Monday, December 04, 2017

RETURN TO BELLA TERRA - MaryAnn Diorio - One Free Book

Welcome back, MaryAnn. Tell us about your salvation experience.
I grew up in the Catholic Church. I considered myself a very devout Catholic, but I was growing increasingly dissatisfied with what, to me, was a lifeless local church. Things started really troubling me when one day, I left church feeling worse than when I entered. This should not be.

I was in my early twenties at the time. I began to cry out to God, saying, “God, there has to be more to You than this!”

Shortly, thereafter, two of my sisters were born again. Frankly, I thought they had gone off the deep end and had lost their Catholic faith. But I could not help but notice the deep peace they had, a peace that had not been a part of their personalities growing up. Although I did not pay much attention to their change since I was involved with a new job, I did file their new attitude in the back of my mind.

It so happened that a fellow teacher in my school system was looking for someone to share apartment expenses. I agreed and later discovered she was a Christian. One weekend, she invited me to attend a gathering sponsored by Campus Crusade for Christ at a local Ivy League university.  Not having anything better to do, I agreed to go.

When I arrived, a young woman named Margo approached me. The look in her eyes was something I had never seen in a human being before. Today I know it was the love of Christ in her.

Margo asked me if I had ever accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior and Lord. Her question jolted me and frightened me, since it smacked of Protestantism, and I had been taught to stay away from anything Protestant since only Catholics had the truth and only Catholics would go to Heaven.

So, as politely as I could, I said to Margo, “Thank you. I respect what you believe, but I am Catholic, and this is not for me.”

Although she explained that her message was for Catholics, too, I was too frightened to proceed. So I thanked her, and we went our separate ways.  The look of love in Margo’s eyes went with me.

Shortly thereafter, I met my husband, we married, and moved to the Midwest where he was in a medical residency. I enrolled in a nearby university and began work toward my PhD.

My life was happy. I had a wonderful husband. We had a beautiful apartment. I was doing what I loved. According to the world’s standards, I “had it all.” But I was empty inside.

One night, while my husband was at work, I turned on the TV. As I flipped through the channels, I noticed that Billy Graham was giving a Crusade. Since there was no other program in which I was interested, I kept the channel on Billy Graham. I had always admired Mr. Graham, despite the fact that he was not Catholic.

As Billy Graham began to speak, he looked straight at me. He said, “You may have everything life has to offer, but you feel empty inside.”

To say that his words astounded me would be an under-statement. I was stunned that he had read my heart and read it so accurately. How did he know? He was talking directly to me.

I began to listen very intently. By the end of the program, I had fallen to my knees and accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior and Lord.  A deep peace engulfed me and settled in my spirit. When I got up, I knew that something had happened on the inside of me and that I was a different person.  A new creation in Christ.  Praise His Holy Name!

In His graciousness, our Lord connected me with the wife of another medical resident in my husband’s program. She was a Christian and took me under her wing and began to disciple me.  Thus it was that I began my walk with Jesus.        

Thank you, MaryAnn, for sharing that very personal, but wonderful, testimony. I pray that hearts will be touched when they read this blog. 

Now you’re planning a writing retreat where you can only have four other authors. Who would they be and why?
Francine Rivers—I deeply appreciate Ms. Rivers’ gift of probing the depths of the human heart through fiction. I would love to ask her specific questions about her relationship with Christ that, undoubtedly, reveals itself in her writing.
Frank Peretti—Over the years, I have admired Mr. Peretti’s courage in addressing the Christian supernatural in his stories. I would like to discuss with him the ways in which Holy Spirit has hovered over his writing in implicitly conveying the message of the Gospel.
Susan May Warren—Susan is an expert in putting together the elements of a story. I have studied with her and have greatly benefitted from her teaching. I would like to spend more time asking her questions about Story.
James Rubart—In my opinion, James Rubart is the second-generation Frank Peretti. I very much appreciate the controversial topics Mr. Rubart addresses in his novels. His stories take the reader into higher dimensions of God’s Presence, places where, I believe, the Lord wants to take His children.  I would ask Mr. Rubart about his novel-writing process that is, obviously, intimately in tune with Holy Spirit.

I so agree with all your choices. I love all of their books, and I’ve met and visited with Francine, Susan, and James. Do you have a speaking ministry? If so, tell us about that.
I used to have a traveling speaking ministry but I discontinued it due to family health issues. I do, however, speak and teach via podcasts, telephone, and the Internet.

What is the most embarrassing thing that has happened to you and how did you handle it?
My childhood family was very poor and our very modest home reflected the poverty. When I turned thirteen, my precious mother gave me a surprise birthday party—a great financial sacrifice on her part. Sad to say, I felt embarrassed that my friends came to my home and saw in what poor conditions I lived. But they were most gracious and didn’t even notice. We had a wonderful time that day! I never said anything to my wonderful Mom except “Thank you so very much for doing this for me!” I would have never wanted to hurt her feelings. Bottom line, I had a pride problem. Embarrassment is rooted in pride. Needless to say, I duly repented.

People are always telling me that they’d like to write a book someday. I’m sure they do to you, too. What would you tell someone who came up to you and said that?
Just do it!  Stop talking about it and start writing. There is no such thing as the perfect moment. If you wait for the perfect moment, you will never write your book. This applies to anything you want to do in life.

But a word of caution here: Make sure that your heart motive is right. Why do you want to write a book? For God’s glory or your own? The only reason to write a book is that God has told you to write one. Make sure that God is directing you to write a book. If He has not called you to write a book, then you are wasting your time. Scripture says this: “Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it” (Psalm 127: 1).

So get God’s mind on it. If He wants you to write a book, then you must write it or else you will be disobeying Him. And that is not a good thing!

Tell us about the featured book.
Return to Bella Terra is the third book in The Italian Chronicles Trilogy.  It focuses on the story of Nico Tonetta, only a child in Book One, but now a grown man in search of his birth father. It is a compelling story of the deeply emotional challenges facing one who is estranged from a parent in whatever way and reflects the awesome love of the Father for His adopted children.

Please give us the first page of the book.
Brooklyn, New York, January 1906
 “Dear Maria, you must come quickly! Mama is dying!”
Maria Landro’s heart lurched as she leaned forward in the straight-backed chair and grabbed the edge of the kitchen table. Her head spun. Had Mama already died?
Outside the balcony door window, the only window in the tiny tenement house flat, a steady snow fell thick and fast. The new year had begun with a fury.
And so had Maria’s afternoon.
Her throat tightened. Would she ever see Mama again?
With trembling hands and tear-filled eyes, she read the letter from her younger sister Cristina. It was dated December 20, 1905. Three weeks earlier.  By now, Mama might be dead.
Guilt washed over her. When she’d left Sicily eight years earlier, she’d promised Mama she would come back for a visit. A promise never kept. Not for lack of desire, but for lack of money. A lump formed in Maria’s throat.
No one had told her and Luca that life in America would be difficult. Discouraging. At times, deeply depressing. The claims of streets of gold had proven false. Instead, they’d discovered streets of gravel. The claims of beautiful houses had turned into crowded, roach-infested tenement houses that often bred violence as well as disease.
And the claims of well-paying jobs had turned into long hours of hard labor that barely allowed them to make ends meet.
Worst of all, no one had warned them of the deeply felt hatred and prejudice against Italians, particularly Italians from Sicily. No one had warned them of the condescending ethnic slurs, the continual threats on their lives, the horrendous lynchings, and the vicious discrimination in the workplace, particularly against Italian women. No one had warned them of a brutal life that, so often, had made her want to return to Sicily and to Bella Terra, the beautiful hillside farm where she’d grown up.
And the home in which Mama still lived and now lay dying.
Hot tears spilled from Maria’s eyes onto the letter, smudging the ink. She must leave immediately. It would take about sixteen long days, if not longer, to cross the Atlantic Ocean back to Sicily. She had no time to spare.
But what to do first? Luca would not be home from his job on the railroad for two more days. He’d been forced to take the position laying rail for a new stretch of the Pennsylvania Railroad shortly after his release from prison. Should she wait for him to return before booking passage on the next ship? If she did, she would run the risk of a departure delay of several days. Ship manifests filled up quickly.
How can readers find you on the Internet?
I would love to interact with readers at the following venues:

Thank you, MaryAnn, for sharing this series, and especially this book, with us today. I must confess that I waited to read the first book until this one came out. I knew when I started reading them, I’d want to have the next one and the next one to read immediately.

Readers, here are links to the book.
Return to Bella Terra: Book 3 of The Italian Chronicles Trilogy (Volume 3) - Amazon paperback
Return to Bella Terra: Book 3 of The Italian Chronicles Trilogy (The Italian Chronicles) - 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.)

Void where prohibited; the odds of winning depend on the number of entrants. Entering the giveaway is considered a confirmation of eligibility on behalf of the enterer in accord with these rules and any pertaining local/federal/international laws.

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.

If you’re reading this on Goodreads, Google+, Feedblitz, Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, or Amazon, please come to the blog to leave your comment if you want to be included in the drawing. Here’s a link:


Elly said...

Ooh! Looking forward to reading this series!
Elly -Indiana-

MaryAnn Diorio, PhD, MFA said...

Thanks for stopping by, Elly! I trust that my stories will bless you!

Merry Christmas!


Vivian Furbay said...

Would love to win a copy of this book to see what happens after reading the first page. Isn't it neat how God works in our lives to draw us to him! Vivian Furbay of Colorado

Robin in NC said...

Oh my goodness! What an opening chapter! Definitely want to find out how this story ends. MaryAnn, I love your personal story. God is so faithful in His pursuit of us. Thanks for sharing with us.
Robin in NC

Beth Gillihan said...

Great testimony! THanks for sharing it. I love hearing peoples testimonies! Great excerpt. I will have to put this series on my wish list. Have a fabulous day!

Beth in Montana

Trixi said...

Loved reading the author interview and learning your testimony, isn't God good? Thank you for the giveaway chance!

Trixi in OR

VanG said...

Thank you for the interview and for sharing your beautiful testimony. I have not read any of your books and would love to win a copy of this one. Thanks for the giveaway. Merry Christmas! 🎄🎄
VanG in NC

MaryAnn Diorio, PhD, MFA said...

Vivian, thanks for your comment. You are so right! It is exciting to see how God draws us to Himself. Each of us has a unique story.

Blessings for a Merry Christmas!


MaryAnn Diorio, PhD, MFA said...

Robin, thank you for your comment. I agree with you that God is "so faithful in His pursuit of us." Praise His Holy Name!

I wish you and your family a joyous Christmas season as we celebrate His great love!


MaryAnn Diorio, PhD, MFA said...

Thank you, Beth, for taking the time to comment. You, too, have a wonderful day and a joyous Christmas season!

Blessings to you,


MaryAnn Diorio, PhD, MFA said...

Hi, Trixi in OR,

I love your beautiful state! :). Yes, God is good! Thanks so much for commenting.



MaryAnn Diorio, PhD, MFA said...

Dear VanG,

I so appreciate your taking the time to comment. You, too, live in a beautiful state. :)

You are most welcome for the giveaway opportunity. I wish you and your family a very Merry Christmas!



Connie Porter Saunders said...

Good morning MaryAnn, thank you for sharing your the story of your conversion. One of my co-workers grewup as a Catholic and attended a Catholic school but became friends with a girl who was of the Christian faith. My friend sonetimes attended church with her and she soon realized that her faith and her love needed to be placed in Jesus Christ. Thanks for sharing your powerful testimony. I look forward to reading this book.
Connie from KY

Hannah Corner said...

I really enjoyed reading your testimony! Looking forward to reading your books!
Hannah Corner from Panama City, FL

Dianna said...

This is the first time I've heard of this author. Thanks for sharing!
Dianna (TN)

Sharon Richmond Bryant said...

Enter me in your awesome giveaway!!
Conway SC.

MaryAnn Diorio, PhD, MFA said...

Hi, Connie,

Thank you so much for your comment. I praise God that your co-worker came to Christ! Thanks for sharing!

Many blessings!


MaryAnn Diorio, PhD, MFA said...

So glad you stopped by, Sharon! Many blessings to you!


MaryAnn Diorio, PhD, MFA said...

Hi, Hannah,

I'm so glad you were blessed by my testimony. Thanks very much for commenting.



MaryAnn Diorio, PhD, MFA said...

Thanks for stopping by, Dianna! Blessings to you!