Tag: Bleeding Heart (page 2 of 2)

John Notaro—A Prequel to Bleeding Heart

This scene is a prequel to Bleeding Heart, releasing later this month. It gives a bit of backstory concerning the heroine’s father, John Notaro.


John Notaro

Bleeding Heart 7:00 pm. Foundry. Come alone. Don’t be late.

The message hardly surprised him. John had been receiving texts from an untraceable number for a while. Would have considered them pranks, but the sender knew too much. Saw too much. The pictures of his girls would have been enough to make him take the texts seriously. The threatening captions—We can get to them anywhere. Anytime.—sealed the deal for him.

He knew the cops would be useless, so he turned to Sal Trunzo. His handler. His protector. Sal did everything he could to trace the texts, but so far had no luck. He and Sal spent days in private meetings going over every contact John had, every person—no matter how innocuous their connection—John might be in contact with. It all proved futile. They had no idea who was contacting him. John knew his time was running out.

Then the last text came.

John trusted Sal and his partners with his life. He had to, and so far he hadn’t been disappointed. But something told him all that was about to change. He forwarded the text to Sal, the reply coming within seconds. I’ll handle it. We’ll be in place, just like we discussed. Don’t be early. Give us time to scout, get in place.

He sent his daughters home. Wiped his cell history. Left his wallet and wedding ring at his office. If the meeting didn’t go well, and he didn’t expect it would, he didn’t want to leave any trace of what was going on. And he really wanted to be certain his family got his belongings.

John took a look around his office. A last look? Pride and accomplishment puffed his chest out before crippling sadness deflated him. Everywhere he looked wasn’t just success. He saw family. Donni had decorated their headquarters top to bottom, from the lobby to the conference rooms to the individual cubicles and offices. Toni added all the hardscape and softscape outside, every plant, bench, and sculpture lovingly selected. Jo spearheaded the construction of this building just a year earlier, working off Franki’s creative designs.

His first building had been a place to get work done. This building was an extension of his family. Leaving it would break his heart.

Leaving his family would devastate him.

Not that he’d be around to deal with it.

John turned out the lights, ran his fingers through the cascading waterfall in the lobby, and stepped outside. When he heard the click as he locked the door, it seemed to echo through the empty parking lot.

It sounded so final.

Even in the snow, the Pittsburgh skyline stole his breath. The city was lit in the early February darkness, thousands of pinpoints of light glowing through the winter storm. He drove the icy roads from his Mt. Washington office, through the city, down the parkway and across the highways, all the way to his hometown of Vandergrift… and with hardly a slip on the snow-covered surface. Even in the blizzard, he had no trouble following the route he’d taken most of his adult life. If it weren’t for other cars on the road, he could probably drive it blindfolded. He knew the route by every twist, every turn. Every bump and tilt.

Bleeding HeartA tear rolled down his cheek when he passed the sign welcoming him to Vandergrift.

John fought the urge to drive past his house. He wanted a last look at it, but he didn’t think he’d be strong enough to avoid going in. And once he entered, his family would never let him leave again. That would put the danger on them. And he determined they’d never be affected. Never learn the truth.

Instead, he drove straight to his destination. The drive went too fast. He was early. But he trusted Sal and his group to be ready and in position. The buildings were dark, the parking lot empty. Even the foundry had apparently closed for inclement weather. Just as well. He didn’t want anyone else to get hurt. Hopefully Sal could put an end to this tonight.

Who was he kidding? It would never truly be over. If Sal saved him tonight, there would always be another threat, another location, another night.

He climbed out of the car, held his coat together against the bracing wind. His phone beeped, and he took it out of his pocket. Maybe it was Sal.

Last chance. Will you work with us?

John sighed. Not Sal.

If only it were that simple. It wasn’t just working with an enemy, it was signing his soul over to the devil. God help him, fear washed over him and he considered it. But in the end, he knew it was wrong.

With trembling fingers, he typed his response. Never.

The response was instantaneous. And exactly what he dreaded. Wrong answer.

The shadows started moving. First, he made out one figure. Then another. And a third. He saw weapons in their hands, realized his worst fears had come to fruition, prayed Sal would intervene in time.

When the first figure stepped into the light, panic clawed at his heart.

It was so much worse than he’d imagined.


I hope you enjoyed this little bit of backstory to Bleeding Heart. If you’re interested in reading more, visit the Bleeding Heart page on this site (purchase links are available there), my Bleeding Heart Pinterest board, or a sample chapter from the sidebar.

Setting the Scene

Pittsburgh_skyline7Most people think Western Pennsylvania and immediately think Pittsburgh. And it’s a good thing that comes to mind. Pittsburgh is one of the country’s Most Livable Cities, and with good reason. It has so much to offer.

Casinos offer not just gaming, but entertainment and great food, as well. Or grab a bite at any of the fabulous eateries from sandwich shops to gourmet restaurants.

The Three Rivers boasts the most bridges in the US, and the city appeals to all water recreationists, from boaters and Jet Skiers to those who prefer fine dining and dancing on the Gateway Clipper Fleet.

There are three different professional sports teams, so there’s something to do and someone to cheer for all year long. If the arts are more your thing, attend one of the performances by symphonies, ballet troupes, or play actors. Looking for something more casual? The ’Burgh offers amusement parks and zoos, museums and science centers, conservatories and observatories. Education to recreation, playing hard or taking it easy… Pittsburgh offers something for everyone.

My new novel, Bleeding Heart, takes place in Pittsburgh, as well as in my hometown of Vandergrift. While Pittsburgh’s claim to fame is all it has to offer, Vandergrift offers all the quiet and camaraderie of small town living.

vandergriftVandergrift is the first worker-owned, industrially-planned town in the US. Planned by famed designer Frederick Law Olmsted, it has curved tree-lined streets, ball parks and tennis courts, a swimming pool and downtown thoroughfare. I can’t think of a better place to have grown up—it had all the charm and friendliness of an intimate neighborhood with easy access to the busy city.

I hope you have a chance to visit Western Pennsylvania and see everything it has to offer. Or you can visit my Pinterest page to see many more Pittsburgh and Vandergrift photos. And I hope you pick up a copy of Bleeding Heart, and check out a new piece of fiction set in a gorgeous part of the country.

What’s your hometown? Or where do you live now? What makes it so special? Let’s talk about it.

#CoverReveal—Bleeding Heart, #PNR #Romance #Novel

medici protectorateAt long last, several years in the making, the first book in the paranormal romance series that’s so near and dear to my heart is about to be published.

May 12, Lagan Press will release Book 1 of the Medici Protectorate Series, Bleeding Heart. The idea for the series began with my grandfather and the stories he told about our heritage. This is clearly a work of fiction, but because it came to be from stories of my Italian ancestry, it’s a project I’m really excited about.

Today, I’m pleased to share with you the first look at the cover.

Bleeding Heart takes place in my home state (parts even in my hometown of Vandergrift), and the cover prominently features what I think is the most beautiful skyline in the world—Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Here’s the back cover description:

In the heart of Pittsburgh awaits a secret nearly half a millennium in the making…

After her father’s brutal murder, Franki discovers she and her three sisters are the sole-surviving secret legacy of the Medici. The same people who brutally murdered her father now target her and her family for assassination. Unprepared to battle an unknown enemy, she finds her safety depends on the Medici Protectorate, the warriors who guarded her bloodline for centuries. The same warriors who failed to protect her father.

Gianni, Franki’s protector, blows his first meeting with her but knows he must garner the trust of not only Franki, but also her sisters. Without that, he fails, too, and that is unacceptable—not only to him but also to the Protectorate. His troubles only grow more difficult, for as he assumes his new role, he also undergoes inexplicable, explosive physical changes… transformations he can’t control. One of those is his uncontainable desire for Franki.

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

Here’s a brief glimpse inside:

He leaned toward her, and her breath caught. Finally, he was going to kiss her again, and put her out of her misery. Public be damned. She didn’t care if he had his way with her on the hood of her car.

They stood so close she felt his body heat through her clothes, his breath on her face. She looked up at him, and her lips parted.

And he reached behind her and opened her car door.

“Get in the car, Franki,” he said, and pushed on the top of her head.

I hope you enjoyed this sneak peak into the first installment of the Medici Protectorate Series. More is soon to follow, so stay tuned! (And if you can’t wait, go ahead and post comments below. I’ll be more than happy to talk with you about it.)

Catherine Medici and the Occult Mirror

divination mirror

Thanks to my sister, Michele, for sending me a photo of a family heirloom… not quite as old as the Medici mirror, though.

In the time of the Renaissance, the discipline known as alchemy saw its practitioners combine philosophy, science, occultism, and theology in their pursuits to understand and improve the world[1]. Many of these men were themselves in the religious life, where others hid their studies and experiments in fear of retribution from the church.

Whether hiding or practicing in plain sight, one thing remains clear: alchemy was the stepping stone to sciences we know today.

So why did the mystical element come into play? Alchemists were searching not only to make sense of our universe, but to extend life (in some cases indefinitely) and create wealth[2]. More than science and prayer would be needed to achieve these goals, and magicians, whether well-regarded or in disfavor, had been around for centuries. Many experiments were conducted combining “magical” properties and scientific ones.

Mirrors held a special place in the worlds of occult and alchemy, because they were used for catoptromancy[3] (the use of reflective surfaces to see past, present, or future events). Some say they were first used by the witches of Thessaly, who wrote their visions on them in human blood. Others believe the Persians, specifically the Magi, first used them for divination[4].

These “mirrors” could really be any reflective surface: a bottle of water, a pool, a slab of obsidian, or an actual looking glass. Mirrors with flowers on them (or even the word “flower”) were thought to be satanic tools, as St. Cyprian said the devil sometimes appeared in the shape of a flower[5].

Medici

Catherine de Medici—By Piero d’Houin dit Inocybe [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Catherine de Medici was said to have one of these magic mirrors, and she supposedly used it extensively to help her predict her future, and the future of France itself[6].

And this is where my story comes into play.

Lagan Press will be releasing the first of my Medici Protectorate Series in May. Bleeding Heart follows Francesca (Franki) and her sisters as they learn they are actually the only living descendants of the Medici family. Warriors from the Medici Protectorate are assigned to keep them safe. Franki has inherited a mirror—likely Catherine de Medici’s mirror—and she has a vision depicting a dangerous situation. Her personal guardian, Gianni, was there. But was he there to save her, or was he the cause of the danger? (You can read more about Bleeding Heart here and about the Medici Protectorate Series here.)

I hope you’re enjoying these snippets of research I used as I wrote my novel. I found so much of this history fascinating, and there is way too much to include in the story, so I’m sharing some of it here with you.

Do you have an interest in the history of alchemy? Do you know anything about it? Do you believe people can see things when they meditate? I’d love to discuss this. Leave a comment below.


[1] https://explorable.com/renaissance-alchemy
[2] https://explorable.com/renaissance-alchemy
[3] http://www.psychic-revelation.com/reference/a_d/catoptromancy/
[4] http://www.djmcadam.com/mirrors.htm
[5] http://www.djmcadam.com/mirrors.htm
[6] http://www.occultopedia.com/m/mirror.htm

Setting Descriptions in Novels Reveal Character Details

I write different genres. One style of storytelling just didn’t enable me to say everything I want to say. I’ve already released a mystery, which lets me explore crime and problem-solving skills, and a mainstream novel, which lets me explore characters and their motivations. Both of these genres let me do what interests me most—delve into relationships and family dynamics. And the novel that’s coming out this spring? It’s a paranormal romance, but the main point of the story is, once again, relationships.

Pittsburgh_skyline7That said, I get to do something in my new series that I haven’t done before. Explore Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh is near and dear to my heart. My hometown is only about forty minutes away. It’s the city I spent much of my time in as I grew up. I went to college there. All my favorite sports teams play there. If you’ve ever been there, you know it’s amazing. And if you haven’t, you really should go.

The things to do and see there are too numerous to count. I’ll introduce a smattering of them over the coming weeks. But today, I want to talk about the museum. Specifically, the art museum, as Pittsburgh has several museums.

If you thought museums were boring or for only student field trips and upper crust society, you couldn’t be more wrong. There’s something for everyone at a museum.

And they’ve been in the news a lot recently. If you watch international news, you’ve heard about the museum in Tunisia. I want to turn the conversation to something happier.

The Carnegie Museum of Art has a Hall of Architecture, in which is housed the largest plaster cast collection in the US (third largest in the world) with almost 140 pieces. These are full-sized pieces, one of which is the largest in the world.

hall of architectureIn my novel, Bleeding Heart, the female lead studied architecture and (both in college and in her current life) spent a lot of time in the Hall of Architecture. I drew on personal experience for this part, because in college, I also spent a lot of time there. (I would now, too, but I live too far away.) Of particular interest to her is the cast of the Porch of the Maidens.

In Greece, the Erechtheion is a temple on the side of the Acropolis in Athens. It was dedicated to Poseidon and Athena. On this temple is a porch with six supporting columns sculpted in the shape of women—desirable and strong women—presumably holding up the stone roof as they gaze at the Parthenon. In Pittsburgh, the front four maidens are displayed in the museum, a life-sized cast depicting both the power and beauty of the feminine form.

My main character is focused on these four women, in part for their aesthetics, but also because she is one of four sisters. She is drawn to these figures, and we learn interesting facts about our lead through her study of the work.

Writers, consider your setting in your WIP. Setting descriptions in novels can be used to reveal so much about characters and plot. I’m not recommending you spend pages and pages describing a place, but a few well-placed details can not only ground your reader, but impart necessary information about the characters.

Readers, pay attention to the details writers give you about the setting in their novels. Writers don’t waste words, so if the information is in there, it’s important. Many people gloss over those setting descriptions as nothing more than purple prose, but in reality, those descriptions might hold clues to the characters that you would otherwise have missed.

If the Porch of the Maidens interests you, visit this site for more information.

If the Hall of Architecture interests you, visit this site for more information.

If Pittsburgh museums interest you, visit this site for more information.

And if Bleeding Heart interests you, visit this page on my site for more information.

I’d love to hear what you like about Pittsburgh, what’s going on in your WIP, what settings helped you better understand characters and plot in novels you’ve read. Let’s discuss it. Comment below.

A Cross-Genre Conversation Between Characters

If you’re a regular visitor here, you know I’m a multi-genre author. (Actually, if you even glanced at the header, you know that. 😉 ) Sometimes it’s difficult marketing to different readers on the same platform, so I thought I’d do something a little different today. I’m going to introduce Royce and Vanessa (lead characters from Type and Cross, the first novel in my mainstream fiction series) to Gianni and Franki (lead characters from Bleeding Heart, the first novel in my romance series).

Maybe this will entice readers of one genre to try the other.

Maybe this will indicate similar themes in my writing, even as I work in two totally different worlds.

Maybe this will be a huge failure. (Oh well, live and learn, right?)

Without further ado, a merging of the Cathedral Lake residents and the Medici Protectorate.


Cathedral Lake 41_EmeraldEM-ViewRoyce and Vanessa packed the remains of their picnic back into the basket and folded the blanket. He took one last look at the lake, its dark water gently rippling and reflecting the clouds above on its surface. He looked over to the far shore, where families frolicked and lovers held hands. The terrain might be rockier on his side of the lake, but he’d never trade the privacy for the congestion of a flat beach.

He helped Vanessa climb the hill, and when they walked around one of the larger rocks, he almost stumbled over two people reclining at its base.

Reclining might be generous. The guy looked like he’d collapsed there. The woman fretted over him.

Royce dropped the basket and blanket to the ground and stooped down. “What happened?” He grabbed the man’s wrist, checking his pulse.

The woman batted his hand away. “Who are you? What do you want? What are you doing here?”

He recognized the signs of panic and desperation, drew on his expertise of years as an ER doctor to try to calm her even as he assessed the situation. “My name’s Royce. This is Vanessa. We were picnicking about a hundred yards that way.” He tilted his head back in the direction they’d come from. “We just came across you by accident.”

“He’s a doctor,” Vanessa said. “He can help.”

“No one sent you to find us?” the woman asked.

“No, no one sent us.” Royce reached for the man’s hand again. “I’m going to check his pulse. Can you tell me what happened?”

The woman didn’t move, but didn’t stop him that time. She shook her head, and tears formed in her eyes.

“Oh, honey,” Vanessa said. “It’s okay. It’ll be okay. Royce is the best.”

The woman squared her shoulders and wiped the tears away. “I know. Gianni will be fine. Everything is fine. You… you should go.”

“How long has—Gianni—been like this?” He was unconscious, but his pulse was strong and his coloring good. Royce couldn’t see any indication of what had caused his condition.

The woman bit her lip and stayed silent.

“What’s your name?” Vanessa asked.

She looked back and forth between the two of them and finally whispered. “Francesca. Franki.”

“Well, Franki,” Royce said. “I can’t help him if I don’t know what happened.” He took his phone out of his pocket.

“No!” Franki cried. “Not 9-1-1. No emergency people, no cops. Nobody.”

Royce looked them over carefully. The man wore boots, jeans, and a t-shirt, but they all looked like expensive brands… designer, and not knock-offs. The woman had on yoga pants, sneakers, and an old football jersey. Nothing about either of them said “Dangerous Criminal.” On the contrary, they looked like nice, normal folks. But something was wrong.

He swiped up on his phone screen to access the control center and touched the flashlight icon. Then he showed her the LED light glowing. “Not calling anyone. Just checking his pupils.” When he reached for Gianni’s eyelid, the man shook and jumped to his feet in front of Franki, knocking Royce back. He stood there, one arm out protecting her, the other searching for something behind him.

Royce had never seen anyone move so quickly, particularly someone so large. He scrambled to his feet and pulled Vanessa behind him. Nothing nice and normal about them, now. Everything about the guy screamed “Dangerous,” from his aggressive stance to his rapid, fighter-like movements.

“Gianni, right?” Royce asked. Vanessa’s nails dug into his arms even as he held them out in a we’re-not-your-enemies gesture.

Gianni pulled Franki further behind him. The muscles in his other arm flexed. He must have found what he was looking for. Royce didn’t want to know what that was. “Yeah. What’s it to you?”

“Yeah,” he said. “What’s it to you?”

“My name is Royce. I’m a doctor. My wife and I stumbled across you while we were walking to our car. I was trying to tend to you wounds, but I couldn’t find any. Want to tell me what happened? You might need to go to the ER.”

“I don’t need anything. I’m fine. Fast healer.”

Franki touched his arm and he bent down to let her whisper in his ear. He never took his eyes off Royce and Vanessa. When she finished talking to him, she stepped out from behind him. Gianni didn’t relax, but he shifted his gaze to her.

“I’m afraid we owe you an apology. You were just trying to help, and I think we scared you.”

Vanessa stepped out from behind Royce. When he went to shield her again, she batted him away. Holding out her hand to Gianni, she said, “I’m Vanessa. Nice to meet you.”

Gianni looked at her hand and glanced at Franki, then his whole body seemed to relax. He fiddled behind him for a second, then smiled, lighting up his features. Then he took her hand. “The pleasure is ours. I can just imagine what you must be thinking. My apologies. It’s just that Francesca is my responsibility, and—”

“Oh, give it a rest. I’m a person, not a job.” She shook Royce’s hand. “Thank you for trying to help us. I’m sorry I wasn’t more agreeable. But a girl can’t be too careful these days.”

“So, a doctor, huh?” Gianni asked and looked Royce over.

“ER,” he said.

“Chief of Emergency Medicine at Oakland Regional,” Vanessa said.

“Former Chief.” Royce shot her a pointed stare, which she didn’t seem to notice.

“Former? Are you retired?” Gianni asked.

“No, not retired.” He saw Gianni stiffen, recognized he’d better offer more information before things took an unnecessary, ugly turn. “We had a tragedy in the family recently. I’m taking a break, reassessing my future.”

Gianni continued to stare at him, while Franki said, “I’m sorry to hear that. I hope you find what you’re looking for. Family tragedies really make you think about the future…” Her voice trailed off, and Gianni put his arm around her. Tears welled in her eyes again.

“Are you okay?” Vanessa asked.

She nodded.

“Look,” Gianni said. “We got off on the wrong foot, and for that, I’m sorry. But in all honestly, I’m not sure it’s even safe for you to be seen with us right now.” He started to turn away.

Vanessa touched his arm. “Are you all right? Can we help?”

Royce didn’t know that he wanted to be involved with a weepy woman and a barbarian of a man who basically flat-out stated they were a danger to be around, but he admired Vanessa for asking. No one ever offered them assistance when they most needed it. Leave it to her to remember how lonely that felt and try to help.

Again he smiled at her, but this time the warmth didn’t reach his eyes. “That’s kind of you to ask. But we have help. We just need to get home.”

“I have a first aid kit in my car,” Royce said and scanned him head to toe. “You’re welcome to any bandages or—”

“Thanks, but I’m fine.” Gianni said. “Like I said, I’m a fast healer.”

“You’re sure you’re okay?” Vanessa asked.

“You’ve been very kind,” Franki said. “Thank you. We won’t forget it.” And they turned and walked away.

It didn’t escape Royce’s notice that Gianni’s shirt was untucked in the back, and there was some kind of bulge under it. He couldn’t help but feel like they dodged a bullet. Maybe literally. He didn’t stop looking after them until they made it to the tree line.

“Do you think they’ll be okay?” Vanessa asked.

He shook his head. “I don’t know. Nothing seemed to be wrong with him, once he gained consciousness. Wonder why he passed out.”

“I don’t mean that. I mean what he said about being seen with them was dangerous. Someone must be after them. Or her, at least. He said his job was to protect her.”

Royce shrugged. “I don’t know.”

“I think there’s more there than bodyguard-client. Maybe if—”

He looked at her. “Really? Matchmaking now for perfect strangers? Potentially dangerous strangers? Let it go, Ness.”

“I think they’re going to make it.”

Royce scooped up his phone, the picnic basket, and the blanket. “I think we’re going to make it.”

She smiled and kissed him. “As soon as we get home.” She winked and headed up the hill toward their car. “Race you!”

It surprised him that she scuttled so quickly up the rocky terrain, but then again, she was motivated. And so was he. So he scrambled up the hill after her, thoughts already on the evening activities her comment promised.


Type and Cross, Book One of the Cathedral Lake Series, is a  Foyle Press book and is available for purchase now.
For more information, visit the Type and Cross page on this site.

Bleeding Heart, Book One of the Medici Protectorate Series, is a Lagan Press book and will be available this spring.
For more information, visit the Bleeding Heart page on this site.

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