Trastevere

I recently returned from a trip to Italy where I spent time in Rome. One of the areas I visited while there was Trastevere where part of my novel, Not By Design, was set.

Not by Design

We cross the River Tiber and approach the archeological remains of rooms that were once baths made of black and white mosaics. My guidebook tells me that these were made in the first century AD. It’s hard for me to grasp that over two thousand years ago there was an entire civilization living on the ground I am standing on.

We are walking along the delightful district of Trastevere.  In Trastevere one will get glimpses of the “real” Rome. Marco and I have been here many times. To eat in their famous restaurant area, go to the theatre, the cinema or just mingle with the Romans in clubs and bars. Today our mission is different. We are visiting the church Bridget reserved for our wedding.
Marco and I are holding hands as we pass by boutiques offering handcrafted wares and clothing stores with magnificent styles.

As we approach Piazza Santa Maria with its spectacular fountain I stop to take in the church in front of us. It is a stunning Medieval church. Its façade glows with its series of faded mosaics honoring the Virgin Mary. I can’t think of a more romantic setting for our wedding. Even before entering the church I know that it is perfect. Except for one thing. “I can’t believe that my father won’t be here to walk me down the aisle,” I say.

 

Travestere (2)

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Margot Kinberg: A Matter of Motive

Two things which kept me this week from spending time on a current novel I am trying to write were President Joe Biden’s inauguration and Margot Kinberg’s latest novel and the first in her new Patricia Stanley series, A Matter of Murder.

A man is dead in his car, slumped over the steering wheel. But who killed him? Ron Clemens is the last person you’d think would be murdered. His wife and son love him. His employees respect him. His business is doing well. His clients seek him out. But someone wanted him dead. The Clemens case is a golden opportunity for newly minted police detective Patricia Stanley to prove herself. It’s her first murder investigation, and she wants to do well. But it’s not going to be easy. For one thing, she has plenty to learn about handling a murder. And nearly everyone involved in this one is hiding something. Patricia faces her own challenges, too, as the investigation brings back the murder of an old love.

Margot Kinberg (also the author of the Joel William series) is very knowledgeable when it comes to crime fiction and, in particular, Agatha Christie. Go to her select month box in her crime-fictional website and click on any date. You are bound to find something on Christie.

In The Creative Brain (a very interesting documentary which I recently watched on Netflix written and produce by Dr David Eagleman based on the book: “The Runaway Species: How Human Creativity Remakes The World” by Anthony Brandt and David Eagleman.) there is a section by the Pulitzer Prize winner and much regarded novelist Michael Chabon: “I’m going to allow my knowledge of my predecessors and their work to inform and help shape what I’m doing not because I’m trying to copy them but because I know my unique experience is going to help me intervene to help produce a work that is not like its antecedents in some way.” 

It A Matter of Murder Margot Kinberg uses motive as the driving force of her novel. Taking what she’s learnt from studying Christie, Margot Kinberg’s novel is a unique whodunit.

The main character, Patricia Stanley, a gay woman who is trying to juggle the difficulties which being a cop poses on her relationship along with her investigation in her first murder case, is a delightful character full of good intentions and many missteps. Besides being a whodunit, this is also a novel about how police go about investigating a murder. This investigation kept me reading way into the night. I was not only curious about finding who the murderer was but was also interested in the process of the investigation itself.

I have a feeling that we will hear more of Patricia Stanley and her side kick Luke Enders. I for one, hope so. This is a fun read with an interesting cast of characters.

Paperback Writer

Finally, I have my e-books into paperback and it was a frustrating journey. First, the technical designer I hired didn’t work out after three months of back and forth with her. Then, the second technical consultant wasn’t able to put two of my e-books into paperback either because the one of the original e-book cover no longer existed or the owner of the other e-book was asking an exorbitant amount of money to use it. Then, there was the problem of Kindle’s size requirements, which luckily my technical consultant was able to deal with.

In the end, I ended up having to choose different covers for two of my paperbacks. So, three months later, here are my paperback novels.

About the Getting to Mr. Right Series

The series starts off by focusing on Campbell Jones –an award-winning relationship-therapist at the peak of her career. Friendship and support shared between the characters of Campbell’s focus group evolves as the novel progresses.

The underlying theme throughout the original Getting to Mr. Right and the four novellas which follow is “being true to oneself.” The novellas are all expansions of the main story – dating adventures for Missi, a café for Suzy, dealing with an uprooted life for Felicity and an unexpected pregnancy on the edge of mid-life for Campbell. The series has gone beyond the original premise of “Getting a man” and in true women’s fiction style, deals with the issues that come after “happily ever after.” Although all these women are now in romantic relationships, it’s more the by-product of living their lives fully than a pursuit for finding a partner.

Click on the book titles to order

Book 1: Getting to Mr. Right

Campbell’s research into the father/daughter dynamic and how it affects a woman’s personal choices proves that Prince Charming is nothing but a myth. In a few months, she will receive international recognition for her work.As part of her study, Campbell gives workshops to help women still seeking Mr. Right. Her latest group is made up of three women: Missi Morgan, who can’t seem to let go of a philandering spouse; Suzy Paradise, a self-proclaimed queen of online dating; and Felicity Starr, whose life and career are dictated by a controlling father.In the midst of her study, a charming and personable man enters Campbell’s life, putting her theories in shambles. Not only does she now question the validity of her research, but she must choose between her career and having her own Prince Charming. This personal dilemma makes it difficult for Campbell to give these women advice, as she encourages them to find their own paths to happiness and helps them set themselves free.

Book 2: Missi’s Dating Adventures

Missi Morgan is your everyday middle-aged woman who is suddenly thrust into an online dating world after years of married bliss. After learning to let go of Max, her husband who dumped her, Missi explores the world of online dating. Through one disastrous date after another, Missi learns lessons that help her discover what she truly wants. She may not find the perfect match but she finds the perfect self.

A romantic comedy for anybody having to tackle online dating and letting go.

Book 3: Not By Design

Ever since she first appeared in Getting To Mr. Right, Felicity Starr has been struggling to find her own kind of contentment. Now, at thirty-five and living in Rome, Felicity is about to break into the world of fashion design, and caught in a flurry of plans for her wedding when calamity strikes. Her father’s sudden death brings into question the whole meaning of success. Then Marco, the man she’s about to marry, leaves her when he learns of her Multiple Sclerosis diagnosis. Forced to return to Montreal, Felicity finds her life thrust into unexpected turns. As she confronts the on-going challenges presented by her disease, she gains the strength to let go of old beliefs and face her inner truths. Love, friendship and rewarding work come in different forms and Felicity finds it all in ways she never imagined – in a life that’s not by design.

Book 4: Cafe Paradise

Most of Suzy Paradise’s dreams died along with her son over twenty years ago.
One thing has re-ignited her passion for living – running her own café, which specializes in home-baked donuts. For Suzy, this is a long-cherished dream come true. Her business is starting to flounder when Donuts-A-Million, a giant chain, opens across the street from her. Her unexpected attraction to Coen Walsh, a regular customer at her café, creates more tension when she learns of his affiliation with her competitor.
Café Paradise is about Suzy’s fight to save her business in spite of the odds. Sometimes, she realizes, dreams have an expiration date and it takes just as much courage to let them go.
Along the way, she must re-define the meaning of work, family and romance so she can find her own formula for happiness.

Book 5: The Longest Nine Months

In Getting to Mr. Right, Campbell debunked the Prince Charming myth, only to meet a special man who turned all her assumptions upside down.
Now she’s married to Chand. But Happily-Ever-After turns out to be another illusion.
Campbell deals with job burnout and struggles to find her place in the world. An unexpected pregnancy and its complications undermine her relationship with Chand and take her to a difficult crossroad. No matter which way she decides to go, nothing will ever be the same!

OTHER BOOKS

Warning Signs

A psychological crime novel about obsession. Eugene’s research into his criminal mind is not about the why, but how to prevent his horrific crimes. Angie, a young woman starving for passion sees Eugene as her savior from a lonely life of caring for her heroin addicted mother. How far is she willing to go in order to save her relationship with Eugene and his promise for a future together? Detective Van Ray is on a vindictive mission as he attempts to solve the murders of young girls in Youth Protection. Their lives collide in a mixture of mistrust, obsession and ignoring the warning signs. A psychological crime novel about human frailty and loneliness.

Mourning Has Broken – A Memoir on Grief

Mourning Has Broken offers a moving and poignant look at grief and loss. In this collection of narrative non-fiction essays, the author speaks from the heart not only about the death of a dear sister but also about the mourning of a mother, a father, a dear friend, a career and a religion. Readers who have known loss will find much to relate to in this book, and will particularly appreciate the author’s ability to be frank and open and at times humorous about feelings that might be difficult to acknowledge.

In With The New, Out With The Old

We all know that 2020 was a year to forget. A year like no other most of us have ever lived in our life time. Corona-19 virus with mask wearing, lockdowns, social distancing, Zoom meetings, jobs lost, concerts cancelled, restaurants closed, take-outs, home schooling, travel plans on hold, working from home, line ups for toilet paper, food banks, mom and pop’s going out of business, standing in line for groceries, no hugging, gyms closed, deaths, many deaths – too many, overworked front line workers, hospital beds at capacity and need I go on?

But soon 2020 will be over (good riddance) and we will embrace 2021 with vaccines and a renewed optimism.

So, let’s start off the new year on a positive note by remembering something good that happened to us in 2020.

For me, it was my trip to India which I wrote about on this blog.

I was fortunate enough to return home before the virus hit my country and lockdowns began.

So, what was it for you? What’s one good thing that you remember from 2020?

Kolam art is very popular in Pondicherry. A Kolam is drawn with white rice powder every morning in doorway entrances in honor of the Goddess Lakshmi (Hindu goddess of wealth and good fortune) and to bring harmony and joy into the house.
May your home be always filled with love, kindness, warmth, joy and peace throughout 2021.

Sally Cronin: Life is Like a Bowl of Cherries

Life is Like A Bowl of Cherries, Sally Cronin’s latest book, displays “the complexities of life, love, and loss.” 

Composed of a series of well written short stories, poems and photos, the book begins on a humorous and ironical note on how a woman’s weight loss is cyber controlled – be careful what you put on the internet, folks.

 In keeping with her technology theme, the author shifts course in a sweet, touching story about Jenny – a lonely divorcee who finds a family across the globe thanks to DNA testing.

Sally Cronin’s characters are ordinary people doing ordinary things but in an exquisite way. Take for example, Molly who is interested in horticulture where “not everything you plan will turn out the way you expect.” Alice, a florist who developed “a flare for elaborate floral displays.”  Spunky Elsie Windsor, 93 out on a date with a teenager. Women who fight for their rights such is the case of a woman in the midst of a marriage filled with abuse, patriarchal control and violence.

Romance has many twist and turns. Romantic love can be tragic as Elaine and Tom learn the truth about how their parents kept them apart.

The characters in Sally Cronin’s stories reflect real people. Kind people. Charitable women. Women with big hearts. Courageous women. Loving husbands. Generous women who help a young homeless young man with his own story to share about hunger.

This is a very positive book where love, courage and charity are the winners.

A book to lighten us as we go through these dark days.

The book is also sprinkled with poetry. Here’s one I chose because it’s shaped as a Christmas tree and well, ‘tis the Season. 

Two Hearts

When

You meet

The someone

Who sparks a flame

In your heart and mind

Passion is ignited.

Even when the years have passed

The rapport that has developed,

Energized with a sense of humour,

Binds your two hearts together forever

Visit Sally Cronin’s Blog Magazine for some Christmas cheer

Ellie Marrandette: Restoring Hope

Through golf the student learns discipline, integrity, patience and the joy of accomplishing a difficult task.

Restoring Hope takes off where Ellie Marrandette’s last novel, Casey’s Journey ended. Casey at the age of five was abducted and adopted.

Adoption is a complex issue. There is the adopted child to consider as well as the adoptive parents and the real parents. The search for one’s child or mother and the fear this brings to the adoptive parents is all part of the dynamics of adoption which the author addresses in this novel.  

In Restoring Hope, Casey – one of the central characters of the novel – is searching for the child she gave up for adoption while in the process of setting up a non-profit Golf Academy for underprivileged young girls.

Golf, as Casey explains, is a rich man’s sport and so her motivation in setting up the Restoring Hope Golf Academy is to offer golf scholarships to girls coming from unhealthy environments: gangs, poverty, racial inequality and abuse among other disadvantages. The Academy’s goal is to teach these at risk young women life skills through golf and provide them with opportunities to succeed.

Hope, one of the students in the Academy,  does not fit the mold of being brought up in poverty or gangs. Yet, she is a disturbed child filled with the sense of not belonging, guilt for her adoptive mother’s death, and fear of being abandoned by her father.

Level-headed pro golfer, Casey, is not naïve to believe that all her students will end up playing on golf tours but she is wise enough to know that some of her students will exhibit business skills and that golf will help them in the competitive world of men doing business on the golf course. 

Even if you don’t play golf or, for some reason or another, don’t like the game, Restoring Hope will make you gain appreciation and respect for it. As a Christian faith oriented novel, the game of golf is used as a means to provide positive guidance through an ethical and moral compass. Plus, if you are a golf fan, as I am, I picked up some interesting golf tips.

In 2011 I worked as a volunteer at the Women’s Canadian Open outside of Montreal. Reading this novel brought back memories of that week which I spent watching some of the best women golfers in the world, how they focused on their game and the smooth, confident intensity of their shots. In reading the scenes in Restoring Hope of preparing for and taking part in a golf tournament, I was brought back to these behind the scenes of pro-golf from the resources it takes to put a tour together, to the practice before the tour and the joys of accomplishment which follow.

Restoring Hope is also full of romance with its twists and turns, which adds an endearing and suspenseful touch to the novel.

In the end, this is a novel about integrity, love and purpose.

It’s a hopeful novel.

Which is something the world needs these days.

Bau: About My Food

Kibble. UGH! She says it so sweetly. Come, Bau, and  eat your kibble. Her voice has the tone that says I have something really special. I know it’s supposed to be good for me. Full of protein that helps me grow healthy and have strong bones and a shiny coat. But really I prefer a nice piece of cheese or real liver although I don’t mind the dried liver especially when she sprinkles some on my kibble.

I get a piece of the dried liver whenever I poop outside. If I poop inside on my potty mat then I get another treat – roast turkey delights.  I don’t know why I get different treats depending on where I poop. Humans are sometimes hard to figure out. I thought hard about this. One of the advantages of being a dog is that you’ve got lots of time to think. I might look like I’m snoozing but really I’m thinking. And so, this is what I came up with. I prefer the liver bits to the turkey bits so maybe mistress is training me to go outside more.  I’m a regular Sherlock Holmes, don’t you think?

Another thing about kibble while we’re on the subject is that mistress has been  putting less and less sprinkles on my kibble. It didn’t take me long to figure that one out, although I must say that I try to hold out as much as I can and give her my best sad starving look in hopes that she’ll cave in.

Actually the kibble doesn’t taste that bad. It’s the effort of having to crack it, like having to crack shelled walnuts with your bare teeth. Apparently, it’s suppose to be good for my teeth. I don’t know who came up with that one! Certainly not a dog.

Joanne Guidoccio: No More Secrets

This is a multigenerational story and Joanne Guidoccio does a flawless job of describing the characters in each of the three generations. The author smoothly shifts from past to present without the reader feeling lost keeping up with three generations of characters.

First there is Angelica, along with her sisters and their husbands who immigrate from Italy to Canada. Although sisters, each adapts differently. And then there is the sisters’ daughters. Discovering that she has cancer and has limited time, Angelica has invited her three nieces for a weekend at her home where each is asked to reveal a secret.

Although all of the characters are memorable and well drawn, it is Angelica who is the star of this novel. I truly enjoyed the interaction between the characters and especially Angelica’s forbidden love story. No More Secrets is fundamentally a beautiful but heartbreaking love story filled with passion and regret, full of emotion and depth.

Joanne Guidoccio tells her story through the lenses of warmth and tenderness for her characters and also for the immigration experience. The author is very talented at storytelling. She kept me up reading her novel late into the night.  

If you are interested in novels about women and their issues with romantic love and mother/daughter relationships I think you’ll enjoy No More Secrets.  

 Joanne is currently doing a book tour with Goddess Fish Promotions until December 3.

Nobel Prize Laureate: Louise Glück

Born in 1943 in New York, Louise Glück who lives in Massachusetts and is also a professor of English at Yale University, is this years recipient of the Nobel Prize for literature.

Glück was recognised for “her unmistakable poetic voice, that with austere beauty makes individual existence universal” said the Swedish Academy, which oversees the award.

Her poetry focuses on the painful reality of being human and pens down poems around themes such as death, childhood, and family life. (Nithya Nair)

A former U.S. poet laureate, Glück had already received virtually every honour possible for a poet, including the Pulitzer Prize in 1993 for “The Wild Iris”

The book is a collection of 54 poems on the subject of gardening in which Louise Glück gives the flowers voices as they pass though their different stages. She also writes about the person tending the garden and the Almighty supervisor.

The Wild Iris

At the end of my suffering
there was a door.


Hear me out: that which you call death
I remember.

Overhead, noises, branches of the pine shifting.
Then nothing. The weak sun
flickered over the dry surface.

It is terrible to survive

as consciousness
buried in the dark earth.

Then it was over: that which you fear, being
a soul and unable
to speak, ending abruptly, the stiff earth
bending a little. And what I took to be
birds darting in low shrubs.

You who do not remember
passage from the other world
I tell you I could speak again: whatever
returns from oblivion returns
to find a voice:

from the center of my life came
a great fountain, deep blue
shadows on azure seawater.

For a writer, Louise Gluck’s poetry is an example of the efficacy of writing.

In an article for the Atlantic titled The Many Beginnings of Louise Glück , Walt Hunter cites the openings of two poems and clearly explains why these lines are perfect:

“Illuminations,” a poem about a child learning language by looking outside at the snow-covered world, starts with the line

My son squats in the snow in his blue snowsuit.

Another poem, “Happiness,” begins

A man and woman lie on a white bed.

These two images are remarkable not for their strangeness or novelty, but rather for their ordinariness and familiarity, and for their emergence from a kind of psychological family album. These single lines feel impossible to edit or to make more precise: Each has a figure (child, couple), an orientation (squatting, lying down), a place (snow, bed), and a single color (white bed, blue snowsuit). The simplicity of these images suggest exquisite craft and revision.

Because of the pandemic the Nobel Prize ceremony, normally held in Sweden in December, will be held in 2021.

For more information on Female Nobel Prize Laureates visit my series

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