Today, I’m welcoming Stephen Manchester to my blog for a guest post on his writing process and excerpt of his book, Twelve Months. Grab a bean bag chair and a drink from the bar while you enjoy reading a little bit into Steven Machester.
Steven Manchester is the author of Pressed Pennies, The Unexpected Storm: The Gulf War Legacy and Jacob Evans, as well as several books under the pseudonym, Steven Herberts. His work has appeared on NBC’s Today Show, CBS’s The Early Show, CNN’s American Morning and BET’s Nightly News. Recently, three of Steven’s short stories were selected “101 Best” for the Chicken Soup for the Soul series. When not spending time with his beautiful wife, Paula, or his four children, this Massachusetts author is promoting his works or writing.
To learn more about Steven, visit his website at: www.stevenmanchester.com
My Writing Process
by Steven Manchester
I suppose I discovered the writing world by accident – or perhaps it discovered me.
I’d just returned home from Operation Desert Storm, and was working as a prison investigator in Massachusetts. Needless to say, there was great negativity in my life at that time. I decided to return to college to finish my degree in Criminal Justice. During one of the classes, the professor talked about police work but nothing else. I finally raised my hand and asked, “The criminal justice system is vast. What about the courts, probation, parole – corrections?” He smiled and told me to see him after class. I thought I’d finally done it! In his office, he explained, “There’s no written material out there on corrections or prisons, except from the slanted perspective of inmates.” He smiled again and dropped the bomb. “If you’re so smart,” he said, “why don’t you write it?”
Nine months later, I dropped the first draft of 6-5; A Different Shade of Blue on his desk. From then on, I was hooked. I was a writer.
I’d written a lot at my job (report writing), but it all started with my college professor’s challenge. Perhaps because of my age and experience, I understood right away that writing is a craft that takes time to evolve; to mature, so I spent the next several years PRACTICING my chosen craft. Under the pen name, Steven Herberts, I wrote in every venue of print I could get my name in: newspaper, magazine, etc. I also penned two collections of poetry, and wrote drafts for two more books. After five solid years of writing, I finally believed that I’d found my voice; MY STYLE – and was ready to contact an agent.
The greatest challenge for me has been time. First and foremost, I am a dad and my children come first. After that, there are other responsibilities that need my attention. Yet, my passion to write has constantly gnawed at my soul. To overcome the obstacle of time, I made writing a priority over watching TV and sometimes even sleeping. Once my family is taken care of and the world closes its eyes, I’m up for a few more hours each day – chasing my dreams on paper.
It has taken thousands of words, hundreds of pages, before I finally identified with a particular genre. I decided that my voice was a more sensitive one: a male perspective to a female audience. My new novel, Twelve Months, is evidence of that.
Twelve Months synopsis:
Don DiMarco has a very good life – a family he loves, a comfortable lifestyle, passions and interests that keep him amused. He also thought he had time, but that turned out not to be the case. Faced with news that might have immediately felled most, Don now wonders if he has time enough. Time enough to show his wife the romance he didn’t always lavish on her. Time enough to live out his most ambitious fantasies. Time enough to close the circle on some of his most aching unresolved relationships. Summoning an inner strength he barely realized he possessed, Don sets off to prove that twelve months is time enough to live a life in full.
A glorious celebration of each and every moment that we’re given here on Earth, as well as the eternal bonds that we all share, Twelve Months is a stirring testament to the power of the human spirit.
Early Reviews include:
"Move over, Nicholas Sparks! Steven Manchester's Twelve Months is a book that will stay with you long after you've read the last page. It will make you want to live better and love more. Steven Manchester is my new favorite author!" – Susan Farr-Fahncke, Author & Editor, 2theheart.com
“Steven Manchester doesn’t just write books; he authors life lesson plans. Twelve Months is a powerful work of fiction." – Heather Froeschl, Reviewer, Quilldipper.com
Now that I have nearly two decades of writing and getting published under my belt, I enjoy trying to help new writers break in. My advice is always the same:
- Be true to yourself, always.
- Write constantly.
- Keep the faith!!!
- And NEVER, EVER, EVER quit. Most people in this industry would agree that more than talent or skill or even luck, perseverance is the one trait that will always get the job done.
- Knock on every door you can, and keep knocking. I promise that eventually someone will open and the warmth you feel on your face will more than validate every hour spent alone in the darkness.
Twelve Months excerpt
Though there were empty tables up front, Vic escorted Bella and me to a darkened back room where no one else was seated. The table sat in the center of the room and was very nicely decorated. I could tell by Bella's face that it seemed peculiar to her. As we took our seats, Vic lit a candle. “I’ll be right back,” he said.
Bella started to question it, but I shrugged it off. “There must have been reservations for the other tables up front?” I suggested.
She nodded, and then noticed a man seated on a stool a few tables over. He was holding a guitar and squinting at some sheet music.
He looked over and smiled. “I hope you guys don’t mind, but I’m trying out tonight for a weekend gig at this place.”
“Oh, that’s great,” Bella said, with no idea Gary had already landed the job.
“Not a problem,” I added, acting as though I’d never spoken to the man. And through an acoustic set of love ballads, Gary was just as convincing.
Bella had no idea but the order had already been carefully spelled out – drinks first, Pinot Grigio for her; beer for me, and the itinerary would begin. Vic approached with both drinks on a small round tray. “Appetizers tonight?” he asked.
I smiled. “Why don’t we start with an order of little necks in garlic and oil?”
Vic nodded once and headed for the kitchen, while Gary swooned, “You say it best when you say nothing at all…”
Bella leaned into my ear and whispered, “How did he know I wanted white wine?”
I was into my second shrug when Vic returned to the table with a gorgeous arrangement of long stem red roses. Without a word, he placed them in front of Bella and rotated the vase until the card faced her. “Your appetizer should be out in a few minutes,” he said and strutted away again.
Gary was already on his second number when Bella plucked the card from the arrangement. It read: “Bella, I love you, forever – Don.” She looked up to find the entire restaurant staring at us.
“And always will,” I whispered when she leaned over and kissed me.
After the steaming appetizer and another round of drinks, Vic placed a silver platter before my glowing wife. It held a scrolled sheet of parchment secured by red ribbon. She looked up at him, but he never let on. She glanced over at me. “What…”
“Open it,” I said, while Gary strummed away in the background.
She did. It was the one thing she'd always wanted from me, but had never gotten – until now.
Moments of Destiny
From the moment I met you,
I knew there was a fire between us
that even hard, driving rain could never put out.
From the moment we spoke,0
I knew I’d spent my entire life
in search of your deep and passionate love.
From the moment we kissed,
I knew my heart was no longer mine
and I’d finally found my future.
From the moment we laughed,
I knew there would never be enough time
to share all the things I needed to share with you.
From the moment we danced,
I knew, at last, what the phrase ‘better half’ meant
and surrendered to your gentle touch.
From the moment we walked hand-in-hand,
I knew I’d discovered my partner
and that my dreams were suddenly within reach.
From the moment we lay together,
I knew I’d made it to heaven
and thanked God for blessing me with you.
From the moment you agreed to be my wife,
I knew my journey was now worth taking,
through days of sunshine –
or nights of hard, driving rain.
As her watering eyes read the final verse, the musician stopped playing, the restaurant went silent and I went down to one knee. I opened the ring box. “Isabella,” I said, “I want to spend the rest of my life with you. Will you be my wife…again?”
She never hesitated and dove into my arms. For a while, we just hugged.
“I love you so much,” she cried into my shoulder.
“I know,” I said. “But…”
She pushed away from me and looked into my eyes. “But what?”
“But I need your answer?” I said, grinning.
“Yes…the answer is YES!” she gasped and jumped back into my arms.
The crowd shared a collective sigh, and everyone was clapping when Bella and I returned to reality. It took a few moments before each table returned to its own conversation and half-eaten meals.
Chuckling, I introduced my beautiful wife to Gary, the musician. As they shook hands, Gary admitted, “I was so nervous.”
I bought the man a beer when Vic delivered two previously ordered dinners to our table. Though Bella couldn’t touch hers, I ate and listened to Gary fill the room with a soothing melody. By the time the chocolate covered strawberries arrived for dessert, Bella was emotionally spent. She grabbed me once more for a kiss. “This has been the perfect night,” she whispered.
“And for all these years…you’ve been the perfect wife, my dear.”
As we left the restaurant, another round of applause carried us to the front door. I opened it for my new fiancé – only to discover a white stretch limousine idling at the curb. She quickly turned to me. “It’s not over?”
I shook my head. “It’ll never be over for us.” As we made our way to the limo, waves of nausea threatened to drown me. This is Bella’s perfect night, I told myself, our perfect night. Whatever you do…do not throw up now!