Tuesday, November 14, 2017

My Latest Prayer Shawl


There are times I push away from the computer, stop writing, and get busy with my crochet hook. Last week I finished another prayer shawl. I stopped counting how many I've made a while ago. I totally enjoyed working on this one. I loved the color. I loved the pattern, which was The Rosary shawl (https://www.girliescrochet.com/rosary-prayer-shawl.html). It uses the puff stitch. I changed the pattern slightly by adding a scalloped border instead of the fringe.

Daughter #1 thought I should make something a bit more subdued or more masculine in case a man is in need of a prayer shawl. I went out and bought some soft, brown yarn and I'm now working on a rectangular shawl using the Simple Three's pattern. (http://www.shawlministry.com/Crochet%20Patterns/simple_three_crochet_pattern.htm)

Crocheting is calming to me, which in this hectic, crazy world, feels good. I started a prayer shawl ministry at our church and it's been a wonderful experience. The women are all very talented and create beautiful shawls. We're wrapping others in warmth along with prayers.

To find out more about the prayer shawl ministry go to http://www.shawlministry.com.

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

My Sweet Romances


Need some sweet love for your Kindle? I have five sweet, inspirational romances at www.prismbookgroup.com Two are historical romances set during the Revolutionary War and in the year following that conflict. The other romances are contemporaries set in our troubled times, but always containing a message of hope.

You can find all my books at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Smashwords, Scribd, iBooks, and other book distributor sites. Sit down tonight with a sweet read and warm your heart.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Rafflecopter Giveaway!

I haven't offered a giveaway in ages. So this week is your chance to get a genuine paper edition of IRONS IN THE FIRE, a book nominated for a Romantic Times Reviewers Choice Award for Best Small Press Paranormal.

To enter the contest, go to http://penelopemarzec.weebly.com/news.html

You've only got three days to enter! From October 31, 2017, until November 2, 2017. So don't dilly-dally.  Enter as soon as possible.

For more details about the book and to read the reviews it's received go to:  http://a.co/7Yztqye


Tuesday, October 24, 2017

My Quintessential Halloween Story: THE COMPANY YOU KEEP

THE COMPANY YOU KEEP has a ghost, a billionaire, plenty of evil entities, and a terrible secret. 
😱
Here are snippets of some reviews from the past:

A reader on Goodreads said, "This book surprised me. I though it was just a romantic novel, but I was wrong. Besides romance, includes other genres like suspense , paranormal and crime. I couldn't put it down until I finished it. I really enjoyed the story!"


Diane Tugman of The Romance Studio said, "With each chapter you'll be drawn into a tangled web of the supernatural."


Anastasia Castella-Young of Mind Fog Reviews said, "I highly recommend this paranormal romance to those interested in demons, spirits, adventure and love. Penelope Marzec hits the mark dead on!"


This is the story of Jennifer Brant. Her existence has centered on protecting the world from a cursed spirit who guards a deadly portal located on her farm. When a billionaire developer, haunted by the sins of his past, wants to buy her farm, she refuses, knowing the spirit will be released on those she loves. When someone intent on controlling the demon kidnaps her brother in order to use the farm for his own evil deeds, Jennifer and the billionaire must unite to save her brother and destroy the portal. Can their union grow into a loving and safe lifetime for them and their future generations?

The following scene is in Nathan's point of view--he's the billionaire. While Jennifer sleeps after being involved in an accident, Michael, her brother, offers Nathan the land he wants. This comes as quite a surprise to the billionaire...

Nathan placed another log on the cheery blaze in the fireplace. Jennifer lay on the couch, bundled in a wealth of quilts. Her chest rose and fell softly in a steady rhythm. He sat in the chair and took a calming breath. Despite a variety of bruises and a mild concussion, she should be fine, especially since he had volunteered to watch her for the rest of the night.

Michael walked into the room with two brandy glasses. “Here, McDugan. It’s been a long night.”

“Thanks.” He accepted the glass.

Michael paced around the room with his brow deeply furrowed. The younger man was still revved up and running on adrenaline.

 “I want to thank you. I really panicked when I saw Jen’s truck up against that tree,” he admitted. “I’m usually cool on a call but it’s different when it’s one of your own...” After a pause, Michael continued in a raspy tone. “You see, our parents died in a car accident.”

He nodded. He’d felt the twist in his gut when he had heard the metal crumple in the crash, but when he saw Jennifer in that wreck it was as if his heart slipped out of gear. He sipped some of the brandy. The warmth of peaches tingled on his tongue and his control nearly crumbled. Wiping the sweat from his brow, he dared another taste. The sample reminded him so vividly of the flavor of Jennifer’s lips that he felt nearly possessed.

He drew in a great breath. For a moment tonight, he thought he had lost her. In that brief flash, raw grief sliced into him. Thinking about it later, he was stunned at his violent reaction. He told himself that simply visiting a wreck stirred up the old horror.

“The police said someone tampered with the brake hoses,” Michael blurted out. “But that’s ridiculous. I know it’s an old truck. But George—” He stopped his restless pacing and paled. “George always fixed it.”

“She said the brakes didn’t work.” He kept his voice low. He did not want to disturb her. She needed to rest.

“Yeah. Yeah. I know.” Michael downed a good portion of the brandy in one gulp. “How much land do you really need?”

He narrowed his eyes, wondering if he had heard correctly.

“Your absolute minimum,” Michael reiterated.

Momentarily speechless with surprise, he nearly dropped the glass in his hand. Did he see desperation in the hard lines around Michael’s mouth? “Your sister has led the fight and worked the hardest to keep me out of Marlpit. Won’t she consider you a traitor?”

“Everything has changed in the last few months. Everything.” Michael swore softly. “My wife is ill. We had another dry summer so we didn’t grow much produce.” He gave a small snort. “Except for peaches. We had plenty of peaches. Now with Jennifer’s truck destroyed, I don’t think there’s any way—” He didn’t finish the thought. A deep scowl creased his forehead and he balled up his fists.

Nathan cleared his throat. Warning gongs sounded in his brain but he ignored them. He had no reason to trust Michael Brant. However, after tonight, it seemed worth the gamble. “Forty acres.”

Michael sniffed. “Why didn’t you tell us that in the first place?”

“I padded my original proposal figuring it would get whittled down to nothing anyway.” Despite the heady liquor, his nerves seemed ready to snap. He’d wanted this for so long.

Michael set his glass on the mantle and stared into the fire, his back to Nathan. “What price?”

He realized he was about ready to crush the glass in his hand. He forced himself to relax. Leaning back in the chair, he tried to look casual. He didn’t want to get roped into a ridiculous deal.

“This is an unusual liqueur,” he said, taking another sip from his glass. “Do you make your own brew?”

Michael’s shoulders sagged. “Nah. That stuff is something Jen mixes up. Peach juice and vodka, I think.”

He glanced at her, still sound asleep on the couch. Wispy tendrils framed her serene face. She looked fragile—and enchanting. A pang of something like loneliness stabbed at his heart. Clearing his throat, he added. “Your sister is quite talented.”

“Yeah. Well, you have to do something with all those peaches before they rot,” Michael commented. He plopped down in the wingback chair and hung his head. He looked beaten.

Despite the smell of victory, a hollow space seemed to widen in Nathan’s heart. This had all become more than a simple business deal. While he had spent months arguing with Jennifer and the people of Marlpit, he would win only because fate and some crazed maniac had lent him a hand.

“Which forty acres are you willing to part with?” He stared into the sweet but potent liquor in his glass.

Silence hung in the air for several tense minutes before Michael answered. “You can have a portion of Abigail’s woods.”

He lifted his head and frowned. “It would take extra labor to clear it.”

Michael stood again as he spoke louder than before. “It’s well up on the ridge so you won’t have any drainage problems. In addition, it’s out of the DEP’s designated area.”

Then something sparked in Michael’s eyes as his voice reached a new crescendo. “Aside from that, the visitors to your fancy theater will have a sweeping view of feudal serfs living as they did in the dark ages! You should be able to raise the price of the tickets for that privilege!”

Jennifer moaned and stirred on the couch. Without conscious thought, Nathan sprang to her side. He touched her forehead. His hand shook. He wasn’t sure if she felt warm or hot. Dammit. She looked too pale.

“Should I wake her like the doctor said and ask her some questions? Do you think she’s all right? How does her forehead feel to you?” His heart hammered in his chest.

Michael rubbed the back of his callused hand on his sister’s cheek. “She’s okay. I should just keep my big mouth shut.”

Relief flowed through him. “She always tries to act so tough but she isn’t,” he mumbled, almost to himself. Then he glanced back at Michael, catching an odd puzzled look as it flitted across the younger man’s features.

“Yeah. Well. She’s flesh and blood, McDugan. Two hundred year old maple trees are a lot tougher,” he whispered hoarsely. “Come on into the kitchen. I’ll get a calculator. Let’s talk numbers.”


Sunday, October 15, 2017

New Jersey Romance Writers' Conference 2017


Writers' conferences are amazing! As you can see above, I received a bunch of free books at the New Jersey Romance Writers' Conference this weekend. I actually could have gotten more, but I didn't want to be too greedy. 😇 

However, there's more to a writers' conference than free books. There's enthusiasm and encouragement along with a heaping dose of helpful, practical information about the business of writing and marketing books. The workshops at NJRW's conference ran the gamut from a beginner's class on point of view to round table discussions with other published authors concerning the state of the industry.


My top tip this weekend concerned Amazon ads. I had tried signing up for an Amazon ad more than a year ago, but my ad did not seem to work for me. As it turns out, other authors have found the ads successful by using their own extensive and exhaustive lists of keywords. 


One of my favorite workshops was given by Eileen Dreyer titled "His Brain/Her Brain: Why It Took Moses 40 Years to Get out of the Desert." Ms. Dreyer put together all the facts concerning the differences in men's brains and women's brains. As soon as I returned home, I showed my notes home to my husband. He studied them with some bemusement. I don't know if he'll understand me any better, but I believe I'll understand him far more now that I know the facts. 😂


I was looking forward to Tracey Lyons talk titled "Keeping the Sexy in Sweet," but unfortunately Ms. Lyons didn't show. Still, I did get a copy of her book The Heart of an Agent, and I've already started to read it. (It's GOOD!)


Of course, the best thing about a writers' conference is simply being with other writers and meeting authors from all over the country. As romance writers, we are invested in hope. Our stories have happy endings and sometimes a happy ending is all you need to BELIEVE. 

Monday, October 09, 2017

My Swedish Meat Balls


A long time ago, I was the bride-to-be in an age where bridal registries were not what they are today. Among my many gifts I received at my bridal shower were three slow cookers. I gave one to my mother and kept the other two.

At first, I rarely used the gadgets, but as time went on I found their usefulness went beyond stew. For instance, they were excellent for keeping mulled cider hot at a party.

Still, a recipe my family and I enjoyed early on was one for Swedish meat balls from a booklet that came with one of the slow cookers.
These meat balls are not like the famed Swedish meat balls served at IKEA. What I like in particular about this recipe is the addition of dill in the sauce.

Give this one a try--and double the recipe so you'll have plenty of leftovers.



SWEDISH MEAT BALLS
1 1/2 cups bread crumbs
1 cup milk
1 1/2 pounds ground beef
2 eggs, beaten
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
2 tablespoons shortening
1 can beef broth
3/4 teaspoon dill weed
1/8 teaspoon pepper

1. Soak bread crumbs in milk for 5 minutes.

2. Combine crumb mixture with meat, eggs, and next four ingredients. Shape into balls about an inch in diameter.

3. Heat shortening in skillet and brown meat balls.

4. Place meat balls in cooker and add broth, dill weed and pepper.

5. Cook on low 4 hours.

Yield: 3 dozen meat balls.



Wednesday, October 04, 2017

In Life and In Books #ActionsSpeakLouderThanWords

For my parents' sixtieth wedding anniversary in 2007, we celebrated with a backyard party. Dad put a garter on my mother's ankle. Everyone donned flower leis and there was a bit of champagne as well. It was a small affair--just family. Two years later my mother died and last year my father passed away. They were good people and I was blessed to have them as parents.

Everyone in our family--and in our extended family has been rather loquacious. They have all loved to talk. Any gathering was guaranteed to be boisterous, but fun and always memorable.

While all my parents' words have faded away, there are many things they did that remain embedded in my memory. My father never failed to tip his hat when he passed a church. Dad spent forty years working for the Jersey Journal and took pains to get the stories right. He was unfailingly honest. Whenever my parents argued, my father bought flowers. He bought flowers for other occasions, too. There was never any doubt that he loved my mother.

When one of the neighbor's children became ill, my mother made a huge batch of cream puffs and gave them to the family. When another neighbor needed a ride to the train station, my mother drove her. If someone was hungry, Mom gave them food. One mentally disabled young man often came to the door for cookies and my parents bought cookies just so they would have them for him.

My parents treated everyone with respect. They were the good guys.

When I'm writing a book, I know there will be times the characters may say something they don't mean. Talk is--after all--cheap. But a protagonist must do the right thing, no matter what. The protagonist will go out of their way to help someone in need. Of course, the antagonist may play along and say the right thing, but he or she will invariably do the wrong thing.

This may sound rather simplistic, but to put it another way a leopard can't change his spots. Most folks behave in a certain manner all the time--like that aging uncle who invariably hands out a lecture on the same topic every time you see him. He's a good man, but he can't remember where he left his car. A detail like that conveys more than pages of description. It doesn't take much to paint an accurate picture readers won't forget.

Actions do speak louder than words, in life and in books. I know the good guys goof up sometimes, but they always learn from their mistakes and when the time comes for the hero or heroine to show their true mettle, they do. I write fiction, but in many ways it's not that far from the truth.