Tuesday, April 14, 2020

One Perfect Summer...


HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Did you ever have a perfect summer? These are the things we must remember. The memories we must keep alive, right? But oh--what if your summer brought a new family member?

First, a summer story.

Long long ago, in a lifetime far away, (and not just like, a month ago but I’m talking… 2008?) one summer I went to a writers convention, though I can’t remember which one .I do remember it was overwhelming and terrifying--I had no book, no friends, and, basically not a clue.

There was this gorgeous woman, surrounded by people, radiating joy and radiating friendship and radiating generosity, laughing and engaged. “Who is that?” I asked someone. They looked at me as if I had lost my mind. “Well that’s… Brenda Novak,” she whispered. 

Little did I know how pivotal Brenda would be in my life. She took me under her gorgeous wing, sweetly and generously, blurbed one of my books, and has been a pal and cheerleader ever since. And I have watched her, with joy, rise to amazing glory, to becoming an international, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author.

But really? It’s not about me. It’s about Brenda. She’s written well, I don’t even know how many books, because her book list is SEVEN PAGES LONG. She’s written romantic suspense and gorgeous romance and psychological suspense and several series--groundbreaking and page-turning and relentlessly readable. She knows her audience brilliantly, and also knows her heart.

She has an amazing book club, have you seen it on Facebook? She has the Brenda Novak book boxes that come out every month, oh my gosh, I can’t begin to tell you everything she has organized to benefit her readers, and bring us together as a community. Click here, and be wowed.

She’s also a relentless and devoted fundraiser in the battle against diabetes, and her skill has raised an incredible amount of money, both in person and in her memorable auction events.

Besides being a brilliant writer, this woman is an absolute mixture of saint, rockstar, and BFF.

And now she has a new book. And even though you might think that for her, this would be la-dee-dah just another day in the life, she, like so many other authors, has had the publishing rug pulled out from under her. She’s handling this with her authentic grace and her own personal style and faith, but I wanted to make sure you knew about her. And if you don’t already, and that you look for her brand new ONE PERFECT SUMMER.

How about this for irresistible:  “When Serenity Alston swabbed her cheek for 23And Me she joked about uncovering some dark ancestral scandal. The last thing she expected was to discover to have sisters she didn’t know existed. Suddenly....”

Suddenly what? Well, you just have to read the rest.

And how can you resist? You don’t have to!  Today, right here, Brenda will make it easier. She is offering a $30 gift certificate to the Brenda Novak store… She has a store--where they sell Brenda Novak book boxes, autographed copies of one perfect summer and other reader packages. How awesome is that! And one lucky lucky commenter will win! 

The amazing Brenda will draw a winner herself in the next few days. Tell us your one perfect summer! One of them, at least. And one thing that made it so fabulous.

OR! Do you have a 23andMe type experience? What happened?

You could win this fabulous prize--just tell us all about it!




A DNA test upended everything they knew about their lives. Three sisters. One secret.


91 comments:

  1. Hhhmmm . . . I’ve enjoyed several of Brenda Novak’s books; this sounds like a one I’d definitely like to read. What an intriguing idea to discover sisters with a DNA test . . . .

    A perfect summer? When I was in college, I lived with my grandmother during the summer and worked in a cafeteria a few blocks from her house. I always enjoyed spending time with Gram; sadly, in the last years of her life she didn’t often remember all of us. But in the summer of 1969, we sat together in the early morning hours watching the moonwalk on television. We both agreed that it was absolutely perfect . . . .

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    1. SO lovely! I remember that, too...

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    2. I guess it won't let me change who I am, so I'll have to comment as my husband. LOL Just wanted to tell you that I was captivated by the moon landing, too. I was only five, but I wouldn't move from in front of that television. LOL

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  2. One perfect summer. Hmm. I think I have to chose the summer between graduating from high school and starting college because it was my first taste of forbidden passion. No, it's not X-rated, but it was the summer where an older boy/young man made me feel those tingles that my mother didn't want her baby girl to feel. So, it was forbidden in the sense that it was more of an adult passion I'd never felt, and even though I wasn't really ready for it, and, of course, I got my heart broken, it was thrilling to know that such excitement existed. I was a late bloomer in certain areas. I was taking a couple of summer college classes, going to the swimming pool, playing a little golf, and going on dates with my dreamboat. It's rather reminiscent of the Gidget movie with Sandra Dee. I thought life couldn't get any better. (It did.) By the end of the summer, he had moved on, and although I was heartbroken, at some point in the years after, I realized that he had done me a giant favor. He knew I wasn't ready for the things that he wanted, that I was still basically a child, and he ended it. But, for a brief period of about three months, I thought the world was spinning just for me. When I met my now husband four years later, I discovered what true love was, but the summer of 1972 was the summer that I started to transition from a school girl to a young lady with dreams of all sorts.

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    1. Oh, that is SUCH a great story! Oh--so touching. SO sweet. AndI love how you remember it. Awww.

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    2. Kathy, I love your story. It is such a perfect young romance story. It inspires lots of memories for me.

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    3. Such a sweet story and reminds me of gentler times. :) --Brenda Novak

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  3. And now I'm off to look up Brenda's books!

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    1. So excited you're going to give my work a try, Kathy! Thank you! --Brenda Novak

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  4. Intriguing for sure.

    Perfect summer? I've got great summer memories, but I don't know that I have a perfect summer. But so many great summer memories. Swimming - time with friends - camping with my family - ultimate Frisbee - mud runs....

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  5. Brenda, welcome to Jungle Reds! I've seen your beautiful books at local bookstores. it now seems a lifetime ago that we used to browse in bookstores. After reading about your novel, I want to read your book! Sounds intriguing!

    My perfect summer was when I lived in England. I had the opportunity to take classes at Oxford University, read books at the Bodleian Library and meet interesting people.

    Isn't it interesting about the DNA? I read a wonderful non fiction book called Inheritance by Dani Shapiro, who discovered things that she did not know about her genetic heritage.

    Hank, thank you for introducing us to Brenda!

    Diana

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    1. Yes, Inheritance, Diana! Life-changing for some many people. And oh, my pleasure! May it be the beginning of a beautiful relationship!

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    2. I would die to spend a summer in England. You're so lucky! It does seem like a long time ago that we were able to browse. I miss it and hope this ends soon, Diana. Stay safe and well! --Brenda Novak

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  6. I don't know if this was a perfect summer but the most memorable one was the summer after finishing my first year of university. I majored in geography/environmental studies and my parents had never understand my desire to travel and visit new places. They had never been to Europe but supported my desire to do a solo trip to Europe.

    So I did the Eurail/Britrail/youth hostel trip for 6 weeks, and started my travels in Berlin, Germany. This was in 1986, so Berlin was a divided city with the famous Berlin Wall. I used the basic German I learned from onr elective course in university, as well as my more advanced French fluency to travel across several countries.

    I was a real Anglophile in those days, totally in love with the Golden Age mystery authors as well having watched so many PBS mystery and ITV/Granada TV shows. I remember hiking alone in Yorkshire and Cornwall coasts as well as in remote parts of Wales. I even visited the tiny town of Hay-on-Wye which has is known as the town of books with numerous bookshops.

    All in all, it was an eye-opening, memorable summer that confirmed my love of geography and travel which influenced my life in so many ways.

    Diana - I am so envious that you took classes at Oxford and spent time reading in the Bodleian library. I visited both Oxford (and Cambridge) during that trip and dreamed about being one of those students and meeting Inspector Morse!

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    1. That is ABSOLUTELY a perfect summer. And so great to "see" you last night at theBoston Noir at the Bar! I hope you had fun. Wasn't it great?

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    2. Yes, I had a great time at the Boston Noir at the Bar, Hank! Your reading of the Murder List was fantastic...that argument between Jack and Rachel was a great choice!! And thank goodness the winds only started to howl towards the end of the session. And how did Edwin (host) get all those fun facts about you (and the other authors)? So funny!

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    3. Terrific, Grace! And oh, thank you so much… It was fun to read. And Edwin made us tell him. :-) what a fun idea.

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    4. Yes, that was a brilliant idea. We were laughing, gasping and commenting about the fun facts as we were listening to all of you reading. I heard the Rolling Stone magazine and Hunter S. Thompson stories before but never the one about your job at the Dairy Queen!

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    5. Grace, it was a wonderful experience. And I am still an Anglophile these days. Your youth hostel trip sounds like a great experience! I didn't get to visit France nor Germany nor Switzerland nor continental Europe until years later!

      Diana

      Diana

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    6. I agree! This is the best summer imaginable! LOL What fabulous memories! (I dream of moving to Europe for a few months.) :) --Brenda Novak

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    7. Brenda, I dream of living in Europe too.

      Diana

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    8. Diana and Brenda, I also dream of (eating) and living in Europe. Alas, all the things I love doing in these countries will not be allowed until this COVID-19 pandemic is controlled.

      I am still an Anglophile but not as smitten as when I was in my early 20s. Back then, I would estimate that 80% of the books I read were set in the UK (vs. North America). These days, my reading preferences have shifted the opposite way (70% North American authors, 20% UK authors, 10% other countries).

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  7. That happened to my partner. His birth son found him and now we have a whole new family in our lives whom we adore - and grandkids!

    Ah, but you asked about a perfect summer. It felt like every summer was perfect when I was a kid. Swimming, reading under a tree, eating fresh peaches and apricots and corn, playing, frosty milkshakes, Girl Scout camp, and family camping in the Sierras. A summer or two during my college years (I didn't go home for the summers), were pretty perfect, too, when I had love and adventure and health.

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    1. Oh, Edith--tell us more! I'd love to hear about the finding-a-family experience--in fact, that's a truly fascinating question, too! (SO I added it to the blog.) I have a pal who found out her real father --was someone completely different that the person she adored and grew up with. She had a whole additional family! It was--very complicated.

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    2. Hugh knew he had fathered a son who was given up for adoption. Surprised the heck out of him to be contacted. Turns out the biggest fear on both sides was about political views (Chris contacted him about six months after the last presidential election...). Luckily we are all of like minds, and they live a mile from my son in Silver Spring! Three darling grandkids, too, our first. A true joy.

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    3. How interesting that you have some experience with everything that's happening with these ancestry tests. Sounds like it had a happy ending, which is even better, Edith. I smiled at your memories, too. Thanks for sharing! --Brenda Novak

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  8. Oh, Edith--tell us more! I'd love to hear about the finding-a-family experience--in fact, that's a truly fascinating question, too! (SO I added it to the blog.) I have a pal who found out her real father --was someone completely different that the person she adored and grew up with. She had a whole additional family! It was--very complicated.

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  9. First of all, Hank, your story of how you met Brenda is a very good one! Lots of "how we met" stories are about lifelong friends. I am definitely going to look for Brenda's books and I can start anywhere because her works will be completely new to me! I am very excited!

    In my opinion, summer is almost always magical. I have stories like Kathy's because coming of age stories are almost always memorable. But, I guess that the most magical has to be the camping trip we took to New Hampshire when the kids were little. We stayed at a campground near a river up near North Conway. There was a pump for water, we bathed in the river, and the outhouse was cleaned daily...somewhat primitive. I cooked our meals on the fire and on a small camp stove. We pitched tents and slept on mats in our sleeping bags. It was incredibly romantic, I can't even describe how in love I was that summer.

    There were bears nearby. Occasionally we'd see footprints and there was a restaurant that lured one to it's garbage bin in the parking lot to bring in customers!One night we heard a commotion on our picnic table and it was a bunch of baby racoons.

    Anyway, lots of adventures for everyone. The kids loved it. Best memories. Best memories!

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    1. What a wonderful memory! Awwwww...

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    2. Hank is the most generous person on the planet. She such a talent, as you all know--in so many arenas. So glad we met. I enjoyed hearing about your camping trip. That sounds so wonderful. It made me want to go camping again! LOL --Brenda Novak

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  10. A perfect summer? I think it was the one between high school and college, a summer of innocence and being in love.

    I do have a 23 and Me experience. I did this a few years ago, and I've found a few people with whom I share a set of great grandparents, but there is one standout. I found a first cousin once removed that no one in my family knew existed -- well almost no one. He is the son of a first cousin and his college girlfriend, was given up for adoption at birth. He lives in Cincinnati, has a wife and three gorgeous children and looks like a viking, red beard and all.

    We correspond a couple of times a year, and I told the rest of the cousins all about him. He's been the topic of conversation at a lot of family dinners! His father is a bit of a reprobate, and none of the rest of us are in contact with him, on his third family now.

    But he, his name is Chris, had done massive genealogical research on our family, and I have access to it. It goes all the way back to 1725! What a treasure. I've gone over some of it and was able to add a bit of my own knowledge re my immediate family, middle names, birthdates including a baby that died shortly after birth, stuff like that. It's great fun and so intriguing.




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    1. So fascinating—incredibly life-changing. And life-affirming, too, don’t you think?

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    2. So glad you've made contact with Chris! That's wonderful. So many people are interested in genealogy these days. My mother has done a great deal of it as well. Enjoy your spring, Ann! :) --Brenda Novak

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  11. I'm sure this wasn't as "perfect" as I remember it, but I recall one of the summers I was in middle school as just about as good as it gets. It might have been 1971? (Not sure, really, but I looked up the Billboard music charts and that looked like the playlist I remember.) I was too young to have any real responsibilities, and old enough that my body was transitioning from girl to woman -- or to put it differently, I was aware that how I looked in a bathing suit caused a reaction.

    I had a group of friends from school and we all belonged to the same swimming pool, positioned at the far edge of our subdivision. I would sleep in late, dress in my swimsuit with something over it, and ride my bike to the pool where I would meet my friends. We would devote the entire day to sunbathing, flirting with the lifeguards, gossiping, and occasionally swimming. I never had a lot of pocket money, but it was enough to buy a few beverages or ice cream over the course of the day. Who needs lunch anyway? As I reflect on it, there had to be more to the summer than that. But that is the memory, lit with a warm sunshine glow, that comes to my head when I think of my perfect summer.

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    1. I remember summer is like that! And before we cared about I remember summers like that! And before we cared about sunscreen,...

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    2. Wow! That sounds lovely, Susan. And isn't it funny how music can anchor our memories so easily?

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  12. Good Morning all: One Perfect Day in a Seattle Summer. I am between 2nd and 3rd grade. I curl up on the lawn swing in the back yard, puffy clouds drift over head. I open a new to me Oz book, borrowed from my mother's friend. By the end of the day, I have finished the book. The first time ever I completed a "lotsa pages book" in one day.

    Welcome to JRW's Brenda. May your virtual tour be filled with faces, and your books sales be brisk.

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    1. A lotsa pages book! CLASSIC and such a fabulous way to put it !

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    2. Love hearing how readers first come to books. I remember finding the classics shelf in the school library--that was the first time I really enjoyed reading, and it was a "lotsa pages" type of thing, too. LOL Stay safe and well, Coralee! --Brenda Novak

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  13. That's the thing about those DNA tests that...I don't know if "frighten" is the right word, but I'll use it anyway - frightens me. What would I find out? And do I want to?

    A perfect summer? Gosh, I don't know. The summer after I graduated high school, maybe. There wasn't any specific thing that made it "perfect," no trips or anything. But I was done with high school and ready for my next adventure. So ready. I had a driver's license, access to a car, and a job (so I had money in my pocket). For a 17, soon to be 18, year-old girl, what could be better?

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    1. So agree! A perfect moment in time.

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    2. It is definitely a double-edged sword, Liz. The secrets could turn out to be wonderful--or not so wonderful. I think it's created a lot of dilemmas for people. Then there's my husband. He had his done, but it turned up nothing really interesting either way. Ha! Except that he has an unusually high amount of neanderthal in his DNA! (And I coulda told him that! Joking!) --Brenda Novak

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  14. Happy virtual book tour, Brenda! Best of luck with your latest book.

    My memories of a perfect summer are from the one I spent volunteering at a children's theatre on Cape Cod. I had met the woman whose mother ran it while I was in France working as an au pair between high school and university. Somehow, I made the bold decision to take on this final adventure before getting on with my studies in the fall, and I loved it. I auditioned for roles, stage managed and even stepped into a main role when the young woman was injured seriously in a boating accident. It was all thrilling and total innocence, not so much as a kiss did I experience with any one of the group of young people I met that summer. But it was huge fun -- and close to perfect.

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    1. Oh my goodness, Amanda, a star is born! What play was it, do you remember?

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    2. Margaret: YES! My friend was Mame (MaryAnn) and her mother might have been...Lillian?

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    3. Hank: I auditioned for Heidi (got the maid role instead), stage managed Wind in the Willows (loved making the noise for the car crashing with a box of broken glass etc.) and stepped into a child-detective role in Emil and the Detectives. Loved it all!

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    4. I've never been to Cape Cod, but it is definitely on my bucklet list. I admire you for being brave enough to be on stage. I would run the other way if they tried to rope me into taking over the lead. LOL --Brenda Novak

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  15. Brenda, congratulations on your new release!

    A childhood perfect summer: 2 weeks at Y camp in the Poconos followed by 3 weeks at my grandparents' Cape Cod cottage followed by a blissful month of evading my mother's chore list, riding my bike to the library to read in air-conditioned comfort all day.

    To give Mom credit, we started with weeding the lawn, stripping layers of wallpaper and washing windows and screens, and graduated to interior painting, sewing curtains and dresses, and furniture refinishing. I missed the wallpaper hanging summer.

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    1. So many projects! We had to pick up all the sticks in the front yard. We hated that! but now it makes me laugh to remember.

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    2. Pick up sticks, Hank? Where did they all come from?! Sorry, I am sounding like the Toronto city girl that I was growing up.

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    3. Thank you, Margaret! I remember stripping wallpaper off the wall one summer. Seeing you mention it made me chuckle. I would love to see Cape Cod one day. How wonderful that your grandparents had a cottage there! --Brenda Novak

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  16. I have loved reading these stories! Thank you for getting people to tell them. I can't pick out one perfect summer, but I have so many wonderful memories, bits here and there.

    As for any experience with DNA I have found no surprises. My mother had already done extensive genealogical research, going way, way back so I knew I was related to Abraham Lincoln (we had the same grandfather more greats ago than I can remember). Wouldn't that have been a wonderful surprise had I not known about it?

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    1. Wow—amazing no matter how you found out!

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    2. Abraham Lincoln? Wow! I would say that's a pleasant surprise. My mother, too, has done tons of genealogy. I'm related to many of the kings and queens of England (but only through a bastard son of William IV--or I think that's the name my mother once gave me--ha!). Have a great day! Brenda Novak

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  17. When I was young summers were ideal and memorable because we were allowed the freedom in the 1950's to bike everywhere, walk to the park, pools, and enjoy life. I know my ancestry from my parents and grandparents but my son bought me the ancestry.com gift and everything I knew was confirmed.

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    1. Oh, so no surprises! What did you think about that?

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  18. I had a perfect summer, but I can't tell you all about it because sometimes my daughters read this blog!

    Just as I can't resist Christmas-themed books during the holidays, I absolutely adore novels set in the summertime during that season. Stories set in lake houses, or on Nantucket, or on a beach anywhere are right in my sweet spot. Show me a picture of a hammock and some glimmering water and I am there, baby!

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    1. Then I can't wait to see how you like this book, which is set in Lake Tahoe, not far from where I live, Julia. I love the cover, don't you? (And I chuckled at the reason you couldn't put down your memory.) --Brenda Novak

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  19. I experienced a perfect summer when I spent a week at a resort in The Catskills. Young and in love for the first time ever with a young man I met at the pool. He changed my life. Amazing and wonderful. I would love to capture another summer like that but they are gone.

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    1. Awww..what an adorable memory. I can truly picture that!

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    2. That sounds like the perfect romance, Petite. :) I have never been to the Catskills (being a West Coast girl), but I plan to get there one day! --Brenda Novak

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  20. I'd say most of my summers when I was a kid (pre-teen) were magical. We rode our bikes everywhere. Dad took us to the pool in the evenings. I swapped Nancy Drew books with friends. We would take car trips to the beach or to my grandparents' ranch. Sometime longer car trips to vacation spots. There was usually a week of scout camp to look forward to. I looked for fossils and arrowheads at my grandparents'. Usually my cousin managed to visit at the same time and we had a ball. Grandma usually turned a blind eye to some of our moronic feats, or maybe she just turned us loose and hoped for the best.

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    1. She trusted you, absolutely! What a lovely set of memories!

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  21. I rode my bike or walked . . . to the library! We picked out as many books as we were allowed, and enjoyed the a/c before heading back home in noonday heat. I read under shade trees, or sometimes in a tree. Now, embracing retirement, I have summer reading all year long . . . and now, a new author! Yay! <3

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    1. Yay is right! We have a great reading tree in our backyard, cannot wait for the grands to come back and try it out.

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    2. So glad you're going to give ONE PERFECT SUMMER a try, Mary. I loved your story about going to the library. Made me smile. :) --Brenda Novak

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  22. While she was still alive, our friend Mike promised his mother never to look for his birth father. She passed away last year, and Mike's son decided to search for his grandfather. Amazingly, he had only recently died himself, and the obituary listed another son. The older man had been married at least twice more, and Mike ended up finding a half-brother who is so like him it's uncanny. This was after growing up an only child.

    Like Edith's Hugh, there was hesitation because of political views, but it also worked out fine.

    My best summer has to have been the one right after Steve and I were married. My oldest daughter was 11, and we took her to the Upper Peninsula in Michigan--first time in that state for both of us--where Steve had spent all his boyhood summers. We also had lots of fun social gatherings in our new home together, and we got a puppy. It was the most carefree time I had ever had up until then.

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    1. These DNA stories are so fascinating to me. How wonderful that he found a brother after being an only child. So glad it's a positive thing for him. And so odd that they are that similar, right? Also love your story about your summer after you were just married. :) --Brenda Novak

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  23. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    1. I made it, Hank! I just have to put my name since it won't do it automatically for me. ha! --Brenda Novak

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  24. Brenda is reading the comments like crazy, and with much delight, but is having trouble getting her own comments to stick! She’ll be back in a little while, and we will try again! But meanwhile, she is seeing every one. Xxxx

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  25. Hi Brenda, and congratulations on the book! Right now, reading about summer sounds very appealing.

    I remember all my childhood summers as perfect, so it would be hard to choose among those. But maybe my best ever summer was the one I spent traveling around Britain on my own the year after I graduated from college. I had a bus pass, and stayed mostly in cheap B&Bs. And mostly it was cold, gray, and rainy, but it was glorious.

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    1. And we are so grateful for that! xxox

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    2. So envious, Deborah. Your perfect summer is exactly the kind of summer I would like to have. :) --Brenda Novak

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  26. Hi, Brenda! It's delightful to see you here at Jungle Reds. I am such a huge fan of your work but also of your cause! Thank you for all that you do in the fight against diabetes. I can't wait to pick up One Perfect Summer!

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    1. Thanks so much, Jenn. I'm grateful for your support of my work and my efforts to raise money. Because of you and others like you, we've raised over $2.6 million. I miss doing the auctions. Maybe I'll start up again one day! Hope you really love the book! XO --Brenda Novak

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  27. Brenda: I remember seeing your name but I'm sorry to say I haven't brought one of your books home. I think I need to remedy that, soon. My youngest aunt, mother's baby sister, has been fixated with genealogy for years. My dad's mom used tell me about about her family establishing in Oklahoma. After her death, I found some very remote family members through Ancestry.... I corrected my great grandfather's name and wondered if grandma knew about some of scandalous stories I found.

    Perfect summer. Oh, well. This goody-goody didn't have anything as marvelous or adventurous has some of you. We stayed home. Swimming lessons when we were young, summer school as we got older, volunteering at the church's concession during the county fair.... I didn't travel except with my family. Of course financial constraints stop adventures and did I mention I was a goody-goody? I think I'm still looking for that special time of adventure. Perfection? No, not so much. But a positive adventure would be great. Bouchercon last fall, in Dallas, would have come close because it was so far outside my norm but in the background I was keeping track of the Kincaid fire back home. It will come, someday.

    (And, Julia: I just finished your book, write faster, please.)

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    1. Deana, you are such a dear pal. It WILL! (and doesn't that "normal" sound lovely?)

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    2. I'm excited that you're going to try my work, Deana. Thanks for being open to a new-to-you author. I hope you will enjoy ONE PERFECT SUMMER. I chuckled at the fact that you were a goody-goody. There's certainly nothing wrong with that. Still, you have many good memories. Glad you got to go to Bouchercon. I've only been once myself, and I really enjoyed it! :) --Brenda Novak

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  28. YAY Brenda! What a rock star--she battled the comment gremlin--and WON! Cue the victory music. LOVED having you here today, dear Brenda! And congratulations on your wild success.
    We will leave the drawing open a bit longer--just in case!

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  29. They were so perfect when I was young! I could check out as many books as I could carry to read all those long summer days!

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