Category: Writing (page 1 of 9)

The Big Dog and the Little Cat

Every so often in our lives, we meet people who really have an impact in our lives. With technology the way it is today, our world is “smaller” than ever, and we “meet” people we never actually meet. That’s the case with my guest today.

I “met” Dave Kwiecinski in an online writing group. And he touched my heart and soul from the very first day. Not only is he supportive and funny and wise, he’s one creative guy.

Case in point, today he’s going to share with us what life is like in his world—from his cat’s perspective. Dave is the Big Dog in our writing group, but it sounds like his little cat has him wrapped around her finger… I mean, claw.

Without further ado, I give you Dave. Well; Dave’s cat, anyway.


catHi. My name is Lady. Well, it’s actually Foxy Lady.

Well, wait… that’s what it used to be.

Daddy has a strange habit of giving me new names all the time. Right now he calls me Jay.

It’s a long story.

That’s okay. I have lots of stories.

We are always getting into a lot of trouble. Maybe that’s the problem. Maybe Daddy forgets our names. And he has to keep thinking up new ones.

He really doesn’t have to keep thinking up new names. All he needs to do is feed me. But I guess if he keeps feeding me, I don’t care what he calls me.

Daddy asked me to tell you about myself. When I was a little kitten, I was wandering all alone outside. I was scared. I don’t remember if I was born outside or if somebody decided they didn’t want me. I was too little to remember.

I do remember that I was hungry. It was hard to find food. I saw other cats chase birds and squirrels, but I didn’t know how to catch them.

One day when I was exploring the Big Forest, I smelled food. The smell was coming from way up high, on top of a high wooden mountain. The mountain was hard to climb. It was a long way up. And it was scary. Daddy calls the side of the mountain “stairs.” The mountain seemed like a safe place. I could look down and watch the birds and the squirrels play in the Big Forest below.

The food at the top of the mountain was good. I was so hungry. The only scary thing about being on the mountain was the Big Cats that came out of the Giant Cage to put food and water in the bowls.

Daddy calls the Giant Cage “the house.”

One day, I climbed up the mountain to get something to eat. But this time, the bowl was underneath a big cave. Now that I’m an older cat, I know that the cave is called a box (we love to sleep in those). The cave was upside down and hanging in the air.

Well, when I started eating the food under the upside down box, the box fell on me. I was trapped inside and I was really scared! One of the little Big Cats (his name is Stephen) started yelling, “Mom! Mom! My invention worked!”

The little Big Cat named Stephen was yelling and yelling and it was so dark inside. I was so scared, I wanted to run away! All of a sudden, the top of the cave opened up and this big lady cat reached inside with her long paws and she picked me up. I was so scared, I bit her. She yelled “ouch!” and dropped me. I was still stuck in the cave, but I could see the outside at the top and I was trying to climb out. The big lady cat reached in again and picked me up. I was scared, but she wouldn’t let me bite her again. Then the little Big Cat named Stephen came out of the Giant Cage (that house place) and they took me inside and locked me in!

Daddy says that was 17 years ago. Is that a long time?

I found out that the big lady cat is called Mom. We call her The Lady Who Lives With Daddy.

I didn’t like being in the Giant Cage. The outside with the Big Forest and the tall wooden mountain was scary, but I could run in all different directions and chase birds and animals and I could find a lot of places to hide and be by myself.

I still try to escape the Giant Cage, I mean, the house. It’s still scary outside and I still find places to hide. It’s still hard to find food out there in the Big Forest and there are a lot of other Big Cats like Daddy that live in Daddy’s house, I mean Giant Cage. Oh… whatever you call it!

But I can’t help myself. I like being outside the Giant Cage.

Anyway, I found out that there was another little cat locked in the Giant Cage, too. His name was Kit Kat. He told me that he was in a different cage and then Daddy and The Lady Who Lives With Daddy and the other Big Cats moved from that cage to this new “House.”

“I’ve been here for about two years,” Kit Kat said. “It’s not too bad. It’s warm when that cold, white stuff covers the Big Forest. They have comfy places to sleep and there are some cool places to hide over there in the jungle.” He showed me some places inside the big cage that looked just like the forest outside. We could hide there. The Lady Who Lives With Daddy didn’t like when we played in the dirt, though.

Back then, only Kit Kat and I lived in the Giant Cage with all the Big Cats. There were five of them, including Daddy. But only us two little cats.

Kit Kat doesn’t live inside anymore. He got sick about six years ago. Now he lives outside all the time. But we don’t see him. Nobody does. But he still talks to me even though I can’t see him. I’ll tell you that story some day.

Since that time, there have been a lot of other cats inside the Giant Cage. Some of them still live here with me.

I have lots of stories. I will tell you about Sandy and Fluffy. There’s Smokey, who still lives here, but she doesn’t like to be around any of us little cats.

Little Kitten lived outside for a very long time on the big wooden mountain. But then she decided she liked to live inside the Giant Cage more than she liked being outside. I think she’s crazy. But she keeps coming back inside.

And Bun Bun, her kitten, is almost as crabby as Smokey. She always growls at her kittens. She likes to be outside so much, she always escapes the Giant Cage. And Daddy lets her! But she always comes back. Sometimes with presents for Daddy and The Lady Who Lives With Daddy.

Bun Bun’s kittens are almost as giant as the Big Cats! Well… not really, but close! Especially Kaner. He looks a lot like Kit Kat, but he is so much bigger!

Maybe he swallowed Kit Kat…

Kaner’s sister, Bee Bee, and his brother, Zinger Dinger, always try to eat my food. Daddy yells at them to leave me alone. He loves me.

Daddy didn’t always call Bee Bee and Zinger Dinger those names. Daddy is weird. It’s hard to remember all his names…

It’s hard enough keeping track of all the cats inside the Giant Cage.

Daddy says that he wants me to help him tell stories about living in the Giant Cage. There are happy stories and sad stories. Some of them are scary. I hope all of the stories will be interesting and exciting for you.

Daddy wants me to tell stories for you and your children and your grandchildren. What stories do you want to hear?


Thank you, Dave and Foxy, err…Lady, I mean, Jay, for that peek inside your world.

About Dave: daveDave Kwiecinski knew he was going to be a writer at age 12.

Angela Graham, his high school English teacher, predicted Dave would be a great writer. So he ventured off to a tiny liberal arts college in central Illinois.

And studied accounting.

It only took him 44 years to publish his first work, Four Simple Steps to Healthy, Happy Holidays, but he’s been happily writing away lo these many moons, with an unquenchable thirst to teach, motivate, inspire, rattle cages, and push buttons with his conversational writing style.

Now a recovering CPA, Dave helps fix people “who hate to exercise but love to eat” as a personal trainer. And he writes. About life (The Philosophy of Dave), healthy lifestyle (Dave K Fitness), and now dutifully transcribing the stories of his cats for a children’s book series. An emotional book about his dad’s fight for life is another work in progress.

Dave and his wife, Kathy, share their humble abode in far northeastern Illinois with way too many cats. They have five adult kids and seven grandchildren.

To learn more about Dave, visit him online:
Website | Blog | Twitter | YouTube | Google+ |
Facebook | Facebook Author Page | Facebook Business Page

Setting the Stage

Native LandsSometimes I feel like I talk too much about the projects I’m working on. I mean, I’m passionate about them and want to share them with the world, but I’m not the only author with something to say. So I’ve reached out to some of my author friends and asked them to share their thoughts, their work, their passions with us.

Today, I’m happy to host friend and fellow author P.C. Zick, who is going to talk with us about setting. Take it away, P.C.

Setting the Stage with Setting in Fiction

“The uncertain air that magnified some things and blotted out others hung over the whole Gulf so that all sights were unreal and vision could not be trusted; so that sea and land had the sharp clarities and the vagueness of a dream.” The Pearl by John Steinbeck

Of all the authors who have inspired me in my career, John Steinbeck stands at the forefront. Why do I admire him so much? It’s because of his ability to use setting as a part of the plot.

I’m an avid fan of using the reality of setting—landscape, weather, era, climate—as a strong backdrop to a story. As a reader, descriptions of setting transport me to other places and eras. As a writer, the setting of my fiction gives me one more tool for fine-tuning my plot engine. On a more basic level, I simply love reading descriptions of setting that establish mood and tone. And I adore writing scenes with lush scenery and powerful seasons to project the atmosphere in my plots.

zick trails jpgIn my novel, Trails in the Sand, I used the setting of a lazy river on a warm day in the first chapter to contrast with the tension about to invade the lives of the main characters as disaster lurks in the Gulf of Mexico on an as-yet unknown oil rig named Deepwater Horizon.

“Our paddles caressed the water without creating a ripple as we floated by turtles sunning on tree trunks fallen into the river. A great blue heron spread its wings on the banks and lifted its large body into the air, breaking the silence of a warm spring day in north Florida. The heron led us down the river of our youth stopping to rest when we fell too far behind. The white spider lilies of spring covered the green banks of the Santa Fe River.” Trails in the Sand by P.C. Zick

Some of the authors I admire most, such as Steinbeck, use setting as a literary technique. A storm becomes a metaphor for tension between characters. The seasons serve as symbols within the theme. Temperatures create mood from humid heat to frigid cold. Place—from sea to river to urban environs—expresses as much about mood as does a character’s words and actions. Setting a story in Tel Aviv establishes a certain mood very different from placing a story in Memphis. Europe in 1942 resounds with air raids and fear. In New York City in 1942, life continues on with only minor inconveniences, such as rationing of nylons and butter.

I set my first novel in Michigan where I grew up, but I wrote it after moving to north Florida. I wanted to use the dramatic seasons of my birth home as a dramatic plot technique. The four distinct seasons of the north helped to create tension and to move the plot toward its dramatic conclusion.

By the time I wrote my third novel, I’d changed settings to Florida. I found myself seeking out ways to describe the varied landscapes so others could see what I discovered when I moved to a very different climate and landscape than where I’d previously lived. Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings of The Yearling and Cross Creek fame, drew such vivid portraits in her novels of north Florida. After reading several of her books, I yearned to write in a similar vein and to show the landscapes and environment surrounding me.

“Somewhere beyond the sink-hole, past the magnolia, under the live oaks, a boy and a yearling ran side by side, and were gone forever.” The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings

I didn’t adapt to my new setting easily. When I threatened to take my baby and leave my first husband after watching a lizard cross my path, a neighbor intervened.

“Read Cross Creek,” he said as he presented me with a copy of Rawlings’ famous book, not yet made into a movie. I read avidly, soaking up her descriptions. I slowly learned to appreciate my surroundings with new eyes. Her descriptions of the Florida landscape helped me fall in love with all parts of my adopted home because her experience had been similar to my own. She moved from New York to the wilderness of Florida and had to adapt. Writing helped her make that transition.

I grew to love the snakes and skinks, heat and hurricanes, sand spurs and slash pines. I began to understand how our environment shapes us. Out of Florida’s beaches, marshes, and swamps rose runaway renegades, hardy natives, and tough cowboys. Setting created them as much as genetics.

When I took a leap of faith and left my teaching career to venture into writing full-time, many wondered if I’d lost my mind. A month after I quit, I won an essay contest. It’s no coincidence that the contest honored the woman who allowed me to fall in love with my environment and to fall in love with writing about natural landscapes. The Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings essay contest win gave me the confidence to continue on my journey.

Native LandsAnd I continue writing novels where setting surrounds the plot. In another of my Florida novels, Native Lands, the Everglades play an important role in the lives of the characters. The swamp, the isolation, the threat of hurricanes, and the wildlife create the backdrop for intrigue, mystery, and even love.

I’ll leave you with the final lines in Native Lands, where I made an attempt to express my profound love of a descriptive setting to show mood within my fiction.

“The stars twinkled in the dark sky as night settled over the Glades. The crickets croaked and the sulfur from the swamp assaulted their noses as they rolled out their mats to sleep near the fire as Mali and Locka once did on their travels south. The wildlife settled in the mud holes and rivers surrounding them. Slumber descended, as peaceful dreams floated in their heads.” Native Lands by P.C. Zick


Thank you for sharing, P.C. The quotes you chose are powerful reminders of how important setting can be in a work of fiction.

If you’d like to learn more about P.C. and her work, check out the links below.

Website | Blog | Amazon Author Page | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Google + | Video Trailers

Pat ZickP.C. Zick began her writing career in 1998 as a journalist. Her first novel was published in 2000. She’s won various awards for her essays, columns, editorials, articles, and fiction. She describes herself as a “storyteller” no matter the genre. She lived in Florida for thirty years, and she finds the stories of Florida and its people and environment a rich base for her contemporary fiction. Florida’s quirky and abundant wildlife—both human and animal—supply her fiction with tales almost too weird to be believable. Her romance trilogy, Behind the Love, is also set in Florida.

She writes two blogs, P.C. Zick and Living Lightly. She has published three nonfiction books and nine novels.

Zick Promos (5)Her writing contains the elements most dear to her heart, ranging from love to the environment.

She believes in living lightly upon this earth with love, laughter, and passion.

Where You Can Find Me

I’m delighted to have been asked to write a guest post for friend and fellow author P.C. Zick. If you have any questions about the pros and cons of writing in multiple genres, please visit me there and tell me what you think.

Click this link to read my post on P.C. Zick’s site.

I also want to mention a live event I’ll be at tonight. If you live in Northwest Arkansas, consider stopping by the Farmington Public Library from 6:00-8:00 to visit with some of the authors of Oghma Creative Media. We’ll be there to discuss writing as well as to chat with our community. I hope to see some of you there.

cover1.jpgFarmington Public Library

175 W. Cimarron Place
Farmington, AR  72730

Ph: (479) 267-2674

A Lamentation of Swans, Part 2–A First Friday Fiction Feature (#FFFF)

It’s that time again. Time for another First Friday Fiction Feature (#FFFF). Other free feature stories can be found on my Pinterest page (a shared short story board) and on the Freebies page of my site.

Today’s offering is the continuation of last month’s story. If you haven’t yet, you should read the first installment before continuing. To read Part 1, click here.


A Lamentation of Swans, Part 2

She hadn’t taken a single step since her fall.

When the hospital released her, she was to go to physical therapy. But she made Jeremiah take her home. He carried her into the house, and she spent her days transferring herself from wheelchair to furniture and back.

She lost track of time.

windowOne day, while reclining on her chaise, listening again to the soundtrack of her former glory, Jeremiah came in and opened the drapes.

“Jeremiah. What are you doing? Close those at once.”

“I’m sorry, madame, but I will not. You can’t stay closed up in here. It’s time you begin your recovery.”

“Recovery? There’s no coming back from this. Close the drapes and leave me be.”

“Many pardons, madame, but I can’t do that.”

Anita brought in a tray loaded with a giant vase of fresh cut flowers, three bottles of mineral water, crusty bread, cut fruit, and assorted cheeses.

“Anita.” Juliette’s tone hid none of her annoyance. “Take this away and bring me my juice.”

“Juicing isn’t eating, ma’am.” She took the vase and put it on the end table where Juliette could easily see it. “There’s precious little nutrition in it.”

“Especially with vodka in it,” Jeremiah said.

“Jerem—” Juliette started.

Anita interrupted her. “You need good, hearty meals. It’s time.”

“Time? Time for what?”

“Ramon thought you’d like to see the fruits of his labors. He brought these cut flowers in for you. I told him that’s the last vase he’ll need to fill. You’ll be going out to walk the gardens from now on.”

Juliette fought back the tears. She’d love to walk the gardens. She’d give anything to walk anywhere at all.

Damn her staff. Damn them all. They didn’t understand. How dare they do this to her?

“Come on, ma’am. Sit up and eat. We have a lot to do after lunch.”

“And what would that be, Anita? Are we running a marathon? Hiking the Appalachian Trail?”

“I don’t see why you couldn’t do those things, after training for them.”

“Get out,” Juliette whispered.

Jeremiah approached the chaise and stooped down beside her. “Do you have any idea how long you’ve been hiding in here?”

Juliette turned and looked outside through a curtain of tears. She had no idea how long it had been since the accident. It had been even longer since she saw her beloved swans. She watched through the glass as they bent graceful necks to the water, then stretched them up to the sky. She couldn’t hear their trumpets, but she knew just what they sounded like.

Like they were calling to her.

swans babies“It looks like the flock of swans is getting bigger,” she said. “There are babies out there.”

“Lamentation,” Jeremiah said.

“What?”

“Lamentation,” he repeated.

“I know what lamentation is,” she said. “But no one’s crying.” She wiped her face, making sure none of her tears still showed on her cheeks.

“No, madame. The swans. They aren’t a flock. They are a lamentation. Groups of swans are called lamentations.”

“Lamentations.” She reflected on that tidbit for a moment. A lamentation of swans. It was sad. Poetic and dramatic, but sad.

Just like her.

“I miss them,” she whispered.

“They miss you too, madame.”

“Will you wheel me out there? I should like to see them. I’ll take them some bread.”

He looked down at her. “Nothing would give me greater pleasure than to accompany you down there.”

Juliette reached for her wheelchair, intent on swinging herself into the seat and being wheeled down to the pond.

But Jeremiah pushed the chair out of her reach.

“Jeremiah! What are you doing?”

The doorbell rang, but neither Jeremiah nor Anita moved.

Who in the world could that be, anyway? No one visited. Not in years. And she was glad. She didn’t want to see anyone, anyway. But curiosity got the best of her.

“Well, isn’t anyone going to get that?”

Ramon entered, followed by two gentlemen in black pants and purple polo shirts. The logos on their breast pockets read ALLEGRO PHYSICAL THERAPY.

“No one answered the door, so I let these fellows in,” Ramon said. “This here is my nephew, Pablo. And this is his partner, Tobias.”

Juliette dropped her head and sighed.

Anita said, “Come on. I’ll show you to the ballroom. You’ll have the most space in there.” She led the gentlemen out of the room.

“Do you require my assistance during your session, or will you be all right on your own?” Jeremiah asked her.

The ballroom? Of all places. She hadn’t even looked at the closed doors since she began her convalescence. “I’m not having therapy, so it really doesn’t matter.”

“Very well.”

He scooped her into his arms and started walking toward the door.

She swatted at him, but his body was hard and hers was weak. She imagined she had little impact on his efforts and stopped, saving her hand further injury.

“Jeremiah, please. Put me down.”

“I will, Juliette. In the ballroom.”

“Juliette? You’ve never called me that before. Even when we first met and I asked you to. You said it wasn’t appropriate.”

He stopped outside the ballroom doors. “You’ve never been in my arms before.”

Before she could react, he carried her inside and placed her in the care of her therapists.

* * *

bridal coupleTherapy sessions came and went. More years passed. Juliette’s family–Jeremiah, Anita, and Ramon–nursed her back to health. And, because of them, Juliette once again found love.

She had her second wedding on the lawn, her beloved swans in the background. As she stood with her new husband on the edge of the pond, tossing bread cubes into the water and watching the swirls of fuchsia and flame in the sky melt into the midnight inkiness of nighttime, she put her arms around his neck.

“Dance with me, Jeremiah.”

He wrapped his arms around her waist and pulled her to him. “I thought you’d never ask.”

The stars twinkled in the darkness, they and the moon reflecting off the still, dark water.

Swans trumpeted their approval at her choice.

“A lamentation of swans,” he whispered in her ear.

No more lamentations for Juliette. For the first time in forever, she was happy.


I hope you found this story enjoyable. I wrote it when I was a little sad, but like a true romantic, I pushed for the happy ending. However, as you know from part one’s comments, I originally had a far different (and much sadder) ending in mind. What do you think about happily ever after endings? Always, sometimes, or never? How would you have ended this story? Let’s talk about it. Leave a comment below.

Visiting Friends and Sharing Food

Hi, guys. I’m happy to announce that today I’m “visiting” my friend and fellow writer, Joan Hall, over at her website. We discuss writing, Bleeding Heart, and every Italian’s favorite subject—food. I hope you take a moment and come see what’s going on.

Click here to see the post at Joan Hall Writes.

Amazing When Sweaty Teaser

Want To Visit My Sister With Me?

Bleeding Heart Front Cover 300Hi, everyone. It’s the day before my novel, Bleeding Heart, goes live. To prepare for the occasion, my sister was kind enough to interview me on her blog. Sadly, it wasn’t a face-to-face interview, but it was still a fun visit. Why don’t you check it out and see what we had to say?

Visit Michele Jones by clicking this link.In the garage 2

Hope to see you there!

And remember, tomorrow, 8/11/15…

Bleeding Heart will be available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and iBooks.

A Lamentation of Swans–A First Friday Fiction Feature (#FFFF)

It’s that time again. Time for another First Friday Fiction Feature (#FFFF). Other free feature stories can be found on my Pinterest page (a shared short story board) and on the Freebies page of my site.

Today’s offering is part one of a two-part story. It will conclude in next month’s #FFFF.


A Lamentation of Swans

ballerina“Juliette, you have to go look at it before someone else snaps it up. It’s perfect for you.”

Her toes bled, her feet swelled. She wanted nothing more than to hobble to her apartment and soak in a tub. But Selina, her real estate agent, insisted she tour the property the second the sellers listed it. So, despite her aches and pains, Juliette went to tour the place.

“See, it didn’t take you long to get here,” Selina said.

It really hadn’t. It was close to the dance school, yet set far enough into the country that she could escape the bustle of the city with a short fifteen-minute commute.

“Let me tell you about the place before you look around. It’s ten acres of pristine landscaping. The gardener, Ramon, is willing to stay on, and his fees are quite reasonable. In addition to the house and gardens, this place has its own tennis courts and swimming pool.” Selina swept her hand toward the back of the property, but Juliette couldn’t see past the stately columns in the front of the house.

“Let’s go in,” Juliette said.

“You’re going to love it.” Selina hooked her arm through Juliette’s and guided her inside. “The rooms are spacious. Look at these windows.” Every room seemed to have a wall of windows facing another gardening delight outside. Natural light flooded the rooms, seemingly expanding the already generous spaces.

“And you have to see this.” Selina led her down the hall to a formal ballroom. Hardwood floors gleamed in the late evening light.

“The ballroom could easily be converted to a studio for you. You can add a wall of mirrors and a bar over there” she pointed across the room, “and a sound system. You could workout whenever you wanted.”

That room did have potential. Not that Juliette often danced at home. She spent too many hours dancing at the studio, dancing on stage. Home was for rest. But, still…

Selina guided her to the kitchen, which she’d likely never use for anything more than juicing, but she listened politely while the merits of the space were gushed over.

“Granite countertops, cherry cabinetry, and professional-grade stainless steel appliances. Think of the parties you could host here. And I know a woman who’s looking for a job as a personal chef. Anita. She specializes in healthy gourmet meals. I’ll get you her card. You’ll love her.”

It was a good thing she had a trust fund. Every word out of Selina’s mouth amounted to more money.

They continued exploring the home. The splendor of the master bedroom was eclipsed only by the grandeur of the master bath. The rest of the bedrooms were also generous and well-appointed. The library boasted floor-to-ceiling shelves, and as she already had an extensive collection in storage, filling them wouldn’t be a problem.

“I know it’s a bit large, but you’ll want the space when you settle down, start a family. I can get you the number of several cleaning services, or maybe you’d prefer a butler? I know a–”

Juliette tuned her out. It was a big decision. So much to consider. The house had everything she could possibly want. But was she really ready to commit to it? She had the funds, but she didn’t have the family to fill the place. What if she never did? She couldn’t make up her mind.

Then she saw the natural pond in the back of the property. Swans floated on the nearly black water, their graceful countenances a sign to her.

She was dancing the lead in Swan Lake at the time. Seeing the swans on the property—her property—made it seem like fate. She made an offer on the spot and decided the rest would fall into place later.

And the pieces did fall. Quickly. Soon after moving in, she married the premier danseur in her troupe right on the back lawn, the swans an elegant backdrop to the festivities.

When she decided to stop dancing and start a family, she was happy with the decision. She thought her husband was, too. But as she gained weight, her husband lost interest. And when she lost the baby, he didn’t grieve. He just put her on a diet.

It wasn’t long after until she lost her husband, too. And good riddance to him.

She fought to get back into shape. Fought even harder to earn her the lead in several ballets.

And never quite hit either of her goals.

* * *

swansLife passed her by, and she retreated to her estate, no friends, no family.

Just her and her staff—Jeremiah the butler, Ramon the gardener, Anita the cook, and Roland the chauffeur. After the first five years of her self-imposed exile, she dismissed Roland.

It depressed her to lose him. After all, he was like family. But she didn’t leave her house any longer.

The house grew darker with her mood. She drew the drapes and stayed inside.

Occasionally she’d take a bag of bread cubes and stroll around the pond, feeding the swans. They trumpeted their joy at her offerings, but it only seemed to make her sadder.

Eventually, she stopped going to the pond.

Then she stopped watching them from her window, preferring to keep all the drapes drawn.

The only time Juliette was happy was when she danced. She wore out CD after CD of Swan Lake, dancing alone in her ballroom. But her feet didn’t move quite as nimbly as they used to, nor did she have any supporting dancers on the floor with her. Still, she felt light and carefree when she danced.

Then, one rainy afternoon, joints achy and muscles tight, she entered the ballroom and began her warmup. Too soon, she spun onto the floor and began the opening number to Swan Lake.

And she fell.

The pain was excruciating. Breath-stealing. It was moments, hours, days? She didn’t know how long she lay there before she had the strength and breath to call for help.

When Jeremiah found her, he rushed her to the hospital. She spent five days away from home, during which she endured countless tests and one surgery.

The doctors said she’d never dance again.

What they didn’t tell her was she’d never walk again.


I hope you found part one compelling. I’d love to know what you think might happen next. Are you rooting for a happy or sad ending? I’ll be honest–the ending I originally conceived is not the one I’ll be publishing next month. I completely changed my mind right before writing the end.

(Now that the conclusion has been published, you can read it by clicking here.)

Sex, Secrets, and Destiny… A Novel Approach to Romance

Bleeding Heart Front Cover 300If you’re a frequent reader of mine, you know I have a novel coming out. Bleeding Heart, Book One of the Medici Protectorate Series, releases August 11.

I’m so excited!

It’s available now for preorder on Amazon and iTunes.

If you still aren’t sure what it’s about, let me give you a brief description:

Warrior Gianni protects Franki, secret legacy of the Medici, from prophesied assassins. (You can tweet this, if you’d like, by clicking here.)

For a better description, here’s what you need to know:

After her father’s murder, Franki is targeted for assassination by an unknown enemy. She finds her safety depends on the Medici Protectorate, the warriors who guarded her bloodline and their secret for centuries.

Gianni, Franki’s protector, struggles to garner her trust. As he assumes his new role, he also undergoes inexplicable, explosive changes… transformations he can’t control.

Their worlds collide in passion and violence, and Franki struggles to trust Gianni. When her life is on the line, Gianni will have to conquer both her fears and his own personal demons to rescue her in time.

If that interests you, here are a few teasers from inside the book. I hope you enjoy the writing and love the design work as much as I do. (I think my designer, Casey W. Cowan, did a phenomenal job on them.)


Kiss Properly Indecently Teaser Amazing When Sweaty Teaser

Targets Teaser 2

In the garage 2


I hope you enjoy these. Let me know what you think.

Five Reasons Authors Abhor Publishing

I love this photo. It reminds me of the days when authors bled ink and angst onto parchment pages, when printers painstakingly placed each letter and line of type until an entire tome took shape.

When readers took the time to hold books in their hands, smell the aroma of the ink and paper, immerse themselves in knowledge and verse.

Now, I’m old, but I’m not that old. I wasn’t REALLY there. And this photo doesn’t quite capture the essence of Gutenberg’s press. (I swear, I’m really not that old.)

But I can picture it. I feel the texture of the vellum, smell the tang of the ink. (Probably not as good as those purple dittoed pages we used to get in school—you know, the ones that were warm from hand-cranking and smelled sweet from the alcohols in the ink—but I bet it was a close second.)

But this photo evokes something in me. Something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately.

Publishing.

medici protectorateI’ve been thinking about it because my next novel, Bleeding Heart, the first in the Medici Protectorate Series, is about to be released. August 11, 2015, to be precise. But I’m not talking about the publishing industry—or rather, I’m not talking only about the publishing industry—I’m talking about a writer sending her work out into the world.

The Briefest History of Publishing

Ages past, a writer had things to say and either he or a scribe recorded these messages. While cave paintings and hieroglyphs aren’t considered “literature” in the conventional sense, people have been recording stories for centuries. Tales exist from as early as the Sumerian version of Gilgamesh before 2000 BC, and there are reports of innumerable texts lost to us forever, like those of the Library at Alexandria. Traditionally, however, fictional tales were dispersed to the people through oral traditions. Many people couldn’t read, nor did “books” exist. And if they did, the majority of people wouldn’t have been able to afford them, anyway.

Enter Gutenberg and the printing press. First used for the Bible, the printing press is still used today to distribute messages to the masses. Not the same technology, of course, but the end result is the same. Just on a faster, cheaper, and more massive scale.

Oral traditions held favor for quite a while, though. Shakespeare had his work performed live on stage. Dickens read his work to audiences. Even today, audiobooks have become a viable option for people who want to hear the stories without sitting and scanning text. Authors sometimes give readings when they release a new work.

Printing/publishing wasn’t for fiction in the beginning. You see, as early as 1472, publishing houses were popping up in Europe. At first, they were basically printing companies, doing nothing more than reproducing work. Nonfiction work. The Church, however, was the head of the publishing company. They controlled the messages being distributed, making them the first gatekeepers of literature. (It’s a safe bet to assume Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey wouldn’t have made the cut back then.) And controlling gatekeepers still stand today. Although, with the advent of eBooks and self-publishing, those gatekeepers have lost much of their say regarding the works people publish. Now, anyone can publish a book. The gatekeepers now only have their reputation behind their works. Kind of a “we’re the experts and we vetted this content for you” kind of thing. But that doesn’t keep readers searching for only vetted material, which seriously hampers the power of those Powers That Be.

Reasons Authors Abhor Publishing

Every author will tell you that writing is both fun and difficult. And every author will have a different reason for feeling each way. But one thing is certain—the act of writing and the act of publishing are two very different things.

[tweetthis twitter_handles=”@stacitroilo”]Blog post, a short story, or an epic saga… doesn’t matter. #Publishing is scary. [/tweetthis]

It doesn’t matter if you’re publishing a blog post, a short story, or an epic saga. Publishing is scary. Often exhilarating, but scary.

Why? Well, readers, let me let you in on a few secrets. Five, to be exact.

  1. Writers Have Feelings.
    We have feelings. I know when you finish reading a novel and proceed to make fun of it with your friends, you’re just having a laugh. But someone worked hard on that. If a writer is worth her salt, she’s written and rewritten, revised and edited, designed and labored for longer than you’d guess. Some people take more than a decade to get their work in shape for the world. We hate publishing because we put so much in only to (sometimes) be ignored or panned. And I don’t know which is worse, really.
  2. Writers Work Hard.
    It doesn’t matter if an author is self-published or traditionally published, he or she has a lot of time and effort invested. Not just the actual book, but all the marketing that’s involved. How much is enough? How much is too much? We don’t want to spam, but we don’t want to get lost in the shuffle. Our words and stories matter to us, we want to share them, not scare folks away. For every person with a book to sell, there are millions more competing for the same audience. It’s daunting. Almost crippling.
  3. Writers Fear Rejection. Never having shared a story is easy. You can tell yourself people would love it if they heard it, but you don’t have to face reality. Once you’ve published something, it’s out there. Receiving no comments at all or negative comments hurts. Completely pierces your heart. You doubt your message, you doubt your calling, you doubt your worth. It’s crucial to get positive feedback. Let me back-track a bit. Maybe I should say constructive feedback. I’m not advocating trading favorable reviews with other authors or buying reviews. But I am saying reviews—good reviews—are necessary. They help get your work in front of other readers, and they help validate your efforts. But only honest good reviews will make a difference. And figuring out how to get them is really hard. Even if people love your writing, they have no real motivation to tell you or others. If they hate it, they might want to rant about it, though. That’s why negative reviews are more powerful than positive ones. And that’s why writers fret over it.
  4. Writers Aren’t Business Experts.
    Well, let me amend that. Successful writers have to learn to become business experts. But chances are, if you write fiction, you’re a creative-type. And, being one myself, I know that creatives aren’t necessarily the best at corporate minutiae. But these days, writers have to be. Writers write because they want to share stories with the world. But writers have to learn marketing, merchandising, distribution, bookkeeping… and every task on the business end takes them away from what they really want to do. Write. It’s a demand on the time and resources that no writer wants to sacrifice but every writer must endure.
  5. Writers Aren’t Patient.
    This last one deals with the traditional definition of publishing. Not hitting “post” on a blog article, but actually working with a publishing house to get a book released. Did you know it can take two years from when you submit your work to when it actually hits the shelves? Then you’re supposed to develop an audience for it, market it (even though you don’t have it yet), and all the while you should be creating new content. If you miss a deadline, your work can be delayed. If the publisher misses a deadline, your work will be delayed. The next time you’re complaining about an author not releasing book 12 in her series exactly nine months after book 11, remember it might not be her fault. That book was probably written years ago. It just hasn’t made it through the queue yet.

So what can you, the reader, do to make your favorite authors feel better? Chances are, if you have a favorite author, it’s because he or she has delivered more than one or two good works, so you think you don’t need to show your support.

Sorry, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Writers need reviews so their work has the potential to reach other readers. They need to know what you liked and what you didn’t like so they can better serve your needs/meet your expectations in the future. They need you to recommend them to friends and family… a personal recommendation goes so much further than an offhand comment from a random stranger. They need you to share their posts and Tweets. They need your help.

thank-you-391055_1280

And what do you get out of it?

Other than more good content, that is?

How about our undying gratitude and respect? That two minutes you spend on a share, review, or comment will garner you a lifetime of good will from us.

And I know, because I’m grateful to each and every single one of you.

My challenge to you—support an author today. Leave a comment on a website, a review on a sales page. Type a comment on Facebook or retweet an author’s content. It will cost you no money and next to no time. But it will make a difference in some author’s life.

Have a great day, friends. I plan on spending the day writing.

Fireworks Aren’t Always in the Sky

Here’s a short story starring Franki and Gianni. This takes place after the end of Bleeding Heart. (Part way through Mind Controlactually, although this won’t be found in that book.) I hope you enjoy it.


Fireworks Aren’t Always in the Sky

villa lanteFranki stood on the travertine-tiled patio and rubbed her arms against the night chill. Weather in Florence, Italy reminded her of weather at home in Pennsylvania—nearly ninety degrees (Fahrenheit) during the day and low sixties at night, but for some reason, that evening’s breeze blew exceptionally brisk. Unprepared for the cool wind, she’d stepped outside in a tank and shorts. And regretted it immediately.

But the view captivated her, so she stayed and braced herself against the cool air.

The Brotherhood’s home in Pennsylvania was beautiful. Their compound in New York was gorgeous. But their complex in Florence? It simply stole her breath. And she and her sisters knew quality properties. They’d been raised in the construction and design industries, and since the death of her father, were the owners of one of the most prestigious building and design firms in Pittsburgh.

It didn’t take her construction knowledge to know she stood on private property overlooking one of Italy’s most beautiful—and non-touristy—creations. The house behind her rivaled any palace or basilica she’d toured in her first visit to the country. The grounds, however, captured her interest at the moment. The hedge mazes and topiary created shadow-play on the paths as marble statuary gleamed a luminescent hue of white and water in the grottos sparkled from moonlight, star shine, and discrete lighting fixtures. The burbling fountains composed an organic melody, harmonizing with the chirping crickets.

Gianni walked up behind her and wrapped his arms around her. The warmth she felt from his arms over hers and his torso against her back spread through her body.

And caused her to shiver all over again.

“Cold?” he asked. “It’s a beautiful night.”

She smiled and leaned back against him, not revealing what caused her latest shiver. “The wind just gave me a chill. It is a beautiful night, though.”

“The glow flies are out. June’s nearly over.”

She tipped her head up and looked at him. “Glow flies?”

nighttime gardensHe nodded toward the hedge maze. “Glow flies. Those little floating blinking lights in the garden. You have them in the States.”

A chuckle escaped her. “Yes, we do. But we call them fireflies. Or lightning bugs.”

He kissed her neck and said, “Hmm.” The vibrations from his lips on her skin gave her another shiver. “I don’t like the sound of lightning bugs.” He nuzzled her neck. “Fireflies is kind of nice, though.”

“I think I like glow flies. And I love it when our cultures merge.”

He kissed her neck again. “Mmm. Me, too. I love it when we merge even more.”

Franki giggled. “I love it here. But I wish we were home for the festivities next week.”

His lips grazed against her shoulder. “Festivities?”

She sighed. “The Fourth of July.”

Gianni didn’t answer. He continued pressing his lips on her arms, her shoulder blades. The nape of her neck.

She shuddered again. “Independence Day?”

“I know what it is,” he murmured. “I just didn’t realize it was next week.”

“The food, the fireworks, the festival… music and dancing and seeing the whole town come out to celebrate.” She sighed. “I love that. I’m going to miss it.”

“Let me see if I can take your mind off it, then.”

He led her inside, and she saw fireworks that night.

*    *    *

They continued their work for the next week, and Franki tried not to fixate on missing yet another hometown comfort. She was pleasantly surprised when, on July 4, Gianni and Donni threw together a picnic that would rival any festival back home.

fried doughPlatters of pasta salads, grilled vegetables, and antipastos sat on the table between pulled pork, sausages, burgers, and dogs… all with fresh-baked rolls to put them in. Trays of grilled chicken and barbecued ribs nearly overflowed. Two huge bowls held fresh cut fruit, and sugar-dusted mounds of fried dough sat ready to be topped with gelato, fruit compotes, chopped nuts, homemade hot fudge and salted-caramel sauces, and vanilla-flavored whipped cream.

Why those two idiots loved to work in the kitchen, Franki would never understand. And she’d never complain. Everything was delicious.

After dinner, everyone took drinks out to the patio and settled down to digest their food. Franki sipped on coffee laced with Frangelico. The twins had glasses of Galliano. Jo and Vinnie had beer. The other guys had wine. She’d be content to taste everyone’s drinks, and after feeling comfortably fuzzy from the liquor, slip off to bed.

She sighed.

“What’s the matter?” Gianni asked.

“Nothing,” she said.

“Franki, you’re a lousy liar. What’s wrong?”

“I don’t want to sound ungrateful.”

He waited, staring at her. The others had broken into pairs and talked quietly to each other. She turned toward Gianni, took his hand, and squeezed it. “You worked so hard today. Everything was wonderful. Delicious. I couldn’t ask for more.”

“But you want more?” he said.

“I just miss the fireworks. Despite the perfect picnic, it just doesn’t feel like the Fourth without fireworks.”

“I see.” He fumbled with something in his pocket.

“When I was little, I used to call them ‘a glittery extravaganza in the sky.’”

“Big words.” He sent a text and then looked at her. “How little?”

“I don’t know. Papa teased me about it for years, though.”

“It’s cute.”

“I guess he thought so, anyway.” She looked away from him, out over the gardens. Talking about her recently-deceased father still made her sad.

“Would fireworks tonight make you happy?”

Why dwell on something she couldn’t have. “I’m happy now, Gianni. Really.”

“So, I should cancel tonight’s festivities?”

She so loved his ‘festivities.’ She’d never say no to that. He’d provide her with her own personal fireworks, and that would be an excellent cap to the evening.

“Do you want to go upstairs now?” she asked.

He laughed and shook his head. “You and your one-track mind.”

She looked at him and raised her eyebrow. They didn’t have a language barrier, but every now and then, he confused her. “What are you talking about?”

Gianni sent a final text, then he nodded toward the gardens. “Watch.”

Italy_fireworksShe heard a faint whistle, then the sky exploded into sparkling embers of violet and gold. A loud boom echoed over the gardens, so loud she felt the air shake with the strength of it.

Fireworks.

Spinning toward Gianni, she flung her arms around him and planted a firm kiss on his lips.

He laughed and pulled away. “Turn around, cara. I don’t want you to miss the show.”

She leaned against his chest and watched as the sky sparkled with explosion after explosion of colorful mortars. The finale rivaled any she’d ever seen before.

Franki turned and wrapped her arms around him, and this time he didn’t turn her away. “You did all this for me?”

“Well, I am a joint citizen…”

She kissed him.

“I just want to make you happy, Franki. Always.”

She held him tight, head pressed against his chest. She felt the heat of his body, heard his heartbeat through the thick silence the end of the show left behind.

She pulled away and looked at him. “How about one more show?”

He frowned. “I think they set everything off, cara. I could call and—”

Franki put her finger over his lips, stopping him from continuing. She shook her head and smiled. “I mean the kind of festivities I thought you meant earlier. A private show.”

He stood, pulled her to her feet, and addressed everyone sitting outside. “Donni and I cooked. The rest of you are on dishes. Goodnight.”

They didn’t wait for an answer. He swept Franki off her feet and carried her upstairs for the second finale of the night.

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