Sunday, December 16, 2012

Bow of the Moon Hits Its Target

The exciting sequel to the World In-between is now available. Bow of the Moon takes you on a journey through the Empire submerging you into forgotten myths and legends. Trek beyond the ends of the known world. Face creatures men have learned to fear. Protect secrets that could unravel everything.

Most legendary weapons have been lost to the ages. Although their true power is long forgotten, their memory makes some risk everything to procure them. One such weapon is hidden in plain sight. When ignorance melts away, the weapon that has saved the Empire on numerous occasions becomes a target. Can the weapon’s steward keep it a secret before it falls into the wrong hands?

Bow of the Moon is available in perfect bound paperback only on Amazon. The ebook is available for Kindle, Nook and Kobo, and on Smashwords, Diesel eBooks and Make Your Offer.

Happy Holidays and Happy Reading!

Thursday, December 13, 2012


Paperback cover without barcode

The Bow of the Moon proof arrived yesterday. It looks fantastic! The back shows a rendition of a Watcher’s Locket—so prevalent in this book.

Although this is my third published book, I always seem to tweak it after I go through it with my pencil. This time, I decided to include a picture (watermark) of the bow on the title page.

My tweaks were minor. I only repositioned a few items. The 6x9 paperback is 252 pages, filling 21 chapters.

Bow of the Moon will be available soon in print and for Kindle.  The ebook is already available on Nook, Smashwords, Diesel eBookstore, Make Your Offer, and Kobo.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Bow of the Moon Sneak Peek

Made by JosDCreations
Here is a first look at the cover, description and first line of my latest book.  JosDCreations did a fantastic job with the cover!

Bow of the Moon

Most legendary weapons have been lost to the ages. Although their true power is long forgotten, their memory makes some risk everything to procure them. One such weapon is hidden in plain sight. When ignorance melts away, the weapon that has saved the Empire on numerous occasions becomes a target. Can the weapon’s steward keep it a secret before it falls into the wrong hands?

Book two of The World In-between series.

Chapter One   Home Again

Berty stood waiting in the large circular room with its wood grained walls and brass chandeliers dressed in his gold trimmed green shirt and matching pants.

Bow of the Moon will be coming soon.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Giving Legendary Thanks

The First Thanksgiving has become an American legend, a fairytale of sorts. Pilgrims and Tribesmen gathered around a large table celebrating the fruits of the first harvest. Each brought different foods to share. Yes, it really happened, but the true details have been lost to the ages.

Thanksgiving dinner with the Castellano family has all the makings of being legendary. We get a huge turkey from a local farm. Stuffing is made from saved leftover bread. Our cranberry mold has a lightness that dances on your palette. The pumpkin pie harks back to the days before dense, sugary pre-made crust.

Of course, there is a pasta course like we have at every big meal. This year, we will blend our pasta with clams and mussels from our New England roots. A colonial style oyster stew will be served in cute covered pumpkin bowls. Brussel sprouts from the garden are sautéed with roasted Italian chestnuts. Our meal will start with a classic Italian-American antipasto salad. We blend our heritages to make our own traditions in true American fashion.

Thursday is approaching. I am looking forward to quality time in the kitchen cooking with my family. In my family, making the food together is just as important as enjoying the fruits of our labor.

Legends are crafted using every fiber that we offer. We all have our own legends to create. Getting together with loved ones brings something legendary out of us all.

I hope your tables overflow with food, your conversations overflow with laughter and your hearts overflow with love.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


There is nothing like 70+ degree weather in late October. It gives the senses a false indication that winter is still far away.

Alas, my deadlines loom despite the beautiful weather.

I have been busy editing the second book in the World In-between series. Book two will be called Bow of the Moon. The mock-up of the cover looks great. I am so excited and can’t wait to see it finished. The description is still in draft mode.

What I can share about the new book is that we learn more about the mysterious Watcher and archer, Declan. Berty and company venture to new places in the world on the other side of the portal. We meet Delyth’s brother, Telor, the Crown Prince of Fairyland. Hope, Berty’s young niece, plays an integral part in the story line. More action, magic, and love entwine throughout Bow of the Moon.

Once the cover and description are finished, I will post them here for a pre-publication peek. If all goes well, then Bow of the Moon will be launched in early December.

In the meantime, both The World In-between and Tricentennial are gathering good reviews and ratings.

Whilst I return to my editing, I wish everyone a Hauntingly Happy Halloween.

Happy Reading!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Goodreads Giveaway Update

Tricentennial’s Giveaway on Goodreads is over. I want to thank all who entered for their interest in Tricentennial. The five winners will be receiving their signed copies shortly.

For everyone else, I am offering 25% off coupons for the ebook on Smashwords and for the paperback on Createspace.

Both coupons expire October 31st.

Download your preferred ebook format (for your Kindle, Nook or iPad) on Smashwords using coupon code AB58S.

Or have the paperback sent to you using discount code NJXSJNUF.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Hello Autumn

Fall at my front door

Today starts my favorite time of year.  Days are cooler.  The trees begin their multicolored foliage exhibition.

I love the brisk smell of drying leaves.  Hearing the crackle of a bonfire.  Seeing the mountains form an expansive patchwork quilt of reds, oranges and yellows.

My boots and sweaters beg to be worn.  Soups, stews and chili entice savoring.  The couch lures with a throw and a good book.

This time of year makes my senses come alive.  I am a romantic hopelessly in love with the world around me.  Autumn brings a magical romance to every aspect of life.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Big Balloon Drop

The conventions are over. All the confetti has been swept off the convention floor. Politicians are racing to the booths. Each wants your vote, but for whom do you electronically tick the box? Will it be for the donkey, the elephant, or someone else entirely?

As a country, we are at a crossroads. We have the choice to continue down our path of inevitable self-destruction or charge ahead differently than the status quo.

Manufacturing has moved beyond our borders. Our institutions are in shambles. Our government spends much more than it could ever take to cover its debts. The national debt has surpassed 16 trillion dollars. More and more Americans have fallen into the arms of an ever expanding government dole.

Friday morning, the Labor Department released the new jobs numbers for the month of August. 8.1 percent unemployment means that for 43 consecutive months the unemployment rate has been over 8 percent. Full employment is typically 3 to 4 percent. Almost 400,000 people dropped out of the workplace. Just shy of 89 million Americans are not in the workforce. That is 33 percent of the population between the ages of 18 and 65. I am not saying that everyone needs to be employed, but 33 percent is not just stay-at-home parents, housewives/husbands, and college students.

Americans need jobs in order to pay for roofs over their heads, food on the table, and clothes on their backs. Which candidate will help the business culture so that jobs can be created is very important this election cycle.

However, once people have those jobs, I want to know which candidate will help reduce the cost of housing, clothing and food. Wages are not rising to match the rising cost of goods in this country.

How does one go about lowering the cost of living? Build new oil refineries and stop burning corn for ethanol. Before some of you roll your eyes and begin cursing at your screen, permit me to explain.

Corn is a grain. We eat it on the cob, off the cob, in tortillas, and as bread. It also makes its way into many other food products in the forms of corn syrup (regular and high fructose), corn starch, modified food starch, corn oil, and corn meal. We feed it to our animals, from our pets to livestock from which we get our dairy, eggs, meat and hides for leather goods.

When the price of a widely grown crop (corn) rises, the price of everything tends to rise along with it. Have you checked the price of non-corn produce lately? Prices keep going up and up. Burning food for fuel is not something first world countries should do. It also causes an increase in the price of fuel. Everything that is shipped via truck, boat or plane is also more expensive, regardless of product.

Refined petroleum has woven its way into all aspects of our lives well beyond gasoline for our cars and other transportation needs. Synthetic fibers in our clothes, shoes, carpets, and furniture are made from refining oil. Refined petroleum also makes the plastic we use everyday.  Plastics contain and wrap our food, paper products, pharmaceuticals, and other goods. Toys and all of our high tech gadgets are made from plastic. Even recycled plastics must be re-refined.

We can pretend that the cost of a barrel of crude is the main culprit. We can also pretend that extracting more petroleum will have a major affect on lowering prices. The fact is no matter how much crude comes into this country from foreign or domestic sources, we only have the capacity to refine so much at a time.

Today, we should have the technology to build more efficient and cleaner petroleum refineries with minimal environmental impact than the ones built decades ago. Being able to refine more oil should also ease the pain at the pump, in the grocery store, and heating our homes come winter.

What we really need is to be able to stretch our dollars as far as possible. Which candidate is the man for the job? If we choose wisely and with our pocketbooks, then in four years, those convention balloons will cost less.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Tricentennial Goodreads Giveaway

From August 22, 2012 until October 3, 2012, you can enter to win one of 5 signed paperback copies of Tricentennial. The giveaway is only on Goodreads and is open to all US residents.

Read a sample on Goodreads. Click on the button below to enter!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Tricentennial by I.E. Castellano


by I.E. Castellano

Giveaway ends October 03, 2012.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

Friday, August 17, 2012

How Do You Like Your Hummus?

The very idea of eating a delectable beige bean spread on a warm soft flatbread conjures pictures of mounds of spices, shapely pierced metal lanterns, colorfully woven rugs, and bright material hanging as room dividers.

Five simple ingredients blend into a creamy delicious dip. Many people buy it already made in a container. Although convenient, I have found that store bought hummus tends to add more ingredients than necessary. Plus, those tubs can be expensive for such a simple nutritious meal or snack.

Can you make this exotic dish at home? Yes. Is it easy? Very. Are the ingredients hard to find? Shouldn’t be. I live in a small town and am able to find everything I need in my local grocery stores.

Chickpeas (also known as Garbanzos or Ce-ci) can be easily found in the canned bean aisle of your grocery store. They may also be in the latin or ethnic section. Their dried counterpart is harder to find. I buy dried chickpeas in my local Metropolitania’s Indian store.

Tahini is ground sesame seed paste. My local Walmart doesn’t carry it, but I did find it in the ethnic section of a real grocery store. It is reminiscent of natural peanut butter where the oil will separate and will need to be stirred before using. Tahini also has a long shelf life, so don’t panic if all you can find is a 16 ounce jar.

If for some reason you can’t get tahini, then you can always use a couple tablespoons of regular peanut butter.

The other ingredients might be already in your pantry. All you need is garlic, lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, salt and water.

You will get roughly 2 to 3 cups of hummus from these proportions: 2 cans (15 oz or so) chickpeas, ½ cup tahini, 4 cloves of garlic, juice of ¼ of a lemon, and a ¼ cup of oil.

This is something that needs a food processor or blender. I’m sure that it was originally made in a mortar and pestle.

First, drain and rinse the chickpeas. That eliminates all the extra salt and can flavor. Dump into your processor bowl. Add the tahini. I pour from the jar and say, “That looks to be enough.” Usually, I use about a ¼ of a 16 ounce jar. You may use less or more to your taste. Throw in your garlic. If you don’t have fresh, you can use granulated or powder. Garlic can also be added to your taste. Squeeze a little lemon over top. Then, drizzle in the olive oil. I would start with less. More can be added later. Pour in a little water (a couple of tablespoons). Pulse a few times, then check the consistency.

You are looking for a smooth paste that isn’t runny. Taste for salt. Add if necessary. If your hummus is too thick, add more water. This is not an exact science. Taste as you go and add more lemon or oil or garlic as your tastebuds dictate.

When it is done to your satisfaction, transfer to a serving bowl. Drizzle a touch of olive oil on top. Spoon onto a plate and serve with warm pita bread.

An easy way to warm your pita is to place the rounds directly on an oven rack, then turn it on to 200F. When it comes up to temperature, they are ready. Stack them and wrap in a towel or cloth napkin to keep warm.

Hummus and pita bread with a vegetable side like sautéed broccoli can be a great meal.

Want to spice up the basic hummus? Blend in roasted peppers or roasted garlic. Add spices like cumin or paprika. Play with flavors. See what you like.

Exotic foods made at home can transport you to a faraway land all in the comfort of your own kitchen.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Celebrating Tricentennial

My latest novel is officially here!

Tricentennial is a dystopian science-fiction adventure.

Government cover-ups, a secret ruling society, environmentally friendly Pod Cities, powerless fringe settlements, and control over nanotechnology weave throughout Tricentennial.

Take a peek 60 plus years into our future uncovering what lurks behind the utopian veil of Pod City one-five.

Find Tricentennial in both ebook and perfect bound paperback at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, iTunes, and Smashwords.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

American Independence Day

My small town does the Independence Day celebrations on the evening before. Watching the fireworks from my house chokes me up every year. The fact that a small town of barely 5000 can make sure that we celebrate the country’s birthday is great. We could always go to the nearest “big city” – the county seat – or into downtown “metropolitania” for our fireworks. But, no, we celebrate as a community – the way it is supposed to be.

That’s how our country was formed. Communities, big and small, came together to fight oppression. Now, communities come together to celebrate our freedom from that oppression.

When I watch the bombs bursting in the air, I don’t think about my ancestors (descendants of English pilgrims) who fought in the War for Independence. I don’t think about how generations of immigrants came to this country in search of a better life. Nor do I think about how the governmental model for the United States laid the background for other countries after their revolutions.

While it is important not to forget all these, we must be aware of our present and mindful of our future. The fireworks that will color our night skies from sea to shining sea should remind us that our land is a free land. They tell us that our liberties keep each one of us independent from the whims of others – including the whims of our neighbors and of our elected and appointed officials from the local to the federal levels.

Preserving our liberty is the most important thing. Without it, our cookouts, our gatherings and our celebratory displays of freedom will be a thing of the past.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Poetry Wednesday 20 June 12

From Tricentennial by IE Castellano

By "Nickie Kelton"

Darkness quakes my heart
Ruthlessly depart
Pieces of my soul
Reveals gaping hole
Mending time will take
Vengeance mine to make


Just released for summer reading
Tricentennial is now available on Kindle, Smashwords, Nook and Make Your Offer.
Will soon be available on Apple and other ebook retailers. 
Also soon to be available in print. Watch this blog for updates.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

A June Honeymoon

June has been hiding.

I remember the beginning of June as a child. The bright blue sky and the summer-like breezes taunted us as we spent the last days of the school year stuck behind a desk. How we yearned to run barefoot through the grass. Or longed to play under the watchful gaze of the sun. Nighttime brought lightning bugs to the backyard. Short and t-shirts became our uniform.

This first week of June brought weather forgotten in months that have already passed. Cold rains, dreary dark days, and nights that need an extra blanket. In spite of the lack of warmth, lush green carpets all the eye can see. The middle of the night smells of summer. All that is left is for the sun to command the sky to stay blue so I can find my shorts for a journey through the grass.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Poetry Wednesday 30 May 12

After A Long Sleepless Night

After a long sleepless night...
I watch the sunrise through the trees,
The music of the early morning pounds in my head,
Windows illuminate like spotlights on stage.

The clock ticks away yet another minute...
I throb from head to toe and back again,
Knowing the drudge that lies ahead,
And that damn bug that buzzes in my ear.

Orange to yellow to white to blue...
Hunger growls inside me,
Searching the house for satisfaction,
Flashing of what was done before.

Sunrays peek around to spy...
Silent emptiness of this place,
Somewhere off in the distance a motor runs,
I wander aimlessly from my bed.


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Poetry Wednesday 23 May 12

New World Order

Walking along        walking alone       i roam
this world full of...
lonely hearts       wandering spirits       i join

No one understands
Takes us by the hand

Depressed comics      violent pacifists    they roam
my dreams at night...
When will it all       be all right?       they join

No one understands
Takes me by the hand

I wanna i got here?
I wanna know...what now is fear?
I wanna know...can you show me?
I wanna know...why can't i see?

Where no one understands
Takes the mighty man


Monday, May 21, 2012

Writing Workshop – Finished Yet?

So, you’ve just written the last word of the last line of your newest novel. Now what? Do you send it out to agents and publishers? Do you go the indie route?

Neither. Writing the novel is only part of the work. Now, it is editing time. Sure, you can send your work to have it edited professionally. But, you should never send your novel anywhere until you have had the first edit.

Editing goes deeper than just reading for typos. Sure, cleaning up those typos is important. But just as important, if not more so, is checking your sentence structure, reading for flow, and making sure that you have been consistent from beginning to end.

Sentence structure sets the tone of your novel. Ideally, your sentences should be of varied length and syntax throughout a paragraph. I am not one to stick to rules. Playing with your sentences can help move the story along. You don’t want long sentences entangling the reader during a fast action scene. Short sentences and paragraphs will help the eye catch every word. I don’t know about you, but when I’m reading an exciting scene, my eyes move much more quickly down the page.

Length of sentences is closely related to syntax. Syntax is simply the order in which words are placed. More broadly, we can use clauses before, in the middle, or at the end of the main part of our sentences. Clauses usually begin with prepositions (making it a prepositional phrase) or chronological determiners such as when, before, after, then, once, and while. These too should be changed from sentence to sentence so the reader doesn’t get bored whilst reading no matter how intriguing the scene.

Reading for flow is almost self-explanatory. Sometimes when you were writing, part x made sense but, when it read it through, you realize that part x needs a little more or a little less. The reader shouldn’t wonder why something feels disconnected.

Consistency is both the easiest to want to fix and the hardest to do. I find myself having to write down character descriptions so I don’t unknowingly change the color of the hair or eyes. Before I do my first read through, I also write down what I want to have capitalized and what the spelling should be of words I create.

More than just mere words or descriptions, consistency pertains to a character’s character as well. So many times in books, tv shows or movies, a character will do something out of character. It seems that in order to progress a story, y must happen. The creator has one of the established characters do or say y. When the character shouldn’t be the one to do or say y, it comes off as odd. Easy plot fixes are very transparent. Perhaps y can happen a different way. To be consistent, either y or the character must change.

Once all of those have been addressed, then you can give it to someone else to do a second edit. That can be a professional editor, a proofreader or a beta reader. Often, we read what we want to be there instead of what is written on the page. The extra pair or pairs of eyes can help with typos and inconsistencies that you missed as well as address any areas that are confusing or need to be expounded.

After you feel that the manuscript has been polished, then you can consider publishing options. Editing is a close friend, not an enemy. Giving editing the time it deserves in your writing regimen, it can ascend your work to new heights of greatness.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Discover the Dark Side of Utopia

Dystopian Science Fiction

Twenty years into the New Era, Xavier Kelton lives in a carefree world until his father uncovers a problem in commonly used nanotechnology. Without warning, his world crumbles. Trying to keep his family together, Xavier inadvertently starts another American Revolution.

Exclusively at Make Your Offer: Download a three chapter sample of my latest stand alone science fiction novel, Tricentennial. The full release will come out in June but you can make an offer and preorder Tricentennial before everyone else can buy it.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Poetry Wednesday 9 May 12

From The World In-between by IE Castellano

Pixie Priestess’ Prophecy

Empress watches over all
High in the Empire Tree
Finding the time ‘fore will fall
Watcher watches over thee

Find at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Make Your Offer, and on Apple’s iBookstore
Also in paperback

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Poetry Wednesday 2 May 12

From "Tapestry" by Solitaire Parke
available at Barnes & Noble

THE FACE OF LOVE by Solitaire Parke

She sits amid the cushioned chairs
And quietly reflects on life
Her heart still beats, her breast still clings
To thoughts of love and what it brings
But nightly as she waits it drifts
To darkened fields and blackened cliffs
And stains the love she feels with inner strife.

She glances at her hands still clasped
And sees the years within the lines
Her mind still yearns, her heart still feels
The memories that make her real
But like the empty bottles there
Her life is but a hollow stare
And cries to have her deepest love defined.

She reaches for the mirror's touch
But finds the glass has fingers cold
Her heart can reach through space and time
To touch the soul she wants to find
And feel the warmth she's grown to miss
The breath of life, a gentle kiss
And tears that fall from love she's often told.

Official Website:
Official Blog:

Monday, April 30, 2012

A View from My Window on a Spring Afternoon

Through the clouds, sunlight dances on the mountains. Shadows camouflage the brown while the new green growth sparkles. Spring is proof that any dark doldrums can be overcome.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Poetry Wednesday 25 April 12


Plaster casts of Bigfoot tracks

Your excited laugh

Nevada State Route Three Seven Five

Gas tank’s down to half

Picnic on the grassy knoll

Sixth floor windowsill

Your wild eyes while you dispute

Oswald’s shooting skill

You pout and sulk

At Arizona’s hulk

But you’re angry too

Cause Roosevelt knew

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Poetry Wednesday 18 April 12


by Abhay Adil

In the journey of life
A man searching for light

In the coldness of the world
And emptiness of the heart
Is there any place with goodness and grace?
Where one can break free

A place where a man can be what he wants to be
A place high above in heaven
After the long journey of life
A man can slow down for a peaceful rest

Searching and searching all his life
Can’t find a simple spot for rest
Living in the chest of broken glass
And all the hope is lost

He finally found a place to rest
The salience he got at last
Away from the dreadful voices
From whom he wanted to depart

Love that he never got
Delight he never saw
Unappreciated and deceived
Is what he feels

The darkness filled his dreams
Crushing his heart and making him scream

He left this place and walked of the ledge
Towards the shinning place with happy face
To finally find his place
On a stop called Willoughby

Willoughby a poem by Abhay Adil Inspired from "The Twilight Zone” episode “A stop at Willoughby”

Author blog:
Author ebooks links:

Friday, April 13, 2012

The Garden Chronicles: In the beginning

Food from your own garden always tastes better than anything bought in the supermarket. Sometimes that’s because of growing a different varietal. Most times it is because food from your garden gets picked at the height of ripeness. Planning your garden should be done well ahead of the ideal time to plant.

In preparation for this year’s garden, we made lists of what plants we wanted to grow. Of those plants, we’ve decided which ones were going to grow from seed and which were going to transplant from nursery flats. Over the last month or so, different stores have been having sales on seed packets. Collecting seed packets are a fun first step to building this season’s garden.

Earlier this month, Home Depot had a buy one get one half off sale on herbs and veggies. Even though we cannot plant much yet, we also could not pass up a sale on our favorite garden plants. We bought 20 plants from our local Home Depot.

Those collection of plants include a variety of herbs, a few peppers, a cherry tomato, cabbages and brussel sprouts.

Usually when we bring plants home from the nurseries or the home improvement stores, we leave them on our sunny back stoop until we can get them into the ground, if we don’t plant them that day. This time of year, our sunny back stoop is much too cold for tender plants. Just the other night I watched buckets of snow drop from the sky in the soft yellow light of the street lamp. Later that day, tiny ice balls pelted the ground. We’ve had overnight freeze warnings.

Finding a sunny window inside the house was our only option if we want to keep our newly bought plants alive. With three very curious cats and two equally curious dogs, we also wanted the plants to stay intact and in no way munched.

I live in an old house with three floors. The stairs to the top floor are conveniently blocked by an old door with an old brass doorknob. Neither cats nor dogs venture up there. Two west facing, non-dormered windows fill the third floor with a healthy amount of afternoon sunlight.

All twenty plants were placed into a plastic box and set on some wood to bring them up to window level. Here, they are kept cool, but not cold. Every day they are turned to keep them from growing in one direction. They get watered as needed.

These initial plants are doing well. Once the local nurseries open, we will be adding flats of other plants to grow in our garden. Soon, our early bought herbs and veggies will be bursting from their little peat pots and ready to flourish.

To be continued...

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

This Wednesday's Poem -- 11 April 12

Beauty is revolting
in a superficial way.
Attraction is deceptive
when it isn't meant to stay.
The game of love's suspense
is one I never wish to play

A philocalist sees beauty most clearly when he keeps his eyes closed.

By: paradox

Friday, April 6, 2012

Pantry Pasta Perfection: Tuna Noodle No Casserole

A week or two ago I was in the middle of spring cleaning which really means spring re-organization. Just about every surface was covered with something. My stomach was rumbling and I wondered what was for dinner. Takeout does not satisfy the way a home cooked meal does.

Why not pull from the pantry? I was spring cleaning after all.

Digging in the pantry I gathered, two cans of tuna, a can of anchovies, a can of string beans, a can of condensed mushroom soup, and two 13.25 oz boxes of whole wheat spaghetti.

First, I filled my pasta pot (with insert) with water and turned on the flame. While that heated, I got out my trusty 7 quart dutch oven. Into the pan, I dumped the entire small can of anchovies plus the packing oil. The tuna was drained before it made it to the pan. I added a touch more olive oil to help sauté the fish.

The very thought of canned anchovies may repulse some of you. For you food snobs out there, the canned product I buy is very nice with wide, firm fillets. Jarred anchovies are nice too because you can just use a few from the jar at a time. Jarred anchovies are also hard to find unless you spend mucho moola more for the same product. This is especially true if the anchovies are packed in salt. Not to mention having to drive to the specialty food store which isn’t worth it if you are only going for one or two items. For those who say, “eww anchovies,” you are missing out on something truly wonderful. Anchovies are not only good for you, they disintegrate as they sauté giving the finished dish an underlying deliciousness.

Canned tuna will never be anything like fresh tuna. I don’t use tuna packed in olive oil because again it is hard to find. I happened to have two cans of solid white in oil in my pantry. This oil is drained because I do not like using soybean oil in my food. Plus they add broth to oil packed tuna.

Before I turned on the heat under the pan, I added a bunch of dried spices. Those included: onion, garlic, thyme, red pepper, oregano, basil, and black pepper. After a quick stir while on a medium flame, I drained then rinsed the green beans. The beans were added to the pan and quickly stirred.

Dried herbs and spices are great. I find them just as good as fresh and when you are pressed for time or space they work very well. The flavor of dried herbs are much more pungent than their fresh counterparts. Some herbs, such as oregano, are actually better dried. The oils become much more concentrated and cooking them in a little oil first helps to coax the flavor out of them. When my garden is in full swing, then I’ll use fresh over dry.

Canned veggies need to be rinsed before using. They tend to keep the flavor of the can, which can completely ruin a great dish.

Once I could smell things cooking, I sprinkled seasoned breadcrumbs to just cover the bottom of the pan. The breadcrumbs absorbed the oil as I stirred them to get them toasted lightly.

The water came to a boil and I added some salt before dropping the pasta in the water.

Salt is added to the pasta water to give pasta a little oomph. Otherwise, pasta can taste like cardboard. In cooking, I typically use kosher or sea salt. But in pasta water, I use regular inexpensive table salt. Be careful though, you can over salt the water. The sauce does not need any salt. The soup, fish, beans, and breadcrumbs all already have copious amounts of salt.

As the pasta cooked according to the package directions, I dug the soup out of the can adding it to the beans and tuna. To that, I added a half a can of milk. Because I drink skim, about a quarter can of half and half was thrown into the mix. And, I can’t forget the splash of dry vermouth. Everything was stirred well. A knob of butter gave the sauce a smooth finish.

Resist the urge to add more milk. The breadcrumbs will absorb the liquid. Adding a second can of condensed soup or too much milk will make the sauce soupy. A soupy sauce can turn any pasta into mush rather quickly. If you find that you have too much liquid, cook the sauce without the lid so the excess liquid can evaporate.

The “sauce” was thickish. I turned the sauce down to low while the pasta finished cooking. Once the pasta was ready, I dumped it into sauce pan. Using my wooden spoon, I stirred the pasta and sauce to coat. If it doesn’t coat well, add a couple of ladles of pasta water. The pasta water loosens the sauce and allows it to coat beautifully.

The pasta was creamy without being heavy. The touch of red pepper flakes gave such a balance. This delicious dinner served 4 hungry adults with leftovers to serve at lunch the next day.

I wish I had taken pictures but, before I could breakout the camera or the camera phone we ate it. Imagine a plateful of taupe colored spaghetti with hints of mouth melting tuna punctuated with cut green beans.


Leftovers were spread into a buttered 8-inch square pan. I added milk to the pan to give it more moisture. The top was lightly sprinkled with seasoned breadcrumbs then dotted with butter. It was baked in a 350F degree oven until hot and bubbly which took about 30 minutes.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

This Wednesday's Poem - 4 April 12

Spring days, spring nights…

Hear the wind course as birds take flight…

The morning a time for growing pains,

The night a time for laughing dreams.

The soul a wondrous creature,

How it gazes out upon the land,

Wishing for hope, for dreams

For midnight moonbeams…

Spring days, spring nights…

Watch for the caterpillar or the worm

Those the birds peck and feed upon--

More lovely their dying, serving part.

by Mark Alan Murray

MARK ALAN MURRAY works, composes and creates in the Berkshires of Massachusetts.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Savory Character

Think of an orange. The bright, pebbly skin. The sweet, juicy insides. Oranges pair well with foods like chocolate, toast and vodka. But, how about with mozzarella? Or tomato? Olive oil and capers? Garlic and red onion? Absolutely.

Do not be fooled by its breakfast and sweet persona. Oranges play well with more savory items also. In Sicily, from where a portion of my ancestors hail, oranges are used in salads with lettuce and shaved fennel. Since that salad is delicious, we decided to change it a bit.

My mom has the best food ideas. There are many times where we sit around and talk about different recipes. This recipe is one of them.

Take a Caperese Salad. All it is is sliced fresh mozzarella, tomato slices, fresh basil, and a drizzle of olive oil.

Now let’s look at our more Sicilian version:

Sure we have slices of fresh mozzarella and tomato. But we also have sliced red onion, black and green olives, sliced garlic, and slices of supremed cara cara oranges.

The cheese, tomato, onion and orange were shingled in the dish. Then, we sprinkled the top with slivers of garlic, olives, chopped red pepper, thinly sliced celery, a few capers, oregano, basil and crushed red pepper. The whole thing got a generous drizzle of olive oil before covering with plastic wrap and setting aside.

After about an hour sitting at room temperature, we served it with genoa salami, pepperoni, and ham.

Of course we ate it with some bread. How else would you soak up the olive oil and orange juice mixture?

The salad was phenomenal. The cheese soaks up all the surrounding flavors. Olives and capers give it a sharpness while the orange balances the oil well. Getting a firey piece of slivered garlic mashed into a soft milky hunk of cheese plays music in your mouth.

What is leftover will marinate even more in the fridge. Tomorrow, it will taste even better. This salad would be great as an antipasto or cut into chunks and brought to a summer party.

Keep drinking orange juice at breakfast. But once you bring oranges out after noon, savory will be supreme.

Friday, March 30, 2012

The Story behind Dogs Bark...

I can remember where I was when I wrote each of my favorite poems. This is the fun little story behind my poem, Dogs Bark off in the Distance.

During the summers of both high school and college, my family would spend a good number of evenings around the kitchen table playing games. Some nights we’d play poker. Some nights we would play board games like Sorry or Scattergories.

The kitchen table would be filled with snacks both salty and sweet. I was usually losing if we were playing Sorry. All four of my little plastic yellow game pieces would sit in the start while the other colors would grace the squares around the board. It became a running joke. I bet if we broke out the Sorry board today, we would have a good laugh as my pieces stayed stuck in start.

Our table sat in front of the sliding glass doors that went out to the deck. We would always have the door open, which would provide a great cross breeze with the open front windows. You could hear everything in our suburban neighborhood. During the day, the background noise was the squeaking of old swings in the park behind the nearby elementary school. At night, you could hear cars driving around the P shaped street and neighbors’ dogs barking.

One night, I was sitting at the kitchen table with my family feeling the breeze sweep through the house. We were sipping iced tea and talking. My ears picked up the barking of dogs somewhere in the distance. On the counter next to the phone rested a pen and a pad of blue post-it notes.

Bringing those over to the table, I penned the poem on about six or so blue papers. When I had finished, I read the poem aloud. Everyone loved it. I stuck the papers together in order then ran them up to my room before we started our game that evening.

Somewhere I still have those sticky little squares. Inspiration comes from many places. Make sure you keep writing utensils near, you wouldn’t want to miss hearing a thing.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

This Wednesday's Poem

Dogs bark off in the distance

As i look out my window at the trees swaying in my head i hear a music calling me and dogs bark off in the distance.

A light flashes above my head i think about the fan circling around its idol the statue june it gets hot and dogs bark off in the distance.

I sit and watch the cars swerve by monkeys climbing the sky falling on the hen laying eggs frying with bacon and dogs barks off in the distance.

I see people jogging on a trail left behind their back door where the draft comes in crowd being led into battle and dogs bark off in the distance.

This is the life saving device opening the garage where mechanics work on planes flying overhead that is spinning a web of life as dogs bark off in the distance.

--IE Castellano

Friday, March 23, 2012

My Second Interview

The new Make Your Offer website is great community of readers and writers where we can chat about anything under the sun and offer to buy most the e-books below retail.  The site's founder interviewed me for MYO's blog.  Read the interview here.

My Author Interview by Kate Aaron

Check out my interview by author and blogger, Kate Aaron.

It's my very first author interview and I couldn't be more excited.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

This Wednesday's Poem

Eulogy From A Late Arrival

by Anne Mikusinski

It must have been some party
The afternoon you left
And I, tardy as always,
Caught up in ephemera,
I came too late to say goodbye.

I wanted to be there
To see you off
And wish you a safe journey
As you left for parts unknown.

Being late is not fashionable
When goodbyes are involved
The loose ends that are left
Dangle like shoestrings
And lie in wait to trip me up.

The unsaid words hang in the air
Unspoken thoughts haunt me in late hours.
Nothing to do but remember
And hope I run into you again.

May 15, 2011
For Warren. RIP
I wish I'd known sooner.

About Anne Mikusinski:
I have been writing stories/poems since I was seven years old. Some of my influences are Robert Frost, EE Cummings, and Dylan Thomas.

Find Anne on Twitter

Friday, March 16, 2012

Independent Thinkers

I was reading an article in the Christian Science Monitor today about “boomerang kids” – adults who move back home with their parents after living away for either school or work.

The article says that the move back home is an upward trend. And it claims, “surprisingly, most ... don’t mind living with mom and dad.” The trend, according to the article, has taken hold because of poor employment options and economic situations. Adults without families of their own move home to save money, not live in squalor and to stay off the government doll.

Then, the article takes a more sinister tone. It says, “it also means young adults are caught in a murky phase between adolescence and adulthood.” They ended the article with a quote from the co-author of Not Quite Adults: Why 20-Somethings Are Choosing a Slower Path to Adulthood and Why It's Good for Everyone, Barbara Ray. Ray states, “‘If the “launch” feels blocked for too long, will this generation's optimism curdle into bitterness and skepticism? .... Will a ding to their wages at an important juncture haunt them for years? Will a generation that has been told they can be and do anything – without many challenges as of yet – be resilient enough to withstand this setback? .... Only time will tell.’”

After reading this article, I felt bothered. Whatever happened to adaptation? In nature is the rule not, those who do not adapt to their surroundings die? Why should these adults choose a path that has led others to financial ruin?

I am mixed into a generation who have been told that you go to college (usually with a loan or two), get a job, and if that job keeps you where your parents live, you get a place of your own with a roommate or two. Then, you begin to pay back those student loans and use all those credit cards that you signed up for in the student union to fund your living habit of buying “entertainment” like expensive clothes, going out on the town, etc. Once you get into your late twenties/early thirties, the only roommate you should have is a live-in whatever (if you’re not married). Don’t forget the car with the exorbitant payment too.

Those who do not follow that model get shunned. Funny thing is is that many of the above wouldn’t be able to find independence in a paper bag.

As someone who did not follow my peers down a path most of them later regretted, I applaud these adults. They are thinking independently of the institutionalization that was force fed to them.

Multigenerational households are more prevalent in other cultures than in this modern American culture. Some cultures live with their parents during their married lives as well. Does this make them less of an adult? Are they not able to be responsible for themselves and the decisions they make? To suggest such things is preposterous. Even in America, somewhere in our distant memories, multigenerational homes were commonplace. Today, this practice lives on among many of America’s “old families.”

What this article failed to recognize is that independence begins in the mind. Living with your parents as an adult is completely different than it was as a child. The dynamic has changed. You are now a group of adults who share living quarters. Adolescence is more commonly found in middle aged men, single or not, who play video games to their hearts’ content. Even if these “kids” contribute very little financially to the household, they are ahead of the curve.

In this economy, it may take a while for adults young and old to be financially independent. However, intellectual independence already has taken hold. Survival of the fittest is the way of the world. The generation about whom Ray expresses concern will be better off in the long run because they found sufficient shelter to weather this storm.

Money, like news articles, comes and goes with the tide. Decisions stick with you. Think independent – therefore you are.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Traveller

Since the day he was born
it was always there
ingrained in the deepest part of his soul
the instinct that drives him

To be all alone
in a world that rejects him
going against the grain
the most important thing to him

To be accepted by himself
in order to love
what he does
in his mind, heart, and soul

Living, learning and teaching
he, himself all his life
without knowing
but finally understanding

Something he feels
his heart knowing
his head spinning
his legs moving

Never stopping
not complaining
finally telling
his never-ending story

--IE Castellano

Introducing Poetry Wednesdays

Every Wednesday I’ll be posting a poem written either by me or from a submission. See the Poetry Submission page for details. Enjoy!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Signs of Spring and Sunday Brunch

Like the swallows returning to Capistrano, the robins have returned to my little area. My cats are having a field day watching them peck at the morning grass from the safety of a window ledge.

On a gorgeously clear Sunday, like today, the motorcycle brigade roars down Main Street off to some point in the mountains. Over the low rumble of engines, church bells call their congregations inside their stained glass houses.

Inside my late Victorian, butter bubbles brown in a pan over a low flame. The robust aroma of coffee permeates the kitchen before escaping down the hall. Ham is sliced off the bone waiting to be reheated in a pan. Eggs, fresh from the farm, are cracked into the bubbling butter.

My family and I sit around the table to eat. Soft butter melts into toasted bread while the pulp floats on top of the orange juice. My dad and brother crack open the egg white allowing the golden yellow yolk to run all over their plates. My mom and I savor well fried ham slices as well as solid eggs through and through. The dogs congregate around the table just to be with us. Over our large meal, we discuss springtime projects.

When will it get warm enough to paint the kitchen cabinets? The first of our seeds will be planted after the rain tomorrow and the next day. Then, we can liberate the grills from storage under the house. And even though it is a month away, we start contemplating Easter dinner. What fun we have.

I revel in the change of the seasons and all the little things they bring. And yes, I know that the seasons change every year. That doesn't deter me. I enjoy noticing all these things. Besides, each year they are different, even if only slightly. The key is to know where to look.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

March into Somewhere

Ah, March. Spring is well on its way. Of course some of us could argue that winter never really made an appearance. This morning, the snow jokingly played in the air only to melt on contact. However, this evening snow blankets with a vengeance.

I missed the snow this winter. I missed the entire month or so of days in the 20s. Some would call me crazy. They loved the mild winter. These will be the first people to complain about our extra buggy spring. Every action has at least one reaction. Sometimes good, sometimes bad and sometimes a mixture of both.

The whims of March can bring us snow, rain, sun, warm, cool and pretty darn cold. It can fake the trees into early bloom only to encase the flower show under a coating of ice. Reports of crocuses blooming have sprung around the area. I have pretty lemon yellow daffodils planted by a previous owner that have yet to show their green leaves.

Regardless of what the weather brings, this is the time of year I anticipate planting my garden. Over the coming weeks I will collect seed packets and plan my trip to the various local nurseries. My family and I plant vegetable favorites of previous seasons and a few experimentations. This year’s garden experiment will be turnips, long beans and perhaps onions grown from sets.

After all the hard work of tilling and amending the soil, serenity finds me as I watch what I planted grow.


For all those who missed my birthday ebook coupon, I am participating in Smashwords’ Read an Ebook Week. The coupon code you need is on my book page. The site-wide promotion runs until March 10th.

My next book, a dystopian science fiction, is coming along well. The projected release date is sometime in late April. I am trying to push to make that happen, but it might get moved into May. When the date gets closer, I will set a more concrete release date.

Monday, February 27, 2012

What I Learned from My Debut Novel

My first published novel started with notes about a man learning about a woman who lived a world in-between reality and fantasy. Before I knew it, I had names, places, a plotline and subplots. I never intended to write a series. Yet, I had.

My initial draft was penned on unlined printer paper. When I finally sat to type it, I needed to learn how to format a manuscript. Title page, slug lines, double spaced true type font all stuffed into a tidy package.

The easy part was over. I had to write query letters to agents who I thought might want to represent my baby. The hook was written and re-written. My author bio drove me crazy. The synopsis haunted me. Still, I wrote them. And out they went.

I waited and I waited. Some had the courtesy of sending a reply, even if it was a canned one. Many did not. The noes poured in. The most heart wrenching replies were the ones who said that they enjoyed my work but, it wasn’t a good fit for them.

Onwards I pressed. I believed in my work. Finally, I decided to self publish. I started with one e-book only publishing platform in which I could publish my book myself.

The hardest work then began. I had to take my book from my neat manuscript format and transform it into an e-book format. The book needed a cover. I had to write a blurb and have an about the author page.

Honestly, from the beginning, I had dreamt about what my cover would look like. But, the question remained of how I would achieve it. Fortunately for me, I know someone who can make art with a push of a button. My brother has an incredible artistic eye. When I take a picture it is merely a picture. When my brother takes a picture he creates art. We put our heads together to get a rough idea. An early morning outing into the surrounding mountains with a digital camera started it all.

He, then, worked his magic turning the outing into my book cover. With butterflies in my stomach, I uploaded the cover and the painstakingly formatted insides. Once it hit live, excitement could not begin to describe my state.

Later, I found that I could broaden my e-book market. Off I went reformatting my original manuscript document for these new venues. Then, I decided to put my words into print.

That daunting task took much more time. Formatting is nuanced and tested my knowledge and skill with Word. I needed a cover that wrapped around a real book. My brother magically added trees to the spine and the back. Once the full cover was added, I ordered my proof. The proof wasn’t a complete disaster. The page numbers were off and not every chapter had a drop case at the start. But it looked good. I ran around town showing everyone I knew.

Writing and publishing were only half the battle. Promotion is the other half – an uphill battle of the steepest sheer cliff. How do I let people know that my work is out there and it is worth reading? My brother created a book trailer and placed it on YouTube. There is a learning curve. And the learning does not end.

With my next book on its way out into the world, there is much I would do differently. For a start, I will bypass the query letters to agents and publishers. Then, I am going to format for e-books in Word and leave it there. The print version will be my first priority. When I get my proof, I will not be afraid to go through it with a pencil and write in it. Then, if there are any changes to be made, do so. Only after I approve the proof will I upload it to the various e-book venues. It will take a few days before the new book to be live everywhere, but so be it.

For every book hereafter, I will first ink on unlined printer paper. I will continue to type it into a double spaced Word document. Each book has its own folder, physical and electronic. After each paper manuscript gets eaten by the keyboard, the large pile of paper gets stacked neatly into a sturdy box for safe keeping. My brother, who has since started his own graphic design business (more about that in another blog post), will continue to create my book covers and book trailers. All finished products will be promoted in both new and tried and true ways.

Sure, some of this may change with each new creation. But I promise to cherish every one.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The World In-between on Indie Snippets

An approximate 300 word snippet of The World In-between is available on Indie Snippets.
Read the excerpt here.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

A Generous Birthday Gift

Tuesday the fourteenth was my birthday.  To celebrate, I wish to share with you a coupon for my debut novel, The World In-between.

Leap into a hidden world known only to those who have been there.  Fall in love.  Battle for magic.  Find your inner strengths.

Take 34% off (makes it $5.93).  This offer is good only through Smashwords.  Smashwords offers every format for whatever e-reader you have or in an easy pdf format to read on your computer.

Find the ebook on Smashwords here.

At the checkout, enter coupon code: VY67U (not case-sensitive).

The coupon expires February 29th.

Happy Reading!

--IE Castellano

Friday, February 10, 2012

Writer’s Workshop – Trends: Chocoholics with fangs

With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, we are bombarded with chocolate. Commercials entice you to buy chocolate covered strawberries. Cooking shows feature chocolate in every recipe. Stores sneak chocolate candy into aisle after aisle. All because of a cliche or a very clever marketing scheme.

Women love chocolate. We want to eat nothing but chocolate. Bathe us in chocolate then enrobe us in more chocolate. At one point in my life, I enjoyed chocolate. Now, the Mayan food of the gods bores me. Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy a tasty piece of dark chocolate on occasion. It is just the onslaught of the chocolate trends has pushed me into chocolate doldrums.

Trend weariness happens more often than we like to admit. People see something popular and grab. What started as something lovely, morphs into a barrage of garbage. Those who contribute to the trend can find success before the inevitable happens. Often the problem with riding trends is that we are left with a gaping hole of nothingness once the wave has ebbed.

We see this in the book scene. The tsunami of vampires has finally ceased. When the water emptied back into the ocean, agents and publishers had nothing on which to fall. What is the new literary trend? Who cares? Not this author. To me, following trends has always been for people who have no original thoughts. Authors, on the other hand, should.

Writing about something because it is trendy sells yourself short. Write what you love. If an aspect happens to be a trend, then so be it. Once that trend fades, you will still have words to bring alive. Passion for your writing gives you substance, which in turn, enables you to transcend trendiness. As fiction authors our job is to entertain through our art. As artists, we need to constantly invent and reinvent.

Like the extolled cocoa bean, the written word’s versatility excites people. What trends will emerge after chilies in chocolate? The crystal balls do not show. At least a superbowl commercial does not need to kill all the habenero chocolate bars to help signal the end. Literarily speaking, the sun has set on the vampire, unless your surname is Rice. Nightfall has yet to break.  Keep true to your loves.  Perhaps you will set the next trend.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

My Birthday Suite

As the days begin to explode with pink, my birthday inches closer. In a little over a week, I am going to be older than I am now. Profound, I know. I thought it would be a good time to give you my backstory.

The wind blew white across the land that February. Already a month late, I was not waiting for a little snow to subside. While my dad was helping my mom to the car, the dog escaped through the back door. Marble loved to run and did so often, to the chagrin of my parents. Fortunately, his dark coat was easy to spot against the mid morning whiteness.

Too far back?

My love of the English language began early. With my parents reading to me constantly, I learned to love the fine art of storytelling. Reading at bedtime. Reading at other times. Reading while we all sat in the family room. Reading around the table. Family time included a book of either nonfiction or fiction in most genres from the classics like David Copperfield to Greek and Roman mythology. After reading, discussion followed. In a multigenerational family of avid readers, the shelves were never bare.

Growing up, many books adorned my bookshelves. The ones with the golden spines always glittered in the nightlight. As the years wore, cats wearing tall thin hats yielded to DNA encapsulating amber. Each new book held a new adventure. I learning something new with every page turned. My imagination never captured; it remained wild and free. Allowing it to settle on paper challenged me.

It was a dark and stormy night started my first novel attempt at the ripe old age of eleven. That was also the age I began penning poetry. My poems were mostly raw and emotional to me. Yet, they cloaked themselves in mysterious multiple meanings.

After writing a plethora of poems, the poetry muse decided to abandon me. She gave no warning. I had no substitute. Eventually, something crazy took over me. I picked up my forlorn pencil and paper. An idea flowed from the graphite onto the pulp.

My second novel attempt flowed out of me. What was I to do with it? I felt silly. Building courage, I read it outloud to my parents. I was exposed and had nowhere to hide. Prose shows everything. They loved it. They encouraged me to write more. So, I did.

Turn right. Those are the first two words of my first published novel. Which happens to be the third novel I have ever attempted. The first will remain in the depths of my childhood. My second rests unfinished in a folder waiting for my pen to ink the remaining pages.

This year, I continue to allow my imagination to roam freely. And with each stroke of my pen, my paper tells its tales.

Monday, January 23, 2012

A Writer’s Irony

Currently, I am working on four novels. Each is at a different stage of completion. Everyday, I am writing scenes, developing characters, or working out plot points. Yet somehow, when it comes to writing a blog post or on a forum, nothing comes.

People keep telling me to go on Twitter. Although I am considering joining, I am not sure what messages I would convey within 140 characters. And, I wonder if I would have the time to keep up with the world’s tweets.

My priority is to write my stories. They require nurturing until they can be released into the world.

Everything I read about being an author tells me that I need to be out there, shouting to the world to notice my work; pick it up; peruse it. However, does an author risk having one’s work suffer from neglect because our internet society expects us to be connected at every waking moment?

I would hope that readers would respect me more because I chose to write a novel in which they get immersed into the world I created for them over giving them frequent glimpses into my world by which they briefly pass.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Magic of A Snowy Morn

Pink kisses the clouds’ bellies before the sun peeks over the mountains. Smoke rising from chimneys is the only life against dormant trees. A second story window overlooks the eastern part of town. The gentle hug of snow on rooftops transports me to a time found only in artists’ renditions.