A Video Interview About The Postcard & Other Short Stories & Poetry

Vintage Postcard designWell, you know what Eleanor Roosevelt said, right?

“Do one thing every day that scares you.”

When I was a mass communication major, I realized very quickly that I like being behind the camera more than I like being in front of it, which is why I gravitated toward writing. So, here I am taking a big leap and doing a little video about my upcoming book.

That’s right…I’m trying to take my book promotion to the next level. LOL.

Anyway, here’s the video about the new book that’s coming in July.

I really hope you like it.

 

WHAT’S INCLUDED?

There are 22 total stories as I’m a couple of weeks away from going to press. Here’s a list of what’s in the book with a quick overview of the storyline for each:

The Message in the Bottle: a story about a last ditch effort to find love when internet dating and fix-ups don’t work.

After I Was Dead: a story about a restless ghost who seeks revenge on her young killer.

Dr. DeCarlo’s Patient: a story about an emergency room doctor who may be falling in love for the first time.

Unlost: a story about an older woman who finds a new friendship after the death of her husband.

Finding Luster: a story about a single mom who bounces back after an abusive relationship.

The Girl on the Trapeze: a story told from a man’s perspective about whether or not to give love another chance.

The Ugly Side of People: a story about gossips and judgmental  women who misunderstand another woman’s situation.

Sophie’s Ladybug: a story of a young girl whose father goes off to war.

The Postcard: a story of love and forgiveness, and knowing when and how to apologize.

The Spell: a story about a witch who wants to forget a hurtful friendship.

The Beach Cottage: a story about a middle-aged woman who has to figure out whether it’s worth it to save her marriage.

Sarah and Daniel: a story about love and the timing of relationships.

Smashing Pumpkins: a story about a young girl who is angry at her mother for leaving the family and what she does to get back at her.

Contelli’s Mimosa: the original short story on which Beneath the Mimosa Tree is based.

The Fortune Teller: the story about moving on from something you know isn’t right.

Broom: the story of a broom that comes to life and grants a young girl three wishes.

Tears to Funny: the story of an affair between two likable people told in dialogue only.

Alberto’s Gravy: the story of the saucy beginning of a relationship.

Life with Nan: the story of a woman who lives with her grandmother in the Cotswolds and what she learns from her and her friends.

Playing with Fire: the story of the Wicked With of the West, her mother, and of course, Dorothy.

The Slump: the story of a Major League baseball pitcher’s slump, the reporter who covers it, and the future Hall-of-Famer who acts as the middle man when things get dicey.

An Untold Love Story: the story of a well-known author as she overcomes a crippling phobia and makes an appearance at a bookstore back in her hometown.

 

 

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Random Thoughts on a Gloomy Day

When I put a call for help out there last night—WHAT SHOULD I BLOG ABOUT?—I got an answer from a friend of mine. She suggested that I write down random thoughts over the course of 24 hours. That’s a big challenge and a lot of hours, but I came away with these random thoughts and thought I’d share them with you on this very gloomy April day.

My thoughts are below, but I also created a mind map–creativity and thoughts in action–and included it here.

Steph's Mind Map

Golfer Ben Crenshaw’s wife looks amazing…Jordan Spieth’s poise and command was incredible to watch at this year’s Masters…I’m proud of my son for making the tennis team and he’s still working hard on his golf game…I love that I have a bike with a basket…As long as Kelly Clarkson and Pink and normal folk are comfortable in their own skin, that’s what matters…I’m happy that April showers bring May flowers, but winters in Maryland seem to go on and on, and we are incredibly thankful when we have a burst of warmth and sun like we did yesterday when it hit 80 degrees…I’m not at all ready for bathing suit weather…My students did a great job on writing their memoirs; I’m very proud of them…Opening Day was great, but I look forward to going to a game and sitting in seats when it’s sunny…I wonder if Sara Gruen’s new book will be as good as Water for Elephants…Will I ever write and publish another novel?…The Girl on the Train was very good, even though I’m typically not a thriller reader…Four weeks of school left until summer break…Can’t wait…Went to the doctor and got some medicine for my sinus infection, a bad one this time, and she gave me a steroid, too. Maybe I’ll be able to hit a home run or two after I finish this round…I miss traveling and being carefree like I was in my twenties…Dealing with a pre-teen girl is not always easy, is it?…Can’t wait to see how this textbook on event planning that I’m writing with colleagues turns out; I’ve never tackled anything like this before…When I read old poetry that I’ve written I can get very melancholy, but I think that’s the point of poetry to begin with—to get our inner-most feelings out…Why is it so difficult to market your own, independent novel?…My friend Jenny got a puppy and I can’t wait to meet her. My daughter will be thrilled, too!…Why don’t my clothes fit like they used to?…Why does gravity seem to work double-time as you get older?…Why do people rely on text messages so much?…Why can women be unkind to other women?…How does an act of forgiveness free you?…Who is the most important person in your life? Who has done the most for you? Who loves you unconditionally?…What am I going to make for dinner?

It’s All About Love

BBGirlAd
Yet another marketing piece I’ve created: an ad to help promote Baseball Girl.

* * *

One of the things I’ve had to come to grips with lately is that if you have created something that is independently yours, whether it’s in the role of author of a book, director of an indie film, or maker of lovely art, you will always be working, always promoting. Additionally, you have to believe that you are your own brand and must act as the innovator, marketer, branding expert, and salesperson of the work you have created.

That’s a lot of responsibility to put on one mere person who probably can’t afford to do this craft without another full-time job or source of other income.

So those of us in this arena must learn to be our own best marketers and promoters, similar to P.T. Barnum, that harmless deceiver of the circus all those many years ago. “Without promotion, something terrible happens—nothing!” he mused.

P.T. Barnum, the harmless deceiver
P.T. Barnum, the harmless deceiver

He also said, “Whatever you do, do it with all your might. Work at it, early and late, in season and out of season, not leaving a stone unturned, and never deferring a single hour that which can be done just as well now.”

The truth of the matter is, once you’ve created something that took you years to finish, you actually do want someone to enjoy it, read it, watch it, love it. The problem arises with promotion—how do we get someone to read our work, see our film, admire our art? And furthermore, how do we hope those people will spread the news?

When I launched Beneath the Mimosa Tree three years ago, I found myself rather on the ball. I wrote press releases, sent the book out to local media, made phone calls, donated complimentary copies, and promoted the hell out of it on  Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and this lovely blog. Over the last few years, I’ve become increasingly busier, both at work (and writing a textbook) and with my family, especially my children who are involved in many sports and activities. There are only so many hours in the day. There is only so much time I can devote to spreading the word about Baseball Girl.

You probably feel the same way if you are similarly an independent artist. It’s exhausting. I sometimes scratch my head and ask myself why I do this? Why this hobby of mine so important? Why I want people to read my work and like my stories?

P.T. Barnum was also known to have said, “Literature is one of the most interesting and significant expressions of humanity.”

I think he may be right.

I can’t explain my need to do what I do and exhaust myself in the process except to say that both my novels were my expressions and they were made with love.

So in the end, I suppose it is all about love.

10 Things That Baseball Idioms Have Taught Me

GloveMy second novel, Baseball Girl, has been prepped and is almost ready to make its appearance on Amazon. The main character, Francesca Milli, learns a few things from her love of baseball in the novel, as you will see if you decide to read it. And although I wrote the main character and modeled some of her experiences after my own life working in professional baseball, she is not me. Therefore, what I’ve learned from baseball may be slightly different than what Francesca learns. I thought I’d share the Top 10 things baseball idioms have taught me.

  1. Coming home means the world to me.
  2. It’s important to touch base with people you care about, and often.
  3. Being on the ball helps make you successful.
  4. If you’re going to throw someone a curve ball, be prepared for what comes afterwards.
  5. Playing hardball works sometimes, but it’s not a guarantee for success.
  6. In life, don’t expect to always bat a thousand. No one is perfect. There’s plenty of room for making mistakes.
  7. If you’re going to strike out at something, make sure it’s something you love. And then, try again.
  8. If you’ve got two strikes against you, swing anyway. You never know how far that next ball might travel.
  9. When you do hit a homerun, don’t boast, make everyone feel a part of your success, and share the joy with those you love. Those who truly love you will be happy for you.
  10. If you’re going to go to bat for someone, make sure it’s someone who is worthy, and who would likely do the same for you.
BaseballGirlFinalCover
Coming Soon!

The Worst Part About Writing

meanttobe* * *

Yes, I’m still at tonight. Working diligently on my collection right now.

However, the worst part about writing is that you get attached and stupidly emotional about the characters you create. Why? Because sometimes they are loosely based on people you know, lessons you’ve learned, the ways you have grown. You are reminded of things and times gone by. And then you read something like this that turns you into a weepy blob:

Every individual soul chooses the significant people in that life. Destiny will place you in the particular circumstance; it will dictate that you will encounter a particular person, at a certain time, place.  ~ Brian Weiss

It has happened to each of us.

That is all.

#romance #love #friendship

Preparing to Launch! A Personal Letter to Readers.

What'sComingDear Readers,

I don’t often go on and on about all the different responsibilities an independent author has to tackle on a daily basis, but none is greater than getting your books ready for that “big release.” I can see the finish line. I am almost there.

In addition to the release of my almost three-year project “Baseball Girl,” a novel about a woman’s experience with loss, love, and relationships while working in the baseball big leagues, which is (very) loosely based on my own experiences, I’ve also been writing and putting together a collection of short stories and poetry. I’m shooting to have both on the market in February. The covers for each are above.

I am but one person. Even though the word that goes before author—independent—appears to be a lonely one, it is not an independent journey at all. There are so many people you rely on for input and editing, from family and friends, to those who are willing to help you out when you pose a question on social media. I’m so thankful that people are interested and helpful, and for the most part, are encouraging and want to see you succeed.

While it’s not time to toast with a glass of Champagne yet, it will be soon. Until then, I’ll continue to prepare these ships for launch.

Lots of love and have a great weekend,

signature

What Writers Owe To Themselves

Creative JuicesWriters—Do you do some of your best thinking in the shower? Typically, my best ideas come to me at the most inopportune moments when I do not have paper and pencil handy, like when I’m commuting or observing something with a cart full of groceries or taking a walk through the neighborhood. Sometimes the creative juices flow when I’m not prepared to greet them, much in the same way a hostess of a party who is still in sweats and inappropriately dressed as her first guest rings the doorbell is not ready.

These creative juices are important, and if we are lucky, they flow directly and consistently into our writing, which led me to this morning’s thought.

What do we, as writers, owe to ourselves?

Admittedly, while it would be nice to be regarded as the Hemingway of our generation or be as prolific a writer as Nora Roberts, I think that what we owe to ourselves more than anything is to tell a story for which we feel some passion, and tell it well.

That’s it.

Tell the story, feel something for it, and tell it well. For the love of it.

Passion

The most successful authors believe in their work, are validated by what they write, and are compelled to communicate this creativity to readers. Markus Zusak, author of The Book Thief, said, when asked about his novel, “The thing to remember is I thought nobody would read the book—a 500-page book set in Nazi Germany, the narrator is ‘Death,’ you think, how do you recommend that to your friends? I thought no one’s going to read this. I thought, well, I might as well do this exactly how I want to do it, and follow my own vision for the book, and write in exactly the style I want. That’s when it really took off. So, I think half of writing a book is just forgetting that there is even a world that exists beyond the book.” His commentary is spot on, and a good piece of advice to remember when we write.

What do readers want? Readers want to be entertained, they want to be connected to the characters, and they want to feel something for the work when they close the book.

We owe it to them to tell the best story we can.

It takes a special type of person to write—and write continually—especially when we don’t know if five people or five million people will read our work. I’ve said it a hundred times to students, to book talk attendees, and to people who ask me why I write, and my answer is always the same: because I have a story to tell, and ultimately, feel moved enough to tell it. Sometimes, it doesn’t matter how many people pick it up, but rather that those who choose to read it enjoy it.

As recording artist Sam Smith says in his song “Money On My Mind,”

I don’t have money on my mind.

I do it for the love.

We owe that to ourselves.

My Latest Author Crush

Markus ZusakMarkus Zusak is attractive, intelligent, in touch with human nature, deeply evocative with his use of language, and has had me thinking about the story he wrote for a good, solid week now. In fact, I know I will never forget it.

I’d call that an author crush.

I can’t get Liesel, Hans, Rosa, Ilsa, Max, and Rudy out of my mind, not to mention Frau and Michael Holtzapfel. The images he left me with are vivid and haunting, and “The Book Thief” is one of my all-time favorite stories I have read.

Perhaps Zusak’s best choice in writing this WWII novel about foster-child Liesel Meminger was allowing the story to be narrated by Death. Don’t be put off by this thought if you haven’t read the book yet. Death is a brilliant narrator, bordering on having feelings, despite the job he has to do, and attempts to understand human behavior all throughout the novel. His observations and insights enthrall readers, as he leaves us mesmerized, stunned, and feeling melancholy about the atrocities man commits toward other men. Hearing Death tell stories about Hitler, Nazi Germany, life on Himmel Street during that time, and love as observed between children and adults is Zusak’s strength. Moreover, I liked Death a great deal after reading the novel; I would not be afraid to meet the likes of him in a dark alley.The Book Thief

Furthermore, Zusak’s colorful storytelling (and I mean that, literally, as you will see if you read it) and his command of the English language make this book one you’ll have no desire to put down. While the subject matter itself is certainly emotional to read at times and leaves you scratching your head as you consider World War II didn’t happen all that long ago (not to mention allow yourself to think about what is happening in our world right now and what people do to each other), Zusak brings a lightheartedness to the novel that is greatly appreciated. I am in awe of the intricate weaving of plot and extraordinary development of character, and while this novel has received contemporary acclaim, I am certain it will go down one day as a “classic” piece of literature.

I’m so glad I took the time to read this wonderful, creative, enlightening, memorable piece of work. It takes a special person to write a story that both breaks your heart and offers you hope.

Carry on, Mr. Zusak. I can’t wait for your next story.

Below, please find a wonderful interview with Zusak. And to writers who write: listen carefully to the last part of his interview and continue to do your thing and write.

Blogging for the Annapolis Film Festival 2015

AFF_15-YT_Teaser1I’m absolutely thrilled to have been asked to be one of the bloggers for the upcoming Annapolis Film Festival scheduled for March. Having returned to the Annapolis area after residing in Baltimore and then Ellicott City for many years, it is my pleasure to promote such a worthwhile event. Likewise, my first novel entitled “Beneath the Mimosa Tree,” was set in my hometown, where I set out to glorify our beautiful city of Annapolis. In short, I have a love affair with our city, and am happy to do anything I can to help promote it.

Therefore, there is no better way to pay homage to Annapolis than to participate in or attend its annual Film Festival.

Film is such a powerful medium. It has the ability to transport us and transform us. Like books, film can whisk us away to places where we can assimilate or understand people and cultures and places. There is nothing I like better than to turn my brain off and then back on again as I prepare to get lost in a film. For what is film but storytelling through moving images with characters and setting and dialogue. Film’s very core is its chance to engage you and envelop you in plot—perhaps one that feels similar to something you’ve experienced, or one that is so foreign to you that you can’t help but become mesmerized by it. Whether it’s a short film or a longer one, it’s transcendent, and the entire experience is worthwhile.

TheWizardofOzI distinctly remember seeing my first “film” in a movie theatre. My mother brought me as a five-year-old to see “The Wizard of Oz” when it was re-released in the early 1970s. There I sat in the first row, that tornado and green witch larger than life, and that was it for me. I may not have known it as kid, but movies were always going to be a part of my life. In a film class I took in college, Dr. Barry Moore at Towson University asked students to sit through classics like “Citizen Kane” starring Orson Wells and “The Kid” starring Charlie Chaplin. I learned a great deal about movies, and although I sometimes still watch them with a critical eye, the goal of viewing a movie is still the same for me now as it was when I was five: to be entertained.

I love that fact that Annapolis is bringing together talent and people who appreciate film. Movies are an integral part of our culture, and the best ones are still those that leave an impact on us, whether small or large. I can’t imagine my life without movies, and I can’t wait to see what the Annapolis Film Festival has in store for us in March.

Some Quick Facts About Independently Publishing Your Book

SelfPub
Photo credit: b2b.com

 

Those of us who write books can all see it clearly: the world of publishing is in a state of flux. Independent authors are popping up ever more frequently, and there are numerous reasons for it. Why? Because writers want to maintain control over their own projects. Because writers want to immerse themselves into all aspects of the publishing process, from conception of story to editing to designing the cover to marketing and promoting their novels themselves. And, because writers write as a hobby, something they do on the side and not as their sole livelihood; perhaps they don’t want the hassle of everything that can come with traditional publishing.

There are many reasons independent authors choose to be independent.

As of October 9, 2013, in the United States alone, data by ProQuest and Bawker reported that the number of self-published titles jumped 59% from 2011, with up to 391,000 self-published titles released.

E-books comprised 40% of the market in 2012, and continue to gain on print, though print saw a rise of 33%.

Many self-published authors like myself find the process of seeking a traditional publisher as an obstacle to getting our stories out there. We write, therefore, we want someone to read what we write. We need an audience, even if the audience is smaller.

Those of us who are independently/self-published authors see ourselves as “managers” of the entire project, and become vested in our work. Sometimes, we need help with parts, and we turn to friends or colleagues to assist with aspects we might not know too much about. In my own case, I had friends edit my book. I also had my friend shoot the cover of Beneath the Mimosa Tree, my first book. Additionally, she photographed me for my author head shot for the novel as well. Likewise, I will have her do the same with Baseball Girl, the novel I will soon release.

Photo credit: fanpop.com
Photo credit: fanpop.com

When your sole income does not come from the sale of books, it is easy to have fun with self-publishing. It’s a great side hobby where you can put all your talents to work. As someone who worked in public relations and publishing for years, I wrote all my own press releases and media alerts; I’ve contacted book stores to see if they are interested in selling my book; I’ve booked my own book talks; I’ve entered indie author contests and placed; and I’ve even coached other people as to how to do it. It’s really quite fun, and something I’ve never been afraid of doing. Why? Because I love it.

Many self-published authors get picked up by big publishing houses, so even if you publish something yourself, if you still desire that “larger” audience, you can certainly continue to try.

The numbers are pretty staggering, though. The world of publishing has changed, continues to change, and I don’t see this trend ending anytime soon.

Overworked? Overweary? Overstressed? Take A Day Trip. It Does Wonders.

St. Michael's HarborThere are a plethora of reasons why we need to get away from it all, if only for a few hours. We are overworked, overstressed, overweary, overextended, overtaxed, overstimulated—just plain over it. And thus, the good “doctor,” whomever that may be—a friend, a spouse, a mother, a father, a child, a healthcare provider—tells us to step away from the demanding rigors of our lives and take a day for ourselves. Coincidentally, it also happens that I showed my feature writing class the film “Roman Holiday,” a film in which Audrey Hepburn, playing a princess from a nameless country, decides she’s had enough, and takes her chances as she goes incognito for a play day in Rome. Luckily for her, Gregory Peck is there to help her secure her wishes of being a “regular person” for one 24-hour period. Ah…love and romance in Rome. The problem is, I couldn’t get to Rome. Not for a day over the weekend.

But there are nearby places to go where you can get away. St. Michael’s may not be Rome, but it is the perfect spot to let go of your cares for a few hours. Nestled on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, it is approximately one hour from Annapolis. On a weekend in the fall or spring when Marylanders are typically not heading to the Ocean City, Bethany, Rehoboth, or Lewes beaches, it’s a delightful ride on a pretty stretch of Rt. 50, especially in the fall as the leaves are turning. I could feel my worries and cares lift as soon as we crossed the Bay Bridge. Seeing the mainland of Maryland become more and more distant as the journey continued, I knew I was going to spend an enjoyable afternoon with my family as we shopped, ate, walked the streets, and talked to locals. I am never disappointed in my day trips to St. Michael’s: the town somehow has the power to welcome you with open arms and make you not want to leave.

WickershamThe drive in is absolutely darling. The store-lined streets reflect a sense of care that the people of St. Michael’s feel for their town, replete with merchants and townspeople decorated for the Halloween season. There were witches on brooms hung high in the air propped up into telephone poles, hay bails with pumpkin displays outside the stores, mums and other seasonal flowers adding color and personality to the town, and doors opened wide insisting that patrons come in and peruse the goods.Witch

My daughter and I had a great time going in and out of eclectic shops that boasted jewelry, handbags, scarves, towels, and household goods, while my son and husband shopped in some of the apparel and poster stores. There is something for everyone, including antiques, home goods, artistic boutiques, and candy shops.

Restaurants are in and about the main area, with many receiving four and five-star reviews. From classic American cuisine like that featured at Town Dock restaurant located on the water in the harbor (where we ate on the deck), to Simpatico, an Italian restaurant across from the community center, to the Crab Claw for seafood, there is something for every palate. Justine’s Ice Cream was voted best in town, and St. Michael’s Candy and Gifts is sure to satisfy every sweet tooth.Gazebo

The St. Michael’s Harbor area boasts the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, which charges an entrance fee, but is a working museum that kids will love exploring. Additionally, Patriot Cruises, which launches from the dock adjacent to the museum, takes guests on hourly cruises from the Harbor to the Miles River. These are all great suggestions you can do with your significant other or your family.

BeeHiveJackOLanternHowever, the highlight of our trip yesterday wasn’t anything nautical or historic: it was attending the Pumpkin Carving Contest at the St. Michael’s Community Center. Merchants sponsored enormous pumpkins (and I mean ENORMOUS), and talented individuals showed up between the hours of 8:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. to carve their pumpkins, each one numbered and then presented for voting. Selected judges awarded prizes, and then it was up to the people to vote. My husband, children and I scoured the place trying to pick the best one, but it was not an easy decision. The magnitude of the talent we witnessed was tremendous—and for someone who preaches to her students about the importance of creativity—I was overwhelmed by the innovation that took place in that room. In the end, I voted for the two women who carved “The Bee Hive,” and we all chatted with them about the event.leaves

It was the first time my children had stepped foot on St. Michael’s soil, and they both enjoyed their day there. My daughter wants to know when we can go back and do some “serious shopping.” My husband and I strolled the streets and recalled sentimental times when we had been there before. I’ve already marked my calendar for “Christmas in St. Michael’s,” an event I’ve wanted to attend for over 20 years.

JohnSmithPart of the fun of St. Michael’s is just strolling the back streets and sneaking peeks at some of the historic homes, the white picket fences, the flowers and landscaping, and the people who reside in picturesque homes that sit on streets lined with brick sidewalks. As someone who loves the water and being near it, the notion of living in a town like St. Michael’s has a great deal of appeal to me. In fact, in my novel, “Beneath the Mimosa Tree,” the grandmother, named Vivi, resides in St. Michael’s and is an active member of the town. I put her in that location because she exuded as much warmth as the town itself does.town

Perhaps when I wrote my novel I was projecting a possible future for myself down the road, imagining that I might someday be a sweet grandmother who would welcome her children and grandchildren for visits. I could certainly see St. Michael’s as a place to live in my retirement; it pretty much has everything I would need. It’s an enchantingly genial community that seems to smile at you and alleviate your over-extended self as soon as you get out of your car.