“Beautiful. Brilliant. A Work of Literary Art.” – Summer Book Giveaway on Amazon

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A couple of good things have happened over the last two weeks. First, Inn Significant received a Finalist Award from the National Indie Excellence Awards. Second, Inn Significant received a 5-Star review from Readers’ Favorite. I think those two honors warrant another giveaway for the book, don’t you?

To enter to win a book in my Amazon giveaway, just click this link and it will take you there. https://giveaway.amazon.com/p/7bf380fda4adadf1

And then, let me take you to Oxford, Maryland (click here to see an lovely overview of the town form Only in Your State), where one reader said, “Brilliant. Beautiful. A work of literary art. The vivid imagery of Oxford, as you did with Annapolis in Beneath the Mimosa Tree, is just outstanding. No, its not just outstanding. It is compelling. It inspires me to return to a town I have twice loved.”


I hope you’ll enter to win and see what I’ve been up to, not just here on the blog, but in my novel-writing life.

I’d love the privilege of telling you a story.

 

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.

 

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A 5-Star Review for Inn Significant from Readers’ Favorite

First, the review:

https://readersfavorite.com/images/5star-shiny-web.pngReviewed by Ruffina Oserio for Readers’ Favorite

“Inn Significant: A Novel by Stephanie Lynn Verni is a beautiful story that looks at the heart of depression. Milly Foster lost the will to live the moment she learned about her husband’s tragic death. And that was two years ago. Asking her to look after their business while they are away to help a friend in a startup bed and breakfast in Ireland, her parents couldn’t imagine what this would do to her. While at the inn, Milly’s colleague, John, discovers a diary   to her grandma. Read on to find out how an old journey changes everything in the life of a woman who is just as ready for the grave as a corpse, sending her on a personal odyssey to find answers to her own pain.

At the beginning of the story, we meet the protagonist, a grief-stricken woman who has just learned about the death of her husband. Only one thought occupies her mind: “I don’t want the paramedics. I don’t want my mother. I want Gil!” The drama, the emotional intensity of the story is evidenced by the opening pages and readers who love emotionally charged stories will be gripped by the heart from the very start. Stephanie Lynn Verni’s writing is exceptional and I enjoyed the way it captures the powerful emotions, especially those of the protagonist. Milly’s journey towards healing is realistic, one that readers can connect with easily. What made this story stand out for me was the depth of the characters and the gorgeous writing. It was hard for me to let Milly alone, even if I found her headstrong and stubborn from the start. As the story progresses, she learns to shift her gaze onto reality and matures far more quickly than I could have imagined. Inn Significant: A Novel is entertaining, inspiring, and outright delightful, one of the stories I won’t hesitate to recommend to readers seeking a fun read.”

 

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Yesterday, I received a powerful, 5-star review from Readers’ Favorite for my latest book, Inn Significant. Readers’ Favorite is a contest I have entered my three books in, and you may recall Beneath the Mimosa Tree received a Bronze Medal in Miami for it, and Baseball Girl received an Honorable Mention Award. While the awards won’t be named until September 1, 2017, this review is the best that I’ve received on any of my books, and I wanted to share it with you today. It is also posted on my Amazon page where you can purchase all of my books.

I wanted to take a moment to tell you why I do this and why this is important to me. As a kid, I used to sit at school and write short stories and then come home and finish them. My favorite class in high school by far was Creative Writing. I wrote poetry (mostly really mushy stuff that I shared with boys and probably shouldn’t have), and I always thought somewhere in the back of my mind that I would write a book.

Being an independent author is one of the most rewarding and hardest things I have ever done. It’s rewarding because I am doing exactly what I wanted to be doing as a teenager—telling stories on paper. It’s the hardest thing because having to promote my books constantly to get my name out there is a daunting task, and one that someone only with nerves of steel should be doing.

Admittedly, I don’t always have nerves of steel, but I keep on doing my thing because that’s what I have to do to hope someone will pick up my book and read it. There’s a lot of competition out there, and I know people are selective. Therefore, I am truly appreciative when you stop what you’re doing and read what I’ve written. It means so much to me, and I thank all of you who have read Inn Significant or any of my other books.

If you haven’t, maybe, just maybe this review will inspire you.

I know it has inspired me to keep on writing…

to keep on doing my thing.

 

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.

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Flash Fiction: A 500-Word Short Story About An Apology

Fellow writers–I don’t know about you, but after I’ve written a novel and it takes everything out of me, I need a break for a while. In my time of decompression, I like to stay in touch with the craft by writing short fiction. You never know where it could lead, and it keeps you thinking and telling your stories. Today’s story is about saying your sorry…to the person you need to say it to when an apology is owed. Especially a big one.

Out of the Circle

He always knew he’d be back. But when you make as many mistakes as he did, he certainly wasn’t expecting to be greeted with open arms, or even an acknowledgment that he existed. He might as well be dead, he thought often, as once he made the decision to go, he was gone, and they all treated him as such.

Unreachable. He made sure of that. A disappearing act that was difficult to follow.

He parked the car around the corner, as it was the same car he’d driven away in seven years ago, a Ford Taurus, and he didn’t want anyone to even take note of it or realize he was back on the street. He hated the car with every fiber of his being and wished he had something sportier, but he never sold it. He figured it was a part of his penance for his inability to stay, his inability to commit. Plus, he could barely afford to eat and pay his bills.

He’d hit rock bottom, and he wasn’t really sure, even now, months later, what had been the turning point. Ten different jobs, six different residences in the last seven years, and a host of “change of address” cards made him a certifiable mess. After finally waking up and realizing that he was destroying his own life one sip at a time, he decided that it might be the right time to reach out for help.

Was it the girl he thought he could love with the raven hair who shouted at him half dressed amidst rumpled sheets and liquor bottles strewn across the room? Was it the old man he’d shared a meal with at the dump of a diner on Main Street? Was it the kid who looked at him inquisitively as he sat on the park bench eating a cheese sandwich who said, “Hey, mister, what’s wrong with you? Why do you look so sad?” He wasn’t sure what the tipping point was or how he managed to climb out of the Scotch and Rum and Vodka, but he somehow got himself into a chair surrounded by others who had the same demons plaguing them every day as well.

In that first moment, as they welcomed him into the circle and he said his name aloud and admitted his dependency and why he was there, for the first time since he could remember, he felt less alone.

Twelve months after the circle, he found himself walking up the street to his old address.  The one he shared with her, the brunette with big eyes and a sweet smile. The one with whom he ruined it all. He pulled his hat down a little in case anyone was outside who might recognize him. He’d done his homework and knew she still lived in the house, though he was not sure with whom she shared her life now.

But he was there for a reason, and he didn’t care who was there with her.

He just knew he wanted to see her. That he needed to see her.

And that he needed to say the words he’d mustered up the courage to say for the last twelve months.

His knees were shaking as he rang the doorbell, and yet he knew he had the courage to do it.

He knew he wouldn’t leave until he looked her in the eyes and was able to say he was sorry.

imageStephanie 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.

Inn-spiration in Inn Significant | Photo Inspiration When Writing Description

The dining room of the Edgewood Manor House in Providence, RI. This is sort of what I picture the dining room at Inn Signficiant would look like. No rug, though. Just hardwoods. But I love the windows and the chandelier. There are lots of chandeliers in the Inn.
The dining room of the Edgewood Manor House in Providence, RI. This is sort of what I picture the dining room in Inn Signficiant would look like. No rug, though. Just hardwoods. But I love the windows and the chandelier. There are lots of chandeliers hanging from ceilings in Inn Significant. Wonder why?

The students in both sections of my Magazine Writing classes can tell attest to what we worked on this week: (1) writing description and detail, (2) storytelling, and (3) finding your voice in your writing. I think about these three things constantly when I write, and as you read in my previous post about being inspired by actual places, the same is true when writing description—you have to “see” in your own imagination what things look like in order to relay them properly to your readers.

I work hard at this every time I write something. I never want readers to feel as if they cannot imagine the setting themselves. It’s our responsibility as writers to leave little grey area where that is concerned.

Writers have different techniques when crafting a story, and we all go about putting it to paper in various ways. When I sit down to write, I have to be fully inspired. Sometimes that means taking copious notes; it may mean being inspired by nature; it may involve conversations I’ve had with folks; and still other times, it may involve the photographs I have taken or have researched online.

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This is the Sandaway Inn in Oxford, MD. Its property is beautiful and inspired the setting of Inn Significant.

Inn Significant takes place in lovely Oxford, Maryland. The Inn is perched upon the Tred Avon River, much the same way a real Inn is there (the Sandaway Inn); however, I took the liberty to create an Inn through what I imagined in my head, including the cottages on site where the main character lives. I used lots of photographs from research, and what follows are some of the images that inn-spired Inn Significant. 🙂 (Yes, I know I spelled inspired incorrectly there.)

If you choose to read the novel, I’ll be interested to see if what inspired me and what I wrote was similar to what you pictured in your imagination.

There’s no telling–what your imagination conjures up may be even better than what I had in my mind.

This is sort of what I picture Milly and John's cottages to look like on the grounds of Inn Significant. It's not exact, but it's pretty darn close.
This is sort of what I picture Milly and John’s cottages to look like on the grounds of Inn Significant. It’s not exact, but it’s pretty darn close. I imagine there would be more hydrangeas, lavender, and roses brightening up the landscape along with a stone walkway. Maybe even a pink bike with a basket parked out front.
There is no doubt in my head that Inn Significant's library would look like this. OMG. Gorgeous.
There is no doubt in my head that Inn Significant’s library would look like this. OMG. Gorgeous. Sorry, but once again, I have to point out the chandelier. And the books. Oh…the books.
I'm pretty sure it's safe to say that Inn Significant's foyer looks something like this.
I’m pretty sure it’s safe to say that Inn Significant’s foyer would look something like this.
This might be what one of the guest rooms looks like. I described the sheer curtains and chandeliers in every room.
This might be what one of the guest rooms looks like. I described the sheer curtains and chandeliers in every room.
The place where the muffin-making takes place...and where Colette does her thing. I picture it looking similar to this.
The place where the muffin-making takes place…and where Colette does her thing. I picture it looking similar to this.
The outdoor celebration probably looked similar to this. I just love the idea of dining al fresco at an Inn on a river, don't you?
The outdoor celebration probably looked similar to this. I just love the idea of dining al fresco at an Inn on a river, don’t you?
My husband and I stayed at the Carneros Resort in Napa Valley last April. I picture Milly and John's cottages having a patio like this. Being in Napa truly inspired what the cottages in the novel looked like in the novel.
My husband and I stayed at the Carneros Resort in Napa Valley last April. I picture Milly and John’s cottages having a patio like this. Being in Napa truly inspired what the cottages in the novel looked like.
This is Two Meeting House in Charleston, SC. In my head, the exterior of the Inn looks similar to this.
This is Two Meeting House Inn in Charleston, SC. In my head, the exterior of the Inn looks like a combination of this and the two to follow.
This is the White Doe in in North Carolina. This one inspired me too. Love the flowers and white picket fence.
This is the White Doe Inn in North Carolina. This one inspired me too. Love the flowers and white picket fence. And the bike.
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This is the White Hart in Connecticut. You might say this one is inspirational, as well. Gorgeous.

I hope you enjoy Inn Significant, and as well, this little photo-essay of the places that inn-spired my writing.

To purchase via Amazon for Kindle, click here.

To purchase via Amazon in paperback, click here.

To purchase via Barnes & Noble for the Nook, click here.

Have a good weekend, everybody!

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imageStephanie 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.

 

Writing About Places in Fiction – Maryland’s Eastern Shore in Inn Significant

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As a writer, it’s important to research the places you may feature in your writing. I spent a ton of time walking around Annapolis, Maryland, for my first novel, Beneath the Mimosa Tree, and I did the same with the novel I launched yesterday, Inn Significant. It’s part of the fun, really. As my students in travel writing class can attest from last semester, it’s envigorating to write about a place, but there’s a trick. You have to allow yourself to be completely immersed in the place. Your writing won’t be as vibrant if you’re just a spectator. You have to become one with the place…become a local while you are there and learn what you can from observation, conversation, and getting involved.

The main character in my novel, Milly Foster, has been summoned by her parents to run their Inn on the Eastern Shore of Maryland in Oxford out of desperation—a desperate attempt to help their daughter move past the tragic death of her beloved husband. It’s a last-ditch effort to bring her back to life.

I wanted to set the story in a small and picturesque town, so my mother and I spent time there, and I went back a couple of other times to just walk the streets and talk to people.

Come on–how great is that type of research? It’s simply the best.

I gave it my all to make this work of fiction feel realistic, and I wanted to stay as true to the setting and feel of Oxford as possible. There are also jaunts to neighboring towns St. Michaels and Easton.

To help you visualize the place if you have not been, I thought I’d share some of the photographs I took this summer as I did that dastardly and taxing (ha ha) research.

I hope you enjoy Inn Significant, and as well, this little photo-essay of the places the characters visit in the novel. I’m looking forward to going back for a visit very soon.

To purchase via Amazon for Kindle, click here.

To purchase via Amazon in paperback, click here.

To purchase via Barnes & Noble for the Nook, click here (paperback version should be available later tonight).

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imageStephanie 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.

 

About the 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.

OXFORD, MARYLAND

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EASTON, MARYLAND

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ST. MICHAELS, MARYLAND

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Handling the Insecurities of Publishing A Novel

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It’s a challenging endeavor. I’ve done it twice now with fiction, and twice with nonfiction books. And I’m about to do it again when I release my latest, third fictional novel.

There will always be anxieties that manifest themselves into insecurities about putting our work out there. The tendency to feel nervous about it is normal. We’ve invested a lot of time and energy into our stories, and we hope people will appreciate that time and energy regarding our work, too.

But there are no guarantees. Some people will love it, some will think it’s just okay, and some will downright dislike it.

It’s the way of the world, people. We all can’t like everything.

Nevertheless, I have to quell my fears. I’m more nervous about this book than I have been about the other two simply because it is my third. And as a natural course of progression and as someone who puts undue pressure on herself, I hope this one will be received as well, if not better than, the previous two I’ve written. “Whether you think you’re brilliant or think you’re a loser, just make whatever you need to make and toss it out there,” Elizabeth Gilbert tells us in Big Magic. “And always remember that people’s judgments about you are none of your business.” It’s great in theory, but tough to put into practice.

However, I think it’s important to adhere to this advice when you are making any kind of art.

Gilbert further goes on to say this:

“If people enjoy what you’ve created, terrific. If people ignore what you’ve created, too bad. If people misunderstand what you’ve created, don’t sweat it. And what if people absolutely hate what you’ve created? What if people attack you with savage vitriol, and insult your intelligence, and malign your motives, and drag your good name through the mud? Just smile sweetly and suggest—as politely as you possibly can—that they go and make their own f—ing art. Then stubbornly continue making yours.”

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Recently, I watched the Oprah one-hour interview with J.K. Rowling that was filmed during Oprah’s last year of her show. I have to admit, I’m sort of obsessed with this interview. In it, we hear Jo Rowling tell stories of the backlash she took from writing Harry Potter, from those who thought writing about Black Magic was horrible for children, and from those who think children’s imaginations should be limited. It made me further understand what someone told me months ago, and honestly, I haven’t stopped thinking about it since. She said,

People are entitled to their own opinions, but that doesn’t make them right.

And so, I’ve decided that despite my nervousness about reaction to my own storytelling, it’s what I have always wanted to do, and so I do it. I’ve always had this passion deep down inside of me. Ever since I was in middle school, I knew I wanted to write and tell stories. So all I can offer readers is my authentic self as I tell these stories that brew in my head. That’s what I’ve got.

As Gilbert says, “Just say what you want to say, then, and say it with all your heart. Share what you want to share. If it’s authentic enough, believe me—it will feel original.”

And so it goes.

Originally yours,

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.

 

 

 

Update on Novel #3 And Words of Encouragement

Verni Books

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I’ve been working on my third novel this summer, and have been having so much fun doing the research and writing of this one. It’s different from the previous two, but it’s an idea that’s been in my head for several years. Finally, it is all coming together.

UPDATES

  • Currently, I have 42,000+ words written–This novel will probably top out at around 55,000 words to 60,000 words and will be about the same length as Beneath the Mimosa Tree (novel #1).
  • People have asked me how I write, what my writing process is, and if I outline my novel. I do not make outlines (nor am I a list maker, much to my husband’s dismay). While I am a little Type A where my professional life is concerned as a professor, as a creative writer, I tend to fly by the seat of my pants. I let the characters and plot grow organically, and I always keep in the back of my mind this thought: “What would I want as a reader?” I often do a sketch of each character, including what they like, how they look, what their favorite things are, what they collect, etc. I usually write down anything that helps mold the characters so I know them intimately.
  • Additionally, I do a lot of editing as I go along. I write a chapter, and then the next morning, I go back through it and edit it. By editing each chapter as I go, I catch mistakes, make any vocabulary changes or awkward sentence changes necessary. When the novel is completely finished, I go through it several times, first as a reader, and then as an editor (many times), and then finally, again, as a reader. This is the hardest part of the job, but setting aside time for it is key.DSC_0143
  • I have decided to once again self-publish my novel. As a control freak of my projects, I enjoy the entire process, from writing the draft and editing it to designing the cover and pages, as well as marketing it. All of these are challenges, but I relish the opportunity to show my students how things can be done if you tackle them one at a time.
  • I have already secured my ISBN number, and the front cover is designed. I am very, very excited to show this to you when it all comes together. The back cover design is in progress, but takes much less time than the cover.
  • The novel is set on the Eastern Shore of Maryland in Oxford, one of my favorite towns. The opportunity to showcase the loveliness of the Eastern Shore and its people is at the heart of my novel.

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    This is the collection of short stories I hope to finish by year’s end.
  • I am hoping to  launch the new novel in September.
  • Fingers crossed. (Really…one never knows).
  • My other book, which I already have in progress, is a collection of short stories and poetry. I’m still working on two short stories for the publication, so I hope to finally set that into motion by the end of the year.

ENCOURAGEMENT

  • I love to write and tell stories. To those of you who think you might have a story in your head that you would like to tell, I suggest you do it. There is nothing more rewarding than writing what you love, telling stories you want to tell, and hopefully, having readers enjoy them. Keep at it, and don’t give up. As a mom with two busy (very busy) kids, a husband with a crazy work and travel schedule, and my own demanding professional life, I am proof that when you set your mind to something, you can do it. I know you can.
  • Take baby steps the first time you write something. I think the reason why projects stay incomplete is because it feels daunting. Think of it as a tennis match: if you think too far ahead, you may lose the game, and then the match. Instead, think one point at a time: just win the next point. That’s the same approach to writing a novel. Just write one chapter. Then the next. And soon, you will see, you just might starting racking up games and actually finish (and win) the match.HemingwayQuotexx |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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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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Some Quick Book Recommendations

I may not be writing and working on my next novel and collection of short stories as much as I should be, but I sure have read some pretty good books lately. It’s been nice to read other people’s works as opposed to worrying about my own stories right now. Books are piling up on my nightstand, and I’m hoping to read a lot of them this summer as I sit by the pool. It’s one of the great perks of being a professor–summers are made for catching up on writing and reading.

Of late, I can recommend three books that I have thoroughly enjoyed.

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The Dress Shop of Dreams by Menna van Praag

This quirky fantasy was a fun, light, and creative read. I loved the quirkiness of each of the characters, the bit of magic thrown in, and the way the story neatly ties together, because guess what? Sometimes we like a neat little package that makes us happy.

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The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman

I’m not going to lie about this one–I was on the fence for many chapters while reading this book. Hoffman’s prose is extremely detailed and descriptive, and the book is low on dialogue between the characters. However, that being said, the melding of history and fiction is always exciting, especially in this drama. I found myself constantly looking things up to see what was real and what wasn’t. The story is interesting, and is definitely creative. I enjoyed being taken back to Coney Island in 1911 to an unusual museum with a cast of characters that includes a conniving and manipulative professor, the professor’s daughter who doubles as a mermaid, and a Jewish boy who is conflicted about his father.

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Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

Jojo Moyes has quickly become one of my favorite authors. Her ability to tell a meaningful story is masterful, and she sucks you into the plot right away. This bestselling book is being made into a movie that is slated for release this summer, so if you want to read the book before it hits theatres, I suggest you get to it right away. You’ll follow the romantic story of Louisa and Will…and you will need your tissues nearby as you read this tearjerker. But it’s all worth it. (I also highly recommend The Girl You Left Behind.)

Here’s the trailer for the movie that’s due this summer.

 

 

 

 

Autumn is Always a Good Time to Fall into a Story

 My first novel, Beneath the Mimosa Tree, takes place primarily from September through New Year’s Eve. I’ve always loved the season of autumn, so I decided to set the scene in beautiful Annapolis, Maryland, my hometown. When one of my dear friends and mentors told me that Annapolis came to life on the pages and was like another character in the book, I felt like a million bucks. While the overall theme of the novel is forgiveness, my hope is that you’ll fall as much in love with Annapolis as I did so many years ago.

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…

Withdrawal and The Staircase

StaircaseToday I decided that I would write a little something. I haven’t written anything creatively in a while, and it’s sort of getting to me. I’m going through withdrawal and I don’t want to go through withdrawal. I want to write something, and while I am far too busy to spend time writing what will be my next novel, I will tackle some short fiction, or what some deem Flash Fiction.

Here’s the prompt that I got from the 3 a.m. Ephiphany written by Brian Kiteley. It’s my “go to” book of prompts I use when I want to write a little something but need a push. The beauty of prompts is that it could potentially turn into a longer story—either a short story or a novel, even. One never knows where it will go. So, I’m ready to begin.

The Scenario: Write a story that starts with one of the sentences from the list below. This should be your opening sentence. 400 words. Go.

The sentence I chose from the list is as follows:

He saw her from the bottom of the stairs before she saw him.

This sentence has to be my first line. Where will I take it?

Let’s find out.

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The Staircase

He saw her from the bottom of the stairs before she saw him. He could tell it was her by the shadow of her profile that reflected off the wall, her silhouette animated, floating upward as it bounced with her gestures, a result of the large, crystal chandelier that hung as a statement piece just above the middle landing over the polished, white marble floors. The scent of cinnamon combined with the freshness of the greenery wrapped with twinkle lights that decorated the banisters filled the air as Christmas music floated to the ceiling. He had not seen her in many months; at least, they had not come face-to-face. There were times he would position himself in the public library at the largest window in the fiction section just to catch a glimpse of her as she strode by on her way to work. She never knew he was there—just as she had no idea now.

When the shadow turned, he was still standing, gaping, his eyes lurking upward because he did not have the strength this time to walk away. She was only about fifteen feet from him, and that strong Vodka tonic—two tall ones to be exact—might have been enough for him to finally have the courage to say something to her, or at least to remain standing in the spot until she descended the staircase.

For a moment, the lights flickered—three quick flicks—and the music skipped a few notes as the wind outside roared. There was a subtle gasp from the guests at the party when the room darkened that one last time, but they persevered and illuminated the room just as she had begun her descent. He was still looking up.

By the time her foot reached the fourth step, she saw him. She reached for the rail with her right hand, and she paused on the stairs. Their eyes froze, locked in place, neither one daring enough to look away. He felt a pain shoot across both eyes and then ricochet into his chest. He wondered if she could see, actually see, what heartbreak looked like. Her dress sparkled from the lights, from the chandelier. Her lips were red and warm and moist. Her left hand found its way to her chin, yet she remained motionless, peering down the staircase, expressionless at first, but then—he could swear he saw it…he knew he saw it—the very corners of her mouth began to curve upwards, and he believed he witnessed the slightest twinkle in her eye.

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