Phillip’s Quest, Book II: Above the Stars

Phillip's Quest Book 2Above the Stars, the continuation of Phillip’s Quest for Winterfrost begins as the three companions arrive in the land of Winterfrost, a land of “unbelievable beauty and incredible cold.” A book as beautiful as WInterfrost, this book is filled with new and old characters alike. Meet Phillip’s new friends, Llemura and Llamont; new enemies, Bael and a new wizard and the unicorn, Chaspère and Unilda. Find out what happens to the companions and their beloved Twistedoak as they continue their epic saga. Will they get through this challenging journey together?

Above the Stars is written by Belinda MIller and has the beautiful illustrations of Dean Kuhta. A fantasy of words and pictures.

Above the Stars will be available for sale in book and ebook format, late October, 2014 through Amazon.com.

Buona Pasqua!

There is a lovely poem that was written by my friend, Dan Verner regarding the treatment of Christmas vs. Easter. You can see it on his WP blog and FB page. He is right in that Christmas is treated, especially in the United States, with so much fanfare that we often forget that Easter, as a holy-day, is just as miraculous.

When I was a child, Easter was treated on the same level as Christmas. Being brought up as an Italian-American, the Easter season, beginning with Ash Wednesday was even more revered. There was sacrifice, albeit it might have been just candy, that was expected of you.  There was absolutely no meat eaten on Fridays and other Holy Days of Obligation, confession and communion was not even up for discussion and at 3:00 PM on Good Friday, you went to the Stations of the Cross.  A prayer vigil that was held for each stop that Christ made on His way to Calvary. When you got home, there was a dinner with fish, fish, fish! Easter Saturday was spent cooking–all day–for the celebration of the Risen Christ, Easter.

Food, the likes of which you can’t believe! Ahhh, Easter! Pizza Rustica! Pastiera! Easter Breads! Cannoli! Sicilian Cassata (for those of Sicilian heritage), Anginetti and other incredible Italian pastries and cookies. And that was just the beginning! Dinner was unbelievable. Antipasta, lasagna, meat course (could be roasted lamb or chicken), the gravy meat (meatballs, braciola, sausage), salad, vegetables. While everyone was cleaning up the dinner dishes, there was fruit and nuts, then the coffee came out–“black or brown?”–espresso or regular(no decaf was mentioned, ever). Then, the desserts!!!!! OMG!!! Except for the first thing listed, the Pizza Rustica, which you munched on after church on Easter Sunday, especially because you got hungry hunting for eggs, the others were dessert! 

I can remember the Three Sisters; my mother Linda, my aunt Anne, and my Godmother Kate, cooking in the kitchen. Each had their assigned duties. I can still see Katie standing in front of the pastry board with at least 20 pounds of flour, making the pastry and pie crusts for the Pizza Rustica and Pastiere.  Ten inch pie plates were used. The pastry was soft and delicate and perfect. My mother made the cookies. You name it, she made it. She collected pounds of butter from when it was on sale and used nothing but Land O’Lakes…the other was too “watery.” Her cookies were coveted. And my Aunt Annie made the gravy. While my mom made the braciola, (beef and pork), the sausages, (that had to come from the Pork Store or somewhere on Arthur Avenue, the Bronx), were carefully rendered in the big dutch oven. Patiently, patiently, my Aunt Anne would braise the sausage until it was golden brown. Then, out it came and the braciola went in. It was a process, but nothing, nothing was better then my Aunt Annie’s gravy (my mother used to get pissed when I said that). Un poco cooking rivalry between them. The meatballs, that were beautiful, round and browned by my Aunt Katie at 0-Dark-30, that morning, were the last things added. If you want to see an Italian making a lasagna, check out cookingwithnonna.com. It has recipes for all that I mentioned…real recipes!

And then, we ate!! Ten, fifteen, twenty at the table with guests arriving, all of the time. And we laughed. And we told stories. And we loved!  Buona Pasqua a tutti!

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Happy Easter! May your memories always be wonderful!

How to Find a Gnome

I look at the writings of my collegues and remark at the careful and, I’m sure, sometimes tedious research that they perform to authenticate their writing. I admire them and sometimes feel guilty because my writing requires nothing but my imagination! Even though I had Dean Kuhta’s wonderful illustrations to follow and knew the kind of characters I needed to create, I knew little about gnomes.  I mean, what did you need to know? Short and stocky? Yup. Bearded? Sure. Conical hats? Mostly. I mean, just look at the annoying Travelocity gnome (my cousin started that company, so I hope I won’t get in trouble). Voila, a gnome! Then, after the third book, I decided maybe I should do some research.

Did you gnow that there is a whole gnome culture out there! First of all, I went nuts on Pinterest. Too much fun.  Beautiful illustrations of gnome and their habitats. Artists have put together mini-gnome habitats. Too cute — so I went wild “pinning” all these pictures to my Phillip’s Quest page.  Talented people. A bit weird, but talented. Yeah, right, look who’s talking! I’m obsessed.

So, of course, I must gnow MORE! Low and behold, I remember some of these illustrations and remember, from somewhere, the book called Gnomes. Immediately, I’m on Amazon and there it is, by Wil Huygen and RienPoortvelt.  Two Dutchmen who put wrote and illustrated the iconic guide to all things gnome-ish. The illustrations are amazing! But, what’s more amazing is that I did okay with Phillip.

Except for some “nude-y” gnomes, (I’m not kidding), it would be a great book to show and read to children. One of my favorite parts is about the “other” night beings.  One particular troll is called a “snotgurgle.” Must be Razorsnoot’s cousin! Gotta love it. Needless to say, I feel so much less guilty about not doing research. Goes to show you, you can find anything on the internet.  Next research project–dragons!

As Phillip would say in his native language, “Slitzweitz!” (“Goodbye!”)

 

Of course, Phillip’s Quest and Gnomes are available on Amazon!

The Ragwort Chronicles

A very special kind of gnome, those Ragworts are. Everything about them is a bit peculiar.  Not natural farmers, like most of the gnomes of Twistedoak, the Ragworts of Brokenfell march to a different beat. It is rumored that Poppa Ragwort fought in the Blue Azuric Wars  Can you believe, a gnome soldier? They even live is a peculiar type of house.

If the doorway was the mouth, then the windows were the eyes. Nonna Ragwort, Poppa’s wife, made curtains that made the windows look like they had eyelids. At night, candles were lit and put in the windows of the house. As the town gnomes passed by the house, they would tell stories about how the “eyes” of the house followed them. At Halloween, the little ones would dare each other to make faces at the house. Besides the carved out “eyes,” this old stone dwarf wore a helmet. The shape of the helmet made a perfectly good roof. As odd looking as the house was, it was made it warm and comfortable by Nonna Ragwort.

Those Ragworts…

“In the right corner we have Reddy Right Brain, his opponent, on the left is Creative Carl.”

Ugh! There is truth to the matter that some people are both right and left brained, but those of us that are, are often asked, “What would you rather be?” Immediately, I would answer “left brained” so I could be left alone to dally in my own creations. My world of gnomes and wizards and dragons. My world of making jewelry and collecting art and cooking and fun, pretty stuff. But no-o-o-o, not me, just as soon as I get in the groove, I’m yanked out to, (cue in music here) da-duh-duh…REALITY! And, my husband wonders why I’m so nutsoid! Go figure!

I guess, it’s a wonderful thing that I am able to escape to my “wonderland” but I do turn into the Red Witch–would spell it another way but do not want to be censored, or have a contract terminated,– when I am yanked out because of someone else’s incompetence that I am left having to fix. Boy, does it get ugly when the Sicilian rears its ugly head! Not saying that Sicilian’s are ugly, of course. They are beautiful, but highly emotional people who are fantastic cooks!

I actually don’t mind putting on my red shirt, I rather love the color, if I can be of help, but don’t make me do a job for which I get no payment of any kind! Give me a chocolate bar and I’m thrilled, but don’t spit on it first! You know what I mean? I think that’s why I write children’s books. They’re so gratifying!

 

Writing is Fun

I know that I tweeted (almost wrote twittered) this a few minutes ago but last night I was working on Book III of PQ: Across the Elusive Sea and cracked myself up.  Lordy, is my mind gone! Book three has to do with Phillip at sea. How’s that, Katherine!? Any ways, after Edward is captured (almost spoiler), the other two…you know who they are…meet a crew of pirates who will take them across the Carnelian Sea. So, this book will mainly take part at sea! Ergo, sea creatures!!! Yay!!! But not your sea creatures ordinaire–nooooo. These guys are funky.  My fave, so far is the Toll Keeper of Tokken Island. Pretty weird. A mixture of Hannible Lechter and Charlie the Tuna with fish-lips and a little Jabba the Hut  on the side, with a Medusa doo. Hey, I’m easy to entertain!

Happy Happy Happy!

It’s International Happiness Day and the first day of Spring and the first day that Northern Virginia has seen sun in a long time! But wait, there’s more!

I love science. How could you not? In this day and age we have found out more about life on earth than we could have ever believed. Look at the ancient astronomers. So many were put to death and believed to have been witches because they would not accept that the world was flat or the sun revolved around Earth! Now, we can explore galaxies and planets beyond our own!

There are archeological digs and devices so sophisticated that out scientists can discover things about ancient civilizations that were only guessed at. Sure, we learned about early man, the pyramids, the stages that the earth passed through to get to present day and about the dinosaurs. My personal favorite being the brontosaurus, for obvious reasons but what about the “Chicken from Hell!” Who’d a thunk there was the mother of all chickens called the Anzu wyliei! A stretched out chicken. Nasty bugger too! It is the largest oviraptorosaurian in North America, found in North and South Dakota! 11 feet long and 500 pounds, wouldn’t Col. Sanders love it? Probably not. The article I read said that they are a remote relative of the ostrich, which is scientifically a dinosaur and it tastes like beef!

You have to kiss a lot of frogs…

After 16 years of being together, I can honestly tell you he never ceases to amaze me.  My husband Gary, is not a romantic.  Not much of a gift buyer. I dare say that if you asked him my favorite ice cream flavor, he wouldn’t know.  Anniversaries, not.  Birthdays, maybe.  Valentine’s Day. sometimes.  Support and love. Always.

We’ve had a rough 16 years.  Deaths, illnesses…for better or worse. Who knew that we’d be together 24/7 since the year after we were married. I didn’t sign up for that.  Difficult. You betcha! Worthwhile.  Every minute. And, every day there’s a new surprise.

Saturday, my sweet man made special arrangements to get my beautiful piano tuned.  It’s a beauty.  A handmade Charles Walter concert console piano.  It’s signed and numbered and could put a Steinway grand to shame.  I have not touched it for 12 years.  Like my skis, which were extremely difficult to part with, it’s a constant reminder of something I loved to do and cannot.  So, my beloved piano beautifully and regally sits in the living room reduced to a holder of knick-knacks and at Christmas, a collection of Hallmark animated music boxes. Soon, it will go to our grandson, Sammy. But, this Saturday, it got some love and attention.  The piano technician, “oohed” and “ahhhed” over her while she was lovingly and carefully tuned.  Each string touched and adjusted by expert hands that I watched, like a mama hawk, making sure that those babies were not over stressed.  A bittersweet two hours knowing that she was receiving much deserved care but knowing I couldn’t play her.

My hands have atrophied to the point that my fingers can no longer depress the keys of my beautiful girl.  Nor, are they receiving the message from my muscles to be coordinated enough to play.  Even as I type, I use only my left hand and one finger on my right hand.  My hands get incredibly cold and cramp up. Something I can live with while typing but not playing the piano. It was never an effortless task, practiced for hours and hours on end, but the result was worth it.  And now, I have those memories.

My husband never really knew the quality of the piano…he had never heard me play. Also, he is not musically inclined.  When he saw Dan, our newly acquired “piano man” and friend ogle the piano, he suddenly realized that there might be something to my love for her. When he heard Dan play her, his mouth fell open.  Not so much because of Dan’s skill as a pianist but because my girl makes anyone sound good!

So, the next morning, my prince says to me, “Might want to change clothes, we’re having some guests today.”

“Huh? It’s Sunday.”

My favorite catch up day. Read emails, FB, WordPress, Twitter, jewelry and write…uninterrupted! Not this Sunday.  So, I changed from “more casual,” to just “casual.” About two o’clock, I closed down my computer after writing another 2000 for the “…the Elusive Sea” and the doorbell rings.  In comes my neighbor’s teenager (whom I love) and her two friends.  They introduce themselves and tell me that they’ve come to give me a private piano concert! Gary is grinning ear to ear.

P.S. A violin was thrown in the mix.  It was amazing!

 

 

 

Across the Elusive Sea, Book III

So, the title is not carved in stone but since Book II is: Above the Stars, I thought that this name would continue the preposition thing.  Of course, I’ve given you a clue about what happen to Phillip, next.  Although I am only 2000+ words into Book III, I can tell you that it will be exciting! All kinds of seaworthy and not so seaworthy creatures and Phillip is getting closer and closer to Winterfrost Castle.  Lots of things are going on with our friends, the Ragworts, too! And Phallow!  Ah, hah!

So, How many have let your children read Phillip’s Quest, Book i:Winterfrost?  Am getting many reviews from adults and how much THEY love it, but c’mon guys, give it to your kids!  No, I love that it’s been read by young and old. Don’t forget to tell your friends.  It’s on Amazon and you can buy it from me, too!

Book II: Above the Stars is out of editing.  As soon as Dean gets the artwork done, end of April, it will be submitted for publication.  We should have that out by the end of the Summer.  Phillip and his friends have gone through Azur’s picture and have landed, with a thump, in Winterfrost! He will meet some cool critters and also some nasty ones.  Razorsnoot is there…farting away, so are the Ragworts, who now have their own series.

A new book is in publication, The Ragwort Chronicles, the Beginning:  The Ragworts of Brokenfell.  This is a shorter book.  It is geared to the younger grades and will be produced in an 8×8 format.  Same great art, recipes and a insight into the Ragwort’s family.  They are pretty interesting!  I would imagine this book will be published and out early Summer.

My dear friend and editor, Katherine calls me, “one prolific lady.”  I guess I am but I’m having a blast!