Tuesday, May 27, 2014

New York City - Center of the Universe

New York City. Oh... the energy! Every time I emerge from the Holland Tunnel into Manhattan, I feel like I've suddenly come awake. The buildings breathe. The sidewalks pulse. The very air sings with aromas of cultural delicacies I can't wait to taste. I am reborn with the purpose of experiencing all that life has to offer on this tiny island that seems to have its very own big, beating heart.

My husband and I have been involved in an ongoing love affair with New York City for about twelve years now. When he announced to me on our first wedding anniversary that we would be driving to the Big Apple to see a Broadway show, I thought it sounded fun. I had no idea that trip would become a recurring celebration of our love of food, musical theatre, and the indelible richness of Manhattan.

Over the next few weeks, I will be posting a series of blogs about New York City. I'll focus mainly on restaurants, musicals, shopping, and culture. If you love New York, you'll want to check out the articles for some suggestions on where to eat, what to watch and how to make the most of two days in the city with and without children.
Having just returned from one of our semi-annual excursions, I'm basking in the afterglow of  the high I feel every time I breathe the same air as so many amazingly talented Broadway stars. This past week-end, we saw two shows - Kinky Boots, starring the crazy awesome Billy Porter and If/Then with the powerful diva -Idina Menzel. We had fourth row seats at If/Then.
Four rows from Idina and her pipes of glory.

Wow. Just wow.

We couldn't have chosen two shows that were more different from each other than these two, but, when asked to pick a favorite, I wasn't able to. Both shows were surprisingly beautiful and truly awing. Later in the week, I'll post my first NYC article, and it will be devoted to these two performances. So if you're looking to visit Broadway, and you're trying to decide on a show, you can read my take on Kinky Boots and If/Then here on my blog.

Until then, I will be listening to my Kinky Boots album and enjoying the remnants of my Eataly purchases - chocolates, imported pasta and fresh baked prosciutto and provolone bread. Mmmmm... can you guess what another post will be devoted to?

Please share some of your favorite places in New York City, some of your memories, what made you fall in love with the city. Start spreadin' the news! I'd love to hear about your experiences! Leave comments below or tweet to me @danafaletti!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Freedom of Fourth Grade Field Day

Grey clouds hovered over the track like curious spirits, waiting for the charge of energy that could remind them of life’s crisp brightness. Suddenly, it appeared, the bulging crowd of children, and it was heading toward us with an alarming speed at its feet. Faraway laughter grew louder as the boys and girls raced down the dewy green hill to the track, their colorful tee-shirts already stained with the sweat of anticipation.

     “Fun!” their smiles cried. “Finally!”

     It was field day.

     The image of my daughter’s fourth grade class sprinting down the hill from the school to the track on field day brought me back to the easy joy of childhood. These children were thrilled to have just a couple of hours off from the intensity of the classroom and strict rules of upper elementary life.

     School is not the simple institution that it used to be. Today’s classrooms are jam-packed with language-infused math, guided reading, and lists of detailed rules that even make some parents go “hmmm... What do you think that one means?”  There are positive reinforcement programs, allergy action plans and behavior checklists. Assignment binders themselves weigh a whopping five pounds and can barely be stuffed into the giant backpacks the children carry around.

     There are so many tests.

     There are so many standardized tests.

     There are so many really important standardized tests.

     Growing up, I knew I had to finish my homework before I ventured outside to play. At that time, fourth grade homework took thirty minutes or less, so there was always plenty of daylight left after I finished math and spelling. If my parents wanted to take our family on vacation during the school year, they did so, without a second thought. My brother and I completed our make-up work and caught up when we returned from our adventure, never worrying that we’d missed the Science Olympiad or so and so’s half birthday celebration that was the event of the semester. As parents now, we have to fill out specific forms that show the educational value of our vacations. If our children miss too many days without doctors’ excuses, we are threatened with heavy fines and meetings with the magistrate. Make no mistake - school is serious business.

     Also, everything is online.


     From classroom newsletters to spelling lists to report cards.

     And if your wi-fi is glitching for whatever reason on a particular school night, be assured that an anxiety attack the size of Texas will ensue once your child realizes he or she is unable to access the teacher’s virtual homework page. Especially if it was a prep exercise for the really important standardized test that’s coming up.

     As a child, I remember giggling through fire drills, whispering with friends and shivering on the asphalt playground until being ushered back inside for sustained silent reading. Today, there are emergency drills that force elementary age children to imagine what it would be like if a gunman entered their school. We need these drills.  Sadly, this is the new reality.

     Still, it’s a lot for our young children to take in and carry around on their little shoulders every day. And this is why I found myself relishing the happiness of the moment when the kids hit the field for a day that was entirely carefree. Oh, how they needed this.

     Rough red kickballs littered the fields, evoking memories of being chosen last for the team. I pushed away the nervy nostalgia and focused instead on the sheer pleasure that oozed from my daughter’s face as she emerged onto the track with her grinning buddies.

     The teachers were dressed down and ready for fun.

     The kids were chatty, competitive and even a little unruly.

     The water balloons were over-filled and tempting.

     What a perfect way to celebrate the end of an effort-filled school year and the arrival of summer’s bliss.








Monday, May 5, 2014

In Honor of Mothers and Grandmothers everywhere.... On the Red Porch With the White Striped Awning

     In honor of Mother's day, I would like to post a short story I wrote some time ago. I've been  blessed by the women in my life, my grandmothers and mother as well as my aunts. Each taught me different life lessons and portrayed aspects of the woman I would become. My own mother, a very strong woman, taught me to speak my mind, to stand up for myself, to put family first. My grandmothers were also pillars of strength, models of kindness and servitude. Their generation was so steeped in self-sacrifice. These women gave up everything for their children and families. It was just their way.
     As I get older, I wonder about my grandmothers and who they were as women before they became wives and mothers. Did they ever yearn for more or question their choices? Did they have choices? I never asked way back when. I can't ask now.
     This story is a testament to those women who endured hardships so that the lives of their children and grandchildren could be easier. Oh how I wish I could thank them.


3 generations making our beloved great grandmother's homemade ravioli. We've had them every Thanksgiving for as long as I can remember.

On The Red Porch with the White Striped Awning

      On the red porch with the white striped awning, she sat in her wooden folding chair, watching the city morning come to life. Business men in their suits rushed past her, anxious to meet their day’s sales,  to land the hot deal, to pocket that crispy dollar. She smiled at the contrast of their frantic bustle to her quiet sigh inside the noise.

     The huckster stopped his truck in front of her porch.

     “Morning, Mary.” He nodded up to her, the rim of a baseball cap shadowing his smile.

     “Hi Sam.” She stood from her chair. “You wanna cup of coffee?”

     “No thanks, Mary. Gotta keep moving this morning.” He grabbed two boxes of fruits and vegetables from the back of the truck and hurried to a house across the street to make his delivery.

     “Have a good day, Sam.” She sat back down and crossed her hands in her lap, her thumbs worrying the deep wrinkles on her knuckles and the sides of her fingers. 

     Time had taken its toll on her body, leaving lines whose origins could be traced back as far as her childhood.  As a dirty-cheeked pre-adolescent, she’d worked the land on Sicilian hilltops, plucking figs and prickly pears from scorched September trees. The wrinkles on her face spoke of summers that were anything but kind. Only the coolness of the Ionian sea, its gentle fingers lapping over her skin, had  allowed tranquility to flow over her during those intense harvest seasons. She’d left her childhood there, inside a pebbled footprint along the shore. Traded it in for more lines.

     The more recent lines had been painted by a fabulous artist, a man whose passion wasn’t always tender. At first, his hands had left her speechless and immobile, so full of what she’d once called love. Later, they became brutal like the Sicilian summer sun, leaving her with bruises as purple as a starless sky. She’d had to bear many a shameful morning on account of his relentlessly passionate hands. Her husband may have become quite famous, could have been named the most prolific linear artists known to man, had he not met his fate by the bottle.

     The day he’d died was the beginning of her “year of the black dress.” On day three hundred sixty-six, she’d donned a gorgeous shade of blue with shoes to match. She’d paid her wifely dues of tradition and had at last felt owed her due of serenity. The blue dress spoke peace to her.  It was the color of the sea where she’d left her childhood. It was the color of her firstborn’s eyes.

     She’d nearly lost him. They’d tried to take him from her arms just as she was introducing him to his world. Those women of black and white silence who couldn’t even see past their rigid traditions to find the shades of gray that made up life’s most important choices. How could they have comprehended the color of unfettered innocence, the love in its most basic incarnation, that exists between a mother and her child? They’d reached for him, to remove him from her breast, to insert him into their colorless world. The glare her eyes shot forth drew lines upon her forehead so deep they could never be erased. And, at that moment, those cursed black and whites saw red and understood. The lines she acquired that day… they may have saved her life.

     Later came more babies, some with blue eyes, others with black, those who slept soundly and the ones who wept and shrieked from the moment the moon met the night until the sun kissed the sky. Seven became a lucky number for her, and each child left lines of laughter, lines of tears, smiling lines and lines that told the story of a worried brow.

     There was never much money to be spoken of. No frantic business man bustling into town to find his fortune. Oh her breadwinner was excitable, though! Fridays, he was as frantic as a blinded soldier, running in circles in search of the fastest route to the local tavern where he could drink up all of the bread.

     Charity always managed to rescue them though. Each of her little angels learned through toil and, perhaps some lines of their own, to make smart choices. None had chosen passionate linear artists who specialized in black and blue to accompany them on life’s journey. Not one of her babies had taken up the bottle. And, each knew the value of their creases – the ones on the faces of themselves and their mother as well as the green ones in their pockets.

     Now, she ran her hand along the thin lines in her cheek and leaned over, resting her chin upon her fist, squinting from the sun’s glare. If every line had been for naught she wouldn’t be able to sit here on the red porch with the white striped awning, awed by the beauty of normalcy and quite happy with the nothing and everything that was hers.

     “Why the grin, neighbor?”  Eva poked her gray-haired head out of the door of the row house that was attached to Mary. These connected homes had made it easy for her daughters to sneak out of the attic window at night and hop across rooftops to visit the boys down the street. They thought she didn’t know, but she had the lines to prove she’d known all along.

     Mary smiled up at her neighbor. “Eva, good morning.  You wanna cup of coffee?”

     “I have a doctor’s appointment this morning, Mary.”

     “You all right?” Mary asked.

     “Just a check on my sugar. I’ll see you tonight then.” Eva slipped inside and closed the door.

     Each night, about a half hour before dusk, the neighborhood ladies would congregate on Mary’s porch. They shared stories, bragged about their grandchildren and sometimes played Pokeno, an Italian bingo game. All of these women had wrinkles on their faces and hands, much like those Mary’s life had left to her. The wrinkles spoke of sorrowful legend, amazing bravery, and hideous tragedy. They told tales of joy and of fear, and, although they’d changed faces from young to old, from vibrant to withered, not one of these women would make the choice to erase a single line.

     Mary wouldn’t trade one of hers for all of that young businessman’s money, not for a thousand more days at the sea.  She licked her finger and rubbed it across a dirty mark on her blue shoe. For all the years she’d suffered through their making, she’d survived on the hope that someday her blacks and blues would give birth to gold.

     “Hi Nana!” The little brown-eyed girl burst outside through the front screen door and into Mary’s arms, sticky balls of sleep still stuck in her eyes.

     “Good morning, bella.”

     The smiling little girl cupped her grandmother’s face in her tiny hands and planted a kiss on the bridge of her long nose.

     “Why are you so wrinkly, Nana?” The little girl laughed, and Mary’s heart leapt at the lovely honesty of an innocent child.

     “Because I love you, little one.” It was the only answer she had.

     The little girl tilted her head to the side and seemed to search her grandmother’s water blue eyes.       “Will I have lines like this someday?”

     “Not as many as I have.” Mary brushed a sweaty lock of hair from the child’s forehead.

     “Why not?” the child asked, almost defiantly.

     Again, Mary smiled and answered simply. “Because I love you, that’s why.”

     For a moment, the granddaughter’s eyes quizzed Mary’s, seeming tempted to ask further but finally deciding not to. “I love you too, Nana.” With that, she hopped off of her grandmother’s lap. Can we have pancakes for breakfast?”

     Mary touched the soft cheek of this angel child. “We can have anything we want, bella.”

     The two left the red porch just as the sunlight was starting to reach its fingers beyond the white striped awning, violating its shade. As the screen door slammed shut behind them, Mary thought once more on her lines and her lineage. Nothing was for naught, she thought, and squeezed her granddaughter’s hand.

     These lines are lifelines.



Sunday, May 4, 2014

BookSparks 20 questions with... Me!

     After I released Wake a few months ago, BookSparks did a little interview with me. Due to continued interest and a recent spike in sales of  Whisper and Wake, I decided to post the interview here for fans to read. For those of you who are waiting for Book 3, thank you for your patience! It is coming, and I think it will be worth the wait!

20 Questions with BookSparks author Dana Faletti!



1.       What was your biggest inspiration while writing WAKE?

So many things inspired me while I was writing the sequel to Whisper, it’s hard to narrow it down to one. I can say, though, there is a radio show called “Grace to You” with John Macarthur, and he did a series about angels. I listened to it several times, and it gave me some incredible insight into the Biblical writings of angels as warriors.


2.  What is usually on your nightstand? A glass of water, my Kindle, several books, my earrings, my wedding rings, random toys or trinkets that belong to my daughters, a candle, my cat trying to sip from the glass of water.


3.  Which character in WAKE is most like yourself?  Hmmm… my mother told me Callie reminds her of me as a teen. I always had super amplified feelings, kind of like Callie has for Joshua. Callie is much cooler than I ever was, though.


4.  Which authors have most influenced your writing? Frank Peretti and Ted Dekker in subject matter.  They write about Christian themes –angels and demons, end of the world type stuff. Jodi Picoult and Karen Marie Moning in style. I am a big fan of writing from different points of view. I love short powerful sentences that drive home an emotion.


5.  What is your favorite scene in WAKE? My favorite scene is when Callie visits Joshua at his house after she is worn out from fighting Darks all day. Joshua is her happy place, so to speak. The two of them struggle with how passionate their feelings are for each other and how to keep themselves from crossing the line. The scene deals with authentic desire and restraint.


6.  What do you think is Callie’s best trait? What I love most about Callie is that she has no idea how amazing she is. She doesn’t realize that she’s beautiful or brave, and it always surprises her when she gets a glimpse of her true nature.


7.  Are any characters in WAKE based on a real person? All of the characters, except for Silas and Jules,  are loosely based on real people. Callie is based on my niece, Cassie. Her parents are my brother and sister-in-law. Romuel’s character came from a dream I had about my father-in law, dressed in a toga with long hair and crazy abs. It was a really weird dream J


8.  What is something your readers would be surprised to learn about you? I am a die-hard fan of a capella musical groups.  I love love super love Pitch Perfect, and I am so bummed that The Sing-Off was cancelled last year. Best singing show ever.


9.  Where is your favorite place to write? I have a comfy oversized orange leather chair with ottoman that a friend was going to throw in the garbage. He gave it to my husband and I instead, and it ended up in our bedroom. This is where I wrote Whisper. Lately, I’ve been writing prolifically at local coffee shops. Much of Wake was written at Starbucks – how cliché, right? J


10.  What did you want to be when you grew up? I wanted to be a Broadway star. Now, I live that dream through watching my girls sing on stage. I still love singing… with them.


11.  What is your favorite book of all time? This is just a crazy question. I can’t narrow it down to one book. One series – The Fever Series, by Karen Marie Moning – has seemed to ruin all other books for me.


12.  When is your birthday? September 10th.


13.  What is your dream vacation? A year in Europe. I’ve been to Italy three times and France several times. I have wonderful family in both countries, and we visit often. I’d like to spend a nice chunk of time there, eating, drinking, sleeping on pebble beaches in the afternoons and speaking Italian or French with strangers- that- have- become -family late into the nights.


14.  Describe your writing style in three words. Unique. Unapologetic. Tangible.



15. When naming your characters, do you give any thought to the actual meaning? No, most of the time, names just come to me, they feel right. Evil characters’ names are harder for me to nail down. I confess to having tossed around the idea of naming villains after some people who have given me grief in real life. You know – cross me and I’ll write you into my book – and you won’t be a pretty character! No, I actually don’t do that!  I love Joshua Pride. My favorite name.  I have no idea how I came up with Silas and Jules.


16. What is Callie’s favorite song (or theme song)? Beautiful Soul.


17. Any recent works that you admire? Beautiful Ruins, by Jess Walter. Delicious book.


18.  If you could co-write a book with any author, who would it be? Again, a really hard question… Pat Conroy, maybe? His writing is so vivid, it places me wherever the characters are. I’ve read Prince of Tides three times, and every time I even think of the book, I can smell sulfur, taste sea salt on my tongue. I can close my eyes at any moment and be at Luke, Savannah, and Tom’s little shack-like house on their tiny plot of island. I’d like Pat’s writing style to rub off on me a little. It would help me in my next project.


19.  How have your personal experiences affected your writing?  Shortly after I started writing Wake, my husband had a very serious health scare. He was extremely sick for a few months, and I couldn’t write Wake at all. I did write some of another project I am working on. The story is much more serious.  For a long time after his health improved, I was still not in the right place to write something as whimsical as Wake. 


20.  What is your writing process? It is still very much evolving, as I think it always will be. With Whisper, I didn’t plan much. I had an idea and wrote a scene that ended up being in the middle of the book. Later, I started at the beginning of the story and wrote from chapter one through the end, then came back and wrote a prologue, then an epilogue. I never had an outline – I’ll confess. With Wake, I outlined some, but honestly, some ideas just come to me as I’m writing, and I go with them.  One thing I really believe in as a writer is the importance of critique partners – good ones. I’m so lucky to have a group of them. There are six of us who critique each others’ work twice a month. They help me to know what works and what definitely does NOT, and they also edit for grammar, typos, the dastardly extra spaces!

Here are the links to order Whisper and Wake.