Giving Thanks To You

Yes, it’s that time of the year.

Time to be thankful for people and blessings.

As it’s officially Thanksgiving holiday break for me, I’d like to take a moment to thank you, the readers and supporters of Steph’s Scribe. If it weren’t for readers, we bloggers wouldn’t be doing what we do. From the days when we wrote in journals and didn’t have the vehicle to share our thoughts or ideas, it’s wonderful to have that access through this platform; I’m thankful for the opportunity and take my responsibility of writing for you seriously. It’s an outlet for me, I take great pride in it, and I never want to let anyone down. I’m always open to input and suggestions, so feel free to drop me a line on the blog or at my email, stephanie.verni@gmail.com.

Thanks for reading my Steph’s Scribe, my books, and offering me encouragement throughout the year.

I’m very thankful to know you here.

Thank you, readers!

* * *

Stephanie Verni | Author, Blogger & Professor — Visit my Amazon page for more information about my three contemporary fiction novels and textbook on Event Planning.

 

 

Chapter 3 (Rough) of The Sequel to Inn Significant

Once again, in the spirit of National Novel Writing Month (#nanowrimo), I am sharing what I’m working on thus far. Today’s chapter represents 3,093 words, so I’m at about 7,000 words so far, which, quite frankly, is a little behind the 8-ball for this point in November. But, we do what we can.

Here’s Chapter 3 of what may be the Sequel to Inn Significant. It’s rough, and still being built, but at least it illustrates how you build your characters…and storyline…one word, sentence, paragraph, and chapter at a time.

Keep writing, you guys!

FullSizeRender-21C H A P T E R   T H R E E

of the sequel to

I N N   S I G N I F I C AN T

 

READ THE PREVIOUS TWO CHAPTERS HERE.

“Come on—let me see it!” I said to John after we ate dinner on the water, drank one too many glasses of wine, walked back, and were inside his cottage. For some reason, I didn’t want to stay in our house alone that night. I wanted to be with him in his cottage, snuggled up close to him, my head on his chest listening to his heartbeat. I’d grown to love being on the Inn’s property, and sometimes just being down the street felt too far.

“Oh, no you don’t!” he said. “I told you! You don’t get to see it until the wedding!”

“Well, the wedding is nine days from now.”

“No, Love. You don’t get to see it until our wedding. Not Carolanne and Tim’s wedding.”

“Damn. I thought I could trick you,” I said, feigning a pout. He’d kept a painting in the corner of the room with a drape over it and forbade me from uncovering it. He was working on something, and I knew it was off limits. Besides, what bride-to-be would want to ruin a surprise? Still, it was fun to bait him.

“You’re good with a couple of glasses of wine in you,” he said smiling broadly as he walked toward me and put his arms around me. I returned the gesture and embraced him. He pressed his body against mine.

“Are you saying I’m only good when I’ve had some drinks?” The scent of him awakened my senses. I’d gotten to the point recently where I could allow myself to not just feel frisky without guilt, but to be frisky without guilt. I was making progress.

“No, but you’re much less uptight after a couple of Pinot Grigios.”

“Uptight! You think I’m uptight?” I was smiling back at him. I knew he was right. One hundred percent right, but it was fun to play along with this flirtatious game with a person I almost scared away as my internal battle raged on for far longer than necessary.

“Care to prove me wrong,” he teased.

He kissed me then, and what happened afterward solidified that I was not, indeed, uptight, but rather a woman who still had the power to love and the ability to show it.

*

Aesthetically, we knew we wanted everything inside to be white. The barn ceiling had been white washed to show just a little bit of the natural wood, and the walls were painted a bright white. We had strung the twinkle lights on the sides with help from John, who painstakingly made sure they were perfectly spaced out and aligned properly. The tables and chairs had arrived as well, and yesterday, we set them all out on the floor to get a feel for how they would be arranged with enough room for the dance floor. My two favorite aspects of the barn were the enormous amount of windows we had built into the structure, along with the sliding barn doors which added such a great deal of character to the place.

“Morning, Milly!” Ernie, the electrician and Yacht Club sailing champ, said as he approached me, massive, metal toolbox in hand. I was clearing the potted plants out of the barn and moving them back into place on the patio so Ernie could hang the chandeliers. He said the job would most likely take him two full days, even with his crew. “This place is gonna be gorgeous,” he said. “It is already!”

“I think the chandeliers will be the finishing touch, though, Ernie. Your bit of magic should do the trick.”

“Lord knows how much your mother loves chandeliers,” he said with a wink. He had installed them all in the Inn when she first renovated the place. “Where the heck is Colette? She promised me her Oxford-famous quiche this morning.”

“Well, then, let’s get you fed before you risk your life playing with live wires and climbing on very tall ladders today,” I said.

Ernie placed his toolbox inside the barn, and we walked up the path to the Inn. Colette had kept her promise, and was pulling a quiche out of the oven as we entered the kitchen area. “I could smell it from the barn,” Ernie teased, giving Colette a peck on the cheek. The two were old friends, and Ernie and Colette’s husband were best friends.

“I only made it for you, Ernie, because I knew you’d be working all day in the barn, and I didn’t want you to faint from hunger knowing Gwen’s out of town,” Colette said. “When does she get back?”

“Monday,” Ernie said. “I just drove back last night, and she’ll stay another week with Belle. I don’t know if they understand what life’s gonna be like with twins. God bless ‘em.” 

His daughter and her husband had just brought two twin girls home from the hospital, and Ernie and Gwen had gone to Richmond to help out.
Colette placed the food in front of Ernie with a napkin, fork, knife, and a big glass of orange juice. “I really wish they would move back to Maryland. It would be a lot easier for Gwen and me to help out. I know Gwen would love that.”

“Are they trying to move home?”

“No talk of it yet, but we’re trying to put that bug in their ears, especially since Gwen’s husband’s family lives on the West Coast.”

“Well, maybe they will. Fingers crossed.”

John came through the door then, cleaned up from his yard work, and gave me a hug. I sniffed his neck. He’d worn the after shave I love. “I see Colette’s got you covered, right Ernie?”

“More than covered,” Ernie said. “I’m in heaven. And I’ve got to finish this before all the other guys decide they want to invade Colette’s kitchen.”

“Not just my kitchen for much longer, Ernie. I’ve got a new role now.”

“It will always be your kitchen, Colette,” I said. “No one could ever replace you. And, by the way, I think your value increased over the last year. Now you have three kitchens to boast about.”

“Yes, but now you’ve got Sylvia in the mornings. You can tease her now,” she said with a wink.

Sylvia was our new morning breakfast cook who would be starting next Monday. She had recently moved to Oxford after an unbearable divorce, and was set on making the town her home. She’d bought a small cottage in town, and had worked as a chef at restaurant in Vermont for ten years before she moved to Pennsylvania. We loved her from the day we met her; her honest, self-deprecating sense of humor, her vulnerability, and her warm smile were attributes that we admired. She was moving into her rental this week, and was anxious to get started as soon as possible.

Colette, with encouragement from my family and John, accepted the responsibility of being in charge of food and wedding cakes for all events on site. After brainstorming, we decided it was best to invest in and create a side catering company called Inn Love Catering, an arm of Inn Significant, with Colette at the helm. Karen, our former part-time assistant, was Colette’s first hire. Karen would be the organizer, bookkeeper, salesperson, and catering coordinator along with Colette on site, and Colette would be the catering manager and creator of all dishes and food for our events. She was in the process of hiring two additional catering assistants, as well, and Karen was almost done recruiting her wait staff for the weddings. As the kitchen at the Inn was not large enough to prepare all the food for weddings of up to 120 people, we leased a store across the way on S. Main Street and set it up as our catering hub. We also built a smaller kitchen in the back of the barn to be used for the day-of events. The last year and a half had certainly been a busy one, and I was thankful for the projects that kept me moving ahead.

I felt my phone ring in my pocket, and I excused myself to step outside.

“Milly Foster,” I said, as I did not recognize the number.

“Well, hello, Inn-ovator,” the voice said, emphasizing the word “inn.” He referred to me this way, and he said it in a kind of Arnold Schwarzenegger voice like The Terminator, and no matter how many times he said it, the imitation always made me laugh.

“I didn’t recognize the strange number that popped up,” I said. “I didn’t know it was you.”

“Well, no, of course not, which is why I’m calling you from a land line. A land line, Milly. I can’t remember the last time I held a regular old phone in my hands. I’m having flashbacks to my teenage years when I would stretch the cord into the closet to talk to one of my girlfriends.”

“What the heck happened?” I asked.

“Lost the damn thing in the ocean. I’m an idiot. When I get back to the States, I have to get a new phone. I’ll be back tomorrow—flight leaves later today. How are you? How’s John?”

“We’re both good, but not as good as you are in Europe. How’s Palma?”

“Glorious. Got a great article out of it, but I’m ready to be home. How’s the barn coming? Is it done? I heard you guys got hammered by some violent tropical storm.”

“Yes. Didn’t care for it at all,” I said. “And the barn’s almost done. Ernie’s here to hang the chandeliers today, so after that, I think it’s smooth sailing.”

“Please don’t mention boats or water. That’s what got me into this mess. At least I didn’t lose my passport.”

I laughed. He always knew how to make me chuckle and look at life in a much lighter way. I knew he was good for me. Whereas I had the propensity to see things in terms of gloom and doom, Miles looked at life jokingly, optimistically. Very little phased him. 

Everything with Miles was fun—at least that’s the way he made it for me, which was why our friendship continued to be one of the best parts of my new life. He’d also become my part-time writing partner, as we were working on a project together on the side.

“Don’t tell me you were having wild sex on the boat with some exotic and stunning Spanish maiden and your phone went flying into the ocean, Miles.”

“Okay. I won’t tell you that,” he said. “But I would be lying.”

“Miles Channing! You devil!”

“I like to think so,” he said with a laugh.

I hung up with Miles and walked the stone path to the office. There were a lot of odds and ends that needed tackling before we were responsible for the happiness of a bride and groom on their wedding day. I could feel my adrenaline begin to kick in as I knew my “to do” list was growing exponentially.

*

In the morning, I left John’s cottage the same time he did when he went for his morning run. I had left my bike there the night before, and needed to go home to shower before the day’s events began. This was my morning routine at least once a week, as it was our decision not to live together until we said “I do,” and because I still had a little bit of convincing left to do to make sure John knew all was well with me and with us.

It was a good thing I went home as early as I did, because Eva Bramble was walking that morning and had a way of making me look at things with fresh eyes. She was just passing my house as I put the kickstand down. She was wearing her white jogging suit with a matching visor and some very new, bright pink Nike sneakers along with her Fannie pack around we waist. Her lips were adorned with coral lipstick, a shade she loved and wore whenever I saw her. I’d been able to get to know Eva ever since that day I stopped by her house and she gave me the shoebox of things that belonged to my grandmother because she had offered to help Colette out as a part-time worker at the catering shop. Apparently, Eva was one heck of a baker, and since partnering with Colette, seemed to have quite a few recipes up her sleeve that she baked for the Inn. Now she would help bake some of these goodies in the S. Main shop where all the food preparation for our events would take place—in addition to making some of the pre-baked goods for the Inn. I think Eva was just delighted to be a part of the excitement, and we were thrilled to have her.

“Good morning, Eva!” I called to her as she was rounding the corner.

“Good morning, Milly,” she said back as she approached. “How are things with the barn?”

“I can’t wait for you to see it. Are you stopping by later? Ernie installed all the chandeliers yesterday. It’s absolutely stunning.”

“Marvelous!” she said, clapping her hands. “Have you and John set your date yet?”

“We are close, Eva. Very close.”

“I’m sure your wedding will be gorgeous! And you’ll have everything down like clockwork by then. Remember—I’m happy to help any way I can when that time comes.”

“I’ve made a mental note,” I said. “How’s Richard feeling?”

“As ornery as ever,” she said. “Why do you think I’m out walking and will then lock myself into the catering shop? He’s so frustrated with the physical therapy and recovery. Knee replacement is not fun! That’s why I vowed to keep myself in shape after I saw him go through all this.”

“Poor thing,” I said. “It must kill him that he can’t play golf right now. What can we do for him?”

“Maybe we can get him out of the house later and he can come see the barn and sit by the water at the Inn.”

“I’ll have John come get him—would that be okay?”

“Perfect,” she said. “How about during tea time?”

“Sounds like a plan,” I said.

“How’s your place coming along?” she asked.

“Oh, Eva,” I sighed. “I don’t know. I’m just not feeling it yet.”

I don’t know why it was so easy to be completely frank with this woman. I felt like I could tell her anything and she would never judge me—not one bit.

“You know I love decorating and design,” she said, “mind if I take a look?”
“Not at all,” I said.

We walked up the pathway and I opened the door. It was the norm in our town not to lock our doors. Keys were left under mats, in garden adornments, or nowhere at all, just the door left unlocked. The place felt barren, as there was little furniture inside it. The house was still a work in progress. It was charming on the outside, but it had needed some rehabbing on the inside. Sometimes John and I spent the late weekend hours working on projects. We couldn’t do it all, especially the kitchen, so we hired a contractor to remove old cabinets and countertops and install new ones. It was coming along, and what was once dark on the interior had been brightened up with lots of white paint and new windows along the back of the house to let the sun stream through the windows. The original, wide-plank, pine floors were my favorite, and once they were revitalized, they were stunning. One bathroom—the one in the master—had been gutted and rebuilt prior to my purchase of the place, but we’d kept the old claw-foot tub. Now John and I were just making some cosmetic changes to it.

Eva looked around, and I could tell she was summing up the living area and kitchen. “It’s odd, Eva. Even though I’ve owned it for a year and John and I have spent a lot of time in it, it still doesn’t feel quite like home. In a strange way, I miss my little cottage on the property. Well, it was never mine, anyway; it always belonged to my parents, but I think I so desperately needed that time and space that I think of it fondly. I also learned a great lesson about living in it, and that is, I don’t need a lot of space or a big house for something to feel like home. The cottage was cozy and charming and intimate, and this feels sort of big and vacant.”

Eva moved over to me and put her arm around me. “You and your mother have created a beautiful Inn and barn—just translate that loveliness into a place here that makes you happy. Do things that make you happy inside, allow yourself to express what you love, and it will start to feel like yours.”

“That sounds wonderful, but I also need to make it feel like John’s home too.”

“That you can do,” she said. “John’s artwork could be prominent on the walls; photographs you’ve taken could be displayed. Buy some cute signs from one of the stores in St. Michaels, and have fun looking at some of the great antiques stores in Easton. You’ve got this. I think maybe you are just afraid?”

“Afraid? Of what?”

“Of making another commitment and allowing yourself to be vulnerable again.”

She was right. About all of it. Fear lurked in every dark corner of my mind. It made me unreasonable. It made me terrified. I’d lost one husband, and I didn’t want it to happen to me again. Allowing yourself to love again takes great courage, and I seemed to have about as much courage as the Cowardly Lion did in the beginning of The Wizard of Oz.

It was sad, actually, to look around my place—this house that I purchased. There were hardly any decorations on the walls, and I had refused to retrieve my old furniture and other belongings from the storage unit, so it was downright barren. At that moment, I decided that I needed to donate those things. I think the bottom line was that I didn’t want them any longer. They didn’t belong in this house.

They didn’t belong in a place where a new beginning was about to happen.

I needed to start over.

Now.

—END CHAPTER THREE—

COPYRIGHT 2017 | STEPHANIE VERNI | ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

 

Prompt & Podcast – November 6 #nanowrimo

Hello, Friends!

Today, I’ve got a PODCAST for you about WRITING CHARACTERS with my favorite tip about writing these characters. I think you’ll find it helpful if you don’t already do this.

BGC-podcast-word

Writing Character Sketches

Steph’s Scribe

TODAY’S PROMPT

Write 500 words | #nanowrimo | Choose one of the prompts below

To go along with today’s PODCAST, write one of the two prompts below.

For non-fiction writers:

Write a short biography of your best friend(s) as a character sketch. Use all the information you know about him or her, from what they look like to their characteristics to their likes and dislikes. Try to write 500 words.

For fiction writers:

Pick a character from your upcoming novel and write an in-depth character sketch. Include everything and anything you can about the character so that you can use it in the future as you construct and build your novel.

Good luck and have fun!

 

Sharing Two Chapters of the Sequel to INN SIGNFICANT #nanowrimo

So today, before I post my prompts for you and writing podcast later about characters and creating your characters, I decided I would be brave and share my first two chapters of the sequel to Inn Significant, my third novel. I’m dabbling with the idea of a sequel, so I thought I’d share what DRAFTING looks like. This is my FIRST DRAFT. I haven’t really edited much yet at all.

My approach is to just tell the story first. Editing comes later. But I know these characters pretty well at this point (though I am introducing some new ones), but for me, it’s about getting in their heads and telling their story.

Here, then, are the first two chapters of what a sequel might look like if I pursue this. And, if you’re counting words, these two chapters are roughly 4,000 words. #nanowrimo

 

 

T h e   S e q u e l   t o   I n n   S i g n i f i c a n t (maybe)

C h a p t e r   1

The wind whipped, bending the trees in half, as the storm began to wreak havoc on our small town. The river looked angry, as it tossed the white caps into the air and pummeled the shoreline. We had just spent the previous weekend planting vibrant crepe myrtles, miniature Cypress trees, and a variety of shrubs and flowers around the perimeter of our new, bright white structure with a light grey tin roof. The long, curvy, slate walkway was completed just two days prior, and the lights that lined it were supposed to be installed today.

No such luck.

We were down to the wire with our first wedding scheduled in two weeks, and the storm was certainly going to set back our timeline—by days. All of the tables and chairs were scheduled to be delivered this week, the chandeliers needed to be installed as they had arrived late from our vendor, and the remaining final touches of paint and sinks for both the men’s and women’s bathrooms were on the docket to be finished over the next seven days.

And while all this might sound a bit desperate and chaotic at the last minute, the construction had gone swimmingly. The barn had been built in record time; its soaring, vaulted ceilings and windows allowed natural light to flow inside it—and it turned out exactly as our architect, Simone, had designed it. She was instrumental in planning a venue that suited the land, matched the feel of the existing Inn, and offered a picturesque setting for weddings and other special events. The sliding doors on the river side of the barn were crafted to open fully to a covered patio with waterfront views, and they were dreamy to say the least. We had decorated the patio with potted boxwoods and cascading flowers planted in urns, which we had moved inside last night before the storm hit to preserve them.

This behemoth of a tropical storm, as it was now being referred to by weatherpersons on every news channel, was churning up a lot of debris, and I’d never witnessed the Tred Avon River looking so violent. The Chesapeake Bay was thrashing even more than the river, and pictures of flooded downtown Annapolis had made the news highlights earlier this morning. The images of the storm reminded me of what had happened to Nana’s dear Ferio as he endured that fateful hurricane so long ago. The thought of it all sent a chill up my spine, and I couldn’t help but worry about some folks who may not have taken proper precautions and made their way to safety.

Mother Nature did not mess around. When she had something to say, she tended to say it in a big way, just to make sure we were all paying attention, and we were humbly reminded that we must respect her authority.

I stood on the porch of Inn Significant in my rain boots and red raincoat and watched as Oxford was pummeled. My mother was inside making a huge pot of soup for all of us and wanted us to eat it quickly in case we lost electricity, which was certainly a possibility, but hadn’t happened yet. Despite the deluge from the sky and raindrops the size of small pancakes, it was still warm out. John and I had scurried over in our SUV, crawling at about five miles per hour, but my new house—the one I bought impetuously—was only about three quarters of a mile away. We had secured that property—the one that we would soon live in together—and decided to weather the storm at the Inn. There were no guests booked, as everyone had cancelled when the latest weather report concluded that treacherous weather was indeed imminent.

While the renovation on our new place was being done, John had remained living on the grounds in his cottage on my parents’ property. I looked down and touched the diamond he had given me after we had committed to each other and our relationship. Sometimes it felt surreal.

The ring was stunning—and much bigger than the one Gil had given me during our humble beginnings when we were very young and didn’t have two nickels to rub together. John had a lot of money saved up over the years, and he prided himself on being able to give me a ring that, as he said, “was as beautiful as I was, inside and out.”

Those are the kinds of words you could get used to hearing for the rest of your life.

A bolt of lightning flashed in the distance, and seconds later, the boom of thunder sounded and echoed across the river. I felt the porch tremble, and I must admit, I did as well. It also must have startled the seagull that was perched under a tree, for he took off flying against the torrential rain, battling the wind that offered tremendous resistance. And yet, the seagull somehow prevailed and made it safely to another perch.

I stood on the porch and watched as the river sang a much different tune today than it did on most days in our town; I wanted it all to be over.

There was something ominous about it, and I didn’t care for it at all.

*

“Emilia—soup’s ready!” I heard my mother call from inside.

My father and John were just coming down the steps, tools in hand, as they were making some minor repairs to the Inn while it was empty. A squeaky floorboard, a leaky faucet, and a screen door that was askew—those were some of the things that needed attention. John had purchased cans of paint two days prior for touch ups and repainting that needed to be done in some of the guest rooms. My mother was meticulous about the upkeep and decorating of all the guest rooms and common rooms at the Inn; likewise, my father was in-tune to scratches on the walls and handles that needed tightening. The tropical storm was keeping us from being outside, so the agenda for the day called for indoor repairs, at least until we potentially lost power.

“Our punch list is almost complete,” my dad said proudly as he took the lid off the pot of soup and inhaled as the steam tickled his nose. My mother gave him a whack, and he laughed.

“Off the goods,” she said.

I know my dad was anxious about our first booked event on-site that would take place in a couple of weeks, and he wanted to make his contributions so that things could run smoothly as we hosted our first wedding with as little drama as possible. Inn Significant’s guest rooms would be full with the immediate family and the bride and groom, and we helped book other guests at the Robert Morris House across the road and at hotels and inns in Easton and St. Michaels. The wedding—the first one we would host on the grounds—was smaller in size with only eighty guests, so we were thankful it wasn’t the full one-hundred and twenty we could seat.

“Look at those sheets of rain,” my mother said. “Are you worried we might have flooding? I hope the plants and mulch don’t wash away.”

“It looks like the storm is taking a turn and will be out of here by tonight,” my dad replied, peeking at his weather app on his phone. “I think this may be the worst of it. Just a lot of rain, but I don’t think we need to worry.”

“That’s a relief,” she said.

I was setting the table and John came up to me and gave me a little peck on the cheek.

“What were you up to?” he asked me.

“Truthfully, not much. I was watching the storm from the front porch until that bolt of lightening and crack of thunder happened, and then I worried about the safety of my friend, the seagull. Then I came back inside and dried off. There’s something eerie about how dark and gloomy it is out there—and the wind! So unbelievable!” I said.

We sat at the kitchen table—the same one that John and I used to make the muffins back when I first arrived at the Inn. So much had changed for me, and yet so little had changed, too. I realized I was full of contradictions at that moment and decided to just eat my soup and stop thinking.

Thinking too much and too deeply always got the better of me, and I’d vowed to give up too much deep thinking altogether. It had a tendency to churn up old feelings and guilt, feelings of love and regret, along with a whole host of “what ifs.” If I were to be completely honest, the hopefulness you feel when you finally realize that you have the capacity to move on with someone else is euphoric at first, but at the same time you never lose feelings for someone who was dead and gone. And that made love a uniquely complicated animal altogether. So it was best not to think too much about it and just—live.

When I mentioned these complex feelings to my mother in the strictest of confidences one night when she could tell something wasn’t right with me, she offered the best advice.

“As Teddy Roosevelt once said, ‘Comparison is the thief of joy,’ you know,” she said. “You can’t compare John to Gil. It’s simply not fair. They are both wonderful men in their own right, but to pit one against the other, that’s just not a kind thing to do. How would you feel if someone did that to you? And let us not remember: Gil is no longer with us, God rest his soul. And so you are left with a man who adores and loves you, and you must allow yourself to move on, Mills, in every sense of the word.” She was right, and I knew it.

Emotional breakdowns often caused people to do the most extraordinarily stupid things.

Of course I shouldn’t have compared John to Gil. Sometimes with an unexpected death, a degree of selective memory and knighthood went along with it. It’s human nature’s rule that we only tend to remember the wonderful and noble things about our love and our relationship when it is no longer viable. We tend not to dwell upon the bad aspects of our relationships. Nevertheless, when someone died young, it was easy to remember them so fondly as to put them on a pedestal, and unfortunately,it had the potential to hinder the building of a new, quality romantic relationship. Why? Because there remained a cruel posturing and it could be summed up with one question: How could someone else ever live up to the fond memory of a dead lover?

This was the question that left me perplexed, and incredibly inane. In the beginning of my relationship with John, as we began to acknowledge that we had a fond and growing romance, it wasn’t entirely easy for me. I still held on to baggage. And the word baggage certainly has a negative connotation. When I look back upon the events of last year and a half, I know that everything happened for a reason, albeit with a little push and strategy from my parents. I was delighted that they got involved in trying to foster a relationship between John and me. They were looking out for my best interests. And as a bonus, they adored John.

Getting close to another person again takes courage, and perhaps I didn’t fully have that courage, not to its fullest extent. I wondered if I needed more time alone—not another year spent wallowing in my misery, but another year of running the Inn, getting back to myself, writing more and finding my independence instead of forging ahead into another relationship, where always in the back of my mind was the possibility that I could lose him. To what, exactly, I wasn’t sure. All sorts of things loomed inside my head. At the time, I didn’t look at this fear as being selfish, but they were certainly grounded in fear. I found myself continually second-guessing whether or not I had completely healed.

And then John said something to me that made me wake up and snap out of it when I finally had the courage to share the feelings I was having with him, honestly and in an open manner.

“Time isn’t always the answer, Milly. Sometimes the answer is just deep down in there—either you feel it or you don’t. And if I’m not the answer that’s deep down in there, then I need you to just tell me. I’m a big boy, and I can take it. I don’t ever want to be the person you are settling for because you lost your husband. I want to be the man you love and want to share the rest of your days with from here on out as you move forward. Settling for me? That would kill me.”

And, quite frankly, hearing him say those words killed me a little.

The fear I had of allowing myself to become closer and emotionally connected to him ricocheted back to me. I regretted everything I had said and did and second-guessed. My heart knew what was right, but my head continued to play tricks on me. My life had become full again, and I couldn’t imagine John not in it.

That was when I knew for sure. I apologized, I cried, but I know I hurt John that day. We pushed back our wedding date several months because he needed to be sure I loved him the way he needed—and deserved—to be loved. Since then, I’ve spent the last six months assuring him that he had my heart. Fully.

There were things you said and did sometimes that you wished you could retract, like an unfounded and misguided story in The New York Times, and yet, just like that story, the ideas, unfortunately, already had legs and had been read and interpreted, and taking them back was not an easy endeavor.

But I was fighting my way back. And I was fighting for him.

C h a p t e r   T w o

Two days later, the sky turned a bright blue without a cloud in the sky. I was at the Inn early that morning, and John was already tending to the lawn. I straightened up the Adirondack chairs and cleaned them off with a rag. Inn guests would be arriving later that morning, the first bunch to check in after the storm.

We had ten days remaining until we hosted Inn Significant’s first wedding. The delivery truck appeared with all of our chandeliers and the electrician was on his way with a crew to do the installation. I couldn’t wait to see how the lighting would affect the ambiance of the room. My mother and I had been the interior designers, having spent countless hours researching other venues and picking and choosing aspects we liked from each of those we admired and folding them into our design. Our architect helped us incorporate those features into the structure.

John peeked his head into the office.

“I’m heading over to Home Depot to get some things to finish up the kitchen area in the barn. Do you need anything, Love?” he said. He called me Love a lot, and honestly, I adored it.

“I think I’m good for now,” I said.

“I’m off then,” he said. “And don’t forget about dinner.”

“I won’t,” I yelled back.

I opened up the website and checked to make sure there were no inquiries or questions that needed attention. I continued to blog once a week from Inn Significant, and enjoyed telling the stories of the Inn through our site. Occasionally, I’d receive comments, and I loved responding to people as they asked questions or just said they enjoyed reading the blog. I also enjoyed reading reviews people posted after they had stayed at the Inn. For the most part, they were very, very good, and we all took them seriously.

Next, I checked my emails. Carolanne, the bride who would be our first to host her wedding at the Inn sent me a quick email.

Thank you so much for always answering my questions and getting back to me so promptly, Milly. And thanks for arranging those last minute bouquets for our moms. I am so excited to host our guests at your lovely location. I can only imagine how gorgeous the barn will look. See you next week.

The next email was from someone named Marco DiBlanco. My heart skipped a beat. I opened the email.

Dear Milly,

Good morning!

We have never met, but I found your website when I was doing a search for my uncle, Ferio DiBlanco. My father passed away at the age of ninety a few years ago, and Ferio was his older and only brother. My father suffered from dementia for the last fifteen years of his life, and it was difficult to get coherent stories out of him during that time. Despite their age difference and Ferio being in America while my father stayed in Italy as a young boy during America’s depression, Ferio and my father kept in good touch and appeared to be very fond of one another. I found some letters after my father’s death that were sent from Ferio to my father, all written in Italian. When I searched online for Ferio several years ago, there was nothing that led me to anything about his life. I had almost given up doing any research at all. That was until I did another search a few days ago and miraculously found your website and your stories. I was intrigued to read about your grandmother and Ferio on your blog, as my father had mentioned Ferio’s American wife when I was younger and he told me stories about their house and Ferio’s job in Maryland. Unfortunately, my father never actually met your grandmother; he only knew of her through the letters Ferio would send home to his family. So all of this to say, I guess the Internet is truly good for some things, no? It has led me to you and to some family history.

I am sure you are surprised to read this email from me, especially in that we are not related by blood. However, we are related by wonderful circumstances. I live in Italy in Orvieto, and I own an art gallerie (or as you may write, gallery). I went to the Rhode Island School of Design and studied art, which is why my English is not so bad (and we were taught it here a little in Italy, too). Ferio was from Orvieto, as well. I am writing to you, Milly, as it is my intention to come and see the place where my Uncle Ferio lived after he left Italy and paint it. I have also read that the Eastern Shore has a vibrant community of artists, and I would like to spend some time in town. I would very much love to meet you and get to know you, as your grandmother was such a meaningful part of my uncle’s life, and I imagine he loved her very much. I feel we are connected through that relationship. As well, three years ago (and two years after the passing of my father), I lost my wife of thirty years to cancer. Sad as it is to say, from what I have read on your Inn’s blog, it seems we also share a loss of beloved spouses.

Would it be possible for me to reserve two weeks at the Inn, so that I might come and stay and meet you and take in the scenery that looks so welcoming on your website? I am not looking for anything free from you as I have the means to pay for my trip and my lodgings. Please let me know if this is possible. I am longing to come back to America for a visit and to reconnect with my family’s history.

Fondest regards,

Marco DiBlanco

Owner, Gallerie Storie Di Vita

Via Santo Stefano, 7, Orvieto, Italy

My mother popped open the door holding an enormous disco ball in her hand.

“Too much?” she asked, holding it up for me to see. Then she took a closer look at me sitting frozen behind the computer. “What’s wrong? You look like you’ve just seen a ghost.”

“I think I may have,” I said.

*

“So, wait a minute. This guy is Ferio’s nephew? He’s probably my age.”

“I don’t know how old he is, but he is definitely claiming he is Ferio’s nephew,” I said.

“This is getting really interesting,” my mother said, placing the disco ball on the floor. It tried to roll away from her, but she wasn’t having any of that. She pushed it into the corner and then sat down next to me on the white chair. “Honestly, I’m still getting used to the idea that my mother was married before and never told anyone about it. Never told me, her only daughter! Now I have to meet Ferio’s relative, having never known of Ferio before you came to the Inn and discovered our family’s little secret. I mean, who knew? The world is a small one, Emilia Foster. It’s a good thing you’re grabbing hold of it, because my head is spinning, especially after having read my own mother’s journal. Talk about it getting weirder. You better call someone at the networks and tell them the Kardashians are passe. We just might have a reality show brewing right here in Oxford.”

I loved when my mother was funny and dramatic and on top of current entertainment events. She looked at the world in almost the same way Miles did—never too far into the future and with a glint of fascination in her eye. Through all of my dark times after Gil’s death, I needed her, even when I thought I couldn’t take one more day of her trying to cheer me up with a stupid joke or a funny looking stuffed animal. And I actually felt sorry for her even when I was at my lowest, because she, unfortunately, still had the energy to deal with me.

We read through Marco’s email again together, and then looked over the bookings for the next month. We penciled Marco into a room and blocked it off for two weeks so that he could come to America and we could meet him.

He would be our adopted cousin, even if he wasn’t a cousin by blood.

We drafted our email back to Marco and offered the dates that were available for a two-week stay. We would wait for his reply.

In the meantime, there was work to be done, emails to return, a wedding to get in order, and lights that needed lighting. My mother grabbed the disco ball and headed for the door so Ernie could put it in its place. She glanced at me before she walked out, and we grinned at each other as we both shook our heads in disbelief. It was barely ten in the morning, and already, the day’s excitement was percolating. I decided that I would credit the tropical storm for churning up this strange new development that had occurred since its visit. The winds of Oxford were swirling.

I took a deep breath and continued on to the next task. My fingers started typing.

Dear Carolanne—My mother and I cannot wait to help make your wedding magical. The chandeliers are being installed today, and you will make the most beautiful inaugural bride the Inn and barn have ever seen…

—END CHAPTER TWO—

–Copyright 2017/Stephanie Verni/All Rights Reserved

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.

Every One of My Books Has Killed Me a Little More

 

 

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In 5 years, I wrote three novels and a textbook while working full-time as a professor. I think that warranted a short respite.

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You see the title there, and maybe that’s why you clicked over to see what’s going on here.

If you did, please know I didn’t say that quote. It was said by the famous late writer, Norman Mailer. “Every one of my books has killed me a little more, ” he said.

I didn’t know the man. I’m not on par with him as a writer. I am not as prolific a writer as he was. And I certainly don’t earn my primary income as a writer as he did.

And yet, I can totally understand what he said.

As some of you who follow my blog may know, I hit a wall this summer. Exhaustion took over, and I needed a break from writing. While writing novels hasn’t killed me, the promotion of them was making me crazy. Every morning I thought to myself, “Just what do I need to do today to sell one book? How can I market my book today on social media? How can I spread the word about my novels? How can I post one more thing on social media without annoying my friends and supporters?”

img_1179These thoughts began to consume me, and I knew I had to tread lightly. Ruining friendships over book promotion is not worth it, but I needed to put a little distance between me (as a person and friend and mother and wife) and my writing and marketing. I could feel myself slipping into a sort of dark abyss and feeling quite down about things, and I didn’t want those feelings to affect me and my family.

Taking a respite from writing has been just what the doctor ordered. I am concentrating on my family, helping my son with his college applications, teaching at the university, planning a new course I am co-teaching, and exercising, something I had let slip as well.

The miraculous thing that happens when you put a little distance between you and your writing are these things called invigoration and inspiration. I find I am becoming inspired by things I’ve neglected to notice; I am invigorated by relationships I never knew I could have; and story ideas seem to be coming to me at a mile a minute.

It’s a good thing I keep a notebook. I jot down ideas that may be novel-worthy, and I’ll examine which stories I might like to tell next.

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I still keep a paper planner in which I jot down things, keep notes, make to-do lists, and write inspiring quotes. Still works for me as opposed to using my iPhone or Outlook calendar.
I’m not done writing novels, I’m just gearing up for something I can sink my teeth into to grab hold. The inspiration fairy, when given some room to breathe, seems to want to come to life and help out a weary writer and marketer.

And, moreover, because I do LOVE writing so much, I don’t ever want to utter the words Norman Mailer said.

I won’t ever let my creativity and need to tell stories kill me a little.

I absolutely refuse to allow that to happen.

 

Creating the Physical Space in which to Write

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I N S P I R I N G    S P A C E S

One of the things we talked about in my college classroom recently is not only WHEN we find time to write, but WHERE we find time to write. I’m very lucky that our home came with a beautiful office that we have tweaked a little with paint and a chandelier. (My husband said, “You took down the fan for a chandelier? We have enough chandeliers in the house.” To which I replied, “You can never have too many chandeliers.”)

Finding the TIME to write has its own challenges, but part of it, for me, lies in having a space I don’t mind spending time in to do my work. Therefore, I had to make my office “feel good” and be that space where it can be quiet and pretty and inspirational.

Anyway, these are photographs of my home office and the space where I write. It inspires me.

And, please, by all means, let me know if you beg to differ on the chandelier issue.

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Stephanie

20841993_10155523297888954_3655226197486168242_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.

 

 

Put Your Positive Pants On: Staying Positive Amidst Negativity

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***

Some people enjoy dwelling in negativity. All you have to do is look at some of the political media coverage in our country to know this is true. The media loves to dwell in and propagate negative thinking and doom and gloom, and it can be suffocating. When I feel this way, I turn off the television.

The same is true in real life: when people are filled with negativity, I tune them out as well.

This is not to say that disturbing things don’t happen today. There are, indeed, very disturbing situations taking place all over the world, but when we begin to allow them to affect our own personal outlook and ability to change things, it could hurt us in the long run.

I don’t like being held captive by negativity. By nature, I’m a positive person, but a few years ago, I felt myself go into a downward spiral, I didn’t like it, and I didn’t like who I was becoming. Not one bit. I made a conscious effort to get myself back to who I was and to the power of positive thinking.

Since I’ve done that, a whole lot has changed for me. For the better. I don’t have time to feel badly now—about myself, about others, or about the world around me.

Instead, I’m focusing on how I can do the things I want to do and be the kind of person I want to be in a positive light. I am in control of how I can make a difference and positive impact on people and situations.

There will always be those people who want to see you NOT do as well as they do. There will always be folks who are NOT rooting for you. And, there will always be a line of thinking that is not in line with YOUR way of thinking. These obstacles are just that—obstacles—and you have to power to overcome obstacles. Turning up your positive volume requires you to be strong when you have tremendous belief and passion. Forge on, and remember that the positive energy comes from within you and not from outside sources.

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There are a plethora of quotes and articles about the power of positive thinking. This stuff is real, otherwise, we wouldn’t pay attention to it. And, more than that, it is effective. Things can change for you by adjusting your sails, as John Maxwell’s quote above indicates.

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I had to explain to one of my kids the other day, who was being a little harsh on himself, that the worst thing you can do is to compare yourself to others. I asked him if he did the best he could do on a particular endeavor, and his answer was “yes.” I explained to him that I don’t compare myself to other writers, because if I did, I might start feeling really awful about myself. I told him that what I do is to compare myself as a writer TODAY to the writer I was YESTERDAY, or more specifically, I ask myself if my latest book is better than the one I wrote before it? The only person you should ever compare yourself to is who you were yesterday–are you better than you were the day before and the day before that and the day before that. Comparison leads to negativity, and we should just stop doing that immediately.

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If you want to compare and be competitive, then compete against yourself. That can certainly be a motivator. And, it can be easily tracked. You will know for sure if you are doing better each day.

Positive attitudes can truly change your outlook on things. And it beats the alternative of being down in the dumps, angry, bitter, and negative.

Just typing those words leaves me feeling uneasy.

 

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.

 

 

Book Giveaway – Enter to Win!

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In the world of independent authors and publishing, Amazon gives us the opportunity to give away copies of our books…

So let’s do it.

If you’re wondering what the heck Inn Significant is about and whether you may want to read it, let me share some recent reviews about the book (below you will see the summary about the novel).

In the novel, you’ll be transported to Oxford, Maryland (click here to see an lovely overview of the town form Only in Your State); one of my readers wrote to me and 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.”

Another reader wrote, Weaving in pieces of a family mystery through a found journal, the author introduces a new set of characters in a completely different time, but reminds us that some things are truly timeless.”

And, yet a third reader wrote, All I can say is AWESOME! This needs to be made into a movie and I need a sequel! I was hooked from page 1. I completely fell in love with the characters and the setting. What an amazing job Ms. Verni did to transport you to the little town of Oxford. It definitely has ignited a spark in me to make it out to the Eastern Shore this year.

Additionally, just last week, Inn Significant received a Finalist Award from the National Indie Excellence Awards as well as a 5-Star review from Readers’ Favorite.

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

About Inn Significant:

Two years after receiving the horrifying news of her husband Gil’s death, Milly Foster continues to struggle to find her way out of a state of depression. As a last-ditch effort and means of intervention, Milly’s parents convince her to run their successful Inn during their absence as they help a friend establish a new bed and breakfast in Ireland. Milly reluctantly agrees; when she arrives at the picturesque, waterfront Inn Significant, her colleague, John, discovers a journal written by her deceased grandmother that contains a secret her grandmother kept from the family. Reading her grandmother’s words, and being able to identify with her Nana’s own feelings of loss, sparks the beginning of Milly’s climb out of the darkness and back to the land of the living.

 

 


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.

 

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.”

 

***

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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Two Upcoming Book Talks & Signings

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I’ll be taking Inn Significant on the road for a couple of upcoming books talks and signings.

The first, to kick off the Summer Reading Program at the Broadneck Library in Annapolis, Maryland, I’ll be doing a book talk and signing on Monday, June 19 at 7 p.m. The Broadneck Library has scheduled me for all three books I’ve published–they are so dear. A special thanks to Shirley Lord for always being so kind. And Annapolis was the setting of my first book, Beneath the Mimosa Tree. We had a good turnout for Baseball Girl; hopefully, some of you will come and join the fun in Annapolis.


The second is an exciting event! On Sunday, July 16, I’ll be part of the Plein Air painting day in Oxford. I’ll be in the Town Park provided the weather is good from 1 p.m. until 3 p.m.. If not, I’ll be at Mystery Loves Company, the bookstore next to the park.


I’ll have books and giveaways and I’ll be signing copies of all three of my books, including Inn Significant.

Also–BOOK CLUBS–I am happy to visit your book club should you choose any of my books as your book club book. I can also Skype in if you don’t live in the vicinity. Contact me at stephanie.verni@gmail.com, check out my Amazon Author Page, or visit my Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/StephanieVerni/ .

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I hope to see some of you there. If you haven’t visited Oxford, St. Michaels, or Easton, Maryland, you’re in for a treat. Make a day trip out of it and see the places that inspired my novel.

Thanks for the support!

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.

FRIDAY FICTION – A Short Story from a Collection

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They can’t all be happy endings.

While my novels always tend to have a happy ending, my short stories do not. I don’t know why they go down this way. It seems to me like short stories—writing in the short form—allows you to write more pointedly, and that, in turn leads sometimes to unhappy little vignettes.

This piece is loosely based on a dream I had. I will say nothing else about it, and I change things around, of course, because it’s fiction as opposed to non-fiction.

This will end up being the first half or third of a short story which I hope to include in my collection of short stories I will publish later this summer.

I hope you enjoy it. And if you twist my arm, maybe it will eventually have a happy ending.

To be continued…

F R I D A Y   F I C T I O N  — R E G R E T

It was cold and rainy for an April day in the south. The trees were swaying as the rain belted down and gusts of wind caused them to become heavy and bend. The dark clouds moved swiftly across they sky, and Sunny jumped back into her car after dropping her four-year-old at preschool. She sat for a second at the wheel chuckling as she thought about Susie who was dressed in her red raincoat with black polka-dots and matching red boots. Sunny made sure she had put her hood up as they walked into the school. Susie, however, insisted on carrying her ladybug umbrella, despite the fight against the wind. Sunny, on the other hand, didn’t even bother with an umbrella because what was the point? She was about to squeeze a workout in and get sweaty anyway, so what harm would a little more moisture do to her?

The intense gym workouts had become an obsession since Jerry left. If she didn’t get one in each day, she felt as if she would go insane, because, quite frankly, a thirty-seven-year-old woman whose husband just left her and her daughter might actually go stark raving mad over the feeling of utter rejection, not to mention the self-loathing that came along with it. Working out to excess simply made her feel better, at least it had won out over yoga and meditation, and she had tried them too.

The gym was just a few minutes down the road from the school, and Sunny put her signal on and turned right into the parking lot. She took a deep breath, grabbed her towel, ear buds, and cellphone, and got out of the car. The rain had turned to a bit of a mist, and she walked through the door. At the check-in, she swiped her card, and began to walk toward the aerobics studio.

“Sunny?” she heard a male voice call from behind her. She recognized the sound of it, but in the second it took for her to turn around, she quickly hoped it wasn’t him.

She turned and saw him standing before her. It had been just over ten years.

“Nick,” she said, more as a statement and less as a question.

“I thought that was you,” he said. There was only a slight smile as he said it, but it was there. Examining his face in that moment, she was able to recall the old expression he wore for months as she looked at him: the way he felt about her then was the way she felt about Jerry now. “How are you?”

“Good,” she lied. For a moment, she considered telling the truth, that she was anything but good, and rather merely surviving. However, she knew better than to do that and quickly focused on how she looked in her cropped, black exercise bottoms, tight top, and sneakers that looked a little ratty. Her hair was pulled up in a high ponytail, and she was without makeup. She thought about the darkness of the circles under her eyes and that the lines around her eyes must have deepened over the years. Of course she had to run into him when she was not looking her best—or rather more like her worst. After all these years, seeing him now in this manner was part of her punishment. “How are you?” she asked him.

“Very well, yes,” Nick said. “I’ve had a lot of professional success, so I can’t complain.”

She noted the emphasis on “professional” success. She glanced slyly at his left hand. It was without a wedding ring, but that didn’t mean anything anymore. Lots of men didn’t wear wedding bands on their fingers. Still, she wondered.

“So what are you doing in town?” she asked.

“Doing double duty. I’ve got a work engagement, and I’m visiting my mom,” he said.

“That’s convenient,” she said. “Double duty.”

“I suppose,” he said.

He stared at her with his intense brown eyes. There was always something about Nick’s stare that made Sunny feel as if she were completely naked in front of him, as if he could see right through her and down to her soul. Perhaps that’s why he wrote about such things. About broken love and the seeming lack of forgiveness. About people who kill each other’s dreams slowly by making the wrong choices. About love gone wrong.

The thought of it all—even after so many years—made Sunny suddenly not care about her workout. She searched his eyes to see if anything remained. He had never forgiven her. They had said it all so many years ago, and yet it still felt unfinished. The truth was, she would never know. She would never be brave enough to ask him.

He was still looking at her, still staring, and with nothing more to say but those few words exchanged. Ten years of words left unsaid.

“Well, I’ve got to run, Nick. Good to see you,” she said, beginning to walk away.

“But you haven’t even worked out,” he said.

“Wrong class time,” she yelled back, heading for the glass double doors, trying to keep it together, her escape route just steps away.

She got in the car and could feel herself begin to pant. Her hand trembled as she put the key into the ignition. Tears fell onto the steering wheel. It was becoming clearer now—now that she had been through the same. She felt his pain wholeheartedly now and understood why he was so bitter and angry and vengeful for a while. She got why someone incredibly like her in all aspects showed up in his stories sometimes. The names were always changed, but she could see herself in the characters.

Sunny looked at her watch and knew she had time before she had to pick up Susie, so she drove straight home and into the driveway like a maniac. She ran into the house and turned into the study where for years she had kept them all—every single one of his books. Did he know she had read them all a thousand times? Out of her favorite book spilled the letters, the postcards, and the scribbled but never said wedding vows. She gathered up all of Nick’s works in her arms. She loved the scent of the books—especially his books—for in some miraculous way they seemed to smell like him. The titles were all there and she placed them on the floor, stretched out on top of them. Regret was a powerful thing. She cried the entire hour until she had to pick up Susie.

Some broken hearts don’t mend. Won’t mend.

(End part 1; Stephanie Verni/2017)


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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The Things He Cherished

Image result for photo of a cottage by the sea

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I suppose I’ve always had a fascination for living near the water, and it shows up in my writing. Inn Significant, my latest novel, is set in an Inn on the Tred Avon River in Oxford, Maryland, and features a love story within a love story. There’s something wholly romantic about living near the water, the peacefulness of it all, and the sentimental feelings I have about it come out in my storytelling.

Today, I thought I’d feature the first poem I ever had published a few years ago. I’ve been writing poetry for ages (I think my earliest poem dates back to 6th grade), but I don’t often share my poetry with people, as it can be incredibly intimate and make me feel a little uncomfortable, because it often comes from a place deep down within your soul. However, I’m going to brave it this summer and include some of my poetry in my upcoming book that features short stories and poems called The Postcard and Other Short Stories & Poetry. Wish me luck. I am not entirely comfortable putting these personal thoughts out there, but I guess I have to get over that (which is why I prefer writing fiction–you can hide behind the make believe).

The poem I’m sharing today was featured on The Whistling Fire, which is no longer in existence, so I feel that I can post it now on this blog. It’s one of many poems that will be featured in The Postcard.

Let me know what you think. It’s a sestina poem , and this type of poem is tough to write because the words at the end of each line must remain the words at the end of each line throughout the poem, but in a different order for each stanza as you build the poem. As you will see, my repetitive words are as follows: sea, garden, children, direct, cherish, and beauty. There’s an order to it, and if you like to challenge yourself, I suggest you attempt a sestina.

In the meantime, here’s The Things He Cherished.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

T H E   T H I N G S   H E   C H E R I S H E D,  A   S E S T I N A

by Stephanie Verni

In my cottage by the sea,
hours spent admiring the garden,
I wait patiently for my children
to return home, direct
from the city to cherish
this place. Its specialness and beauty.

Flowers, surf, majestic beauty—
sharp, blue sky against the sea,
it reflects in my children’s eyes; I cherish
watching them work in the garden
my husband’s eyes in theirs, a direct
melding of our souls into those of our children.

My son, my daughter, walk the lane. My children
still seem so young, their beauty,
their clear sense of life’s direction,
wanting to pay homage to their father, ashes in the sea.
My tears water the garden—
this garden that he cherished.

And oh! He cherished
this home, his dream, and his children,
his handprints still fresh in the garden
his loving touches made it beautiful.
The wind, the water. How he loved the sea–
echoes of his voice saying they provided him direction.

Now heaven’s offering him direction
from above—a new view to cherish–
this diminutive cottage dwarfed by the sea.
Will he see our children?
Will he remember the beauty
he created, lovingly, tenderly  in the garden?

My hands are not those of a gardener,
his passion for it—teaching the children
his tricks. How to tend to nature’s beauty,
wanting something to cherish.
Grateful for them, knowing my children
will comfort me in his cottage by the sea.

Memories alive in the vibrant garden.
We’re here. Direct sun sparkles off the sea.
He, at peace. The things he cherished.

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.