Friday, June 7, 2013


Funny how at certain times in our lives a mysterious stranger is destined to influence us and our writing.
It happened to me not too long ago. I had been traveling by train from the city for a much needed getaway.
As I wove between other passengers down the aisle, I had glimpsed a lovely young woman reading. What most intrigued me about her was her choice of reading material. It wasn’t the latest paranormal romance, scifi, or epic fantasy; it was a book of poetry by Elizabeth Barrett Browning. How odd, I thought.

I stopped in my tracks. The seat next to her was vacant, so I slid into it and accidentally grazed my shoulder against hers.

“I’m terribly sorry,” I said, smiling. 

She glanced at me and nodded. 

“Interesting choice. Barrett’s poetry is quite beautiful.” 

She smiled ever so slightly, and her gaze returned to the pages of her book.


Despite her elusive response, I found myself turning my head from time-to-time. Her focus never waned as unpolished fingers turned the next page with subtle grace. I wondered who she was. Typical teens didn’t act this way.

I reached into my pocket to retrieve a pack of gum. Turning toward her I asked, “Would you care for a piece.”

She lowered her book and stared at the piece of gum I held in my hands. Her eyes met mine. “No, thank you, sir.”

Sir? “Please, call me Michael.”

“With all do respect, Sir, I never speak with gentleman to whom I have never been formally introduced.”

WHAT?! Is she kidding me?  I shook my head. “I was just trying to be friendly. I never meant to offend you. You needn’t act so ... overly formal.” 

Her cheeks flushed, but she didn’t respond. Yet she had kept eye contact with me.

I could certainly play along. “Well, then, if I may introduce myself. I am Michael Di Gesu, and interior designer and hopeful author.” I extended my hand.

She studied me for a moment, and then cocked her head. As her lips curled into a smile, she took my hand. “My name is Verity Boone.”

“Quite an unusual name, but I believe it suits you. Does it have any meaning.”

“Yes. It means truth.”

“I do like names with meaning. Mine, for instance, means ‘of Jesus’ in Italian.”

She propped herself up as her eyes brightened. “I have never met anyone from another country. Your manner of speech is almost perfect.”

I laughed. “Thanks. I was born in NYC, and so were my parents. What about you? Where are you from?”

“I was born in Pennsylvania. I am returning there now to meet my betrothed.”

My jaw dropped. “You’re getting married? At your age?”

“I am certainly of age, sir. We have been corresponding for months and Nate finally proposed to me.”

I stared, amazed at so much maturity for such a young woman. “Ah, well, I guess congratulations are in order. How does your family feel about this.”

“My father arranged our meeting. My mother passed away when I was only two-years-old."

“But such things aren’t done anymore. Arranged marriages are so nineteenth century.” I looked at the book in her hand. “This happened in Barrett’s time.”

She looked at me quizzically. “But, sir, I am from the nineteenth century”

I raised a brow. What does one say to that? I could hardly catch my breath. She sounded and acted as if she had stepped out of the pages of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women.

“Are you feeling all right? Can I get you something? Perhaps a doctor?”

Her expression hadn’t changed. A moment later, she returned to her book, but on occasion she glanced toward me.

A short time later, I composed myself, then cleared my throat. She faced me.

“Verity, you honestly think you are from the nineteenth century? This is the twenty-first century.”

Her face tensed. “But how could it be? I am on my way to Cattawissi, Pennsylvania. My father has sent for me. I do not understand.” She inhaled and composed herself. “I apologize for my outburst, sir, but you must be mistaken.”

As the train passed through a darkened tunnel, all was silent. A flicker of sunlight appeared and the windows blazed with afternoon brightness. I blinked my eyes and looked toward Verity. She was gone. “But how?” I gasped. 

It was as if she had faded into air. Had I imagined her. I mean, I am a writer. I shook my head. Impossible!  Not even I have that good an imagination.

Something glossy shined next to me. A book. But, it wasn’t the one Verity had in her possession. It was another. I viewed the lovely cover and recognized it immediately. The Caged Graves swirled on the book jacket. Underneath the author’s name. Dianne K. Salerni. 

I picked up the book and flipped through it. Then the name, VERITY BOONE jumped off the page.

My jaw dropped again ...

Dianne K. Salerni
We Hear the Dead (Sourcebooks)

The Caged Graves (Clarion/HMH 2013)
The Eighth Day (HarperCollins 2014)


I hope you all enjoyed another one of my flash fiction pieces based on THE CAGED GRAVES. Dianne Salerni’s newest novel is currently doing an informal blog tour. 

It was my pleasure to feature her today! As a special gift, I am giving a hard copy away WITH a signed bookplate by DIANNE! This is so rare these days when most writers are only giving away ebooks. I know I LOVE to read a REAL book, so now here's your chance. There is NOTHING more satisfying.(US and Canada. Sorry my international friends. International shipping costs are too expensive for me.)

All you have to do is leave a comment for an entry with your email address if it's not linked from your blog. IF you’d like additional entries, post this giveaway on FACEBOOK and Twitter.  Just let me know in the comments.

ON MONDAY I will post the winner and MY REVIEW of this wonderful book. I hope you all have a fantastic weekend! 


  1. Excellent pull into the story! I thought it had really happened to you. (Up until she started speaking, and then I realized it was for a book.) Excellent the way you wove the two times together, hers and ours.

  2. Wow, I thought the same as Alex. A great piece of writing yourself!

  3. What a great way to introduce a book. For a sec, you had me thinking this was for real!

  4. Love the way you made me believe this was really happening. Is the offer of the special gift worldwide (i.e. me in the UK) pretty please.

  5. Michael you have a beautiful way with words.

    Hugs and chocolate,

  6. An excellent written post.


  7. Michael, I am stunned at this post. My jaw dropped, I was sure that you had a brush with a spirit or something, and then I realized what you were up to. Brilliant.

  8. This was fun and lucky you got to meet Verity in person!

    Don't enter me into the contest as I already have the book but do enjoy and I'll be back to check on your review :)

  9. Awesome lead in- you had me fooled for a moment I honestly thought maybe you did meet her- up until her name or so...LOL

  10. Well done Michael. I've been eyeing this story. I haven't gotten around to buying it just yet. I like the premise though.


  11. Great piece, as always, Michael. You had me fooled, lol.

    Sounds very interesting :)

  12. Grrrrr!!!! *Smacks your arm* I totally thought this was REAL!!! LOL.

    I'm still laughing at the "Perhaps a doctor?" line... hahahaha... seriously SO FUNNY! See what a gift you have? You can pull us all into your stories like it's nothing more than breathing. Loved it.

    (And now I'm going to thank YOU for your comment on my IWSG post. It really helped me. And yaaaaay that you're back editing!!!)


  13. Hi Michael .. yes you fooled me too - I sort of thought what is happening here .. then The Caged Graves sounds such an interesting book and concept .. I'd quite believe you dreaming out and imagining the story line as you read ..

    Had me hooked .. and it's on my list .. love the read and the thought - great movie introduction?!

    Cheers to you and to Dianne .. Hilary

  14. I really love this concept and think this is an amazing story that I will have to read.

  15. You have a mesmerizing way with words, my friend. And the title and cover to your spotlighted book are riveting.

  16. Michael, Thanks for this lovely piece of flash fiction introducing my book -- and Verity -- and the book of poems that plays a part in the story! I can't wait to read your review!

  17. Oh, I was totally swept up in this! I thought she was real and just playing with you :) Bravo!!!

  18. OH. MY. WORD.
    You really fooled me (and a host of others as well)
    How on earth do you think of these fabulous intros?
    Writer In Transit

  19. That was so great! I'm currently reading We Hear the Dead with my kids. :)

  20. Now that's a hook! Well done, Michael. Awesome.

  21. Michael, you are so good at these book intros.
    I'm looking forward to reading this book.

  22. Michael, that was absolutely brilliant! I love how you hook me from the very beginning, making me wonder whether this is real or imagined.

  23. Wow, Michael. This is one of your best introductions yet! :)

  24. Nice little piece of flash fiction Michael!

    Thanks for dropping by! It's always good to "see" you ;)

  25. That was fabulous Michael. It would be splendid to meet a ghost on a train.

    Congrats to Dianne on her release of Graves. It does sound intriguing.


  26. This sounds like an excellent book! Enter me, please, if it's not too late! I love "real" (non-ebook) books. And I really thought it was YOU telling a story of something that had actually happened, so I was carried right along and puzzled with the MC/"you." ;o)

  27. Now *that* is an awesome way to introduce a new book! I felt like I was right there on the train with you and Verity.