“Inn Significant: A Novel by Stephanie Lynn Verni is a beautiful story that looks at the heart of depression. Milly Foster lost the will to live the moment she learned about her husband’s tragic death. And that was two years ago. Asking her to look after their business while they are away to help a friend in a startup bed and breakfast in Ireland, her parents couldn’t imagine what this would do to her. While at the inn, Milly’s colleague, John, discovers a diary to her grandma. Read on to find out how an old journey changes everything in the life of a woman who is just as ready for the grave as a corpse, sending her on a personal odyssey to find answers to her own pain.
At the beginning of the story, we meet the protagonist, a grief-stricken woman who has just learned about the death of her husband. Only one thought occupies her mind: “I don’t want the paramedics. I don’t want my mother. I want Gil!” The drama, the emotional intensity of the story is evidenced by the opening pages and readers who love emotionally charged stories will be gripped by the heart from the very start. Stephanie Lynn Verni’s writing is exceptional and I enjoyed the way it captures the powerful emotions, especially those of the protagonist. Milly’s journey towards healing is realistic, one that readers can connect with easily. What made this story stand out for me was the depth of the characters and the gorgeous writing. It was hard for me to let Milly alone, even if I found her headstrong and stubborn from the start. As the story progresses, she learns to shift her gaze onto reality and matures far more quickly than I could have imagined. Inn Significant: A Novel is entertaining, inspiring, and outright delightful, one of the stories I won’t hesitate to recommend to readers seeking a fun read.”
I wanted to take a moment to tell you why I do this and why this is important to me. As a kid, I used to sit at school and write short stories and then come home and finish them. My favorite class in high school by far was Creative Writing. I wrote poetry (mostly really mushy stuff that I shared with boys and probably shouldn’t have), and I always thought somewhere in the back of my mind that I would write a book.
Being an independent author is one of the most rewarding and hardest things I have ever done. It’s rewarding because I am doing exactly what I wanted to be doing as a teenager—telling stories on paper. It’s the hardest thing because having to promote my books constantly to get my name out there is a daunting task, and one that someone only with nerves of steel should be doing.
Admittedly, I don’t always have nerves of steel, but I keep on doing my thing because that’s what I have to do to hope someone will pick up my book and read it. There’s a lot of competition out there, and I know people are selective. Therefore, I am truly appreciative when you stop what you’re doing and read what I’ve written. It means so much to me, and I thank all of you who have read Inn Significant or any of my other books.
If you haven’t, maybe, just maybe this review will inspire you.
I’ll be taking Inn Significant on the road for a couple of upcoming books talks and signings.
The first, to kick off the Summer Reading Program at the Broadneck Library in Annapolis, Maryland, I’ll be doing a book talk and signing on Monday, June 19 at 7 p.m. The Broadneck Library has scheduled me for all three books I’ve published–they are so dear. A special thanks to Shirley Lord for always being so kind. And Annapolis was the setting of my first book, Beneath the Mimosa Tree. We had a good turnout for Baseball Girl; hopefully, some of you will come and join the fun in Annapolis.
I’ll have books and giveaways and I’ll be signing copies of all three of my books, including Inn Significant.
Also–BOOK CLUBS–I am happy to visit your book club should you choose any of my books as your book club book. I can also Skype in if you don’t live in the vicinity. Contact me at email@example.com, check out my Amazon Author Page, or visit my Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/StephanieVerni/ .
I hope to see some of you there. If you haven’t visited Oxford, St. Michaels, or Easton, Maryland, you’re in for a treat. Make a day trip out of it and see the places that inspired my novel.
Here’s the scenario: Your inbox is overflowing. You have tons of emails to respond to, in addition to answering social media inquiries, answering texts, and making phone calls. You arrive at work and you already feel overwhelmed with what you must accomplish. You are all set to be productive, and then your balloon slowly begins to deflate as you sit sipping your morning coffee being totally reactionary and not proactive about what you need to accomplish. You know you have things you need to get done, and hope you can squeeze that in during the day.
While the book focuses on creative types primarily, it is perfect for anyone who feels overwhelmed by technology’s ability to creep into our lives and not leave us alone—not even for an hour or two while we work on something important.
The idea of “chunking” or “blocking out time” on your own calendar to be productive is at the heart of this book. As worker bees, we need to be productive and we need to answer emails. This is true. However, that should not come at the expense of our creative endeavors. They have to be in conjunction with each other.
The book’s brilliant suggestion is to make that morning time YOUR time. Get in early to work when you are fresh and block out the first hour or hour and a half that is YOUR time to do YOUR projects. This makes you less reactionary. Now you are working on things that make your heart sing and make you happy to get to work. Sure, some people may say you didn’t respond to their email fast enough, but you’ll respond in the afternoon (unless it’s absolutely pressing, then I’d get that one done and move on).
It’s so true that we don’t make time for our projects because our day tends to spiral out of control. We lose it to putting out fires, responding to the deluge of emails, or attending meetings that take inordinate amounts of time away from our true productive tasks.
If you’re someone who likes structure during his or her day while also being as productive as possible, I would suggest reading this book. It also has some good examples, like the one I read last night about how someone like Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, blocks out time for his creative endeavors each morning. It provided a lot of inspiration as to how to use your time wisely.
As a university professor who primarily teaches writing courses, one of the best things about connecting my life as a teacher and my life as a writer is just how many times the two intertwine. Whether that intersection means writing a textbook or a book of fiction, I get the opportunity to show students that I indeed do practice what I preach.
Today is another such opportunity. Having placed as a finalist in the National Indie Excellence Awards book contest for 2017 with Inn Significant, I get the opportunity to use the skills students learn in public relations writing and produce and promote a press release about the award. Promoting ourselves as independent authors is no easy endeavor–just ask any independent artist, whether that includes art, music, writing, acting, film, or dancing. Having to “sell” ourselves and our work or product or capability every day is a job in itself.
The NIEA provided us with a press release catered to our own specific book and genre as a contest finalist. Therefore, I am sharing that here today. It takes perseverance and a lot of tenacity to continue to write and promote a book. This is the third promotion of a novel I’ve worked on, and trust me, you get better at it, but it never gets any easier.
If you know an independent author, the best way to help is to write a review and recommend the book on social media. It’s the most significant way to get that book title into people’s minds, and a positive review certainly helps sell it. On Monday, a local book club came to my home to discuss Inn Significant, as that was their chosen book. They have helped me in more ways than you can imagine, by recommending it and helping me connect with people in Oxford, Maryland, where the story is set. I’m now scheduled to sign books on July 16 at the local bookstore, Mystery Loves Company.
It’s what every writer dreams of — a little recognition for the work you slaved over for a year and a half. Just a little nod to let you know your work was not done in vain.
As I have chosen my own path of writing and publishing as an independent author, whereby I do all the work on the book myself—from writing it to editing it to designing the cover and laying it out for print and for digital media to uploading it and publishing it via my hub Mimosa Publishing—being a finalist in the National Indie Excellence Awards really means something to me. I am so grateful and thankful to those who read and reviewed Inn Significantat NIEA in order for it to earn a place in the contest. Thank you so much for this honor.
Two years ago, Beneath the Mimosa Tree was also a finalist in this same contest. I was tickled pink then, and I’m tickled pink now.
Being an independent author is not really all that glamorous, as you can surmise from the grunt work I just shared that we must do; there is no one else who does it for us. We get down and dirty. We have people help us edit. We write, revise, write some more, and revise some more. We spend hours on a book—and trust me, it’s not for the money. We do it for the sheer love of the craft: of writing, of storytelling, and of making those who read our books happy they picked it up.
That’s the very simple answer as to why I continue to write and be an independent author.
It’s not easy to break into the publishing world, and years ago, writers did not have the means by which to publish ourselves. Places like Amazon and Barnes & Noble make it easy for people like me who have the knowledge of publishing books (and magazines, as I also have the experience as editor of Orioles Magazine) and are not afraid to tackle this process. For that, I am thankful. We didn’t have this avenue 15 years ago. Just as musicians and YouTubers have independent avenues, so do we, as writers.
To the people who actually read my books and tell me they like them, thank you. You all push me to want to tell you even better stories each time I sit down to write.
So, thank you EVERYONE. Thank you to readers of Steph’s Scribe, thank you to those who have written reviews of my books, thank you to readers of my books, and especially, today, thank you to NIEA for this recognition.
You made my weekend.
About Inn Significant: A Novel
Two years after receiving the horrifying news of her husband Gil’s death, Milly Foster continues to struggle to find her way out of a state of depression. As a last-ditch effort and means of intervention, Milly’s parents convince her to run their successful Inn during their absence as they help a friend establish a new bed and breakfast in Ireland. Milly reluctantly agrees; when she arrives at the picturesque, waterfront Inn Significant, her colleague, John, discovers a journal written by her late grandmother that contains a secret her grandmother kept from the family. Reading her grandmother’s words, and being able to identify with her Nana’s own feelings of loss, sparks the beginning of Milly’s climb out of the darkness and back to the land of the living.
Yesterday on Instagram, a fellow writer I follow who follows me back asked for input from other writers. Her question was this: How do you write authentic characters, and then how do you make them sound convincing in dialogue?
As someone who has written three fiction books and teaches the subject of writing, I have some advice I can offer. I may not be perfect, and I may be an indie author, but I think I have some ideas to share that may be helpful. I enjoy offering tips to beginning writers because we’ve all been there. These tips are from experience and encompass the best advice I can give from my own perspective.
First, let’s tackle making characters authentic and believable. To begin, you have to have a pretty good sketch of your character. To illustrate my points, I’m going to use John, a main character from my newest book, Inn Significant. Milly, the other main character, is the narrator, so it’s up to me as the writer to showcase John as Milly sees him throughout the book through her eyes. Let’s begin.
John’s Character Sketch
John is 38 years old. He was in the military and had a couple of heartbreaking and powerfully disturbing experiences when he was overseas flying military aircraft. These experiences haunt John, and while I never come out and say he has PTSD, he has PTSD. As the writer, I know this about him. This is the makeup of John that leads him to want to live a simple life on the Eastern Shore of Maryland working at an Inn in a small town (where he is from). He wants nothing complicated. He works for Milly’s parents at the Inn and has his own cottage on the grounds. From this point, I made a list of other things John likes in order to “see” him as a character—and to keep me on track as I wrote him. What are some other characteristics about John? He’s kind. He’s helpful. He likes doing things to please others. He likes to sneak into the Inn’s kitchen at night and whip up his grandmother’s muffins for the guests. He is an artist, which is how he relieves his stress. He runs every day. He’s in shape. He has high cheekbones and is tanned from working outside in the gardens. He drinks Gatorade. He listens to James Taylor. He’s close with his family, and he adores his grandmother. He’s respectful. He’s loyal. And he’s always been incredibly fond of Milly, even when she was married (before her husband suddenly passed away). He likes to read, but isn’t a writer. He owns a boat and likes to kayak.
That’s my basic character sketch of John. These were the things I knew about him as I began to write.
Knowing all these things about him helped me write dialogue that works. So how can you write dialogue that works? To me, you know the characters so well that you can picture exchanges happening as if you are watching a movie. You almost have to pretend they are real. How would you like to see things unfold? How would the characters relate to one another? What would a realistic scene sound like?
Keeping these questions in mind will help you write your dialogue scenes in a way that you should write them. And my other big tip on writing dialogue that works is to read it out loud many times to yourself, and if possible, read it aloud to someone you trust to get feedback.
As an example of this, I will share an exchange between John and Milly from my book; this exchange takes place the first night John asks Milly to hang out with him in the Inn’s kitchen and only her second day working at the Inn (she’s filling in for her parents who have gone away for a year). Milly has not been alone with a man since her husband’s death two and a half years prior, so she’s a little awkward and nervous, but trying to relax as he’s baking.
The Excerpt from Inn Significant
I watched John move around with ease, almost ambidextrous in nature, gliding around effortlessly, pulling items and food from cabinets and pantries. He opened the oven to check the temperature. He mixed up a gooey batter in a sturdy, red mixing bowl with a matching red Williams-Sonoma spatula.
“I’m sorry. I already started the process when I decided to knock on your door,” he said. “This batch is mixed.”
He filled the muffin cups with the batter, letting it pour into each cup, and when they were all filled, he slid the entire tin of what looked like perfection into the oven.
“Would you care for a cup of tea?” he asked, attempting to conjure up a British accent. It didn’t go too well, and we both smiled.
“Yes. Decaf, please,” I said, attempting to produce a similar accent in response, but failing miserably at it.
“Got it,” he said as he began making it.
“I feel silly just sitting here not helping.”
“Don’t. It’s my grandma’s recipe, and because a little birdie told me you didn’t try one this morning, I’m going to make you try one as it comes out of the oven. Your mother told me that your writing career began with food reviews. I’m looking forward to your verdict.”
“That was a long time ago, when I actually was a writer and it meant something.”
“I understand,” he said. “But I’d still like to hear your review of Grandma’s muffins.”
“I’m feeling extraordinary pressure to like them,” I said.
“The word ‘like’ shouldn’t be a part of your vocabulary when you’re describing treats you will salivate over,” he said with a wink. “That’s something you do on Facebook. As a writer and former food critic, I expect a far more elaborate and eloquent dissection and analysis of the food from you.”
“I’m better on paper,” I teased.
When the timer went off, he pulled the first batch out of the oven, steam rising off the tops ever so slightly, and then sat across from me at the table.
“Have one of these,” he said, and he placed a hearty, substantial treat onto my delicate plate adorned with roses.
“A crunchy muffin?” I asked. It appeared to be hard on the bottom with some sort of loose, sugary topping that resembled a crumb bun on top.
“Grandma will want to know if you like her recipe.”
I remember distinctly when I wrote my first novel, Beneath the Mimosa Tree, and I read a passage back to my husband. I was writing from a 32-year-old man’s point of view, and I needed to know if Michael would say what I had written. I read the passage aloud to my husband, and when I was done, I stopped.
“Is that what Michael would say?” I asked my husband.
“No,” he said. “Michael would not say that.”
“What would he say, then?” I asked my husband, seeking help with the paragraph, especially because my husband happens to be A MAN.
“I don’t know,” he said, “but he wouldn’t say that.”
I reworked that paragraph at least ten times until finally, I read it aloud once more, and my husband said, “That’s it. That’s what Michael would say.”
And that, my friends, is why you seek input from others and why it takes time to write something vivid, meaningful, and realistic.
I want to turn off my brain, have someone else serve me brunch (which we have already arranged, thank goodness!), and do, as Audrey Hepburn says in Roman Holiday, “just whatever I’d like for a few hours.”
I think there’s a misconception with regard to Mother’s Day and gift-giving that we “need stuff.” I don’t need anything at all that’s tangible and store-bought. I’m going to speak for tired mothers around the world when I say this: You can just hand us our tiaras and let us do what we please.
All we need is a little serenity and peace; we might even like to curl up with a good book or watch an old movie.
Honestly, that’s all we want.
Well, that and maybe a little chocolate.
There have been a couple of new reviews that I’ve loved seeing on Amazon about Inn Significant. I’m still getting a lot of positive feedback on the book with several people telling me it’s the best of my three novels. While each one is incredibly special to me, I take that as a wonderful compliment. I would certainly hope my storytelling gets better each time. At least, that’s what I aim for with each piece of fiction I write.
Gosh, life is busy, isn’t it? We’re all just pushing through each day trying to accomplish all that we can during the 12+ hours we are awake.
That said, it’s been a busy April, as it often is in the university world. With three weeks remaining of the semester, the students are getting ready for their final presentations, papers, and pitches. I am excited to see what unfolds in the classroom. In the meantime, I don’t do this often, but I wanted to share some updates here on the blog.
I want to congratulate my colleague, friend, and co-author of Event Planning: Communicating Theory & Practice, Dr. Leeanne Bell McManus, on her promotion last night from associate professor to full professor. She was the lead on our textbook project, and Chip and I couldn’t have done it without her guidance and expertise. She is also loved by her students, and she oversees Lambda Pi Eta, the National Communication Honor Society. Next year, she’ll be planning the Eastern Communication Association Conference in Pittsburgh. See you there!
Walking for Our Dear Ms. Noya
Tonight, beginning at 5 p.m., we will walk for our dear colleague and friend, Chris Noya, at Relay for Life at Stevenson University for the American Cancer Society. Chris is battling cancer and is fighting her way through chemotherapy. We are all praying for her recovery, and are excited to raise some money for her team and this worthy cause.
California is Calling!
My son is off to California next week to participate in the National DECA competition. He, along with his two friends, came in first place in States in the category of Advertising (I promise, I had nothing to do with this project! They did it all themselves!), so they, along with other students will travel to California and have a ton of fun. I’m so excited for them. My son is also driving now, and got his first job working at a golf center. Now I can borrow money from him. 🙂
Dancing with My Little Star
My daughter, after a year of perseverance, lots of practice, and hard work, made the dance team at the high school. She didn’t make it her first year as a freshman, but it goes to show you that if you put your mind to something and work at it (along with taking lots of ballet classes, which she admittedly doesn’t love–jazz, hip-hop, and modern are her favorites), you have the ability to power through. I am so happy for her!
VillaFest on Sunday, April 23
I’ll be selling and signing books on Sunday at VillaFest at Stevenson University from 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. The event is open to anyone who would like to help us raise money for the Cool Kids Campaign. It’s a great time to reconnect with alums, hang out with your fellow students, and dunk one of your favorite faculty or staff members in the Dunk Tank. Hope to see you there!
Book Club Visits
I’m open for Book Club visits if your Book Club decides to read Inn Significant; I am also happy to Skype into your Book Club if you live far away. I spent Monday evening with a group of lovely ladies talking about my novel, novels in general, kids, life, writing, and Joanna Gaines’s great style. If you are interested, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, there are some new reviews up on Amazon, so check them out to see if you’d like to read my latest!
Teaching a New Course Next Fall
I’ll be teaching a wholly different type of course this Fall in the School of Design at Stevenson University. It’s tentatively entitled “Design Center,” and the course will function as a full-service agency capable of integrated marketing communication. We will be working with an outside client, and as well, we will be responsible for formulating and branding the center with a new name, logo, and identity. I’m getting excited about it.
I am looking forward to four things this summer: reading, writing, lounging by the pool, and trying my hand at golf. I figure since my son and husband love golf so much, I might as well take a swing at it. This will be interesting, ladies and gentleman. We will also take a family vacation, and I look forward to snapping lots of photos for my Instagram account this summer. I love taking photographs and playing with photography.
Until next time, thank you for reading Steph’s Scribe.
It’s the question people like to ask me about my recently released novel entitled Inn Significant. It seems to be the question people have on their minds as the marker that indicates how successful the book has been thus far.
The funny thing is, I liken the question to someone asking me about my age, how much I make, or how robust my sex life is.
Sometimes we are focused too much on the results and not on the process. At least that’s what my husband and I try to teach our kids. The most important aspect revolves around the process that helps us achieve our goals; the results are often secondary (and yes, at times, can be quite important).
As for Inn Significant, I didn’t set out to write a bestseller. That thought is not based in reality; I like to think more realistically. When I began writing the novel, I set out to start the process, see the process through, and complete a project. A writing project. Do you know how many people start something and never finish it? My goal is always to complete it. Writing has been in my blood since I was about 13 years old. I feel compelled to tell stories, and I’m more concerned with the process of that storytelling journey than I am with the results of that journey.
Moreover, I find myself echoing the sentiments of writer Elizabeth Gilbert when she says, “…if I am not actively creating something, then I am probably actively destroying something (myself, a relationship, or my own peace of mind).”Well said, Ms. Gilbert.
If you have the creative inspiration to redecorate a room, you do it, don’t you? If you have the urge to build a spectacular garden with a fountain in your back yard, you take it on, right? If you sit at a blank canvas and paint something that moves you, you don’t tell your inspiration to run away and hide, do you?
No, you don’t; nor do I. If I have the inspiration—if it happens to bless me with a story I think I can piece together in a meaningful way—I write it. Why would I tell my creativity to take a flying leap?
As for book sales, I do my best to try to promote the book, talk up the book, market the book, and sell the book where I can. Just this week, I entered two independent author book contests, and I’m about to enter more. I sent my book off to people who may be able to help promote it. I mailed out press releases. I was booked to talk at a library and a book signing is in the works at a bookstore. I do what I can.
But this is not why I write.
I write, once again, to quote Elizabeth Gilbert, because of this one, main reason: “…at the end of your creative adventure, you have a souvenir—something that you made, something to remind you forever of your brief but transformative encounter with inspiration.”
To put it simply, I just like to be able to say that I welcomed inspiration and “I did it.”
I also love the fact that my kids see their mom be fearless about putting her creativity out there.
The best part about giving someone a book as a gift as that it can be the gift that keeps on giving. People love to lend a book to someone when they love it. Therefore, that particular book may have many readers, as it lovingly gets passed from friend to friend to enjoy.
I’ve always loved giving books as gifts because you can write a nice message inside it–even if you are not the author. While it’s lovely to get a signed book from an author, it’s even more special to receive a book from a dear friend and to inscribe the book with a sentimental message.
Just yesterday, a friend of mine was packing her home to move, and she found The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom inscribed to her a few years ago by her late father. It was a touching moment when she found that book and what her father had written to her inside of it.
It’s also fun to make a little gift basket with books. I’m planning on giving this one to a friend of mine. You can pack the basket with things the people like. In my basket is tea, hot chocolate, Blue Crab munchies, and homemade chocolate chip cookies in a Mason jar, along with the three books I’ve written. Yes—signed, of course, with a message in each.
Books are a sweet gift, because when the person is done reading, it warrants a get-together over wine, coffee, or tea to talk about the book.
Getting people interested in your book ain’t easy. I know. I’ve begun the everyday challenge of marketing a novel I’ve written. Don’t feel too badly for me, though. I’ve chosen to take this on myself; I’ve chosen the path of an independent author mainly because I’m extraordinarily controlling. When I write, it’s from the heart, and I very much enjoy making sure that every word on the page comes directly from me.
Plus, this is the third time around for me. Third time’s a charm, maybe.
I guess you could say, as a controlling artist, that I’ve utilized my collective skills to be able to do this. As the former Director of Publishing for the Baltimore Orioles, I wrote, edited, and designed all sorts of printed pieces. Additionally, having worked in public relations, and as someone who currently teaches the topic, I would hope I know how to spread the word, at least to garner a bit of publicity. And finally, with two master’s degrees in writing, along with the fact that I teach writing at a university, I feel strongly that it is my duty to write and show what folks who call themselves writers are capable of producing. For all these reasons, I continue to “go for it.”
As I publish directly through Amazon via Mimosa Publishing, there are certain recommendations Amazon suggests, and one is to share an excerpt of the book to perhaps entice readers. The prologue is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble, but I thought I would also share it here to see if I can whet your appetite and get you to consider reading Inn Significant.
I can promise you one thing: I poured my heart and soul into it.
ABOUT INN SIGNIFICANT
Two years after receiving the horrifying news of her husband Gil’s death, Milly Foster continues to struggle to find her way out of a state of depression. As a last-ditch effort and means of intervention, Milly’s parents convince her to run their successful Inn during their absence as they help a friend establish a new bed and breakfast in Ireland. Milly reluctantly agrees; when she arrives at the picturesque, waterfront Inn Significant, her colleague, John, discovers a journal written by her deceased grandmother that contains a secret her grandmother kept from the family. Reading her grandmother’s words, and being able to identify with her Nana’s own feelings of loss, sparks the beginning of Milly’s climb out of the darkness and back to the land of the living.