Tag: romance (page 2 of 2)

Laci and Del: Fireworks

It’s the first Friday of the month. Time for another installment of short fiction. You can, at any time, find this work or any of the First Friday Fiction Features (#FFFF), by going to the My Work tab, clicking on Freebies, and selecting the story you wish to read.

Remember that 2014 is the year I’m trying serial work. This is part 7 of 12.

Laci and Del: Fireworks

Fourth of JulyAs Del pushed off the dock, Laci listened to the chirping crickets and croaking frogs, their cheerful melody a mockery when juxtaposed against her occasional sighs and Del’s sporadic mutterings. A bunch of them were spending the three-day weekend at Del’s cousin’s lake house, and so far, despite everyone’s determination to have a great Independence Day holiday, she felt the tension between her and Del as solid and tangible as if an actual wall had been erected between them.

A wall she could walk around or climb over.

The tension? She didn’t know how to overcome.

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Authentic Event or Hallmark Holiday?

by Staci Troilo

Valentine's DayI suppose everyone knows what Friday is… Valentine’s Day. In my family, we always made it a point to call it St. Valentine’s Day. February 14 is such a Hallmark Holiday that we did what little we could to preserve the intent behind its inception.

St. Valentine’s Day was not even commemorated in the church until 1969 because it is uncertain if there were one or two (some say perhaps even three) saints by the same name. All that was known for certain was that there was a Valentine who died on February 14 in the High Middle Ages in Rome on the Via Flaminia.

There are several accounts of Saint Valentines and works that led to their martyrdoms, but the most common (and most romantic) version is that of the Roman priest who was caught marrying Christian couples during the reign of Claudius II. He was sentenced to death for crimes against the state and was beaten with clubs and stones. When that didn’t kill him, he was beheaded (dates range from 269-273). Because he “died for love,” lovers everywhere celebrate romance on the day of his death, St. Valentine’s Day, February 14.

Valentine's DayThe church never really recognized St. Valentine’s Day as much of a holiday. My family didn’t have a special meal for it, and come on. We’re Italian. We have a special meal for everything. So it must not have been a huge deal. But my mom always baked a heart-shaped cake and we got little gifts. (Again. We’re Italian. We don’t pass up chances for parties. So it must have meant something.)

dogs valentinesNow that I have a family of my own, my husband and I are continuing the tradition. I don’t happen to have heart-shaped pans, so my kids don’t get the special cake that I got when I was young. But my husband grew up getting cream puffs. So my kids get some kind of treat. Sometimes it’s cream puffs. Sometimes I’m busy and it’s something a little easier. It’s the thought that counts. And they get little gifts. Because they are our Valentines.

My husband and I don’t go overboard on gifts for each other. We consider it a Hallmark Holiday and don’t think it’s worth the money. We think if we can’t show our love for each other every other day of the year, we shouldn’t be pressured by a greeting card company and the FTD man to do it on one particular day. And you know what? We do pretty well all 365 days, not just February 14.

Some people put great importance on that day. I hope they aren’t let down. Some people get quite depressed. I hope someone lifts their spirits. I hope I can be someone who can lift someone’s spirits that day. Every day.

I don’t know if there was one St. Valentine or two or three. Zero or ten. It doesn’t matter to me. I just want to take a lesson from the spirit of the man and spread some love.

Isn’t that what St. Valentine’s Day is all about, anyway?

No matter how you view the holiday (religious or secular, authentic or Hallmark), I hope you have a happy one.

What are your plans for Friday? Why don’t you share them with us here? You might give someone a good idea.

First Friday Fiction Feature — Laci and Del: Romance Tailor Made

It’s the first Friday of the month. Time for another installment of short fiction. You can, at any time, find this work or any of the First Friday Fiction Features (#FFFF), by going to the My Work tab, clicking on Freebies, and selecting the story you wish to read.

Hopefully you remember that 2014 is the year I’m trying serial work. This is part 2 of 12: “Laci and Del: Romance Tailor Made”

Laci and Del: Romance Tailor Made

black & gold valentineThey’d been dating since New Year’s, midnight. This time. Laci had to admit things were going well. Over the last six weeks, Del seemed to have remembered everything that mattered to her.

She only ate ice cream in the summer… unless she was angry, then bring it on. By the gallon. She liked her pizza New York style, as thin as she could get it, and always with sausage and veggies. Chicken wings should be seasoned with paprika and garlic salt, not slathered in sauce, and served with blue cheese, not ranch. And like pizza, she had to drink Pepsi, not Coke, with them. And definitely not iced tea or something without bubbles. Beer would do in a pinch, but was not her first choice. She was fiercely addicted to hockey. She loved museums, but preferred to go to them alone because people usually rushed her through them. She pretended to enjoy art films but in actuality they bored her; she preferred action movies. And obviously, she hated being alone at midnight on New Year’s because not kissing someone was a double whammy for her: it was a new year and it was her birthday.

He remembered it all.

When Del told her he had something special planned for Valentine’s Day, she couldn’t help but panic. “Special” was too much. “Special” was too soon.

They had crossed that bridge before. They had discussed marriage. She’d been ready for it. She had been secretly buying bridal magazines and thinking about venues. She’d tentatively designed the perfect menu, chosen colors and flowers, and known just what gown she wanted. If she had closed her eyes, she could have felt the ring on her finger.

And it had blown up in her face.

She didn’t know if she was ready to deal with all that again.

“What time can you get off work?” he asked.

“Uh… I don’t know. Why?”

“I thought we might start the night early. Valentine’s Day is Friday, so you know it’s going to be even more crazy in town than usual.”

“What time do I need to be ready?”

“Well, I don’t want to give too much away. Can you be ready to walk out the door at five?”

“Five? That’s awfully early for dinner, isn’t it?”

“I’ve got a full evening planned.”

She sighed, but no air felt like it entered or exited her lungs. Her chest felt tight, her palms cold, clammy. “All right. Five. What should I wear?”

“Whatever you’re comfortable in.”

“I’m comfortable in jammies.”

He waggled his eyebrows.

“Seriously, Del. I need to know how to dress.”

“Something comfortable. That’s all I’m saying.” He leaned down and gave her a quick kiss, then started to walk away. He called over his shoulder. “I promise, this will be a night you won’t forget.”

Something comfortable? She bit her lower lip. I doubt I’ll be comfortable until that night is long over.

When Valentine’s Day rolled around, Laci had worked herself up so much that she couldn’t concentrate if she tried. She finally just took the afternoon off and went home. Standing in her closet, she pawed through her clothes countless times, never coming up with anything. Finally, she stood back.

“What the hell constitutes ‘comfortable’ to a man?”

She took a bubble bath, styled her hair, and applied her makeup. When her doorbell rang at 4:55, she was still in her robe.

“I know I said ‘comfortable,’ but I don’t think we’ll get out of your apartment with you looking like that.”

The look on his face was something between appreciation and predator. She whacked his arm as it reached for her and darted out of his reach. “I’d be ready by now if I knew what I was supposed to be wearing. You won’t tell me where we’re going, or what ‘comfortable’ means, or how dressy I should get, or…” She stopped and took a good look at him for the first time.

He was dressed in jeans and his winter jacket, underneath which she could see a hockey jersey peeking out.

“When you say ‘comfortable,’ do you mean ‘casual?’”

“I do.”

She started to relax. “How casual? Like, my lucky-hockey-jersey casual?”

“That would be perfect.” He smiled.

The pressure in her chest released so quickly, she was surprised steam didn’t pour out her ears. “I’ll be right back!” She all but danced to her room and stripped out of her robe. Her beloved Lemieux jersey held a place of honor in her closet; it hung right by the door next to the white Sidney Crosby, black Evgeni Malkin, and blue James Neal jerseys. But the black Lemieux jersey was her lucky jersey, and it was a special night, so that’s the one she wore. She donned it with a pair of black jeans and black boots, grabbed her jacket, and headed for the door.

“Perfect,” he said, standing back and looking her over.

She could feel the heat rise in her cheeks. “Stop it. I hate it when you look at me like that.”

“Get used to it.” He opened the door for her. “Let’s go.”

“Where are we going?”

“That’s classified.”

She sighed, but played along. Downstairs, a black car was parked at the curb. She started to walk around it to cross the street, but he led her to it and bowed low, opening the door. “Madame, your carriage awaits.”

“What?”

“I rented a car for tonight. I didn’t want to walk in the cold or try to hail cabs.”

“Where are we going?”

“Geez, Laci. Would you just play along and get in?”

“Okay!” She got in and Del climbed in behind her. He poured her champagne and they toasted to a wonderful Valentine’s Day. Laci hadn’t even finished her drink before they were at their destination: her favorite pizza parlor. “Are you kidding me?”

“Nope. Come on.” Del took her hand and led her inside. They ordered salad and pizza—New York style with sausage and veggies, of course—and two Pepsis.

When they were finished, Del took her hand. “Did you enjoy your meal?”

“Every bite.”

“Ready to go?”

“There’s more?”

“It’s only six-fifteen, Laci. The night’s just getting started.”

Their driver valiantly braved rush hour traffic to cross the river and stop at The Square, where Del paid for them to ride the incline to the top of Coal Mountain and look at the view of the city.

“It’s a little chilly, but it’s beautiful,” Laci said, nerves creeping back in. The top of the mountain was exactly the kind of place people went to propose, and she wasn’t ready.

“I’m glad you like it,” Del said. “But we can’t stay. We’ve got one more stop.”

Relief flooded through her, warm and comforting, tingling her chilled fingers and toes. “Really, Del? You’ve already given me a great night.”

“I think you’ll like this.”

They rode the incline back down and got in the car. Again the driver fought city traffic and took them to one of Laci’s favorite places: the hockey center.

Del produced two tickets from his pocket. “Center ice. Right behind the bench.”

She threw her arms around him. “Are you serious?”

“Happy Valentine’s Day, Laci.”

“Happy Valentine’s Day, Del.”

As they walked inside, Laci knew she was going to remember that night for the rest of her life.

She also knew Del had put together a far more romantic evening for her than if he had wined-and-dined her at a fancy restaurant.

What did that mean for them going forward?

First Friday Fiction Feature – Laci and Del: Second Chance?

It’s the first Friday of the month. You know what that means… it’s time for another installment of short fiction. (You can, at any time, find this work or any of the First Friday Fiction Features, by going to the My Work tab, clicking on Freebies, and selecting the story you wish to read.)

This year I’m doing something different. Instead of twelve months of different stories, I’m trying out some serial work this year. So there will be twelve consecutive pieces released starting with this one: “Laci and Del: Second Chance?”

Laci and Del: Second Chance?

2014 Laci glanced around the room, her gaze flitting from the people to the door and back. Panic clawed through her insides as desperately as she wanted to claw at each figure blocking her way. She had no means of escape. She’d waited too long. What fifteen minutes earlier had been a navigatable maze of clusters of party guests, standing like islands in a sea she could have traveled, somehow had morphed into one massive throng she had no hope of wading through. The door might as well be in another country. She’d never make it.

Sighing, she turned around and unlatched the patio door. Cracking it open just enough to squeeze through it, she slipped outside and closed the door behind her. Immediately she was hit in the face with the bracing cold of winter.

“Damn, it’s freezing out here!” She wrapped her arms around herself and watched as her breath dissipated into the night. She briefly entertained the idea of going back inside, but shook the idea off before even turning around. The countdown had begun. Even through the heavy door she could hear them all chanting, “Fifty-seven… Fifty-six… Fifty-five…”

Less than a minute, and she could put another horrid year behind her.

And start another one.

She rubbed her arms harder and tried to blink back the tears that were threatening to fall, tried not to imagine every single person in there sharing a warm kiss at midnight… while she stood on the patio. Alone. In the cold.

“Thirty-two… Thirty-one…”

The voices had grown louder, and Laci realized the door had opened. Wiping her eyes and clearing her throat, she mustered the last ounces of courage and dignity she possessed and turned toward her unwanted intruder. “I’m sorry. Would you mind terribly? I’d like to be alone.”

“No, you wouldn’t.”

He was backlit by the lights from inside the house, but she didn’t need to see his face to know who he was. She’d know his voice, his body, anywhere.

“Delany?”

“Only you and my mother ever call me that.”

She cleared her throat. “Del. What are you doing here?”

“Something I didn’t think I’d ever do again.”

“Three… Two… One…”

As shouts of “Happy New Year” and the beginning notes of “Auld Lang Syne” rang out from inside the house, Del crossed to Laci and kissed her.

There was no forewarning. No preamble. He didn’t stroke her cheek first or brush her hair back from her face.

There was just Del. And the kiss.

And the disappearance of her whole miserable world for a blissful moment.

When he released her, the people inside were about done cheering. The strains of the song were fading away. The tears had dried on her cheeks.

And her heart rate was nowhere near normal.

“And what, might I ask, am I supposed to make of that?” she managed to get out in a steady voice.

“I’ve been watching you all night.”

“You’ve been watching me all night? What are you, now? A stalker or something?” She clutched at where a collar should be, but all she found was a necklace. A beautiful diamond necklace he’d bought her, highlighted by her upswept hair and the low-cut bodice of her cocktail dress. She tried to cover it with her fingers, but she saw the look of recognition on his face. Why did she have to choose that piece—of all pieces—to wear that night? Thankfully, he didn’t comment on it.

“We’re both still friends with the same people. We’re bound to end up in the same place at the same time. But after how things ended…”

She lowered one of her arms and studied his face.

He shrugged his shoulders. “I didn’t know if you were ready to talk. So I stayed on the opposite side of the room all night. I was trying to be polite and give you space.”

She sniffed.

“Anyway, I figured you would leave before midnight. I know how you feel about not having anyone to kiss when the ball drops, especially given it’s not just the new year, but your birthday too, so when—”

“You remember my birthday?”

His eyebrows shot up. “What kind of person do you think I am? Of course I remember your birthday.”

She relaxed enough that she dropped her hand away from her throat and started rubbing her arms again. Since Del had walked onto the patio, she hadn’t felt anything but heat. The cold was starting to hit her again, though. As well as some old feelings she hadn’t buried as deep as she had thought.

“Come here,” he said.

Before she could object, she was nestled in his arms, tucked against his firm, warm chest.

“Laci, I know things got all messed up before. I don’t want to revisit the past. This is a new year. For you and for everyone.” He pulled back a little bit and looked down at her. “I’d like to give us another try.”

She couldn’t meet his gaze, so she tucked her head back against his chest and held on tightly to him. “I don’t know, Delany. It took me a long time to move on. I don’t want to go through something like that again.”

“That’s how you know it’s worth fighting for. Because we were so hard to walk away from. Come on, Laci. What have you got to lose?”

Laci thought about the year since they had broken up and the men she hadn’t been able to date. There had been something wrong with absolutely everyone who’d asked her out—too tall, too nerdy, too creepy, too involved with work, too interested in fantasy football—so she’d politely declined all her offers until the offers had stopped coming. Yes, she realized her reasons were ridiculous. Well, maybe not the creepy guy, but all the other ones. But obviously her social calendar was in need of some CPR.

But wasn’t Del the reason it flat-lined to begin with?

She had a lot to lose. He couldn’t possibly understand. Was he worth the risk?

Countdown to Christmas: Peace

adventThis is the last week of the Advent Season. That means we light the last candle. We now have one rose and three purple candles lit; the circle is complete. Four candles representing the four thousand years from Adam and Eve to the birth of the Savior are all illuminated, and Christmas is almost upon us. We will be completing our last week of preparations.

The last candle we light is the Angel’s Candle, and it represents Peace.

As a matter of faith, I can think of no time of year more suited to peace than the Christmas season.

As a romance writer, Christmas is a wonderful time of year to incorporate peaceful elements into my writing.

Think about:

  • Soft music and candlelight
  • Softly falling snowflakes
  • Wine by the fire
  • Snuggling under a blanket
  • Soaking in a hot tub or bubble bath

What are you doing in this hectic season to add a little peace to your life? Why dont you share your secrets with us?

Christmas is just a few days away. For those of you who celebrate, have a very Merry Christmas. And for those of you who celebrating something else, I wish you the Happiest of Holidays. The rest of you are wished the most joyous of winter memories as this year draws to a close. I will be spending time with family and won’t be posting again until January. Until then, friends, be safe, and I’ll see you in the new year!

Countdown to Christmas: Joy

adventWe’re entering the third week of Advent. This week is called Gaudete Sunday. “Gaudete” (pronounced gow / dey / tay) is the Latin word for “rejoice” and this is the week priests wear rose-colored vestments and we light the rose-colored candle, because we are rejoicing reaching the half-way point through this anticipatory season.

This third week, the pink or rose candle is the Shepherd’s Candle, and it represents Joy.

As a matter of faith, of course I approach Christmas with a sense of joy.

As a romance writer, this season is no different.

Think of the joy a couple shares on that first exhilarating date. Or when they first say “I love you.” Or when they get engaged. Married. When they first move in together. When they first learn they’re expecting. That first doctor’s visit when they hear that rapid heartbeat, maybe even see a blurry image on a screen. When they hear that first cry, hold that sweet bundle in their arms. Take that precious baby home for the first time.

There is joy all around. Every first, every milestone. Every moment people choose to savor instead of squandering.

What joyous occasion are you looking forward to this season? What milestone are you celebrating? What everyday activity are you experiencing with a new sense of wonder instead of that same old sense of acceptance or dread? Why don’t you share your story here?

Countdown to Christmas: Hope

prophecy candleSo the Month of Thanks is over, and we’re entering the last month of the year, which is interesting, because in my faith, we are entering the new year of our church calendar. Advent has begun, which, for those of you who don’t know, is not only the start of a new liturgical calendar, but is a preparatory season leading up to Christmas.

Advent is noticeable by the violet vestments worn by the priests, the evergreen wreaths found in the church and in many homes, and the three purple and one rose candle on the wreaths. The evergreen branches are significant because they represent immortality, strength, healing, and victory over persecution. The wreath itself is a circle, a ring; a shape with no beginning and no end, and therefore represents the eternity of God, the immortality of the soul, and the everlasting life found in Christ. The lighting of the candles represent bringing light, or Christ, into the world.

Each candle has a different designation. This first week, we light a purple candle—the Prophecy Candle. It is in remembrance of the prophets, particularly Isaiah, who foretold the birth of Christ. This candle represents hope.

As a devout Catholic, I embrace these tenets of my faith.

As a romance writer, what does all this mean for me?

Actually, this season is a beautiful time for romance.

  • Sights: twinkling lights, roaring fires
  • Sounds: soft music, crackling logs
  • Smells: evergreen boughs, simmering spiced cider
  • Tastes: mulled wine, hot cocoa
  • Feelings: fur-lined gloves, hand-me-down quilts

Romance is all about hope.

  • Hope that someone will understand what you want, what you need.
  • Hope that your trust will be rewarded.
  • Hope that your love will be earned. And returned.

Advent is about anticipation. Week one is about hope.

And romance is about both.

How are you counting down the weeks until Christmas? I’d love to hear about your plans and preparations.

7 Ways to Add Spice to Your Writing Life

romanceValentine’s Day is this week. I’m not going to bore you or aggravate you with a debate over whether it’s a religious holiday (honoring St. Valentine the martyr who died on February 14, 270 AD) or if it’s just another silly Hallmark holiday that’s the bane of every man’s existence who’s in a committed relationship. I am, however, going to take this opportunity to plead with you non-romance writers out there to consider spicing up your writing a bit by taking a page out of my book. (Not literally, of course. That would be plagiarism, and that would be wrong.) We romance writers have been mixing our genres with others quite successfully for some time now; in honor of Valentine’s Day, I think it’s your turn. As a romance writer, I’m recommending you other genre-writers throw some love interests into your works. Spice things up a bit. Challenge yourselves. Here’s a look at some other genres with successful romances added to their plots.

1) Action/AdventurePirates of the Caribbean was as much a love story about Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann as it was an adventure about Captain Jack Sparrow. And after three films, when Will’s fate was determined, what happened? The fourth film introduced a love interest for Jack. Obviously there’s merit to introducing romance in the plot of action and adventure films.

2) Comedy—There’s a reason the term “Rom-Com” is now so common. From films as chaste as Doc Hollywood to ones as risqué as American Pie, comedic films have long since learned the value of throwing together couples for a few laughs. If laughter is the best medicine, adding some romance to the mix could only make things better, right?

3) Fantasy—So many fairy tales begin with “Once upon a time…” and end with “…and they lived happily ever after.” Did you ever think about who the “they” was? The prince and princess, of course. There’s romance in so many of the fairy tales we grew up with. Sure, we could probably move on from the damsel-in-distress routine, but the true-love’s-kiss bit, that works for me every time.

4) Horror—Every horror movie I watch has a couple sneak off for some quality one-on-one time right before they get hacked to pieces. I’m the one talking to the screen telling them not to go, but they never listen. At least they have each other before they die. To be fair, some horror films also have one couple make it through to the end, because they love each other and take care of each other. That’s real romance, people.

5) Mystery—Think about some of your favorite all-time crime-solving duos of television. I’ll tell you who some of mine are: Jonathan and Jennifer Hart from Hart to Hart, Laura Holt and Remington Steele from Remington Steele, Kate Beckett and Richard Castle from Castle, and Temperance Brennan and Seeley Booth from Bones. What do they all have in common? They were or are romantically involved crime-solving partners. Sure, solving mysteries on television (or in books) is fun; it’s always nice to know if you can solve the crime before the answer is revealed. But what’s more fun is if there’s some romantic friction thrown in the mix. It amps up the drama and makes the challenge more interesting.

6) Sci-fi—If this is your genre, you’re either a Star Wars fan, a Star Trek fan, or both. And having watched all six Star Wars films and episodes from TOS and TNG, I can honestly say that they are full of romance. Star Wars hinted at a love triangle until Han realized Leia was Luke’s sister. Furthermore, even given the tug on his ego, he may not have returned to help them had it not been for his attraction to her. And the story simply wouldn’t have been as strong without their love. And in Star Trek, come on, I mean, really, did Captain Kirk ever meet a female alien that he didn’t like? These are the quintessential sci-fi flagship franchises, and if romance was good enough for them…

7) Western—Many westerns go hand-in-hand with a man defending the life and honor of a woman, so this probably isn’t a stretch for a lot of you western writers. For those of you picturing nothing but saloons and gunfights at high noon, let me point you to Dances with Wolves, an epic love story set in the west during the Civil War.

So that’s my spiel for this Valentine’s Day. Regardless of where your passions lie, I’m certain there’s room to work in a little romance. Challenge yourself a little; you might be surprised at where your characters take you. They might even thank you for it.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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