Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Italy... Home to Half of My Heart

Scilla - one of my favorite beaches in Calabria

     My mind has been on another continent lately. With the writing of my new book, Beautiful Secret, I've found myself so utterly immersed in my memories of France and Italy. It's been a wonderful mental vacay. The story is very much a tribute to my father's mother who was the breathing definition of commitment to family, joyful living, kindness and unconditional love. She was born and raised in a poor hill town near Reggio, Calabria and gave birth to my father there. Even in her absence now, I feel her in the warmth of my huge extended family - her children and grandchildren. I smell her in the anise and fry aroma of our holidays. In my memory, I hold the bedtime stories she told me when I was a young child cuddled  into her Oil of Olay scented arms. These stories came to life for me after she died, when I finally visited the place that raised an angel.  Beautiful Secret is set partly in Pittsburgh but mostly in Europe. Writing it took me back to some of the most revealing and rich days of my life.    
     When I think  about the times I've spent with my family overseas, I realize that those days were days that truly defined me. Italy and its people took me, a twenty year old woman in the throes of University life, and shaped me into what it wanted me to be, into who I am today.
     The first time I traveled across the ocean with my mother and Italian-born father, I did so with no expectations. A little indecisive at the thought of leaving my then college boyfriend for three summer weeks, I landed in Paris feeling exhausted and a little out of place.
      Twenty-one days later, the planes of my world had shifted considerably. I'd sprouted wings and wanted nothing more than to fly through my discovery of luxurious landscape and bright flavor, to land inside this passionate family who'd opened their arms and wordlessly assured me that their nest was mine too. I'd fallen so deeply in love with the pace, the particulars and most especially the people, I thought I would die when I had to say goodbye.
     I will never forget the moment of that last farewell. In the hot stickiness of August, at Reggio Calabria's tiny airport, staring at the sea of cousins, aunts and uncles... When I boarded that plane back to Pittsburgh, I could hardly see through the blur of my tears.
     It was one of the hardest days of  my life. And, since that first trip, I have felt quite halved. So much of my heart is much too far away. I have a big, amazing, crazy family here in Pittsburgh and one on another continent, the continent that holds both the secrets to my grandmother's countenance and half of my heart.
     I would love to hear what places or experiences have molded you. Please leave me a comment or a facebook message and tell me about your experiences too!


Just a few of us - Americans, Italians and French... in my grandfather's hometown of Valanidi.

 I've posted the poem below on different websites, but I wanted to share it here on my blog. Italy is such a sensual place. It's hard not to give in to the sights, smells and sounds. One morning, I got caught up in my remembering and this happened.
There is a piece of my heart that will always belong to you
You with your desert landscaped of dry dry mountains and thorny trees
Prickly pears, figs, and olives
Animal smells and sounds
Breath of petrol and cigarettes and unwashed bodies.
Fast cars and slow mornings.
You with your clear blue sea
Pebble marks embedded into my skin
The smell of sleep and fish and salt and
Black coffee, oozing with foam in the afternoon.
The sensation of breathing out, finally.
You with your stranger smiling faces,
Outstretched arms and ears yearning for conversation.
Wrinkled greetings, broken teeth, and dirty fingernails.
Something is familiar here.
Acceptance by love and association.
Because I have my great great grandmother's nose
So you love me already for this.
You with your sleepless nights.
Concentrated life, vibrant and fully felt.
Wine after wine, food after food, dancing until the noise cannot be discerned.
Is it laughter from my lips or is it music?
And on and on it plays until the sweaty sunrise brings silence once and for all
And yet I cannot sleep in the quiet.
The heat bubbles on my skin.
I am wet with sweat and with the still excitement of one more day with you.
You with your mysterious pull on my heart.
That small part of me which remains in a moment,
On your mountain- dodging cars and breathing polluted air,
On the street, lost in conversation with a stranger who is my family,
Drinking, dancing, laughing.
Digging deep to release joy from the well of life inside of me.
Hardly sleeping, never forgetting that even when the time comes to say goodbye to you,
I will still be there... a piece of me that is forever yours.
You will find me at your sea, tossing pebbles into the clear blue water.
And breathing... finally.



Thursday, April 24, 2014

My Writing Process... a.k.a. - Organizing The Chaos Of My Emotions Into Words

     My good friend and critique partner, Carolyn  Menke tagged me to participate in "The Writing Process Blog Tour." Carolyn is an amazingly talented writer who blogs at, and she is also an author. Her first novel, Return to Me is historical women's fiction, and I can't wait to see it on e-shelves and in stores. Carolyn is fiercely committed, and incredibly skilled. Her blog posts are both insightful and funny and leave you feeling glad you took the time to read them. Check out her website after you read about my writing process. I fear my post may be lagging a few days behind schedule, but I'll still share it in the hopes of reaching out!

What Am I Working On?
     I just wrote the last words of my new novel, currently titled Beautiful Secret. It is women's fiction and romance and its story spans two generations. The book spins two tales that are interwoven by love and family. It is set partly in France and Italy, in places where I've spent the most amazing moments of my life. Beautiful Secret has been on my "to write" wish list for twenty years. It's been both my dream and my obsession, and I'm thrilled to have finally completed one of my greatest accomplishments. Now, onto the editing and querying stages...
     Next I will jump right back into the Whisper Trilogy, my young adult series. Books one and two Whisper and Wake are available for purchase through Amazon and also at Gifted Hands gift shop in Wexford. My readers are waiting patiently for book three, and it is coming! Below are the links to where you can buy my books.
Gifted Hands gift shop : 3000 Village Run Rd. #105. Wexford, PA 15090
How Does My Work Differ From Others In Its Genre?
     The Whisper Series is different from other YA Paranormal Romances out there because it leaves the reader with an overwhelming sense of the light, the good, rather than the darkness. I find that so much in this genre focuses on the Hollywood-esque aspects of evil, and Whisper really doesn't do this. My angel characters are vastly different from anything else that's out there. Their personality traits and flaws are even a little controversial in some circles, but I had a purpose in writing them this way. Callie, my main character is your typical angst-ridden, drama-driven teenage girl at the beginning of the series. By the end, she matures and grows into what she was created for but not without tripping over her flaws as well - jealousy, lust, competitiveness, lack of self-confidence. The love story is unique, because it is told from both the female and male point of view, giving the reader another layer of understanding about the characters.
     Beautiful Secret tells a forbidden love story that I've yet to see unfold in other novels. At first, it shocks some readers with the absolute scandal. Quickly, though, readers become so engulfed in the steamy passion and stark emotion of the characters, that the lines of propriety cloud, and they can't help but cheer the lovers on.
Why do I Write What I do?
      Since the time of my pre-adolescence, writing has been a lifesaver for me. My father often calls me an emotion with a body attached. This metaphor of his was spot on. At times in my life, my feelings were just too much for me to handle. I carried a poetry notebook with me everywhere I went when I was in high school, writing because I needed to, writing because it was the only way I could deal with the tumultuous drama of those tender days.
     Most of my blog posts are emotionally-inspired. My novels most definitely are. Whisper is my reaction to the seemingly growing stories of teenage suicides in today's society, especially locally. I am overwhelmed with sadness at the life-altering bad decisions, the strangling depression, the bullying that exists on the teenage social scene. It haunts me, and so I came up with the idea of demons whispering into the psyches of young people, urging them to do all of the self-destructive things that they do.
     Beautiful Secret was a tribute to my Italian heritage, my intense love for every aspect of Italian culture, especially family, commitment and passion.
How Does My Writing Process Work?
     First, I feel something. Strongly. Next, my emotions swirl and bubble to the surface and finally spill out of me onto paper. The end.
     In all seriousness, I am the type of writer who tends to sit and let the story take me somewhere. I don't really outline formally, although I do have a plan - beginning, middle, end, themes. I write notes to myself about details or things I know I need to go back and change, but, rather than spending tons of time mapping out plot points, I like to shimmy myself between the pages and get into the mood of the story. This is where magic happens, and I find myself creating something that is so much better than anything I could have planned for.
     Thanks for reading a little about my works and my writing "process." I'd like to give a shout out to a couple of other writers I've gotten to know in this crazy fun business.
~ Carolyn Menke -
     Carolyn writes everything from flash fiction to novels to children's books. She's an incredible author, and I'm lucky to have had a sneak peek at her debut novel, Return to Me. Read more about Carolyn at her website -
~Lorraine Carey
"...I am a veteran Children’s Reading Specialist, teacher, book reviewer and author. After years of reading with children and knowing what they crave gave me the inspiration to write for them. I wanted to inspire middle grades through high school and beyond. I have loved ghost stories since I was a child and with that was my inspiration to write Paranormal and Mystery stories."
     Find out more about Lorraine's books at
~Chris Weigand
     Chris's newest novel, Palace of Twelve Pillars is one of her exciting YA Christian fantasy series. Visit her website below to learn more about her books!