Stacey Keith’s Italian Adventure Part 2: Civita Castellana

In part 2 of my interview with Stacey Keith, she shares how her move to Italy, despite her hardships, made her life richer and her advice to anyone wanting to make the jump.

How did you discover Civita Castellana? I checked it out after I read your article on moving to Italy and I was intrigued.

John’s apartment in Calcata was Hobbit hole sized. With the two of us there, it was like living in a shoebox. To make matters worse, the apartment was smack dab on top of a restaurant called Il Graal, which was run amok with loud, Italian tourists, shrieking babies, and screaming Calcatese. The residents of Calcata loved to dance, sing, eat, play music—and yell at the top of their lungs at each other. Fights were an everyday occurrence, most of them over nothing. No one can seethe like an Italian can seethe.

Across from us, there was an aging film star who had a coffee shop filled, floor-to-ceiling, with photos of his glory days (and only marginally less public photos of his penis). A brilliant, albeit vitriolic, right-wing Italian prince lived around the corner. There were enormous caves carved right into the rock that had been turned into grottos, artists’ workshops, even a cave full of birds that were tended by the village “strega” or witch.

But there were no banks in Calcata, no grocery stores, no post offices. Most days you couldn’t even buy a cappuccino, and most of the restaurants were only open on the weekends. Between the tight quarters, the noise, the drama and the inconvenience, John and I decided to relocate about twelve kilometers north to Civita Castellana, another village on a rock, only a far bigger rock.

Civita CastellanaCivita Castellana is three thousand years old. Mozart played in the nine-hundred-year-old Duomo there. Heretics were burned in the piazza in front of the Fontana dei Draghi (Fountain of Dragons). An abandoned twelfth-century church sits directly in front of our house. For a fifth of what a decent apartment in Houston costs, we live like kings. And yes, there are plenty of cappuccinos.

How long did it take you to plan your move?

Once John asked me to come to Italy (I knew this was his decision to make and never pressed him or hinted at it in any way), things moved quickly. His invitation came in June. By August, I was on my way.

I Craigslisted pretty much everything I owned in that awful, health-hazard apartment I paid $1500 a month for, and my sweet friend Joyce helped me sell my car—a stick shift that lessened the car’s resale value, but THANK THE GODDESS I could drive a stick because that’s pretty much all you can get in Europe.

Saying goodbye to my students was hard. They threw me a fabulous party where the city of Houston, as a goodbye present, towed my car. I spent my last night in Houston at the impound lot. If that’s not a sign, what is?

With my daughter due to follow me over in one month, I packed all my earthly belongings into two duffel bags (a shocking proportion of which was taken up with books) and flew stand-by to Rome.

I didn’t speak Italian, only phrasebook. I have a long-standing terror of commitment. But I knew that a far better life lay beyond the Atlantic, a life that fed my soul instead of depleting it. I had to take that chance because if I didn’t, I was going to be eaten up with regret for the rest of my life.

My advice? TRAVEL LIGHT. The point of these adventures is to not be burdened down by the past, but to make room for the future.

Yes, it requires living with a huge amount of uncertainty, insecurity and fear. But life is tenuous at best no matter where you call home.

The abyss yawns for all of us. Learning to let go of the branch and sail down the river is a life skill. Yes, there are rocks. Yes, they may hurt you. But at some point you will make it through the rapids and float blissfully on the other side … before you hit the rapids again.

Hey, this is life we’re talking about.

What was the biggest obstacle you faced with your move?

As a writer, I’m a born communicator and compulsive reader. So the language barrier was a problem (and continues to be—real fluency in any language takes years). Once you get out of Rome, the number of English speakers drops to near zero. Plus I am not one of those expats who expects everyone in Italy to speak my language. It is my responsibility to speak theirs. I study, but it’s admittedly a slow arduous process.

The biggest obstacle I faced and continue to face is not seeing my kids.

Being a writer and being a mom are antithetical. Writing requires quiet and privacy. Motherhood requires everything else. I’d been a hands-on mom for nearly twenty years before I came to Italy, but that didn’t make it easier to go. Not seeing my kids as often as I would like is the one enormous hairy fly in my ointment. Had I given up John, Italy, and quite possibly my writing career, I would have faced an empty nest anyway. But that sacrifice is felt by all of us every day.

Had I stayed, there would have been a different set of problems. The human body can only take so much physical stress, and I was teaching sixteen classes a week. Both my shoulders were blown (as I discovered after moving here). I write longhand but couldn’t properly hold a pen. I assumed it was neurological damage from the grueling nature of my work at the gym. As it turns out, I was simply exhausted. But when you’re on that rat wheel, it’s sometimes hard to tell how fast it’s going.

Missed part 1 of the interview? Check it out in the Related Post below.

Photo Stacey KeithAbout Stacey Keith

Stacey Keith is the award-winning author of the Dreams Come True series (Kensington Books), Dream On, Sweet Dreams and Dream Lover, in addition to A Wedding On Bluebird Way with New York Times Bestseller authors Janet Dailey, Lori Wilde and the talented Allyson Charles.

Twice a Golden Heart finalist, Stacey has won a Maggie, two Silver Quills, a Jasmine, a Heart of the Rockies, and over fifteen other first-place finishes in Romance Writers of America contests.

An avid writer of fiction, nonfiction, poetry and short stories, Stacey doesn’t own a television, but reads compulsively—and would, in fact, go stark raving bonkers without books, which are crammed into all corners of the house. She now lives in Civita Castellana, a medieval village in Italy that sits atop a cliff, and spends her days writing in a nearby abandoned 12th-century church.

The two things she is most proud of are her ability to cook pasta alla genovese without burning down the kitchen and swearing volubly in Italian with all the appropriate hand gestures.

Connect with Stacey:

Website | Facebook Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest Amazon | Goodreads

Books By Stacey Keith

Dream on Stacey Keith

Click on the cover to learn more

Stacey Keith Sweet Dreams

Click on the cover to pre-order Sweet Dream

Dream Lover Stacey Keith

Releasing in May

 

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Can Glory live up to her illustrious name?

Best selling author, Dani Collins share how she created the character Glory in her On The Edge novel.

Dani Collins blog tourCan Glory live up to her illustrious name?

When I started plotting the book that eventually became On The Edge, my husband and I were redoing our will. My writing career was established with a backlist of twenty-plus books. I had to appoint someone to look after that side of things if I were hit by a bus.

That started me thinking that maybe my heroine, Glory, administers her mom’s literary estate. I decided her mother was an iconic romance author like Nora Roberts, beloved by millions. She left Glory’s father such a fortune, he’s able to sink it into the run-down Blue Spruce Lodge.

Glory’s mom had a long battle with cancer, so Glory has had to step up with increasing skills over the years. It started as stuffing bookmarks in envelopes, but by the end, she’s heavily editing books from her mother’s backlist.

Glory always wanted to write. In fact, by Grade Nine, she was so inspired by her mom, she scribbled scenes into a notebook Love scenes. Ones that starred a boy she had a crush on.

That was when that jock-pig, Garrett Waters, grabbed it and read it to the class. It was beyond humiliating.

Glory continued to dream up stories, but they didn’t make it onto paper. She couldn’t risk it. She didn’t write again until she began editing her mom’s books. Then her mom died and writer’s block hit, but before that, she was writing lengthy passages, sometimes whole chapters.

She never takes credit, though. Too scary.

Now her father is renovating Blue Spruce Lodge. He needs the cash that would come with a new release, but Glory’s mom is gone. Glory starts writing with the intention of publishing the book as an ‘undiscovered’ title of her mother’s.

I won’t spoil how that turns out, but I will tell you that the hero, Rolf—a serious jock who is a gold-medal alpine champion—is her inspiration for her own hero. And Rolf finds out what she’s doing.

Fun Fact: The book Glory writes, Blessed Winter, is a book-within-a-book. You get to read it as Glory writes it while she’s fighting with/falling for Rolf in On The Edge. Continue reading

Dangerous Mate by Cecilia Lane

Dangerous Mate coverTitle: Dangerous Mate (Shifters of Bear’s Den, #2) by Cecilia Lane
Publication date: January 10th 2018
Genres: Adult, Paranormal, Romance

Synopsis

A Bear spoiling for a brawl.
Cole Strathorn fights fires. That’s all he’s ever wanted to do. He thrives on danger and protecting his clan. No one would mistake the six-foot-four, gruff bear shifter for a freaking baby sitter. But that’s exactly what he’s become thanks to an assignment from the town’s mayor. Cole’s new job requires him to keep an eye on the government scientist who has arrived in Bearden to study the shifters.

Cole expects a clichéd nerd with horn-rimmed glasses and a pocket protector, but he’s pleasantly surprised to find his charge is a lovely, curvy and very appealing woman. A woman who smells like she might be more than an assignment. The shy but brilliant scientist might even be his mate. Her addicting scent certainly arouses his bear.

A head for science, but a body for research.
Rylee Garland has come to Bearden to work. She doesn’t have time for distractions or bossy bodyguards, even if they’re tall, dark and gorgeous. She’s determined to ignore the tension sizzling between her and Cole. Her reputation hangs in the balance. If she doesn’t solve the mysteries swirling around the small town, she can forget about keeping her job.

But it grows harder to resist Cole’s charm. One wicked-hot kiss leads to another. Is Cole for real? Or is he just using his seduction skills to get information? Rylee’s had enough heartache for one lifetime and the deeper she falls for Cole, the more she worries he might not be what he seems.

A war brews.
While Rylee and Cole fight their attraction, sinister forces gather in the town of Bearden. The government might want information about the shifters, but there are others that seek something darker: total shifter eradication. The threat lurks, and the menace is real. Rylee and Cole must set aside fear and desire and join forces if they hope to save the shifters of Bearden.

~~~
Step into the world of Shifting Destinies, where the men and women you meet might just be a little more than human. Their towns are protected by magic, and their hearts are open and ready for love. But watch your step – more than darkness lurks in the shadows. Continue reading

Writing Mystery, Horror, Paranormal Thrillers

Willow Rose blog tourWhat draws you to write mystery, horror and paranormal thrillers?

I love the supernatural and you can feel it even in my mysteries and thrillers. I like the creepy and my books are often gritty and scary. That’s why they named me the Queen of Scream I guess.

How difficult is it to maintain the suspense and intrigue in your books while still building up to a satisfying ending?

That’s actually my favorite part. The plot. In my books, you’ll meet several people whose stories don’t seem to have anything to do with each other, but at the end, you’ll realize it is all connected somehow and I make sure you’ll be surprised when you realize how. That is a lot of fun.

You have a knack for creating characters who readers care about. What is your secret to creating compelling characters?

Oh wow. Thank you. I am happy to hear that. I think that I care a lot about them myself. And I try to make them have more than one side to them. Especially the bad guys. There is always a very good reason for them to be the way they are and I take my time to explain what happened to them. Their motives are important. And even my heroes mess up now and then. Just like the rest of us. I am also not afraid to make them be emotional. I spend more time writing about their emotions than describing what they look like or what the place they’re at looks like.

Tell us a bit about your writing habits. Do you plot your books before you start writing?

It is very different, actually. Sometimes I dream something, other times it’s just something that comes to me and I think, Hmm that’s interesting or scary, maybe my readers will find it interesting or scary too. I always try to go places where I frighten myself, where there is pain or fear. Like recently I read a post on Facebook about a woman warning other mothers that she and her daughter were being approached by this man in Target and then afterward in the parking lot outside and she had heard about this trafficking ring that targeted mothers and their children. Reading that post scared me like crazy so I knew I had to write about it. It turned out it was a hoax, but the idea was planted and soon it became a book.

What do you do when you are busy writing a book and the next idea is nagging at the back of your mind? Are you one of those authors who write multiple books at a time? Continue reading

Carey Decevito Presents, Night Shift

Night Shift coverTitle: Night Shift (Nightshade, #2) by Carey Decevito
Publication date: January 9th 2018
Genres: Adult, Romance, Suspense

Synopsis

A serial killer…

A past that haunts no matter how much the distance…

Which one will strike first?

Eighteen deaths over eight years has left Shane Peters itching to find his mark. The death that started it all ensured his obsession with the murderer who had turned his life into a living hell, leaving him to raise a newborn daughter on his own.

Starting over wasn’t the easiest thing, but Emberlyn Roth had managed by shear grit and the skin of her teeth. It’s too bad one can’t outrun their past.

A protector of the wronged, Shane is torn between his duty as a detective for the Jacksonville PD and a quest to find himself some peace. Red tape binds his capabilities and moonlighting as an investigator for Nightshade Securities has him feeling stretched thin. Late nights on the streets and his sense of duty keeps him from being the father he wants to be. Throw onto his already rickety house of cards, an attraction to the mysterious Emberlyn, the lead he’s got on the murderer he’s been hunting for nearly a decade, and threats his woman is receiving by an unsavory character from her past, and he’s seriously tempted to take Dalton Kipper’s offer to join his team in a permanent basis.

Rules have a place, but when you’re faced with losing the one that means most to you, lines can become blurred. With the fate of his family’s future hanging in the balance, he’s ready to risk it all. Continue reading

Inspiration for your next book can be found anywhere

Author Rachel Brimble shares where she gets inspiration for her novels.

The single most common questions author get asked by readers and interviewers is where we get our inspiration. This is such a difficult question to answer without leaving the person asking the question no more informed than they were before speaking with you!

Rachel Brimble blog tourInspiration is everywhere…snippets of conversation, news articles, TV programs and movies, your experiences/others experiences, places, history. I could go on and on 🙂

Let’s start with one aspect at a time…

Setting

This is where the majority of my stories begin taking shape in my imagination. I love visiting new and old places, looking for that new story idea. I’m lucky enough to live in one of the most beautiful parts of the UK. Wiltshire is rich with history, phenomenal countryside, and beautiful villages. On top of that, I am just thirty minutes drive from the famous Georgian City of Bath.

There are so many places to inspire me from the churches and cathedrals to the tiny hamlets hidden away which are bound to hold secrets. I love wandering around Bath and thinking of the many, many generations of people who have lived in this wonderful city and the struggles they faced and conquered.

Look around you and ask yourself, “Who lived here?” “Who fought here?” “Who fell in love here?” “Who lost a loved one here?” And then ask yourself, “Why?” “Who?” “How?”

Templeton Cove came alive in my mind by reminiscing about my childhood holidays – the beaches, piers, oceans, and shops all mixed and merged until I had created my own fictional town. Eight books later and I still love Templeton more than any place I’ve created.

Characters

This is a difficult one for me – many writers start their stories with the character, especially in romance. This rarely happens for me. Occasionally, I hear a voice or a line of dialogue and have to find out who said that and why. It usually turns out to be the hero or heroine––although, other times it has been a secondary character shouting to be heard.

I start finding my characters by trawling the Internet for pictures of famous actors or models. Usually one of the faces catches my eye and ‘speaks’ to me. I’ve found my character. After that, I complete a full character sketch looking for their story. The sketches usually produce the characters’ Goal, Motivation, and Conflict. After that, I have to start plotting… Continue reading

Under His Skin by Hayes and Haney

Under his skin coverUnder His Skin by S.I. Hayes and J. Haney
Genre: Contemporary Romance with a twist of Suspense

Synopsis

At twenty-six Dorian Gallagher has it all. Money, power, he’s used to fast cars and faster women. He gets what he wants when he wants it. Being put in charge of the build for the Gallagher family’s newest theme park has dropped him in Tennessee.

Bored out of his mind he decides to go get some new ink and finds himself face to face with a beautiful woman who doesn’t know his famous last name. Can he charm this dark beauty, or will she just stick him and run?

Charlotte (Charlie) Herrick is a free spirit. She drives a big truck, rides a motorcycle and carries a gun. All while dancing around in the layers of tulle that make up her usual cheek-baring tutus. Her life was hers. Until she meets Dorian Gallagher, now she doesn’t know which way is up and life has become something more than just the shop, fishin’ and moonshine. He says he’s just here for the year, so she convinces herself it’s just a fling.

Can she stay true to her convictions or will this Amusement Park Prince finally get his princess?

Contains violence and erotic elements Continue reading

Escape Claws A Cat Lady Mystery by Linda Reilly

Escape Claws Linda ReillyEscape Claws A Cat Lady Mystery by Linda Reilly
Genre: Cozy Mystery
204 pages

Synopsis

Here, killer, killer, killer . . .

For the first time in sixteen years, Lara Caphart has returned to her hometown of Whisker Jog, New Hampshire. She wants to reconnect with her estranged Aunt Fran, who’s having some difficulty looking after herself—and her eleven cats. Taking care of a clowder of kitties is easy, but keeping Fran from being harassed by local bully Theo Barnes is hard. The wealthy builder has his sights set on Fran’s property and is determined to make her an offer she doesn’t dare refuse.

Then Lara spots a blue-eyed ragdoll cat that she swears is the reincarnation of her beloved Blue, her childhood pet. Pursuing the feline to the edge of Fran’s yard, she stumbles upon the body of Theo Barnes, clearly a victim of foul play. To get her and Fran off the suspect list, Lara finds herself following the cat’s clues in search of a killer. Is Blue’s ghost really trying to help her solve a murder, or has Lara inhaled too much catnip? Continue reading

Italian Adventures with Stacey Keith – Part 1

In this 3-part interview series, I had the pleasure of interviewing author Stacey Keith on her move from Houston to Italy.

I first heard about Stacey during the blog tour for her novel Dream On when she shared her story on moving to Italy.

As an immigrant, her story resonated with me so much that I had to share with you. Check out part 1 below.

You’ve done something that all of us have thought about doing at one point in time or another. The thing is, you had the brass balls to do it and for that, you have my utmost respect.

Okay, so let’s start from the beginning…

You quit your job, sold your car and moved to Italy with two suitcases of your stuff. What made you do it? Had you been to Italy before? Did you know anyone there?

Photo Stacey KeithLife as a single mom is not easy. I was working seven days a week just to make ends meet. I had four jobs, three of which actually paid: I was a group fitness instructor at 24-Hour Fitness in Houston, a personal trainer for a select clientele, a writer for UpClose magazine and a freelance writer of novels. My critique group of twelve years met in my cramped dining room with my two cats and two kids. In hindsight, where I found the time to do any of this, I can’t say, but I did perfect the art of power napping in my car.

I was sitting with my bestie, Joyce Kaufman, one day in front of the computer and happened to see a sidebar ad for a writing workshop in Italy with Natalie Goldberg (of Writing Down The Bones fame). All I did was sigh longingly for the kind of life where such junkets were possible, and Joyce got it into her head that come hell or high water, I was going. Unbeknownst to me, she started passing the hat around to all my classes and collecting air miles from a generous Facebook friend, Jim Mazzei. Joyce called me about three weeks before departure and said in her droll, inimitable way, “Let me ask you something. Do you have a passport?”

The minute I set foot in Italy, I knew I was home. It was an eerie feeling, to tell you the truth, because I’d never experienced it before. I knew absolutely no Italian. In fact, the first thing I did after getting off the plane was hightail it into the men’s room because I couldn’t read the signs saying uomini (men) and donne (women). A bus collected me and about forty other American writers and took us to Villa Lina, a beautiful eighty-acre organic farm in a little town called Ronciglione. I was in heaven.

But poor Natalie did not hit it off with her students. Almost from the moment we arrived, Natalie laid down a moratorium on drinking wine. In Italy. She said it was because wine “polluted our instrument.” Personally, I hate wine, so I didn’t have any skin in the game, but even I could see how problematic this would be with ladies who came to Italy to write, socialize, and have a grand adventure in vino. By Friday of that week, the organizer had chartered a bus to whisk us away from Villa Lina where mutinous cabals had formed to plot Natalie’s overthrow, and take us to Calcata, which is an artists’ colony that sits on top of a rock in the Treja Valley. Continue reading

A non-critic review of USA’s Suits

If you haven’t been watching Suits on USA Network and you like legal dramas, you are missing out. I don’t like legal dramas and I don’t have cable so you have no excuse.

I’ve had it on my Amazon Prime tv cue for a while but hesitated because like I said I don’t really like legal dramas. A couple of months ago (before the news of my beloved Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s engagement) I decided to give it a try. I hadn’t really heard about it until Meghan Markle and the Prince made their dating public so I was curious.

I had planned on watching ONE episode and ended up binge-watching the entire season. From the pilot, I was entertained by the mostly unknown (at least by me) cast.

Suits is a show that does not take themselves seriously with their witty banter, excessive use of “Goddamn” and the constant reference to pop culture and classic movies.

The Fashion

Everybody on that show is always dressed to the nines. They must spend a small fortune on wardrobe. Gabriel Macht can rock a Tom Ford suit better than any male runway model I’ve ever seen.

The ladies give office-wear a whole new meaning. Their outfits are what the rest of us would wear at a formal evening out.

The Drinking Game

You could start a drinking game with the amount of time they use the phrase “Shit the bed”. Never in one show have I heard that phrase being used so many times.

The Relationships

The relationship we want to root for is Patrick J Adams (Mike) and Meghan Markle (Rachel), we want them to ride off into the sunset and live happily ever after. But watch out, Harvey and Donna really do it for me. The two have such amazing chemistry and Harvey is a lost puppy without his secretary, Donna.

Girl Power

Yes, the show is about Macht and Adam’s characters but Gina Torres (Jessica), Sarah Rafferty (Donna) and Markle’s Rachel are really pulling the strings. Jessica is the owner of the law firm. Torres plays her with poise, grace, and class. Sure, she doesn’t always operate above board but who really does when millions of dollars are at stake? Right? Continue reading