When We Were Very Young

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The collection my mother gave me for Mother’s Day.

On Sunday—MOTHER’S DAY—my mother gave me quite a special present.

But first we have to backtrack to a few weeks ago when…

…my daughter, husband and I watched Goodbye Christopher Robin, a film about the writer A.A. Milne, and what happened after he created that lovable Winnie-the-Pooh character, along with Christopher Robin, who was based on his own son. While the story was melancholy to say the least, it made me remember fondly my love for Pooh. My daughter loved Pooh, too, and carried around Lumpy, the Heffalump, as a small child. She loved Lumpy more than anything.

So back to my mother’s gift…

As a kid, I had the four-book collection that A.A. Milne wrote in hardback. I asked my mother if she still had them. She said she wasn’t sure, that she may have given them away.

You know what’s coming…

On Mother’s Day, I opened my gifts, and at the bottom of the bag was something heavy. Bound together with a pretty ribbon were the Pooh books that were mine as a kid, and I will cherish them forever. I love books, and keep a small library of my favorites, often lending them to friends, unless, of course, they are super sentimental, and then, they have to remain at my house. Pride & Prejudice, A Christmas Carol, and Austen’s collection are among those, now with the A.A. Milne collection, that cannot be checked out from the Verni Library.

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My maiden name in the book in my 3rd-grade handwriting.

Winnie-the-Pooh stories remind us of innocence. Of friendship. Of the love that happens between friends that is good and pure and sweet. The books remind us that often the simple things in life are to be treasured and valued. Winnie-the-Pooh reminds us of our own childhoods, growing pains, and of finding our place in the world.

So…

The books are on my shelf, if you’d like to come and peruse them for a while.

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What I’m Working On: My Summer Writing Projects

ThePostcardCoverTwo weeks remain until the close of the Spring 2018 semester. It’s been a very hectic, but productive one, and I’m eager to hear some final student presentations, read final papers, and complete the final curriculum of the year.

I may take a few days off afterwards to smell the roses, go for a road trip, see the Blue Angels, and stroll around Annapolis and some Eastern Shore towns with my Nikon in hand—one of my favorite things to do.

But I’m also looking forward to completing the writing and editing of my short story collection, tentatively titled THE POSTCARD and OTHER SHORT STORIES and POEMS. As some of you know who follow me, I’ve been talking about this for a while, but writing textbooks, teaching, and writing novels in between has delayed this project. I’ll be including the original short story I wrote called CONTELLI’S MIMOSA, a sad short story that ended up becoming my first novel, BENEATH THE MIMOSA TREE (although the novel turned around and had a much, much happier ending). I’ve also got some of my FICTOGRAPHY pieces that have been turned into longer stories, and three new stories I’m editing for the collection along with one other that’s in the works. I’m hoping to have this collection completed and on the market by August. I’m excited to share these with you.

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Annapolis: On the Chesapeake Bay.

I’ll also be reconnecting with Milly, John, Miles, and the rest of the crew in Oxford as I see where a possible sequel to INN SIGNIFICANT takes me.

Wish me luck, my friends.

All I need is a bit of encouragement and some good, strong coffee to get me through.

🙂

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Book Club Visits Benefit Authors – Truly.

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The lovely women of last week’s Book Club in Chartwell, Severna Park.

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Last week I had the pleasure of attending a local book club meeting, and I had the opportunity to mingle with readers of my novel, Beneath the Mimosa Tree, the first of three novels I have written and published.

From the book club side, the benefits of having an author attend your book talk is that you get some “behind the scenes” information about the book, its inception, back story, and inspirations from the author. Authors are typically willing to answer questions and provide additional insight into their books.

I enjoyed meeting the women in last week’s book club, and had a great time interacting with them. They asked great questions and were interested in learning about the writing process.

From an author’s perspective, book clubs offer us the chance to pick our readers’ brains a little, too, because hearing directly from readers is the best way to do research, think about adjustments for the future, and hear ideas for potential novels. If you can get your pulse on what they like to read, it can be most beneficial. I tell my own writing students that when I write something—especially a novel—I picture my readers in my head, I know what they are looking for in a book, and I try not to disappoint them.

I’d love to be a part of your book club — just reach out, and I’ll do my best to be there either in person or virtually. It means a lot to us as writers—we LOVE to meet our readers.
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BooksStephanie Verni is a hopeless romantic, Professor of Business Communication at Stevenson University, and the author of Inn Significant,  Baseball Girl, and Beneath the Mimosa Tree. Along with her colleagues Leeanne Bell McManus and Chip Rouse, she is a co-author of Event Planning: Communicating Theory and Practice, published by Kendall-Hunt. Follow her on Twitter at stephverni or on Instagram at stephanie.verni.

The Real People Who Have Inspired Some of My Characters

pexels-photo-320266.jpegI was reading a fellow writer’s blog today, and he wrote a post about people who have inspired him along the way: both those who have encouraged him to write and those who have inspired the characters he has written. It was enlightening to read his thoughts, so I decided to share what has inspired some of my own characters in my novels.

We’ll start with three today, one from each book.

VIVI IN BENEATH THE MIMOSA TREE

Some of you may know that the character of Vivi in Beneath the Mimosa Tree was inspired by my own grandmother, Eleanor, who passed away when I was in my twenties. I had a great relationship with her and admired her, and I wished she’d been around longer so that I could have developed a more adult relationship with her. Her passing left me with some regrets—that I didn’t do more with her and talk to her more often and that I didn’t capture as much of our family’s history as I would have liked. The character of Vivi is very much like my grandmother: she is wise, has her granddaughter Annabelle’s  best interest at heart, and believes that she may know what’s best for her even though Annabelle may not. They have a close and loving relationship, and I don’t think we can ever underestimate the power of fabulous relationships with our grandparents. Those can be quite influential in our lives.

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My brother and me with Poppy and Nanny, my mom’s parents. Vivi is loosely based on my grandmother.

JOE CLARKSON IN BASEBALL GIRL

When my father (who is alive and well, by the way, unlike Frankie’s father in Baseball Girl) asked me if the character of Joe Clarkson was based on former Orioles outfielder Brady Anderson, I had to chuckle. The truth is, that character was a combination of many baseball players I had met along the way when I worked for the Baltimore Orioles. (Looks wise, I kind of had former ballplayer Paul O’Neil of the New York Yankees pictured in my head when writing Clarkson’s physical description). Having spent time in public relations, community relations, and publishing for the ballclub, I encountered a mix of personalities, and it’s much more fun when writing fiction to create your characters by pulling from traits of many different people. What was most important to me about writing Clarkson’s character was to make him likable, as so many ballplayers can be, especially as they are often seen through more of a public than private lens. Clarkson was charming, funny, romantic, confident, and self-absorbed to a degree. Did he love Frankie? Maybe, but you’ll have to be the judge of that.

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New York Yankee player Paul O’Neil was the inspiration for Joe Clarkson’s looks (not personality). People ask me who Clarkson is most like. I honestly have no idea. He’s kind of a collection of people I met along the way working in professional baseball all rolled into one. Photo credit: New York Daily News.

MILES IN INN SIGNIFICANT

Much like Father John in Baseball Girl, Miles Channing is my favorite character in Inn Significant—I definitely had a lot of fun writing him. My husband always cracks up when I mention this character’s name, telling me he sounds like a cheesy soap opera character from the 1980s. While there may be some truth to that, Miles Channing was always Miles Channing, no matter how many times people told me to reconsider his name. I was not to be deterred in naming that character: I loved that name, and have a perfect mental picture of what Miles Channing looks like in my head. He is absolutely charming, funny, witty, aloof, caring, and smart, and yet there are things Miles keeps hidden from everyone. He has been hurt by a wife who left him, and has become a playboy to keep from being hurt again. The main female character in this novel, Milly, figures him out eventually, but never falls in love with him. They are always good friends, and that’s how I wanted it to be. I have a few good male friends who have never been romantic interests of mine (nor on their part, have I been one of theirs), and yet we have a strong bond. This is what I wanted for Milly. She needed a nice guy in her life—one she was not in danger of falling in love with. Sometimes those relationships can be so wonderfully beneficial and therapeutic.

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Some of my best guy friends are people I worked with at the Orioles. I got good material from working there and from hearing their stories.

That’s it for now. This was fun and sort of cathartic for me to examine post-writing. I may do another post like this soon.

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BooksStephanie Verni is a hopeless romantic, Professor of Business Communication at Stevenson University, and the author of Inn Significant,  Baseball Girl, and Beneath the Mimosa Tree. Along with her colleagues Leeanne Bell McManus and Chip Rouse, she is a co-author of Event Planning: Communicating Theory and Practice, published by Kendall-Hunt. Follow her on Twitter at stephverni or on Instagram at stephanie.verni.

 

Compare Yourself to a Hopeless Romantic

Screen Shot 2018-03-09 at 5.38.04 PM.pngDo you believe this?

This is the prompt I got handed today.

COMPARE YOURSELF TO A HOPELESS ROMANTIC.

But I AM a bloody hopeless romantic, so I can’t compare myself to myself!

Look—some people know they are certain ways. For example, someone who’s a realist looks at the world through that lens—the lens of realism. He won’t allow any mushiness or extremely flowery notions seep into his pores. He just puts all his marbles into things that are real, nothing too touchy-feely, nothing too fantastical, nothing too intangible. Period. End of sentence. Have you ever tried to argue with a realist when you’re not one? You know it’s hard. Don’t ever say, “Well, but I FEEL this way.”

He might tell you feelings are not facts.

Nevertheless, I’ve found it to be a losing game.


Realists will tell hopeless romantics that they’re living in a dreamworld, in a magazine, in a fantasy land.

If you are wondering if you are a hopeless romantic, see if you have a tendency toward any of the following…

1. You can find the beauty or magical aspect of things. If you believe things will work out, that life truly is beautiful, that things come together for a reason, that we love who we love because our heart tells us to, you are a hopeless romantic.

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2. You understand others and can imagine what it feels like to be them. The word for this is empathy-that we have the ability to feel empathy for others. We can comprehend what they’re going through even though it’s not happening to us. People with empathy are hopeless romantics, because they have a sense of understanding. I know plenty of people who think they are hopeless romantics, but the bottom line is, they are not. They don’t have the capacity to feel another’s pleasures or pains.

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3. You are spirited and have a mad sense of passion. Passion comes in all forms…for your family, your career, your friends, your hobbies, your children, and so on. If you come wired with passion, you are, indeed, a hopeless romantic.

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4. You cry not just at Hallmark movies but at Hallmark commercials. You actually become weepy.

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5. You believe that love conquers all. That there is nothing that compares to love. If this is so, you are someone who loves to be in love with love.

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I believe all those five things above, and I make no bones about it. Do you?

When people say to me, “Oh, you’re just a hopeless romantic!” I say, “Why, thank you!”

I need a shirt that says, “Proud Hopeless Romantic.”

You see, I would wear it proudly.

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BooksStephanie Verni is a hopeless romantic, Professor of Business Communication at Stevenson University, and the author of Inn Significant,  Baseball Girl, and Beneath the Mimosa Tree. Along with her colleagues Leeanne Bell McManus and Chip Rouse, she is a co-author of Event Planning: Communicating Theory and Practice, published by Kendall-Hunt.

 

Why I Write ‘feel good’ Novels…A Kid Off to College…and Two Queens

WHY I WRITE ‘FEEL GOOD’ NOVELS

pexels-photo-865844.jpegYesterday, when author and television personality Rick Steves spoke to students about the passion he has for his job, he mentioned the word positivity–that he considers himself a positive person, and his approach to life is that of a positive person.

He and I are alike in that regard.

Despite a small snippet of time during my 52-years of life when I took a little bit of an Eyeore-ish turn, I like to think that I look at the world through a lens that is mostly positive. No one is perfect, however, and I have to catch myself every now and then when I feel I am slipping down a slope that is not going to be productive.

And that brings me to novel writing. I’m working on two things presently: the sequel to Inn Significant and fine-tuning my collection of short stories that I would like to release as a collection. Because there are so many things in life that can get us down and make us angry or hurt or compelled to be negative, I’ve decided that when I write fiction, I don’t want to travel down that path. Most of my stories involved people “rising above” turmoil, tragedy, or mistakes, and it’s something I enjoy sharing with readers. I have no interest in writing something upsetting or overly tragic or maddening.

Why?

Because I believe there is more good in people than there is bad; I believe that mistakes can be overcome; I believe that forgiveness does find its way into life and relationships; and I believe that love does have the power to conquer all.

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I may sound a little naive where this is concerned, but I’ve seen it in people I am close to as well as heard about from acquaintances and strangers.

And that’s why I write books that will make you happy to read during Spring Break, on the beach, or just when you need a little reminder that love is, indeed, a healing spirit.

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ODDS & ENDS

We are in the throes of deciding which university my son will attend in the fall. Let me tell you, I am just in awe of how fast times flies (hence why I am reading Mitch Albom’s The Time Keeper.) It’s a great book that forces you to think about time and how it is spent…and how fast it can go…and how if we’re not careful, we can spend our short time on this planet worrying about the most ridiculous things. If you haven’t read this book, you should. Albom is a terrific storyteller, and can tell a story as succinctly and beautifully as possible. I love his style.

Anyway, it’s only a matter of months before my oldest is off to college.

Eighteen years have passed in a flash.

If you have young children, cherish every moment. I was lucky enough to work part-time and stay home with my children, but I still think I missed out on some things I wish I didn’t. You will not regret the time you spend with those you love the most.

WRITE DOWN YOUR FAMILY STORIES

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I’ve blogged about this a lot, but I want to reiterate it again. Be sure to write down your family stories and keep them someplace sacred. You will want to remember the little details and sometimes a photograph doesn’t tell the whole story. I’ve written about some of the funny things my daughter has said over the years here, but I wish I had done more.

Here are a few links to those funny things Ellie has said during the years.

SHENANIGANS – a story

BREAKFAST WITH MICHAEL BUBLE – a story

CONVERSATIONS WITH MY DAUGHTER

THE CROWN & VICTORIA

One final thing for today: if you haven’t watch The Crown on Netflix, you are missing a fantastic series that is based on the life of current Queen Elizabeth. Claire Foy plays Queen Elizabeth, and I adore her acting and portrayal of Elizabeth.

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Claire Foy as Queen Elizabeth

Additionally, if you’re not tapped into Victoria on PBS, again, I urge you to watch this well-done show about Queen Victoria and Albert set in the Victorian era. I love Jenna Coleman in the role of Victoria. She is beautiful and perfectly suited for the role. And Rufus Sewell played the perfect Lord Melbourne.

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Jenna Coleman and Rufus Sewell as Queen Victoria and Lord “M”

Until next time, then…

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Stephanie Verni is Professor of Business Communication at Stevenson University and is the author of Inn Significant,  Baseball Girl, and Beneath the Mimosa Tree. Along with her colleagues Leeanne Bell McManus and Chip Rouse, she is a co-author of Event Planning: Communicating Theory and Practice, published by Kendall-Hunt.

Giving Away Some LOVE…stories. An Amazon Book Giveaway—Inn Significant

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Want to enter to win a copy of INN SIGNIFICANT?

See this #AmazonGiveaway for a chance to win: Inn Significant: A Novel.

https://giveaway.amazon.com/p/1363f40b123b3f2a

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY.

Ends the earlier of Feb 11, 2018 11:59 PM PST, or when all prizes are claimed. See Official Rules http://amzn.to/GArules.

I looked around one last time and heard the voices that I sometimes heard when the world was quiet_ You're okay, Milly; you're okay, they said.The door blew open, and then, I was gone.

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Stephanie Verni is Professor of Business Communication at Stevenson University and is the author of Inn SignificantBaseball Girl, and Beneath the Mimosa Tree. Along with her colleagues Leeanne Bell McManus and Chip Rouse, she is a co-author of Event Planning: Communicating Theory and Practice, published by Kendall-Hunt.

 

 

In Celebration of Valentine’s Day — Book Giveaways This Week

LoveCardHappy Super Bowl Sunday!

After the BIG GAME is over, I figured it may be time to hunker down with some reading as we wait for winter to get the hell out of town. Plus, VALENTINE’S DAY is coming up, and I wanted to give away some love in the form of my contemporary fiction novels. I’ve completed reading four terrific books since January, and am presently reading numbers 5 & 6. I’m posting my reading list on the blog for you as it’s always nice to see what others are reading. Likewise, I’d love for you to share what you’ve read that you’ve enjoyed.

BOOK GIVEAWAYS

I’ll be posting my book giveaways this week, as I’m giving away one of each of my books to some random winners. When they go live, I’ll share the information on how to enter.

In the meantime, below are some excerpts from each of my three novels in print and they are available on both Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

To order my books…

For more information on AMAZON, click here.

For more information on BARNES & NOBLE, click here.

Enjoy the game tonight and keep reading!

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Love leaves a memory that no one else can steal, but sometimes leaves a heartache that no one else can heal.

I looked around one last time and heard the voices that I sometimes heard when the world was quiet_ You're okay, Milly; you're okay, they said.The door blew open, and then, I was gone.

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Stephanie Verni is Professor of Business Communication at Stevenson University and is the author of Inn SignificantBaseball Girl, and Beneath the Mimosa Tree. Along with her colleagues Leeanne Bell McManus and Chip Rouse, she is a co-author of Event Planning: Communicating Theory and Practice, published by Kendall-Hunt.

Book Marketing & An Infographic

One of the things we independent authors have to continually do is market ourselves, our books, and what we are working on presently.

THIS IS THE HARDEST PART OF THIS PROCESS — TRUST ME.

I am no pro at it, believe me, but I strive each day to work on it and learn something new. Therefore, this morning I told myself I would design a marketing piece—take a new tactic—and that piece is the infographic below that showcases each of my fiction novels with a brief description of what they are about. I’m posting it below for feedback and to hear from other indie authors about what you do. What have been your most successful PR and marketing tools for book sales?

I’d love to hear from you.

For many people, charity is a direct reflection of their own inn

Two Books Down So Far in 2018; Letters to Write

The other day, I blogged my post-Christmas letter, which really wasn’t too much of a Christmas letter at all, replete with all the “what our family has been up to;” in fact, it was more of a review and a what-I-got-out-of the book The Man Who Invented Christmas letter. That was the first book I completed in the New Year.


I can now check another book off my 2018 READING LIST: Marisa de los Santos’s wonderfully cheeky and heartwarming first book, Love Walked In. The book was my choice for tonight’s book club meeting, as I’ve wanted to read it for years, ever since my mother stuffed it into my hands one day when I was visiting her. If you love your mother like I love mine, you’ll love Love Walked In–it’s about mothers and daughters and unconditional love; it’s about new love and old love; it’s about being as kind as someone can possibly be; it’s about loving people without judgement or conditions or stipulations. I highly recommend this book if you want to be swept into the lives of Clare, Cornelia, Martin, Linny, Teo, Ellie, Viviana, and so many more who will warm your heart. I love reading a book that takes me away from the nightly news, sad stories, and even the daily chores and work I have to accomplish. Sometimes, I just want to morph into the book and see what it’s like to be another character.

As I’ve done in the past—and you’re not unfamiliar with my tendency to do it as I’ve blogged about it time and time again—I have stepped away from Facebook. No longer do I spend my time scrolling through endless feeds to see what everyone else is up to. I decided in late 2017 that I was going to be up to something, and that something I was going to be up to is to take my life back and live it. Remember that great prophecy that you have heard? You know the one. The one that says that when you are on your deathbed, the likelihood of you uttering, “I wish I spent more time at work,” will probably not cross your lips? Likewise, I, too, have decided that I don’t want to be on my deathbed and say, “I wish I spent more time on Facebook.” With the reports coming out about Facebook’s intention to make its product addictive, I have decided that I’m not too keen on that. So, I’m out for now. I won’t say I’ll never go back to it, but my priorities have changed, and I’m taking steps to work on the things I want to work on and not waste my time scrolling. And scrolling.

That said, a video I had my class watch at the end of last semester has been something that has stayed with me—again. Every time I watch it, I get inspired. It’s a Ted Talk by Hannah Brencher called LOVE LETTERS TO STRANGERS (see below). It’s incredibly moving, and if you have five minutes, I would urge you to watch it, as 1,963,574 million other people have. While Hannah wrote to strangers, I think it’s also important to write to those we love. I saw Fixer Upper host Joanna Gaines’s post on Instagram the other day: she had created a box for each of her children and inside each box she put keepsakes from their days as babies and wrote each of them a love letter.

Old Bundle of Letters
Letters packaged like this are gorgeous. For more, visit gypsypurplehome.tumblr.com.

Both of these things have made me one thing in particular: I-N-S-P-I-R-E-D.

I am now in the process of doing the same.

Letter writing — receiving a heartfelt letter — is a gift of an amazing keepsake. It takes time to sit and craft something meaningful, but the payoff is that of a tremendous keepsake that one can read again and again, over and over, to his or her heart’s content.

So you can see, with working, taking care of my kids, making meals, entertaining, teaching, working, writing, and reading, I really don’t have too much time left over for Facebook scrolling.

At least not right now.

I’d much prefer to write you a letter.

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Stephanie Verni is Professor of Business Communication at Stevenson University and is the author of Inn Significant, Baseball Girl, and Beneath the Mimosa Tree. Along with her colleagues Leeanne Bell McManus and Chip Rouse, she is a co-author of Event Planning: Communicating Theory and Practice, published by Kendall-Hunt.

 

A Post-Christmas Letter

Dear Readers,

It’s January 2, and I haven’t blogged since Christmas. I hope you had a great holiday season and that your New Year is off to a tremendous start.

It’s not that I didn’t want to blog, it’s just that I didn’t make time for it, if I’m being completely honest. I committed myself to the 2017 holiday season fully; I did almost everything I wanted to do, and most of it revolved around spending time with my family.

img_8174Minus the mad rush of finishing up teaching my college classes, scoring students, and reading endless amounts of papers and reflections (which is all great in itself, but it gets a little crazy when you’re pressed for time as the holidays are approaching), December 2017 was a great month. In the holiday spirit since Thanksgiving weekend, my husband and I snuck away to St. Michaels for a weekend and became part of the chaos and fun of Midnight Madness; my girlfriend, her daughter, my daughter and I shopped and ate in Annapolis for its Thursday night Midnight Madness event; I met my college roommate and dear friend for a Christmas lunch; we had a great Christmas supper club feast; our families celebrated Christmas Eve and Christmas day together; we finally got to Lights on the Bay at Sandy Point State Park; we snuggled up and watched oodles of Christmas movies; and the Hallmark Channel was the staple on our Comcast lineup during the month of December.

It was, indeed, a wonderful month.

About mid-month, my husband, knowing I wanted to see The Man Who Invented Christmas, which was in theatres and was about Charles Dickens and his writing of A Christmas Carol about Ebenezer Scrooge, took me to a matinee while the kids were at work. If you didn’t get a chance to see the film while it was in theatres, trust me when I tell you that if you ADORE the tale of A Christmas Carol as much as I do (as Dickens is one of my two favorite authors of all time), you will L-O-V-E this movie. It stars Dan Stevens (of Downton Abbey and Beauty and The Beast fame) and Christopher Plummer. It’s a look at the six weeks leading up to the finished product of Dickens’s book, and the cast and sets create an alluring story that will keep you fascinated with Dickens as they bring him to life on the big screen.

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Dan Stevens as Dickens. Photo credit: The Guardian.

I so loved Dan Stevens’s portrayal of Charles Dickens, as Dickens wrote my favorite story of all-time, that I ran to the library and checked out Les Standiford’s book of the same name. I devoured this book about Dickens, which is more of a retrospective of Dickens’s life leading up to writing A Christmas Carol and then the history that followed the publication of the book.

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The first Victorian Chistmas Tree from Victoria magazine.

It is called The Man Who Invented Christmas for a reason: prior to 1843 England, there was not much in the way of Christmas celebrations. There was no gift-giving, no turkey dinners, feasts, Santas, Christmas trees, elves, and holly and ivy. Christmas, in those days, was barely celebrated; in fact, Easter was a bigger holiday. Dickens’s book brought the idea of charity, kindness, generosity, and being a good person to the forefront of the Victorian era and to the Christmas holiday. Also, thanks to Queen Victoria’s husband, Albert, Christmas trees became popularized, a tradition that came from Germany. Over the ensuing years, Christmas grew into the holiday it is today. But it was Dickens and his incredible tale of Ebenezer Scrooge, the three ghosts, and his dead partner, Marley, that helped bring the idea of goodwill to the industrial age and forever moving forward, and the tale continues to mesmerize new generations to this very day.


I think what’s so stunning about A Christmas Carol is its ability to evoke such emotion in all of us. It offers hope when there seems to be none. It reminds us all of the simplicity of life and what really matters most. When you boil it down, it makes you slow down and ask yourself if you’re doing all you can to be a good person.

This year it’s going to be more difficult to let go of the Christmas season for me. Normally, my Christmas decorations would be down on New Year’s Day. Twinkle lights would be back in their boxes stuffed into the garage shelves.

But not this year.

I’m still twinkling over here, because the truth is, people in general are just a bit kinder during the holidays than during the rest of the year. The Christmas season tends to bring out the best in people, and A Christmas Carol highlights that aspect.

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But in order to be more like our saved Scrooge, we can look to the second to last paragraph of the text in Stave Five that Dickens wrote himself:

Scrooge was better than his word. He did it all, and infinitely more; and to Tiny Tim, who did not die, he was a second father. He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world. Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but he let them laugh, and little heeded them; for he was wise enough to know that nothing ever happened on this globe, for good, at which some people did not have their fill of laughter in the outset; and knowing that such as these would be blind anyway, he thought it quite as well that they should wrinkle up their eyes in grins, as have the malady in less attractive forms. His own heart laughed: and that was quite enough for him.

—From A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

I hope you have the loveliest of holidays forthcoming, keep the Christmas spirit the whole year long, have a fabulous New Year, and feel much love as we march into 2018.

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Stephanie Verni is Professor of Business Communication at Stevenson University and is the author of Inn Significant, Baseball Girl, and Beneath the Mimosa Tree. Along with her colleagues Leeanne Bell McManus and Chip Rouse, she is a co-author of Event Planning: Communicating Theory and Practice, published by Kendall-Hunt.

 

 

Need a Last Minute Gift for Someone? Steph’s Scribe Shares Our Favorite Books…

If you need a last minute gift for someone, books always are special. Giving a gift of a book is giving a gift of time–time spent with a book, a story, and characters. It’s a great escape and a reason to become involved in someone else’s life for a little while. Reading helps build empathy and understanding, and it’s such a great way to share what you enjoy with someone you care about so that you can talk about the book, too!


Today, Steph’s Scribe is sharing our Favorite Books, and here they are alphabetically by author:

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Albom, Mitch. The Five People You Meet in Heaven.

I pretty much love anything by Mitch Albom, but The Five People You Meet in Heaven is my personal favorite. Albom dives into the idea of how our lives touch others, even in the smallest of ways. This story will leave you feeling touched, enlightened, and thinking deeply about how you touch the lives of others. I absolutely love it and had my interpersonal communication class read it.

 Austen, Jane. Pride and Prejudice.

The story of Elizabeth Bennett as she faces class distinctions, marriages, upbringing, wealth, and love, has remained a well-loved classic of English literature. The love story between Elizabeth and Darcy is one filled with misunderstandings and misinterpretations with regard to their pride and prejudices. Austen brilliantly depicts Elizabeth’s wonderfully strong personality and it is especially noticeable through Elizabeth’s dialogue and exchanges she has throughout the book. Elizabeth is an intelligent, witty, and strong woman for her time. It is my all-time favorite book. Steph’s Scribe also recommends all the Austen books: Sense & Sensibility, Northanger Abbey, Persuasion, Emma, and Mansfield Park.

Bank, Melissa. The Girls’ Guide to Hunting and Fishing.

Melissa Bank brings contemporary wit and situations to her book. In this text, we follow Jane Rosenal as she grows and develops over the years in this collection of developing short stories that build this novel. This book garnered much acclaim; Bank and Helen Fielding of Bridget Jones fame, have been credited for establishing what is known as “Chick Lit.” Bank’s book is rife with intelligence, as she covers dating, loneliness, love, and the trials one must face with relationships.

Berg, Elizabeth. Three favorites: Say When, The Year of Pleasures, and Open House

Elizabeth Berg’s Say When is told from a man’s perspective. He recounts his wife having an affair and we see it all through his eyes. It was interesting because the woman was the “bad guy” in this scenario, and the husband was the one waiting, desperately wanting his wife to return to him. I enjoyed that Berg painted the wife as a bit aloof and tough to like. This perspective made it even more interesting. Steph’s Scribe also recommends a couple of other Berg books: The Year of Pleasures and Open House, which was an Oprah book club selection.

Bronte, Charlotte. Jane Eyre.

Bronte’s first-person narrative of orphaned Jane Eyre covers Jane at Lowood School and continues as Jane’s becomes a governess to Mr. Rochester’s daughter” Adele. The book has themes of love, morality, understanding, and   forgiveness. After a series of circumstances and after Mr. Rochester and Jane fall in love, the book takes a dark turn for a spell, but eventually ends with Jane and   Mr. Rochester together. Their love story comes full circle. Bronte’s masterful storytelling in first-person keeps the reader tuned-in to the stories that Jane tells from her perspective, often matter-of-factly, of her life at Thornfield Manor.

Bronte, Emily. Wuthering Heights.

In Wuthering Heights, Bronte depicts two tormented lovers, in this part mystery, part ghost story, that is labeled a romance. This story is haunting for a few reasons: the nature of the characters, especially of the brooding Heathcliffe, is brilliantly written; the cruel fate that drives Heathcliffe and Cathy apart is emotionally written; and the struggle for them to continue their love that goes beyond the grave is chillingly written. These factors combine to make Emily Bronte’s novel a classic of literature, and one of the best romances ever written.

Chopin, Kate. The Awakening.

Kate Chopin’s novel, The Awakening, tells the story of Edna Pontellier, a young, married woman with children. When she is on vacation with her husband, she meets a man named Robert with whom she falls in love. This love that she has for Robert makes her more aware of herself, as she uncovers who she is and what her particular wants and needs and interests are. She makes a decision against all conventions, and we see a woman take control of her own destiny. This book caused a stir in its day because of its sexual tones and the outward behavior of an extramarital affair. We see the development of Edna as an independent woman, no matter how tragically it ends.

Davis, Jill. Girls’ Poker Night & Ask Again Later.

I loved both of these books by Jill Davis, a former writer for David Letterman. Davis has a knack for telling lighthearted stories with both punch and a wicked sense of humor. While reading Ask Again Later on the beach, I started laughing so hard I began to cry and my whole family asked if I was okay. I couldn’t help myself; Davis knows just how to throw a zinger in right in the middle of normal conversation. I can see why she wrote for Letterman.

DiCamillo, Kate. The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane.

Edward Tulane is a selfish, toy, porcelain rabbit that is loved by his owner, Abilene. However, Edward’s selfishness and inability truly to offer love in return, causes him a series of troubles. In this beautifully crafted story told by Kate DiCamillo, Edward transforms, as a series of misadventures pass him along from owner to own. DiCamillo’s storytelling is masterful. Michael Patrick Hearn of The New York Times described DiCamillo in his review of Edward Tulane from 2006 this way: “DiCamillo’s style often echoes the rhythms and aspires to the grandiloquence of Victorian or Edwardian children’s literature. More important for a young audience, she is a refreshingly graceful storyteller with a finely tuned ear for the discerning detail.” DiCamillo’s melodic graces as a writer captured my attention immediately. Two of DiCamillo’s other books, Because of Winn-Dixie and The Magician’s Elephant, are also favorites–and ones to share with the whole family.

Dickens, Charles. A Christmas Carol.

There aren’t many novels that have captured the hearts and imaginations of readers like Dickens did with A Christmas Carol. This fantastically witty, amazingly creative, well-told story comes to life year after year. Readers are treated to Scrooge, a memorable character in action and name, and his encounters with ghosts who try to save his soul, and make him a better person during the days he has left. The transformation of Scrooge is enlightening and enjoyable. It delights us and warms our own spirits. From this story, we quote often Scrooge’s words, “Bah! Humbug!” and those of Tiny Tim, “God bless us everyone!”

Gilbert, Elizabeth. Big Magic.

This book is for all creative-types out there. We all need to hear what Elizabeth Gilbert has to say about Big Magic. It’s good stuff, you guys. I absolutely love this book. If you know someone who is trying to balance the day-to-day life with the creative life, give them the gift of this book. It’s wonderful and it reaffirmed why I work the way I work and why I write on the side. I can’t stress enough how important it is to hear what Gilbert has to say about creativity in general and how we manage it.

Gregory, Phillipa. The Other Boleyn Girl.

Through Philippa Gregory’s novel, The Other Boleyn Girl, readers are treated to Henry VIII’s court, and the story of Anne Boleyn as told by “the other Boleyn  girl,” her sister, Mary Boleyn. In this graphic novel that showcases the fictional insights of Henry VIII’s obsessions, sexual desires, and madness, Gregory craftily weaves this story. Gregory’s ability to go inside the character’s heads is a treat; historical fiction has never been so much fun.

Gruen, Sara. Water for Elephants.

Gruen weaves a particularly good story; it’s well researched and well told. You will escape into the circus, a sort-of fairy tale, mystical life which is brought to life by realistic characters and their ability to know what’s right and good. And the elephant will become your personal hero.

Hillenbrand, Laura. Unbroken.

But when we read something as amazing as “Unbroken,” we can’t imagine hearing the story in any other way. Laura Hillenbrand, the author, goes about her craft so meticulously and elegantly, revealing the story at a melodic, somewhat haunting pace, that we cannot tear ourselves away from Louie’s predicaments. We are swept up in his story, and at the end, are left marveling at both his incredible journey and Hillenbrand’s grace as a storyteller.

King, Stephen. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft.

While I am not a fan of the creepy horror and suspense novel, I am a fan of Stephen King. This book is one of the few written by a writer for writers that offers inspirational anecdotes and tips. Talk of his “toolbox” and his passion for writing, coupled with a memoir of his life, make it an interesting—and  informative—read. I recommend it to any aspiring writer.

Lawn, Beverly, ed. 40 Short Stories: A Portable Anthology.

This collection of short stories has proven worthy of being included in my Anthology. Hemingway’s “Hills Like White Elephants,” Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper,” Gabriel Barcia Marquez’s “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings” are among the illustrious pieces included in this book.

Miller, Sue.  The Good Mother.

This novel’s subject, characters, and themes remain troublesome, even twenty-four years after it was written. When Miller wrote this compelling, sexually descriptive and revolutionary novel, times were different than they are now. This novel’s frankness combined with the revelation of the character’s innermost sexual thoughts and actions, and their repercussions, rocked women of all kinds, including the feminists, the non-feminists, and those in between. The portrayal of Anna Dunlap as a divorced woman whose world is turned upside down when she takes a lover and ultimately loses custody of her child is shocking, infuriating, and depressing. Miller writes in an exacting manner the slow, torturous downfall of Anna, and we, as flies on the wall, watch it happen the same way we slow to watch a car accident on the side of the highway. It is painful and maddening.

Morgenstern, Erin. The Night Circus.

The story revolves around a circus that appears in the middle of the night, but it’s not your average circus. It is filled with magic, illusionists, and contortionists. It’s dark and lovely at the same time. It’s about manipulation and control. But at the very heart of it is a love story, though it’s a very different one, indeed. Morgenstern’s prose is sure to captivate you and leave you wanting more of her glorious storytelling.

Moyes, JoJo. The Girl You Left Behind, One Plus One, Me Before You.

JoJo Moyes is one of my favorite contemporary writers of today, and I model my own writing after her brilliance. She is exceptionally great with dialogue, which allows you to get straight to having a relationship with her characters, and falling in love with them. I particularly loved The Girl You Left Behind, as it passes from current time to Nazi Germany. It’s a great story, and amazingly, has a happy ending. I was sobbing by the end of Me Before You (which was made into a film, and it’s not a bad take on the wonderful book), and One Plus One is a lighthearted romp with a child prodigy in math.

Munro, Alice. Open Secrets.

This collection of short stories focuses on women. Munro is at her best as she describes stories about enduring love; long lasting secrets; two childhood friends who recapture their lives; and a woman in Canada who devises a plan to escape what could be a serious fate. Munro’s description and illumination of people, places, and cultures makes her someone  to read and with whom you may want to become better acquainted.

Picoult, Jodi. Change of Heart.

Picoult’s book features controversial and modern subjects; this one focuses on the death penalty and religion in the United States. The story is told by four characters that rotate telling the story, so as a reader, we are privy to thoughts of these four characters. One is a priest, one is an attorney, one is a mother whose daughter and husband have been murdered, and the other one is a prison inmate. Thought provoking and memorable, Picoult’s storytelling wraps its arms around you and pulls you in immediately.

Pilcher, Rosamunde. Coming Home. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1995. Print.

Rosamunde Pilcher is one of my favorite authors. Her book, Coming Home, is charming from beginning to end. Pilcher is full of description; she takes her time telling a story. The story takes place around World War II in Cornwall, England, so the setting is lovely. In this novel, we follow Judith, the main character, as she goes to boarding school, grows as a woman, and experiences tragedy and romance. This was a best-selling novel for Pilcher. She retired from writing in 2000.

Shreve, Susan Richards. Daughters of the New World.

Shreve begins the novel in 1890 when Anna comes to America from Wales to work for a physician in Washington, D.C. Anna’s daughter, Amanda, then becomes the main character of the book, and we follow the three generations of women that follow her. This is yet another book on my list that focuses on women, their relationships, their trials and tribulations, their successes and their fears. This one has stayed with me since I read it in 1994; I have passed my copy along to many friends.

Sinek, Simon. Start with Why.

My fall special topics class for our newly created agency was required to read this book. Sinek is a great speaker and he understands the “why” behind what people and companies do to be successful. This book is replete with fabulous examples and underlying philosophies that will help you understand why you do what you do. I highly recommend this book for business people and creative types alike. You won’t want to miss out on Sinek’s great interpretations and quotes.

Sparks, Nicholas. The Notebook.

This classic book, the one that really put Nicholas Sparks on the map, is a book we all should read, especially those who are about to marry. It’s so special, and the story is one that will never go out of date, because love—deep love—means forgiveness, kindness, and understanding.

Stockett, Kathryn. The Help.

Gosh, I loved this book about three women, told in alternating perspectives. Two women are hired help (Abilieen and Minny) and one is a college graduate (Miss Skeeter) who sets out to write a book about the situation in Jackson, Mississippi in the 1960s. There’s plenty of drama and humor in this book, and it took Ms. Stockett five years to get it into a publisher’s hand after 60 rejection letters. You will enjoy this beautifully constructed stories about prejudice and friendship.

Trigiani, Adriana. The Shoemaker’s Wife.

I enjoyed reading this sweeping story of Italian immigrants loosely based on the history of the author’s own grandparents. From the mountains of the Italian Alps to New York City to a small town in Minnesota, the characters and sights covered in this novel will allow you to become a part of a different time and place when the world was a different place, America was growing, and World War I loomed. The truth of the matter is this: a good book will never let you down.

Tyler, Anne. Ladder of Years.

I have read this book twice at different times in my life. There is something about Pulitzer Prize winning author Anne Tyler that is gripping. Her descriptive language is instrumental to her storytelling, but I think the success of her books has more to do with her characters. In this book, the main character is Delia Grinstead, who (literally) walks away from her family while on the beach in Delaware. At 40, Delia is lost. She doesn’t have a sense of purpose and she does not feel wanted or needed by her family. The story begins as she attempts to forge her own life, and leave her family behind to discover herself. While some of Tyler’s characters can be quite quirky (i.e. Muriel in The Accidental Tourist), Delia seems rather levelheaded, which is why this book intrigues me. Even normal people can do the unimaginable.

Wharton, Edith. Ethan Frome.

Wharton, who won the Pulitzer Prize in 1921 for The Age of Innocence, wrote Ethan Frome in 1911. Ethan Frome is another of the literary tragedies written in Wharton’s style of dramatic irony. The characters of Ethan, Zeena, and Mattie are a fabulous study in character development. Ethan is a sad character, and we get to know him most; however, Zeena and Mattie are sad, too. This triangle of love and entanglement climaxes when we see Ethan barraged with guilt over his feelings for Mattie, his wife Zeena’s cousin who has come to live with them. In a strange twist of fate, an ironic ending comes to pass. Wharton offers us a melancholy look at emotion, love, and guilt, and the repercussions of it all.

White, E.B. Essays of E.B. White.

Known as one of the best essayists and prose writers of our time, E.B. White’s clear, concise style of writing is apparent in his collection of essays. A long-time writer for The New Yorker, E.B. White showcases his talents in this collection, namely in the form of “Goodbye to Forty-Eighth Street,” “Death of a Pig,” and “The Geese.” White’s writing is contagious. His deliberate prose is low on adjectives and adverbs, yet beautifully communicates his insightful observations and nuances of them, as well.

Winton, Tim. The Riders.

On a recommendation from one of my friends, I picked up a copy of The Riders. This story, by Tim Winton, makes it to my list for its bizarre storytelling. The strange melding of the actual story with fantasy in this book is intriguing. The story is about a man, Fred Scully, who goes to Ireland to fix up a house. As it nears completion, he awaits the arrival of his wife and child, who are back at home selling their home in Australia. When Scully arrive at the airport to pick them up, only the daughter comes off the plane. From this point on, Scully and his daughter traipse all over Europe trying to find his wife, who has vanished without explanation or communication. This story of desertion, loss, and the panic to understand something that perhaps can never be understood, won Winton a finalist award for the Booker Prize.

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Or, if you feel like supporting an INDEPENDENT AUTHOR (me), you could pick up one of these on Amazon or Barnes & Noble:

I N N   S I G N I F I C A N T   ( 2017 )

Inn Significant CoverTwo 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.

Available via Amazon by clicking here.

Available via Barnes & Noble by clicking here.

Finalist – National Indie Excellence Awards

 

B A S E B A L L   G I R L   ( 2015)

BaseballGirlFinalCoverRevisedCSRF

Francesca Milli’s father passes away when she’s a freshman in college and nineteen years old; she is devastated and copes with his death by securing a job working for the Bay City Blackbirds, a big-league team, as she attempts to carry on their traditions and mutual love for the game of baseball. The residual effect of loving and losing her dad has made her cautious, until two men enter her life: a ballplayer and a sports writer. With the encouragement of her mother and two friends, she begins to work through her grief. A dedicated employee, she successfully navigates her career, and becomes a director in the front office. However, Francesca realizes that she can’t partition herself off from the world, and in time, understands that sometimes loving someone does involve taking a risk.

Available at Amazon.com by clicking here.

Available at Barnes & Noble.com by clicking here.

Honorable Mention for Sports Fiction – Readers’ Favorite

 

B E N E A T H   T H E   M I M O S A   T R E E   ( 2012 )

BTMTNEWCOVER3-17.inddAnnabelle Marco and Michael Contelli are both only children of Italian-Americans. Next door neighbors since they were both five years old, they both receive their parents’ constant attention and are regularly subjected to their meddlesome behavior. In high school and then in college, as their relationship moves from friendship to love, Annabelle finds herself battling her parents, his parents, and even Michael. She feels smothered by them all and seeks independence through an unplanned and unexpected decision that she comes to regret and that ultimately alters the course of her life, Michael’s life, and the lives of both of their parents.

Set in Annapolis, Maryland, New York City, and London, England, in the 1980s and 1990s, Beneath the Mimosa Tree examines both Annabelle’s and Michael’s journeys over the span of ten years as we hear their alternating voices tell the story of self-discoveries, the nature of well-meaning families, and the sense of renewal that can take place when forgiveness is permitted.

Thank you to those stores that have graciously agreed to sell my debut novel, “Beneath the Mimosa Tree.” I’ve attached links to each below, along with a video trailer about the novel’s story line.

Available at Amazon by clicking here.

Available at Barnes & Noble by clicking here.

Finalist – Indie Excellence Awards

Bronze Medal Winner (tops in its category) – Readers’ Favorite Awards