Jo and Gina
The Scrapbook Series
Book 1, Tomorrow’s Promise
Book 2, Crossing Yesterday
Book 3, Unraveling
Book 4, The Other Side
Book 5, Wait For Me…
Everyone says that hindsight is 20/20. If that’s true, how much of that image in the rear view affects who we are today, or what we will become tomorrow?
Jo and Gina grew up during the 60’s and 70’s. One of the most turbulent social times in America’s history. Their choices as young girls have had a tremendous impact on the women they have become. As they look back to see just how far they’ve come, they long for the friendship they once shared.
Book 1, Tomorrow’s Promise Excerpt:
Life threw them together…growing, learning, and leaning on each other.
“Wait…wait, Jorja. Quit going so fast. I gotta catch up, you’re going too fast. Wait for meee…”
“You’re too slow. You can catch up later. Just follow the path. I’ll be waiting at the end…”
Somewhere along the way, they chose different paths.
Jorja Ann Felsenthal was chosen as one of the first female cadets to enter the USAF Academy in 1976 in Colorado Springs, CO. She has learned to adapt and overcome and her life has been consumed with a military career. An original member of a team responsible for developing and then implementing the latest in military technology (the internet), her life has been filled with classified knowledge, constant travel, and a disciplined life. There just wasn’t time for old friendships and family ties. Especially those in the hills and hollers of Polk Ridge, Arkansas.
As the years pass, assignment after assignment has taken her around the globe. She’s visited almost every continent. Never straying very far from her military existence, Jo has kept her heart closed as if it too, contained classified information. Thanks to the traumatic events of Jack Mountain during basic training, perhaps it does.
She only ever once allowed a man into her life. Phillip Smart. The warm eyes of Phillip Smart had taken her heart by surprise. Those warm seductive eyes and disarming smile taught her once more that relationships were too painful and entangled for her military life.
Rather than choosing retirement when her years with the military are complete, she begins a second career with the Department of Defense as a contractor working in their cybercrime unit. Once again, she’s surrounded by the latest in technology and intelligence, as well as a few of her closest friends. George Durand and Maggie Johnson. If not for her mother’s sudden hospitalization, Jo would have been content to spend the rest of her days immersed in her cyber world. Now, those family ties she has long neglected necessitate a return to Polk Ridge. But a return to what?
Regina Marie Ingram broke the news to Robert Phillips only days before he was scheduled to leave for college; his dreams of a baseball scholarship and college education erased the moment Regina uttered the word “pregnant”. A teenage mom, struggling to survive and make a life in the Ozark Mountains of north Arkansas, Gina faces more uphill battles than she could ever have imagined as a young girl courting adventure and danger with her best friend during those wonderful high school years. Her life has been as a wife and mother, completely consumed with family and the world of the Ozark Mountains.
It hadn’t taken Gina long to discover that the path she inadvertently chose with Robert Phillips was going to be different. Different than any possibility she had previously contemplated. Growing up as an only child, she had no idea how to care for babies. At seventeen, she also has no idea how to setup a household, or cope with the loss of the best friend she’d ever known. It’s as if a huge hole has opened up and swallowed the young carefree Gina, only to regurgitate a new, foreign woman in her place.
Day after day passes. Days become months, months become years and Gina, now a mother to two young children has settled into her somewhat uneventful life. She learns to be thankful for what she has, who she is, and the hand that fate has dealt. Then, as life will do, the unspeakable becomes a reality. Robert is snatched away, a victim of a terrible sawmill accident. A completely unprepared and vulnerable Gina simply cannot deal with the reality confronting her. If not for Melvin Kroon and the love of her children, she will recall years later, she wouldn’t have survived.
Melvin Kroon, former boss and close family friend now becomes more. More to Gina in so many ways. Financial adviser, career counselor, and eventually romantic interest.
A thirty year old Gina begins to pick up the pieces. She returns to school and begins a career as a social worker in Polk County. One of the poorest counties in Arkansas, she counsels the young and old alike. Drug addictions and poverty never make for prosperous lives. Just how much of yourself must you sacrifice in the name of survival and living life?
As each day has come and gone, years and careers have turned two old friends into complete strangers. Can they recapture the friendship of their youth? Can they find a way to bridge the years of separation?
Book 1, Tomorrow’s Promise
About three-fourths of the way through our life’s journey, we suddenly stop. We stop to ponder all the “what if’s”. What if Jo had never joined the military? What if Gina hadn’t gotten pregnant? What if their choices hadn’t taken them in completely different directions, with completely different lives?
The young girls of Polk Ridge, Arkansas reunite in Tomorrow’s Promise to pick up the pieces of a friendship so long ago abandoned. Gina is surprised when she finds Jo on Facebook and discovers she’s back in Polk Ridge. Jo, an Air Force cadet and world traveler, has returned home. Gina never left.
Gina’s quick click on “friend request” is about to have lasting consequences…
Book 2, Crossing Yesterday
Jo and Gina spend their first summer together in over forty years. They’re revisiting the Ozark Mountains, as well as the girls they used to be. The few weeks that they’ve spent reacquainting themselves have shown both women that time and different circumstances have changed them. They are now women with different ideals. Different convictions. And certainly, different backgrounds. Gina has spent her life amongst the mountains and mountain people. Thanks to Jo’s return to Polk Ridge, she meets 3 of Regina’s most influential friends: Melvin Kroon and Max & Maxine. Melvin isn’t too hard to understand, he’s a businessman and as grounded in common sense as anyone Jo ever met. Max and Maxine, however, are a different story. Max and Maxine Durand are leftovers from the hippy movement of the 60’s. They moved to the mountains to escape society and government overreach; they are anti-government, rebellious libertarians. They’re also at odds with everything she has built her life around in the military.
The old couple is convinced the NSA is spying on the American people. Jo’s life in the military, and then as an independent contractor for the Department of Defense, leave her completely unprepared for her meeting with Max and Maxine. So much so, that there is an instant dislike of them. Especially Max.
Jo’s never had her rigid beliefs challenged. There was never a need to see another point of view. Gina’s been exposed to so many different life styles and perspectives that she seems to be the embodiment of contradictions. Days and months spent counseling the poor and drug addicted of Polk County has forced her to view life with an open mind and acceptance of people that Jo has long forgotten. Just how far apart can two people be, and still find common ground?
Book 3, Unraveling
You learn as you live life to plan, prepare, and plan some more. You learn to cope with the expected. It’s the stuff you don’t see coming that often manages to be your undoing. Jo and Gina are no different. In the Unraveling, Gina’s carefully constructed family life seems to simply fall apart. From her son’s unexpected decision to have a child out of wedlock, to the news that her deceased husband fathered an illegitimate child; everything seems turned inside out. She is sandwiched between her role as mother to her children and caregiver for her ailing and Alzheimer-ridden father. Melvin, having been such a comfort to Regina for so many years, suddenly seems completely uninterested in the latest turn of events. If ever she needed a friend, it’s now.
Jo, however, has her own set of issues. She’s confronted with revisiting her feelings for Paul Collections. Paul, her high school sweetheart that she just couldn’t make room for all those years ago. Paul, who inherited and runs Collection’s Winery; a family business that he’s taken to international status. With her mother’s passing, she also must now make time for her three nephews and a sister that seems to be in the midst of a mid-life crisis. Her dear and close friends in Washington, D.C. have decided that a work relationship is simply not enough. A romance is budding and Jo finds herself watching from the sidelines, not even really a part of the excitement, stress and life she once cherished fighting cybercrime.
Life seems to be quickly unraveling for each of them. They had plans. They had a path they wanted to follow. Now, it seems that everyone and everything is conspiring to turn the most carefully constructed plans upside down! How did it all get so complicated?
Suddenly, finding a lost friendship seems like the easiest part of their lives. .
Book 4, The Other Side
At some point, we all need a break. Jo and Gina have simultaneously reached that place. What happens when all you want is a chance to getaway but it suddenly becomes an opportunity to expand your horizons? See places and people beyond the walls of your carefully arranged life? Jo and Gina left for a two-week vacation to California that manages to turn into a several month’s absence. Add to this the fact that California encourages their diversity of opinions and habits. Two old friends are once again coping with different points of view. Gina is rather fond of pot. Jo is rather fond of wine. A vacation often allows us to indulge our habits, and this clearly becomes a case of California dreamin’…
Gina, still confined to her role as mom, grandmother, and caregiver feels the ever increasing tug of her responsibilities in Polk Ridge. Jo has run headlong into a staggering revelation: she’s fallen head over heels for Paul Collection, once again. This time, though, Paul’s not an entirely free man. Jo Felsenthal has never experienced the sacrifice that relationships often demand. Paul is in the midst of a messy divorce, a wine business that demands more than he can sometimes give, and a growing desire to recapture the love that slipped away in 1976.
The two women find themselves trying to answer an age old question: Is the grass really any greener on the other side?
Book 5, Wait for Me…
Almost a decade has passed since that fateful Facebook “friend request”. Two old friends have shared tears and laughter; anger and happiness, trials and triumphs. The inseparable girls of ’76 have become something we all long for: older, wiser, and a best friend to another. They have stopped searching for the girls they used to be, and found lasting friendship in the women they are today. Just as they manage to make peace with the people they’ve become, fate deals their friendship a final blow. Jo and Paul are planning a future. Gina has reconciled herself once and for all with her life in the Ozarks. This time, it won’t be their life choices that separate them. It will be the hand of Fate.
A Note from the Author….
In 1977, at the TG&Y in Fayette, Al, I bought a plaque of an old Irish proverb/prayer. One of those lines reads:
Take time to dream, it is hitching your wagon to a star.
I still have the plaque; it hangs on my office wall and I still take time to dream. In following the dream of writing, I created the characters of Jorja Felsenthal and Regina Ingram and began their story.
Jo and Gina, in The Scrapbook Series, is an opportunity to look at life through the eyes of the most unsung hero in American life: the everyday, average woman. We take life as it comes and find a way to deal with unbelievable situations: we laugh, we cry, we struggle. We get angry and frustrated. We are overjoyed and in tears simultaneously. We love in ways that are sometimes completely insane, and we reach for each other…. we reach for our girl friends. In doing so, we reach for a better tomorrow, while we learn to make the most of today.
To steal a phrase from Jackson Browne’s Everyman, I wanted to create the “everywoman” in Jo and Gina. I wanted my readers to be able to identify with their life experiences. To read about one of their predicaments and say “Ah, yes. Been there done that.”
I needed to be able to write about things, events, and people that I was comfortable with. In my writings, although none of these characters are real, they were created from many of my own life experiences, interactions, thoughts, and beliefs. I needed to write in ways that provided a connection between myself, my work, and my readers.
I am a woman, so I wrote about women.
I have lived life and made mistakes, made the best of it and moved on. So have Jo and Gina.
As I wrote about their low moments, I cried. As I wrote about their funny escapades, I laughed. I want my readers to feel those same emotions. I want them to walk away from the story of Jo and Gina empowered as a woman, with hope in their heart and joy for tomorrow!
When you were in grade school did you have a best friend? Were you close enough to be twins? Did you fight for toys, attention, and then later for love?
Did you flirt with danger, court high adventure, set out together on the path less traveled? Do you remember the games you played, the secrets you shared, the long days of summer that stretched up the rocky cliff of adolescence and then into the freefall of adulthood? Is this how you drifted apart?
Natalie R. Vice’s debut novel ’76 Bridges charts the double-helix friendship of Jorga and Regina, two girls born on two different corners of the globe, find each other in the Ozark mountains, survive together the turbulent decade of the 1970’s, only to be separated by their divergent ambitions.
This is a novel for anyone who has ever wondered, what happened to that friend I used to love, and then wondered, what happened to that person I used to be?
--Brad Vice, Author of The Bear Bryant Funeral Train