Staci Troilo

Suspense, Passion... Fiction That Flutters The Heart

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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].


Catherine de Medici—By Piero d’Houin dit Inocybe [CC 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.


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.

Why I’m Giving Away My Novel… For FREE

Cathedral Lake Series Book 1If you’ve read the title, you’re probably wondering what’s wrong with me. Why would I spend all the time and energy that goes into writing/editing/publishing a novel just to give it away? I must be crazy, right?

Well, maybe a little. But not because I’m giving my book away. For other reasons, though. (Anyone who knows my obsession with light switches facing the right way could attest to that.)

I worked hard on my novel. Really hard. And I think I probably worked even harder editing it. That kind of effort should be rewarded, not handed out to the masses. Or should it?

See, studies have shown that if you give your content away, you’ll reach a larger audience. That only makes sense. I wouldn’t necessarily shell out any money—let alone a substantial amount—for an unknown author or book. But if the description appeals to me, I’ll pick it up for free and check it out.

And that’s the premise behind giving the novel away. Not only do authors hope to reach a broader audience by giving their work away, they hope their new fans will be interested in reading more of their work, and will recommend them to their friends and family. After all, word-of-mouth marketing and repeat customers are the best methods of cultivating a fan base. And, as writers, we really want a strong fan base because we really want to share our stories and ideas with the world.

Just as important as reader numbers is review numbers. People look at reviews on Amazon to determine whether they’re interested in reading a book or not.

That’s why I’ve listed my novel on the Story Cartel website. There are several benefits:

  • The book is only offered free for a limited time, so I won’t always “lose money” on it.
  • The readers are asked to leave an honest review on Amazon in exchange for the download. There is no pressure to give a favorable review; if a reader doesn’t like the novel, constructive criticism is perfectly acceptable.
  • More people visit the Story Cartel website than my own site, so I have a broader audience to offer my work to.
  • Even if you aren’t a marketing guru, your personalized book page can be seen on various social media sites and shared by readers to their followers.

Please consider supporting authors and expanding your reading list by visiting Story Cartel, downloading a novel, leaving a review, and telling your friends. You’ll get to expand your library and you’ll help an author in the process.

To get your free copy of Type and Cross, please click on the hyperlink. And, if you download a copy, thanks in advance for your review. I hope you enjoy the novel.

Here’s an excerpt:

Type and Cross

Cutting Room Floor

If you’ve been following me on social media (And if you aren’t, why aren’t you? The links are right there in the sidebar!), then you know this week I’ve been focused on Halloween. So of course you’re expecting a post today—on Halloween— about the holiday. Right?


Today, I expect you’ll celebrate the holiday however you like (or maybe not at all), so you don’t need me to tell you what to do. Instead, I’m bringing in friend and fellow writer P.C. Zick to talk about her novel, Native Lands, and to share with us a scene that didn’t make the cut. (Lucky for us, she gave us a sample of what did make the cut, too.)

So, without further ado, I give you P.C.

Native Lands – The Cutting Room Floor

Native LandsMy new release Native Lands made it through many twists and turns from its inception in 2006 to its publication this month. Eight years, three titles, and 40,000 cut words later, the novel finally made it to the publication stage this week. While the cutting room floor is littered with debris, not all is lost—the litter may very well become my next novel.

The concept for Native Lands began when I was assigned a series of freelance articles that led me to research destroyed mangroves, endangered wildlife, and extinct tribes of native Floridians. As I read and traveled the peninsula of Florida in pursuit of the stories, I kept coming back to the connection all living things have with one another. I began writing a novel with the working title of Connecting the Dots. A member of my writers’ group at the time suggested the title was too clichéd. I knew he was right, but I kept it until a better choice presented itself.

When I needed to interview wildlife officers for more information about the Everglades for the novel, serendipity occurred. I accepted a job with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission as a public relations director. For four years, I interviewed and interpreted wildlife managers and officers. I didn’t work on Connecting the Dots, but I knew my day job was providing me with plenty of substance for my fiction.

When I pulled the novel out in 2012, I changed the name to Safe Harbors, which is the name of the development in the novel that threatens to destroy many parts of the state, including the Everglades.

I began finishing the first draft early in 2014. The Native American tribe, the Timucuans, thought to have become extinct in north Florida 200 years after the Spanish invasion, nagged at me. When I visited my daughter in St. Augustine where the Timucuan village of Seloy existed until around 1780, I felt ghosts moving the pen across my journal. I wrote scenes from Seloy in 1760 when the warrior Locka decides it’s time for them to move south before they do become extinct from disease and bullets.

Then the title Native Lands sprang to life as the final choice. With Locka’s story paralleling the story of 2012 Floridians fighting developers, I added nearly 40,000 words to the manuscript bringing it in at around 130,000 words—far too many for the majority of the reading public.

Between my beta readers and my editor, I knew I had to make some important changes. I fine-tuned the point of view so the reader clearly understood who the main characters and the antagonist were. I eliminated and combined characters. And I threw out anything that didn’t contribute to the movement of the plot toward the climax of the story. It was a grueling and painful process, and for days, I wondered if the book was worth saving.

Then I went to work. Once I had a clear vision in my mind of what I needed to do, the incisions into the plot became easier.

Recently I found an old blog post about Native Lands that I wrote soon after I started the drafting stage. I must have liked it enough to post it, but it’s a scene that’s now on the cutting room floor.

Barbara walked closer to the nest to inspect its size. She glanced back at the three young people now sitting on a blanket nearby. Sam turned toward her with his swimming trunks hiked up high on his thighs. She noticed the tattoo immediately. Her eyes drifted to Lori who sat facing the ocean, her bare back to Barbara exposing a similar tattoo.

Native Lands“Are your tattoos identical?” Barbara asked.

“Lori’s has a female protector over the heart. That’s the only difference,” Sam said.

“Our mom has one identical to mine,” Lori said. “She said it was a tradition in her family.”

“What about your father? Does he have one?” Barbara asked.

“He died when we were young,” Sam said. “We don’t remember him.”

Barbara asked no more questions, but as the rest continued talking about protecting the sea turtle nest, Barbara wondered how old Mike’s lost children might be.

Mangrove Mike did not speak of years and dates. He was the age of the seasons that ruled the moments of his life.

He often said life had no beginning; life had no end. It only existed now.

Why did I cut a scene I liked? The plot needed to move in a different direction. A friend of mine who was a successful author once told me if I loved a piece of prose too much, it probably meant it needed to go. He was trying to tell me to remove myself from my writing and view it with an objective eye. Just because I wrote it, doesn’t mean it’s chiseled into a rock. It’s been invaluable advice.

Native Lands reads much differently than the original novel I started in 2006. And there’s a file on my computer with 40,000 words of something that might just make its way into my next novel.

Here’s an excerpt from Native Lands that didn’t make its way to the cutting room floor. Locka prepares to lead members of his tribe to the Everglades from St. Augustine, Florida, in 1760:

Native LandsThe entire party would consist of six couples, four warriors, and four young children. Four of the women bulged with new life. The night before departure, they gathered near the fire with the rest of the tribe. Chief Calumba and the shaman began the ceremony with prayers for the safe passage of the small tribe of Seloy. After the prayer, the Chief signaled for the four children to come forward to the fire with their parents.

“We come here this evening to tattoo our young with the new symbol of the Seloys. They will carry this throughout their life, and with the help of their parents and the other members of this group about to leave our village, they will pass on their heritage to their own children.” He turned and bowed to the village shaman.

“This symbol represents the most sacred of animals,” the shaman said as he placed a long pole in the fire. At its tip, the pole held a sharpened shark’s tooth. “The marks for both female and male will be the head of the panther. Above the female’s symbol, a sun will shine down representing the sustaining force of the female. The male mark will show the crescent moon above the panther’s head to mark the passage of time and nature’s role in the life of our people.”

Pat ZickP.C. Zick began her writing career in 1998 as a journalist. She’s won various awards for her essays, columns, editorials, articles, and fiction. She describes herself as a “storyteller” no matter the genre.

She was born in Michigan and moved to Florida in 1980. Even though she now resides in western Pennsylvania with her husband Robert, she finds the stories of Florida and its people and environment a rich base for her storytelling platform. Florida’s quirky and abundant wildlife—both human and animal—supply her fiction with tales almost too weird to be believable.

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

Her writing contains the elements most dear to her heart, ranging from love to the environment. In her novels, she advances the cause for wildlife conservation and energy conservation. She believes in living lightly upon this earth with love, laughter, and passion.


Contact and Purchase Links:

Amazon Page:

Amazon UK Page:

Barnes & Noble (Nook):

Apple iBooks:



What a Great Week!

novel in printMaybe good things do happen in threes. On Wednesday, there was a box from my publisher sitting on my porch, and look what was inside… My novel (previously only available in e-format), in print.

Now I’m at the OCW Writer’s Conference, meeting new people and having a blast. I wish every week could be this good.

Wow… Two Days in a Row!

Despite having a background in marketing, I’m unaccustomed to promoting myself. A company or product? Sure. But me? I can’t really wrap my head around selling me and my own work.

You can imagine my surprise when, as a new novelist, someone asked to interview me. Me! I’ve had some really good reviews for my novel, Mystery, Ink: Mystery Heir, but today is different. Today I answer questions about my book, my writing style and habits, and my WIP.

To see what I had to say, please visit P.C. Zick’s blog, Writing Whims.

Thanks! Hope to see you there.

What an Honor…

A big thank you goes out to Tammy Snyder at She recently reviewed my novel, Mystery, Ink.: Mystery Heir, and featured me and my book on her website.

You can read all about it here.

I hope you check out her site. It’s a wonderful collection of book reviews, contests, and author spotlights.

Thank you, Tammy!

Mystery Heir Deleted Scene

mystery novelMystery Heir follows amateur sleuth Naomi Dotson and her twin sister as they try to find a killer. The police have a man in custody, but Naomi thinks they have the wrong person. Her obsession to see justice prevail compels her to continue the investigation, resulting in dangerous and potentially life-threatening consequences.

Without further ado, I give you:

A Deleted Scene from Mystery Heir

Naomi’s sister woke her and sent her to the living room. Normally, Penelope would have gotten rid of any visitor when her sister was trying to sleep off the stress of having been robbed, but this caller was different.

No one turns the mayor away.

Naomi stumbled to the living room, trying to rub the bleariness out of her eyes. It didn’t work, so she kept trying. Her eyes would definitely be puffy and bloodshot in the morning, but that wasn’t the important thing at the moment. Dealing with Everett was.

“What can I do for you, Mayor?”

“Mayor?” Everett said. “So we’re back to formalities? Come on, Naomi. Give me a break.”

She sighed, rubbed her eyes again. “Everett, why are you here?”

“I just heard about the break-in. I wanted to be sure you were okay.”

“If you heard about the break-in, then you had to have heard I was fine. What do you really want? Did the chief send you? Or Ryan? I’m not giving up on this. The cops have the wrong guy.”

“No, Chief Clark hasn’t said a word to me. I bumped into Deputy Ryan, and he told me about the break-in. He did say you were okay, but I needed to see for myself.”

She looked at him, her vision finally clearing. His brow was furrowed into wrinkles of worry, and his gaze never stopped roving over her, like he was taking a mental inventory of possible injury sites.

“No one was there when I got home. The only thing damaged is my apartment. Well, that and my ego. I should have expected this and been more prepared.”

He raised a brow and continued to scrutinize her.

“I’m fine. Really. Look.” She flailed around like the inflatable air dancers companies used to catch the attention of passersby. “No injuries.”

He laughed at her display. “I guess we don’t need to rent those balloon people for the next festival. I can just hire you.”

“You couldn’t afford me.” She yawned and took one more swipe at her eyes.

“I’d better get going then. Let you get some rest.”

“I’ll walk you out.” She led him to the door and stepped outside with him into the chill of the October air. The night was clear, the crescent moon forming a smiley face with some of the brighter stars in the sky. Despite her ordeal earlier that evening, she found herself smiling back.

The laugh that had so easily claimed Everett just moments before vanished. He grabbed both her shoulders and held her at arms’ length. “Are you sure you’re okay, Naomi?”

“Yes. I’m really okay.”

“I was worried.”

“You don’t have to worry about me. I can take care of myself.”

He pulled her closer, looked down at her face. Their breaths mingled, a misty cloud of potential evaporating into the night. Was he going to kiss her? Did she want him to? Her heart raced, her breath caught.

“Good night, Naomi,” he said, his voice husky.

He walked away before she could react, respond.

She could no longer see him, but she could hear his footsteps, a rhythmic cadence fading away.

“Go inside and lock up,” he called.

She went inside, closed and locked the door. Only then did she manage to whisper, “Good night, Everett.”

Inspiring Blogger

I’m grateful and humbled to announce that a blogger I follow has nominated me for the Very Inspiring Blog Award. P. C. Zick (P.C. Zick in the Writing Life) is an author I met through Facebook, and she lives near my old hometown. She shares similar interests as me, and I enjoy reading her thoughts and following her work. I’m inspired by her efforts.

Here are the requirements for this award:

  1. Display the award logo on your blog.
  2. Link back to the person who nominated you.
  3. State 7 things about yourself.
  4. Nominate 15 other bloggers for this award and link to them.
  5. Notify those bloggers of the nomination and the award’s requirements.

Seven things about myself

  1. I’ve never had a cavity.
  2. I can do a split.
  3. I am the only child in my family with brown hair and brown eyes (despite those being the dominant traits and being half Italian).
  4. I’ve seen lightning strike right in front of me three times.
  5. I’ve lived through a tornado passing through my town.
  6. I played four instruments in school, clarinet for the longest.
  7. I changed my major three times in college, but still managed to graduate in four years and with good enough grades to get a scholarship to grad school.

My nominations for the Very Inspiring Blog Award – I chose the following blogs for various reasons, but each because of how it touches me. Some help me in my profession, some simply touch my soul.

  1. Sisterhood of the Traveling Pen
  2. The Red Kimono
  3. Five Reflections (prefers not to accept awards, but I find the site inspiring, nonetheless)
  4. Janna Hill
  5. InkWell
  6. My Perfect Pitch
  7. Jan Morrill
  8. Bottomline English
  9. Velda Brotherton
  10. Joy Keeney
  11. Pamela Foster
  12. Truths by Ruth
  13. Italian American Writer’s Cafe
  14. Claire Croxton
  15. A Writer’s Universe


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