Robbi Perna - Analyst, Author, and Artist
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Last preview installment for "Where the Lion Dwells"
We continue the preview of "Where the Lion Dwells"

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Stories That Sweep You Away

New book release - Where the Lion Dwells

Muse It Up Publishing released my ninth book in print and download formats.  I'm pleased to share a preview with you today.  I hope you enjoy it.
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Joanna Sansone returns home following her civilian deployment in Iraq as a political advisor. A disfigured left forearm and the loss of her fiancé, Renzo Moretti, are the scars she carries from the experience. Now, she asks for nothing more than the peace of her new home, Quintessence, but the U.S. government has other ideas. A large defense contractor calls on her services. A new English language training facility in northern Virginia’s horse country needs a registrar.  Then, one of the students, the son of an important tribal sheikh, becomes seriously ill.
 
Mick Riliuni is a brilliant physician renowned for his work in tropical diseases and the student’s family engages to consult on the case. When he meets Joanna, he accuses her of prejudice when she questions the need for the expertise of the student’s mysterious uncle. The arrogant Doctor al-Najid is a painful reminder of her losses and an irritating presence in her life.
 
Caught in the crossfire between two strong personalities, Joanna’s passions reawaken, but she has questions. A trip to a mountain fortress in Sicily may yield the answers. Will they give her a future or will her heart remain buried in the grave with Renzo?
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The Roman Phalera Print Version

My apologies to you all for my absence, but I've been tied up with family affairs for the last two months and only now have the opportunity to resume some sense of normality.  While I was away, Muse It Up Publishing released the print version of "The Roman Phalera."  It's gorgeous cover by C.K. Volnek is only a hint of the rich story the book contains.



The Roman Phalera is the story I started writing fiction to tell. As an author, the first question at least one person in a group will always ask is, “where do you get your ideas.”  For me, answering that question is easier than writing the blurb for the story after it’s finished.  My stock answer is all my stories start with the basic premise “what if” and I build on whatever the answer is to the question.  In the case of “The Roman Phalera,” the idea for the setting of the story grew out of a conversation with an Army colleague.  We were chatting over lunch one day and she remarked that with my love of houses, I should write a story about one in which everyone who visits it has a different experience.  The idea grew abetted by my desire to work through the grief over the loss of one of my brothers.  While Paul and I were not twins, we were as close as a brother and sister born four years apart could be.  The idea of a house where one twin would have a shared experience with his lost twin and find peace and a level of acceptance held an irresistible appeal for me.  Since my educational background is the art and architecture of ancient Rome, the choice of the Divine Twins’ appearance at the battle of Lake Regillus in the fifth century before the Common Era was a logical choice for the twins’ shared experience.
 
The actual writing of the story was not smooth sailing.  I found composing the funeral scene very difficult on both an emotional and a humorous level.  The emotional one was of course because it brought my brother’s back as fresh as if it were last week instead of ten years ago.  On the humorous side, I found it difficult to keyboard through tears while attempting to reassure the dog that nothing was amiss.  He couldn’t get it through his little doggy brain that there wasn’t a lot he could do to stem the flow.  The other problem stemmed from the quantum mechanics of time travel to the past.  In the end, I gave up on a logical scientific explanation, which no one would want to read anyway, and fell back on the New Age beliefs of ley lines
Amazon Buy Link:  http://www.amazon.com/Roman-Phalera-Robbi-Perna/dp/1771277483/ref=sr_1_1_twi_pap_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1443366384&sr=8-1&keywords=The+Roman+Phalera

What Inspired "A World Made New?"

"Do you ever wonder where the nice women are?"  Alessandro's question to his good friend Jason drove the story.  Alessandro is a world famous soundtrack composer with the reputation of a gazetta rake.  We seldom think of men in those terms in these days of a more relaxed social setting.  The fact remains, Sandro is a playboy...but is he...or is it a mask he wears?  Well, he wears it very well, but deep down he yearns for a woman who isn't drawn to his reputation or success.

Natural talent has always held an appeal for me and that appeal forms the basis for Sandro's career as a successful, internationally-acclaimed composer of movie soundtracks.  The catch?  Sandro's musical talents are instinctive not learned.  His teachers at the conservatory in Florence had to trick him to confirm he could not read music.  Yet, his work is brilliant and  his reputation outrageous.  Along comes a nice woman...one who wears a mask of her own...who is the direct opposite.

Masquerade is part of our society and the dating ritual.  We seldom wear our true faces when we first meet someone new.  So, the third book in The Venetian Masquerades works on the premise of two people with opposite backgrounds, secrets to hide, and a strong physical attraction who meet under unusual circumstances.  What happens?  Read the book and find out where the nice women are!
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Available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other online retailers.

The masks we all wear-the story behind "A Sign from Heaven Sent."

On this July 4th weekend, flags, fireworks, and outdoor activities are all signs of celebration—all visual symbols that demonstrate our independence as a free people. From ancient times, signs have held a significant place in the way people communicate. Belief in symbols as a sign or direction one should take in life finds expression in the many superstitions that remain part of our social consciousness. For Italians, the belief in a sign from God is an enduring tradition. 
 
The second book in the Venetian Masquerades, “A Sign from Heaven Sent,” grew out of this tradition. The story’s heroine, Diane Carrero, appeared briefly in “What Hides Behind the Mask,” but her strong personality demanded a story of her own. The mask she wears is one with which many of us are familiar. We choose a path in life and work toward its attainment. But what happens when we find that goal once attained isn’t what we want after all? What do we do? Well, many of us grit our teeth and drive on. We clap on  masks that tell the world and ourselves we’re happy as the proverbial clams with our choices. Others re-evaluate their chosen paths, and for those of us with superstitious or religious beliefs, we place our faith in asking for signs that our way forward has the benediction from some higher power.
 
In Diane’s case, her sign from Heaven comes from the appearance of an unusual visitor...one rooted in Roman antiquity with ties to a twenty-first century man. What role do the two play in Diane’s future? “A Sign from Heaven Sent” is an enjoyable read with enough mystery to give a surprising twist to its ending.
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Available in electronic download format from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other online retailers

   

The Story Behind the Story: What Hides Behind the Mask

This week I continue with my blog posts about the stories behind the stories.  The whole mystic surrounding masquerade has always fascinated me.  No where is it more evident than in Venice, the ancient Italian city famous for love and intrigue.  In writing the first book in my Venetian Masquerades series, WHAT HIDES BEHIND THE MASK, I wanted to combine my love of Venice, the fascination of masquerade, and a character inspired by my godmother, Dee.
 
Dee is my late mother’s first cousin and an active, vibrant, and very beautiful senior lady.  Even at this stage of her life, she still travels alone, and while she might not consider a solo trip to Italy, her personality provided the inspiration for my heroine’s grandmother, Francesca.  Doctor Chiara Mackenzie Davis and her stepbrother Chas Weston must travel to Italy and discover the reason why Francesca, Chiara's 84 year-old grandmother, travels to Venice—a place she has no reason to visit—without telling anyone.
 
The plot allowed me to combine my love of masquerade, a mysterious trip, and a spunky older woman in a story that explores the concept we all wear masks.  Until we know why we wear one, we never know ourselves or have the opportunity to know others, but  is left behind when a person discards the last mask?  Probably another mask...or perhaps, nothing.  Masks allow us to cope with our own insecurities while providing a way for us to understand others and the society in which we all live.
 
WHAT HIDES BEHIND THE MASK is an entertaining tale, however, not a social treatise. So, that said, go don your favorite Carnivale Mask and enjoy the read. Next week we’ll talk about the second book in the series, A Sign from Heaven Sent.

Available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other online retailers.

The inspiration behind My Heart Still Surrenders

I’d like to continue my series on the inspirations behind my stories today and in honor of Fathers’ Day, talk a little about my motivation in writing “My Heart Still Surrenders.” Three incidents in the life of my great-great grandmother, the Contessina Carolina Antimori, provided the major plot line. Those three incidents included her father’s actions in disinheriting and disowning her after she acted contrary to his dictates. Family mythology has always branded the Count as a first rate SOB. He may well have been, but since I’m talking about a very distant grandfather here, I’d like to take a broader view. Admittedly, his actions are not those of a loving caring father, but it’s important to remember nineteenth century Italy was not kind to women and the Count was a man of his times. 
 
Italian women born into upper class Italian society had no value as anything but chattel. They had no say over their lives. Women of that time possessed very little education beyond the basics and their expectations for their adult lives didn’t go beyond marriage to a man chosen by their fathers and the production of children. When Carolina took matters into her own hands, her father’s actions matched those of any man of his times. His character provided the perfect inspiration for my fictional heroine’s father and a foil for the hero who comes to her rescue. Navarre is my favorite character. He is a Basque who is a hired mercenary of questionable parentage, but he is the true gentleman while Carolina’s father, Count Aurelio who is born a nobleman, is the true bastard.
 
Emily-Jane hills Orford of Readers’ Favorite reviews awarded five stars to the story saying, "This is a thrilling historical romance set in late nineteenth-century Italy. Author Robbi Perna has taken aspects of her great-great grandmother's life, another Carolina, the Contessina Antimori. The historical facts that surround the story are very well researched. With a flair for artistry and the dramatic, the author has provided the reader with a very fast-paced plot that is also very informative. A great read. Well done!"
 
My Heart Still Surrenders is available in print and download from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other online retailers.

The U.S. Army's 240th Birthday

This weekend marks the 240th birthday of the United States Army.  As many of those who follow me know, I love soldiers. I’ve worked alongside them in a civilian capacity for almost twenty years and I admire, respect, and celebrate their selfless service.  Soldiers will do anything we ask of them—including sacrifice their lives—to ensure we remain a free nation.  The hope and change catchpenny beloved by the politicians needs a solid foundation of peace in which to grow.  Sometimes, that peace only comes on the other side of war.
 
Today, I’d like to talk about the story behind the plot of my novel, “Once a Soldier.”  All my royalties from this book benefit the Wounded Warrior Project making it a story near and dear to my heart.  When I wrote the first story in The Domenico Family Case Files series, I wanted a strong protective “big brother” prototype for my heroine.  However, this character needed to appear, make his “older-brother-knows-best” pitch, and then disappear.  Delta Force operative, Marco Domenico, did an admirable job at fulfilling the role, so admirable that I couldn’t get him out of my mind.  A tall, strong, handsome, protective man...we all know at least one...but who protects him when things go wrong?
 
All stories start with the question, “what if” and Marco’s story is no different.  When a mission goes wrong and Marco suffers severe injuries that may prevent him from walking again, he needs a little help from someone besides the Army, his family, and the woman who is his secret love.  An unusual therapist with a love of the Old West comes to his aid and with his help, Marco heals and begins a new life.
 
Not all our wounded warriors are as fortunate, but Marco’s story gave me the opportunity to talk about what they face psychologically while describing their personal challenges, courage, and the determination to heal and live full lives. I am a romance author, however, and “Once a Soldier” is no exception. In this short novel, I attempted to bring my readers into today’s environment, give them the sense of the impact of war on a relationship, and allow them to experience the complex emotions of two people attracted by fate.
 
I don’t often ask people to go out and buy my books.  Certainly they are for sale, but I leave the decision up to them.  “Once a Soldier” is the exception.  Go to your favorite online retailer and download the book.  You won’t be sorry.  Your purchase will give you an enjoyable short read and benefit the Wounded Warrior Project at the same time.
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Watch the YouTube Video at:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=akZ2tDbzCRg

 

The Inspiration for Stories That Sweep You Away

In any gathering of people when the subject of my writing profession arises, someone always asks, "where do you get your ideas?"  The short answer is, "I wake up with them."  While admittedly, that's a flip remark, it is true for some of my stories.  My dreaming mind processes my personal experiences and sorts them into scenarios that form the basis for story plots.  Some are plausible and worth developing...when I can remember them...while others, such as polka-dotted giraffes, may not be worth the paper they aren't printed on!  In the case of the former, the old Italian proverb, "A well lived runs backwards" is the best explanation I can give for some of my inspirations.

Authors tend to write what they know and in that respect, I'm no different.  I have lived a very interesting life, and while I would never bore anyone with an autobiography, the experiences I've enjoyed over the years provide grist for my fiction mill.  For example, if my characters go to Rome for some reason connected with the plot, and take time to go sightseeing in the ancient ruins...well, guess what?  Yes, you're reading about an experience I enjoyed on one of my own trips and it's special for me on two levels.  The first is the enjoyment of sharing an experience with those who are important to me.  Of course, the second is the pleasure I get by reliving a experience that enriched my own life.

So, the next time you pick up one of my stories, you'll be able to guess the source of my inspiration...maybe.  Of course, there are always those polka dots, and who knows.  They may one day appear in a story.

Enjoy your Sunday afternoon pursuits!  Next week, I'll share with you some of the inspiration behind some of my individual stories.  Stay tuned.

Once a Soldier - Traditional Memorial Day Weekend

Once upon a time, we celebrated Memorial Day on May 30.  Now, the date moves to the first Monday of the last weekend in May, a device that gives everyone a three day weekend holiday.  Our troops don't usually get three day weekends.  They don't often get weekends off...period.  Today on the Sunday of the traditional Memorial Day commemoration, I'm giving you a bonus preview from "Once a Soldier."  Please help me support our Wounded Warriors by purchasing a copy.  All my royalties support The Wounded Warrior Project.
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“I’m going to swim?” Shocked dismay mixed with a glimmer of hope spread over Marco’s face.

“No, not exactly, although you’ll swim laps again before long. I’m going to show you how to use the water for some additional exercises. This particular exercise is beneficial because the water supports most of your body weight and takes the stress off your joints. I need you to think about a few things. If you submerge to neck level, the water supports ninety percent of your weight, but if you’re only comfortable in water chest deep at this point, the support will drop to seventy-five percent. I’d really like you to try the deeper water. You’ll use a flotation belt to give your form more stability.” Rafe wrote some comments on the yellow pad on which James had made notations all morning.

“The resistance of the water makes the muscles work harder to perform any movement, so it will allow you to increase their workload without stressing the joints, or in this case—the hip bones, and the bruising still left in your lower back.

“The warm water will loosen you up, reduce the pain, and make the exercises easier to do. As you progress, you’ll start water walking across the width of the pool. The water will hold you upright and give you the support for which you now use the canes.” Rafe sipped his iced tea.

“Your problem is two-fold, Marco: the neck of the femur broke close to the pelvis and the hardware inserted to put you back together, and the bruising to the vertebrae in your lower back, both place continual stress on the spine. Since you are still in considerable pain, you’re not performing up to your usual physical standard and as a result, your core muscles have weakened. It’s a vicious circle, but the broken hip has healed well, the bruising will disappear, and the proper exercises will strength those core muscles. You will walk unassisted again, Marco.”

“Yes, I will.” His jaw jutted out with determination. “Let me rest for a while and give the food time to settle. I don’t need to add stomach cramps to the equation. We’ll go over to the clubhouse pool, say in an hour.”

By the end of the day, Marco wanted nothing more than a light dinner before making an early night of it. When he awakened the next morning, he soaked out his soreness in the tub before he and James left for the clinic.

He maintained his regimen non-stop for the next ten days, and it appeared even to him, his progress showed noticeable improvement. However, sleepless nights spent deep in thought convinced him no matter how much improvement he made, his Army career would never be what it was before the chopper when down. He’d never be a Delta operative again. What am I going to do? What if I have to retire? What will happen if the Army doesn’t give me a choice? How will I make a living, worse yet, what kind of life could I offer any woman I might meet? I don’t want to spend the rest of my life as the Sugar Bears’ bachelor uncle. He must come up with some plan for the rest of his life.
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Available from MuseItUpPublishing.com, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other online retailers

Memorial Day Weekend

This weekend we again have an opportunity to remember those who protect our freedoms, many times at the expense of their lives or severe injuries.  In honor of those who serve, I'll ask you again to help me support The Wounded Warrior Project.  All of my royalties from the sale of Once a Soldier benefit the project.  Here is another short except from the story, which is available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Muse It Up Publishing, as well as other fine online retailers.
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            “As reassuring as such visits and information was I imagine you felt a little overwhelmed.  How did you sort it all out?”  Marco waited for the answer.  The programs and assistance the VA offers are great—and I won’t need them …I hope, but Larry can tell me what I need to know before it comes to decision time.
            “Oh, yeah, big time.  Everyday someone came to give me information about benefits, entitlements, and health care.  Overwhelming amounts of information yeah, but you know what was most impressive.  I always received an answer to my questions.  They had a simple and effective way of passing the information to me so I understood it.  When I left the hospital, I knew what to do and where to begin after I returned home to Colorado.”  He broke off his recital and rose awkwardly to help Marco shift his position on the bed.  “Is there anything I can get you, sir, water or…”
            “Thanks, Larry, I’m good, and my name is Marco.  You’re retired now and we’re both Norwich grads so there isn’t any need to address me by my rank.  I don’t know yet what’s going to happen so the information you have is good to hear.  I know I’ll walk again, but at this point, the docs won’t give me an opinion about the chances for regaining one hundred percent mobility.”
            “Well, ah …Marco, the process for most of the benefits and entitlements starts right here at Reed.  The VA process is quick and effective, but I'll warn you, the medical boarding procedure will drive you nuts.  Mine took awhile, not a big issue for me as I don’t have a wife or kids, but sitting around my parents’ house waiting for the process to work, well, it really tried my patience.  After everything settled down, the VA offered me this job so I came back to the East Coast.  I’m in the Vet IT program at the regional VA office here in DC.  This program offers returning disabled Vets the opportunity at the hard-to-get GS positions within the VA IT office.  This program and the vocational rehab offer many more opportunities than you could imagine.” 
            “Good information to know.  I’m happy you’ve settled into a career path and have the opportunity.  We’re the lucky ones, Larry.  The real heroes—”
            “Yeah, I know.  I lost a couple of classmates.”  He fell silent as both men remembered those brothers and sisters in arms who had fallen to the enemy.  “Well, I’d better let you rest.  I’ll leave my card.  Call me if you need anything…and I don’t mean in the professional sense.  I’ll be happy to run errands or whatever you need.”
            “Thanks, I appreciate it.  My sister is here, but there are some things…”  Marco broke off and shrugged.  The younger man snapped off a smart salute and then waved as he left the room.
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