THE DIARY – between facts and fiction @Melinda De Ross

What do you miss the most about life before the pandemic?

For me, I think it’s traveling, and the freedom to go wherever you want to. Obviously, you can have all the freedom in the world if you don’t have the money, but sometimes you can have an awesome getaway without leaving the country, or even the state.

I live in Romania, a country known for its controversial history, picturesque landscapes, famous castles, and fantastic food. I don’t think there is a soul out there who hasn’t heard about Dracula, the legend that has its origins in Transylvania—the very heart of Romania, sheltered by the Carpathian Mountains. Stories of Vlad the Impaler have created this mythical vampire creature that has nothing to do with the real Vlad Țepeș, prominent Romanian ruler and national hero.

Bran Castle, also known as Dracula Castle

But there is one more historical figure whose reputation crossed the borders, and sadly, in her case the reality is far more horrific than the lore.

Countess Erzsébet Báthory (1560–1614), also known as Elizabeth Báthory, The Blood Countess, or Countess Dracula, was a Hungarian noblewoman who owned land in the Kingdom of Hungary (now divided between Hungary, Slovakia and Romania). She is known as the most prolific serial killer in history, having tortured and killed hundreds of young women, because she thought that bathing in their blood would keep her young forever.

The only know portrait of Elizabeth Bathory

The true story of Elizabeth Báthory remains mostly unknown, due to the lack of accurate historical information. But that didn’t stop people all over the world from being fascinated by this monstrous character, and over the years she was the subject of many books, movies, documentaries, etc.

When I decided to write my suspense romance, THE DIARY, I wanted to include the infamous countess’s legend and create a gothic setting for my characters. This is how the novel came to life, in a fictional castle from Transylvania, which had presumably belonged to Countess Báthory. Serena, a broadcast journalist, and Hunter, a cameraman, arrive to make a documentary about the Blood Countess, but when a murder occurs in the nearby village, they get a lot more than they had bargained for.

Although the book itself focuses on Hunter and Serena, there is a strong suspense and mystery element to it, and a fictional diary of Elizabeth Báthory. I confess it was scary and disturbing to do my research on this horrific historic figure, especially since I take my books very seriously and live in them while I write.

However, I am proud and satisfied with the novel I created, and most of all, I enjoyed including elements of Romanian culture.

If you haven’t read THE DIARY yet, this is the blurb:

In the legendary Transylvania, a castle belonging to Countess Erzsébet Báthory is discovered. Cameraman Hunter Cole and broadcast journalist Serena Scott arrive to make a documentary about the discovery, and the sinister Hungarian noblewoman, known as the most prolific female serial killer in history.

The two Americans could cope with roughing it in a fifteenth-century castle, with no modern amenities. They can even cope with each other, despite their initial mutual dislike for one another, which gradually turns into a mind-blowing attraction.

But when two girls are tortured and killed in Báthory copycat style, the nearby village is shaken to the core. In terror, they wonder who will be next…

Author’s Note

Erzsébet Báthory (1560-1614) is a known historical figure and was a Hungarian countess, also known as Elizabeth Báthory, The Blood Countess or Countess Dracula. She has been labeled the most prolific serial killer in history, being responsible for the torture and murder of hundreds of young girls. The exact number of her victims is unknown, but is estimated at six hundred and fifty. It is speculated that she kept a diary with the names of all her victims, but if such a document exists, it has never been made public.

*This work is entirely fiction.

Buy THE DIARY from Amazon or read free in Kindle Unlimited.

Spring Fling: New Beginnings @mimisgang1 #mgtab

Photo by Tetyana Kovyrina from Pexels

Spring is the season for new beginnings and renewed hope. It’s also a time to count your blessings and appreciate all the good in your life. This morning, during Bible Study, some of us shared what we thought last year at this time, versus where we are today.

One lady believed her family would go bankrupt and they’d have to move. Others honestly contemplated dying or not making it to 2021. We had many fears and uncertainties, and yes, some of us lost jobs and others got sick. Most of us have lost people, and many goodbyes were left unsaid. We shared what we learned through the trial, and while it seemed longer than we would like, we were reminded that Joseph was left in the Egyptian prison two years longer because the cupbearer forgot to recommend him for release. Those days and months must have weighed on him, but during that time, God was building his faith and preparing him for the exact right time of release. [Genesis Chapter 41].

Even though the trial seems longer than we thought, we look back and appreciate what we learned. Mainly I’ve decided that personal relationships are more important than anything, including word count and sales/list making, book marketing etc. I’ve learned not to “put off” visiting the people we love, and we visited my mother-in-law for the first time in years. Also not to skip parties or invites (including Bible study) just because of inertia or don’t feel like it, because who knows if that’s the last time you’ll see someone. So I’ll spend the rest of my life loving people instead of trying to achieve, or whatever other goals I used to have. Of course, I’ll always keep learning, because I love to learn. And I’ll keep writing because I love to share stories. It’s all part of relating and being human.

Spring is also the time for new reading and trying new authors. I have so many books and boxed sets on my kindle, more than 5000, that I often “book surf.” Grab a boxed set or a book at random and read. It’s fun to discover an unexpected story to enjoy from books I either downloaded free or purchased long time ago. Here are some surprises I unearthed from my fossilized kindle: The Vet’s Christmas Pet by J.L. Campbell, Winter’s Kiss by Sienna Carr, All I Want for Christmas by Chris Mariano, and Cooking Up Trouble by Judi Lynn.

And to help you load your kindle with more free surprises, check out the all new Authors’ Billboard Fabulous Freebie Series. These boxed sets are completely free and loaded with stories from authors who might be old to you or new to you. #1, Romantic Suspense, and #2, Steamy Romance are available now. #3, Paranormal will be coming soon, and #4, Sweet after that.

Authors’ Billboard Fabulous Freebies Collection

Time Is Relative by @AngelaStevens13

Time is relative, so they say, and I’m beginning to think that may be the case. In the 13 or 14 months since COVID hit, time has both run alarmingly fast and incredibly slow. 

Fat Cat

Time is relative, and the irony is, there is either too much of it or not enough.

Even before COVID, it seems that time has been erratic.

In a blink of an eye my kids grew up. Adults now, holding down adult jobs, dealing with adult problems. Yet a few days ago when my son, far away in Virginia, was moving house time flew by for him as he dealt with so many problems around his move, but stood still for me while I stayed awake half the night, worrying that he was worrying, stressing that he was stressed.

The more time I use up, the more I’d like to turn the clocks back. Collect up the seconds I wasted. I wish I paid more attention to my kids when they were little, I wish I’d put down the hours of endless planning I did as a teacher and hadn’t let work be the priority over fun, kid rearing, and… well, everything.

When I first moved to America, I lost 5 – or was it 8 years? I gave up work because I wanted to spend more time with the kids, to take time to settle into America, to explore my new life. For the first time in my life, I had time and then I found I didn’t know what to do with it… and then it was gone.

Half a decade or more passed. I was no longer ‘just 40’, but heading to 50 and I had no achievements, reached nor planned any goals, ticked off no bucket list items. All I had were more wrinkles. One day I started to write. It was the first time I had written anything more than a shopping list, and the writing turned into a one hundred-forty-thousand-word story. By the time I finished it, I’d discovered I liked writing; so, a week later, I started another story, and that has been my routine ever since 2014. I had the time, and I now knew how to fill it.

Time Is RelativeTime Is Relative

Time is relative. Now it is my 50’s running away from me. I cross a divide this year, 56, now 60 is looming. Not that I feel like I’m 56. If it wasn’t for the aches and pains, the menopausal weight gain, and the rather shocking image in the mirror, I’d feel like I was starting my forties. When I was younger, people in their fifties seemed old, and I don’t feel old. 

Today, I finished the edits on my next book, and I realized, Flynn and Juliet’s story is about lost time and regret. It’s also an enemies to lovers story, and even though they chose to keep their distance, when fate brought them back together, I think both of them wish they could turn the clocks back.  Enemies to Lovers, Forgiving Flynn: Hot Hunks Steamy Romance Collection Book 4 is now available for pre order  

Forgiving Flynn

The COVID year, has gone both fast and slow. I feel I’ve squandered much of it, yet I’ve also squeezed much into it. Even though I haven’t done as much as I wanted; I haven’t traveled to the places I planned, read the books on my kindle, or written the number of manuscripts I intended, this last year has brought family closer to me. I have learned new skills–photoshop, baking, DIY. I’ve sold a house, fixed up my new one. And I have spent time with my grandkids, while others have missed them. Yet, I’m still alternately wasting time, and not having enough. All too often I am wishing it away or wanting it back. But despite the regularity of the units we measure time in, it ticks by at different rates for all of us. Yet still there is one thing I know. We can’t control time. And we can’t resist it, either. We can’t fast forward, rewind, or bank it. But we can enjoy it, and we can enjoy it more if we don’t feel we have to justify it. 

Ready for spring!

Happy spring. What’s on my mind, you ask? Vaccine, or not to vaccine…I’ve decided yes for the Covid shot—because I want to travel and be safe. I want to eat in restaurants, and have an in-person book signing. I want to go to Greece in October. I want to go about my day without fear of catching the virus or passing the virus unknowingly to someone I love.

Before this, I wasn’t one to get the flu shot, or the shingles shot. When I told my doctor I wasn’t interested she kind of snorted (politely behind her mask) and said, it’s a precaution! Why not? I didn’t have a good answer. Why put something in your body that you don’t need, was my philosophy. I’ll be doing some research on the shingles shot but I just might change my mind. Modern medicine is pretty darn fabulous. I am so grateful for my health! 😊 I want to be outside with blue skies, bright flowers, and fresh air. I hope that by this time next year, masks will be a distant memory.

On another note: I’ve been reading more than in previous years, taking time to escape. It’s why we writers do what we do! I’ve discovered Charlaine Harris’s Gunnie Rose series on audible and I love it. What new authors or series have you found? I always recommend our Authors’ Billboard boxed sets as incredible ways to find new stories and new authors at a steal of a price!

Don’t forget to enter our monthly contest—good luck, and wishing you all great things!