Thursday, October 16, 2014

Winner of chocolate giveaway! (Oh, yeah, and a copy of my book. ;-) )

Congratulations to Annette L for winning the $20 See's Candy gift card and autographed copy of Loving Lucianna!

I had an amazing response to this giveaway. Thank you all for celebrating with me!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Spooktacular Giveaway Hop

It's that time again! Time for the annual Spooktacular Giveaway Hop, sponsored by I Am a Reader, Not a Writer!


Here at JDP NEWS I'm giving away an ebook trio of three of my sweet medieval romances. (Click on the links to read about each title.)

Illuminations of the Heart
Loyalty's Web
Loving Lucianna (new title!)

This giveaway is open to International entries (18 years old or above). Enter via the Rafflecopter form below. If the Rafflecopter form doesn't show up, click on the link that says A Rafflecopter Giveaway and it should take you to the form. The winner will be announced on November 1, 2014.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

All entered? Then return to I Am a Reader to find some more great blog hop giveaways!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Come celebrate with me!

My new medieval romance, Loving Lucianna, is being published this Saturday! I'm so excited, guess what I did to celebrate? Yep, you guessed it! (Well, you did if you know me very well. ;-) ) I bought myself a box of See's chocolate. Of course, I can't eat any of it until Saturday when the book goes live--I had the sale's clerk wrap the box in paper so I wouldn't be tempted, and so far I've been a good girl. (I didn't say it was easy!)


(See? Wrapped in paper to keep me out, just as I said!)


You know what makes celebrating even more fun? Celebrating with lots and lots of friends! So I'd like to celebrate with you by holding a giveaway. The prizes? A $20 See's gift card so you can buy your very own box of chocolate, and an autographed copy of Loving Lucianna.



I'm afraid I will have to limit this giveaway to participants in the USA because of shipping charges for both the book and the chocolate.

There are three ways to enter.

First, everyone gets a FREE entry!

If you'd like additional entries, help me spread the word about my Loving Lucianna Launch Party on Facebook on October 15 by tweeting about it. You can tweet about the launch party once a day.

And if you actually come to my Loving Lucianna Launch Party on October 15, you can earn 5 extra entries! We'll be playing games and giving away over 20 books as prizes! (Don't forget to claim your extra entries on Rafflecopter, though.)

Enter via the Rafflecopter form below. I'll draw the winner's name on October 16.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Making of a Book Blurb

“Blurb” is author slang for the back cover copy on a book, a plot summary tease that it’s hoped will prompt a reader who reads it to say, “Hey, that sounds interesting. I think I’ll buy this book!” These BCCs (back cover copies or “blurbs”) used to appear regularly on the back of paperback books in particular, and they still do. But since e-books don’t have a back to print these summaries on, these are now the descriptive summaries that appear for all books (e-book and print) on a book’s page at online bookstores, like Amazon and Barnes & Noble. They are important for helping potential buyers understand what they are buying before they decide to make a purchase. They are still generally called back cover copies, even for books that don’t have a back cover, or simply slanged to “book blurb.”


(Example of the Back Cover Copy on a paperback book - 
from my Christmas short story, A Candlelight Courting)


In the past, I have written all my own BCCs, even, at the request of my editor, for my traditionally published books. But when it came to writing a BCC for The Lady and the Minstrel, I felt overwhelmed. This is my longest, most complicated book to date and although I took a few stabs at it, I had difficulty deciding which plot lines to emphasize over which other plot lines and still keep the BCC short enough that it wouldn’t become a short novel in itself.


(How I felt after several failed attempts at writing a book blurb
 for The Lady and the Minstrel)


That’s when a friend recommended author Julie Coulton Bellon to me. Julie, it appeared, wrote BCCs for other authors for a very reasonable fee, alongside her personal, award winning suspense novels. (Visit her website here.) I couldn’t comprehend how someone who hadn’t read my book could come up with an effective BCC that actually reflected my book’s contents, but I was getting desperate with The Lady and the Minstrel, so I decided to contact Julie and give her a try.

Julie had me send her a 2 page, double-spaced synopsis of my story. With great difficulty I managed to boil L&M down to two double-spaced pages and sent it off. Approximately a week later, Julie came up with a perfectly splendid BCC! The only problem was, it didn’t accurately reflect some of the events in my story. And whose fault was that? Mine! Because I had inadvertently planted all sorts of false leads in my synopsis that she had drawn together into the following first BCC attempt:

Love. Betrayal. Sacrifice
As a lowly commoner forced into near slavery, Robert Marcel dreams of freedom. He makes a daring escape and is nearly caught, but a young girl helps him slip away from his cruel master.
Years pass and Robert uses his newfound liberty to make something of himself as a minstrel. Invited to play at the betrothal banquet of the Earl of Saxton, he is stunned to come face to face with the girl he’s never forgotten---now Lady Marguerite of Winbourne, fiancée to the earl.
Lady Marguerite has often thought of the young man she helped escape and her tender feelings for him quickly turn into much more when they are brought back into each other’s lives. But Marguerite is bound to marry another, a cruel Earl she does not love, and she longs to be free to marry Robert. Since she once helped him gain his freedom, can he help her now to do the same?
They have one chance to be together---if Robert can stop an assassination plot that could threaten the balance of power in England. With everything at stake, including his very life, Robert will stop at nothing to claim the woman he loves. But can love truly conquer all?

Now if this had only been the story I wrote, it would have been lovely! In many respects it was very close, but some things were “off. The way I had phrased some things in my synopsis had given Julie a false understanding of events. Julie told me from the beginning that this would be a back-and-forth refining process until we (mostly she!) came up with a version I was happy with. So in my email response, I typed the following (my comments are in BLUE CAPS; some of my comments have been edited for format and length):

Love. Betrayal. Sacrifice I LOVE THE IDEA BEHIND THESE THREE WORDS, BUT I’M NOT SURE “BETRAYAL” IS REPRESENTATIVE OF THE STORY. NEITHER OF MY CHARACTERS ARE ACTUALLY BETRAYED, ALTHOUGH ROBERT IS SET UP AS BEING A BETRAYER OF THE KING 
As a lowly commoner forced into near slavery THIS MAKES IT SOUND LIKE HE WAS FREE AND THEN FORCED INTO NEAR SLAVERY, WHEN INSTEAD HE WAS BORN INTO THAT LIFE Robert Marcel dreams of freedom. He makes a daring escape and is nearly caught, but a young girl helps him slip away from his cruel master. I LIKE THESE TWO LINES. (MAYBE CHANGE THE FIRST PHRASE TO SOMETHING LIKE, “As a lowborn serf in 13th Century England, Robert Marcel dreams of freedom.”)
Years pass and Robert uses his newfound liberty to make something of himself as a minstrel. Invited to play at the betrothal banquet of the Earl of Saxton, he is stunned to come face to face with the girl he’s never forgotten---now Lady Marguerite of Winbourne, fiancée to the earl. THESE LINES ARE GOOD.
Lady Marguerite has often thought of the young man she helped escape and her tender feelings for him quickly turn into much more when they are brought back into each other’s lives. But Marguerite is bound to marry another, a cruel Earl she does not love, and she longs to be free to marry Robert. Since she once helped him gain his freedom, can he help her now to do the same. I THINK THIS WORKS. IT DOES FOLLOW SOME OF HER THOUGHT PATTERNS. 
They have one chance to be together---if Robert can stop an assassination plot that could threaten the balance of power in England. With everything at stake, including his very life, Robert will stop at nothing to claim the woman he loves. But can love truly conquer all I’M NOT SURE THESE LINES ARE REPRESENTATIVE OF WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENS IN THE STORY. I PROBABLY DIDN’T GIVE YOU ENOUGH INFORMATION. THE CONFLICT HE HAS TO OVERCOME ISN’T STOPPING THE ASSASSINATION — IT’S OVERCOMING THE PREJUDICE (FOR LACK OF A BETTER WORD) THAT SAYS A SERF/VILLEIN CAN’T MARRY A LADY. (A LOWBORN MINSTREL SHOULDN’T BE ALLOWED TO MARRY A LADY, EITHER. :-) )
AFTER REREADING THE SUMMARY I SENT YOU, I SEE THAT I DID MAKE IT SOUND LIKE ROBERT CAUGHT WIND OF THE PLOT AGAINST GUNTHAR BEFORE THE ASSASSINATION ATTEMPT - HE ACTUALLY PREEMPTS THE ASSASSINATION ATTEMPT, AND THAT LEADS TO A SERIES OF EVENTS THAT GRADUALLY UNRAVELS THE DETAILS OF THE PLOT - MY BAD FOR NOT MAKING THAT CLEAR!

After reflecting further on this version, I realized I had left out something even more important—that I had failed in my synopsis to make clear what the story of The Lady and the Minstrel was really “about.” So I sent a follow-up email to Julie, explaining in greater depth those aspects of the story I should have emphasized in the synopsis but didn’t.

Armed with the new information I had given her, Julie next came up with this version:

Prejudice. Customs. Culture. Can love truly conquer all?
In 13th century England, Robert Marcel, a common serf, chafes against the restrictions of his social class. In his mind, everyone should be free to pursue his own happiness---serf or nobleman---beholden to none  Robert tries to follow that dream and makes a daring escape. He’s nearly caught by his cruel master, but a young girl helps him slip away. 
Years pass and Robert uses his newfound liberty to make something of himself as a minstrel. Invited to play at the betrothal banquet of the Earl of Saxton, he is stunned to come face to face with the girl he’s never forgotten---now Lady Marguerite of Winbourne, fiancée to the earl. And with her status as a noblewoman she is completely out of his reach, no matter their history or how much he comes to love her. Is their love lost before it even had a chance to blossom all because of the circumstance of birth?
Lady Marguerite has often thought of the young man she helped escape. Her tender feelings for him quickly turn into much more when they are brought back into each other’s lives. But Marguerite is expected to marry the Earl, a man she does not love. Her social status dictates that she marry well, but she longs to be free to marry whom her heart chooses. Since she once helped Robert gain his freedom, can he help her now to do the same?

This was so very much closer! But being a bit (okay, maybe a lot!) of a nitpicker, I tinkered with this version and responded to it thusly:

In King John’s England, Robert Marcel chafes against the law that holds him bound as a serf on his lord’s manor. [REASONS FOR CHANGE: “restrictions” SOUNDED A LITTLE TOO MILD TO ME, MORE OF AN IRRITANT THAN A HEAVY, SUPPOSEDLY INESCAPABLE CONDITION IMPOSED ON ONE. In his mind, everyone should be free to pursue his own [happiness I’M AMBIVALENT ABOUT THE WORD “HAPPINESS”, BUT I’M NOT SURE WHY - IT MIGHT BE OKAY - I LOVE THE REST OF THIS SENTENCE!]—serf or nobleman—beholden to none. Robert tries to follow that dream and makes a daring escape. He’s nearly caught by his cruel master, but a young girl helps him slip away. I LOVE ALL OF THIS. :-)

Years pass and Robert uses his newfound liberty to make something of himself as a minstrel. Invited to play at a banquet for the Earl of Saxton, he is stunned to come face to face with the girl he’s never forgotten—Lady Marguerite of Winbourne, now betrothed to the earl. [REASON FOR CHANGE: THE TERM “FIANCEE” DIDN’T COME INTO USE UNTIL THE 1800s. NITPICKY, I KNOW! BUT “BETROTHED” IS MORE MEDIEVAL AND WE CAN ONLY USE IT ONCE IN THIS SENTENCE.] And with her status as a noblewoman she is completely out of his reach, no matter their history or how much he comes to love her. Is their love lost before it even had a chance to blossom all because of the circumstance of birth?
Lady Marguerite has often thought of the young man she helped escape. Her tender feelings for him quickly turn into much more when they are brought back into each other’s lives. But Marguerite is expected to marry the Earl, a man she does not love. [Her social status dictates that she marry well - IT’S CONSIDERED A DUTY FOR HER TO MARRY WELL BECAUSE SHE IS HEIRESS TO VAST ESTATES AND SHE IS EXPECTED TO MARRY A MAN WHOSE STATUS MATCHES HER OWN WHO CAN GOVERN THESE ESTATES IN HER NAME (BECAUSE, OF COURSE, AS A WOMAN IN THE MIDDLE AGES, A MAN IS EXPECTED TO DO THE ACTUAL PROTECTION AND MANAGEMENT OF THE LAND) AND ROBERT’S BIRTH WOULD PUT HIM OFF THE GRID OF POSSIBILITIES TO FULFILL THIS ROLE. I DON’T EXPECT YOU TO ADD ALL OF THIS TO THE BLURB, JUST CAN YOU WORD IT TO REFLECT MORE OF THE “DUTY” ASPECT OF HER MARRYING THE EARL, RATHER THAN SIMPLY A SOCIAL STATUS THING? MAYBE THAT SEEMS LIKE A SMALL DISTINCTION, BUT FULFILLING THE ROLE OF “DUTY” IS A MOTIVATING FACTOR IN MARGUERITE’S BETROTHAL TO THE EARL. ALSO, I MISS THE CHARACTERIZATION OF THE EARL BEING “CRUEL.” BUT YOU USE THE WORD “CRUEL” TO DESCRIBE ROBERT’S MASTER, SO WE’D NEED A DIFFERENT WORD THAT IMPLIES THE SAME CHARACTERIZATION FOR HIM. MAYBE THIS CHARACTERIZATION WOULD FIT BEST IN THE 2ND PARAGRAPH? BUT IT’S YOUR CALL. :-), but she longs to be free to marry whom her heart chooses. Since she once helped Robert gain his freedom, can he help her now to do the same? I STILL LIKE THIS PART. :-)

Retrospectively I also went back and added these comments to the lead-in: Prejudice. Customs. Culture. Can love truly conquer all? I’M NOT SURE I LIKE “CUSTOMS” AND “CULTURE,” BUT I DON’T HAVE ANY REPLACEMENT SUGGESTIONS. IT JUST GIVES ME THE FEEL THAT A READER WILL EXPECT THE STORY TO BE ABOUT “CUSTOMS AND CULTURE” AND WHILE THOSE ARE ASPECTS OF THE STORY, I DON’T WANT THE READER TO BE CONSCIOUSLY THINKING, “I’M READING A BOOK ABOUT CUSTOMS AND CULTURE” WHILE HE/SHE IS READING. DOES THAT MAKE SENSE? (PROBABLY NOT! I’M NOT SURE HOW TO EXPLAIN IT OTHER THAN I DON’T THINK THE 2ND TWO WORDS GRAB ME AND PULL ME INTO THE STORY.)

One would think by now Julie was ready to throw my entire BCC against a wall in frustration, but instead she remained endlessly pleasant and cheerful and kind. She came back with this, which I accepted delightedly as the final version, for not only did it capture the essence of the romance and its conflicts, but in ways I can only ascribe to sheer inspiration, she also captured personality elements of my hero and heroine that I had never fully shared with her.

Here, then, is the BCC (or “blurb”) as it will appear on online book pages, as well as on a future print version, of The Lady and the Minstrel:

A forbidden love and a past they can’t leave behind . . .
In 13th century England, Robert Marcel chafes against the law that holds him bound as a villein on his lord’s manor. In his mind, everyone should be free to live how they choose—villein or nobleman—beholden to none  Robert tries to follow that dream and makes a daring escape. He’s nearly caught by his cruel master, but a young girl helps him slip away.
Years pass and Robert uses his newfound liberty to make something of himself as a minstrel. Invited to play at a banquet for the notorious Earl of Saxton, he is stunned to come face to face with the girl he’s never forgotten—now Lady Marguerite of Winbourne, betrothed to the earl. Her status as a noblewoman puts her completely out of his reach, but Robert knows they are meant to be together. He vows to make her his wife no matter what the cost.
Lady Marguerite has often thought of the young man she helped escape. Her tender feelings for him quickly turn into much more when they are brought back into each other’s lives, but Marguerite has a duty to marry the Earl. She longs to be free to marry Robert, the man she loves, but that will require her to sacrifice all she holds dear.
They are tested at every turn by those bent on driving them apart and destroying what they have found together. Can their love truly conquer all?

So there it is. The essence of the story captured beautifully by a hugely gifted woman who has never read the book, through what, in the end, was little more than a handful of email exchanges.


If you need help writing a BCC for a book of your own, I cannot recommend anyone more highly than Julie Coulter Bellon. You can contact her at juliecoulterbellon@gmail.com for a price list. Tell her a highly satisfied customer sent you. J

Monday, September 15, 2014

Loving Lucianna - preorder now!

Have you heard the rumors? If so, they're true! Loving Lucianna is now available for pre-order at
online retailers!

Plus, Loving Lucianna has received its first review on Goodreads from an Advance Readers Copy. 5 stars!

"Captivating! ... Once I began to read it I couldn't put it down until I discovered Lucianna's dreaded secret...and then until the outcome of it all was revealed!"

Thank you, Yolanda at Goodreads! You can read the full review here:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23202180-loving-lucianna

Pre-order Loving Lucianna now for only $1.99 and save $1.00 off the published price on October 11. (Loving Lucianna - regular price $2.99)

Pre-orders are available at:

Amazon
Barnes & Noble
Apple iBooks

Loving Lucianna: summary

Sir Balduin de Soler gave up long ago on love. He never had the means to support a wife until an unexpected advancement in his fifties allows him to reassess his future just as the lovely Lucianna enters his life.


Lucianna Fabio harbors a secret, painful memory from her past that has kept her unwed, as well. Now in her forties, she thought herself too old to marry until she meets Sir Balduin. Now suddenly their lonely autumn lives feel very much like spring again . . . until Lucianna’s brother appears without warning and threatens to revive the secret that will destroy Lucianna’s second chance at love.

Loving Lucianna is the first in my new "Hearts in Autumn" romance series, medieval romances revolving around heroes and heroines "in the autumn of their years," (their 40s and 50s). Because you're never too old to fall in love!


Monday, September 8, 2014

Loving Lucianna: opening chapter

Coming October 2014 ~ Loving Luciana (A Hearts in Autumn Romance)

Although my "Hearts in Autumn" romances are about older heroes and heroines falling in love, even "autumn" heroines were young once. Here's a sneak peek at the opening chapter of Loving Lucianna, where we get to meet Lucianna as a young girl. I hope you enjoy it!




I
Convento di Santa Caterina, Venice ~ 1147

She could not work with so much wailing in her ears! Lucianna hooked her small bone needle in the cloth. She had been forbidden the long, graceful needles of bronze the nuns used until her hands grew larger. They said in their scolding voices that she must be patient for that should be a very long time, for she was only nine years old. She exuded a huff. She did not like being patient. And she did not like the girl who had been thrust into the dormitory she shared with Sister Maria Angela in the almonry. Elisabetta, they called her. She had done nothing but weep from the day she had arrived.

The wailings drifted through the dormitory window, assaulting Lucianna’s ears where she sat on a bench outside beneath one of the many olive trees the nuns harvested for oil. How could one stitch a decent flower with so much racket in one’s brain? Lucianna folded the linen very neatly, as she had been taught to do, set it reverently in the small workbasket at her feet, rose from the bench, smoothed the creases from the skirts of her humble russet gown, bade farewell to the lovely spring morning she had been enjoying, and went inside to do the duty that had been assigned to her.

She had been asked by the abbess to comfort the frightened, lonely girl. Lucianna had been lonely, too, the only child in the convent, though Sister Maria Angela said there had been oblates before her and would certainly be oblates donated to the abbey again. But none had come in Lucianna’s nine years, until a fortnight ago. She had thought, perhaps, she and Elisabetta might become friends but the endless laments had finally exhausted her patience.

“Why do you weep like this?” she said crossly to the girl sprawled sobbing on the narrow bed beside her own. “If I behaved so unseemly, Sister Maria Angela would take her switch to me. But you are coddled and given warm blankets and allowed to wear those pretty gowns your father sent with you.” She dared not confess her envy of the gowns, especially that green one that would have matched her eyes. “And one day you shall go back home to the father who loves you. So why do you cry and cry and cry?”

Elisabetta sat up. Her dark hair with the reddish highlights that peeped out when she sat in the sun now fell tangled over her tear stained face. “I hate it here!” she said. “I miss my own wide bed and the gingerbread from our kitchens and my father’s pretty rose garden—”

“You are spoiled.”

“And most of all I miss my father, for he would never let you speak to me that way!”

Lucianna shrugged. Sister Maria Angela would switch her if she saw it, but the nun was working in the herb garden. Sometimes they made Lucianna work there as well, but her gift for embroidering delicate designs had so pleased the abbess, that most days she was allowed to sit on the bench outside the dormitory window and practice her stitching instead. One day, when her talent had matured, her work would be sold and the money given as alms to the poor.

“Do you think if you cry enough your father will take you away sooner?” Lucianna asked, barely concealing her scorn. Or perhaps it was jealousy. No one would ever come to take her away, no matter how hard she wished it.

Elisabetta dried her eyes with a soft silken sleeve woven with yellow birds, and shook her head.

“Then what good does it do you to weep like this?” Lucianna sat down on her own bed. She wondered what silk would feel like against her skin. As long as she could remember, the nuns had dressed her in rough woven russet. She ran her fingers over her skirts as she waited for an answer.

“I cannot help it,” Elisabetta said. “I try to be brave, but it is so horrid here. Do you not hate it, too?”

“I have never known any place but this. My parents died when I was a baby and left me to the nuns.”

Elisabetta’s dark brown eyes went wide. “Oh, but that is sad!”

Lucianna knew better than to indulge in pity for herself. It changed nothing and only brought down Sister Maria Angela’s condemnation upon her head.

“My father’s name was Panfilo,” Lucianna said. “My mother—I do not know. I call her Rosaria, but I do not know if that was her name. I think it is pretty, though.”

She plucked at a loose thread on her skirts. It would make a hole if she tugged at it, but she pulled it anyway. Sister Maria Angela would make her mend the rent it caused. Anything was better than working in the herb garden where the thorns pricked her fingers. The last time they had done so, she had not been able to embroider for days.

“You are lucky,” she said, wiggling a finger through the hole she had made in her gown.

“Lucky?” Elisabetta stared as though Lucianna had stood too long beneath the moon. “To sleep in a cold bed at night and eat dried beans and crumbling cheese and black bread instead of gingerbread? To be made to sit for hours in silence while they read psalms at you or kneel until your knees are raw from prayer?”

“They excuse us from the night office because we are young. And it is much colder in the winter than it is now in the spring. You will not be here forever and ever, like I will. And you have a warm blanket to sleep in at night.” And a gown that would make my eyes shine like the emerald clasp on the mantle of the lady who stayed with her servants one night in the guest house last year. Lucianna’s parents had left her a red brooch in a silver setting, but the nuns would not let her wear it for fear she should become vain. She tried not to mind. Besides, it went ill with her auburn hair.

“It is not as quiet now as it was before you came.” Lucianna pulled at another thread. The hole in her skirt grew wider. “Before, the nuns only spoke when they read the psalms or prayed and when they scolded me because I do not like to clean or cook or work in the herb garden, and I do not like to sit still, unless I am stitching a pattern. But now you wail and wail and they never scold you. They speak meekly and caressingly to you, then tell me I must comfort you when your tears do not cease.”

Elisabetta drew up her knees on the bed and wrapped her arms around them. “You have not tried to comfort me at all!”

“Well, it is hard when you are so ungrateful. No one asks you to cook or clean or garden, but to learn how to read and to write and to count and speak French. Why does your father wish you to learn all those things?”

Another tear rolled down Elisabetta’s cheek, but this time silently. Again she wiped it away with her sleeve. “After my mother died, my father said he had not time to take care of me. I think it was because it made him too sad to think of Mamma. He said one day I should make a very great marriage, because he said I should have great beauty when I am older and he will provide me with a dowry to tempt a great lord. But if the lords should spurn me and I marry a merchant like himself instead, then it will be a help to my husband for me to read and write and count.”

“And the French?” Lucianna wrinkled her nose. Why should any woman of Venice need to speak French?

“My father trades with men of many lands and some of them are French. So he wishes me to learn, that I might help my husband, should my husband be a merchant. But if he is a lord, then I need only know how to be pretty and embroider. I hate embroidery.”

Lucianna glowered, as though an insult had been hurled at her. How could anyone hate the brightly colored skeins of silk, or the smooth flow of the threads as one drew them through the cloth? It was the only time Lucianna felt quiet inside.

“I cannot comfort someone as silly as you,” she declared and bounced up from her bed.

“Wait!” Elisabetta called as Lucianna started down the long line of empty beds towards the door.

Lucianna had no choice as Sister Maria Angela came in just then. Dirt stained the nun’s habit and as always, her nails were blackened with soil from the garden. Lucianna hid her own hands behind her back. She could not bear filthy nails and was always picking at her own to keep them clean. Sister Maria Angela had switched her for it more than once, calling Lucianna prideful. Impatience and pride were sins the abbess agreed must be stripped from Lucianna before she grew old enough to take her vows.

But now Sister Maria Angela beamed a smile. Lucianna had not known the nun knew how to smile before Elisabetta came. As always, the pleasant expression was turned on the dark haired girl whom the nuns always called their guest.”

“You are not crying.” Approval rang in Sister Maria Angela’s voice. “Then we will resume your French instruction. Come with me to the chapel.”

Elisabetta’s dark eyes widened and Lucianna saw something in them she had never seen before, perhaps because they were usually buried against the bolster in tears. Fear. Lucianna was not sure how she knew it, but something whispered to her, See! It is what you feel when Sister Maria Angela brings out her switch. Surely the nun had never taken her slender birch rod to the back of Elisabetta’s legs? No, but Elisabetta has seen Sister Maria Angela switch me here in the dormitory. And sometimes the switch struck higher than Lucianna’s legs. Was that why Elisabetta did not wish to be alone while the nun instructed her? Is that why she wept and wept and wept?

Lucianna started as Sister Maria Angela laid her hand atop Lucianna’s head. She tried not to cringe from the soil-crusted fingers.

“Well done, my child. I knew you would not fail us.”

She did not smile at Lucianna, but approval rang in her tones. Did she think Lucianna had finally found a way to quiet Elisabetta’s tears?

Elisabetta slid slowly from the bed, eying the nun with dread as she trailed her slowly towards the door. But when she came abreast of Lucianna, she suddenly slid their hands together, tightly lacing their fingers.

“May she come with me,” Elisabetta said in a trembling voice, “and sit with me while you teach me?”

Sister Maria Angela’s mouth turned sternly downward. “Lucianna came to this house with no dowry save for a single brooch. We will sell it when she comes of age for her vows. Then she will pray and sing when the bells are rung, she will take her turn in the kitchen and garden, she will spin cloth, and because she has a gift, she will embroider. But she is not to be among our number who learns to read and she will never have use for numbers, still less to ever speak French.”

To Lucianna’s surprise, Elisabetta tossed her dark head and jutted her chin into the air with a stubbornness that for the first time hinted of a kindred spirit. “Then I shall stay here and weep for my father and my home. I do not want to sit alone with you. It is dull and you will switch me if I misspeak a word.”

“Of course I will not,” Sister Maria Angela said indignantly. “Your father paid us generously to treat you well.”

Lucianna set her lips close to Elisabetta’s ear and hissed, “I do not wish to speak French.”

Elisabetta whispered back, “I will let you teach me to embroider if you come, and I will not weep anymore. I promise.” Then she repeated very loudly, “I will only come if Lucianna may come, too.”

No more sobbing through the night? No more wailings to disturb Lucianna with her needle? It would be worth enduring all the pointless lessons if it made Elisabetta quiet. And Lucianna imagined she might enjoy instructing the other girl in the embroidery she so loved.

Sister Maria Angela heaved a loud, exasperated sigh. “Very well, Lucianna may sit with you. But she may not speak, write, or count numbers. Do you understand?”

Lucianna breathed a breath of relief at this promise. Her mind filled with blissful visions of teaching Elisabetta how to stitch, she nodded with the other girl, then hands still locked together, they followed the nun out of the dormitory.

(c. 2014 Joyce DiPastena )

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Cover Reveal: Loving Lucianna

Thank you to Laura Miller/aka Jaimey Grant of An Author's Art for this beautiful cover for my upcoming new medieval romance, Loving Lucianna! (Available October 2014)


Sir Balduin de Soler gave up long ago on love. He never had the means to support a wife until an unexpected advancement in his fifties allows him to reassess his future just as the lovely Lucianna enters his life.


Lucianna Fabio harbors a secret, painful memory from her past that has kept her unwed, as well. Now in her forties, she thought herself too old to marry until she meets Sir Balduin. Now suddenly their lonely autumn lives feel very much like spring again . . . until Lucianna’s brother appears without warning and threatens to revive the secret that will destroy Lucianna’s second chance at love.

Loving Lucianna is the first in my new "Hearts in Autumn" romance series, medieval romances revolving around heroes and heroines "in the autumn of their years," (their 40s and 50s). Because you're never too old to fall in love!

Stay tuned for a first chapter reveal coming next week!