Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Must Life Always Contain Both Happiness and Sadness? Olivia deBelle Byrd Explores Question in Save My Place...

In this world we move through shadows
Never sure of what we see
While the truth abides between us
Come and share the truth with me

Take my hand and lift me higher
Be my love ad my desire
Hold me safe in honor bound
Take my heart to higher ground

My stubborn Southern mind was made up. At the ripe old age of twenty-two, I was to become an old maid. Given that fact, I determined it was judicious of me to further my education, so I had taken the graduate exam and applied to the University of Georgia for a master's degree in education. Since the school was incidental to my momentous decision to enter the world of spinsterhood, the University of Georgia was selected based on the sole criterion of a college sorority sister who needed a roommate. This pivotal U-turn in my life was the indirect result of my college boyfriend of three years--the man I was to marry, settle down with in a cottage by the sea, and live with happily ever after--unceremoniously breaking up with me exactly twenty-four hours after my college graduation...

Thus begins the story of Elisabeth Belle Sterling... Based partially on the life of a close friend of the author, Shirley Dunn...

Save My Place
Recently nominated as one of three finalists for the Florida Publishers Association Presidents Awards for Florida Fiction for Adults and Cover Design

By Olivia deBelle Byrd

The only odd thing that
happened was Cameron
told me he never planned
on getting married Since
I had never met a soul in
the world whose future
plans did not include
marriage,  I did not
actually believe him.
I don't think I've ever known any true Southern girls, who apparently have some type of mystique about them? LOL But as I read Byrd's story, I thought Mary Steenbergen's basic personality might easily play the life of Elisabeth Belle Sterling, the narrator and main character in the first novel by Olivia deBelle Bryd. The story takes place during the Vietnam War and Elisabeth becomes the wife of a military man...

But first, she shares much about her early life and on through college when she decides to remain unmarried and become a spinster. Congrats to her that she did keep her promise to herself not to have sex before married, but no way was she going to remain a spinster after she meets the right man! Of course that was quite awhile after she had fallen in love with Cameron and then got jilted right after college graduation.

Cameron and I both loved the art of conversation. We spent hours discussing a myriad of topics--philosophy, religion, psychology, books and his love, the Beatles. Movies were a fetish for us, and Cameron could dissect a scene or line of dialogue like no one I had ever been around. We cut our teeth on The Graduate, Dr. Zhivago, and Easy Rider...

When I arrived at Jane's that Friday night, I
could not believe it when I met my blind date.
Being an incurable romantic, it was no surprise
the minute I saw the movie Camelot, I was lost.
Guinevere got it all wrong. King Arthur's
strength was like an anchor while at the same
time being gentle and sensual...standing in front
of me was a knight in shining armor. He even
had an enchanted name and a mass of silky hair.
His name was Kincaid. I do not know what I fell
in love with first--that mane of magnificent
hair or his magical name...

I won't say that her story prior to marriage was any different than other young women, perhaps being a little dramatic when she declared she was considering entering a convent since she was having such lousy luck in dating...

Luckily her friend, Mary Kate...dissuaded me of this ingenious idea. Elisabeth," she said, "you are not one for the confines of a convent. You're entirely too feisty. Quite frankly, you make Maria in The Sound of Music look like Mother Superior. Besides you are not even Catholic...

Kincaid and Elisabeth soon became a couple, then married and readers begin to know more about both of them, but Kincaid would never talk about his mother. Elisabeth was tenacious in solving mysteries, but when Kincaid's mother showed up at their home one day, she immediately knew it was upsetting her husband...

Soon Elisabeth was teaching and their life was happy until Kincaid was called to go to Vietnam. Elisabeth was devastated since they had just celebrated their first anniversary... While we listen to Elisabeth's favorite song, I want to share just one of her letters from the book to Kinkaid in Vietnam...

January 16, 1973, Sunday night
Dear Kincaid,
Everyone says I should write positive thoughts so you won't get depressed, but it ain't gonna happen. You know better than anyone that I am an open book.
I miss you so much it hurts physically and emotionally. In case you haven't picked up on it in the last year and a half, I REALLY love sex (note the capital letters). You are an amazing teacher, and I cannot wait until you are holding me in your arms again. I REALLY miss having conversation with you (note the capital letters). I do realize I do most of the talking. Like my mother says, "Is there any thought that does not come out of your mouth?" But when you do talk, you are very wise or very funny. It is no fun laughing at my own jokes, which is a lie as I have not laughed since you left. Also I REALLY hate taking out the garbabe (note the capital letters). It stinks, and I wait so long it gets very heavy.
I also told you, early in our relationship, I dislike martyrs, so it should come as no surprise to you I am a terrible one. I have pretty much whined since you left. My parents have quit taking my calls. Not really, I am their child, so they have to listen to me.
I would write some news, but there isn't any. Oh, yeah, America is fighting a war in Vietnam, of all places. Seven years ago, eight percent of Americans could not even find Vietnam on a map. Now we are shooting at each other. So much for my stab at humor, but I will write news when I get out of my depression and actually leave the house.
Karen misses you terribly too, but I have no sympathy for her as she is still have sex--wonderful sex, somewhat thanks to me and my dazzling, albeit short-lived, career as a sex therapist. Even curt is moping around. There is no one to laugh at his corny jokes as Karen and I refuse to lower ourselves to his level of humor. When I stopped by the other day, Colin kept asking for "K," so of course, I started bawling and had to leave.
Well, that is all the uplifting news I have no now. I am going out this afternoon to spend all our savings on a new emerald and pearl ring to match my incredibly gorgeous anniversary necklace. That should cheer me up.
On a serious note, our last night together was one of the most beautiful nights of my life even with the sadness. I have never felt closer or more a part of you. In your very wise way, your last words to me were uniquely Kincaid--"Save my place."
Your place is saved and I live you deeply, Eliza
P.S. I am not really going to go out and blow our savings on an emerald and pearl ring.

Elisabeth is funny, romantic and wonderfully in love with her husband and constantly lets him know... But sorrow is coming and Elisabeth will not be able to handle it well...

This is the first book I've read set during the Vietnam War that provides the perspective of the wife left behind to wait... I am sure that any woman in that situation, no matter what war, will find this compelling book a worthwhile read. It literally is full of emotional stimulus--excitement, happiness, sadness... and more sadness... There is a strength to Elisabeth and Kincaid's love, but there just may be a bigger hand holding their lives...

...Grandmother Reid never let me forget that there was a God to give me strength. "Grandmother Reid," I said on one of my more uncharitable days. "if one more well-meaning soul tells me God does not give you more than you can handle, I swear, I am going to put my puny hands around their neck and try to strangle them."
"Child, that saying is just plain hogwash," Grandmother Reid said, "It is the biggest falsehood perpetrated on religion since the days of the Garden of Eden. It happens all the time. But what God has promised is that He will be with us whatever happens to give us inner strength to draw upon. It is up to us whether we let him help us. Some do, some don't. It's a body's choice..."

Yes, there are so many books out there to read, but I do hope you give this one your consideration... It is highly recommended and may be just what you needed at this time...



It began as a mundane task of cleaning out my filing cabinet. I happened upon a humorous anecdote I had written when my son was sixteen years old. He had asked me a question pertaining to sex that had struck me as funny. Since we Southerners have a penchant for turning ordinary happenings into entertainment, I had written an anecdote about it. My husband and daughter were sitting in the room so I read this anecdote to them and they looked at me with their mouths agape and said, "Honey/Mom, that is really funny!" The truth is they were amazed I could write something other than thank you notes. 

A few days later, I was telling one of my oft repeated stories and my husband said to me in exasperation, "Why don't you write this stuff down?" The Scarlett O'Hara in me, who loves nothing more than a good challenge, surfaced and these two occurrences spurred me to action. Why not write some of these tales down for my children as a Christmas gift? I had a quest.

Since I had been raised by a Southern father and grandmother of uncommon wit, the fabric of my childhood was laced with humor. When I finally put pen to paper, the stories flowed as freely as water drops on a rainy day. The tales would surface in the quiet of church, where it seems much of my book was written on the back of offering envelopes. It would probably be best if my preacher never discovered this little fact. One day I was thirty minutes late picking my daughter up from the airport, where she was perched on her suitcase, hands in face. I had pulled over to the side of the road to write. When I surfaced from this rain storm of writing, I realized I had actually written a book!

With the encouragement and mentoring of two wonderful Southern authors, I began the arduous journey into the world of manuscripts and rejection letters. I had armed myself by reading everything I could on publishing and growing a thick skin, but the rejection letters were growing faster than my skin. Then, miraculously, thirty-one months and fourteen rejection letters later, Miss Hildreth Wore Brown-Anecdotes of a Southern Belle was published by an independent New York publisher. 

Lives have many forks in the road, but this was a U-turn in mine. The world of marketing a book has taken me down many new paths. My readers have made the lost sleep, uncertainty, and long hours worth it all. I have made new friends and renewed old friendships. I have found family I never knew existed. Every time a reader tells me they laughed at my words, my soul smiles. I have been in love with the written word as long as I can remember and to use it to bring pleasure to others is the greatest pleasure of all. 

Olivia deBelle Byrd is a self-proclaimed Southern Belle who resides in Panama City, Florida, with her husband, Tommy. She is the author of Save My Place & Miss Hildreth Wore Brown--Anecdotes of a Southern Belle.

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