Category: Fascinating Facts

Alchemy, the Forbidden Magic of the Renaissance

alchemyWe are a society of science and technology. It’s been centuries since we’ve believed in magic and mysticism. At least, that’s the trend. Some people believe to this day.

What if they’re correct?

That’s one of the theories posited in my latest release, paranormal romance Bleeding Heart, Book One of the Medici Protectorate Series.

If you read paranormal fiction, you go into it knowing societal norms will be challenged. There may be ghosts, witches, werebeasts, the undead… any manner of supernatural aspects. In my novel, a main character uses alchemy to imbue handcrafted marble daggers with magical powers—powers which affect the warriors who use them in fascinating ways.

alchemy symbolsAs early as the 1300s and well into the Renaissance, alchemy was forbidden by the Church for several reasons. The uneducated considered it an occult practice, which was a danger to organized religion. The devout felt alchemists dabbled in God’s realm, which was sacrilegious. Also, many alchemists were scam artists who used deception to “prove” their abilities. By 1404 in England, those who worked in alchemy could be punished by death. Due to these facts, many alchemists hid their interest in the pursuit.

That didn’t stop people from practicing alchemy, though.

Famous practitioners include Roger Bacon, Nicholas Flamel, John Dee, Isaac Newton, Paracelsus, and even Pope John XXII.

In my novel, I’ve taken liberties with history and made Michelangelo an alchemist. He uses his skills to help the Medici secure their destinies… and in the process, he sets in motion a series of events in modern day Pennsylvania which places one Italian-American family in mortal danger.

In Bleeding Heart, the dagger wielded by the warrior is crafted from red marble. The properties of red stones strengthen the body, add vitality to life, and represents passion and lust. This warrior contends with the positive and negative aspects of these traits, and his primary element is fire.

If you like romances and love the potential alchemy brings to a story, I think you’ll enjoy Bleeding Heart, available now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and iBooks.

Amazing When Sweaty Teaser  Bleeding Heart Front Cover 300  Targets Teaser 2

Is Your Writing Like Angel Food Cake?

angel food

Photograph via Lucy Baker

Honestly, you can’t make these things up. Today is National Angel Food Cake Day.

If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you know that I love to bake. Italians show love through their food, and the old saying, “The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach,” was probably said by someone’s nonna after winning her man with homemade cannoli.

I’ve made countless desserts in my life. More cakes than you can fathom. I’ve even decorated dozens of them for birthday parties.

But I’ve never made an angel food cake. Never.

Don’t get me wrong, I love angel food cake. I’m especially fond of it soaked in raspberry Jell‑O and topped with whipped cream (maybe cut into cubes and mixed with fruit, too). But I’ve never baked one. I don’t have a pan, and every grocery store sells them ready made. Not quite as good as homemade angel food cake, but it’s hard to pass up the convenience.

Angel food cake originated in the United States and became popular in the late nineteenth century. It gets its name from its texture. It’s an incredibly airy cake (not at all like a dense pound cake) that is made by whipping egg whites and folding them into the rest of the ingredients. It’s then baked in an ungreased tube pan (the lack of greasing helps the cake cling to the sides of the pan and rise tall). Because of its white color and light texture, angel food cake was called the “food of the angels.”

I don’t know if angels eat, but if they do, I could see why they’d like this cake.

And why am I telling you all this?

Because it’s interesting, in a not-so-fascinating kind of way.

How did a cake get a whole day devoted to it? Why October 10? Who decided to make the first cake in an ungreased pan (madness!)? Why don’t people frost this cake?

No one seems to know.

But two things struck me about this day. One, angel food cake is a lot like writing. And two, angel food cake day is actually a life-lesson we can all benefit from. Don’t believe me? Read on.

For Writers:
Indulge me for a bit.

Angel food cake is difficult to make and is only successful if a specific formula is followed.

  • Egg whites have to be whipped into meringue.
  • Stabilizer has to be added for structure.
  • The proper pan must be used for lift.
  • The cake has to be cooled upside down so it doesn’t fall.

And isn’t a novel the same?

  • Plots have to be whipped into shape.
  • The three-act structure gives it stability.
  • Fully-developed characters carry the story.
  • It will all fall apart if the ending isn’t crafted properly.

Writers, take the time to make your novels a masterpiece instead of a hastily slapped-together work that might not rise to your readers’ expectations.

For Everyone:
The story of angel food cake and its achieving a national holiday is a lesson we can all learn from. Most of us won’t leave our history behind. We won’t be written about on Wikipedia and our biographies will be lost to the masses.

But like the cake, even though our histories are lost, our legacies will live on.

Through our family, our friends, our work.

Are we going to stand out from the crowd, elite and exceptional?

Or are we going to blend in to all the others, uninspiring and easily ignored?

I want my legacy to be the stuff angels crave. And that will only happen if I rise to the occasion and be the best I can be.

What about you? Are you an angel cake or a dry scone? Let’s discuss (but grab a cup of coffee and a piece of angel food cake first!).

Are You Superstitious? Cross Your Fingers And Read On

June moon

Full Moon over Washington Monument || Bill Ingalls/NASA

If you’re a superstitious person, this must have been quite an exciting ten days for you. Last Friday was not only the thirteenth, but was also a full moon. (The last time we experienced a Friday the 13th full moon was October 2000 and we won’t see it again until August 20491. We won’t see another June Friday 13 full moon again until 2098; the last one was in 1919.2) This Saturday (if you live in the northern hemisphere) was the Summer Solstice (winter if you live in the southern hemisphere). These two events occurring so closely together hold a great deal of significance for some people. But what does it really mean? Continue reading

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