Good morning, everyone!
What a week this is going to be … myself and a group of five authors, known collectively as STORY EMPIRE, have gotten together and gone on a roadshow. Throughout the week, we will offer book deals and giveaways and prizes. Today, I am delighted to host author Staci Troilo
Take it away, Staci …
Thanks for hosting me today, Harmony. Hi, Harmony’s followers!
I’m just going to jump right in. Today’s my birthday. First and foremost, I want to lament that my birthday buddy—Mr. Robert Downey Jr.—has once again not contacted me to offer to celebrate our special day(s) together, nor has he said he read and loved any of my work and wants to produce and star in the film adaptation thereof. Of course, I haven’t made this year’s wish yet when blowing out the candles, so I suppose there’s still time. (Fingers crossed.) Still, if history is any indication, I’ll be disappointed again.
I bring up the concept of birthdays because in Mind Control, book two of the Medici Protectorate series, we see a birthday celebration for Jo Notaro, heroine of that particular book. Like me, she prefers not to celebrate her big day because she hates to have all that attention trained on her (but she gets a party anyway), and like me, her favorite cake is almond cake.
I first fell in love with almond cake when I got married. Our wedding cake was an almond cake with what we were told was Lady Baltimore filling. I’ve since researched both Lord Baltimore and Lady Baltimore fillings, and what we got was neither.
But, wow, was it good.
It was an almond-flavored white cake with chopped raspberries and almonds mixed into a subtle (not super-sweet) buttercream between the layers. White chocolate frosting topped the cake. It’s not Lord or Lady Baltimore cake; call it a Royal Pittsburgh cake if you want to call it something. It replaced my prior birthday cake as my favorite cake and will likely always be at the top of my list.
In Mind Control, Jo gets her favorite meal—chili and a Primanti Bros. sandwich—for dinner and an almond cake with raspberry custard filling, whipped cream frosting, and toasted almond slivers on the sides for dessert. My mouth is watering just thinking about it. Jo and I are both pretty low-key and down-to-earth—neither of us is going to ask for pheasant under glass for dinner—but I’d prefer homemade pasta (preferably my grandmother’s, but any homemade pasta will do, particularly with spare rib sauce, a tossed salad, and garlic bread) for my favorite meal. Although, any of you who have been to Primanti Bros. will understand how that could be someone’s favorite meal, as their sandwiches are fabulous. (You can read about Pittsburgh’s famous Primant Bros. in Mind Control, or visit their website for more information.)
I’ve gone on and on about food for a while now, so I should probably get to the point.
Food is a defining characteristic for Italians/Italian-Americans. As both the heroes and heroines in my Medici Protectorate series are of Italian descent, it only seemed fitting that my novels use food to define the culture and deepen a reader’s understanding of the characters.
Several meals are mentioned in the novels, and we even learn some preparation methods. There have been many requests for recipes, and my publisher is in talks with me regarding a Medici Protectorate cookbook. I don’t know if that will happen, but I do know I have oodles of recipes I could put into it.
The important part to note, however, is that food brings these characters together. They share casual meals as family. They have romantic dinners for two made with slightly more flair. They have huge celebrations with a ridiculous amount of food, because that’s what Italians do when they mark an occasion. Some of their meals are healthy, others are decadent, but all are delicious and abundant.
Because Italians show their love for one another through food.
And that’s one of the ways characters in my Medici Protectorate series show their love for each other. Through the preparation of food and the sharing of meals.
Yes, I know other cultures use food in similar manners, and yes, I know there are other ways to show love. But I wanted to mention this particular method in relation to this particular series because I believe food helps define these characters.
And aren’t writers always looking for a way to make characters more relatable?
Bleeding Heart (book one of the Medici Protectorate series) and Mind Control (book two) are on sale this week as part of the Story Empire Bookmobile Tour. If you’re interested, check them out while they’re discounted. Book three, Body Armor, will be out soon, so if you enjoy the first two, you won’t have to wait long for the third. I can promise yummy food in each one, and a lot of love between the characters, too.
Well, still no word from RDJ. I guess I’m on my own again this year. It’s Lent, and I’ve given up indulgences until Easter, so I won’t be having any cake today, nor will I get to blow out candles and make a birthday wish until Lent is over. Maybe I’ll get a belated wish from Mr. Downey. (A girl can dream, right?)
In the meantime, if you aren’t abstaining for Lent, perhaps you’d like to have some cake for me. If you’re a baker, here’s a family recipe for almond cake. The best part? It’s made with a cake mix, so it’s super easy. Fill and/or top as you’re so inclined. But might I recommend whipped cream, raspberries, and almond slivers?
- 1 White Cake Mix
- 1 1/3 Cups Water
- 2 Tablespoons Vegetable Oil
- 3 Large Egg Whites
- 1 tsp. Vanilla
- 2 tbsp. Almond Extract (extracts are strong; if you aren’t sure about how much almond flavor you like, use less the first time)
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Place first four ingredients in large mixing bowl and mix on low until just combined.
- Add extracts and mix at medium speed until well blended. (Don’t over mix.)
- Grease and flour a 9X13 or two 9-inch round pans and pour in batter. (If using two pans, distribute batter evenly between the two.)
- Bake at 350°F for 25 minutes or until a toothpick or wooden skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. (Start checking two minutes early so the cake doesn’t over bake. May require a few extra minute to fully cook. Baking times depend on your particular oven.)
- Cool on wire rack. Flip out of pan(s) to finish cooling after 5 minutes.
- Fill, glaze, and/or frost as desired.
Thanks, Harmony. Sharing a little bit of my culture here today on my second stop on the Story Empire Roadshow was really fun!
And to your readers, I want to reward you for reading this far. One commenter will receive a free eBook of their choosing, not just from the Medici Protectorate series (although you can choose one of those), but from any of my works (the complete list can be found by clicking here). Another commenter (US only) will be sent a Medici Protectorate refrigerator magnet. Good luck!
Medici Protectorate Series Premise: The four Notaro sisters are the secret legacy of the Medici, famed rulers of Italy. Michelangelo promised his Medician benefactor that he’d always watch over the family, and as such, he formed the Medici Protectorate to guard them throughout the generations. Now, Italy is in political turmoil and revolution is imminent. The people are calling for new rulers, and the Notaros are poised to assume control. But a nefarious opposing faction wants the power for themselves. Never was the family in more jeopardy. The four sisters are protected by the Brotherhood—four elite warriors of the Medici Protectorate prophesied to keep the family safe until they fulfill their destinies. They journey around the world in an effort to keep the family safe and the future of Italy secure.
Book One, Bleeding Heart: Gianni, a warrior destined to defend the secret legacy of the Medici, protects his charge Francesca from a prophesied assassin. Their worlds collide in passion and violence, and he must conquer her fears and his demons in time to save them both.
Bleeding Heart is only $.99 throughout the duration of the tour. Click the universal link for purchase information.
Book Two, Mind Control: Vinnie copes with his own identity issues while he struggles to protect the one prophesized Medici descendant, Jo, who refuses to embrace her heritage. With lives in peril, can they find the strength to overcome their tragic pasts, or is it too late?
Mind Control is only $1.99 throughout the duration of the tour. Click the universal link for purchase information.
Book Three, Body Armor: Nico works to increase his powers and save the Notaro family matriarch, but his private agendas put his charge Donni’s life at risk. When secrets and lies result in three abductions, the group will need to place their trust him to save them all.
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