11/24/14

A GREAT SOUTHERN BOOK GIVEAWAY

"...and the Coast, the seductive and sultry Lowcountry where the sea caresses a vast carpet of swaying marsh grass and warm sandy beaches."  
Win a copy! 

That is an excerpt from "A State of Awe and Wonder," the foreword I penned for Reflections of South Carolina, Volume II.  When the director of University of South Carolina Press, Jonathan Haupt, contacted me with this opportunity and I was honored to accept the task.

Reflections of South Carolina, Volume II is a beautiful work of art. We are so fortunate to have so much of the ancient beauty, historical charm, and alluring culture preserved in 250 pages of sterling photographs and poignant descriptions.

When you hold this book, you will sense its value and importance.  The photographs by renowned photographer Robert C. Clark and descriptions by Tom Poland capture more than landscape, but our state's culture, traditions, and the people. They will will take you on a journey to the Upcountry, the Heartland, and the Lowcountry.  Anyone who lives in South Carolina or once called this great state home will treasure this book.  And too--anyone who has visited, wants to visit, or just loves all things southern will thoroughly enjoy this book.

I love how my friend and fellow author Dorothea Benton Frank described the book, "...a gorgeous tour of our state's endless treasured landscape. The words of Tom Poland and the photographs by Robert Clark will thrill you.  It's that good."

I couldn't agree more. I'm giving this book to friends and family for Christmas! And, I'm really excited to share this book with you!  Thanks to USC Press, for the holiday season I am giving away five copies of Reflections of South Carolina, Volume II (one copy each week) through my Facebook fan page.  To enter the giveaway, simply CLICK HERE and follow the instructions.  It's easy and I hope you'll share the contest link with your friends!  http://is.gd/fUHS4q

I'll announce the first winner on November 28th.

Best wishes and Happy Holidays! I know you'll enjoy the book just as much as I do.


10/30/14

DAY OF THE DEAD: A TIME TO REMEMBER


Pumpkin carved?  Nope.

House decorated? Oops, forgot that too. 

Candy bowl loaded and ready? Yes!

I reluctantly confess that I’m not as clever or elaborate with my Halloween decorations as I was when my three children were growing up.  Yet, somehow I still manage to remember to buy a bag of candy for the trick-or-treaters in my neighborhood.  But who am I kidding?  There hasn’t been one child to knock on my door in the last five years!  We all know who is really eating all that candy...

Halloween marks the beginning of the season of family gatherings — Thanksgiving will be here before we know it and Christmas, well, it has already arrived at the major retailers! These are times that families gather to create memories.

Memories... how important they are to help us through both good and bad times.  We--each of us--are the caretakers of our memories.  Will we hoard them in dark recesses of our minds? Or will we dust them off and share them with loved ones?  One holiday that celebrates memories, and is often overlooked or misunderstood, is Day of the Dead.  Widely recognized in Mexico and Latin American countries, this is an annual celebration to remember loved ones who have passed and is observed on November 1st and 2nd, concurrently with All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day.  I was raised Catholic, so All Saints’ Day has always been a meaningful holiday.  In the United States, All Hallow's Eve...Halloween...is the big party day we all celebrate.

A few years ago, when I wrote The Butterfly’sDaughter, I learned more about the meaning and traditions of the Day of the Dead in the Mexican culture.  It includes building private altars called ofrendas decorated with bright orange marigolds called cempasùchil (or ‘flower of the dead’) to honor their beloved departed.  These ofrendas can include favorite items of their loved ones—foods, drinks, photos, and other special possessions.  

I love this tradition of remembering and honoring those special family members who have passed.  Also, in Mexico they believe that the thousands of monarch butterflies flying through the region to their winter sanctuary in the mountains this time of year are the souls of their dearly departed. The traditions and the magnificent migration of the monarch butterfly that culminate during the Day the Dead festivities are captured in The Butterfly’s Daughter. 

 I like to create a simple ofrenda in honor of my parents and my father-in-law.  I put their photos up amid bright orange marigolds, a decorated skull plus a few items that they loved and each time I pass it during the day I think of them.  Again, memories...  This, to me, is the power of The Day of the Dead.  We remember and talk about those who've departed, and by doing so, we keep their memories alive in our hearts.


This Halloween, rather than just dress up and eat candy, why not share a meaningful activity with your family?  Create an ofrenda.  Get the kids involved. Display favorite photos and treasured items of those special family members, light a candle and then invite the family together to hear stories oyour grandmother, grandfather, parents, uncles, aunts.  The poignant stories, the funny ones--they all keep their memories alive!  These are the real treats of this season.  


10/13/14

A BABY AND A BOOK

Twenty nine years ago I was put to bedrest during my pregnancy.  I faced several months on my back and I felt trapped, like I'd lost control of my life.  My husband gave me a yellow legal pad and pen and told me, "Mary Alice, for as long as I've known you, you have wanted to write a novel but didn't have the time. Now you have the time."

I wrote and wrote and finished the draft of my first novel.  I like to say I gave birth to a baby and a book!

Now all these years later, that baby, Zack, just had a baby of his own!  I'm finishing my twentieth novel and as I gaze at my sweet grandson, I can't help but think how sometimes life does come full circle.

My son and his newborn son

Looking back, I learned a precious lesson.  Back when I was put to bed I was miserable, thinking that I was facing a horrid obstacle.  In fact, it wasn't an obstacle at all.  The experience was an opportunity.  I learned from this that how we face hardship can change not only our outlook, but the outcome.  Each decision we make moves us toward the next, and the next, and the next. 

If I hadn't been put to bed rest, I might have lost not only my son, something I can't even think about without a shudder.  But I likely would not have finished that first novel that was sold and changed the course of my career and life.

We are writing the story of our lives day by day.  My bed rest experience and giving birth to a baby and a book was an important chapter.  Gazing at my sweet Wesley, this one truly has a happy ending! 

Meet my new grandson, Wesley!