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Pitch- This women's fiction novel, based in the south, is told through both Penny's and Janie's perspectives, with flashback chapters to Penny's youth. It's a story about love, family and learning how to trust your heart. 

Three generations of strong-headed Hale women:

·        Daughter, Janie must choose between a fiancé and an old boyfriend

·        Mother, Nancy has a terrible secret

·        Grandmother, Penny can’t stop thinking of an old love

Now all three women must face the music

 

Chapter One

Penny

 

Judgmental. Power-hungry. Manipulative. That’s my daughter-in-law in a nutshell. Yet she broadcasted to me and everyone within earshot at the airport terminal, “Whoever this mystery guest is that Janie is bringing home from Italy better not act like all the other phony-acting Italian men I know.”

“Nancy.” My son, Mac, drew out his wife’s name like the stroke of a paintbrush, long and slow until it just faded out. “What does that even mean? Phony-acting Italian? Do you know a lot of phony-acting Italian men?”

Nancy glared at Mac. “Yes, as a matter of fact, I do. And I’m not fooled by their fake charm.”

Mac chuckled and wrapped his arms around his uptight bride, hugging her back to his chest.  “Well, she didn’t say where he was from. She just said she was bringing home a guy she met in Italy. I’m sure he’s American. Otherwise, why would he be coming to Atlanta?”

“The Atlanta airport is a hub,” I said. “He could be catching a connecting flight.”

Nancy gave me a look that said, Duh––I’m not stupid, I know all about the Atlanta airport.

Mac nodded agreeably. “He probably­­ just needs a place to stay for the night. You know how accommodating Janie’s always been. I’m sure she’s just helping a friend. I doubt it’s anything serious.” Mac hugged his wife tighter and kissed the side of her head. Her face softened slightly.

“Besides,” he said. “Janie wouldn’t have had time to get serious with anyone in Italy. She’s been backpacking all over Europe for two months. Italy was just her starting and ending points.”

“I don’t know,” I said. “Venice is one of the most romantic places on this Earth. It wouldn’t take long to fall in love there.”

I snickered and Nancy glared at me, her jaw clenching tight.

“Penny.” She barked out my name like she was about to bite my head off, but then swallowed and looked away.  

 Uncomfortable silence hung in the air, as was often the case when Nancy and I were together. She typically glared at me like she on the verge of saying something rude, and I typically bit the side of my cheek around her, so I didn’t spill what I really knew. She was a not-so-secret cheater on her husband, who’d crushed her daughter’s faith in love. Instead, we both focused on Mac, directing our conversations through him instead of at each other. “Does Janie start her new job next week?”

Mac looked at Nancy for clarification.

“Yes, the Tuesday after Labor Day,” she said gruffly. “And if she even thinks about pushing her start date back again, I’ll wring her neck. It was hard enough for me to convince them to wait until after this little adventure she planned.” Nancy shrugged her shoulders and her eyes fluttered shut. She heaved a heavy, self-righteous breath. “PR jobs are hard to come by. A job at this firm is a dream for most new college graduates.”

Mac sighed and ran a hand through his thinning hair. “She’ll be there.”

“I hope you’re right,” Nany quipped. “Because I sure can’t depend on her these days.”

I rolled my eyes. “Here we go again.”

I should have held my tongue. After seventy-seven years on this glorious planet, I should have learned how to be the bigger person and keep quiet when Nancy was in one of her moods. Lord knows, the last thing we needed was for Janie to arrive back home in Atlanta for the first time in months to find all of us fighting. That poor child deserved a happy homecoming for once, seeing as almost every visit home during her college years had ended in a knock-down-drag-out-mother-daughter brawl over the most innocuous events. Yet none of those fights ever addressed the true elephant in the room. The incident from Janie’s senior year of high school when she overheard her mother confessing to having an affair. She came to me instead of confronting her mother about it and we’ve all been dancing around this dirty secret ever since.

Mac groaned audibly. “Mother, please,” he said through measured breaths. “Can we please just be nice to each other? At least for one day?” 

 “I’m sorry, honey.” I said, patting Mac’s arm. “You’re right. Today is supposed to be a happy day.” 

A sad smile crossed his face springing instant tears to my eyes. I blinked them away and smiled. An unspoken pain passed between us. The fleeting reminder that in the six months since my husband had died, our grief had come to be measured by how many things we could look forward to instead of how many moments made us sad. Today was supposed to be one of those good days. 

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This is an interesting situation for the opening of novel: the clash of the local and familial and provincial on the one hand and the foreign and exotic on the other looks to offer real potential. Especially at the end of this, your reader is really interested to know how the family dealt with the revelation about the "elephant in the room."

That said, the very beginning paragraphs are a little confusing and disorienting for the reader. You've got the grandmother narrating, talking about her daughter-in-law and then mentioning someone named Janie (who is not the daughter-in-law but rather the grand-daughter), and as a result it's very hard to keep it all in your head. Plus there is a fourth individual being introduced, the mysterious Italian, and a fifth, the father of Janie and son of the grandmother. And all of these five characters are being introduced at the same time. Perhaps this is not the very opening of the novel, and there is more before this that clarifies this series of relationships?

If not, I might begin the novel from Janie's perspective so as to offer the opportunity to provide more context. These characters seem like they know each other well, so perhaps Janie could be imagining the kinds of things her judgmental and hypocritical mother might be saying and her grandmother's perception of them. And along the way you could provide more context. You note that Janie also knows this dark secret about her mother, and is probably, at the back of her mind, reminded about it by her own romantic life, but perhaps she never lets it come to the surface of her consciousness. After all, she is embarrassed for her mother and especially for her father, who has been humiliated. She wants to defend his honor and the honor of the family and most of all, she wants herself to be nothing like her mother. This would allow you to fill in more of the details and introduce and contextualize the entire situation more gradually.

Examples:

Talking about her mother and grandmother:

I could almost hear the conversation between them, with her pretending she doesn't understand why a man would fly across the Atlantic to visit her daughter. It was that shrill voice of hers, that never failed to betray that corrupted soul. "Of all the men to bring home to her parents," she would ask them. And mixed in would be her infernal ignorance: "And not any Italian--not one from say New York or New Jersey. One from Italy itself!" And all along, that traitor's heart of hers that almost led her to...well, it was almost unspeakable what she had done.

In any case, I certainly don't care what she thinks. I don't owe her any explanation. Whatever fulminations erupt from that cancerous hole at the front of her face are her business and her business alone.

With some relief, my mind turned to grandma. Grandma alone understands. She alone had peered into the darkness that was my mother's heart and lived to tell the tale. Even as Dad had remained willfully blind to it all, she alone saw through the facade. 

She had grown up during the Depression and knew enough about low-lifes and cheats to spot a grifter from a mile away. Yes, it must have been that hard life she once led that allowed her to see through it all.

 

Then along the way, you can give background about the mother and the father in more detail. "In contrast, my mother was born in a mansion outside of Savannah Georgia."

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Hi Spencer,

I love the complex relationships you're mining here. One thing that felt off to me was the setting. They are in an airport terminal? How is that possible in today's world? Maybe they are in baggage claim? That would make more sense. But whatever the case, I didn't get a sense of the crowds of people and announcements and cool air conditioning etc. It seems more like three people just talking. 

Yes, the dialogue is rich and interesting. But if you could ground the reader more in a place and time, I think it would feel even more believable. 

I really love the secret affair that Janie and Penny know about. Does Mac know? Does Nancy know that Penny knows? I'm looking forward to learning more about this secret and how everyone has handled it so far and what they will do in the course of the story. 

Also looking forward to meeting this mystery man from Italy. 

One little question that bumped me out of the story is why does Nancy have so much to do with Janie's new job? 

Lastly, what is Penny's goal? Right now it seems like she doesn't have one. Why did she come along to the airport? What is she hoping for right now? 

I hope these thoughts are helpful! 

Good luck,

Brenda

 

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I just noticed something else: Italian men are not typically known as being "phony-acting." Typically, in the Anglo-American world, the stereotype of Italians is either one of cheating or machiavellian or manipulative. In other words, exactly like Nancy, per your description here, which might open some other doors for you.

Hope my comments help as well. I really like the entire set-up here.

My other question though was who are they waiting for here? Initially, I thought it was both Janie and the mystery man who were both arriving on the same flight, but looking over it again now, I'm not sure if it's just him. So then where is Janie? Maybe just clarify these details.

I agree that the airport thing is a little strange. I assume they are at another airport than the Atlanta airport. It would be good to make it clear what city or regional airport they are in. 

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The family drama getting repressed is coming through and tells me it will be a rocky road for Janie and her mother. In ways the opening was punchy but also misguided me on who was the main characters in the story. It led me to believe Nancy was going to be one of the most important characters and possibly the main character.

I love your writing! Knowing about Nancy's affair gives such another dimension to where this story is heading. My ancestors are from the south, specifically Georgia, so I always love stories in Georgia.

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I love the mother-in-law, daughter-in-law duo that you set up right out of the gate. It makes me feel like there will be some good drama around those two, so immediately I’m interested in reading more. The Nancy and Mac playful element is nice - I’m interested in seeing how/why that still exists between them, despite Nancy’s cheating.

Seems like you have some firecracker characters that will allow for some nice storylines. Love the span of age, I think there’s a lot you can do with that.

One thing-it took me a second to catch on that Janie is Mac and Nancy’s daughter. I missed the subtle wording that first eluded to that and had to re-read the paragraph to make sure I was following correctly. I wonder if adding a line from Nancy like, “What is my 18-year old (or however old she is) doing with an Italian man…blah, blah, blah…” in one of her rants, might help the reader determine that Janie is young, and oh…Nancy’s daughter, okay. Just an extra clue to solidify where she fits in within the family dynamics as the characters are first being introduced to us. Then again, I haven’t had nearly enough coffee this morning…so it might just be me!

I would love to read more-I think you’ve got us hooked!

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