Eating My East Coast Snobbery and That One Sentence

DSC_0108If you ask my husband, he’ll tell you I’m horrible at admitting when I’m wrong, so I figured I’d practice eating my words today with the hope that I may become better at acknowledging when I am incorrect.

Over and over again throughout my years, I have uttered this singular sentence: I am an East Coast girl.

It has been a conscious decision to say these words. And I said them with pride and an air of snobbery.

Now—here it comes, so get ready—because I have to eat my words. Every ounce of arrogance that is linked to that one sentence is false. It’s a lie, an error in judgment. It’s utterly ridiculous. Because they say that travel opens us up; every experience we have when we travel changes us.DSC_1018

So today, as I sit on my back porch right now, the humidity wreaking havoc on my hair, perspiration running down my back as I look at my burned out grass in the back yard from lack of rain in the Annapolis area, I am altered. In this setting, devoid of the crashing surf along the rocks in Carmel, the hills of San Francisco and the sounds of the trolley, the view of the 18th hole at Pebble Beach, long, welcoming piers in Santa Barbara and Santa Monica, the breathtaking views from the Hollywood Hills, and the palm trees and seals in the La Jolla Cove, I have come home humbled by the beauty that left me awestruck in California.

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I almost had to stop saying “the sentence” a couple of years ago when I spent time in Napa Valley, but it was only a small sampling of California, and not the spectrum of sightseeing and touring we did during this long vacation.

Therefore, this woman must take back those words she has said over and over again—I will forever be an East Coast girl, born and raised on this side of the country with much time spent from Maine to Florida, but from here forward, there will always be a spot for the landscape and sights of California wedged within my heart.

Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll be sharing some of my thoughts about each place we visited, explored, and became acquainted with during our two-weeks away.

But for now, let me allow space for my misgivings. I have to leave behind the snobbery I claimed to have when pitting the East Coast vs. the West Coast.

Both coasts are beautiful and remarkable in their own ways, but a day after leaving the sunny, crisp air of California, I’m missing the sight of a lone palm tree blowing gently in the breeze against the backdrop of blue skies and the sound of the crashing surf of the Pacific Ocean.

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Happy 4th of July from Sunny California!

I’m writing to you today as I sit at my hotel room desk overlooking the Pacific Ocean in La Jolla, California in San Diego.

Honestly, I don’t know what took us so long to get out here. Thank goodness my son picked California as his graduation trip, because I’m enamored with the weather, the flowers, and the laid-back lifestyle here on the West Coast. Not to mention that the views are amazing from almost every location we’ve visited.

When I get back, I’ll be posting some travel blogs I’ve been putting together on this trip. I can’t wait to share them with you, which is why I’ve been MIA for a couple of weeks on Steph’s Scribe. I have also spent some time editing my book, which I hope to have released in the next three weeks.

I hope you all have a wonderful 4th of July, and I look forward to catching up when I get back.

God bless America.

xxoo

Stephanie

Melding Real Life Stories Into Fiction

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Photo by Jess Watters on Pexels.com

I believe everything we write comes from a place of experience or another person’s experience. We take what we know and we allow it to form our fictional writing.

The most frequently asked question I get besides “When do you find time to write?” is this one: “How much of you is in your character(s)?”

The honest answer would be a lot. There’s a lot of me in everything I write. And if it’s not me, it’s someone I know or it’s from a story I’ve read or heard about. Or, it could be a storyline that makes me wonder or wish I’d done something differently. When this happens, I work that changed decision into a story with characters and plot. We take what we know and what we’ve experienced—the good, the bad, and the ugly—and we turn it into fiction.

Which is why I can’t understand why fiction is sometimes criticized. There are reasons why writers turn these “real” stories into fiction—we have more leeway when we write that way, but it doesn’t mean we’re missing the theme or point of the story. We also can protect people by using fictional names and places or settings. We learn so much from fiction, and we can take those stories and lessons and apply them to our own lives.

Embedded within the book of 22 short stories I’m about to release is a lot of truth and life lessons either gleaned from others or myself. Each story has a point it reveals, and the plus of writing fiction is the freedom to make that point relevant in a chosen setting with creatively crafted characters.

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Photo by Negative Space on Pexels.com

As writers, we write about what we know, so naturally, we also take elements of people we know and build them into our characters. Quite often, the characters I write are a collection of people I have met or know; in most instances, it’s rarely one particular person, although some stories lend themselves to being about one particular person or instance. But I won’t tell you which ones. (wink, wink)

All this to say, while it’s called fiction, so much of it is truth. So much of it is based on feelings, emotions, decisions, choices, outlook, and a willingness to simply “live.” I love the freedom that comes from writing fiction, and if you’re someone who focuses only on nonfiction, I’d urge you to give fiction a try.

It really is a lot of fun.

Below is a video I made earlier in the week that discusses more about writing, using writing prompts, and the short story collection I’ve put together entitled The Postcard and Other Short Stories & Poetry. Coming in July.

Three Writing Quotes That Will Make You Pause…Then Write

“We’re past the age of heroes and hero kings. Most of our lives are basically mundane and dull, and it’s up to the writer to find ways to make them interesting.”
—John Updike

Let’s begin with John Updike’s quote. How great is that one? When writers read that quote, it should make them realize what’s important in writing—a strong voice, good dialogue, realistic characters, and a nice plot that keeps readers going.

We are not reinventing the wheel, we are merely storytellers, here to entertain.

Sometimes, when I find I’m being too hard on myself and I reread something I’ve written, I go back and ask these questions: “Was it entertaining? Did the characters in the story come to life? Is it moving forward? Am I relaying a message or an idea to ponder?”

If the answer is yes to this question, I fix whatever needs fixing, and then I move along. There is no need to beat yourself up habitually. There’s a time to let a piece of writing go.

Which brings me to this one by Hemingway…

“We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.”
—Ernest Hemingway

We are always learning. Always working hard. Always trying new techniques and style. That’s what makes it fun to be a writer, right?

And while I’m not a HUGE Jack Kerouac fan (I like him, he’s just not one of my all-time faves), I LOVE this quote by him:

“It ain’t whatcha write, it’s the way atcha write it.”
—Jack Kerouac

Themes and plots of stories have been similar for eons…the test is to tell the story your way in your manner. That’s the point. Whatever story you are trying to tell has never been told from your vantage point before. So tell it, and write it that way. It’s the way YOU write it that counts.

Now find your writing mojo, and get to work. There are a lot of words ahead of you and blank pages to fill.

 

 

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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Details About My Upcoming Book of Short Stories – Coming in July

img_4869I thought I’d take a minute to talk about the book, The Postcard and Other Short Stories & Poetry, and tell you both WHY I put it together and WHAT is included in it.

WHY A COLLECTION OF SHORT STORIES? I THOUGHT YOU WROTE NOVELS?

I do write novels, and I love writing novels. As soon as this book is published, I’ll be finishing up the sequel to Inn Significant. However, when I first began to write, I wrote only short stories, and it was the short story Contelli’s Mimosa that ended up being the basis for Beneath the Mimosa Tree, my first novel. I’ve included the original short story in the collection, and I wrote it over 20 years ago, so don’t judge me too harshly. I left it intact as I wrote it back then so that the full flavor of it comes through. I was in my early twenties and I wanted it to remain from a twenty-something’s viewpoint, so I left it alone. But short stories–that was what I had time to write back then. I didn’t have time to sit and write a novel. Presently, I use short stories as practice in between writing novels. When I don’t have the time to tell a longer story, I opt for the shorter form.

WHO IS YOUR AUDIENCE FOR THIS BOOK?

I think mostly women gravitate toward my books, although I have had several male friends and acquaintances read my books and tell me how much they enjoyed them. No matter your gender, I like to think of my stories as mostly providing hope for people. In our daily lives, we are always trying to overcome both the little things and the big things, don’t you think? I mean, I had someone cut me off when I was driving the other day, and even this morning as I was walking in my neighborhood, someone was going way too fast and nearly hit me. To not scream at those two individuals took self-control. But that’s a little thing. Then we have the big things, like disciplining your children for mishaps or worrying about your kid going to beach week with the guys after graduation. People lose jobs, loved ones, and their own self-esteem. These things happen, and in my writing I like to focus on how people can bounce back from these things—that’s what I try to focus on primarily. Most of my stories have a happy ending, though not all of them do, as you’ll see if you read the book. But even the ones that aren’t “happy happy” have some sort of resolution that readers will probably be content with for the characters.

WHAT KINDS OF STORIES ARE INCLUDED?

A lot. There are 22 total stories as I’m a couple of weeks away from going to press. Here’s a list of what’s included 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.

Vintage Postcard design

 

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Proof Copy Ordered! Life Is Good

I ordered my paperback copy to proof today of The Postcard and Other Short Stories & Poetry.

I can’t wait to hold book #4–full of short stories and poetry–in my hands and give it one last final review.

Love. Love. Love.  ❤️

That’s how I feel about it all when I get to this point. I will tell you more about the contents of what’s included in the book tomorrow.

Sleep tight, all. 💤

The 4-Letter Word You Should Remove from Your Vocabulary Right Now

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I’ve heard it all before, and so have you.

You may even have uttered something similar to the excuses I’m about to offer you as examples.

“I could have gotten a better grade if I’d spent a little more time on it.”

“I wish I had more time to read.”

“The professor (or boss) expects too much from us. How will we get it all done?”

“I wish I could finish that house project.”

“I keep saying I’m going to organize my closets and give clothing and items that I no longer wear or use to a non-profit.”

“I wish I could write a novel.”

You get the gist.

We are full of excuses as to why we don’t get things done we want to get done. We are ripe with reasons why something doesn’t go the way we want, give us the results we thought we were going to get, or complete something that we hoped we would.

Hoping doesn’t get things done. Neither does wishing. Neither does excuse-making.

The four letter word that needs to be removed from your vocabulary, even if you don’t say it out loud, is the word LAZY.

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The word lazy brings us to places we would otherwise not want to go. Look at the time you have in your day. I bet you could start and finish something you wanted to accomplish if you just got off your duff and did it.

Being lazy is different from enjoying some down time. Down time is yours to do what you want. With my down time, I read, write, shop, decorate, do a craft—whatever suits me at the moment. Lazy is just avoiding something altogether. You are not being lazy by reading a book. That’s good. Don’t confuse the two.

You are being lazy by scrolling through your phone for hours upon end comparing your life to others with no intended purpose in mind. This type of activity prevents you from doing something productive. I have to remind some people I live with about this sometimes.

Honestly, lazy went out of my vocab when I started working for the Orioles in 1985. There was no time to be lazy. I worked. I worked hard as a sophomore in college, trying to balance the two, and I’ve been blessed to take that work ethic with me into everything I do, from teaching, to writing, to raising kids, to keeping my house the way I want it.

There are other four letter words I’ll tell you NOT to get rid of (and some that admittedly are rather fun to say), but using any form of the word LAZY…

Well, that’s the one that needs to go.

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Coming Down The Stretch

This work in progress is almost D.O.N.E.!!!!

My 4th work of fiction is coming down the stretch, and I’m so happy with the content. 

I’m still tweaking the cover, but it’s almost ready for its final review. It’s been years in the making, but it’s time to let it go. 

Don’t ever let your projects overwhelm you. Keep at them bit by bit and progress will be made. I am a testament to the power of perseverance. It all comes down to that. 

Now, go chase YOUR dreams! 

The Postcard and Other Short Stories & Poetry coming soon. 🤓

The Postcard & Other Short Stories – Promotion

So while I’m super excited about this upcoming work, I made a mistake in my previous blog post and attached the work in progress jpg file of this teaser and not the corrected version. A good lesson to always double check your stuff.

Sometimes we make mistakes as indie authors when we do it all and have a million things on our plate. But the good news? It’s all fixable.

Here is the right promo.

🙂

The Postcard-2

What You Owe Yourself? Authentic Writing

 

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Yesterday, I finished doing my first thorough edit of my new collection of short stories and poetry. Today, I am beginning the final review process.

I look at these two things differently.

During the editing process, you are still diligently working on the stories. You are editing, changing, rearranging, adding, subtracting, fixing mistakes and making corrections, using a thesaurus, and playing with the “sound” of the prose.

During the review process, I try to wear a “reader” hat.

This is difficult, especially when you are reviewing your own work.

But, you have to do it, you guys. You have to be willing to look at it through the lens of one of your readers.

Who are your best readers? I think of some of my closest friends—my mom—her friends—my aunt—and even some of my students who enjoy my books. Think of them…actually, picture them holding your completed book.

Then ask yourself this question: WILL THEY BE HAPPY WITH IT?

That’s what I mean when I say you have to review it as a reader. You have to imagine it’s not your own work, and it’s your chance to further question your storytelling.

That said, the one thing I don’t want you to do is to second-guess your authenticity–your own voice. Your voice and your authenticity are what make you YOU as a writer. Don’t do what I did a few years ago and begin a novel, show it to someone, and have that someone say, “This doesn’t sound like you.”

“Who does it sound like?” I asked.

“Someone else, but not you. I can’t ‘hear’ you in this writing.”

I stopped writing then and there and went back to the drawing board.

The best compliment I can get—and I’ve had many people tell me this (so thank you to all the people who have said it to me)—is that when they read my books, they can almost “hear my voice” telling them the story, as if I am there with them reading it aloud. Of course, these people know me personally or through my blog, but let me tell you, that’s the kind of thing you want to hear from your readers.

So don’t ever compromise your authenticity.

Remember, that’s why some people enjoy reading your work in the first place.

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A Little Milestone

A Little Milestone: I finished editing the short stories today for The Postcard and Other Short Stories and Poetry. It is almost done being formatted. This project–a couple of years in the making–contains 22 short stories I’ve written over a span of time. I have so much love for this collection for these particular reasons: they remind me of fragments of people I’ve met along the way in my life; they remind me to take the time to tell a story the way you think it should be told; and they remind me to never stop going for your dreams even when it takes baby steps and months or years to get there.

Thanks for keeping up with me as I tackled another writing journey. I got so much love for you all.