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I don’t usually do this, but today I am going to share with you a short story I wrote a while ago.

Just to give you some background information, this is set in the mid to late ’90s, when internet and mobile phones were around but were not as common as they are now. Hand written letters were still a common thing and communication in certain parts of the world was very limited.

I decided to write it as a reminder of how things once were. We are all guilty of forgetting how difficult it was to contact people in remote areas. Nowadays it’s easy as pie with international text messages, Skype, email etc. Sometimes it’s nice to reflect on the good ol’ days when technology wasn’t the be all and end all of everything.

This is a fuzzy, feel-good, romance but not the sappy and cringe worthy type like some romances. My husband, who is not a romance reader at all, enjoyed this.

So sit back and continue reading. I hope this puts a smile on your face. 🙂

***

Holding On

“He’s never coming back.”

Yvonne ignored the comment and proceeded to make her morning trip to the letterbox. The postman arrived right on time. Exchanging their usual morning greetings, he handed her the mail and sped away with a friendly wave. Holding her breath, Yvonne sifted through it.

They were all window letters—in other words, bills.

In frustration, Yvonne spun on her heel and stormed inside. The door slammed shut behind her causing a picture on the wall to come crashing down. She threw the mail on the side cupboard.

“When will you ever believe me?” the voice taunted. “He’s never coming back.”

“Nina, shut up!” Yvonne glared at her sister. Nina leaned carelessly against the wall in the hallway, her arms folded across her chest. “What do you know?”

“What I just said. He’s not—”

“Alright! Enough already!”

Pushing past her, Yvonne entered the kitchen and retrieved the milk from the fridge. Tears burned her eyes as she made herself a cup of coffee. Two heaped teaspoons of extra-strength coffee. No sugar. A dash of milk. It was the only thing that got her through the mornings.

A few minutes later, she heard her sister enter. The fridge door opened then closed again. When Yvonne turned around a few seconds later, Nina sat at the table with a glass of juice. She was glaring at Yvonne.

“Why are you looking at me like that?” Yvonne asked, feeling uneasy under her gaze.

Shrugging, Nina picked at her nails. “No reason…” she trailed off then looked up at Yvonne and said, “well, actually I was thinking that maybe you should see a doctor. I mean, it’s been six months and—”

“Nina!” Yvonne ran her hand through her short brown hair in frustration. “Why do you keep going on at me about depression? I am not depressed!”

“You can’t blame me for wondering. You’re like this every morning. And for what? All because you didn’t get a letter from Sean.”

“Be quiet, Nina.”

“No I won’t be quiet. When will you ever learn that Sean is gone? He’s never going to send you a letter begging you to come back. He broke up with you.

Yvonne bristled at the comment. Setting her mug in the sink with more force than intended she said, “This subject is officially closed.”

“No it’s not.” Nina’s hazel eyes were dark with anger. “You change the subject every morning!”

“Well, can you blame me? You bring it up every morning!”

“Maybe I wouldn’t if you would listen to me!”

“I always listen! I’m sick of you repeating yourself!” Taking a deep breath, Yvonne said in a calmer tone, “I just want you to drop it. Please.”

“Fine,” Nina said. Standing up she turned to Yvonne and in a cold, hard tone said, “But I am going to say this. It’s time you got over Sean. You saw the letter. Get it through your thick skull once and for all: he is not coming back.”

Before Yvonne could respond, Nina turned and stormed out of the kitchen. The mornings never changed. Once upon a time, she and Nina had a close relationship. Two years earlier something changed and they grew apart. Yvonne never knew what caused it.

As she got ready for work, Yvonne caught her reflection in the mirror. It had been a long time since she took a long, hard look at herself. She was shocked at what she saw. Her once shiny, happy, brown eyes were now sad and empty. Her face, which used to always have a smile, now wore a frown.

Perhaps I am depressed?

Shaking her head, Yvonne pushed the thoughts away. It wasn’t true. The truth was: getting over Sean wasn’t easy. Before she received his break up letter, they had been steadily dating for a year and a half. They had long term plans. His sudden disappearance had shocked her. He offered no explanation.

How could one recover from that?

She didn’t know what it was but deep down she knew there was a missing link. That was what she clung on to—a glimmer of hope that he would come back.

An hour later she arrived at work. The moment she walked in the door, she was greeted with an overpowering fragrance. As she looked around all she saw was an array of red roses, fluffy teddy bears and romantic cards. Valentine’s Day. Her heart ached as she was reminded of Sean.

Approaching her desk the ache in her heart grew. It was still the same. Plain and boring. She had no flowers from that special someone.

Sitting down, she placed her head in her hands and groaned. If she had remembered what day it was, she would have called in sick.

The temptation to order herself a dozen red roses was overwhelming. Of course she didn’t. Naomi, her desk neighbour, who happened to be single more often than not, did that every year. Yvonne refused to stoop to her level.

As if on cue, Naomi arrived with a vase of red roses. Two dozen red roses. She smiled brightly at Yvonne and proudly put them on display.

“Aren’t I a lucky girl?” Naomi cooed, lovingly running her finger across a rose petal. “Liam went out early this morning to buy these for me.”

“I don’t see why you had to bring them into work,” Yvonne said. “They would keep much better at home.”

Naomi clicked her tongue in annoyance. “Of course I’m going to bring them in. I’m not going to look like an outcast by not having any flowers.” She glared at Yvonne with one raised eyebrow. “So where are your flowers, Yvonne?”

“We’re having a romantic dinner tonight instead. He’s cooking for me.”

Naomi huffed and turned away, not convinced. Busying herself with some paperwork, Yvonne’s guilty conscience ate away at her. She had never told her workmates the truth. That glimmer of hope she held on to stopped her from saying it.

“So, when will we see Sean again?” Naomi asked a few moments later, turning to look at Yvonne suspiciously. “It feels like we haven’t seen him for ages.”

Yvonne cringed but didn’t face her. Six months of lying was taking its toll. When Sean was around, he visited her at work frequently. When he disappeared, of course everyone noticed his absence. Her excuses were running dry. There were only so many times his grandmother could be sick.

“He’s got better things to do,” Yvonne spat, turning to glare at Naomi.

She turned back to busy herself once more.

A few moments later, a bustle of excitement from the reception desk captured her attention. Glancing up, she saw a delivery man with a large bunch of red roses. They were even bigger than Naomi’s.

Approaching her he said, “Are you Yvonne Harrison?”

All she could do was nod.

“These are for you,” he placed the roses on her desk then turned and walked away.

“Wait! Are you sure you have the right person?”

He turned back and looked at her quizzically. “If you’re Yvonne Harrison then yes I do. Have a good day.”

Before Yvonne could contemplate the situation, a small crowd of women gathered around her desk. They were jealously admiring the roses.

“Oh no you don’t,” Yvonne snapped, snatching the note Naomi tried to pinch away from her. “Just because you don’t have a boyfriend doesn’t mean you can go reading my private notes.”

“You liar,” Naomi cried. “You’ve seen my flowers!”

Yvonne snorted. “What those? They must have cost you a fortune, Naomi.”

Naomi’s face reddened with anger. Stamping her foot, she turned and stormed out the door.

When everyone had returned to their desks, Yvonne took that moment to open the note. Her heart stopped when she read it. It was from Sean.

Her chest tightened as she held back her threatening tears. One lone tear escaped and dripped down her cheek. She quickly wiped it away.

What was going on? Was this some sort of cruel joke?

“Yvonne? Are you ok?”

She looked up to see Samantha, the receptionist, looking at her with concern.

“I’m fine, Sam,” Yvonne wiped away more of the dreaded tears.

“Did Sean send those to you?”

Yvonne nodded and fresh tears rolled down her cheeks.

“Why are you upset?” Samantha coaxed. “Can he not do dinner now?”

Dinner? Quickly remembering the lie she told earlier she said, “Oh that. No he can still do it. I suppose he decided to send flowers after all.”

“They’re beautiful.” she sighed mournfully. “I wish my boyfriend would send me some.”

The change in conversation calmed Yvonne down. Taking a deep breath she said, “It’s not all about flowers, Sam.”

“Oh I know that. It’s not just the flowers, Von. We’ve been arguing so much lately. Things aren’t what they used to be.”

“Is he stressed? Maybe you two need to talk?”

She smiled sadly. “I wish it was that easy. He doesn’t have feelings for me anymore. He told me so.”

“Then why don’t you—”

“End it? I know I should but I can’t bring myself to.”

“Why not? You have a right to be happy, Sam. If he’s not making you happy, someone else will.”

A tear dripped down her cheek. “I just want what you and Sean have.”

Samantha turned back to her work with a heavy sigh. Yvonne felt a stab of guilt. Perhaps the time had come to stop playing games. Rather than admitting her lies of the last few months, she could make up another story. Perhaps that they broke up after Valentine’s Day?

Yvonne pushed the thoughts aside and returned to work. As the day slowly progressed, she got little done. Her concentration was not on the job. She couldn’t stop thinking about Sean. Why had he sent the flowers? Was it him? Or was someone playing a trick on her? Perhaps it was—

Nina! Yvonne’s suspicions arose immediately. Her mind worked overtime as she tried to piece things together. The missing link! She knew there was something missing. If only she could figure out what it was.

At last the day ended and she went straight home. She was thankful Nina was working the nightshift. She needed time alone to think.

When she pulled up into the driveway, she saw a man standing on the porch with a suitcase at his feet.

“Can I help you?” she asked as she stepped out of the car.

The figure turned around and that was when she saw his face.

Sean.

The sight of his handsome, chiselled features made her heart race. Oh how she had missed him. He broke out into a grin, showing that one dimple in his left cheek she adored so much. In two large strides, he was standing in front of her.

“I was wondering where you were,” he said, stroking her cheek softly. “I thought you would be ready.”

His touch left her cheek tingling. Yvonne’s breath caught in her throat. She opened her mouth to speak but no words came out. She wanted to ask: what did she need to be ready for? Instead, she heard her own whimper as the tears she had been holding spilt down her cheeks.

“Oh I’ve missed you,” Sean whispered as he pulled her into an embrace.

His arms around her triggered the memories she had locked away. Memories only couples share. Memories she couldn’t bring herself to think about over the last six months. Memories she never wanted to forget again.

“Why are you here?” Yvonne finally managed to choke out.

Sean pulled away and looked down at her, his brow furrowed in confusion. “What do you mean? I told you I’d be back. I wrote you a letter six months ago. I told you to be ready.”

Yvonne felt a sob rising up in her chest. “What do you mean? What should I be ready for? Sean, six months ago you left me a letter saying we should break up.”

“Break up? Why would I want to break up with you, Yvonne? I want to marry you. I said that when I got back, we would get married.”

Another tear dripped down her cheek. “I never got that letter, Sean. I thought you had left me.”

His grey-blue eyes filled with tears. Pulling her back into his arms, he stroked her hair and said, “Yvonne, I’m so sorry. I love you. I would never leave you.”

“Then where have you been?” she demanded, pulling away from him.

“Africa,” he said simply. Then remembering she hadn’t seen the letter he continued, “I got offered a six month research contract. I had to leave immediately so I didn’t get to see you. That’s why I wrote the letter. Where I was working I had no access to postal services. I couldn’t send or receive anything. So in my letter I said the money I got from the job would set us up for our new lives together.” He smiled and kissed her softly. “I said the moment I got back I would ask you to marry me. And that’s what I’m doing.”

The missing pieces fell into place. Yvonne knew exactly what happened. Overcome with a feeling of love and adoration for him, she wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him tenderly.

“Oh Sean, of course I’ll marry you,” Yvonne cried, tears of happiness dripping down her cheeks. “I want to marry you right now!”

He smiled down at her and planted a kiss on her forehead. “That’s why I thought you would be ready. That was my intention.”

“Oh Sean, I’m sorry. You were expecting me to be waiting—”

He silenced her with a kiss. “None of that matters, Yvonne. Why don’t you go pack your things? Let’s get married now.”

She nodded eagerly and ran inside to do just that.

Ten minutes later, they were in the car ready to start their new lives together.

Sean said, “So about that letter—”

“Oh don’t worry about that,” Yvonne interrupted, “I’ve sorted it out.”

“Let me guess… Nina?”

Yvonne nodded.

While Yvonne was inside preparing her things to elope, she had left a note for her sister.

 

Nina,

I know you’re in love with Sean. It’s taken me two years to realise it but now I do. I know you destroyed Sean’s original letter and replaced it with the breakup one. I must give you credit for fooling me for six months but did you really think it would last? Sean returned to me today, Nina. He told me the truth. I’m not angry, even though I know I should be. Actually I want to thank you for doing us a favour. You brought Sean and I closer together. You made us realise nothing can break true love.

We’ll talk when I return from my honeymoon.

Yvonne

***

Thank you for reading, I hope you enjoyed. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. I can accept criticism. 🙂

FYI – This is also available to read for free on wattpad.com at the following link. On this site you have the capacity to vote and comment on the story.

http://www.wattpad.com/story/8807128-holding-on-short-story-completed

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nanowrimo

Well that’s all I really had to ask. 🙂 who’s taking part in NaNoWriMo?

Also, What genre are you planning to write and do you have any idea what you’re going to write about?

Me, I’m a romance writer. This year I’m going to write a tragic romance brought about by an avalanche. This will be a challenge for me as I usually write sweet, happy ending romances. Hurting / killing off any of my characters I grow attached to is so hard. But I almost have my story planned and I’m excited about the challenge.

So anyway, leave your comments below. This isn’t a means to steal ideas. This is just a lighthearted discussion so we can see the varying ideas people have. Perhaps it will give all NaNoWriMo participants a little encouragement.

The best part about NaNoWriMo is that there is nothing you can’t write about. So don’t be afraid of writing ‘out there’ stories, just do it!

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For a long time I had no idea what a critique partner was. Then as I started to take writing seriously and I became a member of the Romance Writers of Australia, I realised how important they are.

A critique partner gives honest and sometimes harsh opinions on your story but you will be forever grateful for their honesty. They will read your story from start to finish and tell you everything that is wrong with it. They will also correct grammar, punctuation, spelling etc. as best as they can. Remember though, they are not qualified editors or proof readers, they just point out the obvious errors.

Please keep this in mind: even though critique partners are important, you have to be ready. One thing I was told was this: if just want someone to tell you your story is good and you can’t accept criticism then a critique partner is not for you. Not yet at least. You must be ready.

To be ready you must be willing to take a step back from your story and get it ripped to pieces. But don’t view it as mean or rude, view it as a way to improve your writing. Believe me, there will be times you want to rip your hair out and scream at the other person but let me say this… don’t do it! If they’re confused and can pick up a zillion errors, so will the reader.

As a writer we don’t see our own mistakes, that’s where critique partners come in. Trust me, as much as it might hurt having your story ripped to shreds, it’s worth it. You will come out a much better writer at the end of it and your story will be 100% better.

Good luck!

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A while ago I wrote a blog titled An important message for writers: show, don’t tell. In this I gave my own experience on how I learnt the very valuable lesson of  ‘show don’t tell’. Today I am here to expand on that and tell you another important thing… it’s okay to have some telling in your novel!

Yes, showing rather than telling is vital to make a story flow well. However, if you have an entire novel of nothing but ‘show’ it’s very tiresome. You need to have a certain amount of telling to make the story enjoyable.

So what has brought this on, you may ask? I recently decided to trial a new critique partner. I already have one, a very good one at that, but I  have been encouraged to trial two or three because everyone has varying amounts of knowledge. Well this new one I got critiqued my first chapter and at every point where there was a bit of ‘telling’ she would highlight it and say ‘this should be shown not told’.

Now don’t get me wrong, I accept criticism well. I’m more than happy to make changes when something isn’t right in my story. But as I read her comments and tried to change the so-called ‘telling’ bits to ‘show’ I realised I couldn’t do it. These parts had to be told. There was no possible way I could ‘show’ them without overdoing it.

So my point is, don’t be afraid to have some telling in your story. You need to be balanced. Make sure you show where it’s possible to do so but back it up with some telling too.

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I am a member of the Romance Writers of Australia (RWA). Every year they hold a conference. This year it was in Fremantle, Western Australia. Unfortunately I couldn’t afford to attend. However, they have an online conference called The Claytons, which is specifically for those who have been unable to attend  the real thing.

I have been a member of RWA for just over a year and this is the first time I took part in it. Last year I was still new to RWA and didn’t know about it. This year I decided to do it because it sounded like fun. Let me tell you, it was an amazing experience.

We all logged into a chat room and over a day and a bit, we got to ‘listen’ and chat to other authors and editors. They provided some very useful information for published and unpublished writers. It was a truly wonderful experience. The highlight for me was being able to talk to editors from some very well known romance publishers.

Today, the final day of the conference, we ‘listened’ to Charlotte Ledger of Harper Impulse. For me, this was the highlight of the conference. She answered all the questions we had and explained, in detail, the process Harper Impulse has for aspiring authors. Let’s just say after her session, I am determined to submit my manuscript.

I would love to submit it now but I must be patient. Whilst my manuscript is complete, it is still being critiqued. Until it has been fully critiqued, I will not submit it. It will mean I won’t be able to submit for a few months but that’s the way it goes. I need my manuscript as polished as possible to make a good first impression.

My aim is to submit early next year.

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show don't tell

Anton Chekhov once said ‘don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.’

It’s only been in recent years that I’ve realised how true this is. The rule of show, don’t tell is one of the most important rules to remember as a writer. And I’m afraid to say, for a long time I didn’t understand it.

When I was about 20 years of age, I wrote a novel which I thought was fabulous. I was so proud of it and wanted everyone to read it and tell me how brilliant I was. In my mind, I viewed myself as a prodigy. The next ‘big thing’ in the writing world.

Naive? Most certainly!! Now, at 31 years of age, I have learnt a lot. What was the result of that so-called ‘fabulous novel’?

Well, I decided to submit the novel to a writers forum and get feedback. I was adamant I would get a flood of followers and publishers begging to publish my work. Did any of that happen? Not a chance!

I received many comments on the forum but no one was complimenting my flawless writing. Instead they all said it was clunky, badly written and had too much telling.

It was the ‘too much telling’ that had me baffled, but I’ll get back to that. For now, I’ll finish the story.

Let’s say I was horrified! I was convinced they were jealous and wanted to be nasty. But they weren’t. In fact, they made completely valid comments. It took me a long time to get over that criticism but I did and I came out of it a much stronger and better writer.

What did I learn from it?

I learnt how to accept criticism. This is vital as a writer. You cannot afford to be offended by harsh words. You’re going to get them!

I learnt to stop thinking I was such a good writer when, quite frankly, I wasn’t. My current skills, which still need a lot of work, have come from many years of practice. I am much, much better than I was back then but I’m not perfect. Every writer has their off days!

And most importantly, I finally understood what it meant to show, not tell. Oh it took me a few years to fully understand it but I did and now I live by it.

For a long time I thought how can you ‘show’ when writing a novel? Isn’t writing all about telling a story? Well, yes but you can tell a story so that it paints a picture for the reader. When I realised that, it became that much clearer to me.

There’s nothing wrong with telling occasionally. After all, it’s impossible to show everything.

Since meeting Katie Fforde (see my previous blog Meeting the author – Katie Fforde) I have gone to her for quite a lot of advice. At one point I asked her: ‘I know how important showing and telling is but does it matter how much show and how much tell there is?’ Her answer to me was: ‘It’s important to have much more show than tell. A bit of tell is ok as it saves time but it should be mostly show.’

I was critiquing someone’s work recently and one of their sentences read ‘My eyes automatically travel to the worn out and faded sign above the heavy steel doors’. The first thing I thought, this could be ‘shown’ in such a better way. Later in the story she had a scene where a little girl left the building and got her dress stuck in the door. I suggested to the author to say something like ‘I look over at Abigail and see her dress caught in the heavy steel doors’. It’s not a big change but it’s a perfect opportunity to show what the door looks like rather than tell us.

Oh and in case you are interested, the story mentioned in my blog has been totally rewritten. It is ten times better than it once was. I stripped it apart and fleshed it out. In fact, this is a piece I hope to get published in the near future.

So now that I’ve chewed your ear off with yet another example of how pathetic I was as a young writer, I will end my blog on this note:

Please remember, showing is so important in a novel. You will be surprised how much more alive your story becomes.

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Today I thought I would blog about characters and where people get their inspiration from. My aim is to get an insight on how other writers create them and hopefully help fellow writers who struggle with character creation. I know for some people, character creation can be a difficult task.

Being an avid reader of many books,  I’m always intrigued at what possessed the author to create certain characters.

Is the character based on the author? Is the character based on a friend, family member, enemy? Is it someone entirely of their imagination and has no relevance to people / things they know?

Take for example Gollum in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. What was Tolkien thinking when he created him? He’s such an unusual character and I really wish I knew. It’s funny, I had never really thought much about it but today I was watching The Hobbit – An Unexpected Journey and it got me thinking. Hence this blog.

This is something that has always intrigued me. To me, character development is the most exciting part of creating and writing a novel. You can create anyone you want and make them who you want them to be. I get a thrill just writing about it!

So where do I get my character inspiration from? It’s simple – everything and everyone around me!

I use people I know – family, friends, work mates, acquaintances. Sometimes I’ll sit somewhere outdoors and just watch the goings on around me. This allows me to see how people act and I find I can gauge a lot about their personality. I listen to the way people talk, what they talk about and this gives me an idea of who my character will be. Will they be shy, giggly, outspoken, selfish, argumentative?

On wattpad.com I have a completed story called The Matchmaker. The main female character, Shannon, was an easy yet exciting character to create. One day I was watching Jane Austen’s Emma and the character of Emma was the type of person I imagined Shannon to be. Not wanting to plagiarise, I tweaked her to make her unique. In looks she has a bit of me in her when I was a teenager, a bit of my 16-year-old niece, a bit of my middle sister and a bit of my best friend. In personality she has a bit of Emma, a bit of my ex-best friend, a bit of my eldest sister and even a bit of a workmate.

Off topic just briefly – if you wish to read the story, go to the website and search for my username LisaStanbridge.

On topic again. The example of Shannon is just one example of one character but you get the gist of what I mean.

So this is my question to my fellow writers who are readers / followers – where do you get your character inspiration from? Leave a comment below. I hope that between me and the rest of you, we can provide some interesting reading to fellow writers and help to those who struggle to create characters.

If you read how other people create them, it might help you too or give you some new ideas. So, please leave a comment, let everyone know what inspires you!

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