Shannon here: Inspirational author, Linda Wood Rondeau shares how she met her husband and an excerpt inspired by real life from her Christmas novel, It Really Is a Wonderful Life. Comment on any post dated Dec 19 – 23 to enter the drawing for winner’s choice of a print copy of It Really IS a Wonderful Life or A Christmas Prayer or an e-book copy of Joy Comes to Dinsmore Street. Deadline Dec 28th, 11:59 pm central time. Here’s Linda:
The photos are from a dinner theater we did just before we moved to Florida entitled Scorching Saddles. Steve played a Sidekick Cowboy and I played a temperance movement spinster.
When Fiction is a little Autobiographical
Like my heroine Dorie, in It Really IS a Wonderful Life, I was a single Mom. I’d given up on romance until I joined a theater group. Like Dorie, there I found the love of my life. On December 10th, we celebrated our 36th year together.
In the seven years since my divorce, I’d dated every poster boy for America’s most not wanted men. I finally gave up trying. The Marines had taken whatever few good men were left.
Demoralized and tired of raising three kids on my own, I moved to the redneck community of farmers and shoe factory workers to be near my parents. “I’m glad to be close to you and Dad,” I told my mother, “but I doubt I’ll find a husband in these here hills. It’s time I relied on my own smarts to make a home and a life for my children.”
“Don’t be so quick to give up. You’ll find someone.”
When? When I’m so old, it won’t matter?
The ad leapt out at me—“Casting call for Annual Irish Play.“
I did a happy dance just to get the one-line part. “Even Helen Hayes had to start somewhere.” My mother was always quick with a word of encouragement. Since I learned my line within five minutes, I signed up to do publicity
My first interview was with Steve, the short, lanky lead—the one who always wore his auto parts uniform. Imitating a psychiatric patient, he stretched out on the carpet. “So what do you want to know? I’m single, and I haven’t had a date in a year and a half.”
It would have ended there—totally—a completely-not-interested kind of thing until I interviewed the director for a news release containing cast tidbits.
“Steve’s one of the best guys I’ve ever known,” he said. Who was this masked man behind the veil of a broken down hotel?
I interviewed the producer. “I’ve known the Rondeau boys since they were kids. Nice boys, both of them.”
“Doesn’t he live at the Franklin?” I asked as if, ”What’s a nice boy like him doing in a place like that?”
“He doesn’t live there. He lives with his parents on Park Street. I’m sure he meant it as a joke.
Our first date was the cast party. I wasn’t used to dating nice guys—only pretend nice guys who used children and pets to steal a girl’s heart. I didn’t trust nice guys. I married a nice guy, and he deserted me. Nice guys were myths—like the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
“It won’t last,” I said aloud while alone watching the wind blow against the curtain.
Nevertheless, I agreed to a second date. There was a third and a fourth. Who could say no to a boy-scout leader, a member of the prestigious Order of the Arrow?
Excerpt from It Really Is a Wonderful Life by Linda Wood Rondeau:
Dorie threw the letter and shrugged as it landed on top of the leftover peanut butter sandwiches. Maybe she should finish reading it, just in case she’d misunderstood the opening paragraph. She picked up the memo again and flicked off the residue along its edges, skimming the next few lines. When done, she subdued the urge to scream. The kids were asleep—finally.
As she read, she mouthed the words with clenched jaws. “Thank you for your interest in Bargains Galore. I am sorry to inform you that the position for which you applied has been filled… Blah, Blah, Blah. Sincerely, James Paul Sullivan…”
Regardless of the perfumed words, they still stung.
“What is it with this town?” She ripped the rejection into pieces and tossed it into the trash. “I can’t even get a job at the local dollar store. Somebody, somewhere, must need a computer programmer.”
Focus on the positive Dorie. Mom’s voice echoed in her memory. She’d spent a great night with the children, her favorite people, a read-a-thon and Fern Gully, and bedtimes with no rebuttals from Josh or squalls from Emma, all huge positives.
When the kids went to sleep, the nights became a desert crossing, interminably long and arid. She settled into the recliner—Devon’s chair—and flipped through the television channels. Nothing of interest. Just news, reruns, or cartoons. She clicked off the television and picked up the newspaper.
With a discordant sigh, she skipped over the first seven pages and turned to the classifieds. Scanning the five employment ads, she screeched an entire sonnet of Midville condemnations then threw the paper at the wall.
Now her tirades beamed toward her late husband. “Devon, you had no right to get yourself blown up fighting a war nobody cares about anymore. How do you expect me to raise these kids on my own when I can’t even get a job?”
Boomer’s bark brought her back from the edge of uncontrolled rage, a precipice she teetered on all too often these days.
He nudged the crumpled newsprint in her direction. Some people believed Irish setters could read minds, but the last she knew, they couldn’t read newspapers. Maybe he sensed something there—something good.
A breeze from the open window stirred its pages.
She bent over to pick it up. A jelly smudge brought her attention to the announcement: Midville Players casting call. Who would have thought a puny town like Midville would have a drama group?
Curiosity numbed her anger. “Midville Players will hold auditions for their upcoming Christmas production of It’s a Wonderful Life—”
Did she dare? She’d played an angel in a Christmas pageant once. That was a lot of fun and her teacher said she was the best angel. This would be different though. Still, what was the worst that could happen?
You’d look like a fool and find new depths of rejection.
Discretion warned her to avoid any more opportunities for failure.
“Now don’t let your mind go there Dorie.” Devon had always encouraged her to try new things. Besides,
didn’t Daddy say the best way to find a job was to circulate?
Since moving to Midville four months ago her only networking had been with her parents’ retired church friends. Time to find a new circle of friends closer to her age.
She picked up the phone and hit the first number on her speed dial. “Mom, will you watch the kids for me tomorrow night?”
What a day!
Jamey Sullivan engaged the security system then stepped outside Bargains Galore. He took out his Android and called Sherrie, his store manager.
“Hello, Mr. Sullivan.”
“Glad to hear your laryngitis is gone.” He’d hate to face another day of ledgers, carbon copies and miles of cash-register receipts. Sullivan Enterprises operated in the dark ages of business machines.
“Don’t worry. I’ll be back to train the new cashier tomorrow.”
“Glad to hear it. I hate the system we’re using. We need an overhaul.”
Sherrie huffed her defense. “Not a day goes by without your saying so, Mr. Sullivan. Our current system worked fine until we added the new stores. Maybe we do need a new way of doing things, but you know how I feel about change.”
Sherrie had been with Sullivan Enterprises since Jamey’s father opened the first store. Who better to lead the company into a new age? However, she’d refused every training offer he’d made. Not even Pop could change her mind.
“How’s Mr. Sullivan senior tonight?”
He sensed her empathy. “Thanks for asking. He keeps losing ground every day. He’s fading away before my eyes. I’d give anything to go fishing with him one more time.”
There weren’t many in Midville Jamey would miss when he left, this time. Except for Sherrie and his high school buddy Gabe Wellington. Sherrie was like his second mother, sure to pin his ears back when he needed it and even quicker with an offer of encouragement when faced with disappointment.
“Not many sons would have done what you did, Mr. Sullivan, giving up a promising career to help an ailing parent. Midville’s proud of you.”
Midville might be proud of him, but any good deed wears thin after a while. Wasn’t four years enough of a sacrifice?
“By the way, aren’t you late for auditions?”
About Linda: Winner of the 2012 Selah Award for best first novel The Other Side of Darkness/Harbourlight, LINDA WOOD RONDEAU, writes stories of God’s mercies. Walk with her unforgettable characters as they journey paths not unlike our own. After a long career in human services, Linda now resides in Jacksonville, Florida.
Linda’s best-selling Adirondack Romance, It Really IS a Wonderful Life, is published by Lighthouse of the Carolinas and is available wherever books are sold. Her next releases were her devotional book, I Prayed for Patience God Gave Me Children and Days of Vines and Roses
Joy Comes to Dinsmore Street and A Christmas Prayer have been released in time for the Christmas as well as her mini novel, Jolly Angel. Songs in the Valley/ Helping Hands Press. Will be released in late 2013 or early 2014.
About the books:
It Really Is a Wonderful Life: Midville newcomer and Iraq War widow, Dorie Fitzgerald, despises the frigid Adirondack wasteland that has now become her home. After twenty failed job interviews, she questions the wisdom of moving to be near her parents. Desperate to belong, she joins the local Community Theater, in production for It s a Wonderful Life. Jamey Sullivan has put his professional life on hold in order to run the family business and to help his ailing father. He signs on for Midville s production of It s a Wonderful Life, although he hopes to receive a Broadway casting call any day now. When these two meet, they are instantly attracted to one another. However, ambition, demanding children, and a romantic rival threaten to squash their growing love for one another. It Really IS a Wonderful Life is set in the beautiful Adirondack mountains, a perfect backdrop for romantic conflict.
Joy Comes to Dinsmore St.: Most people looked forward to the dawning of the new millennium. For Colin O’Donnell, Christmas 2000 holds no anticipation until he learns Ma expects a visit from Joy, an adored cousin who disappeared on the girl’s sixteenth birthday. Why does she decide to visit Ma after all these years? The day Colin’s father left, Ma clutched Joy’s photograph as if it were a lifeline. Colin suspects the two disappearances are somehow connected although they occurred decades apart. Perhaps Joy’s visit will bring answers to years-old daunting questions. First, however, Colin must wrestle with a current mystery. What did he do to drive his wife from their bed? When all is revealed and the past and present collide, will Colin fight to preserve his marriage or follow his father’s path of abandonment?
A Christmas Prayer: A year after learning of a son’s existence, country music legend, Ethan Jacobs returns to Jasper Falls, a place of bitter memories, to help the his twelve-year-old autistic child, given up for adoption at birth. Orphaned after the death of his adoptive parents, the boy is at risk of institutionalization due to probation violations and alleged inadequate guardianship of his current caregiver, an older, adoptive sister. In view of his son’s delicate emotional state, the court advises Ethan to keep his relationship to Gib secret for now.
Five Star Review Comments:
Joy Comes To Dinsmore Street by Linda Wood Rondeau is a story of secrets, desertion, and self-hate but forgiveness redeems the story.
Keeping secrets and reacting with a hot head. Nothing good can come of that. The past has a way of creeping into the present. These are the lessons the characters in this book have to come to terms with.
A Christmas Prayer is the perfect kind of feel-good read for the holidays. (And also a quick read, so you can use it to de-stress between shopping and baking and wrapping and all the other craziness that goes on this time of year.)
BEAUTFUIL, AS a caregiver to a father who had cancer. I found this book uplifting, faith filled, a story that touches the heart. This book really hit you in your soul. It was written for the heart.
Come back Dec 23rd for Linda’s excerpts from Joy Comes to Dinsmore St. and A Christmas Prayer!