Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Life with Fred & Lucy, Part 11: Grandmom

                            Aunt Annie, Grandmom and Mom                                    
There are people in this world that no matter their age; they are children at heart.  These sensitive people have the ability to connect with a child; to understand what’s going on in a child’s mind and to comfort that child, even when no one else can see that child’s pain. My grandmother, my mother’s mother, was that special type of person. Grandmom Marie was one cool lady who only spoke to us in Italian. Half the time her grandchildren weren’t quite sure what she was saying….except when she was angry, and then...we all recognized the curse words.                                         
Grandmom was born in Naples, but moved here before the start of the Second World War. My grandfather had already been living in the states and worked as a baker making Italian bread; yummy!

 He had a house on Ellsworth Street between 7th and 8th and Federal streets in South Philly, not far from the Italian Market. When my grandfather finally convinced my grandmother to move to America, my mother was already 15 years old.
                                Aunt Annie, Uncle Mario and Mom                           

My grandmother had never adjusted to living here in the states. Her family had money and they owned a beautiful home in Benevento, but God was looking out for her because the house she lived in with my mom, aunt and uncle was bombed during the war, killing the cousins living in the house.
My Grandmother was a strict woman and my mother was the same way, but mom was never allowed to hit us if Grandmom was around. Mom would argue with her mother, saying, “You spanked me.”
Grandmom would throw her hands up in the air and quickly counter, “Stupido.”

I was Grandmom’s favorite, although, my sisters and cousins might argue that point. But I think it was because I was always sick as a child with chronic anemia; she was the only one who could get me to eat the disgusting cooked liver dish that the doctor had recommended my mother make for me every day.
Grandmom was always praying; carried the rosary beads wherever she went. She even did her household choirs while saying the rosary. I asked her one time why she prayed so much. I was 5 years old, but I remember the conversation as if it was yesterday.
                                            Grandmom's actual rosary beads
“I pray for all the stupid people?”                                                                 
“Oh????” I replied. Did she mean me; my sisters, brother, cousins?
“Not you, piccolina?” She replied as she glanced out the door. She was watching my mother park the car. My mother was as bad at parking as she was at driving. The sound of metal scrapping against metal caused my Grandmother to wince and mutter, “Stupido, vaffanculo, and a few other choice word.” Her neighbors were always complaining to poor Grandmom about mom’s driving.
Grandmom died when I was 13. She had chronic leukemia and had an infection that her body could not fight. Her passing was hard on all her grandchildren; we had lost our protector, our angel, our confidant. We never forgot her and the way she made us all feel special and loved. I’m always telling stories about her to my own grandchildren, and when my friends remark that I’m a great grandmother, I thank them, but then I think of my grandmother. It was really she who taught me how to be a Grandmom.  
                                                             Grazie Nonna




Monday, December 23, 2013

Life with Fred & Lucy, Part 10: The Offspring


                          Fred & Lucy's offspring at Atlantic City.
Christmas Eve was the big festival in our family. My Grandmother along with mom and my aunts Anna and Rose would help prepare the seven fish dishes…yummy! My siblings and I try to keep up with the tradition, although, because of the rising cost of fish; I’m down to four selections.
The Siblings

We are our genetic code! You can argue all you want, but the proof is in the pudding. We've inherited our characteristics, both physical and mental, from a long line of ancestors. My siblings and I share most of my parent’s physical ailments and a whole bunch of mental crap, too.

 OCD runs rampant in our family, which makes us wonderful employees: loyal, hard-working, dependent, and detail oriented…but we can also drive ourselves crazy with this need to do everything right.
My two sisters, Jane and Lucy along with my brother Michael were a wild bunch. Don’t get me wrong, we were well behaved and respectful to everyone we met, but we like the Little Rascals and the Three Stooges were always getting into some miscalculated mess. Did you notice me giving Jane the stink eye?So using our baby pictures, Let me introduce you to the children of Fred & Lucy.
Lucy…the baby… was the peacekeeper between Jane and I. Poor Lucy is the one that was dragged unknowingly into some of our craziest projects, usually with us telling her, “Don’t worry, we won’t drop you.”
Jane…the second child, was the sister that I was jealous of. She is the sister that I tried to sell her to the Fudgy Wudgy Ice Cream Man down at the shore.
Michael was the only boy… Mom's favorite. He drove Fred crazy by taking every clock in our house apart; he was mechanically inclined. He was always ratted on by his three sisters whenever he did something wrong, which was usually a  daily occurrence.

Last is me…the oldest and the ring leader of the oft disastrous escapades that always landed us four kids in loads of trouble. Was I a brat? Maybe not so much a brat, but someone who constantly challenged authority.
Here is the whole family at Palumbo's with Uncle Pat and his girlfriend. Now that you’ve met the family , I hope you’ll visit my weekly episodes of "Life with Fred and Lucy".                                                                                     

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Review of The Library by Author Carmen DeSousa


When I was asked to review the book, The Library by Carmen DeSousa, I jumped at the chance. I’m an admirer of Carmen’s work and I was not disappointed with her newest story, which featured Detective Mark Waters.
I love reading stories that has smart and sexy detectives, a good mystery with loads of 'who did what', and last but not least; ghosts. The Library gives you all three elements in a fast moving tale of greed, secrets and revenge. Can the dead seek retribution from the grave? Buy the book and find out. In fact you’ll find yourself wanting to read The Pit Stop and The Depot, too. I'm so happy to have Carmen DeSousa as a guest on my blog.

Marie Gilbert: What was your inspiration for The Library? Are the plots based on true events?

Carmen DeSousa: Though fictional, my idea for The Depot stemmed from a ghost who supposedly haunts a 1930s tavern I used to work at in Rockledge, FL called Ashley’s CafĂ©.

Since I’d always been interested in the supernatural, I decided to look up the woman’s death. At the time of her death, it was on record as one of the most heinous murders in Florida’s history. The murderer had gone through great lengths to conceal the woman’s identity, including smashing out all her teeth, cutting off her fingers, and burning her body. According to witnesses, the woman had been dating someone of wealth. And to my surprise, when I looked forward, past a few days in the microfilm, the story had all but disappeared. Weeks later, nothing! Think about that! One of the most shocking crimes in Florida’s history in 1935 and the newspapers dropped the story.

Yeah…things that make you say, “Hmmm….”

So there you have it. While my story is fictional, there is a ghost story. I believe the ghost of Ethel Allen will haunt that restaurant until someone uncovers the truth about her murder. My book, of course, is just a fictional story, using a real life murder as a base. But who knows…maybe it was inspired. :)

Marie Gilbert: I liked The Pit Stop, The Depot and The Library, but which detective is your favorite to write about, Mark or Gino?


Carmen DeSousa: Without a doubt, Mark Waters. From the moment my avid-reading friends and I met him in The Pit Stop, we wanted more from him. He was just a bit surly, had an interesting past, and he’s single. In hindsight, I shouldn’t have made Gino a married man. Single detectives who struggle with relationships are always much more interesting to write.

Marie Gilbert: Since I do ghost investigations, I’m interested in knowing if you’ll be writing more stories that includes ghosts or maybe demons?

Carmen DeSousa: Probably…I left that up to readers at the end of the story, though. To be honest, I did not intend to write a story after The Pit Stop; it was just an exercise on my blog where I wrote five-hundred words at a time with my audience. You, of course, know about that since you were one of my main contributors. But when it became so popular, I decided to write a series of one-hour reads, but then something else happened. Readers demanded a follow-up novel to The Depot. And since I listen to readers, I wrote it. This isn’t the first time either. My novel When Noonday Ends came about when emails and Facebook messages started flooding in, demanding that one of the characters in Land of the Noonday Sun got a chance at a happily ever after.


So, at the end of The Library, I left it up to my readers. If they want more of these stories, I’ll write more. After all, I love my publisher, but readers are my real boss. :)

Marie Gilbert: Can you tell the readers what’s in the works for you now?

Carmen DeSousa: I actually have three lines going.


The Pit Stop, The Depot, and now The Library are part of a detective series with a ghostly edge, which as we discussed, I’ll continue if that’s what my readers want, but right now, I don’t have one in the works.


My first five novels are The Southern Suspense series: She Belongs to Me, Split Decisions, Land of the Noonday Sun, and When Noonday Ends. I have two more scheduled in this series; the next will be available summer 2014.


But right now, my focus is the Creatus Series, romantic-suspense novels with a paranormal edge. I published book one, Creatus, September 2013, and Creatus Rogue will be available next month…if all goes as planned. Of course, rarely does anything goes as planned in this business. Right?

You can find Carmen DeSousa's works on these sites:

Creatus 2013

She Belongs to me December 2011

Land of the Noonday Sun May 2012

Entangled Dreams September 2012

When Noonday Ends December 2012

Split Decisions June 2013

Radio interview with Carmen DeSousa and Minnie Lahongrais

Thank you so much for joining me today, Carmen, and for all my readers; check out Carmen's Website.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Life with Fred & Lucy, Part 9: The Cake that Ate South Philly


My mother had issues with cooking and when my siblings and I were younger, we never knew what to expect on our dinner plates. 
Chef Boyardee, she wasn’t, but bless her heart, she tried to keep up with working in the store, raising four wild children and feeding us healthy, if not tasty, nutritious foods. It’s just that her food never looked like the pictures inside her cook books, and her children were quick to point out this discrepancy.
I was the worse of the dissidents. “This doesn’t taste like grandma’s gravy,” I would whine whenever my mother placed a bowl of macaroni in front of me. I loved my grandma’s cooking and licked the plate clean whenever I ate at her house. She made the best gravy.
                                 Grandmom (center) at Sunday Meal

But, let me take a break from the story to explain the difference between gravy and sauce. To Italians in South Philly, gravy was made with fresh or canned tomatoes and it often included meatballs made from beef, alongside chunks of lamb, sausage, and pork. This gravy would cook for hours until ready, and then it was served with pasta. This was our special meal every Sunday.                                                                     

Now back to my mother and her attempt to bake a cake from scratch. We sold Betty Crocker Cake Mix in our store, but Lucy wanted to try out a new recipe given to her by one of our customers. So, out came the 5lb bag of flour, sugar, yeast and other ingredients. In between helping my dad in the store, my siblings watched my mother make her cake. She wanted to make a special cake for her father’s birthday.
“You can pick up a cake from Termini’s Bakery,” my father said on one of his visits into the kitchen to check on Mom's project. “I don’t know why you’re driving yourself crazy with this mix?” 
                                        Lucy and Fred                        
“Leave me alone,” she snapped. Flour covered every surface in the kitchen as it floated down from the ceiling. We couldn’t figure out what she was doing with the flour or why it was all over the place, but we kids knew better than to ask. After placing the cake batter into the greased cake pans, Lucy then placed the pans carefully into the oven. After we helped mom clean up the mess, we all headed back into the store for the heavy rush of noon time shoppers. 
She sent my brother Michael into the kitchen to check on the cake after the timer had dinged. “Use the toothpick,” she instructed him. “If the toothpick is dry; the cake is done.”                                                                                                            
 “Mommy, I don’t know where to stick the toothpick,” Michael yelled running back into the store, toothpick in hand.
“Just stick it in the center of the pan,” mom instructed as she handed a customer their change.
“I don’t know where the center is.”
My mother, father and all four children rushed into the kitchen to check on the cake. I don’t know how much yeast my mother used for that recipe, but the cake had grown and grown while baking and covered all four sides of the oven. 
“How the hell…what the *&$%@&...how will we get this out?” my father stammered as my mother began using a butter knife to dig around the edges of the cake with the hope of freeing her creation from the oven. My mother and father argued, while mom tried her best to tackle the Blob inside the oven, but it was a mess.
“It tastes good,” Michael announced after pulling free a piece and taking a bite.
“It does?” my sisters and I asked, before digging in.
It tasted yummy, and we began to eat the cake right from the oven. We sat on the floor in front of the oven eating cake, until it was small enough for my mother to dig out the rest. My mother never made cake from scratch again and my grandpa got a Termini cake for his birthday.
                                    Grandpa Enrico, Uncle Ralph and Uncle Mario

Years later, after Lucy took off to California (that is an episode for a later time) she took cooking lessons and became quite the gourmet chef. Her meals were scrumptious, but we would  often joked about the cake she made from scratch.
                                                   Mom and me cooking                                    

Friday, December 13, 2013

Steampunk Granny interviews the Fabulous Dawn Byrne

Dawn Byrne and I are both friends and members of the South Jersey Writers’Group and both of us have stories featured in the group’s first anthology, Tall Tales and Short Stories from South Jersey We have traveled many places this past year promoting the book, and people up and down the Jersey highways and byways know us as Super D and Super G.
                     Dressed up for the Novel Idea Author Fair                                       

It is quite an adventure for both of us whenever to go to a book signing. We love meeting new people, and this year we have met so many new friends; some have even joined our group. Since neither of us have a great sense of direction, even with GPS, we consider ourselves New Jersey’s version of Lewis and Clark.  
Dawn is a very talented writer, but she’s been so busy promoting others, that I figured it was time to shine the light on her. So, to all my followers out there, please allow me to introduce you to the best sidekick, ever, Dawn Byrne.

              Dawn, Marie and Bob at the Novel Idea Autumn Authors Fair
Marie Gilbert: Dawn, thank you for joining me on Gilbertcuriosities. Please tell us a little bit about yourself.

Dawn Byrne: In a nutshell: An inspirational writer who also writes memoir, humorous slices of life and family fiction. My four adult children live nearby, and my husband and I are expecting our third grandbaby.  I've taught Sunday School for years, volunteer with Habitat for Humanity, facilitate the Juliette Writers' Group and am also a member of two other writing groups. It's difficult to breath when I don't read daily, and leaving a small carbon footprint is essential.
Marie Gilbert: What type of stories do you like to write?

Dawn Byrne: Writing about families and their relationships comes natural for me.  They say write what you know.  Coming from a large family and raising my own, that's what I know.  I get to tattle on them and call it fiction.

Marie Gilbert: What inspires you to write?

Dawn Byrne: I'm a smelly artist.  Odors trigger my subconscious that spews ideas onto the page.  Then I consciously piece them together like the jigsaw puzzles I put together with my mother and grandmother.  Of course, my family inspires me because that's who I write about.  Memories of my grandmother help me shoot humor onto the page, especially when I'm targeting her in my tale.
Marie Gilbert: You’ve been published in the South Jersey Writers‘ Group’s first anthology, but you also have stories published in Chicken Soup for the Soul. Tell us what stories have been published and what inspired you to write these two stories?

Dawn Byrne: The piece I wrote for, "Tall Tales and Short Stories from South Jersey" is a series of slices of life that feature Grandma as the lead character.  And Grandma was one quirky character.  My empty nest story in, "Chicken Soup for the Soul: Devotional Stories for Wives" is obviously about my husband, who still isn't comfortable with my public tattling.  "Chicken Soup for the Soul: It's Christmas" has my story about being in cahoots with my husband to steal his sister's baby Jesus decoration and saying "nana-nana" to her all year long.  That was fun for the whole family.
Marie Gilbert: Do you plan on submitting more stories to Chicken Soup for the Soul?
Dawn Byrne: Chicken Soup for the Soul may get sick of reading my stories because I enjoy writing for their audience.  My daughters and I have read Chicken Soup stories for years, so we're their audience too.  I'll submit a story to any title this publication is working on that I have a story for.  If inspirational is what you write, send your story to them too.  Chicken Soup welcomes new writers.
Marie Gilbert: You and another member of the SJWG are in charge of the Critique Group. Tell us what is involved? What are some of the rewards of doing this worthwhile project? What makes you crazy? Has this project helped with your own writing?

Dawn Byrne: Critique guru here: I preach to writers how helpful suggestions on specific parts and aspects of their work in progress improves craft and growth.  The South Jersey Writer's Group's critique sessions happen every month of the year.  It's the perfect give and take situation.  Each participant submits their work for that session to either me or the other facilitator via attachment in an email.  We make sure everyone in the group receives a copy of each participant's work to critique two weeks before we meet to discuss the works.
Even though sessions can be humbling, our format has worked well over the last nineteen months.  Participants are sent critique etiquette rules so that everyone's on the same page.  Criticism and a helpful suggestion are two very different things.  One is accepted, the other isn't.  Those who repeatedly don't show, are late or come unprepared aren't serious writers and aren't welcome.  This hasn't been a problem lately.  Our members are great. My devotional piece for Chicken Soup went through critique. As a result, I made significant changes before sending it in. This group is vital for me because it gives me a deadline to come up with something new. Also they point out the holes in my work that I don't see and don't wantan editor to see. They point out information fauxpas I've made that would also embarrass me.  
Marie Gilbert: If you were able to meet with any famous writers; living or dead, who would you pick?

 Dawn Byrne: A critique participant told me that my writing had an Erma Bombeck feel to it. This confirmed my suspicions about my stories.  Would be nice talking with her.  And chatting with James Thurber would be a hoot.  A fellow writer years ago in my first writer's group gave me a copy of, "The Thurber Carnival" for Christmas.  He said these writings came to his mind when he read my first Grandma vignette.

Marie Gilbert: Any advice for a new writer starting out?

Dawn Byrne: New writers, like professional ones, need support and accountability.  Become part of a writing community or start one yourself.  Go to libraries and coffeehouses and listen to author panel discussions and attend book signings.  Talk with the authors afterwards.  At any free or low fee workshop, author-speak, book festival, writing conference or retreat-I'll be there. Hope to see you too.
Well now we all had a chance to learn about the fabulous Dawn Byrne aka Super D. You can find her on these sites and look for both of us and our other sidekick, Super B (Bob Cook). You never know when you’ll bump into us. We’ll be the ones selling books.
You can find Dawn on Facebook, Linkedin and http://dawnbyrne.yolasite.com/

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Steampunk Granny interviews Terri Louise about Lone Wolfe

You meet the nicest people when you’re a writer and, I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing a few amazingly talented writers. Writers are story tellers and the tales we tell are sometimes plucked from our vivid imaginations, but more often from personal experience. Terri Louise has so graciously agreed to be a guest on my blog and tell us about her new book “Lone Wolfe”.

Marie Gilbert: “Thank you Terri for joining me and my followers. Tell us all about Terri Louis.”

Terri Louise:  “Well, Terri is a mom, a grandmother, a gardener, a dog owner and a lover of the mountains. After a horrid divorce from my ex-husband, I bought a new computer and started writing. I was determined to make that dream come true…And so…I did.”
Marie Gilbert: “When did you start writing and who influenced you?”

Terri Louise: “I’ve been writing for most of my life. I had a few stories published in our local newspaper, but until I got into my eight grade year in middle school, I didn’t have the passion. My favorite teacher helped light the flame and off I went with a dream.”

Marie Gilbert: “Tell us about the book.”

Terri Louise: “My latest book is “Lone Wolfe”. Perfectly spelled incorrectly, just the way he was. Perfectly imperfect! It is about my best friend and his death. How it affected me and my whole family and what happened after he was gone. Although Mr. Bill was gone, we had many things occur that would not have if not for him, and we learned that maybe he wasn’t all the way gone.”
Marie Gilbert: “Did you go traditional publishing or self- publishing?”

Terri Louise: “I self-published on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Kobo.” http://www.amazon.com/terri-louise/e/B0071A7879q/REF=sr
Marie Gilbert: “How are you using social media to promote your book?”

Terri Louise: “I don’t overdue the social media, but I do use Twitter and Facebook and about me to advertise what I have for readers.”

Marie Gilbert: “Do you belong to a writers’ group?”
                              Terri Louise traveling across America
Terri Louise: “I have several writers’ groups that I am in. I’m not as socially active as I would like to be, but for the time being it will have to do. I am in Authors and Book Lover Discussion group, Lori R. Lopez and Friends, ASMSG, Pimping Indie and Book Summit Talk and Giveaway for Readers. I enjoy all of them.”

Marie Gilbert: “What encouraging words would you like to say to new writers who are just starting out?”

Terri Louise: “Just write! Even if you can only get one word out a day…Write! And one day at a time, you will find your way to being published.

Thank you so much for joining me as a guest on my blog, Terri Louise. For all my readers, you can find Terri Louise on Facebook, Twitter and About me.  Her blog site: http://gradergalbooks.wordpress.com/

Check out her book. “Lone Wolfe”