Travel with Mona to Hungary

We visited Hungary twice, the first time while on a cruise along the Danube River and the second time as part of a land tour through Eastern Europe. I enjoyed both visits and can’t wait to return.

The capital, Budapest also called the ‘Queen of the Danube’ is bisected by the Danube. A 19th-century Chain Bridge connects the hilly Buda district with flat Pest. Buda was the kernel of settlement in the Middle Ages, and the cobbled streets and Gothic houses of the castle town have preserved their old layout. Until the late 18th century, Pest remained a tiny enclave, but then its population exploded, leaving Buda far behind. In the latter half of the 20th century, growth has been more evenly distributed between the two parts. There are so many landmarks to visit.

As we cruised toward Budapest, we encountered a steep limestone escarpment overlooking the Danube. It provided a panoramic view of the whole city. At the top stood the Citadella—built by the Austrian army in the mid-19th century in order to keep watch over the town. Today it serves as a hotel and restaurant and doubles as the stage for a splendid fireworks display on St. Stephen’s Day (August 20). 

Sights include the Széchenyi Chain Bridge, the Buda Castle hilltop complex, and the stately Hungarian Parliament Building.

Heroes’ Square: We walked through the statue complex of Hősök tere. Hősök tere (Heroes’ Square) stands out for its iconic, towering pillar and Millenium Monument complex that dates back to 1896. The complex honors Hungary’s 7 founding figures, together with a few other important national leaders. The square serves as a convenient central point for exploring the city.

Tombs of the Heroes

The Hungarian Parliament Building is the grand icon of Hungary’s democratic government. The majestic, neo-Gothic Hungarian Parliament Building dates back to 1904 and looms over the Pest side of the Danube River. It’s the largest building in the country. Viewed from aboard river cruises or the western bank of the Danube, the structure’s reflection on the calm river surface adds to the breathtaking panorama. Its turrets and arches make up most of its façade and with Renaissance and Baroque interiors. Group tours are available at the visitor center.

The picture I took on a cloudy, rainy day from the river cruise ship.
Picture from the web

The Royal Palace in Buda: It now houses the National Széchényi Library, Budapest History Museum, and the Hungarian National Gallery. 

We had a tour of the palace

St. Stephen’s Basilica is a Roman Catholic basilica named after the first King of Hungary, King Stephen I. With its impressive architecture and decorations, it is a popular tourist destination and place of worship and also holds regular concerts. We visited the interior during the day and admired the illuminated façade during our night tour of the city.

The Fisherman’s Bastion, world-famous for its turrets and for spires is one of the most well-known attractions of the Buda Castle area and provides perhaps the most beautiful panorama of the city from the Buda side over the river Danube.

The Liberty Statue or Freedom Statue is a monument on the Gellért Hill in Budapest.

The Freedom Statue by night.
A view of the Danube, bridge, and Parliament by night.

There are so many statues in Budapest. I enjoyed two that were not famous!

Although we traveled twice to Hungary, we couldn’t see everything in Budapest. If I ever return, I would like to swim in Széchenyi Thermal Baths, the largest mineral bath in Europe, shop in the Great Market Hall, and listen to a Liszt symphony.

Love You Doc Series – New Release

Dr. Robert Olson was a well-known cardiac surgeon and heart transplant specialist who lived in Florida. His wife Janice was a nurse. Robert and Janice deeply cared for their close-knit family and encouraged their children to follow in their footsteps. 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.

In the four novels of this box, these successful doctors faced their share of problems before finding their HEA.

Magical Realism in Romance #RachelleAyala #mgtab @Mimisgang1

Image by Enrique Meseguer from Pixabay

Take a modern-day contemporary romance and set it in a familiar city or town. Keep the technology: texting, cell phones, the internet, and all the engineering wonders of the 21st century. But inject an element of magic or time travel or even a bit of shapeshifting or ghostly visitations. Since it’s a romance, you have a hero and a heroine. One of them or both are ordinary human beings. Or perhaps he or she appears like an ordinary human being–sometimes. Add in elements of mythology or magic but keep the romance front and central. This is what I’ve been doing in some of my stories which mix magical realism with romance.

I didn’t decide one day to incorporate magical realism into my stories. I’ve always liked reading stories that have strange and unexplained things going on. But it all started with a novella in 2015, Christmas Stray where a boy who claims to be an elf and his puppy appear behind the woodpile to a couple snowed in for Christmas.

What is this thing called magical realism romance? It’s easier to say what it’s not.

It’s not Fantasy or even Urban Fantasy. The setting is in the real world and the main plot line does not center around the fantasy world. There is no battle between kingdoms and realms and most of the characters are not aware of the magic taking place. Furthermore, no undue attention is drawn to the magic that happens. It’s accepted as “just is.” The main character does not permanently change into a creature imbued with special powers, and it’s not a journey of discovery and mastery in another world.

It’s not Paranormal Romance, although there are elements of the paranormal. Perhaps some can interpret a character as a ghost or a time-traveling spirit. However, the story world looks normal to ninety percent of the characters, and the plot does not center around the otherworldly creatures. There is no explanation of the changes or appearances that take place or any lore about the strange creatures like in vampire or werewolf shifting stories where there is a system of clans, transitions, fated mates, etc. Instead, the central plot line is an ordinary contemporary romance set in a mostly ordinary world.

What we’re left with is a romance with elements of magic rooted in the real world.

Of the eighty romances I’ve written, I count thirteen of my books to incorporate magical elements into the mostly realistic storyline. Nine of them are Christmas stories, and ten of them are concentrated in my Christmas Creek Romance series where something strange happens in most but not all books, and yet, at the end of the story, the strange happenings are forgotten or kept secret by the affected couple.

This last detail, of having most of the characters unaware of the time shift or otherworldly visitation or excursion to another realm is what keeps my stories in the dimension of magical realism which is defined as a genre of literature that depicts the real world as having an undercurrent of magic or fantasy. Magical realism is a part of the realism genre of fiction. Within a work of magical realism, the world is still grounded in the real world, but fantastical elements are considered normal in this world. https://www.masterclass.com/articles/what-is-magical-realism

Are you ready to be shapeshifted into a vintage MG Roadster convertible while the guy you’re crushing on is driving his dates around your small town? That’s what happens to town wallflower Hayley Brockman in my newest Christmas Creek Romance, Nick’s Christmas Ride.

Nick’s Christmas Ride by Rachelle Ayala

Let me know if you like magic realism in romance. If you do, check out gem girls, Sapphire and Ruby, where ordinary women meet up with demigods on the streets of San Francisco. Black Tied: Sapphire [wok firefighter, the son of the kitchen God] and Red Hexed: Ruby [accidental sword bearer to Lord Frey of the sword that can stop Ragnarok].

A Character Study- #NewRelease #NARomance @jacqbiggar

Character Study- Renée

A blogging friend of mine likes to do an introduction to her characters before the release of her books, so I thought I’d do one today.

Image by Shahid Shafiq from Pixabay

Renée Thomas is the most serious and oldest at twenty-one. Her sister, Izzy- Elizabeth Mae Thomas- is two and a half years younger. She’s the moody, intense one of the family. Last, but not least, is their brother Benjamin. At nearly twelve years younger than Renée, Ben is the baby they love to spoil.

As children, Renée and Izzy did everything together, climbing trees, biking, sharing clothes, and secrets. But the night of Renée’s high school graduation and Izzy’s sixteenth birthday, that changed.

Renée is betrayed by her long-time boyfriend, Simon, her sister suddenly hates her guts, and she witnesses her father’s suicide.

Unable to handle the terrible chain of events, Renée leaves town, heading to California and her accepted application to UC Berkeley.

Two years later it’s Renée’s mom who is gone and she is forced to return to face her demons.

Two years later

The town looks the same as when I left for college. The Welcome to Smuggler’s Cove, pop. 7562, sign bows with the weight of the old town’s worries on its aged wooden frame. God, I’m glad I escaped.

My second-hand SUV chugs up the hill and over the bridge. Chinook, the river named after the salmon who travel hundreds of miles to spawn in its muddy brown water, gurgles over the rocks far below. Giant rubber tubes in a rainbow of colors filled with laughing teens dot the surface. I’d joined them many times to get away from the oppression at home.

Image by Brigitte Werner from Pixabay

Home.

It’s been nearly two years since I left and would’ve been longer if I had my choice. Hard on the heels of guilt come the ever-ready tears. Fact is, while I soaked up the west coast sunshine and campus life, my little sister had taken over the reins of the house, getting my brother to school, paying the bills, and caring for Mom.

This is the story of two sisters torn apart by unspeakable horror and brought together by tragedy. Can family ties overcome the pain of betrayal?

Letting Go: The Defiant Sisters- Book 1

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0B3R41NWF

International: https://books2read.com/Letting-Go-Defiant-Sisters

TBR: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/61269995-letting-go–the-defiant-sisters-book-1

Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/books/letting-go-the-defiant-sisters-book1-the-defiant-sisters-duet-by-jacquie-biggar

A coming-of-age novel about the pain of misconceptions and learning from them.

 When life gives you lemons…

Izzy

Mom is barely in the grave and the prodigal child is here to pick the bones clean.

I don’t want her here. My sister’s defection is a wound that won’t heal and her return simply rubs at the scabs covering my heart.

I’ve managed just fine without her. She can go back to her fancy college and forget about us- that’s what she does best anyway.

If only I didn’t need her help. Or miss her so much.

Renée

The day my dad committed suicide I ran. I’ve been running ever since.

Going home is supposed to be the answer. Instead, it makes me question every thoughtless decision I’ve made.

My sister hates me. My little brother barely knows me. And Simon… is engaged.

None of it matters- or so I tell myself. I’m here to make amends and face a past haunted by regret.

As long as I can convince myself to stay.

Letting Go is a young adult romance dealing with tragedy, restitution, and love in all its aspects. The story relates to sensitive topics that may be triggering for some readers.

Hugging

We need four hugs a day for survival. We need eight hugs a day for maintenance. We need  twelve hugs a day for growth. ~ Virginia Satir

Hugging is healthy  It helps the immune system, cures depression, reduces stress and induces sleep. It’s invigorating, rejuvenating, and has no unpleasant side effects. Hugging is nothing less than a miracle drug.

Hugging is all natural. It is organic, naturally sweet, no artificial ingredients, non-polluting, environmentally friendly,  and 100% wholesome.

Hugging is the ideal gift. Great for any occasion, fun to give and receive, shows you care, comes with its own wrapping and, of course, fully returnable.

Hugging is practically perfect. No batteries to wear out, inflation-proof, non-fattening, no monthly payment, theft-proof and non-taxable.

Hugging is an underutilized resource with magical powers. When we open our hearts and arms we encourage others to do the same.

 Think of the people in your life. Are there any hugs you want to share? Are you waiting for someone else to ask first? Don’t wait. Initiate. ~ Charles Faraone

After hugging, reading a good book is also an ideal gift, healthy, great for any occasion, fun to give and receive. May I suggest two new boxes of books just released.

HOLIDAY BABIES SERIES #2 Just released

MODERN PRINCES SERIES Just released