BLOOD BOND now available for Pre-order #NewRelease #fantasy

In just one week, my latest fantasy novel will be released. If you want to be one of the first to own a copy, pre-order the book today!

Available exclusively on Amazon. (Don’t have a Kindle, don’t worry. You can still read Blood Bond. Simply download the Kindle for PC or Kindle for MAC software for free.)

Man severed the alliance with the dragons fifty years ago. But now an invading army marches north destroying everything in its path. The dragons believe only together can the invaders be defeated. They need an emissary.

Womanizer. Drunk. Failure. Soren is many things. A leader isn’t one of them. But, Dex, the dragon who saves him from a cliff, believes different. Thrust into an adventure he never wanted, Soren’s life changes forever when during a battle Dex’s dragon blood mixes with his blood creating a mystical blood bond – forever linking them.

As the bond strengthens, Soren must decide whether to return to his old life or accept the bond and embrace his role in the battle against the invading army.

BUY your copy TODAY!

 

 

Media Madness seminar – dealing with technology and kids

As first vice-president of our elementary Parent-Teacher Association, I am in charge of Parent Education. Any time I share with the parents something of interest, my goal is to share that information here.

This past week, I brought in a speaker to talk to the parents about managing their kids use of electronics. The presentation was called “Media Madness,” and it was presented through Texas PTA’s Ready, Set, Achieve program. Our presenter was Larriann Curtis, the Vice President of Membership for Texas PTA.

It was a good presentation. I had heard some of the information before, but it is always good to be reminded of these things. Here is a recap of some of the information covered.

Children nowadays grow up in a different world than many of us grew up in. They are exposed to technology at a much younger age. In fact, they grow up with it. Their socialization, their communication and their playing centers around it.

The Internet is accessible at all times and from anywhere. And with it you have the world at your fingertips. But the concern is that you don’t know who is one the other end. You don’t know the person chatting with you as you play your video game. You don’t know the person responding to your comments on blogs.

Tip #1: Teach your child to question what they know about the people they meet online. How do you know who they are? Why do they want to give you this information? What do they want?

One thing it is hard for many people to understand is the persistence of the Internet. Whatever you post, whatever you do is out there forever. Even if you think you are posting on an app that only shows what you said for just 30 seconds before it disappears, nothing is safe. Someone can copy, paste and repost your message or image. This is incredibly true when sending naked or risqué photos to a boyfriend/girlfriend. Once broken up or when in a fight, those pictures may be shared or perhaps shared the instant you send them.

Tip #2: Teach your child to never share anything they wouldn’t want their parents, their grandmother, pastor or teacher to read/see.

One way to give a visual to your child about how hard it is to erase something from the Internet is to take a water bottle. Add some drink mix to it and then tell them to now remove that drink mix. No matter how many filters you run the water through some of the drink mix will always remain.

The Internet can be good – look at the wealth of information available – or bad – misinformation, cyber bullying, addictive.

Tip #3: Never let your child keep their phone, tablet or computer in their room after bedtime. Nothing good is ever communicated at night.

To ensure your privacy and that of your child, you need to actively change your settings on apps and websites. We need to remind them that social media and many sites on the Internet are businesses. If they aren’t selling something, we are the product. Our information, our demographics, are what they are collecting.

Tip #4: Discuss with your child about balancing media use, what sites are good to visit and what they can and cannot believe/trust on the Internet. This should be a continuing discussion.

And this last sentence was a theme throughout the presentation. All of our work as parents needs to be an ongoing one. We need to work on raising digital citizens who question what is presented. As technology advances, we need to keep up with it and keep up with educating our children about its uses and dangers.

Here are a few websites that she recommended parents check out.

www.netsmartz.org – This is put on by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. It has tip sheets, videos, games, worksheets and resources for all ages.

www.commonsensemedia.org – This website reviews and offers “child friendly” ratings on the latest releases of movies, books, video games, music, apps, TV shows and websites.

www.cyberwise.org – A site for parents and teachers about online safety. It offers an e-newsletter.

www.ikeepsafe.org – Identifies the six pillars of Digital Citizenship and Wellness – balance, ethics, privacy, reputation, relationships and online security.

www.wiredsafety.org – Content for tweens, teens and parents about cyber bullying, sexting, online gambling and legislation.

www.connectsafely.org – The site has strong social media resources, tips and guides.

www.stopbullying.gov – This site offers a cyber bullying “Lifeline” call center, apps, tips and news for parents, teachers, and students.

Today’s Featured Author – Maria Liberati

Today I welcome cookbook author Maria Liberati to my blog. She is here to share to promote her cookbook series, The Basic Art of Italian Cooking.

Interview

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I was born in Philadelphia, but have been fortunate to temporarily live for extended periods of time all over the USA and Canada and Italy.  I am a writer, chef and entrepreneur.  I conceived my book series title and my trademark, The Basic Art of Italian Cooking by Maria Liberati tm, because I wanted to put a part of my life into my work. After my grandparents passed away, I began studying more about their lives and our family and  realizing the sacrifices they made to get to the USA from Italy. They really loved their families and their towns in Italy but had no choice but to come to the USA to find a better life and to find work.

So the book series, the trademark is somewhat a homage to my grandparents and my family and my culture and  to share the foods and the places that they so loved and we still love!

I got my start in the culinary world through modeling which also afforded me the ability to get to Italy and learn about my family. While I was modeling in Italy a well known Italian painter asked to paint my portrait, his name is Sergio Terzi, but he goes by the moniker of Nerone. He has painted many famous Italians including Luciano Pavarotti, so it was really exciting that he chose to paint my portrait.

That involved being at his family farm in a little town in the region of Reggio-Emilia, where they produce the famous Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. His family is very involved in the cheese making process there and, while of course, no matter what  type of work you do in Italy you always stop to eat at lunchtime, during my lunchtime meals there I became absolutely entranced by this cheese they produced there. I began studying the intricate process of how it was made by visiting the family’s farms and storage warehouses for the cheese. And I believe this awakened my dormant interest in the culinary arts. I used to go shopping at the Italian market in Philadelphia with my grandparents for Sunday meals and winemaking from when I was about 4 yrs old.so I know my grandparents gave me that culinary ‘bug’ and it grew as I was a teen when I would cook in the kitchen with my cousins,aunts, mom and grandparents all joining in to make a large Sunday dinner. So it was there I just took my culinary interest and knowledge for granted. All the things I learned with my grandparents and parents, I thought everyone knew how to make homemade lasagna or homemade tomato sauce.

After the portrait was painted, it was exhibited at the Metropolitan  Museum of Art for a short time, then all around the world, and then my culinary journey took flight. I decided to go to a culinary school in Italy and spent some time at my family’s farm in the mountains of Abruzzo where they made local wines and homemade bread. Eventually I was asked by some resorts in Italy to do cooking programs since I spoke both English and Italian, most people that take cooking classes  in Italy are from other countries, so they usually speak English. And then I began writing about it.

In Italy, I began seeing food as not only just something to eat but also as more of an art, something literary. It is so connected to culture and history and family, and I wanted to put a book together that was not just a cookbook, since Italian food is about more than just food to eat, it is so attached to their culture and each ingredient usually has its’ own beautiful story to tell. So that is how I came up with the formula for my book series, a culinary travel series, with autobiographical stories that relate to the recipes and menus included.

And as the old saying goes to’ just do something that you love’ and the accolades will follow. I won the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards in 2010 for my book The Basic Art of Italian Cooking: Holidays and Special Occasions and Culinary Travel Blogger of the Year in 2013 by the NY Travel Writers’ Society

Please tell us about your current release.

The Basic Art of Italian Cooking: DaVinci Style is about the places in Italy where DaVinci lived while creating his masterpieces. Each chapter is devoted to a specific town or region he lived in stories about that place and recipes that originate from that place. Also included are specially translated food poetry written by DaVinci and in his notebook but included in my book in English.

Besides from being a genius in everything, he was a foodie, supported himself by being a waiter in Florence while in art school, then opening a short lived restaurant with his fellow art student Botticelli on the Ponte Vecchio in center of Florence. He was a wedding planner sometimes and he loved to think of food as he did his canvas. He believed there should be a balance in foods- never too much of one thing-balancing flavors and so much of the Mediterranean Diet is actually based on his beliefs.

How much of yourself, your personality or your experiences, is in your books?

Most of my books in The Basic Art of Italian Cooking book series has a lot of me in them, the autobiographical stories that in someway relate to the food, the recipes are recipes used for many events I have done and/or family events. When someone asks what sets my books apart from others-it is merely the fact that we are all a unique being in this world, and these books relate to my unique self. We all have unique selfs, and I think it is really important to discover and bring out that unique part of you, That is what makes you interesting, not that you can look like a famous celebrity or you can do the same thing someone else has done, but doing something that is unique to you. I think so many people today are afraid of their uniqueness, that others will think they are ‘weird’ or call them names or make fun of them. Yes that probably is true they will, but that is most likely because they don’t have the courage to bring out their own unique talents. God gave all of us something that is really unique to us, we are all our own masterpieces and if you don’t find out what your unique talent is or get to discover that, life becomes frustrating. You muddle around wondering why you are always so depressed and feel like you are looking for something. That is because your body needs to express itself and at the end of every day you should feel somewhat ‘spent’ but in a good way, that you have used your talent to the fullest.

That does not mean everyone has to quit their full time jobs and sit around trying to create, but use your talent as a hobby and then see how it develops or keep that as your hobby, a way to express yourself. And yes there will always be critics who try to discourage you or criticize anything artistic you may pursue, but that is most likely because they do not have the courage to get out of their comfort zone and  express their talent- but it does not have to be something artistic it could be techie or someone that is great at business or anything that really adds to your life.

Tell us a random fact about you that we never would have guessed.

I will tell you 2.

My grandmother – named Maria Liberati – who came from a little town in Italy called Venafro (in the Molise region) loved to sing, she never got the chance to sing professionally,but when she emigrated to USA and lived in South Philadelphia she sang with the world famous opera singer Mario Lanza-who at that time was only about 12 yrs old, in an opera that was put on by an organization to raise funds for her town in Italy that had just had an earthquake.

**The other is that I consider one of my best friends my Cairn Terrier. She really helped me get through some terrible times in my life, I take her everywhere I can with me. She has taught me so much about compassion, and life and nature. I love being able to write because that means that I can be home with her and  take breaks with her- take a short walk to clear my mind or toss a ball around or get a face full of wet kisses for doing nothing. She is so thankful for the littlest things and so protective of my family. I refer to her as a little heart at my feet! My circle of friends has also grown since I have met so many people that have dogs that are her playmates and not only do we meet for coffee but we set up playdates for dogs at the same time and just watch how they interact with each other, better than watching a movie!

My next project- a book on Venice and working on a PBS TV series based on my books and a web series that will be also based on my book series but will take viewers around to special places to experience food, culture, wine. I love exploring places that may be in your own backyard literally. People don’t realize that they don’t have to go far away to get a great food experience, they just may have to put some time into researching where that place may be. So I hope to help people find those places near home (across the USA). Everyone always thinks thy have to go far away for things, but sometimes I have gone half way around the world to find something that was practically in my own backyard literally. People don’t realize that they don’t have to go far away to get a great food experience, they just may have to put some time into researching where that place may be. So I hope to help people find those places near home (across the USA).

Book Blurbs

From the Gourmand World Award Winning Book Series and Celebrity Chef Maria Liberati come this book that follows Leonardo DaVinci on his travels throughout different regions of Italy and recipes from those very regions. DaVinci was a bit of a foodie, and this book reveals where his inspiration for the meal portrayed in The Last Supper comes from, as well as poetry about food from DaVinci’s own Notebook, and other inventions that DaVinci created for the culinary arts. The book also contains 100 recipes that are easy to follow, and follow the healthy and delicious Mediterranean Diet and Slow Food principles. Follow Celebrity Chef Maria Liberati as she shares recipes and stories from DaVinci’s travels. The book that combines food, art and travel as no one else can do!

 

Selected as the Best Italian Cuisine Book in the USA by Gourmand World Book Awards. This book will dazzle your Holidays or turn any day into a Special Occasion. Containing 100+ recipes, decorating tips, charming short Holiday stories by Celebrity Chef Maria Liberati. Now includes a chapter on the Feast of the Seven Fishes and contains Holiday menus and recipes for Christmas, Christmas Eve, New Year’s, Valentine’s Day, Carnevale and the Epiphany. Includes recipes that are easy to follow, even some kid friendly recipes included.

About the Author

Maria Liberati is an Italian- American Chef/Entrepreneur/Author  and  winner of the prestigious Gourmand World Cookbook Award for her culinary travel book series- The Basic Art of Italian Cooking. Her award winning blog  The Basic Art of Italian Cooking by Maria Liberati tm was selected as culinary travel blog of the year by the NY Travel Writers’ Society ,and has 300,000 worldwide followers. Maria is considered one of the foremost experts on Italian cuisine and wine. She regularly appears on TV, radio and in print and is currently developing her own TV series for PBS that is based on her culinary travel book series. Maria studied the culinary arts in Italy, and founded The Basic Art of Italian Cooking by Maria Liberati tm trademark now with its’ own line of food products that includes a pizza sauce and spice blends.

When schedule permits Maria is guest chef at  gourmet Italian themed retail places and conducts specialty courses on gourmet  Italian cooking and Healthy Eating and eating Sustainably. Her company The Basic Art of Italian Cooking by Maria Liberati tm organizes, hosts and caters corporate training culinary themed events for Fortune 100 and 500 companies.

You can find more about Maria on her website and her blog.

You can purchase The Basic Art of Italian Cooking: DaVinci Style on Amazon.

The Basic Art of Italian Cooking: Holidays & Specials Occasions is also available on Amazon. Her other books in the series are also available there. Check them out!

The benefit of research in fiction writing

This post is the twenty-fourth in a series about writing a novel. You can check out the list of past topics at the end of this post.

As you write your novel, you want to make your reader feel the world you created, whether it is a whole new world or just a neighborhood in San Francisco, is real. You want them to believe your character is a scuba diver, firefighter or tango dancer. The best way to make these places or activities real if you don’t already have first hand knowledge about these items is to do research.

Research

In the days of e-mail and the Internet, researching for novel is easy. You can get in contact with specialists via email (or go old school and give them a call). There are tons of documents on the internet and videos on YouTube that can help you with all sorts research. But as with all things found on the Internet, remember to take everything with a grain of salt and verify and re-verify any “facts” you read.

If you are writing a court drama, you should have an understanding of how the court system works. Do not rely on TV shows or movies to clue you in on the justice system. These do not always give an accurate view of how things are. Speak to lawyers (or at least law professors), judges and bailiffs. Go watch court proceeding and make sure you understand what happens and how fast (or slow).

But whatever you do, don’t skip the research. It can help your story’s realism as well as help you with plot and theme. You never know what little detail will give a scene the ring of authenticity.

If you are going to write about a certain city or region, it obviously would be best if you have visited that region. But if that isn’t possible, you can still find maps, photos and first-hand accounts of those areas on the Internet. Knowledge of the area will help make your story believable to those who know the area.

Stereotypes

Now speaking of locales, make sure you are not stereotyping the region. People think of Texas as a place with people wearing cowboy hats and riding horses and saying, “y’all.” But for a majority of Texas that is not how things are. Here again, research can be a big help. Take the time to understand the area before you write about it.

And of course the same goes for people. Don’t generalize people because they are poor or live in a certain region. Not everyone is exactly what is expected, and the same should hold true for your characters. Consider doing the opposite of what is expected. Instead of a big, burly black man as the bouncer to a nightclub perhaps your bouncer is a woman or an old man.

Too Much Info

Researching the careers and locales is important but remember that there is such a thing as including too much information in your book. I remember reading a book by a well-known romance author. The story was about the people who handle forest fires. It was clear that she had done her research, but she also included WAY TOO MANY facts in the story that I found myself skimming over those descriptions.

You can weave in your knowledge of the person’s career or location without whopping the reader over the head with it. No reader likes a data dump. Again, it is the little details that can make it all believable.

Different reactions/thoughts

The last thing I wanted to comment on doesn’t necessarily have to do with research exactly. It is remembering that everyone doesn’t react the same way you would to a situation. What is logical for you (and your character) may not seem logical to someone else. Really all you have to do is look at the news stories on the TV or the Internet to understand this. (People leave young kids home alone; they kill someone over a petty argument; they beat or burn dogs, and many more things that I would never even consider doing.)

When you are writing a scene, try pausing and playing out different scenarios. Think of different reactions, even if they seem far-fetched to you. Of course if you know your character well (and you should), then your character’s reaction will stem from who they are and not from who you want them to be.

By taking time to reflect on your character’s actions and decisions or researching their jobs or where they live, you will improve your writing. Your characters and setting will become believable to your readers, and that is a good thing.

Previous topics

#1 – Deciding to write a novel – Writing Myths

#2 – Three areas to develop before starting to write a novel

#3 – Finding a Story Idea and How to Know if it “good enough”

#4 – Developing Characters for your Novel

#5 – Major characters? Minor Characters? Where does everyone fit in?

#6 – Developing the Setting for your Novel

#7 – The importance of developing conflict in your novel plot

#8 – To Outline or not to outline 

#9 – The importance of a story arc

#10 – The importance of tension and pace

#11 – Prologue and opening scenes

#12 – Beginning and ending scenes in a novel

#13 – The importance of dialogue…and a few tips on how to write it

#14 – Using Internal Dialogue in your novel

#15 – More dialogue tips and help with dialogue tags

#16 – Knowing and incorporating back story into your novel

#17 – Hinting at what is to come with foreshadowing

#18 – Tips for writing different scenes in your novel

#19 – Dealing with Writer’s Block

#20 – Killing a Character in your Novel

#21 – Keeping things realistic in your novel

#22 – Establishing Writing Goals and Developing Good Writing Habits

#23 – Using the five senses and passive voice in your novel

Crazy Texas Weather closed schools…and the city

Just last week, Texas had some crazy winter weather. On Monday, we enjoyed a high of in the upper 60s. It was perfect weather for San Antonio’s march to honor Martin Luther King Jr. (San Antonio hosts one of the largest marches in the country every MLK day.)

The next day, our high was 29 (but felt like 14 with wind chill). Yes, a cold front moved in Monday night and with it came freezing rain. Now, much of South Texas is not prepared for freezing temperatures or icy roads. Cities and counties around here do not have sand trucks or snow plows. (They do have a few trucks that can spray an anti-icing agent on the roads.) None of us have snow tires and the majority of drivers do not know how to drive on icy roads. Luckily for us, severe winter weather is a rarity in South Texas.

By 4 p.m. on Monday with the sun still shining, our school district cancelled school for Tuesday. So did all the other 16 school districts in San Antonio as well as the colleges, court house, city and county offices, and a wide range of companies, both big and small. My husband even closed his law firm and opted to work from home.

This is what happens when we get ice on the roads. The city shuts down. Yes, San Antonio (the 7th largest city in the U.S.) and the rest of South Texas become the brunt of a lot of jokes about our panic and what many Northerns consider an overreaction.

 

Tuesday started out by 4 a.m. at freezing and as the day progressed the temperature continued to drop, reaching a low of 26.  Freezing rain and sleet were steady throughout the morning and early afternoon. We had icicles hanging from our roof and plants. North facing windows became a sheet of ice as did my back deck and patio table.  San Antonio has many overpasses and bridges which froze over. Overall there were 230 accidents reported between midnight and 4 p.m., but it would have been much worse if so many of the drivers hadn’t stayed off the road.

Wednesday morning, we woke to 27 degree temperatures and ice still on some of the bridges and highway interchanges. But the majority of the roads were fine. School resumed and by mid-morning the ice was gone. After 32 hours below freezing, the temperature warmed up to 46 by late afternoon. And the temps kept rising over the next few days until by Saturday we were back up to the upper 60s again.

So, for one day, San Antonio and area communities closed. The bad thing about missing school due to a Winter Freeze Day is that the day must be made up. It means that the kids lose getting President’s Day off in February. But they did enjoy having four day weekend here January. Now it will probably be another couple of years before we have to worry about this crazy winter weather again. Or I could be wrong. It did after all snow in December.