A Cook Book For Happy Meals

In our family, joyful get-togethers at holidays and special events were celebrated with boisterous gatherings and hearty meals prepared by the loving mothers and grandmothers. Over the years, some of the favorite dishes became an essential part of our traditional menu.

For the grandchildren born in the U.S., the delicious ethnic food prepared in abundance represented a vital bond to their background.

Following in my grandmothers’ and my mother’s footsteps, I took over the sacred duty of preparing the Christmas Eve dinners. Since the scrumptious dishes are always appreciated, I don’t mind spending hours cooking and baking. Our dear guests’ precious chat, laughter and happiness echo in my heart for the rest of the year. Now Thanksgiving and Christmas are celebrated at my children’s houses.

During the pandemic, the children stopped going to school and followed classes on line. My granddaughter Madelyn who was thirteen years old at the time came to spend a few days with me and learned to cook her favorite meals. I was amazed by her eagerness to cook and the speed at which she assimilated instructions. At the end of the day, she took her new creations home for the family to taste.

The next day she called me with a special request. “Nonna, I want you to write a cook book for me.”

And that’s why I wrote this cook book and dedicated it to my lovely Madelyn who must have inherited her culinary talents from her paternal great-grandmother Rose, or from her maternal great-great-grandmother Helen, or… from the amazing dear old ladies who spent hours in their kitchens feeding their children and grandchildren, and bringing joy to the family reunions.

Hopefully this cook book will inspire the young grandchildren to continue the tradition of joyful
family reunions and delicious meals.

Recipes for Madelyn Paperback – December 14, 2023

by Mona Risk (Author)

Travel with Mona on a Cruise Conference

For years I enjoyed cruising around the world—in the Caribbean, Cross-Atlantic via the North Pole and Greenland, in the Mediterranean Sea, the Far East, around South America, all the way to India and Singapore through the Suez Canal, in addition to several river cruises.

Let me tell you about a different kind of cruises that combined fun and business for writers. I’m talking about the cruise conferences organized by FRW [Florida Romance Writers] the South Florida chapter of Romance Writers of America [RWA]. (Unfortunately I think both groups don’t exist anymore.)

The FRW members gathered for their monthly meeting at a fixed location where a qualified guest presented a talk, but once a year, FRW opened its doors wide for the annual conference where editors and agents were invited to come and chat with the authors. For years this annual conference was set in a big hotel in Miami or Fort Lauderdale. Later it was moved to a cruise ship. I attended two of these memorable cruise conferences.

In the following pictures, you may recognize familiar faces–authors who are now multi-published and quite famous.

The obligatory drill

Together with the other passengers we attended the safety drill before departure. As soon as the ship sailed out of port, we gathered in one of the ship’s big lounges for an introductory meeting.

~*~ THE EDITORS=THE GODS ~*~ at the time !!!
Introductory meeting in the lounge with the three founding mothers of the FRW chapter. Joan Johnston, Sally Fairchild and Heather Graham.

Dinner took place in the main restaurant, with an editor or an agent sitting at each table to allow the writers easy access to the agent or the editor they want to approach about their latest book. Remember, this was before self-publishing became so popular.

So business was in the afternoon, fun in the morning, and more fun at dinner.

Shopping for a t-shirt and a mug.

At the Three Amigos: This restaurant/pub became a traditional stop for the FRW writers who needed a beer, a tequila and some fun.

At Three Amigos!

After a good lunch it was time to work. Seriously! We were at a business conference! Heather Graham separated us in 5 groups. Each group received a few words and had to come up with a blurb for an interesting story. My group included Senior Editor Eric Raab from Tor, and our words were: actress, roto-rooter, ugly, basement… We brainstormed our blurbs and then read out loud with everyone. Quite hilarious.

This workshop was followed by an open discussion with Agents Lucy Childs and Lucienne Diver: How can an agent help writers achieve their goals? In the past, to be published writers needed an agent.

For the next two hours we enjoyed a special treat called the Floridian Idol. Heather Graham and Traci Hall read the first two pages submitted anonymously by more than thirty writers. Each submission received a thorough critique by the agents and editors.

On the last night, we gathered at dinner for our formal night.

Yes my husband came along and volunteered to be FRW’s official photographer!

He met most of the writers and enjoyed the conference too!

But all good things came to an end–business and fun–when our ship returned to port.

Time to say goodbye. Here with Heather Graham, a fabulous author who has been an inspiration to all of us at FRW.

On Special Sale for the Holiday Season:

CHRISTMAS HER AND THERE

Christmas is the most beautiful time of the year, a time for family gathering, for sharing love and exchanging gifts, for spoiling the children…
And yet some people may run away from celebrations that brought them betrayal, grief, or frustration. In this box of three sweet novels and a sexy novella, our heroes/heroines are trying to avoid Christmas and their painful memories. But…

LOVE YOU DOC series

Dr. Robert Olson, a well-known cardiac surgeon and heart transplant specialist, and his wife Janice, an ER nurse lived in Florida and deeply cared for their close-knit family. At home, all they talked about was hospital, patients, surgery, recovery, etcetera…
Sure enough, their four kids studied medicine. The oldest brother, Nathan, became an orthopedic surgeon and worked in Boston. His brother Aidan finished a residency in neurosurgery and accepted a position in Cincinnati. Their sister, Sophia, was an ER doc, and the youngest sibling, Liam, was still in med school when their dad died. Sure enough, these successful doctors faced their share of problems before finding their HEA. The following books related their stories: A Complete Family, Love On The Slopes, Love In The ER, Secret Kisses.

MODERN PRINCES Series

While cruising the British Isles, I visited Guernsey, in the English Channel, 30 miles west of Normandy. We were welcomed in St. Peters Port with a gorgeous sunny weather and a 70 o F temperature for our visit of the island, an idyllic paradise with cobbled streets and picturesque seafront marina.
Guernsey is not part of the United Kingdom but it is part of the British Islands. Residents speak English and French, and their money is similar to the English pound. The top speed limit in Guernsey is 35 miles/hour. If you drive along the coastline of Guernsey you will hit military fortifications almost every 2 minutes or so. These were built during the Napoleonic wars to protect Guernsey from France.
St. Peter Port is the main town on the island of Guernsey. It’s full of hills, colors, and super cute shops! French author Victor Hugo lived in exile in St. Peter Port for 15 years at Hautevile House where he wrote both Les Misérables and The Hunchback of Notre-Dame.
This quaint island with special privileges and autonomy became Rensy Island, the setting of my new series, MODERN PRINCES.
Modern Princes Series:
A Bride For Prince Paul: She can’t abandon her patients for his crown!
A Bodyguard For The Princess: A murder at Harvard in Princess Chloe’s student building.
Jingle With My Princess: The doc and the princess… He saves lives but Princess Charlene may save his heart.
Prince Philip’s Cinderella: A charming jogger saves her from danger. But he’s a prince… and she comes from nothing.
A Dance for Prince Eric: A ballerina with a promising career on the run for her brother’s sake. A charismatic prince who saved them both.

Settings for my Books

When people ask me about the most interesting thing I have ever done, I can’t help smiling as I answer without hesitation, “Traveling.”  Every time I discover a new country, a new city or village, beach or mountain, or an ancient civilization, I imagine a lovely American young woman, my heroine, surveying the scenery as a tall, dark and handsome man, living in the area, approaches and exchanges a few words with her. If I feel they have the potential to share a good chemistry, I visualize a few more scenes, grant them life and start my novel in the setting that inspired me.

To Love A Hero   and   Heal my Heart   are set in Belarus where I traveled in the nineties as Project Manager to refurbish laboratories under a contract from the Department of Defense. Both books highlight the hospitality and warmth of the gorgeous and gallant Belarusian officers who sing and toast and make a woman feel like a goddess.

We left for our first trip to Belarus at the end of October. We included: a government person and his interpreter, me, my lab manager and computer specialist.

My two books relate my first impression: cold weather, gray skies and cigarette smell everywhere. The curious looks of the local people made me feel as if I was wearing the wrong clothes. Of course I didn’t have a chapka (that fur hat that is a must over there). I remedied the problem on my first visit to the bazaar where I bought myself the cutesy real mink chapka. I still have it. I literally froze in my drafty hotel room and continuously requested and begged for a hot cup of tea. I was often offered vodka instead.

Many of my special stories are related in my books. In To Love A Hero, I even included my fall on the broken escalator of the airport. I was rescued by my lab manager while my heroine fell in the arm of a hero to die for, the handsome Major General Sergei who made her pulse race and stole her heart.

Traveling is not only about visiting monuments and palaces in foreign countries or snapping photos in front of famous landmarks. Traveling opened new horizons, exposed me to different cultures, and introduced me to new languages. Every time I traveled I felt indelibly marked by what I saw, what I heard, even what I smelled. I discovered that the right setting triggers my imagination, sets my muse into action and creates characters for me.

My readers love to take an armchair trip with me to France, [Mother’s Day Babies in Paris, The Missing Statue in the Loire Valley]; to Greece [Her Greek Tycoon set in Mykonos Island]; to Sicily [Husband for a Week]; to Belarus, or enjoy a Mediterranean cruise in Spain and Italy [Honeymoon Cruise].

The whole series of Modern Princes deals with the Princes of Rensy Island. Rensy Island is a fictitious British island in the Channels, so similar to Guernsey.

A setting is not just a place or a time in history. It has its own architecture and colors, the particular noises associated with the area, the scent of the fields, the beach, and the streets.

In my novels, I let the setting mirror the characters’ feelings and use a romantic setting for a special kiss. The top of the Eiffel Tower, with Paris lights sparkling at night, provided an exceptional background for a first kiss in Wright Name, Wrong Man and also in A Bride For Prince Paul.

In Last Chance Plans, I included a trip to Argentina and an unforgettable tango dance that led to a fabulous love scene.

Love on the Slopes and Sunshine Over Snow are set in ski resorts in New Hampshire. In Time For Christmas takes place in airports during a blizzard and We’re All Together in St. John during a hurricane so similar to the hurricanes Wilma and Irma that I personally experienced in Fort Lauderdale. But many other books have stories starting or ending in Florida or St. John Island [Sailing Away Plans  and the whole Love Plans Series] or in small towns in Kentucky, Ohio or Georgia.

I included a war zone in some books—Valentine Babies with the war in Iraq and We’re All Heroes, with a rescue trip to the border of Poland and Ukraine.

Several of my medical romances are set in hospitals and their ORs but the wink of the hero in medical scrub and mask sends delicious tingles to the heroine at the wrong moment and creates the beginning of a romantic scene in a very unromantic place. Babies in the Bargain, Christmas Babies,  On Christmas Eve,   A Complete Family,   We’re All Winners, …

#New Release We’re No Saints

The ghosts from the past destroyed her peace of mind. Can the charming lawyer help her while keeping his own secrets?

Changing Direction

During difficult times, we remain frozen in one place and moving seems almost impossible. We focus on what we can’t do rather than do something different, and yet changing directions may bring up new opportunities and open new doors.

A needed change, a ‘turning point’ in a novel, a ‘momentum shift’ in tennis games, a career shift or life change in real life. No one can predict if they will be good or bad, but rather than being stuck in a hole that can get deeper over time, why not try something else that can make us move forward?

I made several career shifts in my life. After graduating with a pharmacy degree, I trained in a local pharmacy and was bored out of my mind, filling prescriptions all day long. My first shift came as I enrolled in a master degree program in analytical chemistry, graduated and worked, and enjoyed life in the lab until the task took its toll on my back.

One day, I woke up with an excruciating pain in my back and left leg. Unable to walk, I crawled into my car and rushed to the emergency room of the nearest hospital. The x-rays and CT-scan showed a slipped disc in my vertebral column. Painkillers did not help. After a three-month bed rest, I had to wear a special brace around my lower back. The company granted me a six-month sick leave. “No more standing on your feet in a lab. Change career,” my doctor ordered.

As soon as I could walk without pain, I applied for the PhD program in Analytical Chemistry and threw myself wholeheartedly in the student life again. Dressed in blue jeans and t-shirt, I multitasked, driving the children to after-school activities and waiting for them with a book in my hand. Four arduous years, numerous exams, and several published papers finally led to graduation.

While still on campus, I received a phone call from a recruiter who wanted to interview graduating PhD students for a managerial position in the analytical laboratory of an environmental company. I was hired by the CEO to start a lab, buy the needed instruments, and hire the right staff.

From day one, I decided to never let anyone derail me from my goal: to make this laboratory productive and successful. While supervising the lab operations, I wrote many proposals and won several contracts. I convinced the CEO to build six new labs and interviewed many chemists and technicians, and carefully explained the pressure of laboratory life. To their credit, my chemists rarely complained about the long hours spent to analyze samples of hazardous water and soil waste materials. They did an excellent job, and the good reputation of our lab soon spread around. We received contracts from different government agencies, and applied for several state certifications.

International contracts took me to Minsk, Belarus; Kiev and Uman in Ukraine; to Almati and Stepnogorsk in Kazakhstan; to Moscow, St. Petersburg and Sergei Possad in Russia. Each new project presented more challenges due to clash of cultures, different languages, and work habits.

Soon I realized that I was at the end of my rope. Working an average of ten hours a day for so many years, I reached as high as I could go in my career in analytical chemistry. It was time to take an early retirement and fulfill another dream: I wanted to write and publish romance novels.

I gathered the staff for a last meeting and informed them of my decision. During the farewell speech, I could not hold my tears and many of my chemists cried too. They had become my second family.

Turning the page, I concentrated on my new goal. To write novels and compete in the publishing industry, I bought grammar and writing books, and once again I started at the bottom of the ladder. I sent an email to Debbie Macomber, my favorite romance author, who advised me to join the Romance Writers of America (RWA). At the monthly meetings of the RWA local chapter, I met published authors and beginners. We formed critique groups and helped each other, until I gathered the courage to submit excerpts of my writing to various publishers. After receiving my share of rejection letters for five years, one finally offered me a contract.

Through my first novel To Love a Hero released in 2008, I practically relived my fantastic trips to Belarus. Many of the adventures I experienced in Minsk are related in my book. Several more books followed, set in the fascinating places I visited during my business or vacation travels. In 2011, I tried my hand at self-publishing and was stunned by the amazing number of ebooks I sold on Amazon, and the enthusiastic reviews of my fans. But my biggest reward came from bedridden readers who said my novels brought joy to their lives and took them on an armchair trip around the world.

After publishing numerous books and contributing to several anthologies, I earned the top honor for a published author: the enviable status of “USA Today Bestselling Author,” and “New York Times Bestselling Author.”

My legacy to my children and grandchildren is the following: Set your goals high and work hard to follow your dream. Don’t be afraid to change direction. You can make a difference.

We’re All HeroesReleased Today

They’re all heroes who pay a big price for freedom—The Ukrainian mom who spies for her country; her three small kids who struggle to survive; the wounded major who gets them out of a war-zone; Lauren, the flight attendant who brings them to the U.S.A. ; her parents who receive them in their home; and her ex-fiancé, Dr. Jake, who operates on the injured. And let’s not forget the two German shepherd puppies that dive in a pool to save a two-year old. Will the many crises they face head-on strengthen or destroy Lauren and Jake’s relationship?

We’re All Heroes is book 12 of the Love Plans Series.

Messy PlansNew Release

Dr. Matt Lopez is perfectly happy with his medical career until the new nurse practitioner turns his life upside down with her lovely smile and crazy ideas. When Cathy takes Tommy, a young patient under her wing, gets involved in his home situation, and discovers the truth, trouble follows. Life will never be the same for Cathy, her boss, or Tommy as they try to repair the mistakes of their pasts. Can Matt and Cathy reconcile their personal feelings and work obligations?

Messy Plans is book 11 of the Love Plans Series.