On Life

How Pieces of You and People You Know End Up in Your Characters

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Luckily, for some people I know, I don’t write a lot of villains into my novels. As I do in real life, I try to not let nasty, uncaring, judgmental, ridiculously competitive and fake people seep into my world too often. However, in the short stories I write, I let them in because I don’t have to deal with them for too long, as short stories are just that—short. However, writers have to allow what we learn about people to grace the pages of our stories and illuminate our characters; these sketches of folks should glide into our stories seamlessly. As well, the same is true with the goodness and quirkiness and loveliness of people.

For example, in my recent novel Inn Significant, I texted my friend Charles and told him that Miles was based on him and my husband—kind of a conglomeration of the two. He had no idea, and was flattered by the depiction of Miles in the book. There are people in real life who can bring liveliness and charisma and charm to the characters you are writing—so let that unfold as the characters are made up of characteristics that you see in people.

As for us as writers, how much of ourselves do we let into our stories? I have a wild imagination, so I tend to consider the character and what he or she likes and what would make them that way. For example, in Inn Signficiant, the main character is Milly, and she narrates the book. How much of Milly is in me? Well, let’s see. We both love living near the water. We both are writers and like to read. We both love cruiser bikes, though hers is pink and mine is seafoam green. We both love our families. We both know what true love feels like. We both know what heartbreak feels like. We both value a pretty simple life. We both have a sense of humor.

What we don’t share is that she has felt tragedy, as she has lost her husband in a horrific accident, and goes through a bout of depression. And while I haven’t felt loss like Milly (thankfully), I can imagine its intensity, devastation, and profoundness. I also understand what feeling depressed is like, as I bumped up against that a few years ago during a trying time in my life, and one in which I learned a few lessons about good friendships vs. yucky ones.

As writers, we have to allow these things we know and understand to help develop our characters. We do allow bits of ourselves to show up in our characters, and if it’s not a bit of us, then it’s a collection of bits of others that we know, have interacted with, have been friends with, or maybe even have had a falling out with along the way.

The main point to writing character is to believe that they are real, and then make others believe that they are real. Make them so authentic that people completely understand them. That’s not to say that the characters might not drive readers crazy at times or make them shake their heads and say “what?,” but we need to put realism into our writing.

Plot is wonderful, but people have to be able to identify with the characters.

Years ago, I read the book The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbaugh. I read this book because I was writing Baseball Girl, and I wanted to read as much baseball fiction as I could before I published anything. While Harbaugh’s writing is absolutely beautiful—a true work of literary splendor—the characters were, to me, wholly unbelievable. I couldn’t relate to any of them, and truthfully, only finished the book because I was so deep in at that point, that I needed to see how it ended. But I didn’t enjoy it that much, if I’m being truthful. I desperately wanted to connect with any one of the five main characters in the story. I wanted to find some of their actions redeemable, and yet, I came up just feeling this way about it: meh.

My goal is not to have anyone say meh about my characters. I keep that in the back of my mind the entire time I’m writing.

So don’t leave yourself out of the equation when writing strong, memorable, and relatable characters. You have the potential to bring so much to the story.

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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.

 

 

On Life

Hometown Press for Inn Significant

I’m always thankful for a little press about my novels, and today is no different. A big thank you goes to the Capital Gazette (which I still lovingly call the Annapolis Capital) for giving me a shout out yesterday on #WorldBook Day for Inn Signficant.

It’s always appreciated.

For more about my books, click here to visit my Amazon Author page. You will also be able to see some new reviews that have come in over the last few days about the book. I’m so happy for the feedback, the plugs, and that readers are enjoying it.

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.

15781589_865992106837911_1585157622209528074_nStephanie 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.

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On Life

Friday Fiction: A Haunting One and A Romance

Creative fiction writers out there tend to dabble in flash fiction, which, quite simply is short form writing. It’s just like writing a short story, but even shorter. I practice writing short, short stories often, as they help writers tell a narrative within a minimum word count. I have my students engage in writing prompts, too. They are a great place to get an idea going to see where it may lead you. Of all of the pieces of short fiction I’ve written, the two below are my favorites because I think there’s potential for a longer story to grow out of each of these, whether it’s a short story or a novel.  The first is a ghost story (I never write ghost stories, so that one surprised me), and the second is the beginning of an interesting story that involves love and a fortune teller. I hope you enjoy them. Have a great Friday, all, and let me know what you think about these two that I picked and whether you think they are worth tackling in longer form.

If you’re looking for an update about my upcoming novel, I’m almost done editing. Looking forward to getting in your hands shortly!

Story #1 : AFTER I WAS DEAD

Photo credit: Daily Mail

A F T E R   I   W A S   D E A D

The enduring span of lifelessness is enough to drive me mad, as if I wasn’t driven half as mad when I lived in this ramshackle of a cottage. The cobwebs in the corners seem to have lingered for years, and yet, I haven’t been gone that long. The chandelier is full of heavy dust, the curtains look as if they may disintegrate into nothing, and the rug is almost unrecognizable, as it is covered in soot and dust and grime. It angers me that no one has cared properly for this place—this place I tended to daily. I’ve become bored with waiting, and so I decide to visit the larger home on which the cottage is set—the Hamlin Mansion.

After I was dead, I set out to let people know the truth about what happened that wintry Friday evening when the wind whipped and the trees were bent with snow. No one ever suspected that someone could have murdered me on the grounds of Hamlin Mansion, just five steps from the front door of the cottage. Why would someone want the governess dead? I could hear the roars from the folks in the town…she must have fallen and hit her head…the winds must have caught up with her and she did not see the tree limb…it was an accident of happenstance. I grew weary of hearing the townspeople make excuses for my death. It was covered up so well, I have to give him credit. There was little to no bloodshed, you see, so he was lucky in that regard. He struck me in just the right place, and where he became luckier still was that the snow piled so high that Mother Nature neatly disguised his tracks. All for the better for him, you see.

Light as feather, I can walk through walls now, something I only dreamed of doing when I was alive. I find my way to his room in the mansion, to the seemingly unlikely murderer, a boy of just sixteen, with demon eyes and glossy, albino hair. He is still unlike any other person I have—had—ever met in my lifetime. There was always something ruthless and unsettling about his looks as well as his manners. In this he is frighteningly unique. I dare say, he has no remorse about anything he does or says. He is an unlikely offspring to the lovely husband and wife who own Hamlin Mansion, Greta and Theodore Hamlin. This child of theirs is a sad outcome of what should have been proper breeding.

He sits in the corner of the room reading by lamplight, though the room is dingy and unkempt. He is permitted to treat his belongings and his part of the home with a complete disregard, and that is perhaps one of the final straws where I was concerned. As his governess, I did not accept his lazy ways, his cruel retributions, his off-putting mannerisms. It was my mistake that I stood up to him…questioned him…demanded that his studies be turned into me before the snowstorm hit…and reported his questionable behavior several times prior to my demise to the Mistress of the house.

I glide toward him. His water glass is next to the lamp on the table, and I focus with all of my might and lift it, then tilt it ever so gently, so that the full glass fills his lap with water. He screams. He stands up and begins to frantically wipe the water off of himself. He stares at the empty glass on the floor. I’m going to have fun with him, I think. Again, I concentrate and will the glass to float in the air and place it firmly in its place back on the table.

His face goes whiter than it ever has been, and his hair stands on end. He is a most unattractive creature.

“Who are you?” he shouts into the air, a frightful, frantic question piercing the silence.

I try to yell, but realize I make no sound.

But there is a quill pen on the table, and his book remains there as well.

I use all the power I have inside of me to open the book, grab the quill, and start to write. Much to my pleasant surprise, the ink is showing up on the page.

“You killed me,” I wrote.

He begins to hyperventilate, and I stand by and watch. The little brat. The little brat who got away with murder.

This could entertain me for days upon end, I think.

Story #2: THE FORTUNE TELLER

“That boy loves you,” the old woman next door calls to me as she sees Nick peel away in his black BMW. She is sitting on her stoop in the 98 degree weather, her dyed red hair in old-fashioned rollers, her socks gathered at her heels in her slip-ons. The look on her face indicates that she wants me to engage in further conversation. We have been friendly since we’ve lived next to each other in the row homes of Baltimore, but have never had a long, in-depth conversation.

“He may, but he’s leaving,” I say.

“Probably for the best,” she replies.

I’ve lived beside this odd-looking woman for almost a year, and she pretty much keeps to herself. She knows nothing of my personal life. Her name’s Mable, and I’ve heard others on the block refer to her as “the palm reader,” though she has no official business. I don’t believe in fortune tellers and have never engaged in any sort of it.

“Come here,” she says. “I’ll show you.”

For curiosity’s sake, I walk down the steps from where I am, and climb the four steps to meet her on her stoop. I’m tempted to see what she knows, trying not to let the tears fall in front of her. Her appearance alone warrants concern; there seems to be a twitch in her eye, and she’s wearing more mascara than a runway model. It looks uneven and gloppy. Her coral-colored lipstick goes beyond the outlines of her lips. It is difficult to take her seriously.

She stretches out her hand and asks for my palm. I extend my hand and turn my palm over for her to see.

PalmreadingShe examines it. “There is a lot of passion, here,” she’s pointing to the line that runs up across my palm in a curve where the line ends at the base of my fingertips. “There’s a great deal of love for that boy.”

I nod.

“However, you will not see him again after today,” she says.

I feel a lump build in my throat.

She continues to look at my hand. “You have a good career, but you’re not quite sure if you want to stay in it. You’re thinking of uprooting yourself and moving someplace far away.”

I get a little chill up my spine. I’ve had this particular thought on and off for the past month, and I’ve told no one. Not even Nick. Not my own parents, or my best friend, Ava.

She focuses on one particular line on my hand, tracing it with her fingertip for what feels like hours, studying it with concerned eyes. She looks puzzled.

“Interesting,” she says.

“What?” I ask, now confused.

“You will travel. You will go where you’ve considered going, and you will be happy.”

“Without Nick,” I say, more as a statement than a question.

“Yes,” she says. “There will be passion again, but only if you go.”

Nick and I have been together for a year. However, I can’t be with him long term, nor should we ever have been together. Nick is unhappily married. He lives apart from his wife, but they are not formally divorced. Nor are there any plans for them to be so. The passion with which Mable speaks is true; it currently exists, but it is a sick, twisted, unhealthy passion, and it has become the ruin of me.

Three weeks ago, I was offered an opportunity to work for my friend’s father’s business in Rome. I’ve always wanted to go abroad, and have seriously contemplated accepting it.

I scoff at the idea of leaving for a moment, and then I stop. She sees my face, and gives me a crooked, quirky smile.

Mable is offbeat, eccentric, ridiculously dressed, and the oddest person I’ve ever talked to, but something tells me to listen. Something makes me take her seriously.

xx |

Stephanie Verni is the author of Baseball Girl, Beneath the Mimosa Tree, and the upcoming novel Inn Significant. She is also a co-author of Event Planning: Communicating Theory and Practice, published by Kendall-Hunt.

On Life

Coming in February: Inn Significant, A Novel

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INN SIGNIFICANT by Stephanie Verni…Coming in January.

What if three weeks after suffering a miscarriage, you faint and find yourself on the floor of your own home’s cold foyer, and as you regain consciousness, you have to acknowledge the horrible news that was relayed to you moments ago by two police officers: that your husband of ten years—the love of your life—was tragically killed by a tractor-trailer on the slick, rainy interstate?

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.

DSC_0142Set in Oxford on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, readers will experience Milly’s return to life through vivid description, lively characters and dialogue, and glimpses into the Depression-era as Milly learns more about her grandmother’s past…and that she, too, is capable of moving beyond tragedy.

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This is the premise of my new novel, Inn Significant, which will be released in a few weeks. I’m looking forward to sharing this story with you, and hope you will enjoy reading it.

As always, I thank you immensely for your support of my writing and creative endeavors. I will let you know when it launches and is available through Barnes & Noble and Amazon.

Thanks, all! Wishing you a very happy holiday season filled with blessings.

xx |

Stephanie Verni is the author of Baseball Girl, Beneath the Mimosa Tree, and the upcoming novel Inn Significant. She is also a co-author of Event Planning: Communicating Theory and Practice, published by Kendall-Hunt.

On Life

The Friday Random Thoughts Roundup

I haven’t been blogging much lately, and I’m feeling badly about it. I’ve been incredibly busy with two kids in high school, teaching at the university, volunteering for things, and serving on committees, in addition to actually trying to fit my new mentality of health and fitness into my daily regime. I wish I could write an insightful, meaningful post right now, but all I have time for is a quick roundup of random thoughts and things I want to share with you.

So here it goes…

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  1. I finally got around to watching the movie Me Before You last weekend which was based on the book by JoJo Moyes. I always say the book is better than the movie in almost every instance, and this will be no different. However, I will tell you that the movie did an excellent job of capturing the essence of the book and offered a clear understanding of the novel. I think that the cast was perfect. I loved both of the main characters who were portrayed by Emilia Clarke and Sam Claflin. There was good chemistry between them, and if I were the author of the book and I watched the film, I’d be pretty pleased that the director didn’t take too many liberties with my original story. Grab a tissue and watch it if you haven’t already. I don’t think you’ll be too disappointed. (And I’m saying this as someone who LOVED that book and would put it on a list of favorites).
  2. If you’re ever on a tight timetable to arrive somewhere by car, you will inevitably get  stuck behind every law-abiding citizen who prides himself on doing the actual speed limit. Yesterday, en route to a few engagements, every single time I got behind the wheel, I found myself behind the slowest drivers on the planet.
  3. I’ve been exercising regularly now since the end of May. I’ve lost quite a bit of weight and feel better. It’s amazing what a little self-discipline and determination can do for you.
  4. Yesterday, during a lecture in Feature Writing, we all decided that we were going to be word artists. If you think of writing as an art, and consider yourself someone who is crafting prose on the page, thinking about it in the same way an artist thinks about brush strokes is helpful. We should always care what goes into our writing and not be bashful about taking things out. Artists don’t leave things in that shouldn’t be there. We are word artists. I love that.artist
  5. Every time I get together with my Fabulous Friday Travel Writing Class it makes me want to go somewhere, experience it, and write about it. I love writing fiction, but can you imagine how fantabulous it would be to write about travel for a living? Um, yes, I’ll have a slice of that pie and a ticket to anywhere. (This by no means is suggesting that I don’t love my job as a professor; I consider it the best profession in the world. Travel writing might be a close second, or novel writing, or designing clothes…)
  6. As I’m combing through the novel I wrote this summer and making my final edits, I’m always amazed by two things: (1) How much I change as I edit, and (2) How what I’ve written always changes me. That’s the thing about writing: it’s often transformational. My new book should be ready by late October.
  7. I love this quote: I’VE THOUGHT ABOUT RUNNING AWAY AS AN ADULT MORE THAN I EVER DID AS A KID. Remember when summer days were spent outside and nights were spent catching fireflies? Remember thinking summer was long and exciting? Remember watching Little House on the Prairie and The Love Boat? If you do, you’re most likely from my era of childhood, when our primary responsibility was to enjoy ourselves. Nowadays, we’ve got grown up responsibilities. I hope the kids of today try to enjoy their childhoods. There’s no need to grow up so fast.

Really.

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xx |

Stephanie Verni is the author of Baseball Girl, Beneath the Mimosa Tree, and the co-author of Event Planning: Communicating Theory and Practice.

Feel free to connect on Instagram @stephverni or on Twitter @stephverni.

 

 

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On Life

How ‘Call The Midwife’ Helps Us Better Understand Female Friendships

Call the midwife

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PBS offers a lot of great programming, and I’ve been delighted with several shows that have become my favorites, from Downton Abbey to Mr. Selfridge to Grantchester; the writing, sets, plot lines, and characters keep me coming back. One show that is a must-see for women is Call the Midwife, now in its 5th season, that focuses on the nuns and midwives of Poplar, East London, and their struggles and triumphs. The show is based on the memoir by Jennifer Worth.

I’ve said it from the beginning: the thing I like best about the show is it focuses on  women’s friendships, the sincerity of them, and what makes and sustains them. The relationships highlight the support and love the women offer each other; the pure acceptance of each other and their mistakes, failures, and successes; and the notion that women are not afraid to go out on a limb and let the other know that love means acceptance of who you are as a person.

Friendships between women sometimes come easily. At other times, friendships are tested. This show proves that the underlying success of friendships is the withholding of judgment. Tender, honest, loving relationships between women are constantly evolving; and whether that evolution proves to strengthen a friendship or nullify one, the lessons we learn from Call the Midwife help us understand that it’s often a misjudgment that can kill a friendship.

Unless you have actually walked in your friend’s shoes or know the full scope and complete background of someone’s life, you honestly have no idea what her situation is—for better or for worse. That’s my takeaway from the show. More love, less judgment. It seems to work in fiction. If we examine the friendships portrayed on the show carefully, maybe those lessons have a chance to resonate in real life.

xx |

signatureStephanie Verni is the author of Baseball Girl, Beneath the Mimosa Tree, and the co-author of Event Planning: Communicating Theory and Practice.

 

On Life

What It Feels Like to Finish Writing a Novel

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Well, friends, I’m coming down the home stretch. By next week, my novel will be written, if it does not happen sooner than that. People have asked me this question: what does it feel like to finish a novel?

As this will be the third one I have published, it feels a little like saying goodbye.

What I mean by that is you live and breathe the characters and their situations for so long, that when you’re done writing their story, their story is over, and you have to say farewell.

The creative process of actually building and telling the story is my absolute favorite part of novel writing. Rewriting, reworking, and all the marketing are certainly not my favorite aspects. As you develop your work of fiction, you are permitted to live vicariously through your characters and the plot; you imagine their paths, conversations, and hardships, and you allow them to develop and change for your reader. There is never a point in my writing when I don’t think about the reader. The reader is always at the forefront of my mind with regard to this craft. I never want to disappoint, and if I do, I promise you, it is not intentional.

As I begin to write the final two chapters of this book, knowing full well how it will proceed and how it will end, a sense of melancholy comes along with it.

I’m still on track for a September delivery, and I intend to keep my promise.

And so, in the end, when people ask me what it feels like to finish a novel, I can only respond this way: it feels as if another part of you is set free, which is wonderful, but it also feels a great deal like saying goodbye to something you love.

xx |

signatureStephanie Verni is the author of Baseball Girl, Beneath the Mimosa Tree, and the co-author of Event Planning: Communicating Theory and Practice.

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On Life

Porch Sitting & Writing, A Winning Combination

image3My summer break is finally here. As a college professor, we love our teaching, but sometimes a little down time is important. For months, people have been asking me what I’ll be doing this summer.

My answer? Reading, writing, relaxing.

There you have it in a nutshell.

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And yes, I have some things to accomplish, but they will get done on my schedule.

I’m still editing “Postcards and Other Short Stories,” and I’m writing my third novel. But the beauty is, I feel no pressure. I’m on my own timetable.

Our porch at home is my little sanctuary. I love my office, its space, and the new chandelier, but in the summertime, I like to be outside as much as possible, and so my little laptop and I venture to the table on the porch where I listen to the birds chirping, the airplanes fly overhead, and the sounds of silence while I write. It’s a great time to collect my thoughts, get creative, and let things unfold as they may.

My pile of books to read is long. I’m finishing up The House on Primrose Pond by Yona Zeldis McDonough. Next up: After You by JoJo Moyes.

I hope you get to indulge and enjoy some quality time that’s all yours, too. Let me know what you’re reading; I always love a good book suggestion.

In the meantime, if you need me, you can find me on the porch. I’ve got a cold glass of iced tea waiting for you.

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xx |

signatureStephanie Verni is the author of Baseball Girl, Beneath the Mimosa Tree, and the co-author of Event Planning: Communicating Theory and Practice

On Life

Nobody Has Ever Loved Me As Much As I Loved Him—Friday Fiction

Photo credit: Mikethemadbiologist.com. Back Bay, Boston.
Photo credit: Mikethemadbiologist.com. Back Bay, Boston.

NOBODY HAS EVER LOVED ME AS MUCH AS I HAVE LOVED HIM

The light grows dim. I have been sitting in the dark for nearly four hours with only a flickering candle on the table. The storm has quelled a bit, but the winds rattled the house until midnight, the trees and bushes bending as the snow accumulated and the winds whistled. It’s four in the morning now, and I realize I’ve been sitting in this chair in the kitchen motionless practically all night long. There is an eerie stillness inside the house that mirrors the uncomfortable quiet of nature outside—serene and undisturbed .

Upstairs, he sleeps. He has the uncanny ability to sleep whenever and wherever he pleases—in airports, on trains, in cars, on the beach, or at a wedding. I’ve seen him nod off in the most peculiar of places, and when he crawls into bed at night, he experiences the most blissful of sleeps, sleeping all the way through until his body tells him it is time to wake up in the morning. There is no need for alarms or wake-up calls. He is restful, peaceful. My biological clock has never allowed me that privilege. I’ve always experienced fitful nights of sleep, replete with tossing and turning and moving about in a frantic, anxious way. Perhaps my utter restlessness has led me to this point, at this early hour of the morning, on this snowy day when Mother Nature has decided that we need just a little bit more of it so that we can experience the full taste of winter.

The power has flickered on and off for hours, and the streets of Back Bay appear picturesque under the lamplights. I see my bags sitting by the doorway. This isn’t the first time they’ve been packed; there have been countless other instances, but this time I’ve sworn that I will do it. I will not chicken out.

I wonder what my friends will say when I actually leave for good. I wonder if they will support me, think I’ve gone mad, or blame my decision on some sort of early mid-life crisis. After seven years together and only a verbal commitment without a marriage commitment, it is time for me to go. Perhaps I thought he’d change his mind, but really, from the beginning, he has always said marriage is not in the cards. I wanted to believe otherwise. I have wasted years of my life, and perhaps even given up the possibility to have a child holding on to this notion. He is not interested in formalizing our relationship. He says he is fine with the way it is. But what about me?

His ability to sleep while I agonize over it all heightens my anger. I only hope that when he wakes, I don’t get sucked back into his charming ways and believe for the five-hundredth time that he might come around.

The situation is impossible. It really is.

The truth is, nobody has ever loved me as much as I have loved him.

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Readers of my blog know I love to write fiction. I try to write as many Friday Fiction pieces as I can. I use various prompts for these writing activities, and this week I used Brian Kiteley’s prompt called “Loveless” which asks writers to do the following:

Create a character around this sentence: Nobody has ever loved me as much as I have loved him. Resist the temptation this exercise offers for a completely self-indulgent character. Of course some self-indulgence will be fun. Think of this sentence as a kind of mathematical formula. Consider the possibility that whoever would say something like this is unreliable. – 500 words

My piece was almost on the money at 502 words.

It’s so much fun to let your imagination run wild. I hope you enjoyed it.

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On Life

Writing Can’t Be ‘Thin Love’

Love is or it ain’t. Thin love ain’t love at all. ~ Toni Morrison

TMorrisonAuthorI admire writer Toni Morrison. She is smart, insightful, and willing to write for herself. Her books are powerful and influential…and from the heart. After sitting here reading many of her quotes, I keep coming back to the one above along with this one:

If there is a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, you must be the one to write it. ~ Toni Morrison

You have to love to write in order to take an idea and watch it come to fruition. Anyone who has the fortitude to do it and publish it deserves at least a little pat on the back, don’t you think? In a couple of pieces I’ve previously published on the blog entitled “Why I Write Part I,” “Why I Write Part II,” and “Why I Write Part III,” I did my best to articulate my passion for it. As Ms. Morrison says, it ain’t thin love. Writing has got to be part of who you are and what you want to do.

I’ve taken a little time away from writing this holiday season, but I’m ready to get back to it. I’ve got a collection of short stories that I’d like to publish soon, and I’ve been working on another novel as well. With a full-time job and a busy family, it’s challenging to find the time to sit and tell a story.

But I know one is brewing, and soon, I’ll be ready to fully engage.

Those of you who are writers on the side like me, how do you balance writing, blogging, work, and your social life? I’d love to hear how you do it. That’s what a writing community is for–to share ideas.

In the meantime, I haven’t plugged my work in a while, so below are my latest books.

I’ll see you on the flip side…and let me in on your secrets.

HOT OFF THE PRESS…

E V E N T   P L A N N I N G:  C O M M U N I C A T I N G   T H E O R Y   A N D   P R A C T I C E 

by Leanne Bell McManus, Chip Rouse, and Stephanie Verni

In this textbook, readers will learn the “why” behind the practice of event planning. Chapters include topics such as interpersonal relationships, nonverbal communication, conflict and negotiation, integrated marketing communication, and entrepreneurship. Special thanks to all our wonderful contributors who wrote case studies for each chapter. Published by Kendall Hunt Publishing, January 2016.

To learn more about the book, visit Kendall Hunt Publishing by clicking here.

Event Planning Text

BRONZE MEDAL WINNER, READERS’ FAVORITE CONTEST, CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE, 2012

FINALIST, NATIONAL INDIE EXCELLENCE AWARDS, ROMANCE, 2013

B E N E A T H   T H E   M I M O S A   T R E E  by Stephanie Verni

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Annabelle 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.

To order your copy of Beneath the Mimosa Tree, click here for Amazon  or here for Barnes & Noble.

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HONORABLE MENTION WINNER, READERS’ FAVORITE CONTEST, SPORTS FICTION, 2015

B A S E B A L L    G I R L  by Stephanie Verni

HMAwardFrancesca 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.

To order your copy of Baseball Girl, click here for Amazon, or here for Barnes & Noble.

On Life

Friday Fiction – The Beginning of a Love Story

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This week’s prompt asked us to begin with one simple sentence, which was this:

The old house, with its wildly overgrown garden, was silent, secretive.

Clearly, the weather on the East Coast this week influenced this story. Featured among the paragraphs are falling leaves, browning hydrangeas, and a good breeze. While it’s a little warmer here today than it is in the story, I was inspired mostly by the scenery and then by a love story. I wanted to give the first line of the prompt, with its use of the word “secretive” some clout; I wanted this to feel a bit secretive, haunting, and sad.

So, here it goes. Here’s this week’s prompt, which sits at 621 words of flash fiction.

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The Milk Crate

The old house, with its wildly overgrown garden, was silent, secretive. I made my way along the side of the house, the hydrangeas overgrown and brown, as autumn had set in and leaves covered the lawn. The rickety fence along the property line in the backyard with its peeling white paint seemed to bend in places, and the main gate was hanging by its top hinge. The only sound I could hear were the rustling leaves, and they fell gently to the ground, as the constant breeze purred. The garden must have been wild in the summer; the flowers were wilted, dead and devoid of any resplendent colors. For a moment, I remembered planting the freesia and four o’clocks; however, that time seemed to belong to someone else, not me.

How long had it been since I’d set foot on this property?

I walked closer to the large, picture window that at one time had spectacular views looking out over the hills, until the trees grew so big you could no longer see the rolling knolls. I stood on my tip-toes and tried to peer inside. I’m not sure what I hoped to glimpse on that November day, and what had compelled me to visit the house that particular afternoon; it was beyond my comprehension. I had driven four hours straight, alone, nonstop, just to see it again and walk the grounds. I’d never done anything so impetuous ever. Here I was, a Peeping Tom, wrapped up in memories and pain and nostalgia.

My hair blew in the wind, and I lost my balance for a second. The house howled for a moment, as if it were crying, trying to send me a message, and I felt a chill go up my spine. If only I had made the right choice, said how I felt, told him I loved him and loved him and loved him. If only I had stayed and tended the gardens and walked the creek and accepted a simpler way of life in this town. If only I’d not been afraid.

I’d not eaten anything in hours, my stomach too nervously twisted and tied to even think about it, but I began to feel lightheaded. Perhaps I should not have taken this drive today—perhaps I still was not ready. I walked back to the car to pull the apple out of my small, packed lunch that was sitting in a basket on the passenger seat. I walked to the front steps of the abandoned house and sat on the painted grey wooden steps. The apple was savory, juicy, and just how apples should taste in the heart of the season. It was chilly, but not cold. As I looked to my left, looking like an antique, was an old galvanized milk box. It was still there, and I remembered when he brought it home that day and sat it on the steps as if it were the cherry on top of an ice cream sundae. “Now we can call this place home,” he had declared. I had laughed at him then.

I walked over to it to see if anything had been left inside the steel crate, curiosity and a need to be close to him running over my more conservative sensibilities. I opened the lid and stood in awe and shock and disbelief. I could not move.

While they were worn and aged and faded, there they were. The stamps looked antique, the ink pale, and I began to go through them, tears streaming down my face. One after another, after another, after another. All of them addressed to me. All of them to me with the same salutation…My Dearest Livi…My Dearest Livi…My Dearest Livi…

On Life

Fiction Friday | A Not-So-Happy Story of Love

For this week’s Fiction Friday, I used a prompt that asked us to write something we don’t normally write. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know I’m a self-proclaimed hopeless romantic. I usually write stuff that ends happily. However, today I didn’t. Today’s prompt asked me to write something about two people that doesn’t end well–that they do not end up together.

I have to admit, I just wrote this, and I’m depressed now. It’s like I want to go back and and change the ending, but I’m not allowing myself to. This time I’m allowing the characters who have been married for a while to not have a happy ending.

I don’t like it, but I hope you do.

The Wedding | 722 words

churchMegan could only see part of the back of Cecilia’s head. Therefore, she could only catch glimpses of half of the veil she helped construct. She was seated in the seventh pew of the church—an expansive, old-fashioned Catholic church with wooden pews, dim lighting, and shiny tiled floors that sparkled. Every noise, whether it was a cough, someone clearing his throat, or a child’s laughter, bounced off the massiveness of the cathedral ceiling. Unfortunately, the large man in front of her blocked her view of the altar. She gave up trying, and glanced at the Stations of the Cross, surveying them one by one, as they were positioned at each stained-glass window around the perimeter of the structure. The priest’s voice fluttered upward, enveloped by the beams, the archways, and the light. She felt the guilt churning, lurking deep within her. She sat five inches from Paul.

They by-passed the receiving line that gathered after the ceremony, and got in Paul’s new BMW. They were only there together because Cecelia and Evan asked them to be there. Evan was Paul’s best friend; Cecelia was hers, and had been for years. Since they’d left the house, not a word had passed between them. She’d gotten used to the silence, to only hearing her own thoughts as she rattled around in the quiet house. It’s amazing how much anger you can store up inside of you—and keep inside of you, she thought. Sometimes she wanted to scream; at other times she wanted to cry. She ran out of words. There were none left to say.

At the reception, they were seated at the same table, as few others knew the status of their crumbling—or rather exhausted—relationship. Nevertheless, today wasn’t about them, and they both did their best to smile and nod when talking to Cecelia and Evan’s guests. At no point in the evening did they look each other in the eyes. Why would they? Their eyes were nothing but empty, cold, and pathetic; they dripped with disgust. The rumble of conversation in the reception hall became dwarfed by the music as the band began to play.

Megan watched Cecelia move around the room with grace and fluidity. Was it only eight years ago that she had beamed the way Cecelia beamed now? Had she once been that happy? It was hard to fathom. Had he once looked at her with love and affection, with respect and admiration? Had they not promised…

He touched her hand, and she jumped.

“Dance?” Paul asked.

“You’re joking,” she said. He was looking at her in the eyes. She looked back.

“No,” he said, taking off his jacket and placing it on the back of the chair.

The expression that he’d worn on his face for the past few months, one mostly of frustration, gave way to a foreign expression she hadn’t quite seen before. She realized he had placed his hand back on hers, and they both got up from the table, his hand holding hers tightly now. They walked to the dance floor and crept toward the middle where many other happier couples were enjoying the music.

She couldn’t remember the last time she’d touched him, and yet they’d lived under the same roof for years, and even during these last months when she slept in the guest room, she hadn’t come closer than two feet from him.

Megan felt his hand lightly touch her back, and then he pressed her closer. She could smell his cologne, something she hadn’t smelled on his body in…months?

Their bodies moved together in sync, the band’s music forcing them both to remember to step, sway, and turn. At one point, he took her hand and twirled her. They both laughed. She hated him. Detested him.

Cecelia caught a glimpse of Megan and Paul dancing and smiled. It was her wedding day, after all, and this pleased her.

When the song was over, people clapped for the band. Not Paul. Paul grabbed Megan’s hand, brought it to his lips, and kissed it. She saw tears in his eyes. She felt a lump build in her throat.

“I did what Cecelia and Paul asked,” he said. “But saying goodbye here and this way might be easiest,” he said.

She did not reply. She stared at him, and he back at her.

He went to the table and grabbed his jacket off of the chair. She watched him walk toward the double doors. He stopped just as he reached them and paused. She caught herself holding her breath.

Then his hand touched the handle, and he was gone.