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First Chapter Reveal: Mary Carter’s MEET ME IN BARCELONA

Meet Me in Barcelona 2Title: Meet Me in Barcelona
Author: Mary Carter
Publisher: Kensington
Pages: 352
Genre: Mainstream fiction
Format: Paperback/Kindle/MP3 CD, Audiobook, MP3 Audo, Unabridged

Purchase at AMAZON

A surprise trip to Barcelona with her boyfriend, Jake, seems like the perfect antidote to Grace Sawyer’s current woes. The city is dazzling and unpredictable, but the biggest surprise for Grace is discovering who arranged and paid for the vacation.

Carrie Ann wasn’t just Grace’s foster sister. Clever, pretty, and mercurial, she was her best friend—until everything went terribly wrong. Now, as she flees an abusive marriage, Carrie Ann has turned to the one person she hopes will come through for her. Despite her initial misgivings, Grace wants to help. But then Carrie Ann and Jake both go missing. Stunned and confused, Grace begins to realize how much of herself she’s kept from Jake—and how much of Carrie Ann she never understood. Soon Grace is baited into following a trail of scant clues across Spain, determined to find the truth, even if she must revisit her troubled past to do it.

Mary Carter’s intriguing novel delves into the complexities of childhood bonds, the corrosive weight of guilt and blame, and all the ways we try—and often fail—to truly know the ones we love.

First Chapter:

Grace Sawyer had never believed in magic, or miracles for that matter, but that didn’t mean a girl couldn’t pray for a little bit of both. She’d been praying a lot lately. She stepped into her mother’s hospice room and crinkled her nose as the scent of SpaghettiOs and Lysol washed over her. She glanced at her mom’s bedside table. Sure enough, sitting too close to the edge was a chipped brown bowl overflowing with SpaghettiOs, paired with an industrial-sized bottle of Lysol. Grace hesitated. Processed food in a can and industrial-sized cleaners were just the kind of things that could trigger an emotional avalanche inside her. This wasn’t what life should come to in the end. It wasn’t right. If replacing those bits with yellow roses and a nice roast dinner would have changed a single thing about this horrific situation, Grace would have done it lightning quick. This was her mother. The woman who had taken care of everybody else her entire life. Who had opened her heart to homeless, damaged children. She deserved more. But strangely, Lysol and SpaghettiOs were two items Jody Sawyer had insisted on lately. Grace had to fight her instincts, her primal desire to make everything nice, and instead keep each visit as pleasant as possible. She smiled even though neither of her parents had noticed her yet.

Her mother was wide-awake, eyes glued to the television in the corner where a soap opera blared. Before she had moved into this facility, Jody had never watched a soap opera in her life. She wouldn’t have been caught dead eating SpaghettiOs either. The Lysol, on the other hand, was familiar. Grace’s mother had spent her entire life within an arm’s reach of it. Most likely the product of having a revolving door of foster children. Where were they now? Not a single kid from the past had come to visit Grace’s mother. After all she’d done for them. It made Grace rage inside, but her mother hadn’t complained about it once.

Her father, Jim, sat next to the bed on his favorite recliner from home. Jim had put up quite a fuss to get them to allow it in the room, and he was extremely proud of the accomplishment. “I put up my dukes!” he’d say with a grin. Then he’d pump his fists in the air. He’d been practically living here since the doctor had given them the latest grim diagnosis. Grace couldn’t help but think it was probably a welcome relief for her father’s patients. Her father was a psychotherapist, and although he was insightful, Grace had always thought he was a tad too prying. Then again, maybe that was the whole point of going to a shrink. Baring your deepest, darkest secrets. It was Grace’s idea of a worst nightmare. “Hi, Dad,” Grace walked over and planted a kiss on her father’s cheek. He looked almost as thin as her mother. He lowered his newspaper and took off his reading glasses. “Well, hello there, Graceful.”

“How is she?”

“In and out.”

Grace nodded and slowly approached her mother’s bed. “Mom?”

Her mother’s eyes didn’t leave the television set. “Oh, hello,” Jody Sawyer said. “Are you the cleaning lady?”

“Like I said,” her father said. “In and out.”

“It’s me, Mom. I’m your daughter, Grace.”

“My daughter doesn’t clean,” Jody said.

“She’s got that right, “ Jim said.

Grace burst out laughing, then quickly tried to squelch it with a cough. Jody Sawyer pointed to the television and shook her head. She wanted them to be quiet. Grace looked at her father.

“Why don’t you wait for a commercial?” he said. He patted the folding chair next to him. Grace sat. “How was your day, sweetheart?”

Grace reached into her bag and removed two McDonald’s bags. She handed one to her father. He grasped the bag in one hand and squeezed her hand with the other like she’d brought him champagne and caviar. “Actually pretty wild,” she said. “I have news.”

“Do you mind?” her father said.

“Go right ahead.”

He unwrapped his Big Mac and took a bite. “Mm-mmm,” he said. He looked blissful. Grace wanted to bury her face in her sleeve and sob. SpaghettiOs and soap operas, and Mickey D’s? Didn’t they know they deserved better? They were from such a humble generation. Not like the entitled kids of today. Her parents were simple and good people. Let them enjoy what they enjoy. No use forcing kale or tofu burgers on her father now. Grace forced another smile, then reached into the second bag and handed him a napkin.

He winked at her and dabbed his mouth. Then his eyes went to her ring finger. “Did the boy finally pop the question?”

Grace laughed and stretched out her hand in front of her as if examining it for the first time. She hardly ever wore rings or bracelets; they got in the way of playing the guitar. Maybe now she would start. She would wear silver rings with semi-precious gems, like amber, and big chunky bracelets. Maybe even grow her nails and paint them pink. Was that a good enough trade for giving up on her dream? Grace slipped her hands under her legs as if she could shut out making any decisions by sitting on them. “Not yet. But you’re never going to believe this–”

The soap opera went to commercial. A jingle for car insurance came on. “Gracie Ann!” her mother said. She smiled and opened her arms as if Grace had just walked into the room.

“Hi, Mom.” Grace got up and hugged her mother. She felt so frail and tiny in Grace’s arms. Grace could probably pick her up and carry her around the room without breaking a sweat. Not fair, God! Not fair. “You didn’t eat your lunch,” Grace said, glancing at the SpaghettiOs.

“She insisted on them,” her father said.

“I ate ten Os,” her mother said. “I couldn’t possibly eat more than ten Os. I have to watch my figure.”

“If you stuck her in the middle of a cornfield, crows would land on her,” her father said with his mouth full of burger.

“You’re not far behind, Dad,” Grace said.

“Just how we wanted to spend our golden years. Hanging out in a farmer’s field like a couple of straw men,” her father mused in between bites.

Anything would be better than this place, Grace thought. She wished she could bring her parents to a beautiful field at the height of autumn. Give them trees with leaves on fire, and hay that shone like gold underneath an afternoon sun. Give them the smell of apples and the embrace of a warm wind.

“You look beautiful, Grace,” her mother said. Jody Sawyer reached up with a trembling hand and touched the pearls around Grace’s neck. “Is it your birthday?”

“In a few weeks, Mom.”

“Happy birthday, darling.”

“Thank you.”

“How old are you now? Thirteen?”

“I’m turning thirty,” Grace said. “How are you feeling?”

“I’m all better now, Gracie. I can go home now.” Jody Sawyer looked at her husband Jim, as if expecting him to start packing up the room.

“I don’t think today, Mom,” Grace said. Or ever. As much as she tried to shut it out, Grace could hear the doctor’s voice in her head in a constant loop. Maybe a month, six months at the most, we can’t say for sure. All we can do now is make her comfortable.

Make her comfortable? Was there any comfort in knowing you had six months, maybe one?

“Gracie said she has some news,” Jim said.

Her mother clasped her hands under her chin. “I love news,” she said. “And fries,” she called to her husband.

Grace nodded at her father. He picked up the second bag, then passed it up to Jody. It was odd. If Grace gave her the fries before she asked for them, her mother wouldn’t touch them. If Grace waited until Jody voiced a desire for them, Jody ate every single one. Just one of the little mysteries of dementia. What a double whammy. The doctors weren’t sure if fighting off the cancer had brought on the problems with her memory, or if she would’ve been hit with it anyway. There were just no two ways about it; life could be extremely cruel. “Give us the news,” her father said. “Hurry before her show comes back. We’re not allowed to talk during Days of Our Lives.”

“Jake won an all-expense-paid trip to Barcelona,” Grace said.

“Well, I’ll be,” Jim said. “How’d he do that?”

“The veterinarian group had some sort of a raffle,” Grace said. “But Jake didn’t even enter.”

“He won a raffle he didn’t even enter?”

“Dan went to one of the conferences without Jake and entered for him.” Dan was Jake’s partner at the animal hospital. He and Jake were like brothers.

“That was mighty nice of him.”

“But we feel guilty. Dan could have taken the trip himself.”

“I’m sure he filled out an entry for himself as well as Jake.”

“True.”

“And Jake won. Seems fair to me.”

“But we would be leaving Dan to run the clinic all by himself, and he’d even have to watch Stella.” Stella was the best English bulldog a couple could ever ask for. If she could, Grace would take Stella to Spain. Stella was a hit wherever they went due to her prowess on a skateboard.

“Well, isn’t that special.” Jim slapped his knee. “Jody did you hear that? Gracie and Jake won a trip to Spain.”

He had entirely missed the point that they felt guilty that Dan would be getting the short end of the stick. It made her wonder how often he misunderstood his patients.

“That’s wonderful, dear,” Jody said. Her eyes traveled back to the television.

“I’m not going,” Grace said.

“What do you mean?” her father said.

“There’s a catch.” There always was.

“You have to pay for your hotel?”

“No, it’s all paid for.”

“So what’s the problem?”

“The dates are set in stone. We’d have to go at the end of next week.”

“So?”

“It’s a ten-day trip. I don’t want to leave Mom for that long.”

“Nonsense,” her father said. “You have to go.”

“I’d be gone for my birthday.”

The soap opera was back. Jody snatched up the remote and aimed it at the television like she was holding it up at gunpoint.

Grace’s father patted her knee. “We’ll celebrate with you when you get back, kiddo. Take it from me, kiddo—life’s too short not to take free trips.” Jody glared at Jim and pressed on the volume until it was almost deafening. A few seconds later, there was a series of soft knocks on the wall behind her bed.

“Sorry, Mrs. Maple,” her father called out. “You have to turn it down, dear.”

“That old bitch,” her mother said. In all Grace’s years growing up, with all the strange boys tearing through the house, and fighting, and even through the whole Carrie Ann ordeal, Grace had never heard her mother curse, let alone direct it at somebody. Jody turned the volume down a smidge and pointed at the television. “He’s the one I like,” she exclaimed. There was a tall man, visible only in silhouette behind a flimsy shower curtain. “They think he’s Flo’s long-lost brother, but actually he’s just escaped from prison where he was convicted of murdering his second wife. Or is it his third? I can’t remember. Second or third wife, take your pick. It’ll come to me. Darn tootin’ he’s totally innocent, but I know that Flo. She’s going to be sniffing around his tight buns like a hound dog short of a bone. Second. Definitely second wife.”

Grace and her father looked at the television. The naked man stepped out of the shower, surrounded by steam. All you could see were his six-pack abs and bulging biceps. Grace supposed they wanted you to imagine something else bulging. This was definitely soft-core porn for women. Tan, and slick, and ripped, and glistening, he didn’t seem to be in any hurry to pick up a towel. He walked up to the bathroom mirror, reached up, and wiped away the condensation. Soon, his gorgeous face came into view. Grace had to stifle a laugh as he began to touch his cheekbones like a blind man trying to see what he looked like. “Isn’t it awful?” Jody said. “Pretending to be someone else? When all he wants to do is search for his wife’s real killer.”

Grace raised an eyebrow at her father. He looked down at his stomach, and in doing so dripped a thick glob of ketchup onto his fraying cardigan. “Didn’t even look like that when we got married,” Jim said.

“I think he must have had plastic surgery after his prison break,” Jody continued. “That’s why he doesn’t recognize himself!”

Jim Sawyer watched his wife with a smile and a shake of the head. “You wouldn’t leave her for ten days,” Grace said to her father.

“They sure did a pretty good job on him though, don’t you think?” Jody said. Based on where her mother was looking you’d think he’d had plastic surgery on his crotch.

“If Jake wants some old man tripping along with him, just say the word and I’ll pack my bags,” Jim said.
Jody glanced at Jim. He winked at her. She smiled back. Then she turned a smile on Grace. It was actually the first genuine smile Grace had seen out of her mother in a week. “You have to go, Carrie Ann.”

Carrie Ann. The words felt like two gunshots to the chest. Just hearing that name come out of her mother’s mouth made Grace’s heart start tripping. She almost shot out of her chair. “I’m Grace,” she said. “Gracie Ann.” Her voice cracked. “Dad?” she said.

“She’s confused, honey. The past and the present, it’s just one big, ugly glob.” Pinpricks of shame began forming at the base of Grace’s spine.

“I’m not confused,” Jody said. “Carrie Ann came to visit me.”

“My God,” Grace said. This time she did shoot out of her chair. Carrie Ann was the only girl foster child the Sawyers had ever taken in. At first she had been like a sister to Grace.

“Who is she married to now?” Jody said. “I can’t remember.”

“Pay no attention to her, Gracie,” Jim said.

“Why can’t I remember?” Jody pressed on her temples with her index fingers, as if she could squeeze the memory out of her head.

Grace took a step toward her mother. “When did she come and visit you, Mom?”

“Grace, I told you she didn’t,” Jim said. “Don’t egg your mother on.”

“I’m not egging her on, Dad, but if Carrie Ann was here, I want to know about it.”

Her father whacked his newspaper on the side of his chair. “I told you she wasn’t! And I should know. I’ve been sitting right here!”

“She’s still such a pretty girl,” Jody said. “She asked about you, Grace. She asked me all sorts of questions about you.”

Jim got up and threw up his arms. “She’s out of her mind!” He began to pace.

“Dad,” Grace said. “Hush.” Her mother suddenly became very still, which meant she was listening. Grace took her father by his arm and led him back to his chair.

“I’m sorry. She won’t remember me saying it.”

“That’s not the point.”

“I can’t help it. Carrie Ann this; Carrie Ann that. I thought we’d put that nuisance behind us for once and for all. Is this what it comes to? Reliving your worst nightmare?”

“I’ve never heard you speak so harshly about Carrie Ann,” Grace said. Her mom was the one who used to say the worst things about Carrie Ann. She said Carrie Ann was evil. She said Carrie Ann was a curse that would follow all of them to their graves. Once she had even said there wasn’t enough Lysol in the world to get rid of that stain. And each insult had cut into Grace like her mother was saying it about her. Her sister. Of sorts. Her own Dickens-like drama. Carrie Ann was the best thing that had ever happened to Grace, and she was the worst. She’d been out of their lives for nearly fifteen years. And Grace had spent every one of them trying, and failing, to put the past behind her. She turned to her father.

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Tell you what?”

“That Mom’s been talking about her.”

“Because I don’t want to dredge up all that nonsense. It’s her damn medication. I keep telling the doctor it’s making her worse, and he won’t listen to me.” Her father slammed his fist on the arm of the chair. “These people think just because we’re old that we’re stupid. She wouldn’t be so forgetful if she cut down on some of those pills. How do I know that? Because she’s my wife. Because I’ve been married to this woman for forty-four years. You know what he said to me?”

“Who?”

“That snot-nosed doctor, that’s who!”

“What did he say?”

“Put me in my place. In front of my wife. ‘You’re a psychotherapist, correct? Not a psychiatrist? You don’t prescribe medication?’ That’s what the snot-nosed so-called doctor actually said to me. Can you believe that? Some twenty-year-old who just started wiping his own ass. I’m telling you she’s on too many pills! Makes her soupy. He won’t listen to me!”

“It’s okay, Dad. Calm down. It’s okay.”

“I can’t bear hearing her talk about Carrie Ann. Your mother’s the one who told us never to mention Carrie Ann’s name again.”

Forbid us. Forbid us to ever mention her name again. “I know, Dad. I’ll talk to the doctor. Calm down.”

“I always wanted to go to Spain,” Jody said. She turned off the television and patted the side of the bed. So she’d heard and understood the conversation. God, the brain was a mysterious thing.
Grace went over and sat down. “You never told me that.”

“I would hardly share that with a stranger.”

I’m your daughter! She wanted to shout. But her mother couldn’t help it.

“Just keep talking,” her father said. “At least she’s not dredging up ghosts, or drooling over naked stud muffins.”

And now Grace couldn’t believe her father had just said “naked stud muffins.” Maybe getting away for a bit wasn’t such a bad idea. Grace turned back to her mother. “Why did you always want to go to Spain?”

“My mother went to Spain. All by herself. When she was in her seventies.”

“I know,” Grace said. It had been just after Grace’s grandfather had died. Her grandparents were supposed to take the trip together. Everyone thought Annette Jennings would cancel the trip.

Instead, she buried her husband and packed her bags. Little Annette who had never been outside of her home state. Grace had had many conversations with her grandmother about that trip. She was proud of her too.

“It was really something,” Jim said. “Because in those days seventy wasn’t the new fifty or whatever the kids say today. Seventy was seventy.”

“Tell me about it,” Grace said.

Jody Sawyer straightened up, and her eyes seemed to take in more light. “Well, it’s not like it is now. Women didn’t travel alone back then. Wasn’t that brave? My mother sent me a postcard from Madrid of a beautiful tango dancer in a red dress. The dress was made of actual material—beautiful red silk right on the postcard. I’ll never forget it. She’d only written one sentence on the back. ‘Robert would’ve loved the landing.’ My father was very picking with landings and always impressed when the pilot pulled off a smooth one. Anyway. As soon as I got that postcard I knew my mother was going to be all right. ‘Robert would have loved the landing.’ After she died I spent hours just touching that silky red dress with the tips of my fingers and imagining my mother dancing in the streets of Spain.”

Jody Sawyer looked up and swayed her upper body slightly as if watching her faraway self dance. Then she looked down at her hands, twisting the bed sheet. “Look how ugly and wrinkled I am now.”

“You’re not ugly and wrinkled, Mom. You’re beautiful.”

“I wish I had that postcard now.” Her mother looked up into space. “I lost it.”

Grace hesitated. Did she, or didn’t she? Grace opened the bedside drawer and took out the postcard. Her mother was right. The dress was silky. Grace handed it to her mother and watched her eyes light up. Next her mother gently outlined the edge of the dancer’s dress with the trembling tip of her right index finger. Her fingernail was misshapen, the peach paint flaking. Grace would have to see if they could bring in a manicurist.

Jody looked at Grace, her eyes clear and bright. “Gracie Ann you have to go. Film everything. I’m dying to see Barcelona through you.” Grace must have looked stricken, for her mother laughed and then put her hand over her heart. “Sorry, no pun intended.” Like antennas being manipulated for a clearer signal, sometimes her mother tuned in perfectly. Jody Sawyer laughed again, and Grace couldn’t help but laugh with her.

“Mom.”

“Make me feel like I’m there,” Jody said, closing her eyes. “Help me shut out this hospice. Let me see beautiful Barcelona.” She took Grace’s hand and held it. “Do it for me. I’ll feel like I’m with you. Bring a camera. And your guitar,” she added. “You never know.” When Grace still didn’t answer, her mother opened her eyes, and lifted Grace’s chin up with her hand like she used to do when Grace was a child. “Be brave, Gracie Ann. Just like my mother.”

“Like my mother too,” Grace whispered back.

First Chapter Reveal: Meet Me in Barcelona by Mary Carter

Meet Me in Barcelona 2Title: Meet Me in Barcelona
Author: Mary Carter
Publisher: Kensington
Pages: 352
Genre: Mainstream fiction
Format: Paperback/Kindle/MP3 CD, Audiobook, MP3 Audo, Unabridged

Purchase at AMAZON

A surprise trip to Barcelona with her boyfriend, Jake, seems like the perfect antidote to Grace Sawyer’s current woes. The city is dazzling and unpredictable, but the biggest surprise for Grace is discovering who arranged and paid for the vacation.

Carrie Ann wasn’t just Grace’s foster sister. Clever, pretty, and mercurial, she was her best friend—until everything went terribly wrong. Now, as she flees an abusive marriage, Carrie Ann has turned to the one person she hopes will come through for her. Despite her initial misgivings, Grace wants to help. But then Carrie Ann and Jake both go missing. Stunned and confused, Grace begins to realize how much of herself she’s kept from Jake—and how much of Carrie Ann she never understood. Soon Grace is baited into following a trail of scant clues across Spain, determined to find the truth, even if she must revisit her troubled past to do it.

Mary Carter’s intriguing novel delves into the complexities of childhood bonds, the corrosive weight of guilt and blame, and all the ways we try—and often fail—to truly know the ones we love.

First Chapter:

Grace Sawyer had never believed in magic, or miracles for that matter, but that didn’t mean a girl couldn’t pray for a little bit of both. She’d been praying a lot lately. She stepped into her mother’s hospice room and crinkled her nose as the scent of SpaghettiOs and Lysol washed over her. She glanced at her mom’s bedside table. Sure enough, sitting too close to the edge was a chipped brown bowl overflowing with SpaghettiOs, paired with an industrial-sized bottle of Lysol. Grace hesitated. Processed food in a can and industrial-sized cleaners were just the kind of things that could trigger an emotional avalanche inside her. This wasn’t what life should come to in the end. It wasn’t right. If replacing those bits with yellow roses and a nice roast dinner would have changed a single thing about this horrific situation, Grace would have done it lightning quick. This was her mother. The woman who had taken care of everybody else her entire life. Who had opened her heart to homeless, damaged children. She deserved more. But strangely, Lysol and SpaghettiOs were two items Jody Sawyer had insisted on lately. Grace had to fight her instincts, her primal desire to make everything nice, and instead keep each visit as pleasant as possible. She smiled even though neither of her parents had noticed her yet.

Her mother was wide-awake, eyes glued to the television in the corner where a soap opera blared. Before she had moved into this facility, Jody had never watched a soap opera in her life. She wouldn’t have been caught dead eating SpaghettiOs either. The Lysol, on the other hand, was familiar. Grace’s mother had spent her entire life within an arm’s reach of it. Most likely the product of having a revolving door of foster children. Where were they now? Not a single kid from the past had come to visit Grace’s mother. After all she’d done for them. It made Grace rage inside, but her mother hadn’t complained about it once.

Her father, Jim, sat next to the bed on his favorite recliner from home. Jim had put up quite a fuss to get them to allow it in the room, and he was extremely proud of the accomplishment. “I put up my dukes!” he’d say with a grin. Then he’d pump his fists in the air. He’d been practically living here since the doctor had given them the latest grim diagnosis. Grace couldn’t help but think it was probably a welcome relief for her father’s patients. Her father was a psychotherapist, and although he was insightful, Grace had always thought he was a tad too prying. Then again, maybe that was the whole point of going to a shrink. Baring your deepest, darkest secrets. It was Grace’s idea of a worst nightmare. “Hi, Dad,” Grace walked over and planted a kiss on her father’s cheek. He looked almost as thin as her mother. He lowered his newspaper and took off his reading glasses. “Well, hello there, Graceful.”

“How is she?”

“In and out.”

Grace nodded and slowly approached her mother’s bed. “Mom?”

Her mother’s eyes didn’t leave the television set. “Oh, hello,” Jody Sawyer said. “Are you the cleaning lady?”

“Like I said,” her father said. “In and out.”

“It’s me, Mom. I’m your daughter, Grace.”

“My daughter doesn’t clean,” Jody said.

“She’s got that right, “ Jim said.

Grace burst out laughing, then quickly tried to squelch it with a cough. Jody Sawyer pointed to the television and shook her head. She wanted them to be quiet. Grace looked at her father.

“Why don’t you wait for a commercial?” he said. He patted the folding chair next to him. Grace sat. “How was your day, sweetheart?”

Grace reached into her bag and removed two McDonald’s bags. She handed one to her father. He grasped the bag in one hand and squeezed her hand with the other like she’d brought him champagne and caviar. “Actually pretty wild,” she said. “I have news.”

“Do you mind?” her father said.

“Go right ahead.”

He unwrapped his Big Mac and took a bite. “Mm-mmm,” he said. He looked blissful. Grace wanted to bury her face in her sleeve and sob. SpaghettiOs and soap operas, and Mickey D’s? Didn’t they know they deserved better? They were from such a humble generation. Not like the entitled kids of today. Her parents were simple and good people. Let them enjoy what they enjoy. No use forcing kale or tofu burgers on her father now. Grace forced another smile, then reached into the second bag and handed him a napkin.

He winked at her and dabbed his mouth. Then his eyes went to her ring finger. “Did the boy finally pop the question?”

Grace laughed and stretched out her hand in front of her as if examining it for the first time. She hardly ever wore rings or bracelets; they got in the way of playing the guitar. Maybe now she would start. She would wear silver rings with semi-precious gems, like amber, and big chunky bracelets. Maybe even grow her nails and paint them pink. Was that a good enough trade for giving up on her dream? Grace slipped her hands under her legs as if she could shut out making any decisions by sitting on them. “Not yet. But you’re never going to believe this–”

The soap opera went to commercial. A jingle for car insurance came on. “Gracie Ann!” her mother said. She smiled and opened her arms as if Grace had just walked into the room.

“Hi, Mom.” Grace got up and hugged her mother. She felt so frail and tiny in Grace’s arms. Grace could probably pick her up and carry her around the room without breaking a sweat. Not fair, God! Not fair. “You didn’t eat your lunch,” Grace said, glancing at the SpaghettiOs.

“She insisted on them,” her father said.

“I ate ten Os,” her mother said. “I couldn’t possibly eat more than ten Os. I have to watch my figure.”

“If you stuck her in the middle of a cornfield, crows would land on her,” her father said with his mouth full of burger.

“You’re not far behind, Dad,” Grace said.

“Just how we wanted to spend our golden years. Hanging out in a farmer’s field like a couple of straw men,” her father mused in between bites.

Anything would be better than this place, Grace thought. She wished she could bring her parents to a beautiful field at the height of autumn. Give them trees with leaves on fire, and hay that shone like gold underneath an afternoon sun. Give them the smell of apples and the embrace of a warm wind.

“You look beautiful, Grace,” her mother said. Jody Sawyer reached up with a trembling hand and touched the pearls around Grace’s neck. “Is it your birthday?”

“In a few weeks, Mom.”

“Happy birthday, darling.”
“Thank you.”

“How old are you now? Thirteen?”

“I’m turning thirty,” Grace said. “How are you feeling?”

“I’m all better now, Gracie. I can go home now.” Jody Sawyer looked at her husband Jim, as if expecting him to start packing up the room.

“I don’t think today, Mom,” Grace said. Or ever. As much as she tried to shut it out, Grace could hear the doctor’s voice in her head in a constant loop. Maybe a month, six months at the most, we can’t say for sure. All we can do now is make her comfortable.

Make her comfortable? Was there any comfort in knowing you had six months, maybe one?

“Gracie said she has some news,” Jim said.

Her mother clasped her hands under her chin. “I love news,” she said. “And fries,” she called to her husband.

Grace nodded at her father. He picked up the second bag, then passed it up to Jody. It was odd. If Grace gave her the fries before she asked for them, her mother wouldn’t touch them. If Grace waited until Jody voiced a desire for them, Jody ate every single one. Just one of the little mysteries of dementia. What a double whammy. The doctors weren’t sure if fighting off the cancer had brought on the problems with her memory, or if she would’ve been hit with it anyway. There were just no two ways about it; life could be extremely cruel. “Give us the news,” her father said. “Hurry before her show comes back. We’re not allowed to talk during Days of Our Lives.”

“Jake won an all-expense-paid trip to Barcelona,” Grace said.

“Well, I’ll be,” Jim said. “How’d he do that?”

“The veterinarian group had some sort of a raffle,” Grace said. “But Jake didn’t even enter.”

“He won a raffle he didn’t even enter?”
“Dan went to one of the conferences without Jake and entered for him.” Dan was Jake’s partner at the animal hospital. He and Jake were like brothers.

“That was mighty nice of him.”

“But we feel guilty. Dan could have taken the trip himself.”

“I’m sure he filled out an entry for himself as well as Jake.”

“True.”

“And Jake won. Seems fair to me.”

“But we would be leaving Dan to run the clinic all by himself, and he’d even have to watch Stella.” Stella was the best English bulldog a couple could ever ask for. If she could, Grace would take Stella to Spain. Stella was a hit wherever they went due to her prowess on a skateboard.

“Well, isn’t that special.” Jim slapped his knee. “Jody did you hear that? Gracie and Jake won a trip to Spain.”

He had entirely missed the point that they felt guilty that Dan would be getting the short end of the stick. It made her wonder how often he misunderstood his patients.

“That’s wonderful, dear,” Jody said. Her eyes traveled back to the television.

“I’m not going,” Grace said.

“What do you mean?” her father said.

“There’s a catch.” There always was.

“You have to pay for your hotel?”

“No, it’s all paid for.”

“So what’s the problem?”

“The dates are set in stone. We’d have to go at the end of next week.”

“So?”

“It’s a ten-day trip. I don’t want to leave Mom for that long.”

“Nonsense,” her father said. “You have to go.”

“I’d be gone for my birthday.”

The soap opera was back. Jody snatched up the remote and aimed it at the television like she was holding it up at gunpoint.

Grace’s father patted her knee. “We’ll celebrate with you when you get back, kiddo. Take it from me, kiddo—life’s too short not to take free trips.” Jody glared at Jim and pressed on the volume until it was almost deafening. A few seconds later, there was a series of soft knocks on the wall behind her bed.

“Sorry, Mrs. Maple,” her father called out. “You have to turn it down, dear.”

“That old bitch,” her mother said. In all Grace’s years growing up, with all the strange boys tearing through the house, and fighting, and even through the whole Carrie Ann ordeal, Grace had never heard her mother curse, let alone direct it at somebody. Jody turned the volume down a smidge and pointed at the television. “He’s the one I like,” she exclaimed. There was a tall man, visible only in silhouette behind a flimsy shower curtain. “They think he’s Flo’s long-lost brother, but actually he’s just escaped from prison where he was convicted of murdering his second wife. Or is it his third? I can’t remember. Second or third wife, take your pick. It’ll come to me. Darn tootin’ he’s totally innocent, but I know that Flo. She’s going to be sniffing around his tight buns like a hound dog short of a bone. Second. Definitely second wife.”

Grace and her father looked at the television. The naked man stepped out of the shower, surrounded by steam. All you could see were his six-pack abs and bulging biceps. Grace supposed they wanted you to imagine something else bulging. This was definitely soft-core porn for women. Tan, and slick, and ripped, and glistening, he didn’t seem to be in any hurry to pick up a towel. He walked up to the bathroom mirror, reached up, and wiped away the condensation. Soon, his gorgeous face came into view. Grace had to stifle a laugh as he began to touch his cheekbones like a blind man trying to see what he looked like. “Isn’t it awful?” Jody said. “Pretending to be someone else? When all he wants to do is search for his wife’s real killer.”

Grace raised an eyebrow at her father. He looked down at his stomach, and in doing so dripped a thick glob of ketchup onto his fraying cardigan. “Didn’t even look like that when we got married,” Jim said.

“I think he must have had plastic surgery after his prison break,” Jody continued. “That’s why he doesn’t recognize himself!”

Jim Sawyer watched his wife with a smile and a shake of the head. “You wouldn’t leave her for ten days,” Grace said to her father.

“They sure did a pretty good job on him though, don’t you think?” Jody said. Based on where her mother was looking you’d think he’d had plastic surgery on his crotch.

“If Jake wants some old man tripping along with him, just say the word and I’ll pack my bags,” Jim said.

Jody glanced at Jim. He winked at her. She smiled back. Then she turned a smile on Grace. It was actually the first genuine smile Grace had seen out of her mother in a week. “You have to go, Carrie Ann.”

Carrie Ann. The words felt like two gunshots to the chest. Just hearing that name come out of her mother’s mouth made Grace’s heart start tripping. She almost shot out of her chair. “I’m Grace,” she said. “Gracie Ann.” Her voice cracked. “Dad?” she said.

“She’s confused, honey. The past and the present, it’s just one big, ugly glob.” Pinpricks of shame began forming at the base of Grace’s spine.

“I’m not confused,” Jody said. “Carrie Ann came to visit me.”

“My God,” Grace said. This time she did shoot out of her chair. Carrie Ann was the only girl foster child the Sawyers had ever taken in. At first she had been like a sister to Grace.

“Who is she married to now?” Jody said. “I can’t remember.”

“Pay no attention to her, Gracie,” Jim said.

“Why can’t I remember?” Jody pressed on her temples with her index fingers, as if she could squeeze the memory out of her head.

Grace took a step toward her mother. “When did she come and visit you, Mom?”
“Grace, I told you she didn’t,” Jim said. “Don’t egg your mother on.”

“I’m not egging her on, Dad, but if Carrie Ann was here, I want to know about it.”

Her father whacked his newspaper on the side of his chair. “I told you she wasn’t! And I should know. I’ve been sitting right here!”

“She’s still such a pretty girl,” Jody said. “She asked about you, Grace. She asked me all sorts of questions about you.”

Jim got up and threw up his arms. “She’s out of her mind!” He began to pace.

“Dad,” Grace said. “Hush.” Her mother suddenly became very still, which meant she was listening. Grace took her father by his arm and led him back to his chair.

“I’m sorry. She won’t remember me saying it.”

“That’s not the point.”

“I can’t help it. Carrie Ann this; Carrie Ann that. I thought we’d put that nuisance behind us for once and for all. Is this what it comes to? Reliving your worst nightmare?”

“I’ve never heard you speak so harshly about Carrie Ann,” Grace said. Her mom was the one who used to say the worst things about Carrie Ann. She said Carrie Ann was evil. She said Carrie Ann was a curse that would follow all of them to their graves. Once she had even said there wasn’t enough Lysol in the world to get rid of that stain. And each insult had cut into Grace like her mother was saying it about her. Her sister. Of sorts. Her own Dickens-like drama. Carrie Ann was the best thing that had ever happened to Grace, and she was the worst. She’d been out of their lives for nearly fifteen years. And Grace had spent every one of them trying, and failing, to put the past behind her. She turned to her father.

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Tell you what?”
“That Mom’s been talking about her.”

“Because I don’t want to dredge up all that nonsense. It’s her damn medication. I keep telling the doctor it’s making her worse, and he won’t listen to me.” Her father slammed his fist on the arm of the chair. “These people think just because we’re old that we’re stupid. She wouldn’t be so forgetful if she cut down on some of those pills. How do I know that? Because she’s my wife. Because I’ve been married to this woman for forty-four years. You know what he said to me?”

“Who?”

“That snot-nosed doctor, that’s who!”

“What did he say?”

“Put me in my place. In front of my wife. ‘You’re a psychotherapist, correct? Not a psychiatrist? You don’t prescribe medication?’ That’s what the snot-nosed so-called doctor actually said to me. Can you believe that? Some twenty-year-old who just started wiping his own ass. I’m telling you she’s on too many pills! Makes her soupy. He won’t listen to me!”

“It’s okay, Dad. Calm down. It’s okay.”

“I can’t bear hearing her talk about Carrie Ann. Your mother’s the one who told us never to mention Carrie Ann’s name again.”

Forbid us. Forbid us to ever mention her name again. “I know, Dad. I’ll talk to the doctor. Calm down.”

“I always wanted to go to Spain,” Jody said. She turned off the television and patted the side of the bed. So she’d heard and understood the conversation. God, the brain was a mysterious thing.

Grace went over and sat down. “You never told me that.”

“I would hardly share that with a stranger.”

I’m your daughter! She wanted to shout. But her mother couldn’t help it.

“Just keep talking,” her father said. “At least she’s not dredging up ghosts, or drooling over naked stud muffins.”

And now Grace couldn’t believe her father had just said “naked stud muffins.” Maybe getting away for a bit wasn’t such a bad idea. Grace turned back to her mother. “Why did you always want to go to Spain?”

“My mother went to Spain. All by herself. When she was in her seventies.”

“I know,” Grace said. It had been just after Grace’s grandfather had died. Her grandparents were supposed to take the trip together. Everyone thought Annette Jennings would cancel the trip. Instead, she buried her husband and packed her bags. Little Annette who had never been outside of her home state. Grace had had many conversations with her grandmother about that trip. She was proud of her too.

“It was really something,” Jim said. “Because in those days seventy wasn’t the new fifty or whatever the kids say today. Seventy was seventy.”

“Tell me about it,” Grace said.

Jody Sawyer straightened up, and her eyes seemed to take in more light. “Well, it’s not like it is now. Women didn’t travel alone back then. Wasn’t that brave? My mother sent me a postcard from Madrid of a beautiful tango dancer in a red dress. The dress was made of actual material—beautiful red silk right on the postcard. I’ll never forget it. She’d only written one sentence on the back. ‘Robert would’ve loved the landing.’ My father was very picking with landings and always impressed when the pilot pulled off a smooth one. Anyway. As soon as I got that postcard I knew my mother was going to be all right. ‘Robert would have loved the landing.’ After she died I spent hours just touching that silky red dress with the tips of my fingers and imagining my mother dancing in the streets of Spain.”

Jody Sawyer looked up and swayed her upper body slightly as if watching her faraway self dance. Then she looked down at her hands, twisting the bed sheet. “Look how ugly and wrinkled I am now.”

“You’re not ugly and wrinkled, Mom. You’re beautiful.”

“I wish I had that postcard now.” Her mother looked up into space. “I lost it.”

Grace hesitated. Did she, or didn’t she? Grace opened the bedside drawer and took out the postcard. Her mother was right. The dress was silky. Grace handed it to her mother and watched her eyes light up. Next her mother gently outlined the edge of the dancer’s dress with the trembling tip of her right index finger. Her fingernail was misshapen, the peach paint flaking. Grace would have to see if they could bring in a manicurist.

Jody looked at Grace, her eyes clear and bright. “Gracie Ann you have to go. Film everything. I’m dying to see Barcelona through you.” Grace must have looked stricken, for her mother laughed and then put her hand over her heart. “Sorry, no pun intended.” Like antennas being manipulated for a clearer signal, sometimes her mother tuned in perfectly. Jody Sawyer laughed again, and Grace couldn’t help but laugh with her.

“Mom.”

“Make me feel like I’m there,” Jody said, closing her eyes. “Help me shut out this hospice. Let me see beautiful Barcelona.” She took Grace’s hand and held it. “Do it for me. I’ll feel like I’m with you. Bring a camera. And your guitar,” she added. “You never know.” When Grace still didn’t answer, her mother opened her eyes, and lifted Grace’s chin up with her hand like she used to do when Grace was a child. “Be brave, Gracie Ann. Just like my mother.”

“Like my mother too,” Grace whispered back.

 

 

 

 

Book Blitz! Meet Me in Barcelona by Mary Carter

Meet Me in Barcelona Book Blitz Banner

 We welcome Mary Carter as she celebrates the release of her mainstream fiction, Meet Me in Barcelona!

Meet Me in Barcelona 2

Title: Meet Me in Barcelona
Author: Mary Carter
Publisher: Kensington
Pages: 352
Genre: Mainstream fiction
Format: Paperback/Kindle/MP3 CD, Audiobook, MP3 Audo, Unabridged

Purchase at AMAZON

A surprise trip to Barcelona with her boyfriend, Jake, seems like the perfect antidote to Grace Sawyer’s current woes. The city is dazzling and unpredictable, but the biggest surprise for Grace is discovering who arranged and paid for the vacation.

Carrie Ann wasn’t just Grace’s foster sister. Clever, pretty, and mercurial, she was her best friend—until everything went terribly wrong. Now, as she flees an abusive marriage, Carrie Ann has turned to the one person she hopes will come through for her. Despite her initial misgivings, Grace wants to help. But then Carrie Ann and Jake both go missing. Stunned and confused, Grace begins to realize how much of herself she’s kept from Jake—and how much of Carrie Ann she never understood. Soon Grace is baited into following a trail of scant clues across Spain, determined to find the truth, even if she must revisit her troubled past to do it.

Mary Carter’s intriguing novel delves into the complexities of childhood bonds, the corrosive weight of guilt and blame, and all the ways we try—and often fail—to truly know the ones we love.

Book Excerpt:

Carrie Ann. The words felt like two gunshots to the chest. Just hearing that name come out of her mother’s mouth made Grace’s heart start tripping. She almost shot out of her chair. “I’m Grace,” she said. “Gracie Ann.” Her voice cracked. “Dad?” she said.

“She’s confused, honey. The past and the present, it’s just one big, ugly glob.” Pinpricks of shame began forming at the base of Grace’s spine.

“I’m not confused,” Jody said. “Carrie Ann came to visit me.”

“My God,” Grace said. This time she did shoot out of her chair. Carrie Ann was the only girl foster child the Sawyers had ever taken in. At first she had been like a sister to Grace.

“Who is she married to now?” Jody said. “I can’t remember.”

“Pay no attention to her, Gracie,” Jim said.

“Why can’t I remember?” Jody pressed on her temples with her index fingers, as if she could squeeze the memory out of her head.

Grace took a step toward her mother. “When did she come and visit you, Mom?”

“Grace, I told you she didn’t,” Jim said. “Don’t egg your mother on.”

“I’m not egging her on, Dad, but if Carrie Ann was here, I want to know about it.”

Her father whacked his newspaper on the side of his chair. “I told you she wasn’t! And I should know. I’ve been sitting right here!”

“She’s still such a pretty girl,” Jody said. “She asked about you, Grace. She asked me all sorts of questions about you.”

Jim got up and threw up his arms. “She’s out of her mind!” He began to pace.

“Dad,” Grace said. “Hush.” Her mother suddenly became very still, which meant she was listening. Grace took her father by his arm and led him back to his chair.

“I’m sorry. She won’t remember me saying it.”

“That’s not the point.”

“I can’t help it. Carrie Ann this – Carrie Ann that. I thought we’d put that nuisance behind us for once and for all. Is this what it comes to? Reliving your worst nightmare?”

“I’ve never heard you speak so harshly about Carrie Ann,” Grace said. Her mom was the one who used to say the worst things about Carrie Ann. She said Carrie Ann was evil. She said Carrie Ann was a curse that would follow all of them to their graves. Once she even said there wasn’t enough Lysol in the world to get rid of that stain. And each insult cut into Grace like her mother was saying it about her. Her sister. Of sorts. Her own Dickens-like drama.  Carrie Ann was the best thing that had ever happened to Grace, and she was the worst. She’d been out of their lives for nearly fifteen years. And Grace had spent every one of them trying, and failing, to put the past behind her. She turned to her father.

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Tell you what?”

“That Mom’s been talking about her.”

“Because I don’t want to dredge up all that nonsense. It’s her damn medication. I keep telling the doctor it’s making her worse, and he won’t listen to me.” Her father slammed his fist on the arm of the chair. “These people think just because we’re old that we’re stupid. She wouldn’t be so forgetful if she cut down on some of those pills. How do I know that? Because she’s my wife.  Because I’ve been married to this woman for forty-four years. You know what he said to me?”

“Who?”

“That snot-nosed doctor, that’s who!”

“What did he say?”

“Put me in my place. In front of my wife. ‘You’re a psychotherapist, correct? Not a psychiatrist? You don’t prescribe medication?’ That’s what the snot-nosed so-called doctor actually said to me. Can you believe that? Some twenty-year-old who just started wiping his own ass. I’m telling you she’s on too many pills! Makes her soupy. He won’t listen to me!”

“It’s okay, Dad. Calm down. It’s okay.”

“I can’t bear hearing her talk about Carrie Ann.  Your mother’s the one who told us never to mention Carrie Anne’s name again.”

Forbid us. Forbid us to ever mention her name again. “I know, Dad. I’ll talk to the doctor. Calm down.”

“I always wanted to go to Spain,” Jody said. She turned off the television and patted the side of the bed. So she’d heard and understood the conversation. God, the brain was a mysterious thing.

Grace went over and sat down. “You never told me that.”

“I would hardly share that with a stranger.”

I’m your daughter! She wanted to shout. But her mother couldn’t help it.

“Just keep talking,” her father said. “At least she’s not dredging up ghosts, or drooling over naked stud muffins.”

And now  Grace couldn’t believe her father had just said “naked stud muffins.” Maybe getting away for a bit wasn’t such a bad idea. Grace turned back to her mother. “Why did you always want to go to Spain?”

“My mother went to Spain. All by herself. When she was in her seventies.”

“I know,” Grace said. It had been just after Grace’s grandfather had died. Her grandparents were supposed to take the trip together. Everyone thought Annette Jennings would cancel the trip. Instead, she buried her husband and packed her bags. Little Annette who had never been outside of her home state. Grace had had many conversations with her grandmother about that trip. She was proud of her too.

“It was really something,” Jim said. “Because in those days seventy wasn’t the new fifty or whatever the kids say today. Seventy was seventy.”

“Tell me about it,” Grace said.

Jody Sawyer straightened up, and her eyes seemed to take in more light. “Well, it’s not like it is now. Women didn’t travel alone back then. Wasn’t that brave? My mother sent me a postcard from Madrid of a beautiful tango dancer in a red dress. The dress was made of actual material—beautiful red silk right on the postcard. I’ll never forget it. She’d only written one sentence on the back. ‘Robert would’ve loved the landing.’ My father was very picking with landings and always impressed when the pilot pulled off a smooth one. Anyway. As soon as I got that postcard I knew my mother was going to be all right. ‘Robert would have loved the landing.’ After she died I spent hours just touching that silky red dress with the tips of my fingers and imagining my mother dancing in the streets of Spain.”

Jody Sawyer looked up and swayed her upper body slightly as if watching her faraway self dance. Then she looked down at her hands, twisting the bed sheet. “Look how ugly and wrinkled I am now.”

“You’re not ugly and wrinkled, Mom. You’re beautiful.”

“I wish I had that postcard now.” Her mother looked up into space. “I lost it.”

Grace hesitated. Did she, or didn’t she?  Grace opened the bedside drawer and took out the postcard. Her mother was right. The dress was silky. Grace handed it to her mother and watched her eyes light up. Next her mother gently outlined the edge of the dancer’s dress with the trembling tip of her right index finger. Her fingernail was misshapen, the peach paint flaking. Grace would have to see if they could bring in a manicurist.

Jody looked at Grace, her eyes clear and bright. “Gracie Ann you have to go. Film everything. I’m dying to see Barcelona through you.” Grace must have looked stricken, for her mother laughed and then put her hand over her heart. “Sorry, no pun intended.” Like antennas being manipulated for a clearer signal, sometimes her mother tuned in perfectly. Jody Sawyer laughed again, and Grace couldn’t help but laugh with her.

“Mom.”

“Make me feel like I’m there,” Jody said, closing her eyes. “Help me shut out this hospice. Let me see beautiful Barcelona.” She took Grace’s hand and held it. “Do it for me. I’ll feel like I’m with you. Bring a camera. And your guitar,” she added. “You never know.” When Grace still didn’t answer, her mother opened her eyes, and lifted Grace’s chin up with her hand like she used to do when Grace was a child. “Be brave, Gracie Ann. Just like my mother.”

“Like my mother too,” Grace whispered back.

About the Author

Mary Carter 2

Mary Carter is a freelance writer and novelist. Meet Me in Barcelona is her eighth novel. Her other works include: Three Months in Florence, The Things I Do For You, The Pub Across the Pond, My Sister’s Voice, Sunnyside Blues, She’ll Take It, and Accidentally Engaged. In addition to her novels she has written six novellas: Return to Hampton Beach in the anthology, Summer Days, A Southern Christmas in the upcoming 2014 anthology Our First Christmas, A Kiss Before Midnight in the anthology, You’re Still the One, A Very Maui Christmas in the New York Times best selling anthology Holiday Magic, and The Honeymoon House in the New York Times best selling anthology Almost Home. Mary currently lives in Chicago, IL with a demanding labradoodle. She wishes she could thank her gorgeous husband, but she doesn’t have one. In addition to writing she leads writing workshops.

For More Information

A Conversation with Mary Carter, author of THREE MONTHS IN FLORENCE

Mary Carter 2Mary Carter is a freelance writer and novelist.  Three Months in Florence is her seventh novel. Her other works include:  The Things I Do For You, The Pub Across the Pond, My Sister’s Voice, Sunnyside Blues, She’ll Take It, and Accidentally Engaged.  In addition to her novels she has written three novellas: A Kiss Before Midnight in the anthology, You’re Still the One, A Very Maui Christmas in the New York Times best selling anthology Holiday Magic, and The Honeymoon House in the New York Times best selling anthology Almost Home.

Mary is working on two more novellas for winter and summer of 2014, as well as her eighth novel.

Visit her website at www.MaryCarterBooks.com.

Connect & socialize with Mary at Twitter: https://twitter.com/marycarterbooks

Like her on Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/pages/Mary-Carter-Books/248226365259

Click here to enter the $25 Amazon Gift Card + Books Giveaway!

About the Book:

Three Months in FlorenceLena Wallace was supposed to go to Italy on her honeymoon. That was sixteen years ago. Instead, she settles for cooking Spaghetti Bolognese for her two children while her husband, Alex, is on yet another business trip to Florence without her. Lena deals with his absences in the same stoic way she deals with all her responsibilities. And then comes the call that changes everything–the one from Alex’s Italian mistress.

Stunned and heartsick, Lena flies to Florence to confront Alex. The city is every bit as beautiful as she imagined, from its glittering fountains and cafés to the golden sunsets over rolling hills. But the further she goes to salvage her marriage, the less Lena recognizes herself–or the husband she’s trying to win back. Instead, she’s catching glimpses of the person she once hoped to be and the life and family she truly wants. Most of all, she’s wondering if the real journey is only just beginning. . .

In a novel as warm and vibrant as its rich Italian setting, author Mary Carter explores the intricacies of marriage, the ways love can both liberate and confine, and the journey to happiness that begins with one surprising step. . .

Purchase your copy at AMAZON.

Q: Welcome to Beyond the Books, Mary.  Can we start out by telling us whether you are published for the first time or are you multi-published?

I am currently working on my 8th soon-to-be published novel.

Q: When you were published for the first time, which route did you go – mainstream, small press, vanity published or self-published and why or how did you choose this route?

I went with a traditional publisher. Mostly because they went with me.

Q: How long did it take you to get published once you signed the contract?

It took four months for my agent to find a publisher, and then it takes about a year for the book to come out.

Q: How did it make you feel to become published for the first time and how did you celebrate?

It was a thrilling feeling. I was walking along Lake Union in Seattle, looked up and saw a double rainbow. I probably celebrated by making phone calls to family members.

Q: What was the first thing you did as for as promotion when you were published for the first time?

With my first book I was naïve and didn’t do anything. With my second book, I hired a publicist. It was a lot of money. In retrospect I wouldn’t have spent that much.

Q: Since you’ve been published, how have you grown as a writer and now a published author?

With each book I try to get better at some element of craft. I am better at weeding out backstory, developing the character’s goals, and building conflict.

Q: What has surprised or amazed you about the publishing industry as a whole?

They are definitely a business. Their first priority is selling books. It’s good to keep this in mind when it comes to the marketing and the cover.

Q: What is the most rewarding thing about being a published author?

Practicing your craft.

Q: Any final words for writers who dream of being published one day?

Write.

Pump Up Your Book Announces Mary Carter’s ‘The Pub Across the Pond Virtual Book Publicity Tour 2011′

The Pub Across the Pond

Join Mary Carter, author of the women’s fiction novel, The Pub Across the Pond (Kensington), as she virtually tours the blogosphere September 20 – November 11, 2011, on her second virtual book tour with Pump Up Your Book!

About Mary Carter

Mary Carter 4

MARY CARTER is a freelance writer and novelist. The Pub Across the Pond is her fifth novel with Kensington. Her other works include: My Sister’s Voice, Sunnyside Blues, She’ll Take It, and Accidentally Engaged. In addition to her novels she has written two novellas: A Very Maui Christmas in the best selling anthology Holiday Magic, and The Honeymoon House in the best selling anthology Almost Home. She is currently working on a new novel for Kensington.

Readers are welcome to visit her at www.marycarterbooks.com.

Visit her at Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Mary-Carter-Books/248226365259.

 

About The Pub Across the Pond

The Pub Across the Pond“Sometimes leaving home is the only way to find where you belong….”

Carlene Rivers is many things. Dutiful, reliable, kind. Lucky? Not so much. At thirty, she’s living a stifling existence in Cleveland, Ohio. Then one day, Carlene buys a raffle ticket. The prize: a pub on the west coast of Ireland. Carlene is stunned when she wins. Everyone else is stunned when she actually goes.

As soon as she arrives in Ballybeog, Carlene is smitten, not just by the town’s beguiling mix of ancient and modern but by the welcome she receives. In this small town near Galway Bay, strife is no stranger, strangers are family, and no one is ever too busy for a cup of tea or a pint. And though her new job presents challenges–from a meddling neighbor to the pub’s colorful regulars–there are compensations galore. Like the freedom to sing, joke, and tell stories and, in doing so, find her own voice. And in her flirtation with Ronan McBride, the pub’s charming, reckless former owner, she just may find the freedom to follow where impulse leads and trust her heart–and her luck–for the very first time.

Visit her official tour page here! If you would like to ask Mary a question, be sure to stop by Pump Up Your Book’s September Authors on Tour Chat/Book Giveaway starting at 8 p.m. eastern on Friday, September 30. She would love to meet you!

Pump Up Your Book is an innovative public relations agency specializing in online book publicity for authors looking for maximum online promotion to sell their books. Visit our website at www.pumpupyourbook.com to find out how we can take your book to the virtual level! Don’t forget to check out our December special!

Contact:

Dorothy Thompson, CEO/Founder Pump Up Your Book

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Interview with Mary Carter, author of My Sister’s Voice

MARY CARTER is a freelance writer and novelist.  My Sister’s Voice is her fourth novel with Kensington. Her other works include:  She’ll Take It, Accidentally Engaged, Sunnyside Blues, and The Honeymoon House in the best selling anthology Almost Home. She is a graduate of the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, and the National Technical Institute for the Deaf, which is part of the Rochester Institute of Technology. She has just completed A Very Maui Christmas, a new novella for Kensington that will be included in a Christmas of 2010 anthology. She is currently working on a new novel, The Pub Across the Pond, about an American woman who swears off all Irish men only to learn she’s won a pub in Ireland. Readers are welcome to visit her at marycarterbooks.com.

Q: Welcome to Beyond the Books, Mary .  Can we start out by telling us whether you are published for the first time or are you multi-published?

My Sister’s Voice is my fifth published work for Kensington, I’ve previously released three other novels and one novella.

Q: What was the name of your very first book regardless of whether it was published or not and, if not published, why?

My first book was published, and it was called She’ll Take It.

Q: For your first published book, how many rejections did you go through before you either found a mainstream publisher, self-published it, or paid a vanity press to publish it?

I kind of cringe when people ask me this, because I know how hard the process is for the majority of people, and as far as rejection is concerned I paid my dues as an actress.  But with the book, I was lucky.  I had an agent within two weeks of looking for one, and he sold the book to Kensington four months later.

Q: How did the rejections make you feel and what did you do to overcome the blows?

Even though I didn’t experience as much rejection as some people do, I still know how much it stings.  With each agent that said “No”, I felt deflated and worried.  You panic a little, you doubt yourself a little, sometimes a lot.  You just have to push through it, and keep trying.  I heard of one writer wallpapering their bathroom with their rejection slips.  I think that’s a completely healthy reaction.

Q: When your first book was published, who published it and why did you choose them?

Kensington Books published it and they chose me!  Random House was in the bidding until the very end, and then they decided not to go with the book.  I think it was meant to be, I’m very happy with Kensington and my editor, John Scognamiglio.

Q: How did it make you feel to become published for the first time and how did you celebrate?

I was on top of the world.  I was living in Seattle at the time and I’m sure I cracked open champagne and called everyone I knew, but the moment I remember the most is walking down the dock to my houseboat (lived in one for a year) and I looked up in the sky and I saw a double rainbow.  It was a great day, and of course, I thought the rainbow was just for me.

Q: What was the first thing you did as for as promotion when you were published for the first time?

I see the next question starts with “If you had to do it over again”— if I had my first book about to be published all over again, I would have done more publicizing.  I was naïve and thought the publishing house would take care of it.  The truth is, it’s a fierce and competitive business and fledgling authors need to self-promote.  I did a lot more to publicize my second novel and it had a better sell-through than the first, and I honestly think it’s all because of promotion.

My Sister's Voice by Mary Carter (click on cover to purchase at Amazon)

Q: If you had to do it over again, would you have chosen another route to be published?

No. I think authors need to have an agent, and I was never in a position of having a bidding war for my book, so my choices were to say yes to Kensington or not be published.  That said, I’m glad I didn’t have a choice.  I may have been seduced by a larger publisher, but as my agent said at the time, John (my editor at Kensington) likes to encourage his authors to keep writing for him, whereas bigger publishing houses may be more concerned with your sales, and if you don’t meet your numbers, they are liable to drop you.  It’s not always a pretty business.  I think I’ve been lucky in many ways.

Q: Have you been published since then and how have you grown as an author?

Yes, I am on my fourth novel and just finished my second novella.  I’ve learned a ton about the process of writing.  I try to better myself with each book, and it’s never easy.  I think the biggest thing I’ve learned is– I can do it.  It might sound silly, but I still get overwhelmed when I’m beginning a book, and the fear that I won’t be able to do it always creeps in.  Then, I remind myself that I felt that way about each book I’ve written, and that all I have to do is take it a word at a time, a scene at a time, a page at a time.

Q: Looking back since the early days when you were trying to get published, what do you think you could have done differently to speed things up?  What kind of mistakes could you have avoided?

I think in my case there are things I did right that helped me get an agent and published so quickly.  I won’t discount luck, but it wasn’t all luck by any means.  I worked on my first book for two years.  I read everything in the genre I was writing in.  I sent copies of my manuscript to ten friends with targeted questions for feedback.  I rewrote it until I knew I couldn’t improve it anymore on my own.  I read many, many books on writing in addition to reading and even breaking down the structure of novels.  Then I researched how to submit your work to an agent, and followed their directions to the letter.  I did my homework, and it paid off!

Q: What has been the biggest accomplishment you have achieved since becoming published?

Writing five more works for them since publishing my first book is by far my biggest accomplishment.  Definitely one of the biggest accomplishments of my life.  I never used to stick to anything—ask my piano teacher.  But I’ve stuck to this, and I’m proud of that.

Q: If you could have chosen another profession, what would that profession be?

I started out as an actress, and then became a sign language interpreter and still do that for a living in addition to writing.  So I have to take those out of the running as well, or that’s cheating.  I always fantasized about being a travel writer, taking pictures and writing articles for National Geographic, or being a reporter, or a news anchor, or maybe even a lounge singer.  A spy would be cool too. That’s why I originally chose acting—I couldn’t make up my mind, I wanted to be so many people, do so many things.  I’m not good at sitting at a desk all day, that’s one thing I wouldn’t be able to do.  And yes, I guess I do sit a bit with my laptop, but that doesn’t feel the same. Sometimes I’m in a coffee shop, sometimes I’m on the couch in my pajamas.

Q: Would you give up being an author for that profession or have you combined the best of both worlds?

Hmmm.  Camera slung around my neck, a Zebra galloping across my path.  Snap! Why?  Do you know someone at National Geographic?  Are they looking for someone who makes up in enthusiasm and fantasy what she lacks in skills and reality?  If so, I might just put down the pen for the camera, the books for a giraffe.  But don’t tell my editor that.  And I’d probably cheat and still write books anyway, you know in between photographing the lions, tigers, and bears.

Q: How do you see yourself in ten years?

Oh no.  I can’t read.  Did I tell you that?  I have this assistant reading these questions and dictating the answers, and she won’t tell me what this one says, so I have no idea how to answer.  My birthday is coming up and I don’t even want to think about that let alone another ten years.  Why are you doing this to me?  Is it because I said that thing about National Geographic?  Okay, my assistant is back and she’s telling me to calm down and answer the question. In ten years I see myself as a giraffe-photographing, lounge singing news anchor SPY who writes best-selling novels in her underwear.  Like the Naked Cowboy in Times Square.  I’m going to have to start dieting.  Do you feel better now?  Because I certainly don’t—I just ate an entire plate of nachos.

Q: Any final words for writers who dream of being published one day?

Write. Read. Rewrite. Read books for pleasure.  Read books on writing.  Take a class.  Don’t expect praise—learn to love feedback.  Be open to it, and examine it objectively.  You don’t have to agree with all the feedback you get, and eventually you get enough sea legs to weed out the good from the bad, (or helpful versus not-so-helpful), but please, please, don’t give your novel to someone hoping they’ll say it’s the best thing they’ve ever read. If someone told me my book was the best thing they had ever read, I’d say—“Liar!” (Or in one particular case I would just say, “Thank you mom.”) I can’t believe the number of people who act as if you’ve just told them their baby is ugly if you give any little suggestion on how they can improve their book.  Writing a novel is like falling in love.  You’re too close to see the flaws. It’s really a weird kind of distortion.  Check your ego at the door. Feedback is a gift.  Use it!  Send your work to ten people you trust, people who love to read, and give them structured questions you’d like to know about your work.  Think like a scientist, don’t take anything too personally. Ask them if any passages bored them or confused them.  Chances are if more than one person has the same comment, you might need to do some rewriting.  That’s the way this job works! Be willing to re-write.  This is HUGE.  I’ll say it again. Writing is re-writing.  I’m lucky I guess, I LOVE re-writing. It’s first drafts I hate.  When you are ready to submit your work, make sure it’s ready.  It’s ready when you’ve done several drafts and you just know you shouldn’t mess with it anymore.  Follow submission guidelines.  Never turn in sloppy work.  And most of all, don’t give up.  But while you’re submitting, and waiting, and worrying, GO ON TO THE NEXT BOOK.  Even when you’re published, it’s not a free ride, and the minute you finish one book, you’ve barely had time to say “Yea me!” when it’s on to the next.  It’s not huge money for most of us either.  It’s work, work, work.  So why do we do it? Because we love it, that’s why I do it, and that’s why you should do it too.

Mary Carter is on virtual book tour throughout April and May ’10 to promote her new book, My Sister’s Voice.  If you’d like to view her official  tour page, click here!

Book Excerpt: My Sister’s Voice

Title: My Sister’s Voice
Author: Mary Carter
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Kensington (May 25, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0758229208
ISBN-13: 978-0758229205

What do you do when you discover your whole life was a lie?  In Mary Carter’s unforgettable new novel, one woman is about to find out. . .

At twenty-eight, Lacey Gears is exactly where she wants to be.  An up-and-coming, proudly Deaf artist in Philadelphia, she’s in a relationship with a wonderful man and rarely thinks about her difficult childhood in a home for disabled orphans.  That is, until Lacey receives a letter that begins, “You have a sister. A twin to be exact…”

Learning her identical, hearing twin, Monica, experienced the normal childhood she was denied resurrects all of Lacey’s grief, and she angrily sets out to find Monica and her biological parents.  But the truth about Monica’s life, their brief shared past, and the reason for the twins’ separation is far from simple.  And for every one of Lacey’s questions that’s answered, others are raised, more baffling and profound.

Complex, moving, and beautifully told, My Sister’s Voice is a novel about sisterhood, love of every shape, and the stories we cling to until real life comes crashing in…

Excerpt

Chapter 1
It was here, in the City of Brotherly Love, at twenty-eight years of age, that Lacey Gears first discovered she had a sister.  An identical twin.  Of course it wasn’t true. A joke, a hoax, a prank. As if.  It was completely ridiculous, and although she of all people appreciated a good—Gotcha!— she didn’t have time for games today. She had to buy an anniversary gift for her boyfriend Alan, then race off to paint a chubby Chihuahua and its anorexic owner. An identical twin.  Funny, ha-ha.

The hoax came by way of her red mailbox. She wasn’t going to open the mail, she usually waited until the end of the day to sift through it, preferably with a glass of wine, for a single bill could depress her all day long. But as she jogged down her front steps, she caught sight of the mailman wheeling his pregnant bag down the sidewalk.  He had just passed her house, when he caught her eye.  He made a dramatic stop, and waved his arms at her as if she were an Airbus coming in for a landing instead of a 5’6 slip of a girl. He jabbed his finger at her mailbox, then patted his large stomach, and then once again jabbed his finger at her mailbox with an exaggerated wag of his head and a silly smile.  Lacey had to laugh. She gave him a slight shrug held her hands out like, Can-I-help-it-if-I’m-so-popular?

He winked, blew her a kiss, and then pointed at her mailbox again.  She caught his kiss, pretended to swoon, and blew him a kiss of his own.  By now they had an unappreciative audience.  The woman who lived next door was standing in the middle of her walkway, hands on hips, glaring at the mailman.  She was a large white woman in a small red bathrobe.  He gave Lacey one last wave, one last jab at the mailbox.  Oh, why not.  If it would make him happy, she could spare a few seconds to open it.  Lacey waved goodbye to him and hello to the woman in the red bathrobe.  Only one wave was returned.  She turned her attention to the mailbox.

He wasn’t kidding. It was stuffed. She had to use both hands to get a grip on it, and exert considerable effort.  She managed to yank out the entire pile, but she moved too fast, causing the precarious mound to shift and slide through her hands. As the mail swan dived the steps, she bent at the knees and lowered herself, as if she’d rather let it take her down than give up. She finally, got a rein on the loose bits, and nervous she was wasting time, she began to flip through the day’s offerings.

Bills: AT&T, Time Warner; Catalogues: Macy’s, Deaf Digest, Galluadet University; Advertisements: Chow Chow’s Chinese restaurant, 20 percent off carpet cleaning, Jiffy Lube. Waste of time.  Lacey stuffed the mail back in the box, and was about to close the lid when she spotted it a white envelope, sticking out of one of the catalogues.  She’d almost missed it. She pulled it out and stared at it.

No address, no stamp, no postmark.  Just her name typed across the front, looking as if it had been pecked out on a typewriter from the Jurassic Period. An anonymous letter with its mouth taped shut; a ransom note.  For a split-second she was worried someone had kidnapped her dog.  She glanced up at the window to her bedroom, and to her relief spotted her puggle, Rookie. His nose was smashed up against the windowpane she’d spent hours cleaning, drool running down and forming Spittle Lake, brown eyes pleading: How can you leave me? She air-kissed her dog an obscene amount of times, then once again turned her attention back to the envelope.

Lacey Gears

Mysterious letter in hand, she jogged down the steps to the curb where her Harley Sportser 883 was parked, slung her leg over her motorcycle, and perched comfortably in the custom-made leather seat.  She soothed herself in her fun-house reflection elongated in the bike’s polished chrome, detailed in Red Hot Sunglo and Smokey Gold. A feeling of peace settled over her.  When she was on her bike she felt sexy and confident, something every woman deserved to feel.  Some days she wished she could figure out how to stay on it 24/7.

She’d bought the bike after selling her first piece of abstract art, a kaleidoscope of hands coming together in slow motion, bought by PSD, the Pennsylvania School for the Deaf, where as a little girl Lacey had longed to go. At least a piece of her was there now, hanging on the walls as a reminder to Deaf children that they could be anything, achieve anything, do everything but hear.  It sold for a decent amount of money, leaving her feeling giddy and slightly guilty as if she had gotten away with something.  She bought the Harley as quick as she could, in case they turned around and asked for the money back.  Alan said it was proof she could stop painting pet-and-owner portraits and focus solely on what she wanted to paint. But despite her luck with the one sale, the only paintings she was doing besides the portraits were ones she didn’t want to share with the world.  Not just yet.  And for the most part she liked her job.  She had to admit, she usually liked the pets a little more than the people, but even most of them weren’t so bad.  She turned her attention back to the envelope, peeled the edge up, and slid her finger across the inside-top.  The envelope sliced into her finger, cutting a thin line across her delicate skin.   A drop of blood sprouted and seeped onto the envelope.  She jerked her hand back, as a slip of white paper slid out of the envelope like an escaped prisoner, and fluttered to the ground.

Lacey hopped off the bike, and chased the paper down the sidewalk.  It stayed just enough ahead of her to make her look like an idiot chasing it.  A slight breeze picked it up and lifted it into the air.  It hovered mid-stream, like a mini-magic-carpet.  Make a wish, Lacey thought.  She reached out and caught it before it sunk to the ground.  After all this fuss, it had better be good.

You have a twin sister.  Her name is Monica. Go to Benjamin Books. Look at the poster in the window.

Lacey looked up the street, convinced the mailman was standing by with another wink and a laugh.  He wasn’t.  He was way up the street, his cart parked in the middle of the sidewalk, his bag now slung over his shoulder, thwapping into the side of his leg with each long stride up the steps in front of him.  Bathrobe-woman was nowhere in sight either.  For all Lacey knew she only came out once a day to wither away civil servicemen with a single look.

You have a twin sister. . . .

My Sister’s Voice by Mary Carter is available for pre-order at Amazon.  Add My Sister’s Voice to your Amazon Wish List by clicking here.  To find out more about Mary Carter, visit her website at www.marycarterbooks.com.

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