Friday, December 1, 2023

Mexico's vampires are all too human – #Mystery #Thriller #Mexico

Legacy of Evil tour banner

Blurb

A banished detective. A body drained of blood. Mexico’s vampires are all too human.

After graduating from Harvard, Artemas Salcido is determined to transform Mexico’s justice system and joins the federal police. He begins solving crimes committed by the rich and powerful and is banished to the village of Bustamante.

On a college field trip to Bustamante’s nearby caverns, the daughter of a US senator is brutally murdered. The FBI, the international media, and a Mexican hit squad tasked with making the problem go away descend on the village. When Mexico’s attorney general tells Artemas his career depends on his cooperation, Artemas realizes his life is at stake.

As other grisly murders occur, Artemas’s investigation uncovers an ancient blood cult connected to a powerful financial cabal that stretches from mediaeval Europe to Mexico's most influential politicians and businessmen. When he disputes his violent colleagues’ bogus solution to the crime, Artemas is marked for death.

Can Artemas’s determination to bring fairness to Mexico’s justice system prevail against the overwhelming power of his government—or will it prove fatal …?

Legacy of Evil book cover

Excerpt

Once the handcuffs brushed his shirtsleeve, Artemas slid forward with the lighting speed he’d practiced hundreds of times in the dojo. A front snap kick connected with Raymundo’s pistol, sending it spinning toward the ceiling. Right foot midair, Artemas repeated the kick, driving his foot into the PGR man’s crotch with a satisfying thwack. As Raymundo gasped and bent over clutching himself, a third snap kick to his face lifted him off his feet and dumped him onto his back.

Artemas caught sight of the other man closing in from behind. He uncoiled his body and delivered a powerful reverse side kick to the man’s solar plexus, doubling him over. He followed up with a snap kick to the face. Like his colleague, the man landed on his back, choking and groaning with pain.

About the Author


Award-winning author James Peyton’s intriguing settings and memorable characters in his thrillers come from his years of international work and travel. The first two editions of his four-part thriller Artemas Salcido series are now available on Amazon; Legacy of Evil and Terror Crossing, to be followed by La Buchona and Not For Sale. Peyton’s stand-alone adventure thriller, The Royal Fifth, was released in 2022. James has had five acclaimed books published on Mexican cooking, history, and culture. Peyton's writing reflects a depth of understanding and a unique perspective that sets his work apart.

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/216986.James_W_Peyton

http://www.jameswpeyton.com/

The book is on sale for only $0.99.

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Legacy-Evil-James-Peyton-ebook/dp/B0CMK71YNM


James Peyton is giving away a $25 Amazon/BN GC to a randomly drawn winner.


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Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Light after darkness – #MMRomance #Christmas #Wedding #MFRWHooks

At the Margins of Madness banner

Happy Wednesday, and welcome to the MFRW Book Hooks blog hop!

Thanksgiving has passed and Christmas is on its way. Although I have a number of holiday-themed books in my catalog, the book I’m featuring today isn’t exactly one of them. At the Margins of Madness is a dark, gritty MM paranormal erotic romance with a truly evil villain. As it happens, though, it ends with a wedding, on Christmas Eve. So I thought I’d share the introduction to that chapter with you today. For one thing, it starts with a gorgeous snow storm!

Be sure to visit the other authors joining today’s hop. You’re sure to find more great romance.

Blurb

Both power and love can lead to madness

Nineteen year old Kyle sees visions of disasters, visions that tear his world apart. Everyone assumes that he is schizophrenic, but Rob, the cop who picks him up off the street, knows better.

Rob's own experience has taught him that psychic powers are real, and potentially devastating. Since his telepathic sister's brutal murder, Rob wants nothing to do with "gifted" individuals like Kyle. Yet he can't deny his attraction to the beautiful, tortured young man – an attraction that appears to be mutual.

When a brilliant, sadistic practitioner of the black arts lures Kyle into his clutches, Rob faces the possibility that once again he may lose the person he loves most to the forces of darkness.

The Hook

Snow had been falling since the morning, feathery flakes that padded the blue-green boughs of the firs and settled like a white quilt on the tumbled stone wall behind the cottage. Now, in the gathering dusk, the precipitation had finally tapered off. The pillowy drifts glowed with some inner light.

Kyle had cleared the driveway and the path twice already. The dry snow was so fluffy that huge shovels full weighed almost nothing. He tossed the powdery stuff over his shoulder, building the piles on either side of the steps. They were already taller than he was. Stray crystals wafted through the still air, sparkling in the lamplight.

It was cold enough to freeze the hair in his nostrils. His fingers were numb inside his gloves. He didn’t care. Nothing could spoil this marvelous Christmas Eve. He just hoped that their guests wouldn’t have any difficulties because of the weather.

After the frigid outdoors, the inside of Elspeth’s house felt tropical. Kyle shrugged off his parka and placed his boots outside on the porch. A cheerful fire crackled on the hearth. “Oh Come All Ye Faithful” played softly on the radio. From the kitchen came the rich smells of roasting turkey and fresh-baked apple pie. Saliva gathered in his mouth.

Elspeth looked up from chopping vegetables as he entered. “The snow seems to have stopped for now,” he said, grabbing a crisp chunk of raw carrot. “And I heard the plow go up Quail Hollow while I was shoveling.”

Let’s hope they don’t block the drive.” She dumped the vegetables into the top section of a double-boiler. “There, that’s done. I don’t need to start those until after the ceremony.”

The drive looked okay.” Kyle sat at the table and took old woman’s hand. “Elspeth. I want to thank you again for doing all this.”

Nonsense. I’m a justice of the peace. Performing marriages is one of my responsibilities.”

But cooking dinner and hosting the party aren’t. Seriously, you’re doing Rob and me a huge favor.”

I wanted to do something for you. To make up for my blindness.” Elspeth frowned and shook her head “I should have known what Stefan was up to. I should have seen how years of bitterness and envy had twisted his spirit. If only I had realized…maybe I could have saved him. Maybe I could even have saved poor Mary.”

Don’t blame yourself. I know you’re wise, but you’re only human. And Stefan—well, he was obviously a brilliant guy. Not easy to second-guess.”

Have they found any remains? It would be good to bury him with his parents—to reconcile them after all these years.”

Not a trace. Rob says the authorities are pretty mystified. The fire was intense, but there should be some evidence. Bone fragments or teeth. There seems to be nothing left.”

Hmm.” Elspeth’s brow knotted. “He couldn’t have escaped?”

Anything is possible, I suppose. But it doesn’t seem likely. We heard him on the upper floors when we left. His body was already burning. And he was totally mad, screaming, babbling, gleefully setting things on fire.”

Kyle stared at his hands, the guilt welling up once again. “It was my fault. I made him crazy, showing him the horrors in my mind. I killed him, as surely as if I’d set the fire myself. One more victim of my curse.”

You had no choice. There was no other way to save yourself—or Rob.” Elspeth lifted his chin, raising his eyes to hers. “You’re a good man, Kyle. You had no way of knowing that the visions would drive him to suicide.”

Yes, I did. I knew only too well the effects of my ‘gift’.”

You’re being melodramatic. Stefan’s mind was already warped. Anyway, you’ve got to let go of this old notion that you’re cursed. You’ve already learnt how to keep the dark visions from taking control. In time, you’ll learn to use your talent to benefit others, if that is what you want.”

I’d like that,” Kyle said. Gradually, the weight lifted from his heart. “I’d like that very much.”

Rob’s footsteps rang on the uncarpeted stairway. “What would you like, boy?” He bent down to place a juicy kiss on Kyle’s mouth.

Kyle laughed and winked at Elspeth. “I can’t tell you in front of her.”

Don’t think that I’m a prude just because I’m an old lady.”

Rob gave her a grin, then tousled Kyle’s hair. “Never mind. I know you well enough to guess what you’d like.”

Kyle gave his lover a long look of appreciation. Rob wore a tailored charcoal gray suit that made him look more like a banker than a cop. His mustard-yellow silk shirt and matching pocket hanky rescued the costume from being too sombre. His tie was the real surprise, a whimsical Christmas novelty item with gray and gold reindeer prancing across snowy fields. Kyle would never have expected Rob to don something so…cute. “Wow! You look sharp! I never thought I’d see you like this.”

I believe in getting dressed up, for very important occasions.” Rob gave him a look that turned him to jelly. “I can’t imagine anything more important than today.”

At the Margins of Madness book cover

Buy Links

Kinky Literature: https://www.kinkyliterature.com/book/917-at-the-margins-of-madness-a-tale-of-power-and-love/

Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/B09QQG683R/

Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/B09QQG683R

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/at-the-margins-of-madness-lisabet-sarai/1140911192?ean=2940165754531

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/1127718

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/at-the-margins-of-madness-a-tale-of-power-and-love

Apple Books: https://books.apple.com/us/book/x/id1606236845

Add on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/60179575-at-the-margins-of-madness

Audio Book

https://www.amazon.com/At-Margins-Madness-Tale-Power/dp/B09ZZTXJ3M/

https://www.audible.com/pd/At-the-Margins-of-Madness-Audiobook/B0B113TQNW



Tuesday, November 28, 2023

A new life, a new nightmare – #LGBTQ #Mystery #Giveaway @ThomGrantBruso

Method to Madness book cover

Blurb

Five years ago, Jack Ballinger was a police officer.

He has since moved from the small upstate New York town of Black Falls for greener pastures and a peaceful life alone in the Green Mountain State. Time has changed Jack -- he is no longer the man he used to be. A significant challenge for him has been the heartbreaking loss of his boyfriend, companion, and one true love, Steve.

Now alone, Jack has yet to deal rationally with the immediate changes of his new life. After losing his partner, Jack drank heavily to numb the pain and forget his life-changing loss. Now, he must find a way to move forward without Steve and the life he built for himself. Joining an Alcoholics Anonymous group helps quiet the voices that still keep him awake at night. But something much darker has followed him to his life in the quiet corners of Vermont.

When Jack thinks he has buried the scars of his past, a new nightmare emerges. How far will Jack go to end the imminent evil in his life and kill it for good?

Trigger warning: this story addresses suicide and suicidal ideation.

Method to Madness book cover

Excerpt

My work boots clipped across the newly polished floor, squeaking with each determined step toward the security guard’s office in the back of the mall. I didn’t usually get frightened, but after the week’s events of Jacob Adler’s murder and my recurring hallucinations, I was on guard twenty-four-seven. The wall I’d built after Steve died sent me into a tailspin. I lost my self-confidence to “live on -- move on,” as Steve had put it. Getting out of bed was the most challenging part of the day, getting started. But not as difficult as being a suspect in somebody else’s murder.



I locked up in the office, hung my jacket on the wall peg along with my badge, fastened my uniform hat on top of my coat, and secured the building. I walked around the side of the shopping center to get to my truck, which was parked near the auto shop garage in the adjacent lot. My keys clanged against the side of my uniform work belt.

There was a crispness to the air as it gusted across my face.

When I reached my truck, I stopped and glanced at the imposing three-floor structure of the Rushford Shopping Mall. It had been a game-changer, I told myself. When my life was at its lowest, the job as mall security had saved me. 

Moving from upstate New York to Vermont and being hired at a stone’s throw distance from where everything had bottomed out of my life, life could not be better. I had to keep reminding myself that I was lucky. This was meant to be.

I was living. No – I was surviving the best way I knew how. The sharp gust of wind filled my eyes with a deep sadness.

I slipped my key into the driver’s side door. I jumped inside, cranking the station to a country song I knew Steve would roll his eyes at, but his enthusiastic expression brightened my mood. 

I sat in the quiet interior of my truck, my head falling against the headrest, my eyes closing to the welcoming solitude. I drummed my hands on the bottom of the steering wheel.

Then screeching tires peeled around the sharp curve of the parking lot where the lot met the edge of the road, and a song about lost love faded from memory. I opened my eyes and raised my head to tires squealing. In the rearview mirror, I glimpsed a vehicle idling behind me. I didn’t notice it at first, but the car blocked me. I adjusted my seat and stared out the rear windshield at the obscure figure behind the wheel. I couldn’t see their face, but the figure looked reedy and reached an arm out the open window, pointing at me.


I thought of the ginger-haired boy from earlier, recalling the incident on the escalator and in the restroom. Had he waited for me after hours, lurking in the parking lot, ready to scare me? My mind skipped over the events playing from earlier in the day. The incident in the men’s restroom, the smartass young man apologizing for his careless behavior, making wisecracking excuses for his friends, and blaming his actions on being an idiot. 

“I’m sorry, man. Really -- we didn’t mean anything by it. We were being dumb sixteen-year-olds.” I remembered the sound of his laugh, a meaningless, sarcastic attempt at a reassuring apology.



I stared out into the night. The only light in the area illuminated from a lamppost wavering back and forth in the stirring wind. The mysterious driver’s gray hoodie concealed most of their face.

“You got a problem?” I yelled out the window.

 A big, meaty palm rose in the air like a warning, a middle finger miming the shape of a gun, as in a caution or scare tactic.



“Prick.” I turned the key in the ignition, shifted my truck in reverse, and floored it.

The driver didn’t have much time to register my sudden actions, but he -- or she -- managed to switch pedals. The vehicle sped off, tires shrieking, seconds before I came a hair-fracture away from nicking the driver’s side door.

In the middle of the road, I shifted into DRIVE, and followed the vehicle at an unsafe speed. I was close behind him, noticing him reaching into the passenger side for something.



Racing through the parking lot, the driver took me on a twisty ride, swerving and taking sharp curves. I followed him for a few minutes through the winding lanes, leading around the mall’s perimeter to a larger parking area on the other side of the building.

I didn’t have time to register the events, my mind feeling scrambled and numbed from the chaotic commotion. I gripped the steering wheel and turned it sharply, the back tires screeching as I rounded the sharp bend, nearly smacking against the guardrail on my right.

I heard a gun going off. The driver was firing a round of shots out his window.

About the Author

Thomas Grant Bruso head shot

Thomas Grant Bruso knew he wanted to be a writer at an early age. He has been a voracious reader of genre fiction since childhood.

His literary inspirations are Ray Bradbury, Dean Koontz, Stephen King, Jim Grimsley, Karin Fossum, and Joyce Carol Oates.

Bruso loves animals, reading books, and writing fiction, and prefers Sudoku to crossword puzzles.

In another life, he was a freelance writer and wrote for magazines and newspapers. In college, he won the Hermon H. Doh Sonnet Competition. Now, he writes and publishes fiction and reviews books for his hometown newspaper, The Press-Republican.

He lives in upstate New York.

Author Links

Twitter: https://twitter.com/thomgrantbruso

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/thomasgrantbrusoauthor/?hl=en

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8591689.Thomas_Grant_Bruso

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thomasgrantbruso/

Buy Link 

https://www.amazon.com/Method-Madness-Thomas-Grant-Bruso-ebook/dp/B0CLKJD64Y

Thomas Grant Bruso will be awarding $10 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

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Sunday, November 26, 2023

Charity Sunday for Communities – #Thailand #EthnicMinority #CharitySunday

Charity Sunday Banner

Welcome to the November Charity Sunday blog hop! For more than six years, I have devoted the last Sunday of each month to showcasing organizations who work to make the world a better place. Each Charity Sunday, I choose a charity or non-profit and commit to making a donation for each comment I get. Sometimes I’m lucky enough to have other bloggers join the event. You’ll find links to their posts at the end of this one. They’ve made a similar commitment, so I hope you’ll visit them, read about their selected charities, and leave your comments.

Today I’m supporting one of my personal favorite charities, the Karen Hilltribes Trust (https://karenhilltribes.org.uk/) Unlike some organizations I support, which have broad mandates, KHT has a very specific focus. They work with ethnic minority communities in northern Thailand, helping these villages to construct critical infrastructure for drinking water, sanitation and hygiene, and irrigation. KHT also provides scholarships and transport to improve access to education for Karen youth.

 

KHT Logo

Northern Thailand is a rugged, isolated area. Many villages are served only by dirt roads. Kids have to walk miles, up and down steep hills, to get to school. The closest hospital may be dozens of miles away, requiring hours of travel.

The Karen and other ethnic minorities who inhabit the highlands have unique and vibrant cultures, and strong community structures, but often very limited financial resources. KHT’s projects are led by Karen staff, who work with the people in the villages to build much needed facilities.

KHT has been working with the Karen for more than two decades. It was founded in memory of a young British man who encountered the Karen during his backpacking trips in Thailand and organized volunteer trips to help the people. Thus it’s a very personal charity – but highly effective. Check out their excellent website for more details about their projects and the people they serve.

Anyway, I hope you’ll leave me a comment, because I will donate two dollars to KHT for every one. In addition, I’ll give two copies of my short romance Refuge (excerpted below) to randomly selected commenters. Please include your email, so I can find you if you win!

My excerpt today is from Refuge, which has a Karen heroine. Rather than in a village in the interior, Preean lives in a refugee camp near the Thai/Myanmar border. There are Karen communities in Myanmar and in China; the long-term instability in Myanmar has resulted in the displacement of many minority members.

The hero is a young Thai soldier from the impoverished country side in Thailand’s northeast, forced to serve as a guard in the camp.

I’ve used this story for other Charity Sundays, but for today I’ve tried to choose an excerpt I haven’t shared previously.

 

Refuge book cover

She found me the next morning. I was sitting on the steps of the barracks, reviewing Daeng’s last letter. I insisted that he write to me, even though we talked by phone once a week. He needed the practice. I always sent his letters back, with spelling corrections. I was determined that, somehow, I’d help him go to university. That was the only way to save him from the trap I was in.

I had expected excitement and gratitude from her, but her face was twisted by worry.

Hello, sir...” she began, tentative.

Nu. You can call me Nu. And your name?”

People call me Preean.” She pronounced it as two syllables.

Pleased to meet you, Preean.” I tried to put her at ease. She stood there with her eyes downcast, her hands knotted together nervously. I stuffed the letter in my shirt pocket and waited for her to speak.

Sir... Khun Nu... thank you so much for the pencil and paper.”

Never mind. I think you needed it more than I did.”

Still—your kindness means a lot, to me and to the children.”

Forget it. Really.”

She raised her eyes. I was startled to see that they were dark blue, like dusk behind the mountains. Also they were glistening with tears. “I need to ask your help again. Something much more serious.”

On impulse, I grasped her hands, gently releasing her tense grip. Her nails were bitten down to the quick. The creases in her palms were embedded with grime. Nevertheless, her skin was deliciously soft. Sympathetic tears pricked at my eyes. “What is it? How can I help you?”

It’s Su. One of the children. She’s very sick. Diarrhea and a high fever.”

Did you bring her to the infirmary?”

They said it was probably just some bad fish. That they couldn’t do anything. I think she needs to go to the hospital. She’s burning up.”

The hospital? In Mae Sot? That’s more than two hours away!”

I went to ask the commander for permission to take her. He wouldn’t even let me into his office.” She tried to kneel before me. I stopped her, terribly embarrassed, not to mention worried that someone would see her. “Please, Khun Nu. She’s much worse today than she was last night. She doesn’t even know who I am.”

What can I do? I started to answer. I can’t do anything. I’m practically a prisoner here myself. But the desperation and hope I saw mingled in her face stopped my voice.

* * *

Please leave a comment – it can mean a better life for a community far away. And don’t forget to include your email (obfuscated is fine) if you’d like to be included in the drawing.


Friday, November 24, 2023

Navigating a sea of emotions – #ContemporaryRomance #SmallTownRomance #Australia @_Iris_B

But the Heart Does book cover

My friend and fellow MFRW member Iris Blobel has just released the next book (Book 5) in her popular Alinta Bay series. Read on for details!

Blurb

In an unexpected encounter, the lives of Jonah, a rescue diver from New Zealand, and Maddie, a spirited local, collide, forever altering their future.

Trapped together in a hotel lift, sparks fly between them, but Jonah's past looms, casting a shadow over their fragile connection. Maddie, captivated by Jonah's charisma, is determined to find him when he mysteriously misses their planned dinner. With a friend's assistance, her search unveils a chilling discovery – Jonah unconscious on a cliff.

Navigating a sea of emotions, in order to find a future together, will Maddie and Jonah manage the challenges posed by their past secrets and present obstacles?

* Amazon * Goodreads * Iris' Websites

Excerpt

Okay,” he said just above a whisper. “We’ll step up there together. I’ll hold you until the guys will reach for your arms and pull you up. I apologise already if I may touch you inappropriately—”

She tilted her head and gave him a pretend glare. As much as she was able to pretend.

As in your bum. To give you a little push up,” he explained with a grin. “And if you feel you need to throw up, please do.”

You want me to throw up?”

He shook his head with a smile, but she wasn’t sure whether she appreciated his amusement this time.

Again, apologies.” He moved her in front of him and reached around her for the ladder. “Ignore embarrassment and ignore any urges you might have.”

Jonah?” She turned in his arms, cupped his cheeks, and gave him a brief kiss before she faced the ladder again. “Acted on urges. Yet, I’m about to throw up, so grab my bum and push.”

Yes, ma’am.”

The guys above her had a little laugh, but along with ignoring Jonah’s hands on her hips and the urge to say hello to her breakfast, she ignored them as well.

She reached for the ladder, focussed on her breathing, and took the first step. “Jonah?”

He chuckled. “Got the urge to kiss me again?”

She shook her head but quickly stopped when it increased the urge to throw up. “You need to steady the ladder a little better.”

He followed her onto the first step and placed his arm around her waist. “Doing good. Let’s—”

She turned her head towards him. “Liar. It’s one lousy step.”

Their faces were so close, she could feel his soft breath on her skin. She studied his amber eyes, which watched her intently. How much she would’ve liked to kiss him again. But even more than that, she wished for the nausea to go away. For once she met someone kind and attentive, but most of all, he was sexy as hell. All her focus went on the soft touch of his hand on her waist.

Until he broke that moment.

But the Heart Does - Listen to the Beginning of Chapter One

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Alinta Bay banner

About the Author

Iris Blobel writes warm, sexy, and sometimes witty Australian Contemporary Romance books for readers who, like herself, still strongly believe in love and Happily Ever Afters. And she knows HEAs. Her couples are hungry for life, done with the past, passionate about family, and emotionally hopeful for a future. The stories are mainly set in Australia but also in New Zealand and even the US, depending on where her travels take her. She loves nothing more than for her readers to join her on her journeys.

Author Links

https://linktr.ee/irisblobel

 

Thursday, November 23, 2023

Unapologetic Pollyanna – #Thanksgiving #Gratitude #Abundance

Thanksgiving Bounty

Image by Jill Wellington from Pixabay


I was only seven years old when I saw Walt Disney’s take on
Eleanor Porter’s classic novel Pollyanna, about a twelve year old orphan who despite her trials manages to see the best in everything and everybody. Pollyanna Whittier is “radically optimistic” (Wikipedia) in her insistence that no matter how dire the situation, there is always something to be glad about.

Even as a kid, I wondered whether this was a realistic perspective. Still, I found the gradual transformation of the town of Harrington due to Pollyanna’s influence to be thoroughly plausible. In the course of the film, conflict turns to cooperation, fear turns to courage and loneliness vanishes as people unite for a common purpose. Some might find the film saccharine, but for me, it had the ring of truth.

Now that I’m older – much older! – and I’ve been experienced the ups and downs of life, I’m more convinced than ever that Pollyanna was right. We can’t always choose what life throws at us. However, we can control, to some extent at least, how we react. Finding the good in pain, loss or failure can be difficult, but it’s always there if we look hard enough. And if we make the effort to discover and acknowledge that good, it becomes easier to deal with the negative aspects of the situation.

In the U.S., today is Thanksgiving, a day devoted to counting our blessings, though some people may have forgotten that. Since I live overseas, far from the turkey and the football games, that’s the most salient aspect of the holiday for me. I look around and I’m a bit awed by all the good in my life.

That’s easy for her to say, you might be thinking. She has a roof over her head, a life partner, a job that covers her basic needs, health issues that are manageable rather than critical. I won’t argue with the fact that I’m extremely fortunate, but that’s the whole point. I could also find lots of things to complain about in my life, because if you take a negative perspective, you’ll always see things that could be improved.

I try to resist being pulled into that trap. External conditions do not determine happiness. Ultimately, we shape our world from within, based on the way we view and react to those conditions. If we focus on the positive, the positive becomes our reality.

I’m not trying to convert you to my way of thinking. You may well consider me ridiculous, na├»ve, nothing but a past-her-prime relic from the peace-and-love Sixties. That’s okay. I’m content to be an unapologetic Pollyanna, enjoying and celebrating the abundant good in my life.

Gratitude can heal the heart and the mind. I believe that when we let the light of gladness shine, we cannot help but illumine everyone we touch.

Wishing a joyous and bountiful Thanksgiving to you all!

Wednesday, November 22, 2023

Wandering the halls of the Rocca: the birth of a novel – #HistoricalFiction #WWII #ArtPreservation

Saving Madonna tour banner

By Kate Bristow (Guest Blogger)

My late husband and I had always loved Italy. When we were living and working in London in the 1980s, before we got married, we used to visit Italy on vacation. It became a running joke between us that we would one day buy a house there. Instead, we moved to Singapore and spent over a decade in Asia, getting married and having our two daughters while living there. In 2000, returning to Italy with friends and family for a summer vacation, we impetuously bought a five hundred year old farmhouse that needed extensive renovation.

During the arduous three years it took to render the house habitable, we would travel back and forth to Italy from Singapore to oversee the renovations. On one particularly cold day in winter, we stumbled into the Rocca, an ancient fortress in the nearby town of Sassocorvaro. There were many facsimiles of famous paintings mounted on the walls with Italian descriptions. My Italian was rudimentary at that point and we could not understand what they were doing there. We subsequently learned that, during World War 2, the local superintendent of the arts, Pasquale Rotondi, had managed to save ten thousand priceless works of art from the occupying German army by hiding them and then transporting them secretly to the Vatican. Several of these pieces had been hidden behind fake walls in the Rocca. I thought this was a fascinating story, and longed to write a book about it. A couple of years ago, after the death of my husband and the forced isolation of the pandemic, I decided to finally write the novel.

Research was tough because many of the sources were written in Italian. Even now, my Italian is not great so I spent weeks arduously translating all the articles and papers I could find on the events. My best discovery was the diary of Pasquale Rotondi himself. He wrote journal entries almost every day during this time period. An Italian historian Anna Melograni had published an academic paper containing all the entries, and this was an incredibly useful source.

I also sought out books and articles that have been written about the war in Italy, the partisan movement and the daily horrors faced by the Italian people especially after the occupation by Germany in late 1943. Robert Edsel wrote a bestselling nonfiction book called ‘Monuments Men’ about the race to save art after the war, as well as the follow up ‘Saving Italy’ which has a chapter on Pasquale Rotondi and his fellow curators and art historians. But the best research for me was wandering the halls of the Rocca in Sassocorvaro and the Ducal Palace in Urbino, speaking to local Italians with knowledge of the events and immersing myself in stories of day-to-day life for Italians in the countryside during that terrible period. I wanted to make sure that my book ‘Saving Madonna’ is as much about the lengths that ordinary people will go to achieve extraordinary things as it is about faithfully chronicling the real life events that happened. I hope you enjoy it!

Blurb

Is a painting worth dying for?

Inspired by real events, an unforgettable story of love, courage and sacrifice to save a country’s heritage.

Italy 1943. As the Allies bomb Milan, Elena Marchetti reluctantly gives up her coveted job as an art curator in the city to return to her family farm near Urbino. She takes up a new role assisting Pasquale Rotondi, the Superintendent of Arts in the region, in protecting works of art from all over Italy that have been hidden in the relative safety of the countryside.

At a family celebration, Elena reunites with Luca, a close childhood friend. A shattering event instigated by the occupying Germans deepens their relationship, and they start planning a life together. When rumors surface that Italy’s art is being stolen by the German occupiers, Pasquale hatches an audacious plan to rescue the priceless paintings in his possession. Elena and Luca are forced to make an impossible decision: will they embark on a dangerous mission to save Italy’s cultural heritage?

Saving Madonna book cover

Excerpt

Luca was getting frustrated. Two weeks had passed since he had stood up for Elena during the argument about the truck, and he was no closer to procuring her any sort of transport. He had visited all the neighboring farms, except for the one owned by Signor Bruni, to find out if there was any chance of borrowing a vehicle. He had not been surprised to learn that nobody wanted to give up their precious trucks or cars. Even those who had been without fuel for months still clung to the hope that somehow they might be able to find some. It did not help that very few thought that helping the superintendent was a priority given the more immediate issues they were dealing with.

I have six children to feed, two cows that are ailing, a fence that needs mending, and more besides,” complained Signor Conti when Luca had stopped to talk to him that afternoon after coming upon the farmer struggling with barbed wire on the edge of one of his fields. “I can tell you now, moving some paintings around is not at the top of my list. I can’t imagine you’ll find many takers in these parts, son.” Signor Conti looked at him kindly. “I am not saying I want the Germans to take them either. Don’t get me wrong.” He let off a stream of expletives, as if to emphasize how much he despised the occupiers. “I just think we have to focus on what we can control rather than the things we can’t.”

About the Author

Kate Bristow head shot

Kate Bristow was born in London. She fell in love with reading when she got her first library card at the age of four. Her first attempt at writing and publishing for a wide audience was a local newspaper typed laboriously at home on her mother’s typewriter while at primary (elementary) school in north London. It is surely a loss to cutting-edge journalism that only one issue was ever produced. Kate divides her time between her small-but-perfectly-formed modern home in Los Angeles and her five-hundred-year-old farmhouse just outside Sassocorvaro in Italy.

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