Friday, December 30, 2016

THE MADONNA OF PISANO - MaryAnn Diorio - One Book Giveaway

Welcome back, MaryAnn. God has really been moving in your writing life. What do you see on the horizon?
I praise God for moving in my life, in His own way and in His own timing. My job is simply to be sensitive to His leading and to follow Him wherever He wants to take me. That said, what I see on the horizon is greater intimacy in my relationship with God as I focus above all on worshipping Him and being in His Presence. From this place of vision, I see a deluge of ideas for more stories that will glorify Jesus and point people to Him. Many of these stories are already formulating in my mind, and three of them I’ve already begun to write.

Tell us a little about your family.
My husband Dom and I have been married for 47 years. Dom is a retired ER physician who now helps me with my writing ministry. He does a lot of the research for my historical novels and takes care of much of the business side of my writing. Dom and I are blessed with two amazing adult daughters. Our firstborn daughter, Lia, is a church musician and educator. She and her husband, Peter, have five beautiful children ranging in age from 10 to 4. Our second-born daughter, Gina, is a historian and a public policy specialist. She is also a worship leader at her church, a runner, and an outstanding writer in her own right.

Has your writing changed your reading habits? If so, how?
I have always been an avid reader and have especially enjoyed reading the classics. The fact that I now write fiction has led me to read a lot more contemporary fiction. Fiction written today is much different in terms of technique than fiction written 100 years ago—even 25 years ago. Attention spans are shorter today. Life is more hectic today. So, readers don’t have time for long, descriptive narratives. They want to get into the story, and they want to get into it fast. :) As a result, fiction writers have had to adapt stylistically to these cultural changes in order to hook and retain reader interest. At the same time, a good story defies time and place and has constant elements that never change. So, I see my role as a writer of fiction as that of combining the best of the past with the best of the present.

What are you working on right now?
I will soon be starting the writing of Book 3, RETURN TO BELLA TERRA, in THE ITALIAN CHRONICLES Trilogy. I am also working on a stand-alone novel tentatively titled AN ITALIAN ROMANCE and a book of poetry for children called POEMS FOR WEE ONES that I hope to release in 2018, Lord willing.

What outside interests do you have?
I love to read, to draw, and to paint in oils, acrylics, and pastels, as well as pen and  ink and colored pencil. I love to play the piano and cello, and I am currently learning how to play the mandolin, an instrument my maternal grandfather played. I recently began crocheting hats and scarves for a church ministry that ministers to the homeless. Of course, I enjoy spending lots of time with my precious grandchildren.

How do you choose your settings for each book?
I choose settings with which I am familiar, usually from having lived there or, at least from having visited the location. Knowing the setting well enables me to create a strong sense of realism that adds credibility to my stories by virtue of my familiarity with the details of the location.

If you could spend an evening with one historical person, who would it be and why?
I would spend an evening with Jesus Christ because He is not only the central and  pivotal point of all history, but also because He is outside of all history and all history is defined by Him. Since He is the Master Story-Teller, I would ask Him especially about the principles of story and how He used those principles in pointing people to the Father.

What is the one thing you wish you had known before you started writing novels?
Instead of viewing novel-writing as a glamorous activity, I wish I had had a more realistic view. I wish I had known that there are clear, well-defined principles of story-telling that transcend time and place and that can be learned, and that knowing those principles and applying them would result in stories that keep readers reading.

What new lessons is the Lord teaching you right now?
The Lord is teaching me how to rest in Him more and more. He is showing me that DOING flows out of BEING, and that as I spend time in His Presence, worshipping Him, I will bear much fruit. He is showing me what it truly means to be attached to the Vine and to BE in Him before I DO for Him.

What are the three best things you can tell other authors to do to be successful?
1 – Put God first in all things, including your writing. (Matthew 6: 33)
2 – Listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit regarding your writing. (Romans 8: 14)
3—Obey the voice of the Holy Spirit regarding your writing. (Jeremiah 7: 23)

Tell us about the featured book.
THE MADONNA OF PISANO is Book One in my trilogy titled THE ITALIAN CHRONICLES. The idea for this story was sparked by an incident that occurred in the life of my paternal great-grandmother. When I learned of the incident during a genealogical search, I knew I had to write about it in a story. While the seed of the story came from a true incident, the incident has been fictionalized to accommodate the literary parameters of a novel.

Please give us the first page of the book.
Here is the first scene of Chapter One:
Pisano, Sicily, September 1891
            She had no other choice.
            Maria Landro led her little son by the hand as they hurried down the winding road from Bella Terra toward the village. Distant, dark clouds gathered in the morning sky. Looked like a storm coming. The anxiety that had been churning for days in the pit of her stomach now spread to chill every part of her body. It was all she could do to keep herself from turning back.
            Nico tugged on her wrist. “Are we almost there, Mama?”
            She squeezed his hand in return, the hem of her skirt rustling against the pebbles as it
swished along the cobblestone road. “Almost, darling. Are you all right?”
            He looked up at her. He had her father’s eyes. Kind, deep, and probing. They always
made him so easy to love.
            “I’m well, Mama.” But his fingers fidgeted in her hand.
            His nervousness only fueled her own. She squeezed his hand more tightly. Please let
the village be kind to him. Regardless of what they believed about her.
            A sudden gust of wind caught the edge of her headscarf, pulling it back past her
temples. “My, the wind is getting stronger. Let’s hurry before the storm breaks. We don’t
want you to arrive at school soaking wet on your very first day, do we?”
            “No, we don’t, Mama. I would look silly.” He laughed, and an arrow pierced her
            If anyone hurt him …
            A hay-filled wagon rumbled past them, its wooden wheels creaking against the
pebble-strewn road. The driver turned his face away as he passed.
            She winced, pulling her son closer to herself to hide him.
            “Will the storm carry us away, Mama?” Nico laughed again. “Maybe the wind will
pick me up, and I’ll fly like a bird and land on the school windowsill, and my teacher will
            She tensed. Nico’s teacher. No, Don Franco would never laugh. If only she could
have chosen someone—anyone—else to be his teacher.
            But not in Pisano.
            The tiny village had only one schoolhouse and one teacher.
            As they turned a bend in the road, she caught a glimpse of her family’s large tan
stucco house. It sat majestically atop the hill, like a queen on her throne, surrounded by
sloping fields of fragrant orange and lemon groves, purple-red vineyards, and golden
wheat fields. Nestled among a cluster of tall poplar trees, would the queen soon be forced
to give up her throne?
            Was the farm’s failure Maria's fault as well?
            She looked down at her little boy, all dressed up for his first day of school. She’d
made him the pair of navy-blue cotton britches the school uniform required, topped by a
white, short-sleeved shirt and navy-blue ascot. His new black leather shoes, though a bit
too big, would soon fit his rapidly growing feet.
            As they approached the village, she recoiled at the sight of the medieval church
steeple reaching toward the gray morning sky. The church stood in the middle of the
village as a sign of God’s central position in the lives of the villagers.
            She hadn’t stepped foot in it for nearly seven years.
            Pinwheeling out from the church, little pastel-colored stucco houses lined dirt roads
framed by borders of yellow pansies and russet daylilies. Next to the church stood the
rectory, its burnt orange tile roof in much need of repair.
            She averted her eyes.
            A few drops of rain splashed against her kerchief and sprinkled her face. She looked
up just as a streak of lightning slashed the eastern sky. Then, with a loud clap, the clouds
broke loose, dumping their reservoir of rain. Why hadn’t she brought an umbrella?
            Gripping Nico’s hand, she started running. The rain pummeled her head and her back
as she tried to guide her little boy around the puddles.
            “Oh, Mama. My new shoes. They’re covered with mud.”
            So much for showing off her son. After six years of hiding him, she would see her
bold, triumphant moment ruined by mud. “Don’t worry. As soon as we get to the school,
I’ll wipe them off for you.”
            Just as quickly as it had started, the rain stopped. She took out the handkerchief she’d
shoved into her large canvas bag, next to the fresh fruit and nuts she’d brought for Nico’s
snack, and wiped her son’s wet face. Wet from the rain, she hoped, and not from tears.
            She couldn’t take tears. Not from him. Not from herself.
            As they entered the village square, shouts of haggling customers caught her ear.
            Young mothers with babies on their hips bargained with shopkeepers over the price of
peppers, eggplant, and squash. At the far end of the square, old women dressed in black
shuffled out of the Church of the Holy Virgin, fresh from hearing daily Mass.
            Nico pulled at her hand. “Mama, so many people. I never saw so many people.”
He seemed like a new puppy let loose from his cage. “Yes, my son. The village is
full of many people.”
            Her eyes scanned the bustling square where she’d once spent many happy moments
at Luigi’s outdoor cafĂ©, eating pasta and sipping espresso in the company of family and
            Deftly skirting farmers pulling wobbly carts laden with lemons and oranges, she
guided her child through the market crowd. Small groups of old men, their heads covered
with flat-topped coppola hats, huddled at little round tables, chewing on long pieces of
fennel while playing chess. A young mother, dressed in the black attire of year-long
mourning for a deceased loved one, held onto a toddler with one hand while, with the
other, she sorted through artichokes, cucumbers, and leeks. The smell of freshly caught
tuna, squid, and mussels, fruit of the nearby sea, turned Maria’s empty stomach.
            She led Nico through the square. Her face grew hot as neighbors and one-time
friends raised their eyes to her. Old women shook their heads, while younger ones
scanned her from head to toe, then turned away with uplifted chins. Men of all ages
scraped their eyes over Nico then leered at her.
            The skin prickled on the nape of her neck. “Come, Nico. We must hurry so we won’t
be late.”
            “Yes, Mama.”
            Wide-eyed, he drank in the new sights. Poor child. He’d been sequestered on the
family farm his whole life. He knew nothing of this world beyond Bella Terra.
            Whispers grew into mumbles and then into shouts, roaring in her ears as she hurried
through the gathering crowd.
            “Can it be? Maria Landro? And that must be her bastard child.”
            She stiffened.
            “What are they saying, Mama? What does ‘bastard’ mean?”
            Keeping her eyes straight ahead, she guided her child toward the school just beyond
the square.
            “Bastard! Bastard! Bastard!” The word echoed after them.
            “Mama, what does ‘bastard’ mean?”
            Her stomach tied itself into a tight knot. Lowering her head, she quickened her pace.
“I’ll explain at another time. Right now we must get to your school, or you will be late.”

Thank you, MaryAnn, for sharing this book with us. I'm eager to read it.

Readers, here are links to the book. By using one when you order, you help support this blog.
The Madonna of Pisano (The Italian Chronicles) (Volume 1) - paperback
The Madonna of Pisano (The Italian Chronicles Book 1) - Kindle

Leave a comment for a chance to win a free copy of the book. You must follow these instructions to be in the drawing. Please tell us where you live, at least the state or territory or country if outside North America. (Comments containing links may be subject to removal by blog owner.)

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The only notification you’ll receive is the winner post on this blog. So be sure to check back a week from Saturday to see if you won. You will have 4 weeks from the posting of the winners to claim your book.

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Pamela S Thibodeaux said...

Sounds like a wonderful new series MaryAnn.

Love the cover!

Goo luck and God's blessings

MaryAnn Diorio, PhD, MFA said...

Thank you, Pam! My cover designer was Lisa Vento Hainline. She is amazing!

Blessings to you for a Happy New Year!


MaryAnn Diorio, PhD, MFA said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
SavingsInSeconds said...

I think it's so special that your husband works with you on your books.
Dianna G. in TN

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Congratulations on your book, MaryAnn! I've heard many good things about it. susanjreinhardt AT gmail DOT com

MaryAnn Diorio, PhD, MFA said...

Thank you so very much, Susan! Blessings to you!

MaryAnn Diorio, PhD, MFA said...

It really is special, Dianna. Now that my husband is retired, he enjoys his new "job" as my official researcher. 😀 We have lots of fun working together. I thank God for the great blessing my husband is to me. Thanks for commenting. Happy New Year!

Anonymous said...

I am so excited to find a Christian author. They are very hard to find. I love to read books, but l love to read good clean books. I have not read any of your books as of yet, but am looking forward to. I hope I WIN is wonderful book to get me started. I live in Washington, North Carolina way on the eastern coast! Hope you have a wonderful writing in the New Year!! Happy New Year!!

Anonymous said...

I am so excited to find a Christian author. They are very hard to find. I love to read books, but l love to read good clean books. I have not read any of your books as of yet, but am looking forward to. I hope I WIN , that sounds like a wonderful book to get me started. I live in Washington, North Carolina way over on the eastern coast! Hope you have wonderful writing time in the New Year!! Hope your New Year is beautiful & bright & full of surprises & and may the Lord always be by your side!! Happy New Year!!

Connie Porter Saunders said...

Your advice to writers is applicable to all of us. Thanks for sharing and Happy New Year!
Connie from KY

MaryAnn Diorio, PhD, MFA said...

You are most welcome, Connie! Happy New Year to you, too!



MaryAnn Diorio, PhD, MFA said...

Thank you so much, Anonymous, for your kind words of encouragement. I, too, live on the East Coast--in New Jersey. :) I’ve been to North Carolina several times. It’s a beautiful state.

I wish you a wonderful New Year as well, full of God’s great blessings!

Warm regards,


kim hansen said...

sounds good. north platte Nebraska. Born and raised in New Jersey.

Diana Flowers said...

Thank you for sharing your interview of a new to me author, Lena! This novel sounds intriguing and I would love to read it. Thank you for the opportunity!

Diana in SC


apple blossom said...

sounds like a book I'd love thanks
live in ND

MaryAnn Diorio, PhD, MFA said...

Thanks for your comment, Apple Blossom. Happy New Year!


MaryAnn Diorio, PhD, MFA said...

Thank you for posting a comment, Diana. Blessings to you for the new year.

MaryAnn Diorio

MaryAnn Diorio, PhD, MFA said...

Hi, Kim! It's great to meet another Jersey girl! :) Blessings for a happy new year!


Winnie said...

Thanks for the interesting interview and the snippet from your book. It sounds intriguing.

Winnie T from Utah

MaryAnn Diorio, PhD, MFA said...

You are most welcome, Winnie! Thank you for your valued comment. Happy New Year Blessings to you!


Sharon Richmond Bryant said...

Enter me in your awesome giveaway!!
Conway SC.

MaryAnn Diorio, PhD, MFA said...

Thanks for entering Sharon! Blessings on you during the new year and always!


Sylvia said...

I am from North Carolina and think this books sounds very intriguing. Novels set in Italy are always fascinating to me. That is quite an opening scene and makes me want to read this book.


MaryAnn Diorio, PhD, MFA said...

Thank you so very much, Sylvia. It’s great to meet another person fascinated by Italy. Have you ever been there? If not, I encourage you to visit if possible. It is a beautiful country with wonderful people.

Many blessings to you during the new year. And thank you again for your kind comment.