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Author Maria Imbalzano on Persistence, or Stubbornness?

Today, one of my Wild Rose Press sistahs, Maria Imbalzano, is joining me and we’re talking about the impetus behind her new series and the first book in it, SWORN TO FORGET, which released into the book-reading world in July 2018. Sit back and listen to how she came up with idea for her new series. It’s pretty cool!

Persistence or Stubbornness – Is there a difference?

Book 1 of my Sworn Sisters Series entitled Sworn to Forget  was released in July, 2018. However, the idea for this story/series began in 2001, a mere 17 years ago.

During that year, I began a manuscript about four high school girlfriends who were now in their early 30s. The manuscript was titled “Weekend Diaries” and the main story was about Samantha Winslow, a divorce lawyer in NYC, who learned her husband was cheating on her. Forced to take a leave of absence from work due to her mental state, she retreated to the Jersey Shore town of Crescent Beach for the summer. Her best friends helped her through the devastation of her separation and divorce from her husband and also encouraged her to open her heart to a new possibility – the local prosecutor who had also been Sam’s high school crush.

“Weekend Diaries” was very ambitious in that it also delved into the lives of each of Sam’s girlfriends and their life issues. I thought this manuscript was going to be my entrée into the publishing world. I had won the New Jersey Romance Writers’ Put Your Heart In a Book Contest in October of 2003 and Kristin Hannah was one of the judges! Soon thereafter, I obtained an agent who was excited about the story. All was right with the world.

Until it wasn’t. Two years later, I parted with my agent who hadn’t done much in the way of sending my manuscript out and I felt like I was starting all over. I wrote another book and then another book, which was actually my first published novel – “Unchained Memories.” After my second book was published – “Dancing in the Sand— I went back to “Weekend Diaries.” After all, it was the story of my heart and I couldn’t just stick in a drawer with my other unpublished manuscripts.

Revisiting Sam’s story in 2015, I decided to turn it into a series, giving each of the women their own story. I always thought Sam’s story would be the first of the series, but after writing Nicki’s story, that became the first (Sworn to Forget).

Unfortunately, I couldn’t send either of those books to my publisher until I had completed the first draft of the third and fourth books—just in case I changed something about one of the characters—which I did.

It wasn’t until November of 2017, that I finally submitted Book 1 of the Sworn Sisters Series to my editor and it was accepted. I can happily say that Sam’s story, Book 2 of the Sworn Sisters Series, entitled “Sworn to Remember” is currently under contract and with my editor.

These unfortunate women, Sam, Nicki, Alyssa and Denise, have waited 17 years to meet my readers – although they have not aged a day during that time.

My persistence, or some might say my stubbornness, has paid off. Readers are loving “Sworn to Forget” and I’m loving that these Sworn Sisters have made it out into the world.

Blurb for “Sworn to Forget”

By all appearances, Nicki Reading is a star. PR director at a major music label, Nicki is sharp, successful, independent and confidently calls the shots. She dates whom she wants, when she wants, with no strings attached.  But beneath that shine, loneliness flickers.  Events from her past prove love leads only to pain. Commitment is not an option.

Until Dex Hanover, a classy, principled, and prosperous CPA, enters the picture. Undeterred by his unhappy childhood, he has an amazing capacity to be both caring and generous; giving his free time as a mentor for a child from the projects. Dex wears his paternal yearnings on his sleeve and he is at a point in his life where commitment is the only option.

Despite their opposing views, Nicki and Dex ignite each other. But will events from their pasts ruin their challenging relationship and prevent them from experiencing everlasting love?

Excerpt:

“How did the seminar go?”

“Slowly.” His libido kicked up a notch as he raked his eyes over Nicki’s attire— black leather pants and a red silky halter top. He arched his brow. “What is your plan for us today?”

“I have options.” She took his arm, drawing him into her living room. “There’s an art show at the Third Eye Gallery. Ed Kolsky’s work. He’s kind of edgy, vibrant. I thought it would be fun. Or we can go to The Philadelphia Museum of Art. There’s a Picasso exhibit.”

She eyed him, awaiting his choice.

“At this moment, only one option seems preferable, and it’s not on your list.” He didn’t want some paintings to get in the way of other, more carnal possibilities.

She seized his tie and tugged him closer, giving him a sensuous kiss, proving she was game for his plan.

“Nice,” he whispered.

He tenderly traced a line from her temple to her collarbone, then boldly dipped his hand beneath the fabric of her top, caressing her breast. Her breath hitched, causing pure desire to roll through him.

He covered her mouth with his, pulling her into him, embracing her curves. Nicki’s hands roamed up his chest and over his shoulders, sliding his suit jacket off, then tossing it onto the couch. Next, she worked the knot of his tie until it slipped from around his neck and onto the floor in a snake-like coil.

Amusement tinged by desire flashed through Dex. “This is much more fun than analyzing art work. Although you look pretty close to a masterpiece to me.” His palm skimmed her arm, sending a promise of much more.

Buy Links for SWORN TO FORGET

B&N // Amazon // I-tunes // The Wild Rose Press // Kobo

A little about Maria:

I  was born in Trenton, NJ , in the heart of Chambersburg, the Italian section of town. My father was a barber and my mother, a State employee, who also taught me to jitterbug at the tender age of four. We loved to dance in the living room while watching American Bandstand. Hardly star material, but I was driven nonetheless. The product of a Catholic School education, I learned the basics, and took for granted I would be successful doing something, even if it entailed cutting hair. I attended Rutgers University as a psychology major, but after three years decided I liked political science better. My first job led me to Manhattan where I worked as a paralegal for four years before attending Fordham University School of Law. There I learned to think like a lawyer, write like a lawyer, and speak like a lawyer, all while living like a pauper in the city of my dreams. Living in New York City, albeit on a tight budget, allowed me to indulge my love of ballet, art museums, and theater. Did you know you could walk into a theater after intermission and no one checks your ticket? I enjoyed the second half of many plays as well as ballets.

My love of reading dates back to my childhood when I would borrow at least four books from the library every week. During the summer, I would sit in the house and read, until my mother, totally frustrated, would send me outside to play and lock me out. I always found my way back in. However, I must confess, I hated to write. In every English and writing class throughout college, I dreaded trying to be creative. As a friend from law school so aptly put it, “The reason why we’re here is because we don’t have a creative bone in our bodies.” I agreed.

Despite my dislike of creative writing back then, I embraced legal writing, and was first published in Volume 5 of the Fordham International Law Journal. My article was entitled “In re Mackin: Is the Application of the Political Offense Exception an Extradition Issue for the Judicial or Executive Branch?” I would advise you against reading it, for you will surely fall asleep.

Following law school, I returned to central New Jersey and took a job at a local law firm where I have been a partner for many years. My area of practice is divorce, and while emotions run high and clients are living through the worst time of their lives, I find the practice very satisfying. In addition to litigation, I have added mediation and collaborative divorce to my repertoire, which are much more civil ways of dealing with issues in family law cases.

In addition to practicing law and raising two daughters, I’ve been working towards my second career. Memoranda of Law and Legal Briefs, although fascinating, pale in comparison to writing romance/women’s fiction. So how does one transition from divorce lawyer by day to romance writer by night? That’s the beauty of having two distinct passions

You can find and follow Maria here:

Facebook // Twitter // Blog // Website //  Goodreads // Book Bub // Instagram //Amazon // Newsletter Signup Form

Peggy here: Maria, thanks for visiting today and for introducing us all to your new series!!! It was worth the 17 year wait, for sure!!!!

 

 

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Sunday Snippet 9.23.18

From the upcoming CHRISTMAS AND CANNOLIS

After grace, my father turned his attention away from the conversation my brothers were having about the Jets, and toward me.

“What’s going on with you and that Irish guy?” he asked without any preamble.

Luckily, I hadn’t taken a sip from the water glass I’d lifted to my mouth, otherwise I knew I would have choked on the liquid.

“Nothing.”

Regina Maria.”

“Really, Pop. Nothing. I made a cake for him. That’s it.”
 I could hear the angels in Heaven tsk-tsking me.

I’d been in church less than two hours ago, and now I was committing a sin by lying to my father. I could see a visit to the confessional before the end of the day was in order.

“Guys you make cakes for don’t usually spend the night in your apartment, little girl.”

My brother knows a guy named Tony Cartieri. Everyone who knows him agrees that if Tony didn’t have bad luck, he’d have no luck.

Right at the moment Pop made that statement, I knew exactly how old Tony felt, because the conversation had slowed and ebbed, Pop’s words spreading around the table loud and clear. The kids were set up in the living room, so I don’t think they got wind of it. But everyone else did.

Ten pair of eyes glared at me from all corners of the table. Some were wide-eyed; some were narrowed. All of them were filled with varying levels of emotions ranging from shocked (Ma) to suspicious (my brothers) to pleased (my sisters-in-law).

“Regina.” Ma threw her napkin on her plate and slammed her cutlery next to her plate. “What is your father talking about? What man spent the night at your apartment?”

“It’s not like it sounds, Ma. It was late and we were talking, and then we both just fell asleep—”

Holy Madonna.” She made the sign of the cross and closed her eyes, hands clasped together as her lips moved silently in prayer.

“Where?” ’Carlo asked.

“Where what?”

“Where did the two of you fall asleep? In your bed?”

Another finger cross from Ma. This time she kissed her fingertips afterward and threw a prayer up to the Lord.

“I don’t think you get to ask me that question, ’Carlo. I’m thirty-two years old, and you’re my brother, not my father.”

“What I am is suspicious,” he spat back. “How come we didn’t know you were seeing a guy? Why you keeping him a secret?”

“First of all, what I do in the privacy of my own home”—now Ma was rocking back and forth as she prayed—“or don’t do, is none of your business. Second, I’m not seeing anyone, so the fact that it’s a secret is null and void. Stop with the third degree, GianCarlo. Use it on your own kids, ’cause like I said, you’re not my father.”

“But I am,” Pop said, his tone hard and filled with anger, “so answer it. Where did Irish sleep last night?”

“Irish?” Petey exclaimed. “What the Hell kinda name is that?”

“Language, Pietro,” Ma said, awaking from her spiritual coma to chastise her son.

There are so many things I simply adore about my family. The unshakeable connection and love we all have; the fact that we live close to one another; our shared faith and sense of tradition. But the one thing I do hate is the antiquated morality system they adhere to. Girls don’t have sex with men before marriage, plain and simple. Of course since the one and only time I’d done just that, I’d wound up pregnant and forced to get married, my parents’ concerns made sense.

To them.

I was almost fifteen years older, much wiser, and a full-fledged adult now, but I was still treated like an ignorant bambina who had to be protected from wolves and scoundrels. If my father had his way, I’d be married right now to one of his goombahs, eight months pregnant with probably our seventh child, and in the kitchen making gravy.

So many times over the years, I’d wanted to smack him on the back of the head much the way he smacks us, and say, “Wake up! It’s twenty-first-century America, not eighteenth-century Sicily.” Wanting to do something and actually doing it, though, are very different beasts.

So.

I don’t get mad often, especially with my family, but I was tired, overworked, emotionally drained, and royally pissed off right now, so the anger bled through my usual calm.

I rose from my chair and threw my napkin down on the table like my mother had.

“You know what? I’m done. I’m done with you all treating me like a child. I’m not one of your underlings, Pop, who needs to be kept on a short lease and told what to do every minute of the day because you don’t have enough trust to let them act on their own. And”—I glared at my brothers— “I’m not five years old and unable to defend myself against bullies and bad guys. You don’t have to hold my hand so I can cross the street and not get hit by a car.” I grabbed my plate and walked to the kitchen. “I’m done with you all thinking I can’t make a wise and appropriate decision with my life,” I added over my shoulder. I placed the dish in the sink and called out, “I’m done with the checking up on me, the second- guessing me, and the way you all think you have a right to manage my life.”

I yanked my coat off the hall tree and yelled, “I’m a thirty-two-year-old grown-ass woman who owns and manages her own business and her own life. I don’t need protectors, handlers, or any of you telling me what to do, who to see, or how to conduct myself. I’ve been on my own a long time, and I think I’ve done a great job with myself, even if you all don’t.” I shrugged into my coat and wound my scarf around my neck. “If I want a man to spend the night or not, it’s none of your damn business. Deal with it.”

I may have screeched that last part.

I slammed the door behind me and sprinted down the stairs of the brownstone, my ungloved hand waving in the air for a passing cab.

As an exit line, I think it was a pretty good one.

Available December 2018 from THE WILD ROSE PRESS

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