A Land Where Love Stories Are Made

I was pleased to write a guest post for Lost in Fiction UK’s, Lost in Romance for the month of February.

For my twenty-first birthday, my boyfriend and I were gifted a trip to Italy. My grandmother, who had until then only given me underwear and socks, surprised me with tickets to Italy. Our flight from California was long, and felt like we had lapped the sun twice (or maybe more). We were so used to flying, by the time we landed in Milan, our stomachs kept moving. Eager to get off the most expensive amusement ride I’d ever been on, I was ready to go to our hotel and unwind. However, getting there was half the battle. Imagine driving on a racetrack, but instead you’re surrounded with miniature cars zooming past you like they have nitrous tanks strapped to their undercarriage. The assumption was, if there were three lanes, then there must be room for four, and if you didn’t drive fast enough, well, we discovered that lewd hand gestures are the same no matter where you are in the world.

After we checked into our hotel, we went to a café around the corner to eat. Walking seemed safer than driving. We sat down and I ordered some kind of pasta. It looked simple; basil, tomatoes and noodles.

Let me tell you, what we call food in America is only shaped like it, giving the illusion of food. You have never really tasted it, until you have been to Italy. Every ingredient is respected so much, you aren’t allowed to touch the produce at the store—you must wear gloves. They understand that the beginning of life starts with a wholesome seed, not a GMO seed hopped up on pesticides. It is allowed to grow, mature and ripen. I have yet to eat anything that compares to my first bite in Milan.

It was only late October, but the Alps provided a cold nip to the air, which plummeted into frigid temperatures. We were completely unprepared. The nice clothing boutiques were priced beyond our shoestring budget, and with some luck, we found the only thrift shop in Italy. I walked out looking twenty pounds heavier, with three shirts poking out from under my new, used sweater. I was in stark contrast next to the Italian woman parading down the cobbled streets in their leather boots, tight pants, fur coats and strollers.

We stayed in medieval castles, which were beautiful; they reminded me of the period romances I read and loved. They rose like ancient stone pillars on the landscape, with rows of orderly grapevines raking the rolling hills around them. Shakespeare neglected to mention how cold it was living in a stone box. We were told the “national heat” hadn’t been switched on yet. I didn’t know what they were talking about, but I sure hoped it wasn’t a practical joke.

Try as it might, the rustic Italian sweater couldn’t protect me from getting sick, and with only one week left in our trip, I noticed a change in attitude in my loving companion. I assumed he was frustrated with getting dragged down by a runny-nosed killjoy. We couldn’t let my sickness stop us from exploring, so we bypassed Venice and took a water taxi to Murano and Burano, two floating cities known for their crystal and lace. Walking past each home and business was like passing through a rainbow. Bright and colorful, despite the gray gloom that blew down from the Alps, freezing a half smile and grimace on my face. We wandered through a park and my love encouraged me to scale a fence with him into a small vineyard. I may be a romantic, but I’m not a “scale the fence” type of girl.

Days later, he heard of a lovely old mansion just outside of Montegrotto Terme, rumored to have beautifully manicured grounds, so we drove out to visit, successfully avoiding any lewd hand gestures from irritated farmers in Fiats. He wrapped me up in a blanket to keep me warm—I looked like a fuzzy ghost with a cold. It took us nearly an hour to find our way through a large hedge maze, taking every wrong turn. Discovering we weren’t the only ones to get trapped in the maze, we slipped through some worn openings in the shrubs to find our way to a set of stairs. Rising above the hedgerow, a stone platform wrapped with a gazebo allowed us to overlook the puzzling pathways we had just escaped.

There, he sat me down with a serious gleam in his eye, and I knew. I knew what was about to happen. Honestly, I don’t really remember what he said to me. It was not the words that were important, but the moment, and the moments leading up to it. I knew then why he had been so anxious as the trip neared an end.

The Country of Love couldn’t let us leave without giving us a story. Our own love story. The birthplace of Romeo and Juliet is a land whose beauty is world-renowned. And it is well deserved. As my memory fills with the gravel of time, the memories from Italy are still there; faded, maybe, but precious jewels for me to treasure and share. Happy moments stick out, like when we ate real gelato for the first time, and when he encouraged me to use my choppy Italian with an old woman sitting at her post, in her window with a guarded frown. I called her planter box of herbs “bellissimo”. She gave me the widest toothless grin I have ever seen. Snapshots fill my thoughts, and they all have him in them.

During the month of love, I send you my warmest wishes,

Natasha Brown

Info about the author:

Natasha Brown lives with her husband, two children and three dogs in Littleton, Colorado. She was inspired to write a story about a girl struggling with her heart condition, after her daughter was born with heart defects. “I like lead women who have the tenacity to carry on even in the face of adversity. Ana is a character I look up to- and I can’t wait to share with my readers where her character is going in the series.” To know more, visit her Blog and Twitter


Natasha Brown recently released her first book, “Fledgling” (Book One of “The Shapeshifter Chronicles”), a YA fantasy romance.

To buy it, simply click on the cover below:


Written for Lost in Fiction UK- http://www.lostinfiction.co.uk/?p=1007

Chameleon or Peacock?

In my younger years I was extremely shy. I hid from cameras- of course it didn’t help my father was a photographer. I also had an afro that wouldn’t quit. My grandmother loved combing it out, it may have felt good, but the results were dangerous, Rosana Dana, eat your heart out (SNL old-school shout out). In other words, it was hard for me to hide. Not when I was enveloped with people whose hair didn’t poof out like an aura around them.

I grew up in a family of artists, so I was surrounded with creative people following their dreams. My father graduated from UC Berkley as an architect, and it wasn’t soon after that he decided it didn’t make him happy.  So he became a fine art photographer. We traveled to art shows and festivals through my childhood, and I was privileged to be saturated with passionate people who were doing what they loved. In my teenage years I was ready to express myself. I may have been a wallflower, but that didn’t stop me from dying my hair fire engine red, then magenta, then green and getting my nose pierced. You could say I was a cross between a peacock and a chameleon.

Something that develops in the teen years is self-doubt and a lack of confidence. Most effecting, is the fear of not fitting in or being accepted for who you are. So, the two obvious paths are to either become a peacock and dare people around you to oppose your colorful display, or to blend in as best you can and not stick out. I am sad to say self-confidence issues don’t end in your adolescence, they just morph and change from displaying pink hair and letterman jackets to breast implants and sports cars (I have neither).

I helped my son’s forth grade classroom make pink batik shirts for an anti-bullying campaign a couple months ago. Let’s face it, bullying has always been a problem. More and more distressing stories are featured on the news about people being burned, beat and singled out for being different, or for making poor choices. Kids are committing suicide because they texted an embarrassing picture, or because they are harassed for being different. I know what it is like being depressed and not knowing the value of my own life. I am thankful I stuck it out and got through it all.

That curly hair I mentioned earlier, was at one time a fun topic for two girls who would tease me in the hallways. It made me feel like a reflection of a girl. Empty and sad. It is HARD being a teen today. Even harder with phones in every pocket ready to spread a rumor on a whim. The thing is, everyone is feeling the same way (sure in varying degrees) but everyone wants to be accepted for who they are. The easiest thing is to deflect your own angst and direct it at that weird guy, who wears the same pair of shoes every day, eats by himself and wears hand-me-downs.

You know the cool thing? Everyone is a peacock deep down- with colorful, creative and unique facets. Hiding in the shadows may be safe, but no one can appreciate you for who you are if you’re hiding. And if they can’t see the beauty in who you are, then someone else will. Not everyone has to like you. The only person that should appreciate the idiosyncratic details of who you are…is you. Things change, that’s a guarantee. If you aren’t happy with where you are now, then hold on. Just wait.

It was easy to write about the same plaguing issues with my characters, Chance and Ana in Fledgling. They both know they’re different, and don’t fit in; yearning to be accepted for who they really are. Where do they go from there? I don’t write and tell.

It has been a hard process for me, coming out from hiding to self-publish my own book. It takes a lot of guts to put it out there. But the reward is so sweet. When I get reviews from people who are reading my novel and enjoying it, it makes my day. I guess in the end my best advice is, be who you want to be, and dream what you want to dream. Because, anything is possible.

If you could save the love of your life by giving your own in return, would you do it?

It was eight years ago almost to the day, that I was in my prenatal appointment getting an ultrasound of my unborn child when everything changed in an instant. My son was playing innocently in the corner of the doctor’s office while I lay with my large belly exposed. I remember the moment when the technician set the ultrasound wand down and left the room to get the doctor.

“Is there something wrong?” I asked when the doctor sat down and began reviewing still frame images of the small child within me. The flutter of the heart appeared like a trapped butterfly on the screen.

Then my worst fears were realized.

“Yes.” With that one answer, our lives changed.

My daughter, like so many other children was born with heart defects. She is what I consider to be- lucky. She came home without oxygen or any complicated equipment after two-days in the hospital following her birth. But she has had two open-heart surgeries.

The first was at a year old. When I first saw her swollen, puffy face in the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit, and the various tubes sticking out of her abdomen, all I wanted to do was hold her. She would reach out to me, wanting to be with her mommy, and it would take the efforts of many nurses to move her to my lap. The only comfort I felt was knowing she was near me. One by one, the tubes were removed and we went home to raise a precocious toddler.

Her second surgery was at four-years-old. She was no longer a baby who did not know what was happening, she was frightened and wanted me near her as much as possible. A couple hours out of surgery, while I lay beside her in the recovery bed, her blood pressure dropped and her veins collapsed. Helpless and paralyzed lying beside my sweet little girl, I watched six nurses stand around us, pushing blood and fluids into her body. If asked, I would have given everything, even myself to save her.

Helplessness is lonely. It is like being shipwrecked on an island, far from home. I clung to the thought that everything would be fine; she wouldn’t die, she couldn’t. I never allowed myself to go to the point of despair, I needed to be strong for my children and family and mostly, for myself.

I can look back at those days in the hospital and it’s almost like replaying a movie. I can recall different moments, both happy and sad. Like when we had to practically empty a bottle of detangler to brush out her ratty hair, the day she wouldn’t speak at all (not even to me) and laying beside her each night in her hospital bed, holding her close.

How did everything turn out? Fantastic. After a bumpy recovery she moved forward without looking back. You may be surprised to learn she was on her bike the day she got home from the hospital. As I hear the sounds of her playing with her friend now, I am thankful for the gift of her life. I am telling you my own story as a reminder to appreciate the ones you love and to share a story fitting for Heart Awareness Month and the month of love.

It was my own experiences that inspired me to write a novel about a girl with a heart condition who finds herself in a desperate point in her treatment. Ana is a young woman without hope of a future or of finding love. She is eager for a fresh start from pitying eyes. At the point of helplessness, she meets a mysterious young man, whose notice she is unable to escape. Soon, she suspects she isn’t the only one keeping secrets. But will her heart be able to handle the truth?

To read an excerpt of Fledgling, The Shapeshifter Chronicles, you can find it in the Amazon Kindle store- http://www.amazon.com/Fledgling-The-Shapeshifter-Chronicles-ebook/dp/B006XM426C/ref=sr_1_68?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1327174914&sr=1-68

During the month of love, I send you my warm wishes. Hold your sweethearts, family & friends close, because it is every moment of now that it counts.


Natasha Brown

Follow me @writersd3sk

Finding something to write about

Okay, you’re sitting in front of your computer, fingers poised at the keyboard. Ready.


Hmmmm, maybe you could write about your trip to the grocery store. Or maybe driving your kids to school? I do these things all the time. Do I find it fun and entertaining walking down the isles at the store, or hollering at my children to stop fighting? No. But, you don’t have any ideas to write about other than what your life is filled with. What if you think your life is boring?

What if. That’s a good way to start. Pose the question, ‘What if…’

Have some fun with this-

  • You slept in late and things didn’t go as usual- a series of unfortunate or timely events lead to something catastrophic or funny, like running out of gas on the highway and meeting an interesting character (predatory or romantic *cute-meet*)
  • While walking through your boring life, something amazing happened to you, like you get hit by a car and now you can hear the thoughts of people around you
  • Your birth control malfunctions and surprise (okay, sorry- you may not be into horror stories)
  • You made different choices in your life and they lead you somewhere else- think dancer on Broadway, climbing Everest or kayaking through South America

There is another tip you have probably heard before. Write what you know. If you are a nurse,  you can probably write a very convincing story about a doctor traveling to Malaysia to help children with deformities. If you are a mother,  you could probably create an effective story about World War II or living in a psych ward.

If you enjoy writing you may not struggle with getting ideas out. But even the best writers have their moments (at least that’s what I tell myself).

“I write one page of masterpiece to ninety-one pages of shit,” Hemingway confided to F. Scott Fitzgerald in 1934. “I try to put the shit in the wastebasket.”

When I came up with my idea for Fledgling, I drew from my own life. I wanted to create a heroine that my daughter could look up to. But I wanted it to be someone like her, a girl born with heart defects. The character took on a life of her own, and now the world I created is bubbling up, eager to make its way to paper.

Writing above all, is what’s important. You can’t improve or find the diamond in the rough if you don’t write. Everyone has a masterpiece within them- the challenge is getting it out.