Monday, October 6, 2014

Robbi Perna, The Roman Phalera – The Vines of Bordessi, Book One

AUTHOR:  Robbi Perna
BOOK TITLE: The Roman Phalera – The Vines of Bordessi, Book One
GENRE:  Adventure/Historical/Romance
PUBLISHER:  Muse It Up Publishing

Please tell us about yourself.  I am a native of Denver, Colorado, the oldest of four children in an Italian-American family.  As the only girl, I gained a unique insight on the Italian male psyche over the years.  My stories often reflect my Italian heritage and the traits many Italian men and women exhibit.  At a recent reunion, a classmate approached me and remarked, "I remember two things about you: you always wanted horses; and you were always writing stories."  I happily confirmed I had owned Arabian horses for a number of years before moving away from Denver and I still write stories.  I now make my home in central Florida where snow is a figment of my overactive imagination and Santino the Parti-poodle manages the household between naps while I write.

I bring a diverse perspective to my stories and am the author of thirty-one published works that include novels, short stories, articles, essays, and editorials.

My professional memberships include Romance Writers of America, Florida Writers Association, Savvy Authors, and the Society for the Promotion of Roman Studies. 

Please tell us your latest news. The Florida Writers Association selected my historical romance, “My Heart Still Surrenders,” as a finalist in the 2014 Royal Palm Literary Award competition. 

Are you a full-time writer or part-time, and how do you organize your writing time?  I am a full-time writer.  If I’m not working on a government contract—something I still do, although I claim I’m retired (LOL)—I’m working on a new story.

When and why did you begin writing?  I can’t remember a time I didn’t write.  Since I’m a product of the Catholic school system, writing is something that has always been a part of me, and yes, back in those days, we had a ruler applied to our knuckles if our grammar was incorrect.

What inspired you to write your first book?  My first book, if you can call it that, was a full-length play that Sister Patriciana assigned to our English class back in 8th grade.  My story was an adventure with my three brothers, the family dog, and myself that took place in Rome—a city that I’d never visited at that point in my life.  Inspiration for the story line grew out of the popular TV series, “The Man from Uncle.”

What do you do when you’re not writing/editing or thinking about writing/editing?  I live in a 55+ community in central Florida named Solivita.  The residents describe it as a cruise ship without the water.  Finding something to occupy my time when I’m not writing isn’t difficult, although I honesty compels me to admit I’m writing most of the time.  If I’m not seated at my computer, I’m writing in my head.

What are your thoughts about promotion?  Promotion is an integral part of the writers’ tradecraft.  A lot depends on why a person chooses to write.  For myself, I write first for personal satisfaction and the fact that people buy my books and enjoy them is the cherry on top of the ice cream sundae.  While I pay to advertise, it’s a necessity, I believe the most effective advertising is my public behavior and word of mouth.  Since I make no secret of my career as an author, I’m always cognizant of my public persona.  Just because something or someone irritates the daylights out of me, I don’t react in anyway that will cause that person or the people in earshot to decide I’m a first class witch and nothing I write is worth reading.  Word of mouth is the most important component of any advertising effort. 

What was the toughest criticism given to you? Wow, that’s a hard question.  An agent who read a synopsis and the first ten pages of “The Roman Phalera” told me my vocabulary was too elevated for most readers. 

What was the biggest compliment? My writing instructor in a course I took at Northern Virginia Community College, who is a published author in his own right, told me I certainly knew how to tell a story from start to finish without getting bogged down in the middle. 

Did those change how or what you did in your next novel?  I cherish the compliment and use it as inspiration when I sit down to write.  I’m aware of the criticism from the agent, but I can’t say it has influenced my writing.  E-readers all have dictionaries and I believe most people are smarter than others give them credit. 

Do you ever have writer’s block? Fortunately, writer’s block hasn’t caught up with me yet.  However, I write from an outline so I always know where my story is going, at least in general terms.  

Did you learn anything from writing your book, and what was it?  Yes, I learned no matter how much time lapses after the loss of loved one, you never get over the loss, only past it.  This book was very healing for me in getting past the loss of a much-loved brother.

Who is your publisher and how did you connect with them?  Muse It Up Publishing and I answered a submissions call for a HEA romance set in the holiday season.  Lea accepted my novella, “A Love Like No Other,” and released it in December 2011.

What is your marketing plan?  I have advertised in the Solivita Community monthly magazine, “Reflections,” posted the release on my website, utilize postcards and a video trailer, and recently joined, a global marketing platform based in the UK.  I am also a participant in Romance Writers of America’s Novel Engagement app.

What are your current projects?  I finished the production of a video trailer for a new story that I’m developing and will start writing in the fall. 

What do you plan for the future?  More stories, of course!  I have plans in the works for a sequel to “The Roman Phalera” and a fourth installment in “The Venetian Masquerades” series.  Neither of those stories is pushing at me yet because the new one “Robes of Destiny” is fighting to get onto the computer screen.

How can we find you? Website, Facebook, Twitter, blog, etc.?  My website address is: and Facebook:  In addition, I have my author’s pages on Amazon and Muse It Up Publishing.  I haven’t yet dipped my toes in the Twitter or blog waters.

Any other news you’d like to share?  The Solivita book club has contacted me to be their guest speaker for their March 2015 meeting.  Their reading selection for that month is “My Heart Still Surrenders.”
What genre do you write in and why?  I like writing romance—many times with a twist of something “extra.”  No matter how old or jaded we become, a small part of each of us still likes the idea of happy ever after.  If the HEA gets a little help from the “other” world, all the better.

Tell us about the current book you’re promoting.  “The Roman Phalera” is the story I started writing fiction to tell.  I thought it would provide a fitting tribute to my late brother, even though the character of Paolo no way resembles my brother except in personality.  My stories always revolve around my Italian background and culture and this one features one aspect that is inherent in that culture—the importance of family.

What gave you the idea for this particular book?  While lunching with a colleague one day and discussing houses, she remarked to me that with my love of houses, I should write a story about one in which every person who visits, has a different experience.  That germ of the idea provided the background setting and I built the experience based on my educational and family backgrounds.

Do you outline before you write?  Yes, I outline and make my video trailer before I start the initial writing process.  

What comes first: the plot or characters?  The basic idea for the plot comes first and then I people it with the main characters.  Secondary characters develop as the plot thickens (sorry, I couldn’t resist the clique!)

Which of your characters do you love/hate/fear/pity the most and why?  I love all my characters.  If I didn’t, what would be the point of writing them?  In this particular story, I pity Carlo the most because he has to go on alone after the death of his twin.  While my brother Paul wasn’t my twin, we were as close to being twins as possible for siblings born four years apart.  I had a hard time after his death.

Which characters were the hardest to develop and why?  I tend to base characters on bits and pieces of real people so developing them isn’t ever very hard.  There are just so many good examples walking around out there.

How did you decide how your characters should look?  Physical traits and appearance are always the hardest things for me.  I use my video trailers for help with this, which requires spending huge blocks of time looking at photos in the stock picture sites to get the right look.

What was the process of creating this book from the first idea to the final published book?  I started with the basic story line, developed the video trailer, built an outline from the trailer, and then started writing.

Did your book require a lot of research? Yes it did.  If so, what kind?  First, while I am (or was back in the day) a home wine maker, I know the basic process of making wine.  However, growing the grapes and vineyard management, as well as Carlo’s profession of wine brokering, were all new territories for me.  The Roman battle scene was difficult in part because it exists more in the realm of myth than historical fact.  I finally went to the original Roman sources for an account of the battle and its aftermath.

Do writing violent or highly sexual scenes bother you?  I don’t write either.  Why or why not?  I feel everyone’s idea of sensuality is different and unique to that person.  If someone wishes to read erotica, that is his or her choice, but I don’t enjoy reading it.  At my age, I know how to do it—I don’t have to read a “how to” account nor will I ever write anything that graphic.

What was the hardest part of writing your book?  Explaining to my dog why I was sobbing while I sat at my computer writing the funeral scene.  He was so upset that I was so emotional.

How long does it take to write a book, and what is your process?  Depends on the length of the book, the “extra-curricular” obligations in my life, and how long I can sit comfortably at my computer.  I treat my fiction writing the same way I treat my contract writing—as a full-time job.  If there is a day in which I can’t spend my entire time at the computer, I try to write at least a thousand words.

What are your current books out right now:  I have eight current books released by Muse It Up Publishing right now:
The Domenico Family Case Files:  “A Love Like No Other;” “Once A Soldier;” and “All the Days of Forever.”
The Venetian Masquerades:  “What Hides Behind the Mask;” “A Sign From Heaven Sent;” and “A World Made New.”
“My Heart Still Surrenders,” a historical romance set in the mid-19th century Italy, based on three incidents in my great-great grandmother’s life.
The Vines of Bordessi:  “The Roman Phalera.”

And what are the books coming up for release?  I am awaiting acceptance on a new manuscript, “Where the Lion Dwells” hopefully for release in 2015

What advice would you give a new writer starting out?  Keep writing and submitting your books.  Don’t get discouraged by rejections—we call get them—and don’t let acceptances go to your head.  Publishers and the reading public have very subjective viewpoints.  Remain true to your vision and enjoy the journey.


The Roman Phalera

            Hands braced on the wide window ledge, his eyes trained on the slopes of the lower vineyard, Carlo Cavaleri stared out the window of his home office.  The dormant vineyards slumbered in the morning light of the late January day.  Crystalline drops left from the rain that had slipped away with the sunrise wrapped the vines in their icy embrace.  Rainbow splinters of rose-hued light shot from the sun’s reflection off the frozen droplets on the metal wires.  The wood of the vines stretched out on the stainless steel, cruciform supports moaned and popped as gnarled branches, denuded now of their leaf canopies, expanded in the warming air.  Trills of birdsong and the rustling of small forest creatures echoing in the still air heralded the new day.
            On the upper slopes set back against the hills, the vinesclones of the rootstock brought from Italy by Nonno Giovanni over seventy years earlierwould, in the months to come, yield the grapes for the vintages which made the Cavaleri wines renowned.  The limited cases of wine the grapes from these particular vines produced commanded prices equaled only by high-end foreign imports.  The Cavaleri family guarded these vines with the jealous zeal once accorded the virtue of unmarried daughters.  Even now at the early hour, workers walked the rows checking for problems as they pruned away the dead wood from the vines, speaking to each as though it were a favored child.
            The cold, winter rains combined with the moderate Mediterranean-like climate of the Sonoma Valley presaged a bountiful, successful fall harvest for the winery.  Nothing in the peaceful scene outside the moisture-edged panes of his office window could account for the foreboding that had awakened Carlo.  He paced back to his desk and reached for the phone a second before it chimed the ringtone he’d assigned to his twin, Paolo.
              “I hoped you’d call.  I tried your office earlier, but no one answered.  Thought I’d try to catch you at lunchtime.  Is everything okay?  I woke up thinking about you.”  He sat back in his leather swivel chair, stretched out his long khaki-clad legs, and put his loafer-shod feet up on the desk. He closed his eyes and imagined his twin, Doctor Paolo Cavaleri, five hundred thirty miles to the south in San Diego, gazing out his own office window and smiling at the sound of his brother’s voice.  Carlo dragged a well-kept hand with its short nails and smooth cuticles through collar-length dark hair the color of aged wood.  The open-collared shirt he wore under his pullover sweater matched the deep sapphire blue of his wide-spaced, deep-set eyes.  The light calluses on his palm caught at the loose knit of his silk cable knit sweater.
             “I knew you were, but this is the first chance I’ve had to sit for five minutes.  I had a seven o’clock review session for some of my students this morning. How’s everything around the farm?”
            The farm to which he referred was the ninety acres of vineyard owned by their parents Elena and Lucido Cavaleri.  No matter how far away their travels took the twins, the vineyard was home, the place where love, good food, and family provided the firm grounding for their very different personalities.
            “Everything’s about the same around here.  I think Pops is out communing with the vines right now, but I can’t see him from my window.”  Carlo had dropped his feet to the floor, rose from his slouched sprawl, and walked over to peer out the window.  No one moved along the Chardonnay section.  “I heard Mom carrying on about ‘my-son-the-doctor’ to a group of visitors yesterday.  She always liked you best.”
            Elena Cavaleri’s my-son-the-doctor snickered.  “Mom’s no fool.  Her description sounds a lot more impressive than ‘my-son-the-wine-broker.’  The only one of us she likes best is John Christopher, but only, I hasten to admit, because he came first.”
            “Oh, and aren’t we thankful for our older brother.  As the heir, he gets the duty and we can do what we please with our lives.”  Carlo reminded his twin.  “That is, if he ever gets back here.  I think his tour of duty in Afghanistan ends next month and he’s due out of the Reserve in September.  Good thing—at least he’ll return in time to help with the harvest.”
            “You’ve heard from Earmuffs then?  I didn’t think he would be able to give out that sort of information.”
            “No, I made a note of it when he left and have been marking the days off the calendar so to speak.  Older-brother-knows-it-best syndrome notwithstanding, I’ll be glad when he’s back safe, sound, and lecturing us on the error of our ways.”
            The earmuffs sobriquet was a relic from their childhood days when John Christopher received his first stereo headset and proceeded to wear it all the waking hours of the day, whether he’d connected it to his portable tape player or not.  The twins, five years his junior, had twitted him about it ever since.  John Christopher, now an Army Major in the California National Guard, had outgrown the need to retaliate on a physical level, not that they hadn’t all pounded on one another from time to time during their younger days.  Instead, he treated them with the indulgent tolerance of an adult for unruly children, an action that still infuriated his two younger siblings, but left them unable to hit back.
            “On another note, are you up for one of our adventures this next weekend?”  Paolo’s voice held a tinge of suppressed irritation.
            Carlo paced back to the desk.  The sunlight glittered off the slight moisture on the windows, leaving glistening rainbows in its wake and cast a swathe of bright light across the contents spread out on its surface.  “What do you have in mind?”


  1. Aren't pets wonderful? They always know when we're upset or excited!

    Nice excerpt!

  2. Thanks for the comment, Cheryl. Yes, pets are wonderful and Santino was there for me during the whole writing process. I rewarded him by making him a character, canine of course, in my latest book "Where the Lion Dwells" due out in summer 2015 from MuseItUp Publishing. Thanks so much for joining the dialog on Penny's blog.

  3. Robbi, I have read your book The Roman Phalera and several of your other books. I loved them all and would recommend them to anyone who is looking for an enjoyable read. Your characters are exteremely well developed and very interesting. Looking forward to reading Where The Lion Dwells.

  4. Thank you so much for your comments, Julie. I am delighted you enjoyed "The Roman Phalera" as well as some of my other books. I'll look forward to your opinion on "Where the Lion Dwells" when it's released. Thank you joining us here on Penny's blog.