Tag: Valentine’s Day

Happy to Announce Novels on Sale for Valentine’s Day

Staci Troilo book promoI know. I think I’ve set a record for posting this week. But I have exciting news, and it’s a limited time offer.

From today through February 19, my publisher, Oghma Creative Media, is running a sale on several novels: A Bride for Gil by Dusty Richards, Just Like Gravity by Sorchia Dubois, Beyond the Moon and The Tell-Tale Stone by Velda Brotherton, Noisy Creek by Pamela Foster, Santorini Sunset by Claire Croxton, and Southern Seduction by Luna Zega. (I’ve included hyperlinks to their respective websites and to their Kindle eBooks on Amazon. You can also visit Oghma Creative Media’s website for more information on these authors, these novels, or on any of the other talented authors who write under the Oghma imprints.)

Oh, yeah—they’re running a sale on two of my novels, as well: Type and Cross and Bleeding Heart

Bleeding Heart is a paranormal romance (the supernatural element stemming from alchemy).

Type and Cross is a family drama, but at its heart, it’s a love story.

Both focus on the hero and heroine and whether they can reconcile their differences by the end.

And both are on sale. (Click on the link, and then select which book(s) you’d like to download. Amazon | iBooks | and we’re still waiting for Nook to price match.)

If you’ve already read one, some, or all of these, please help spread the word to your family and friends. And, if you haven’t already reviewed what you read, consider doing so. Reviews really help an author.

If you haven’t read these books, consider downloading one, some, or all of them before the price goes up. (And then, when you’re finished reading, please leave a review.) Thanks.

The Oghma Creative Media sale has something for everybody. There’s a western, a paranormal romance, a PTSD drama, a Poe-inspired mystery, a funny mainstream, a snarky romance, and for you adventurous readers, an erotic love story.

And, of course, there’s my supernatural romance and my family drama/love story.

Seriously, if you need a gift for Valentine’s Day, any of these would make a great one. And if you think of Valentine’s Day as a Hallmark holiday, well, reading these will give you something to do on the 14th!

Thanks for checking these out. Wishing you a wonderful weekend and an early Happy Valentine’s Day!

15 Valentine’s Day Tips, 5 for Each Situation (Infographic)

valentine staciIf you know anything about me, you know that I’m all about relationships. In my fiction, I write about all kinds: healthy ones, dysfunctional ones, romantic/familial/friend ones. To me, fiction doesn’t work unless you have strong characters and passionate bonds between them.

You’d think that would lead to a mushy post about love and Valentine’s Day, but to be honest, I’m not a huge Valentine’s Day fan. My husband and I give trinkets to our kids, and I usually bake a heart-shaped cake (a tradition passed down from my mother), but I think love should be expressed every day, not just on the day a greeting card company designates.

So, to that end, this year’s Valentine’s Day post is a simple infographic. Five tips for people in a committed relationship, five tips for single people who are happy to be single, and five tips for people who have recently endured a breakup. Just little suggestions for how to spend the “holiday” that many people stress over.

What should I give him?

What should we do?

Where can I go?

How will I get through the day?

The answers follow.

Valentine's DaySo, writers—Keep writing those relationships into your stories; play with the dynamics and really work your character arcs.

And everyone—Regardless of your relationship status and your feelings about the holiday, I wish you the happiest Valentine’s Day.

Valentine’s Day Dinner

FFFFLast year’s free fiction selections consisted of a 12-part serial piece. I had great fun with that, and I hope you enjoyed it. Those pieces, and all my First Friday Fiction Features (#FFFF on Twitter and Facebook), can be found under the Freebies tab, a sub menu of the My Work tab. This year, I’m going to try something a little different. If it works, great; if not, we’ll try something else.

How else can you learn and grow except by trying new things? (Like this? Tweet it.)

So I’m taking a writing prompt and writing a story. Or a scene. I guess we’ll see what happens.

The work itself will be free-standing, no annotations. Afterward, however, in the “For Writers” section, we’ll dissect the piece for different fiction elements. And of course, we’ll end with comments (from anyone, not just writers).

And I will take suggestions for new prompts.

Today, however, the prompt has already been determined. So, without further ado… the writing prompt. It’s Valentine’s Day, and…

Here’s what I wrote:

Valentine’s Dinner

dinerSo, it’s obvious Satan works for the greeting card industry.

I hate this day. The rest of the year, I’m relatively well adjusted. But for some reason, February 14—every year—I’m a red hot mess.

My married friends are at home, having intimate dinners with their spouses. They’ll get long-stemmed red roses and tiny boxes of jewelry.

My friends with long-term boyfriends are at romantic restaurants as we speak. One—or more—will probably come home with a ring on her finger and a request for me to be yet another bridesmaid. Never a bride, oh no, not me. Just the perennial attendant. I can picture the hideous gown now, red satin and puffy sleeves. Why?

And my friends who are casually dating? They’re also out, probably at jazz bars where the lighting is low, the music is sultry, and the drinks flow freely. Expensively, but freely. They’ll dance with their men, a sensual hint of what’s to come tonight.

My dinner tonight is also intimate. It’s just me. And the restaurant has atmosphere, all right. It’s my favorite diner. It smells like strong coffee, fresh baked pie, and hot grill grease. The fluorescent lights really do wonders for my coloring—they make pale look ghastly.

And I’m also at a bar. Or should I say counter? I’m perched on the cracked red Naugahyde stool, listening to 50s music from the old jukebox in the corner. It’s just me, an old couple in the corner, Pearl, and Sid. Pearl flirts with Sid through the peek-a-boo window that affords a glimpse of the kitchen. He works at the grill and makes lewd comments about the heat.

Even my freaking waitress and the fry cook are an item. Between them and the Cleavers in the corner, I’m about to go ballistic.

“Here, hon.” Pearl hands me a few napkins and refills my water. When I raise my eyebrow, she points to the corner of her mouth.

I reach up, touch my lips, and pull my fingers away, sticky with cherry syrup from the pie I simply had to have. And the gloppy mess promptly falls on my white t-shirt. Pearl just smiles a sad, half smile… the smile that says, ‘Poor Katie. All alone on Valentine’s Day and a slob to boot. No wonder…’ And she slides a glass of water my way before turning back to the window to talk with Sid.

Scrubbing at my shirt proves fruitless. I’ve taken a small dark red spot and created a larger, wetter, lighter red spot.

So much for my plan to head to the movies. I’d probably just run into a plethora of couples lined up to see Fifty Shades of Grey. I want to see American Sniper—I’m feeling militant and violent at the moment and crave someone’s blood—but no way will I risk it wearing my dinner on my clothes.

I should have stayed home.

In Fifty Shades, the heroine gets the man of her dreams. Who happens to be a rich hottie. Who needs that kind of pressure on Valentine’s Day?

Of course, he also has a red “playroom” full of… devices. So no man is perfect.

The bell jingles as the door opens. I stop scrubbing at my shirt and look up.

So, maybe one man is perfect.

He walks in, shaking the snowflakes from his thick wavy hair. Stripping off his coat, he places it on the stool two down from me, then gestures to the empty one beside me. “Is this seat taken?”

Does it look taken? I guess I could have a companion in the restroom… I glance down at my yoga pants and stained shirt, lift my hand to my messy ponytail. Who am I kidding? He knows I have no one.

I lean forward, trying to hide the stain behind the counter and my coffee mug. “All yours.”

red chairsI picture it… He’ll make small talk, I’ll laugh. Then he’ll say that cheesy line, ‘I can’t believe a beautiful woman like you is all alone. And on Valentine’s Day!’ And I’ll demure, but he won’t have it. He’ll put a quarter in the jukebox and play something romantic, like ‘I Only Have Eyes for You,’ then we’ll dance between the rickety tables on the scuffed linoleum floors. He’ll invite me back to his place, and I’ll leave my car, riding with him because I feel so safe. Hell, if he has a playroom, I’ll happily enter.

I turn toward him, ready to make my fantasy come true, when the bell over the door rings again.

He turns toward the sound before I make my move, leaving me to stare at his back. His broad-shouldered back, with the wet curls of his hair tickling the collar of the red shirt he wore under an expensive, tailored suit jacket.

Then I hear her voice.

“Darling.” She walks over to him, and he embraces her.

I sit, glaring at my pie, while they discuss the lateness of the tow truck and whether they’ll make it to the opera before curtain.

Yellow flashing lights signal the tow truck driver’s arrival. Mr. Right throws money on the counter, despite not having ordered anything, and leaves with the woman. Whom I hate, just on principle.

Pearl picks up the cash and looks at me. “Your dinner’s covered, honey.”

I put on my jacket and slink out to my car. I’m headed to the comfort of my home. And my cat. And my bottle of cabernet sauvignon.

You’ll never convince me Satan’s not behind this whole godforsaken holiday.

# # #

For Writers:
So, a little over 900 words. Okay for a writing exercise. Not flash fiction, but not a substantial story, either. Was it enough, or is it merely a scene? Let’s look.

Character: —The beginning establishes character right away—a (temporarily?) bitter woman, alone on Valentine’s Day. Is she always bitter, or just that one day a year like she says? We don’t know, because we don’t have anyone else’s opinions of her, and we don’t see her on any other day. She could be telling the truth, but she could also be an unreliable narrator.

Plot: —Plots require conflict and follow a pattern, escalating to a climax and then tapering off in the denouement. We typically look for five points:

  1. Exposition
  2. Rising Action
  3. Climax
  4. Falling Action
  5. Resolution

Exposition is the beginning. Did we establish the character and the problem? In this case, yes. Katie is alone on Valentine’s Day. Everything reminds her of that. She’s upset at her situation.

Rising Action is the main problem coming to light and the complications that arise in the character’s attempts to overcome her situation. Did we meet this criterion? In this case, more or less. This is more of a psychological/emotional story, so the plot won’t be action-packed and fast moving. But we do see Katie making plans to go out anyway, and then changing her plans when something (she perceives as) better comes along. So she does encounter a change in her situation and attempts to do something about it.

Climax is the high point of the story, although not necessarily the most positive place the character can be. This is the dark moment, the time when it all hits the fan. Did we have a climax? Yes. Katie’s visions of a happily-ever-after ending is shattered when Mr. Right’s Woman walks in the door.

Falling Action is the result of what happened in the climax. Did this exercise have falling action? Yes. The couple leaves, discussing their perfect life—the life Katie envisioned. Katie is again alone, and now hurt even more than in the beginning.

Resolution: This is the end, where the fate of the character is resolved. It can be a happy or sad ending, but the character must have changed and loose ends must be tied up. Did this passage have a resolution? Yes. Katie goes home, alone, to drink her sorrows away.

So is this a complete story? I’d have to say yes, it is. That doesn’t mean it can’t be turned into a longer piece, even a novel-length work. This could be the opening to a romance novel or a pivotal moment in a dramatic piece. We’d have to do much more character and scene development, but this could definitely be expanded.

It can also stand on its own.

Other points to note:

The Prompt: The prompt does not have to be the opening sentence of the written work. It doesn’t need to be included in the story at all. But it does have to inspire the story.

POV and Tense: I am most comfortable writing in third person, past tense. But this is a writing exercise; I can explore new things, practice different options. I wrote this in first person, present tense. Not my most comfortable writing style, but it was fun to play with. We get deep in Katie’s POV and the action happens real-time, right along with her. I think, for an exercise, it works.

Setting is explored sparingly. We learn of the jukebox, the red stools, the counter and the pass-through to the kitchen. We hear the 50s music and smell the food. I didn’t devote long passages of description to this (and in fact, I shouldn’t have), but rather reveal these details in snippets as Katie experiences them. Could I have done more? Sure. But I don’t think I need to. If I turned this into a longer piece, I would.

Theme is pretty obvious. The lonely need love to thrive. Did you notice anything else in the story? Anything subliminal, maybe, that you picked up on? What about the color red? Red represents everything making her miserable in the story. She’s a “red hot mess.” Valentines, roses, bridesmaids’ dresses, the stool, the cherry glop, his shirt (because she can’t have him), the wine she’ll drink at home… Even Satan is often drawn red. Red becomes a metaphor for all the evil in her life, all that’s making her sad.

So, all told, despite the short length, this passage does meet the criteria for a complete story, even though it could become a scene in a longer work.

For Everyone:
So, what do you think? Is it a story or just a scene? Did it work for you? Did it remind you of any of your Valentine’s Days or of anyone you know? Let’s talk about it.

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?

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