everywhere are getting attention — from small towns in rural areas to bigger cities looking to reinvent themselves. As we moved away from local businesses toward chains and big box stores, downtowns started to fade and wither. Now, many communities are trying to bring them back. As somebody who lives and works in downtown, I like that I can live most of my life in this part of town and find almost everything I need within walking distance. And when I see new developments in Northern Virginia trying to mimic the nature of small towns and their downtowns, I have to smile.

Does your town have a vibrant downtown? And do you spend any time there?

 

Hey, Norm! (aka living in a small town)

My friend Stacey was in town this week, and her reaction when I described my favorite coffee shop, which I visit daily, was “So you walk in and it’s all ‘Hey, Norm!’?” It’s an analogy I hadn’t thought of, but it’s spot-on. That community is one of the things I love about small towns. Sometimes, it really seems like everybody *does* know your name.

I see it in my hometown, though it’s grown over the years and doesn’t fit any classic definition of a small town. But wandering around at the downtown association’s Strawberry Stroll last month, seeing high school classmates, family friends and others, reminded me how much of a small town it really is.

And I see it in my current town, when I walk to work and know most people I run into. Or when the various segments of my life cross and overlap in ways I never expected. A year or two ago, a coworker new to town and I realized we had connections through three or four different parts of our lives. That community, that connection, is what I love about small towns. It’s why I’ve had Exeter in my brain almost as long as Ellie’s existed there, why all the stories I’m working on connect and interweave. The town is setting, but it’s also a character of sorts in the series. That richness of small towns, the complex fabric of relationships and history, of grudges and good deeds, provides a great base for compelling storytelling.